our old cement porch: this too shall pass

Today was the first day of the demolition of our beloved old porch. It was an absurd porch: made of cement, attached to a house made of wood, with rickety stairs and railing. When we moved in 16 years ago, in 1997, the cement was uneven in the middle and when it rained a pool of water collected in the middle, and we always had to sweep it off. It was a lot of work and a nuisance. So I asked the property manager if we could drill a hole in the cement to drain the water, and he arrived, bless his heart, took a very officious look at it and declared that if the water was drained it would be bad for the foundation. However, there was no foundation under the porch. Only earth and rocks. Nevertheless, being new tenants we did not wish to argue with him, and accepted his edict that he would send over a handyman to take care of the problem.

Well, the solution was worse than the problem. The German handyman could not speak a word of English, and didn’t engage with body language either. In one of the oddest house repairs I have ever seen, he covered the cement porch with torch-on roofing. He used a torch [naturally] and some heavy duty industrial glue, perhaps tar, to melt it into place. We tried to question him with gestures and a few words of German that we knew, but he didn’t respond and went about doing his deed. When he was finished our porch was covered in black tar. It was ugly and awful; awful to look at and awful to walk on. In the middle of summer, it heated up and the tar would melt a bit and stick to our feet. The roofing material had also been overlapped so there were large bumpy seams on our porch. Sometimes we tripped over them. We actually missed the cement and kicked ourselves for letting this happen. We should have just drilled a hole without asking anyone. It would have harmed nothing and our problem would have been solved.

The following 2-3 years we painted the torch-on roofing every year. First we found a brilliant blue paint, very exotic and Mexican looking, and that started chipping the first summer.  The next year we found heavy duty marine paint at the recycling depot, free, but it was not very durable. It started chipping with time, as furniture scraped, our footsteps and the weather left its marks. Through the red marine paint we could see the blue, and beyond that we could see the black roofing. Soon it started to get a lovely pattern of colours and textures, with layers of paint chipping and scuff marks from people digging their heels into soft tar. Lots of geraniums and petunia to add to the palette. Interesting rocks, shells, garage sale lawn furniture and animal bones decorated the porch. It was a canvas, an uneven canvas, and we continued for the next 15 years to sweep the water off every time it rained.

It was lovely in its own right.


We had countless parties, dinners, drinks, with hundreds of people, if not thousands over the years, visiting and admiring the sunset, the deer, the ocean, the trees, and congratulating us for living in paradise. Nobody noticed or cared about the strange deck. It seemed to match the off-the-beaten-track our lives looked like. We congratulated ourselves on our good fortune, and were in deep gratitude, to our landlords, to nature, to life itself, for the gift of our time here on this porch, in this house, surrounded by love and laughter and life. We gave our porch to everyone.

Sometimes we slept on the porch and looked up at starry skies. I think I will do that tonight. One last time on the cement porch, I will put out a mattress, get my duvets and stare up at the night sky. Maybe I will see some falling stars, while the occasional misguided seagull squawks and deer munch on the wisteria tree we had to lay down on the ground for awhile.


On Monday a cement driller will come and break up the cement, demolish it, and remove the pieces to be disposed of. In ten days or so we will have a brand new wooden deck, classy, with glass along the railings, elegantly framing our West Coast cedar deck. No water will collect as it will intelligently drain between the boards. There will be no hot tar to sink our heels into, no roofing seams to fall over. When I sweep, the pine needles will fall between the boards. There will be no motley designs with bright blue and red paint over black. It will be sleek and lovely and mainstream. I will still sleep on it in the summer and I will no doubt still have hundreds of people come to visit me and I will entertain them with good food, wine and tales, and the breathtaking views of water, mountains and sunsets. They won’t notice the new cedar deck or miss the old one. The sea lions will continue to bark all winter, and the eagles will continue to soar as they always have. The geraniums will grow as they did last month. My old decrepit porch will be a very sweet story, tucked away in the folds of my nostalgia.



I suppose you’ll always be there

You have been my saviour so many times. You were there, holding on to my hand, my leg, my hair, anything you needed to do so that I wouldn’t slip away. Sometimes all you had to do was whisper in my ear, and sometimes you didn’t have to do anything because I wasn’t slipping away at all. At those times, you could relax and watch, vigilantly perhaps, but still, you didn’t have to work so hard.

But all those times when I lost interest, or went away, and really did threaten to slip away, you caught me gently, by the elbow, or an arm around the waist, and pulled me towards yourself, towards safety, and you never complained, or berated me or scolded me. I took you for granted most of the time, in fact, I didn’t even notice you, as you were doing what you have always done. Why is it that you do all this for me? Did someone commission you to do this? Is there an expiry date, when you won’t be doing this for me anymore? Is there a point when the job is over, and maybe we switch sides, and then I will be the one whose job it is to keep you in line, on the safe side, in the arms of love and sanity?

