wordless wednesday: summer postcards

 

Greetings from the garden tour!

(aka outdoor galleries of love, green stuff incidental)

The woman whose backyard is a solid field of day lilies (hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them) and who at first I think must be slightly unhinged until she explains her joy at every day coming outside to see what new bloom among dozens and dozens of varieties has opened. She not only grows them but cross pollinates to create unique hybrids and borrows her kids’ backyards because there’s no room in hers anymore. She wins awards.
Hers husband is on the patio, watching the crowds, and as I leave I stop and say to him, Nice place but you ought to consider getting some day lilies…

The woman who turned a tiny shaded downtown lawn into a glen of cool sanctuary complete with three locally made wrought iron pyramid towers and places to sit and contemplate them.

The woman with a deck full of passion flower vine and other tropicals who doesn’t have a sun room in her house but simply asks the plants to do their best in various windows and they oblige her and are stunningly beautiful and vibrantly healthy. Singing to them doesn’t hurt she says when asked for tips.

The woman whose yard is full of crazy objects, tea cups hanging from branches, giant wooden playing cards nailed over three sides of fencing, mirrors, bird feeders, figurines, mobiles, sun catchers, flea market and thrift shop finds… too much!!  my brain screams as I wander in and consider wandering out again but just then the woman appears and we talk and her joy changes the scene from something I don’t understand… to one that brings utter contentment and peace as she explains the pleasure it gives her to see it all from her kitchen, or from her place on the couch. She would rather look out the window than watch TV on a rainy day, she says. She puts this stuff out each spring and puts it away again in giant bins each winter. It’s time consuming and possibly a form of madness she laughs, but I shake my head, say it feels more like her form of art. She nods. Then she takes me round to the front to show me a few things I might have missed on my way in.

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

menstrual memories anyone?

 
A new anthology, called GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times, is making some people uncomfortable… why must these things be spoken of??

And making others relieved… thank god we can finally speak.

Because I have a short piece in the book (about the perils of attending a pool party in the 1970’s), and because I believe in saying the word menstruation out loud,
I recently sat outside Blue Heron Books with a little sign that said Menstrual Memories?  —  And waited to see what would happen.

Young children were rushed past.

Men looked uncomfortable. Women too. One woman actually sneered.

But after a while, I noticed people coming back, and some of them stopped. Then many more stopped. It was as if they’d been initially blindsided by the question… but… now that you mention it, yeah, I do have some memories I’d like to share.

And so they shared.

Menstrual memories.

And why not?

A man asked if he could take a picture of the table. I asked if he had any menstrual memories. He said no. We laughed and I liked that the word was spoken between genders. It’s hard enough sometimes just between women.

And that of course IS the whole point of the book, i.e.Why are women made to feel awkward and embarrassed about a basic function of biology?

The first to stop was an 83 year old woman from Cape Breton who whispered about shame and flannel cloths worn like diapers, about the horror of washing them and hanging them to dry. After a few minutes she stopped whispering as one memory twigged another and her friends got into it, all of them swapping stories, and I could tell they’d never had this conversation or anything like it before. As she began to leave, she stopped, smiled and said thank you, this has been fun. She seemed slightly surprised that it turned out that way. And I have no doubt that part of the fun was the relief of speaking the words… at last.

Following are memories so many women shared with me… on a sidewalk, outside a bookstore, on a beautiful summer night… in their own words:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My aunt was on holiday in Austria and her ankles got so swollen she went to see a doctor and discovered she was eight months pregnant. She’d gained some weight but still had her period and so it was a complete shock. My cousin was born the next month and my aunt and uncle quickly got married and moved in together.

When I got my cycle at age thirteen my mum told me I had to carry a purse for “my stuff”. The way she said it was like it was the worst thing on earth.

My dad worked in a factory that made menstrual products and got an employee discount but was too embarrassed to bring them home in the company box, which ‘advertised’ what was inside and so made a whole production out of wrapping the box in brown paper so that neighbours wouldn’t be any the wiser as he brought it into the house from the car. It was treated like contraband.

I was an immigrant and there was a questionnaire at school. One of the questions had the word “menstrual” in it and I didn’t understand, exactly. But I didn’t ask what it meant. It was like I had an idea it shouldn’t be said out loud.

