I Am Half Sick of Shadows


From the land of Wiki:

Dave Van Ronk, an early supporter and teacher of Dylan, had the following criticism to make of the song All Along The Watchtower:

That whole artistic mystique is one of the great traps of this business, because down that road lies unintelligibility. Dylan has a lot to answer for there, because after a while he discovered that he could get away with anything—he was Bob Dylan and people would take whatever he wrote on faith. So he could do something like “All Along the Watchtower,” which is simply a mistake from the title on down: a watchtower is not a road or a wall, and you can’t go along it.[5]

That’s where you’re wrong, Dave.

I say this as someone who deliberately set out, about a year ago, to sit on the lookout for enemies and wildfires, and lots and lots of would-be marrauders have gone along this tower that I inhabit.

Only one of them breached the fortifications, because I decided to head downstairs and point out the fact that the door was never locked in the first place. Schnooville isn’t for everyone though. I begin to wonder if it’s really for anyone else at all? It’s a fine place to visit, so I’m told, but I think perhaps there was an error in selecting the paint colours.

When I moved out of my parents’ home, they painted my bedroom yellow. Not long after, in an unrelated conversation, my mother pointed out that yellow is the colour best suited to guest rooms, because though it is cozy and comfortable, something about the colour makes people want to keep their visits brief.

I think Schnooville might be yellow.

I also think this might be o.k. As frustrating as it is, I have a tickle in the back of my head that tells me I have to sort out a couple of fairly major things before I can redecorate. I’m happy to report that I’m making major inroads here. It’s exciting, and it makes me feel really good about myself.

Love doesn’t happen in an instant, of course it doesn’t, but a gal like me knows in an instant if you’re going to have a good hold of my heart. Sometimes it happens when I speak with you face-to-face for the first time, and sometimes it happens when I read the way you are able to weave words together. But I know, instantly. From that place, when I feel like that, I open the door. The screen door too. So you can see that it’s open, and you can come in. Always for lemonade. Sometimes for a slice of pie. I can’t control whether or not you’ll choose to stay, but I will never act like you’re a stranger until track your muddy boots across the floor.

The time has come to extinguish the signal flame though. I’m still watching, but now I liken the activities of my heart to those of the Lady of Shalott. I am sitting before a mirror that is reflecting the view from my tower window. All day I watch, and weave the stories I see on a colourful loom. Some day, something beautiful out there will catch my eye, but before I impetuously abandon all of my intricate work to go chasing beauty down by boat, I think I’ll try lowering my hair-ladder. If you can scale the walls without falling into the thorns and gouging out your own eyes, I suspect you’ll want to stick around for a while.

The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said

On Thursday morning, I woke up on my own. I woke before the alarm, and I woke without Toulouse, and his morning routine of running his paw through my hair and nibbling on my nose to wake me. I lay still in bed, afraid to look for him because I assumed the worst. After a few moments however, he dragged himself out from beneath my costume rack, and mostly only using his front legs, pulled himself to the edge of the bed. A pathetic meow indicated that he wanted to be lifted up. Overnight he had almost completely lost the use of his back legs, and after two days of barely touching his food, he looked really grotesque. I scooped him up, feather light, and lay him on my chest. He looked up at me, and in his trademark style, reached up to place a delicate paw on my cheek. In that moment he spoke clearly to me.

A quick phone call to the vet, and I got up and dressed. From my linen cupboard I pulled a tiny crochet baby blanket that I had found at a vintage shop. I slipped on my shoes, and then scooped up Toulouse, wrapping him up like a baby. He always hated the cat-carrier, and the vet was at the end of my street.

He held on to me, calmly. Uttering only one loud meow as we left the house. I think his deterioration must feel like being stoned because he slowly inclined his head to take in all the sights and sounds as we made our way to the vet.

My heart was heavy. People on the street looked at me strangely. I suppose it’s weird to carry a cat around like an infant. I realized it hadn’t yet been a year since I first adopted him. I felt horribly guilty that I decided not to shell out the $1,000 to give this 90 year old cat daily insulin injections. Maybe he could live another few years with the treatment that he needed?