It’s not really even necessary for me to thank you. You wouldn’t really make much of it, and it wouldn’t change anything, because I would continue to drift away sometimes, and you would simply walk over and bring me back. So the thank yous would be frivolous, as both you and I would know that while thanking you, I would most likely start to lose my focus again within minutes, and we would be back to square one, with you as protector, and me as protectee.


Do you remember that one time when I was a lot younger, and hardly knew you were there? I ran across the playground, and forgot that there was a real road with real cars that runs through the park. I didn’t at all look left or right or anywhere really except to the object of my desire, which was simply a splash pool on the other side. I wanted to go and play in the water, splash and run through the water, and then perhaps sit in it and drink it from the cup that my two hands would make. You weren’t my parents, you weren’t my friend, you were just my protector. You made sure I tripped and fell flat on my face long before I reached the road. I felt your hand push me, and then you were not really there anymore. I mean you probably were, but I didn’t notice you, and all I knew was that my hands hurt from bracing the fall, but it wasn’t too bad, as it was on grass and I did notice the speed and whooosh of the big black car go by within a few feet of my face and hands.

Why are you taking care of me so consistently? It’s been years now, it’s been my whole life. I think I accept that you are there. I think you are part of me, so I cannot really see you as the other who took care of me. I can’t question you without questioning myself. It’s as if I were to ask myself… why are you taking care of yourself?

It’s just more comforting knowing that you are there, and that I don’t have to ask why you are doing it or when did you start, or who set you up for it. I just accept that you are there for me, and that perhaps you are me, and that it’s really not that important.

What does feel good though is that I am safe, all the time. Even when I do fall and hurt myself, I know you’ll help me to get up, get going again. I like that about you. I see you now, just behind me, waiting patiently, lovingly, without any complaints. I don’t even need to feed you or clothe you or tip you. You don’t ask me to do better or be careful. You just think whatever I do is fine. How’s that even possible? There’s no pressure on me at all.

I suppose you’ll always be there. I just have to look down towards the ground and I will feel you just a few feet behind me. If one day you’re not there, I won’t be there either.

dream about credit card balance transfers

I dreamed last night about the 0%-2% credit card balance transfer scheme that I use regularly, being called “cooking” by a mortgage specialist at the bank.

“You’ve been cooking”, he said to me with a little bit of admiration and the sense that it was an okay thing to do, something smart people like us did. Then he brought his supervisor, a very very black man, who tried to be serious and authoritarian. He leaned over, and I told him I had been “cooking”. He wasn’t amused. He tried to tell me that it was no good. All I could focus on is how black he was. Very very black. And wearing a dark suit, perhaps dark blue. He was young, and a little nervous, not really all that confident in his abilities. He was good at representing the “man”. I didn’t care what they thought of “cooking”.


I rode away in a car. I was traveling uphill in a city, and the road swerved to the left into a curve and then straight again, and all uphill, like the streets of San Francisco in the movies. I was aware that I was drifting from the left of two lanes onto oncoming traffic, but I brought the car back into the left lane, on the correct side of the median. I was also aware some madman behind me, perhaps the black guy from the bank, was trying to overtake me on the left, but he had to hold back, because the road was going to curve, and it was uphill and it was too dangerous. I had to focus on the road in front of me. I don’t know what happened to the guy behind me. But I do know that as I got back on the straight road, that an oncoming car lost its nerve, and took a sudden harsh turn, and the car started rolling on its side, at the same time as going downhill. It flipped and flipped. I saw it in the rear view mirror. I thought it was my fault. I had been going too fast. I had unnerved that car. I pulled over into the parking lane, reluctantly, with dread, in case it was my fault. I was feeling sick with the idea that the driver had gotten killed. I was actually more sick with the idea that it was my fault. But I did stop the car and got out to take responsibility. I was feeling so sick I woke up.

As I lay in bed, thinking it over, I had a big realization. I never made contact with that oncoming car, and so it wasn’t my fault, but *maybe* the car that had been following me, and going into the oncoming traffic to overtake me, maybe *that* car had frightened the driver. Maybe this whole catastrophe was not my fault. I felt relieved. I felt relieved that it was probably not my fault. I could face the calamity and take part, offer help, take responsibility if it was mine to take, and that I could get into my car after having been present and then I could drive away. Yes, I had been going fast, but it wasn’t my fault that the car went rolling and if the other driver got hurt. I could get out of bed now.


