I wrote this fictional short story as an assignment for one of my classes at U of T, Generating Stories, taught by Ken Murray. Some stories tend to stay inside of us until the time is right to share them.

“Here’s a story I never told anyone.”

We were sitting around the campfire and I broke out of my trance when I heard my friend Matt say that. He threw a couple more pieces of wood into the fire and we waited, watching the embers rise up into the sky and scurry through the air like fireflies. We had just finished singing Hallelujah and there was a somber and reflective mood in the air. The brightest star I had ever seen shone in the night sky. The pole star.

“It happened back when I was a kid, growing up in Cape Breton.” He paused and smiled, the memories flooding back to him as he thought back to his happy childhood. Then his brow furrowed and his face tensed, as another memory struck him.

“There was a girl on the island that lived down the street from us. Her name was Julie. She was eleven, a little younger than me, with long brown hair and light brown eyes. Her parents home-schooled her, so I only saw her when all the kids played outside on our street. One day after everyone had gone inside after a street hockey game, only she and I remained, standing on the sidewalk. We just stood there face to face, not knowing what to say, and feeling like we knew each other from another life. She suddenly became shy, and said she had to go and I watched her run home.”

“She became my best friend. We started high school together, which was a tough transition for her. We were pretty anti-social in high school. I mean we had friends, but really only looked forward to spending time with each other. Eventually I had to leave the island when my father got a job in Toronto, the summer I turned fifteen. We wrote each other every week. Then after awhile her letters became more infrequent, until one day they stopped altogether.”

Everyone’s eyes got a little wider. I looked down at my arms and realized I had goosebumps.

“I was totally devastated. I didn’t know what to do, so I kept writing. Every week. I just didn’t send the letters. Writing to her was the only way I knew how to express myself. For years I wrote to her. It wasn’t until I met Lindsay that I stopped.”

“So what happened to the letters?” someone asked.

“I kept them. And then a few years ago, I heard from a friend who’d grown up with us that she had spiralled into a really bad place; she suffered from depression and was addicted to painkillers. Her parents had died in a car crash. I wondered if there was anything I could do. Then it struck me – I had to give her the letters. I located her address and I sent her a package. There were 136 letters in total. I waited for months, hoping for a reply, but I never heard from her.”

We fell silent, disappointed by the story’s ending.

“Until last week.”

I exhaled, relieved. “What happened?” I said with anticipation.

“She said that she’d waited so long to reply because she was so overwhelmed that she had to give it time before she could express her gratitude. She said that the letters carried her through the hardest time of her life, while she was facing her demons, getting help, and struggling just to get from day to day. Initially she had wanted to read all the letters at once, but she didn’t want the experience to come to an end, so she read one every week, over a span of three years, the same time it took me to write them. She said she’s doing well now. She made it through.”

“Are you planning to see her?”

“No, I’ll probably never see her again.”

Matt put some more wood into the fire. No one said anything for awhile. Then one of the guys picked up his guitar and started playing Nothing Else Matters. I looked up at my favourite star and began to sing.

A New Year, A New Start

Happy New Year everyone!!! Hope your 2018 is off to a wonderful start. Have you set any new year’s resolutions? Here is my list of ten resolutions for the year:

  1. Visit 10 hot spots in Ottawa with my friend Hetal
  2. Be more like my Mom (this may take many years!)
  3. Get a job I love, pay down debt, be financially savvy
  4. Complete my Creative Writing Certificate at U of T (it’s my final year!)
  5. Turn 39 (LOL I have to make sure I achieve at least one of these)
  6. Travel to a place I haven’t been before
  7. Take part in Walk In Her Shoes in Ottawa (perhaps Sophie Gregoire will be there again this year?!)
  8. Read lots of good books
  9. Dance, smile, and laugh a lot… and learn to let go
  10. Visit my friends in T.O. as often as possible

Also here are a few foundational things that are important to do on an ongoing basis, that set the stage for accomplishing any goal, and ensuring that I live healthily and happily.

Tools/Ongoing Practice:

  1. Eating healthy and cooking lots
  2. Regular yoga practice
  3. Spending lots of time in nature
  4. Facetiming my grandparents
  5. Lots of laughter!

I’d love to hear your resolutions if you have any!! It’s always easier to get things done with the support of others, and especially knowing that the universe has your back. And finally, even if nothing gets done… there is always rebellion. ;-)



Cattle Call

I received the nicest email today, from a friend Catherine in my online poetry class. It’s amazing how you can feel connected with someone you’ve never even met. I’d initially been reluctant to take an online class since all of my in-person classes have been so amazing, but I have to say that it was a wonderful experience. The class started out with around eight students and dwindled down to just four of us. We shared our poems, critiqued each other’s work, and offered lots of support and encouragement. The timeline was pretty hectic (one poem per week, and a final portfiolio at the end), but it was actually just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing. The course was taught by George Murray, a published poet and a very thoughtful, supportive teacher.

As we were wrapping up the course, Catherine posted something about a poem of mine, ‘A Mind of Their Own’, which she had said reminded her of a herd of cattle (haha!). The poem is about meditation and how thoughts run wild in our heads, and I guess when she read it, she pictured cows storming in. She said she harboured a big secret – that she had re-written the poem, using cows instead of thoughts. So cool!

You know, I was thinking, after the thoughts about my cat poem and the little old ladies… well, this may sound crazy, but when you say they come in, not one by one but all at once… I imagined a herd of cattle. Don’t laugh! If you read it again imagining cattle, it kinda works, don’t you think?

That’s what I love about poetry, and creative writing in general – it sparks new ways of thinking and sometimes the person reading it imagines something totally different than the writer. Every art form is actually a two-way process; it exists as an interaction between the creator and the consumer. And between the two, there is magic.

Here are the two versions of the poem – mine and then hers:

A Mind of Their Own

They come uninvited;
Not one by one, but
All at once, each with its own
agenda, shouting
Over each other.
That one over there
Looks new,
But unafraid

he has something to say.
Some are urgent, frantic,
while others meet under golden lights,
unaware of anyone else.
A few are caught in the past,
and tell stories around bonfires
Over and over

I thought I’d locked the door
But they come in through the back.
“Now focus on the breath,” the instructor says,
“Bring your attention to each
thought, gently touch it –

And then let it go.”
They are startled by the intrusion,
and pause for a moment.
It feels lighter in the room.
I breathe a little easier.
I was never very good at this

Cattle Call

They storm in, unhinged
not one by one, but
all at once, barreling toward
an unknown end –
snorting in the stirred up dirt.
calling over another;
That one there – he looks
unafraid yet bellows in distress.

Others are urgent, frantic –
they jostle toward their fate,
unaware of their collective
doom. A few are caught
in the past – meadows, grass,
lowing in the afternoons,
over and over.

The gate is locked – the herd
still surges – steaming clouds
of panicked breath –
dull roar of hooves in muck.

Dusk settles on the
restless herd – the cattle
call is over and they
all breathe a little easier.

I think her poem works so well with cows! I can just picture the cows storming in, not knowing that their death soon awaits them. As a vegetarian, I have actually thought of this scenario often – how animals often know that they are going to be killed when their friends in the field don’t return.

It’s nice that the four of us from the class have decided to stay in touch. It’s always hard to say goodbye to people when a course comes to an end – thank god for technology!