Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Gift

Tonight, this last night of 2006, I will be dining with my Musical Mother, the elegant, the talented, the stubborn, the independant, the determined, the magnificent, grand old lady of the ivories, Miz Minnie. She will be dressed like a tiny 85lb queen mother, her make-up will be flawless (she's been trying to get me to get with the make-up thing for decades). She will be finely coiffed, subtly perfumed and ready to party. Don't misunderstand me when I describe Minnie, she can be earthy, even raunchy, as well as elegant....though not so much in mixed company anymore and we will be escorted by two excellent gentlemen.

Minnie will celebrate her 100th birthday in 6 weeks and the party will rock. She will laugh, and flirt, maybe even rant, depends who's there and what the subject of discussion. And then, more than likely, with a little prodding from her Musical Children, who's ages range into the 80's, myself being the baby of the group, she will play for us....and some of us...2 of us actually, along with Minnie, will sing....Les Girls will sing...probably musical comedy type stuff...but our 3rd "girl" is a bit operatic, so who knows what we'll do.....thank God for my childhood days of improvising harmonies for my Dad's Irish tenor.

My earliest, happiest memories all involve music and my father. Usually singing with him or for him or listening to him sing as he taught me how to use my voice. Dad loved jazz and opera. Sunday mornings are still synonymous with that miraculous harmonious crunch of notes created by Art Tatum, Jackson Teagarden, Enrico Caruso...oh yes and Irish Freedom songs....Will my Soul Pass Through Old Ireland still passes, like a stiletto, through my heart and brings tears to my eyes.

Music, the ability to express oneself through song or instrument, is such a precious gift. It bares your soul. It strengthens your soul. It inspires, calms, beautifies, excites. And it gives that very occasional opportunity to glimpse the truth.

How lucky I am.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Every abuser believes that their victims are responsible for what they do or say to them and how they treat them.

Every abuser refuses to acknowledge the abused as an equal...but the abused does acknowledge the abuser, the abuse probably couldn’t happen otherwise, it’s hard to abuse someone who doesn’t respect or care for you. Of course that will change with any luck. Ideally we learn from our experiences. This is where the really serious psychological consequences occur because every abuse has the ability to shake the foundations of our ideals and beliefs and after a series of abuses we can start to question our very life’s philosophy.

Every abuse is accompanied by that rush of frigid air into the heart of the abused as just a little bit more of the love and respect once held for the abuser is chiseled away, until finally all that is left is a wintry void.

Every abuse is followed by an apology until finally the abused realizes that the faster and sweeter the apology the sooner the next episode of abuse.

Every abuse is conceived in the mind of the abuser and not the abused, thus, the abused, because they don't understand why the abuse began in the first place, constantly expects it to end. The abused initially develops a desperate optimism that allows them to survive an otherwise untenable situation, but this is often replaced by paralyzed silence as they watch the abuser, in their attempt to destroy them, destroy their own soul instead. This of course involves psychologically removing oneself from the situation, but it does make the abuse more bearable.

Denial helps too.

"Every" has been used as a literary device.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


As she opened her eyes and looked across the empty bed, Colleen was filled with a warm sense of well being, knowing that this birthday morn she was alone...he was not there...he had gone away...for good...she was free of him, of his base obsessions and miserely, ungenerous habits...and she had managed to find her freedom without guilt... guiltless freedom...what a concept.

Her thoughts returned to that morning one year ago. For the first time, the night before, she had made him dinner, a secret gift on her birthday‘s eve. It was with a certain delicious forbodding that she had done this, for it had been years since she’d cooked for a man, domesticity having fled her life along with all other accoutrements of married bliss. She had successfully cut men out of her heart for a decade and had been rewarded with feelings of confidence, strength and optimism, the likes of which she had never experienced in her 18 years of marriage.

But the previous night she had wanted to cook for him because he had asked her to...and she wanted what he wanted...she hadn’t even noticed that she was falling...falling into that shameless, hopeless quagmire of trying to be... what?.. what ever he wanted her to be.

"Gawd.." thought she..."What a fool....what a pathetic fool."

To have him in her bed as her birthday dawned seemed like sheer delinquent delight to her misguided psyche. He tended to drift off after an evening...perhaps he’d have disappeared for a week or more (no she didn’t see the writing on the wall, dispite pleas from friends to wake up, she was already drowning in denial and self-delusion). The one thing she wanted was to not be alone on her birthday, she wanted him there when she woke up...and there when she went to sleep....just one day....what a treat that would be...

"Boy, s'funny how things change." she muttered to herself, as she noticed the special oversized pillow she had bought for him discarded on the use to her...hmm..yah..funny.

Things changed that morning. Her cell rang at 8am, she was wanted at work, someone had cancelled and they were desperate, apologetic but desperate. As she walked into the next room she explained in a hushed voice that, as it was her birthday and a Saturday, she couldn’t help them. She closed off with a satisfied giggle and hopped back into bed.