The sympathetic, soothing voice of the receptionist made my throat close up on arrival. She wisely suggested we settle the bill before seeing the vet. When they showed us into the exam room, there was a black towel on the exam table. The vet was also very kind. He carefully explained exactly what would happen, including the part about expiring the residual air in the lungs possibly moments after he appears to have gone. I’ve seen this in a person, and it’s remarkable how the death of a cat could bring all of those feelings back.

There is something solemn, and powerful, and final about witnessing death. The finality is sad, and somewhat terrifying. To see the total absence of energy, and the complete and utter stillness is unlike anything I can describe. To me, in such moments, it is remarkably clear that our bodies are merely shells. That the essence of what makes us “alive” goes somewhere else when we are no longer.

The vet, who is a lot like Bob Newhart, sedated Toulouse. He then shaved his paw, to administer the slow injection. (What is it that they inject?) He gave him the needle slowly with these words:

“Goodbye Toulouse. You’ve been a wonderful companion, and you were very grateful to have been rescued by Catherine, who loved you and did the best that she could.”

I marveled at how an alley cat who I had barely known a year could reduce me to a red-faced, tear streaked blob of jello.

But what a year we have had…

My constant companion in the face of what has been one of the most significant years of my life, Toulouse has seen the highs and lows, and some truly poignant moments that have unfolded in the Fortress of Solitude. He has delivered tender caresses on a daily basis – a constant source of affection, and I know he’s also delivered psychic messages to one or two suitors who have passed through here. How I wonder now what he has said to them?

Toulouse loved me from the moment we met. Or at least this is the story I create as I am anthropomorphizing him. At the adoption fair, he selected me by delicately wrapping a paw around the finger that I held near his cage, and by casting me a long, adoring gaze. He pleaded with me, and in that moment told me he would work hard at dealing with the mice if I would give him a home.

Animal services found him in the Don Valley, and at the time of his adoption, the volunteers were afraid that he would never find a home to go to. I was already convinced before hearing his story, so it was an easy sell. Though the adoption clinic was a short walk from home, I had to take a cab because he was too big and heavy to carry.

He made good on his promise. The second night he lived with me I came home to find the bloody entrails and tail of a mouse deposited in front of my bathroom.

He was efficient, attentive, affectionate and wise. His comic timing was brilliant, and he was a born romantic.

Only half-jokingly, I told a friend that I hoped his soul would find its way into the shell of a fully-formed adult male.

Adieu mon fidèle chat…

I Loved You Like a Strip Mall

And this should never be confused with a really TALL building, or the earth, or the sky.

It was just a little taste, for now.

Still it was sweet, and that sweetness lingers. It has me scorning my schedule, deleting appointments, keeping my weekends open, and prying my own crazed little fingers off my life in general. Spontaneous decisions have yeilded brilliant results.

Yesterday morning a forecast of several days of rain would have made my heart heavy. Today I know how cute it will feel to wear my rubber Wellies with a pretty Spring skirt. How under the shelter of my vintage umbrella, I will stroll through the puddles listening to Wooden Arms by Patrick Watson on repeat until I’ve grown tired of that too. I know that the rain will help me sleep better, keep my apartment cooler, and keep me focused on work, and filled with ideas. The rain will match the colour of my eyes, and I will sail, unnoticed through the city as I ponder this last week.

What do we have without hope? I can take these lessons and understand myself better with each one. For example, I’m learning that I’m too ferocious, and though I know my heart will always be so, I can seek to internalize some of this emotion because I’ve come to believe it can be off-putting, or scary, or both. So many of us have no idea what we want, that when we are faced with someone who has a clear picture, perhaps they hold a mirror to our own confusion, which ripples like cellulite under overhead lighting. Also, if we are unsure of ourselves, an enthusiastic admirer casts self-doubt and suspicion. It’s very difficult for people to accept love, even in it’s earliest stages of curiosity and attraction.

I wondered what would happen if I stepped away from the helm, and when I did the ship veered off course very quickly. Without a good trade wind the route is frought with adversity.

The sea, they say, is a harsh mistress.