 Artist:  1872

my plumber has a crush on me

My plumber has a crush on me. He told me so. I told him it’s mutual. But that’s not where the story starts. It started long ago, perhaps a few years ago, when he came to clear out some blocked pipes. I like to talk to servicemen about the work they’re doing, whether it’s on my car or my house or appliances. Usually I like to fix things myself, because it’s empowering to fix things ourselves and a lot cheaper, but in reality, I don’t have time to learn everything, or practice it when I do learn. Furthermore, I don’t have the tools they do and I don’t even really want to get my hands that dirty. So to quench my curiousity, I like to hang around and ask them stuff about how this works and that works. Sometimes they find it annoying.

But Chris, let’s call him Chris, was quite open to explaining plumbing issues, and from there we talked about politics and food and heat exchangers and many other things. It was good, or so I thought. We shared some jokes, and among other things, found out we were both from Montreal. That was great. What was also great was that he got stuff I said right away, and to his relief, I got things he said right away. This may not seem that remarkable to you, but to me, it’s a huge relief when I can use big words and not dumb down my conversation or the speed I use, so others can catch up. You can build up a conversational momentum that’s fast and intense. It’s a bit like playing ping pong, but in this case, not as opponents, but rather players who want to keep the ball on table.

Next time, many months later, I needed a plumber for one of my rental units to install a several low flow toilets, I was lucky enough to have him again, and though I didn’t hang around to watch all the work we did get to talk. Installing five toilets takes time and has financial implications if the plumber is distracted so I tempered our chats We discussed plumbing mostly. By this time we had a rapport and were used to quick, concise exchanges, weaving in and out of plumbing issues, Montreal, local gossip, personal opinions on this and that. We developed a mutual and healthy respect for each others’ intelligence and even acknowledged that it was so. Our exchanges were many, dwelling only briefly on each topic, moving along at a clipping pace while multitasking and happy when neither of us lost the various threads in our chat and were able to pick up fragments, unfinished chats, much later on. There was wry humour, wise cracks and bits of wisdom from the school of hard knocks.

The next time again, possibly a year later, my neighbour needed something done, and since he was at work, I supervised the fixing of a leaky toilet. Chris was assigned by his company and we had a great talk about the Middle East, where we were squarely on opposite side of the Israeli/Palestine conflict, and we managed anyway to carry on a a super civilized conversation and the get the job done too. So  you see, we knew each other.


So this week when I needed a new water heater installed in my own house, I called his company and specifically asked for him. It had been a few months, and since I liked him in a healthy verbal jousting kinda way, I thought why not ask for him? It would be fun. Besides, who wants to see a different plumber every time? There’s something comforting about seeing the same doctor, or same auto mechanic every time. Also the same plumber. Then you can say “my plumber”.

We were glad to see each other. Chris said as soon as he got out of the truck: “We really get along. It’s good to see you”. I said yes, and if he wasn’t busy in the next life, perhaps we could get together since we were so compatible. He laughed.

I asked if I could sit and watch him work, and Chris said that was fine by him. As usual we talked about many things, interspersed with explanations about hot water heaters, welding joints, copper vs plastic piping. We talked about picking up hitchhikers, about how trauma affects people’s lives, sexual abuse, some local gossip and then I told him about my rape since it was relevant at the time. I explained how it happened, and he listened while working. Half way through I explained to him that I was not telling him this because I needed to talk. He said “I know that, Anita.”. He asked if my husband knew, and I said of course and that he had helped me a lot. I told him it was about sharing stories. Stories are good.

I got up from time to time to make some tea, or sweep the floor where he was working, and once to water the garden with the water he was draining from old water tank. In fact, instead of draining and wasting the hot water, I took a shower while he prepared some other stuff. Why waste hot water? Chris said he figured that I would do something like that with the water since I was such an environmentalist. At some point, I invited him to come over and listen to stories with my husband over a glass of wine.  He said he’d like that and that he had many stories to share.

When I told him about my encounter with a local mechanic working for a chain store who had called me “difficult” when I questioned what he was doing with my car Chris told me he used to find me irritating. I was a bit taken aback because I thought we had these great conversations in previous plumbing sessions. I asked him what irritated him about me and he said “nothing you did. It was just that you have a very strong presence and it’s intimidating. It’s fine now. I really like you just the way you are. I get you. You know I trust you. I really do”.

I also told him I was fasting. He asked why, and I said for fun. He laughed. You have to understand that we were rarely actually looking at each other while talking, because he was indeed installing a new hot water tank all this time. But we were able to pace ourselves accordingly, and in my case, with a great deal of sensitivity to when my talk would actually be interfering with his work. We complimented each other on intelligence and knowledge. We acknowledged how cool it was to talk to someone who was so smart. I explained to him that fasting was like doing drugs. The way you get high in half an hour or so, I said, imagine that space between being not high till you are high. Imagine that stretching out to 48 hours, so you get high very s l o w l y ?

