28 February

The doors of La Habana Vieja

Posted in Travel

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Cuba. What struck me first were the doors. Most are from the colonial period. Huge, double doors, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow, often about 15-feet high. Solid magohany. Sometimes they haven’t been painted in a long, long time. Sometimes the aprons of the walls out front or inside (like those along the staircase in this […]

31 January

Brighid’s Wheel: The Perpetual Fire

This past Wednesday I saw my doctor for my annual physical. Last year at this time my blood pressure was 80/60. I had been feeling the fatigue for months and would for many more. This January my blood pressure was back to 104/72, normal for me. I had always had low blood pressure, but never […]

21 December

The Winter Garden 2014

Recently I read the first volume in a series of books by the Norwegian author, Karl Ove Knausgaard, called My Struggle. It’s about the struggle of an ordinary man, and though we don’t often speak this way to one another, the book reads like the struggle of everyman/everywoman to come to terms with human suffering. About […]

21 September

Fall Equinox 2014: Gathering the Harvest

Posted in Uncategorized

The harvest doesn’t always come in on time or the way we have planned it. The crop may not be a bumper or the prices may be down. The grain heads may have dried out early with the heat or were hailed out or eaten by grasshoppers. Some years, the harvest may not come in […]

9 September

Being. Sick.

Posted in Uncategorized

There is a giant chalkboard in our neighbourhood at the corner of 95 Street and 103A Avenue, right over a community garden that stands on what once was the House of Refuge Mission, which burned down about a year ago in a series of fires. The place used to minister to the homeless and still does. […]

11 August

Dog Days

Posted in Food, Seasonal Messages

The Romans called this time, the Dog Days of Summer, beginning July 24th and ending August 24th. Dog, after Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which in ancient times would rise, like Venus, with the morning sun.  A season of super moons and harvest moons, languid days of heat and restless nights. Being a foodie of sorts, […]

28 July

Letter from Sage Hill

Posted in Books, Food, Reflections

Well, from the Sage Hill Writing Experience actually. As Philip Adams, the Executive Director, likes to joke, the name sounds like something cooked up by a bunch of hippies sitting around a circle smoking their favourite leaf. And may have been, but it is an experience. First there’s the people: the writers who come here […]

21 June

The Longest Day: 2014

Posted in Seasonal Messages

Last weekend I took myself into the river valley, though I thought I had a thousand things to do: duties, commitments, chores. No, into the river valley I went on my trusty bike, down the wooden staircase at the end of 92 Street, down into my soul, a forgotten part of the city, past someone’s […]

1 June

When the Rain Stops Falling

Posted in Books, Reflections

Last weekend I went to see When the Rain Stops Falling, a play by an Australian, Andrew Bovell. It was mounted by the U of A Studio Theatre, whose productions I have always found daring and top-notch. One of the opening scenes sent a shiver through me.  The year is 2039. It’s the middle of a storm, […]

7 May

Middlemarch

Posted in Books, Reflections

I spent my lunch hour today listening to a podcast panel discussion on George Elliot’s masterpiece, Middlemarch, first published in 1871. The panel of Elliot scholars, all women, were interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on CBC Radio months back. I can identify with the young women in Middlemarch who hold a fierce idealism about marriage and family and […]

1 May

May Day

Posted in Seasonal Messages

On my walk to work, I always pass the Mother Teresa School in Boyle Street. Yesterday morning, before eight, I noticed children out on the swings, slides, and monkey bars swooping and diving like a flock of small birds just back from wherever they go in winter. It was warm enough. And this morning the catkins on all […]

19 April

Beckett: the Egg and the Stranger

A few years ago,  when I was going through a difficult patch in my  life, during a shoulder season like now, not-winter, not-summer, I was hailed one evening by a voice from behind a small drift, with a shopping cart parked in front. It was close to the end of November, but above zero that day and […]

31 March

Truth and Reconciliation

Posted in News, Reflections

I spent part of my weekend at the Edmonton National Event for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I had heard about the commission but was skeptical about its purpose before I went. After an hour in a sharing circle, I realized I was witnessing a powerful historical event. First, second, and third generation survivors: Cree, […]

19 March

Spring Equinox Eve 2014

I am neither Persian nor Ukranian but I am curious, and I have found that curiosity is one of the best passports you can have for travelling into another culture or, indeed, another world. Years ago a friend gave me three pysanky, Ukranian Easter eggs. The practice is called pysanky or writing because the symbols are […]

8 March

Stay Attached to the Tree

I met Iftikhar in one of my project management courses last year. He’s a policy “wonk,” with an honours degree from York University and a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from a prestigious institute in Sweden. He speaks fluent, even eloquent English, Urdu, Arabic, among other languages, and like so many new Canadians, […]

16 February

New York Valentine

Posted in Books, Reflections

A year ago at this time, I was in New York for seven days. By mid-week I was hunting in earnest for an I HEART NY sticker, suddenly understanding the meaning of all those I HEART stickers from around the world, derived, I realized, from this Mother of all HEART stickers. New York is a […]

12 January

Mystery

Posted in Reflections

 I went for a walk in the river valley this morning. I was thinking about aging and loss and death. I have several elderly friends and relatives in their 80s; most are struggling in some way. One friend wrote me in his most recent letter that “Mr. Alzheimer” is visiting him more often now. Another […]

2 January

The Layers

Posted in Books, Reflections

New Year’s Eve I was at a small party with friends in the neighbourhood. There was food and drink and fire: candles in the snow, candles in the windows, and a bonfire out the back porch. The bonfire was best of all. On small scraps of paper, we wrote down the things we wanted to […]

20 December

A Thousand and One Doors

A Thousand and One Doors

  Lately, I’ve been reading The Arabian Nights, or what has been traditionally called The Thousand and One Nights, translated by Husain Haddawy from a 14th century Syrian manuscript, the oldest there is. Haddawy grew up hearing the Nights around his grandmother’s hearth on long winter nights in Baghdad. The book could easily be called The Thousand and One Doors. Doors open: […]

29 November

Walking Night

Posted in Reflections

I love walking at night this time of year, especially when it’s mild. I can leave my hood down and listen and see and be touched. Maybe there’s laughter or music from a house party at the end of the block. I may run into a snowshoe hare or pass through light pouring out of […]