I could love as big as the sea, but I cannot do it alone.

Made of Swiss Cheese, Lookin’ Down at the World

Picture 7

“You’re likely the most courageous woman I know. You’re always willing to put your heart out there for the big reward even though it’s taken a hell of a beating in the past. I believe, and I am not blowing sunshine up your skirt, that you’re more likely to get what you’re looking for because you try harder. What thing can’t be got with effort and courage. And you’ve got that in spades.”

– constant Joshua, tried and true blue.

I Wish I Was The Moon

Chimney falls and lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I’ve freezing hands and bloodless veins
As numb as I’ve become

I’m so tired
I wish I was the moon tonight

Last night I dreamt I had forgotten my name
‘Cause I had sold my soul but awoke just the same
I’m so lonely
I wish I was the moon tonight

God blessed me, I’m a free man
With no place free to go
I’m paralyzed and collared-tight
No pills for what I fear

This is crazy
I wish I was the moon tonight

Chimney falls and lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I’ve freezing hands & bloodless veins
As numb as I’ve become

I’m so tired,
I wish I was the moon tonight

How will you know if you found me at least
‘Cause I’ll be the one, be the one, be the one
With my heart in my lap
I’m so tired, I’m so tired
I wish I was the moon tonight

-N. Case
After posting this, I went in search of an image from “The Little Prince.” I found this blog site. These moments of clear perspective are why I am eternally grateful to the universe.

Jam Jar Lanterns

Moon Garden Votive, Jam Jar from Anthropologie

My girlfriend and I are stoned. We’ve left the dinner table, her lovely husband, and lovely babies behind, and we are headed to a house party at my musician friend’s.

I’m leading her through the narrow alleyway to the backyard where soft strains of music trail through the night. She and I walk into a tiny Bluegrass concert with six musicians on acoustic instruments. My friend is nowhere to be found.

His roommate, a handsome chestnut of a fiddle player leads some fellows in a gypsy-jazz sounding rendition of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ He’s wearing a Cuban hat, and his dark hair falls into his eyes as he plays. He’s tall, and young, and has a beautiful jaw line.

The banjo player is fierce, and Balkan looking, with piercing green eyes. He is no more than 26 years old, and his fingers fly across the strings with nimble and truly ridiculous amounts of grace.

The drummer, who is beating on a plastic tub looks a little like my friend who invited me to the party, but it is not him. He nods and smiles, and then the rest of the men notice us, but don’t skip a beat.

My heart does though. They sound unbelievable.

There’s a guy on mandolin, and two guys on guitars, and they switch off taking solos, and losing themselves to the music.

I lean against the fence, and Sarah leans into my shoulder. They are playing for us now, and the universe has slowed to a halt.

They jam for what feels like an impossible time and I wish Alexandra were here. She and I would be moved to silence by the unbelievable magic of this discovery, and we would share that unspoken emotion in one stolen look.

After their song ends, we applaud, and I inquire about my friend, who as it turns out, left his own party some time ago. The fiddler invites us to stay, and so we grab a seat while they decide which tune to play next.

It briefly occurs to me that the combo of two girls and six strange, drunk men might be a bad combination, but as soon as I can form the thought, it is gone. I think of all the things I didn’t experience because I was afraid, and I think of how deeply soul-satisfying this rare, blissful moment is, and I decide it’s worth the risk.

My worry and anxiety dispel like vapor. I know my bed is waiting, and that these perfect, rustic lullabies were sent to me on the summer breeze to remind me that there is wonder around every corner when you take the time to explore. When you are open to uncertainty.

Lead my sleepy heart to magic, time and again universe. If I can trust nothing else, I will trust you.

Best Get Out the Royal Chinette, Ma.

Mad Tea Party - Arthur Rackham

Mad Tea Party - Arthur Rackham

“You are a gorgeous girl, who is smart and funny and has an ass that makes me think talking to you naked is a bad idea.” – David, friend of several years and former protégé, typed in an IM via Facebook

There are two schools of thought:

1.) Save your best china for formal occasions – high holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries only.

2.) Use it anytime you feel inspired to do so.

