Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow days and winter picnics

Today was a snow day for Halifax schools so Lorraine and I were not able to go to A.’s Primary class reading event where family members were invited to come and read with our kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews.  We were told we could wear pajamas, and A. was excited at the prospect and was definite that she was going to – we hadn’t decided ourselves, though I had been thinking of a dressing gown I could put on; however, it didn’t happen because of that pesky northeaster that was blowing through this morning, so Lorraine suggested we take the girls to the library instead this afternoon.

We had a lot of fun doing that and signed out sixteen books and nine videos.  Then they came to our house to look at the books, check out a couple of the videos, and eat cheezies and sliced apple while they snuggled on our big bed.

I stayed upstairs with the girls while Nan (Lorraine) made some supper and then decided to set it up in front of the woodstove for a winter picnic.

Then she decided that the carpet was an island and everyone spent time sunbathing on a big towel and stretching their legs up on the edge of the couch.

My suggestion was to toast marshmallows in the stove, so I melted the ice off our hot dog sticks that were still in the treehouse, and then Nan decided we could make s’mores with chocolate digestive cookies.

What can I say, except that it was some good (some jeezly good!) and the girls had a right fine (and fun) time.  So, hooray, I say, for a snow day – it’s important to make the best you can of it, and I think we did!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rejoice with me

I had planned to use the phrase “More joy in Heaven” as a title for this post.  The words have been bouncing around in my head for the past few days, but it wasn’t until today when I sat down to get started that I actually looked the phrase up in Luke 15 and found that it wasn’t quite the way I thought it was.  The story was there, and it was as relevant as I remembered, but the use of the phrase just wasn’t right.  However, a quick read of the chapter led me to the words “Rejoice with me”, which is what I am now inviting you to do.

Here’s why.

Tomorrow at this time I will have been a Canadian citizen for exactly two weeks.  However, the occasion for rejoicing with me over that accomplishment has passed.  As I mentioned in my last post, “The party’s over”, and it’s starting to feel like time to get down to the hard work of actually being Canadian.   

I’m not sure how well I’m doing: so far I haven’t managed to pay attention to a single hockey score, let alone watch a game, though I did notice the headlines about that unexpected third period debacle in the Juniors against Russia, but of course I was only a Permanent Resident back then.  I am still passing by every Tim Horton’s without a pang of desire or regret, though I still remember the first one I went to back when Tim's served fifteen cent hamburgers near the bottom of Yonge Street in 1964.  And what I haven’t been able to divine is whether the revulsion I feel at any mention or appearance of Harper and his Conservatives is truly Canadian or just a manifestation of my non-Canadian immigrant experience. 

One of the benefits of this new identity I have achieved, besides being able to vote legally (as soon as I have the chance), is to carry a Canadian passport.  Since there are no elections that I know of coming up, I decided that one truly Canadian thing I could do was to apply for a passport.  It’s not the only time I’ve done that; in fact, my unsuccessful passport application in the fall of 2002 was the first official notification I ever got that I wasn’t actually a Canadian, something that sent me scrambling to obtain my current British/Bermudian one but not to actually get the paperwork done to become Canadian right then (something I have often regretted since).

As you might expect, I have plenty of experience with the nooks and crannies of the CIC website, so it was no problem to find and download the right form.  The instructions and cautions are lengthy and detailed, but the form itself is pretty straightforward, and the crux of the issue is being able to show that you are in fact a Canadian citizen.  Should be easy now!

And everything was easy until Section 4 on page 2, Proof of Canadian Citizenship.  Actually Section 4 A, Did you acquire citizenship of another country before JANUARY 1, 1947?, was still easy.  4 B did not apply to me, since I was not born in Canada.  It was 4 C, where I was given four options for proving I was Canadian, that ended up stopping me, because I couldn’t find the wallet-sized laminated card that was the Certificate of Canadian Citizenship I had been presented by Her Honour Linda Carvery only a week previous. 

I could give a very long and painful account of my days of looking for it, trying to track down the last occasion I had shown the card to somebody and to understand the faint physical memory that I had put it in my wallet and finding it just wasn’t there, taking apart my thick citizenship file over and over again, searching all the adjacent hanging files and the bottom of the file drawer, looking in every possible place inside the car, worrying that somehow it had gone out with the recyclables, checking the pockets of everything I wore to the ceremony, waking up at 4 a.m. with another sudden idea of where it might possibly be and then not finding it when I looked after day broke, e-mailing my CIC officer to find out how long it takes to get a replacement card (10 months!) and whether they could issue a temporary replacement (no), and just feeling stupider and stupider about losing the thing after spending so much time and effort to get it.