My mom left a booklet about “being a woman” on my dresser one day. In my closet, that same day, on the top shelf, was a box that had a lovely picture on it of a lovely woman in a long white gown. I was very excited about my new dress (which I assumed was inside!!).

My period started on the way home from school on the #28 Davisville bus. Me in my school uniform: white blouse, kilt, knee socks, blazer. I felt the ‘gush’ and when I stood up I was mortified. I tied the blazer around myself as I exited the bus.

I can’t remember what I said, nothing big, I’d simply mentioned my period in conversation to my boyfriend, who became (immediately) enraged. The details are a blur. All I remember is how angry he was that I said whatever I said out loud, like blasphemy or something. I have never, not once, spoken a word about my period to any guy since. Including my husband.

Boys made jokes about girls who were on their periods. (On the rag & worse.)

Try using an outhouse when you have your period.

When I got my period my mother took me aside and said I was to avoid boys now. She didn’t clarify why or which boys so I avoided them all, including my brothers, to the point that I was afraid if our elbows touched as we passed on the stairs. It completely changed our relationship.

Got my period at eleven. I was on a toboggan with two boys.

My favourite menstrual thought:  I look forward to menopause!

A menstrual memory for me is when I was in my twenties and playing softball. I was either pitching or shortstop, and I felt something. Uh oh…

My periods were heavy and I didn’t carry a purse. I worked as an auctioneer.
I used to keep extra pads down the sides of my cowboy boots.

I remember watching TV with my dad and my brothers and running from the room in embarrassment when Kotex ads came on.

My periods stopped the day my mother died. I could feel it starting as I sat with her in the hospital. She died that night, and my period proceeded normally for the rest of week. And that was it. I never had another. I was only in my forties.

We didn’t have products. We used flannel cloths, like diapers, and they had to be washed and dried and re-used. It was an embarrassment when it was your time because people would see the bulge of the pin through your skirt.

My periods were so bad I had to take three days off school most months.

I lived near the ocean and it was a real concern, people would tell you not to swim, to be careful of sharks, and they weren’t kidding.

 

GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times available from Blue Heron Books

Support indies!

 

 

see?

 

‘Second Chances’ is the name of the donation centre at a local women’s shelter where items are arranged ‘shop style’ so residents can help themselves to whatever they need… especially when moving on to new housing, and for a year afterwards. Someone I met there this morning, a former resident, told me how much the ‘free shopping’ meant to her (I got a kettle! a bath mat! shower curtains!), how much the whole shelter experience meant to her… how terrified she was when she arrived, how much the staff did to help her at a time when she felt like she was losing her mind, but even more, how they helped her move on, to find peace and beauty again, to give her kids a safe home, and how she loves to come back occasionally to say hello or sign up for a program.

I watch as she and a staff member hug with genuine affection, you look great!  and I can’t help thinking what I know of her life, the utter awfulness of her past and the extraordinary changes she’s made in the years since.

I can’t help being in awe that she’s standing here so relaxed, wide open, all kind soul and grateful heart.

As we pass the stairs leading to the basement ‘store’ she stops, points to a wooden sign on a bare plaster wall and her face lights up like an epiphany.

See?  she says. That’s what this place is…

 

 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
For further information and assistance, including a list of shelters in Ontario, and across Canada:

OAITH

Public Health Agency of Canada

 

trees R us

 

We had a couple of pear trees in the backyard when I was a kid.

And my dad had a movie camera. Super 8, I think. A big deal at the time. Fancied himself the Spielberg of home movies.

But the Spielberg of home movies he was not.

The pear tree and the Super 8 spent a lot of time together. My dad behind the lens and me up in the branches. Him on the lawn, red light flashing, yelling at me to go higher. This was before sound, so the footage more or less shows me shaking my head, mouthing noooo… looking terrified, then climbing an inch higher. And so on. For several minutes. (A kind of psychedelic bonus was the wobbling of camera due to his waving arms while yelling instructions.) (The fact that a pear tree is not very tall is insignificant to this story. Or is it?)

He had a thing for capturing the tree in different seasons. Blossom time, fruiting, fall colours. And what’s a tree without a kid in it? Climb high as you can. You call that high?? Higher!! Don’t be such a baby. HIGHER!! 

noooooo….