I’ve always subscribed to the latter. Life is incredibly short, and the people who I bring into my home deserve tea served in only the finest, rich with family history. Otherwise, it sits locked up in a case, gathering dust. And of course there is a risk that I might never use it.

However, lately I don’t think this approach is serving me well. My delicate, sometimes hand-painted, sometimes featuring real gold pieces are either at risk of being clutched so tightly they crack, or handled so carelessly they chip.

I blame modern etiquette. We aren’t used to handling fine things anymore. Everything has become replaceable, or disposable. If it smashes, or scratches, we can just trek over to Ikea for an identical replacement.

I have an art deco tea cup from the twenties. It’s shaped like a fluted octagon, and features a vibrant yellow flower motif against a glossy black background. It’s jazzy, and edgy, and feminine in a very strong, bold “look at my bee’s knees” kind of way. I rarely ever use this cup. Recently, I brought it out to be admired, and filled it with the remaining vestiges of my very special, very fragrant tea from Paris. A beautiful blend called Nuit Calme. The handle broke off. Just like that. No mess, because the cup had been drained; a clean break, which I suppose can be patched with the careful application of some Elmer’s; but lesson learned.

I’m reminded of a commercial from my youth. The patriarch and matriarch of a rural clan watch stoically as their entire brood approaches for a massive family reunion. Kids, dogs, gangly teenagers, and adults of all shapes and sizes make their way towards the homestead. The patriarch drawls the sagely adivce that is the title of this post: “Best get out the Royal Chinette, Ma.”

Time, and experience, and common sense have taught them that people in their enthusiastic fumbling through life are messy, and sloppy, and often careless. By offering sturdy paper plates versus the family china you save yourself hours and hours of clean up time, and the heart break of seeing an antique soup turrine smashed beneath the drunken fist of Uncle Cletus.

I know David Suzuki wouldn’t approve, but I’ll bet he’s smashed a tea cup or two during some of his naked, “save the world” shenanigans. He just looks like the type. One minute he’s sipping jasmine tea from your great grandmother’s service that has come all the way from Aberdeen, the next he’s pouncing on top of you on your sofa, scattering your entire kit and caboodle (a Scottish term) all over the living room floor.

I’m off today to tour the city on my new bicycle, in a polka dot dress (as I told my friend James) in search of Crazee Glue. Only the kind that will secure a construction worker, by his hard hat to a steel girder will do.

Perhaps I can also find some garish plastic patio ware to serve me through the summer.

Put My Clarinet Beneath Your Bed Till I Get Back In Town

Picture 3

Something remarkable happened last night.

For the last year and a half, whether it was on an air mattress, on the Murphy bed in the Paris apartment I rented, on a guest bed, or in the comfort of my own bed, I have always relegated myself to one side. Usually the right hand side. In the morning I would wake and the left side of the bed would be totally undisturbed, unless my cat had crept in, and decided to snooze there beside me.

This morning, I woke up, and I was sprawled everywhere. Pillows had been tossed aside, covers twisted and bunched all around me, and myself stretched across the entire mattress. I felt deeply, and incredibly well rested.

Interesting things are happening to the landscape of my universe right now. There are no clear outcomes, but I feel that whatever might transpire, I will be just fine. I remember a time, not long ago at all, when so much of my sense of well being relied on external influences. The actions of the people in my life, the circumstances surrounding work, or my creative world, my family – all of these things had an incredibly strong effect on my state of mind. I would be lying if I said they were now totally unimportant, but their power over me has waned considerably.

I feel sometimes like a still, glittering ocean. There are depths yet unexplored because mankind does not yet have the ability to move into these uncharted places. There are tempests, and typhoons laying dormant because the winds of passion are blowing in another direction. There are flotsam and jetsam that will drift across the surface from time to time, reminding me of wreckage of the past. There is life coursing just below the surface, fed and nurtured, and riotous in colour.

Stand with your toes digging into the cool, wet sand as the water laps gently at your feet. The steady ebb and flow seems compelling, the placid water rich and cool.

The ocean will remain the ocean, whether or not you choose to swim.

