hello, spring

On my way to the library I see a man pacing in his garage, smoking. I’ve seen him there before. He pretends he doesn’t notice me as I pass and I sense I’m meant to do the same. I feel sorry for those who like to indulge in a cigarette. They’re always huddled outside but no one waves, no one says Hello, fine weather, isn’t it!  the way you might to someone raking a lawn. I may have to change this pattern next time I go by.
Further along the same street, a boy, playing hockey on his own,
and the blueprints for a house interior sketched onto several squares of sidewalk.

This is the kitchen. The living room is to the left; bedrooms to the right.
Around the corner, a man in a green ski jacket cleans a ski-doo the exact same shade as his coat. When I stop a few houses down to make some notes, I look back and notice the man staring at me. He’s actually stopped cleaning the ski-doo and looks concerned about me jotting things on a notepad with a pencil. It occurs to me that if I’d stopped to look at my BlackBerry or equivalent [which I don’t own] he’d be feeling much calmer. It reminds me of my experiment at the casino, and the unexpected things that frighten people.

At the library, a woman comes up to me, says, quite out of the blue, “You must be an artist,” and I assume she means because of the hat but I ask whatever makes her think so. She says she was driving by and saw me walking, saw me stop on the sidewalk and go back and take a picture of something on the ground. “Only someone with a certain kind of eye would do that,” she says. I tell her she must have a pretty good eye herself and we laugh the laugh of strangers.

This is the picture she saw me take.
IMG_5875Tell me this doesn’t look like a monkey spitting out an apricot.

Back outside a black pick-up truck goes through a red light and from the other end of the street, totally unrelated but at the same moment, tires squeal.

A woman in white plays drums on her steering wheel and sings while waiting for the light to change.

I take a different route home and find a nest of feathers. Not a good kind of nest.

And in a nearby window, what appears to be a rather self-satisfied expression…IMG_5878
Close to home I find a bag crackling in the wind and so I detach it with the idea of collecting a few bits of the always-debris that is everywhere.
Less than ten minutes later, I’m out of bag.IMG_5884


The streets where I live are considerate.

For one thing, they make it very, very hard to lose your way.
But if you should, don’t panic. There are places to take shelter.
Or stop for a drink.
Some with a view.
[Choices are chilled or unchilled; puddled or bottled…]

Big plus: there’s never a shortage of drinking vessels.
And please use a napkin. [No need to be uncivilized.]
There’s reading material.
Complimentary coat check and/or coat.
And excellent company.
Thank you, streets…

always something

I rush outside this morning with the intention of catching a spectacular sunrise. But it’s not all sherbet colours as expected, merely yellow.
Still, I’m well into the ravine by now, cleats attached to shoes and the crusty icy snow crunching and cracking, the weird human rhythm of it propelling me onward. [Animals, by contrast, are so quiet.]
And so onward I gallump through the woods and into the park with the merely yellow sun rising to my left…
and then once I get around the big loop…
on my right.

No one about this early, or maybe because of the cold. My crunch and clack disturbing only one black squirrel and a flock of chickadees huddled among the lowest branches of a spruce.

Nothing to see but white white white…
and then a splash of blue, turquoise even.
Every time I see one of these colourful bags I wonder how it gets left behind. Does someone set it down in order to play fetch or Frisbee or chat at length with other dog walkers while sipping a Timmy’s and then simply wander off in a haze of forgetfulness? I think that’s why they’re made in these very striking ‘hello!!’ colours, so they’re hard to not see once the Frisbee is over, and yet…

There’s always something.

trashy spring thawts

Who would be a worm? Such a thankless job. Having survived all winter in frozen ground with slim pickings food-wise only to be lured to the surface by a splash of springtime rain then end up stranded on scratchy bits of pavement as sun shines and feet and wheels are everywhere carelessly about.

Worse, though, to be forgetful. Worm or human. To not have the sense you were born with. What else but a dose of dementia or dangerous daze could explain how it’s possible to find a lovely place for a cup of something and then wander off without it? Alas, beware, poor sweet forgetful soul! There are brick walls and open manholes out there…

But the saddest thing of all must surely be the human who lives the sort of life where four large bags of garbage every two weeks cannot contain its rubbish so it must sneak under cover of darkness to public receptacles where it crams its excess…

…forcing purveyors of said receptacles to take action with locks and smaller entry points. IMG_1162
(This of course does not apply to worms as they are clever enough to eat their own detritus.)

dear person who

Dear Person at Sobeys Who Left a Cup in the Cup Holder of Shopping Cart:

What is it you’re buying that takes so long and creates such a thirst that you can’t do it without knocking back a little something in the process? And while we’re at it… why, Ms/Mr Sobeys, do you encourage people to drink while they shop by installing cup holders on your otherwise fine chocolate brown carts? I would have thought it counter-productive. After all, thirsty people will buy more juice and pop and bottles of Clamato. And so forth. Those who are suffonsified will buy less. And so forth.