He grew up in the mountains, in a world of trees and, I think, felt most at home around them, so he planted a front yard full of evergreens and a backyard full of plum and apple, apricot and cherry. The pear trees came with the house, which was built on the site of a former orchard, the remains of which orchard was vast and right across the road, and probably the reason they chose that site.

He was in no way a slow moving person except when he went for a walk, then he’d ramble, take things in. My mother, the opposite, a snail in most things, but a fast walker. What’s the hurry? he’d yell from several feet behind.

I preferred his pace. It allowed looking and talking, imagining and what-if-ing. He was a magnificent what-if-er. The details of those conversations are gone but the essence of them linger and sometimes a bizarre what-if kind of question pops into my mind and it’s then I miss being able to say hey, dad… imagine this…

Occasionally he’d bring the Super 8, go all Spielberg and yell for us to stand here or there, to smile, pretend you’re having fun for god’s sake!

Not the best part of the rambles.

I often think of him now as I traipse about at my own between-fast-and-slow pace. Like him I usually have a camera in hand. Unlike him I don’t yell at people. Much.

I see things he would have loved, or things we might have wondered about. He was a great wonder-er. I imagine how I might tell him I’d still like to live in a tent, or a cabin, in the woods, and how he’d say who wouldn’t?

I’ve forgiven the film shoots.

And, remarkably, I have a great fondness for pear trees.

The best part though, the gift of his tree-loving nature, unintended as it surely was, is that reminders of him are forever everywhere…

 

Adding this, which I stumbled upon today and which so wonderfully fits.

“Hence in solitude, or that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings and yet they sympathize not with us, we love the flowers, the grass, the waters, and the sky. In the motion of the very leaves of spring, in the blue air, there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, “On Love”

 

mrs. moes cookies

 
Ten thousand years ago when summers were long and the sun shone every day, when you could play outside up and down the street after supper until the streetlights came on and the lawns had that almost-evening coolness that felt so good on bare legs and made a soft place to lie down and wonder how many leaves or blades of grass or grains of sand or snowflakes there were in the world and if numbers big enough had even been invented, when afternoons were lived on bicycles, beside the lake, or in trees, and long before your parents grew old, long before you even knew such a thing was possible, in the days when people were still called Mrs. whether they liked it or not     —  Mrs. Moes made some cookies and brought them over on a blue plate.

You had at least three at the picnic table with a glass of Koolaid (flavour forgotten) and your parents had coffee and your mother may have been a little miffed at how well those cookies were going down… it’s possible she said something like too buttery if you ask me… and when the plate was empty and washed and you were sent next door to return it to Mrs. Moes and to remember to say thank you…. you could hardly believe it when she smiled and said You’re very welcome  and did not refill the plate.

Years and years later, in your twenties, you asked Mrs. Moes for the recipe for “those cookies that day” and she knew exactly what you meant and she recited the recipe to you right there as you scribbled down what she said.

Maybe you got something wrong because they didn’t turn out anything like you remembered. Or maybe the magic was in the blue plate or the surprise of the gift or the happy unlimited picnic table munching.

Did she ever ask you how they turned out?

Maybe. Maybe not. You don’t remember.

Did you ever make them again?

No.

But you still have the recipe you scribbled that day.

Its purpose no longer to magic up a plate of possibly too buttery cookies, but as a portal to a time of cool nighttime lawns and numbers too big to imagine.


 
 

dear heather: quick question

 
 
Heather Stefanson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
104 Legislative Building
450 Broadway
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0V8

 
 
Dear Ms. Stefanson:

Given the strong assumption going in that Raymond Cormier was Tina Fontaine’s murderer, and the wisdom of our infallible judicial system determining that he is not, I’m wondering what happens next. How does the case proceed from here, what steps will be taken to find Tina’s murderer?

I’m assuming efforts will be ramped up asap, yes?

Because there is a killer. (As far as I know it’s not possible for a person to wrap themselves in a duvet, then cover themselves with rocks in a river. Especially with an alcohol level ‘slightly higher than is legal for driving’ and ‘traces of marijuana’. Even for a First Nations girl.)

Because she was a girl.