"So when were you going to tell me it was your birthday?" he laughed.

"I didn’t want you to feel you had to buy me a present. I’m just glad you’re here." she aligned her body with his, pressing up to it...savouring it's heat.

"Had you told me, we could have gone out for a nice dinner tonight, instead of just a film." he averted his eyes as he mouthed these words, they both knew it was still only 8am.

"Oh that’s okay, a film's great..." she murmured, as demure and chaste as a 10 cent holy card. And then, for one brief moment, the scales fell from her eyes as she watched his face gleam with satisfaction, mentally calculating the amount of money he wouldn’t have to spend. A knife pierced her heart but she ignored it. "Just like the old days," whispered her soul, but not loudly enough to hear.

He left mid-morning saying he’d come back around 6 and they’d walk to the cinema. And she...she spent a wonderful day dreaming about the potential of the coming evening.... dinner... dancing... flowers....a long walk...who knew what surprises lay ahead...he was still a novelty in her life, she was still full of hope for the future.

Do I need to tell you what actually happened? Of course not....

She just wanted to believe and he...he knew it...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Curiouser and Curiouser

Last Sunday I went to see A Sunday In Kigali.....and I can't get it out of my head...not a surprise really, it presents the Rwandan genocide in a terrifying manner...cold and common place and just next mercilessly documents the casualness of violence, the clarity of hate...mostly within the confines of neighbourhoods and families.....Hutu fathers forced to choose between killing their Tutsi wives and children or being killed themselves and their families being left to their even more soul destroying fates....what would you do as a man...what would you want done as a woman...the mind has difficulty even broaching such ideas......

At one point at the beginning of the madness the sweet young voice of an announcer comes over the airwaves..."so when you see her slim hips and pretty nose, smash her face in". The chilling everyday approach to the killing, the workman like, assembly line attitude used in the rapes, not only humiliating and inseminating the girls and women but mutilating them and thus destroying any possibility of future sexual union when not simply killing them. The small meaness of it all is so clearly intoned...... A murderous prejudice based on bone structure!!!!! Not colour, not religion, not anything you can put a finger should make us wonder, what is prejudice....what is hate....I always thought it was predominantly fear of the unknown, so can't we just get to know each other, but the Tutsis and Hutus had intermarried for generations. that prejudice.....

The miracle of it all lies in the fact that through even the most horrifying terrors human beings struggle on, trying to love and to live...and to die with as much dignity as they can muster....and we....we wonder if we could ever survive such trials...and pray we will never be tested.....we throw up our hands and say, "what is happening to the world....what is this all about....."

Okay, I know,'s about power.....God help us......

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Do you ever think about truth.....I do.....I learned long ago that it was the one thing without which I could not survive....

And yet I run into it so seldom.

What I run into most, amongst those whom I would, ideally, like to respect, is the willingness to accept bolderized versions of the truth, to make life easier.... but for whom? Well, for themselves of course, details are such a bother and might involve an exchange of ideas and an acknowledgement of equality.....

How can we expect nobility of spirit amongst nations, cultures, religions and races if between neighbours we are able to let ourselves accept as truth that which we know to be false.......

Such pedestrian examples of shameful mediocrity are just not on, as they say in jolly old England.

And as to Trotsky's hat, Milan Kundera tells the story better than I, so I'll leave it to him.......but truth is what that's all about as well.....

Truth is a hat...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jimmy Stewart's Not My Dad

D'you know.....I was watching TV th'other night.......and what came on but "Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation" with James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara.....(you know the one.....I'm sure we've watched it together at some point......) and honestly, I was amazed at how much Jimmy Stewart looked like E.M.!! His gestures....his attitude..... his gangley walk..... HIS HAT!!!!! Do you remember Dad's hat? I couldn't believe it....I almost called the whole fam-damnly.

Mom used to talk about how, as a young man....when Dad was in New York .....or Montreal...or where ever....women would swarm him for his autograph.... and he would give it....after a modest protest. For the thought of knowing that those poor misguided girls would get home, look at their autograph albums and wonder who the hell Warmest Regards E.M Tevlin was was too much to resist and would amuse him for days.

Let's not forget those memories eh!

And of course there was the famous "morning after the Press Club Ball episode" with B.J. accosting the G.R.Y.C. commodore and accusing him of being Peter Ustinov....for whose 2nd or 3rd wife I am named....the one who was with her at the convent and hopped the wall to marry him....which reminds me of the Ursulines and another convent wall that I so narrowly escaped........hmmmmmmmmm......... life's still pretty funny ........and pretty good...........

Sunday, July 23, 2006


The other day I was "on set" playing a mother to a young man of about 19 years.... perhaps he was a few years younger or older....I have never been able to tell the age of a man. We were seated in a theatre ......the scene was a highschool play in a highschool auditorium and the place was filled with mostly noisy, often obnoxious and almost universally bored young wasn't pleasant.