I’m no expert in these things but I’m guessing that if you were to add TV trays, cutlery and condiments to the carts, you would see a significant drop in deli, whole roasted chicken, and possibly other, sales.

So I’m advising you against it. Not that you asked.

But back to you, Dear Person Who Can’t Shop Without a Drink. For god’s sake, pull yourself together. Surely you can function for twenty minutes without one.

And if you can’t do that, then would you please have the courtesy to place your pacifier in the garbage (or better yet, take it home to your recycling bin) and not leave it in the cart for the next person to find… Some of us like to use that space to store our tulips.

Thanks a bunch.
And have a nice day.

what’s not litter

1.  A green tennis ball stuck to the ice, immoveable, which is just as well once I realize that a gallumping, tail-wagging, tongue-lolling beast will likely be back tonight or tomorrow to look for it. And if it’s not IN ITS PLACE there will be hell to pay.IMG_0298

2. Anything red and ribbony and tied to a tree.IMG_0300IMG_0301IMG_0303Or indeed any ribbony colour.IMG_0324

3. Things on TOP of a garbage bin.IMG_0314Especially if that thing turns out to be a full Timmy’s.IMG_0316

4. See #1 above. [No ice but same reasoning applies.]IMG_0335

encounters in stillness

The first shock of frost on the grass this morning and in the sunrise, contrails suggesting warmer destinations. But I’m happy to be right here walking in this lightly iced air, watching my breath, proof that I am, indeed, here.

A faint scrunch underfoot, so small I have to concentrate to hear it. And then a bare patch where the earth is slick and a different kind of attention is necessary until, further along still, where the leaves are thick on the ground and the light filters through and there’s no ice, only a scent of hibernation, transformation, where leaves are leaving as leaves, changing not only colour but molecules, breaking down with a view to reappearing as loam—possibly as early as Spring—that’s where I let my guard down, on this decomposing carpet where the soles of my moderately priced runners feel secure.

There are places where the tall grass has bent over as if there’s no point in arguing, the cold mornings have won; it acquiesces, prepares to serve as a nest or bed for whoever or whatever would care to nest or bed there.

I walk down a slope toward the creek, once more careful, it’s muddy and slippery, warmer here, protected from wind, the sound of water like a conversation. I take off my red and white maple leaf mittens and do a quick standing salutation to the sun. This, before I notice a dog and walker a few metres away. I say good morning and expect a strange look but there’s only a glimmer of curiosity followed by an open, friendly smile.

I walk past the Italian man’s garden that faces the park, all tidy and empty, unlike mine, which still sports all manner of herbs and dandelions, still food. But we’re different styles, he and I. He grows vast quantities to preserve: tomatoes, beans, peppers, zucchini, eggplant. I grow the same things but mostly just enough to eat during the season, a few extra jars of this or that. I stop and talk to him sometimes. He invites me to take tomatoes. I never do. I tell him I grow my own and he smiles. He knows I’m an amateur and he’s right. Still, my garlic is not to be sniffed at.

On the way home I meet a neighbour who walks with a different purpose. Whereas I dress in babushka and an anorak, she’s got glow in the dark stripes and a proper walking toque. She stops and tells me to hang on a minute while she tries to turn off her device, grumbles that it’s finicky; I wait while she fiddles with the dial, eventually settling on turning it down because off isn’t working. Then she invites me to a xmas thing at her house. I promise to check the calendar.

Back through the creek I climb small hills, follow the narrow shoreline and wonder if the campers are down there again this year with their plywood lean-to and other comforts of home. They’re not, just bits of litter. I will never understand the mentality of letting something fall from your hand onto the ground…

The possibility of running into the campers changes my mood. I decide to go back up top where it’s open and then I catch a glimpse of something dark and big behind me.

There are coyotes in the ravine, I sometimes hear them at night. But it’s not them I worry about. I remember a conversation I had with my stepdaughter when she was very young, whether it would be scary to sleep in a cemetery all night. I said I wouldn’t be afraid as long as I could be guaranteed no people would show up.

Especially live ones.

I still feel the same way.

It’s never the outside that’s scary.

Even the dead bits.


I turn around.

A juniper bush stares back.

