Iceland eruptions (part two of The Poet)

(Part one of The Poet is here.)

There aren’t many climates that make the north coast of British Columbia look good, but Iceland is one of them. Fishing was the common denominator between the two places and my best friend’s family were Icelandic fishermen in Prince Rupert.

Mrs. Ingolfsson promised me vinarterta when she invited me for breakfast that day. Vinarterta is Icelandic ambrosia and a Christmas treat. It went with sugar and fat, the main ingredients in breakfast with the Ingolfsson’s. Pancakes stacked with butter and icing sugar, sweet coffee whitened with thick condensed milk, and a fancy China plate garnished with a sliver of vinarterta. I never knew the filling was prunes. I thought it was dates. Continue reading

The Poet (part one)

Wooden floors, varnish long vanished, pressed tin ceiling, dusty, musty, mote-filled air, tipped piles, floor-to-ceiling books everywhere. Used and flipped and fingered and folded. I met a Poet there.

He was crouched among the volumes of E.J. Pratt, Susan Musgrave, Irving Layton, and Frances Itani, head aslant, eyeballing his way through this formidable CanLit collection. Marinated in cologne, I collided with his scent. He wore a beret, too, and a scarf circled his neck like a fringed tanka. A tear-drop shaped grey goatee graced his chin.

Rifling through skinny books and starving volumes, I was looking for lost poets. He pulled one out and said “This is the best one there.” Continue reading

Fun-sucking fact-checker

Since my departure from Facebook I am missing all the good news, like the story about Pope Francis declaring that all God’s creatures will go to heaven. It was reported that the Pope, while

talking to a distraught boy whose pet had died, declared there was a place in heaven for the creatures we share our lives with. His comment was reported this week by many news media outside Italy, with dozens of articles in the United States. It was veritable catnip to social media.

“This could make me a Christian” I thought when this sweet story came up during a dinner party. Reconstitution in heaven for eternity – me, my dog, my lovely family – sounds divine.

My dog. The most forgiving and loving of all God’s creatures. Ignoring the problem of belief, the news made me want to join that big Christ-loving club with the great songs, the beautiful architecture, and the all-time best-seller – the Bible.   Continue reading

Romeo was here

She read as I knit, she on the couch, me swaddled on the 35th wedding anniversary chair, lamplight ringing our heads in the dim living room.

 “Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;

Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd;

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”.

She handled the language remarkably well for a 14 year old. But Continue reading

Roots, lichen, and moss


Newfoundland lichen

I am lichen. I can live anywhere. I can live on a rock, on an island, in a shady spot at the side of a house.

I have no roots. I clipped them off young and left them behind on Vancouver Island. I couldn’t flee fast enough. I got myself engaged to a sweet, handsome American boy at 18 years old to escape. Off I hoofed to Colorado to tie the knot. Mercifully, the knot was never tightened in part because I was miserable and homesick. Strange to be sick of home and yet so home sick. Back I went to my mom, my grandma and a dreary duplex in a sunken neighbourhood on the floodplain of the Puntledge River. Continue reading

Voices overheard

“You’re a nightmare, Susanne.”

That was the voice of the second in command in the large medical education outfit I work for.  I was responding to a workshop he was giving our team of administrators and I said “Oh! I KNOW where this is going.” That’s when he said it.

First of all, this man is a treat. He is kind, self-effacing, thoughtful, and respectful.  He is the surgeon you’d like on your team because you know he’s going to listen and do his damndest to make you whole again. To all these admirable qualities you can add a delightful deadpan delivery when he lets one of his zingers go. They’re the kind of things you do a double take over to see if there’s a hint that he was joking. Then you see his eyes – just a little wider – and note the slight stretching of his mouth into an almost-smile. Continue reading