Carriage Return


Every once and a while, you need to re-read your own story, and then try a re-write or two. I’m re-writing the chapter that was this last week.

In the current version, our protagonist has had an incredibly stressful, demanding work week, with high emotional investment. She’s come home alone, exhausted and anxious to an emaciated cat who has been sitting on the stoop of death’s door for months now. She can’t even get a decent night’s sleep because the emaciated cat keeps waking her with his constant need for affection and wet cat food. Her apartment is in total dis-array, and the only things in her fridge are chocolate and butterscotch sauce, a half-empty, totally flat bottle of Perrier, and some mysterious lentil salad that probably should have been pitched weeks ago. She is holding it together with Oreo cookies, and desperately wishing she had someone who loves her to come home to each night.

I’m yanking that sheet from the Smith Corona, smooshing it in one palm and lobbing it into the wastepaper basket.

Instead, I submit the following:

This week, in collaboration with some of the fiercest, brightest most hard-working women she has ever had the pleasure of knowing, our protagonist has staged asuccessful burlesque cabaret, and then went on to help launch the world premiere of a brilliant, innovative new Canadian opera that is the talk of the town. Between high-stakes rehearsals,exhilarating dates with a fascinating new romantic prospect, tete a tetes with her best pal currently residing in Montreal, negotiating deals and donations, and planning big parties with less than 48 hours notice, our protagonist has taken a brief time out today. She indulged in a leisurely bike ride and ended up at a lovely brunch with a new female friend. Then she pedaled over to Kensington market to share a pitcher with two girlfriends and some fantastically candid talk about sex. Tonight she will see the opera, enjoy a bite with a friend, and who knows what else? The world is her oyster, and she’s open to the possibilities that surround her. At the end of the day, she will drop her heels in the pile of sequined costumes and feathers strewn about her eclectic, nostalgic apartment, and drop exhausted but contented into bed, where she will be joined by the handsome feline who is living out his last days surrounded by her fabulousness.

There. That’s better.

To be continued…

Swiping at the Firmament

Photo by Ryan Visima

Photo by Ryan Visima

Today was a very, very challenging day at work. I tried to hold tightly to the high from last night’s successful show, but with the collective stress of my office-mates as we banded together to trouble-shoot, it was more than challenging. I want so badly for this to turn out well, because so many people have worked so hard. I’m blowing on the dandelion fluff of prayer right now…

Arthur left tonight, which I’m usually ok with, but this time it feels a bit heavy. Despite a snoring Toulouse, my apartment feels really empty without him. I’m trying to sit with my loneliness, and sadness, and stress. It’s easy to crave a distraction from these things, but I’ve learned the value of being comfortable with these less than stellar feelings. I’m still not great at this, but it gets better each time I feel this way.

I had ambitions of putting my house back together after a whirlwind week, but all I could manage was a sweep of the floor. It still looks like a panty factory blew up. A panty factory full of colourful chickens, and stockings. I will compromise with myself by putting fresh linens on the bed, washing the dishes before I sleep, and quickly cleaning the bathroom in the morning. I’ve also discovered the glory of the wash and fold laundry service around the corner. It sounds decadent, I know, but in a moment of desperation, I filled a large garbage bag with the rubble of Mt. Laundry and hauled it over. It cost $2 more than usual to have the lovely couple who own the joint do it for me. And it was done by the time I got home from work.

Today, a beautiful new friend responded to a Facebook message I sent, telling her that “the sky was falling”. She said, “Good luck catching it.”

I was struck by this.

The idea of the sky falling immediately makes me feel like I should be doing something to hold it up, which in turn feels impossible. Catching pieces of sky seems like a less monumental task; like catching snowflakes, or raindrops. Do what you can. Collect bits and understand that they will melt, or evapourate because the sky is nothing we can control, or contain, or even begin to hold on to. Before you kick in to Henny-Penny overdrive, remember this. Sometimes when the sky falls, its a reminder that we never should have assumed it was going to stay overhead in the first place.

And sometimes, to lift our hearts and remind us that everything is cyclical, we get a rainbow. Or two.

(and all household chores are waiting until the morning. who am i trying to kid?)