And I’ll be blunt— please ask yourself… just imagine for a moment that she was a white girl, let’s even give her blonde hair and blue eyes, let’s make her pageant quality in perfection of all those things that don’t actually matter (but somehow do), including pedigree. And there she is, in the river, in a duvet, covered in rocks. And let’s imagine some low life happens to have been hanging around her, has threatened some unsavoury actions, even admitted to killing her in off-handed ways. But… his DNA wasn’t found on the Costco duvet. And so the low life is innocent and the blonde girl is… what? What happens next? Do you see what I’m asking?

That’s it really. A simple question.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT IN ORDER TO FIND TINA FONTAINE’S KILLER?

Because surely this isn’t an insignificant case. Surely it will be a precedent of some kind, if only to illustrate how easily a wrongful arrest can be made. (How did that even happen??)

After all, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, teenager of excellent pedigree, a citizen of Manitoba, was murdered in Winnipeg. Her family are distraught. Lives beyond hers are shattered. Oh, wait.

Well, same thing, right? Justice will not be served until the killer has been found!  Right? Right??

On the bright side, justice has  been served for Raymond Cormier. Thank god an innocent like him was spared from undue punishment. Glory be to the Canadian justice system as it serves white men and blonde girls.

Thanking you in advance for what I have no doubt is your deepest and most pressing attention to this… what shall we call it… this ‘matter’?

Sincerely,

 

carin makuz.

p.s. If you aren’t the best qualified to answer this question, feel free to pass it along to someone who is. There must be someone who is…

 

 

 

dear canada: we’re all taking notes

 
A lesson in the laws of this country:

It is, apparently, okay to fly into a rage when someone comes onto our property… perfectly okay to shout obscenities and smash the trespasser’s windshield with a hammer, kick in their tail lights while they are IN their vehicle and would very much like to be on their way at this point…

It is, apparently, okay to grab a gun, fire ‘warning’ shots (warnings of what? why warnings? whatever happened to that old chestnut: get off my lawn! )…

It is, apparently, okay to try to turn off the ignition of the trespasser’s car as they (once again) attempt to leave your property… and it is very okay, apparently, if the gun, still in your hand and now pointed at the trespasser’s head, goes off and kills them.

It’s okay because this is an accident. Because you said it was an accident.

Oops, you might say. You didn’t mean to kill them.

That, apparently, is enough for the courts in this land, enough to appease a jury of your peers (and by peers we obviously mean people as rage-filled and incompetent with a firearm as you are).

You didn’t mean to kill them.

What else is there to say? How to argue that point?

The laws of this country, apparently, condone hysteria, anger and violence toward trespassers. And errors where killing is concerned. Where pointing a loaded gun at someone’s head is concerned.

Oops.

But the laws of this country aren’t the people of this country and I hope the people of this country will stand up and make this travesty a catalyst for change.

Because none of this makes sense. That you, a man of 63, “didn’t mean to kill” but did kill  a 22 year old boy who, like every other boy, every other child that grows up in a place where there’s diddly squat to do sometimes gets up to bad business. Like you yourself might have done once upon a time. Because I’m guessing this isn’t the first time a young person went joy-riding on the prairies and made some dumb decisions. (Those decisions by the way, dumb as they may have been, were not in any way life-threatening… well, not to you anyway.) And, oh, by the way, we have dumb-ass decision makers in cities and towns too, young people who for whatever reason are bored and get into trouble… Do I understand the laws of this land to be that we have a new way of handling these situations? Because this sure as hell feels like a precedent.

(By the way… may I infer that the next time someone, oh, let’s say an Indigenous man, accidentally kills a white boy, by shooting him in the head, the court will appoint a jury of twelve members of the Indigenous community and try him in a fair trial with a jury of his peers? )

Because that would at least be something.

~

What also would be something is if the man who killed the boy was required to go to anger management counselling.

And some kind of night school program where he could learn how to use a gun properly, maybe get a copy of Side Arm Ownership for Dummies.

And if this country changed its rules about jury selection… as was suggested in a report dated 2013, by Judge Frank Iacobucci. who at that time said there was a “crisis in the justice system”.

Or wouldn’t it be something if the court had deemed it worthwhile that the man who killed the boy make a statement to the Boushie family, to ask for forgiveness, and to spend a weekend hearing about who Colten Boushie was, what his life was… to, oh I don’t know, develop a smidgen of compassion for another human being.

That still wouldn’t be justice, but it would be something.