Chris laughed and asked me if I had done drugs. I said yes. But you see, fasting has changed my way of being at this moment. I am high, even as I write this, on the fifth day of my mostly tea and a little fruit fast. We were just vibing so well on each other that we speculated that the high was making it so good. The mutual admiration, the acknowledgement of trauma, of life’s imperfections, appreciation for the way hot water tanks work, the choreography of our choppy conversation; it all built up. I walked away to do something in the kitchen and Chris called out “I am getting a crush on you Anita”. I said “I know. It’s mutual” from the kitchen.

Chris kept working and when I came back, I leaned a bit closer to where he was working and said “Be careful you’re not getting a crush on me because I told you about the rape. It’s normal to feel protective and caring for a victim”. He assured me that was not it, but he got that it could be that way. I like that he could learn. I really liked his smarts along with his humility.

It was time to sign the bill and pay. I did so and we were perhaps two feet apart, standing side by side. I signed my name and said “you know, you’re making me blush”. Chris said “you’re making me blush”. It was all quite matter of factly.

When he was loading his truck, he said “So you think we could do something in the next life?”. I said sure, absolutely, it would be lovely. Then I said to him “but there is a problem. You see, when we die, we go into a place where there is no next or last, all time is one thing. So that other life, where we are together, it’s actually right now, in a parallel universe.”

Chris said “I could spend time with you, Anita”.

fasting to a high

I’ve been fasting for 4 days now. It feels good. I had planned on a water only fast, but on the first day I had decided to eat a very little raw fruit and vegetables to ease into it, but I have continued to eat like that everyday: a handful of berries and some plums, and twice a banana. Oh, and two peaches. Lots of water and sometimes juice, and tea. Mostly black tea with milk and cane sugar in the mornings especially. Quite a no-no in the fasting world, but I don’t mind. I am not doing it for the approval of an unseen expert. I do it for myself and let my body be the guide.

I don’t feel hungry at all. I have fasted before and I always felt very hungry the first two days. It used to be quite difficult on water only – those first two days – and then by the third day I would enter into a altered, more clear, state of consciousness, and then it would be easy after that. This time the fast works the same way, but without those difficult cravings. I feel clearer, and lighter.

For me, fasting is not only about cleansing my body, but changing the way I do things. One of the things we take most for granted is to put food in our mouths, unless of course we have eating disorders, but that’s another whole story. When I stop eating, I feel different. My day is not punctuated by the preparation of meals, consuming them, shopping for them, cooking them and cleaning up after them. So suddenly all this time is now released for other things. But since not eating is also clearing my brain, I now find myself with much more time on my hands and a clarity I didn’t have before. It’s like walking on air, floating through spaces, especially the kitchen, with no great interest in food. That is definitely a change from the way I normally do things.

Normally I feel a bit heavy, am preoccupied with many different thoughts, and turn to food and related activities as distractions. Now I am more quiet and reflective. I feel energetic and strong, not at all weak, but at the same time I feel subdued. It’s actually a great feeling.

This feeling creeps up on me slowly. I start to become more aware of my surroundings, and I feel high. But unlike an alcohol or drug high, I get to the place of being high quite slowly. Instead of a rapid half an hour, it took me 24-48 hours to get that high from fasting. And now I’m on my fourth day, and it’s still no more than having a glass of wine on an empty stomach. You feel it. So I really the slow gentle way I have reached this state. It’s sustainable. ;-)

The fasting also cleanses, and I already feel that. I had an allergic reaction to pollen in the air, and my eyes were irritated, I was sneezing, and my throat was itchy. These have gone away as my body has started to eliminate the allergens in my blood supply. I do have to cleanse my body a bit more often. Two short showers a day takes care of toxins coming out as perspiration and I have to clean my teeth and tongue too, as that is where the body deposits the results of all that internal scrubbing.

I have lost four pounds. One pound a day. That is also helpful as I am about 30-40 lbs overweight. It’s actually a really nice bonus. I hope to lose 10 pounds by day 8, which is when I am scheduled to stop the fast. But the way I am feeling I feel like carrying on for a month. I think I would feel fantastic, since I am not hungry at all. I mean, really, not at all.

The reason I went on this fast was to honour my three boys and their companions as they traveled to the annual Shambhala Music Fest in the interior of BC. I wanted to send them good vibrations, good prayers, for their safety during their absolute abandonment to the ecstasy of music and community. I wanted the car ride there and back to be safe and smooth. I thought I could emanate such positive energies much better from an altered state of consciousness. So far, so good.