We'd been paired up because of our physical similarities..... tall, fair haired, fine boned .... it was a good call on the A.D.'s part......but as we were surrounded by 200 sweetly nubile (great old fashioned word) females of every variety and shape I didn't expect more than a polite hello and goodbye.....

Where am I going with this?????

Life is so odd..... my Dad always used to say that truth was stranger than fiction.... and it is. I enjoy the social aspect of film gets me out of the I am always pleased to have a chat with a pleasant neighbour rather than read my book.....but I was surprised at how quietly eager my "son" was to talk with me......Was I married?.... Did I have children?..... delicate and sensitive questions for a woman of my age, but proof of "my son's" innocence....

Between each bout of questions he would put his head contemplation? exhaustion?....... "Would it be a long night?" he asked......."Was there a blue night bus on Dufferin?"

I wondered if he was worried about getting home, assured him that we'd be done before the subway closed down.... then he looked at me...but with eyes so full of loss and disquiet.... "It's just that I have a funeral in the morning.....really early....."

This gentle young man's aunt had committed suicide wednesday morning.....and he didn't understand......How does one respond to this?????.......I followed the script and played his mother.........earning my paultry pennies from heaven....trying to soften the burden of an unquiet soul......

The story was so sad.......The woman had been hit by a bus months ago.....but had recieved no compensation..... and suffered from unbearable and chronic pain ...... she was staying with her mother. The boys father was also living with mother and heard his sister get up during the small hours of the morning......thinking she was letting the dog out onto the balconey he went back to sleep....only to be awakened by the police a few hours later......the balconey was on the 17th floor.... she had jumped to ease the pain.....

I talked about pain and how life can become too difficult to bear.....How such decisions usually come only after long and careful thought........ That it was a decision that was her's to make..... That funerals are a way of clarifying the reality of death for those who are left behind......... I pulled out all the stops for my child....... and as strangers in a strange land, we passed a quiet moment contemplating lifes game of chance....

"My grandfather died in the spring," he sighed at last....."This will be my second funeral......."

Monday, July 10, 2006


Why are there so many crows?

To me it's simple....Crows are so variable....They can express so many of the things I want to say.......but to explain how they came to hold such a significant place in my work.....and to justify my almost constant use of their personnae.... that's complex.

The crow suits's free...... and strong.....and maligned.....It soars atop mountains, its wing span dark and screams its independence for all to hear.....(no passive aggressivity from these old souls) flourishes.... it's intelligent......(did you know some crows use tools?)

In the mythology of almost any civilisation you care to study the crow plays a part. Noah sent a crow out to find dry was too smart to return to that old sailor, so he sent out a dove.....or so we're told...but there is a sub-species of white crows......that's right.....pure white.....but with that same spirit.....that spirit of legend. There are many colour variations of the crow and....the bluejay.....that raucous winter screeecher, is a close relative.

In other traditions the crow is a trickster....or a shapechanger......and in my personal tradition.....the crow represents the double edged sword of what others see as a gift but has at times seemed to me to be a That creativity......that talent...that sets you apart from the rest of the world......that makes you stand alone. That's what "The Crow Lady" is about......I'll show you that another time.

The large (60" x 40") work below is the first crow painting I ever did.....the seed of all that was to come. I was living in a small village just outside of Cambridge, a lovely old house set between a sheep farm and an old church......Now because of the sheep and their rather casual approach to chewing and digesting, their droppings where large, generous and everywhere.....this attracted crows.... crows as big as cats.....crows that could take down a rabbit....crows that strutted like gangsters..... I was fascinated by them but didn't understand why as they flocked and cawed back and forth from nest to field, hundreds of them....Then one day I realised they reminded me of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz......The flying monkeys that had terrified me as a child......Terrified ....Fascinated.....Inspired......... I knew I was on to something.....

Monday, June 12, 2006


In dreams my father comes to me....oft in disguise, aged, as though he'd never elder .....90ish, stooped and grey....other times, the young boisterous man who, at age 6 or 7, I begged to wait for me, so we could wed....but mostly as the discouraged....vanquished...more than middle aged one he was at last.......he enters my room...and sits by my bed ...and reminds me that I am loved.....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

No Girls Allowed !!!

Long ago and far away, on the back of an old clapboard garage, in our little families little garden, was a sign ....perhaps the first sign I ever read by myself....NO GIRLS ALOWED.....It was posted by my brother, to teach me the ways of the world....

He was helpful, my brother....he also taught me never to be smarter or faster than he one summers morn on the railway tracks, in front of my grandmothers cottage.....I'm still long legged... and my grown-up teeth eventually did appear.....but the lesson was well learned regardless of times ability to heal superficial scrapes....The funniest thing about that summers morn happened decades later when his wife accused me of causing trauma to that poor little blighter of long ago.....for, just like the merchant of venice, I bled....