I let out a frosty breath and head home.

here there be deers

I’m pretty sure I heard deer rustling in the shrubbery at the creek this morning. I went early, drawn by the sky and maybe surprised them.

I know they’re there. I’ve seen hoof prints in winter and people occasionally report seeing them on lawns.

Always seems a bit strange—that something as beautiful as deer can be found in urban settings. Unsettling really. A reminder we’ve encroached on their space.

They come for the water, follow the creek from north of here where, despite best efforts of developers, it’s still pretty woodsy.

I saw them only once. Two winters ago a pair of white-tailed beauties leapt across the path where I walked and then into a copse of spruce.

I like how so much goes on here regardless of us. Coyotes, fox, rabbits, stray cats, wild apple trees. They all know what to do, they manage. Until they don’t.

Nothing here doesn’t have a purpose.

Except what the largest brains contribute.

a few trashy stories

So there’s the one about the guy who walks over, slow like, walks all the way over from wherever he lives on the street opposite the park where Peter and I are clearing litter from the tall grass area and creek bed that never gets mowed. It’s a pretty big space and we have a few green garbage bags already filled. So the slow walking guy stands there, hands in pockets, smiling, and says it’s great what we’re doing. He wants to know if we’re part of a group or something. (What, like the Kiwanis maybe? I’m not sure what he means). No, I say, we’re just  us. He looks momentarily confused, or perhaps it’s just gas, then rattles on about the sin of littering and how it brings down house prices. He asks if we live in the neighbourhood. Nope, I tell him, we’re on the other side of the ravine but we come through here all the time. His hands are still in his pockets. He’s wearing khakis and a golf shirt. Well, he says, bouncing a little on his toes, brightening considerably, why don’t we form a committee, get a group together to clean the area. But we are cleaning the area, I say, we do this all the time. I explain how you can’t just clean it once, it gets messy again very quickly, and how a group, nice as it would be to have company, won’t do any long-term good… better to just have many people pick up a few things on a daily basis. Or do bigger clean-ups on their own as and when they feel like it. I suggest that groups have a way of getting complicated. They argue. People will find ways to disagree about how to pick up litter. We’re not group people, I say finally… but, hey, thanks, and good luck.

He’s suddenly all crestfallen and slightly pissed off and I silently wonder if in declining the offer to whip up a litter committee what I’ve really done is dashed his hopes for whatever else was attached to the plan. (Brain-storming BBQs? Bake-sale to raise funds for garbage bags? Motivational street party with face-painting for the kids and Larry the Litter Loving clown?)

He mumbles something like yeah, right, and walks back from whence he came, hands still firmly planted in pockets.

If a committee has been formed, I haven’t noticed.
The litter continues to fall.
We continue to pick it up.
We’ve never seen the man nor his pockets again.


Then there’s the couple who sit on their porch comparing their lawn to everyone else’s. We don’t have a lawn. We’re weird. And when I walk past the porch-sitters the man says something I don’t hear and I shout back Yes, it’s a lovely day! and he repeats the thing that I don’t understand. I move closer and he says “What’s that in your hands?”

I tell him it’s litter; I say it’s amazing what you can pick up in just a short walk around the block. Ha!  I toss in some laughter to keep it light.

He makes a bad smell face, goes slightly indignant. The woman also, just stares. So now I’m standing way too close to their tidy porch holding a squashed Timmy’s cup and other bits of debris and I realize the exchange has ended, that I’ve been dismissed, and as I shuffle off I wonder how I’ve offended them. Have I caused them to feel guilty for not picking up litter? Or have I simply confirmed their suspicions about the sort-of-people-who-don’t-have-a-lawn? (Beware the Timmy’s cup, the flattened water bottle, the muddy Rothman’s pack… strange powers to unsettle the masses lurk there!)


A friend of mine gathers litter as she walks to work at King and Bay—which is brilliant because the better dressed the anti-litter warrior, the more influence they have in a 100 monkeys kind of way. (Recently I’ve noticed a guy around the corner who takes regular walks with a No Frills bag or two, filling them with rubbish. I honk as I pass. Wave and smile. I hope he doesn’t get the wrong idea.)


Last but not least is the woman who says—in her not-very-sincere-smiling way (and who insists recycling is a scam)—that it’s very nice to pick up litter and all but don’t I worry that I’m taking away the jobs of people who are employed to do such things?

Though I’ve never seen the ’employed’ scrambling through ravines… I call the Town, present my concerns, and am met with laughter.

Followed by reassurance that no one will lose jobs.

Seems there is indeed enough litter for us all.

On the street, in parks, wherever.

You can imagine my relief.