So, you may be able to imagine my happiness when I went through my wallet one final desperate time, decided to pull out my Blue Cross group insurance card even though there was no suggestion that anything else could be in that slot, and discovered my slim but perfect Certificate of Canadian Citizenship stuck to the back of it.  I looked at both sides of the card, I kissed it, I jumped in the air and shouted, I hugged Lorraine (kissed her too, of course), and I thought of the parable of “More joy in Heaven”, all of which led me to Luke 15, part of which goes like this:

8  Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Forget the parts about the prodigal son or the sinner that repenteth, because the thing that was lost has been found, and my application can proceed.

So, after all that, and if you still care to do so, please
Rejoice with me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Party’s Over

It’s time to call it a day.

One of those days was last Tuesday at 10:30 in the morning when I lined up with forty other new Canadians from twenty-one different countries to have our documents checked prior to the Citizenship Ceremony where we would all be sworn in as Canadian citizens.

I shook hands with Her Honour Linda Carvery, the Citizenship Court Judge, who presided over the ceremony and granted us our citizenship.  When she asked me how long I had been in Canada, I told her 64 years, a slight exaggeration because I landed in Canada on March 15, 1947 and did spend five of those years living in Türkiye.  Then I reminded her that it was her decision that allowed me to become a Canadian and thanked her for it.

I also shook hands with the CIC Director, two Members of Parliament, a Municipal Councillor, a city policeman, a Mountie who had what looked like a knife scar in his right cheek, and a young boy who gave me my own flag.

Finally I joined two other new Canadians who went up to the front at Her Honour’s invitation to help her lead the singing of O Canada.  I was happy to be there, though the young man from Burundi and Ms. Carvery, herself an accomplished jazz/blues singer, didn’t really need my voice to make it an enthusiastic rendition of our anthem.

The other day, or actually night, was Saturday when the real party started, our celebration of my new Canadian citizenship.  An eclectic crew of family and friends, that included a variety of citizenships and statuses, showed up with food and drink to welcome me and wish me well.  When I was called on to make a speech I wasn’t sure how to begin so I started to sing O Canada.  The whole crowd joined in with melodic gusto, though our numbers were fewer when we sang it en francais.

I don’t have images of the party itself (most were too busy talking to take pictures), but it was a good time, I think, and I did record some floral arrangements, a few gifts, the Canada windsock by the door, and our Christmas wreath which just happened to have the right colours for this occasion.

So, Canada, here I come, I’m one of you now.  The party may be over but it ain’t time to call it a day.  Not yet, eh.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


These days when someone says bp, most people think oil spill, but it wasn’t always so. 

There was a time when people I ran into who knew or knew of bp would invariably smile at the mention of his name because they would recognize or remember the sense of wonder and whimsy and pathos and humour as well as the seriousness with which he seemed to approach the world and his work, the things he did with words or letters that we all wished we had thought of doing, or the generosity of spirit that informed everything he did.

And then there was a time that these same people’s faces would reflect their own sadness at the sudden loss of bp from our world in 1988 just before his 44th birthday.

It is hard to know where to begin when talking about bp’s work.  I just pulled out a small stack of books from one of my poetry shelves, leaving a fairly large gap between Neruda and Nowlan, and looked through them.  There was the small paperbound copy of THE TRUE EVENTUAL STORY OF BILLY THE KID, which won the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry in 1970 along with Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (the same William Bonney who was almost pardoned last week), and which Lol and I bought for $1.50 on our first ever visit to Coach House Press in the spring of 1972.  A couple of years later we picked up the wonderful box of treasures labeled bp the cosmic chef: an evening of concrete, winner of the same award in 1971, and there are the lovely Martyrology volumes and assorted other books of delights from over the years. 

I remember the poetry session Warren T. organized at Cecil Green House at UBC (maybe it was the fall of 1970) where bp sang “I dreamed I saw Hugo Ball” and all I could think of was that was the kind of thing you should be able to play on juke boxes everywhere, and Warren called him Canada’s greatest poet (sharing the honours with George Bowering who was also there), and nobody present seemed to think of arguing the point, even though Irving Layton was back in Montreal proclaiming the same thing about himself.

About ten days ago I walked with an old friend and his new friend from Kensington Market to bpNichol Lane to buy a couple of books from Coach House and to see bp’s poem from EXTREME POSITIONS that was inscribed in the Lane.  The only other time I had seen it was in the summer of 1997, and someone had filled the words with water that time so that they reflected both the sky and the meaning of the poem itself.  This time there were dead leaves inside each letter, so I borrowed a broom from inside and swept them all clean.  It was a small tribute to a poet who mattered then and matters now.

There is lots you can find if you want more of or about bp.  There’s an excellent anthology (it’s important to remember that anthos is Greek for flower) called An H in the Heart, there’s plenty to be explored in the online archive here, and there are video clips of performances (this one from Poetry in Motion has bp leading the Four Horsemen) to be found here.

Go.  Explore.  Enjoy.

Or just look at this one:

 counting the ways

   1 love

Monday, January 3, 2011

Post #121: On Becoming Canadian

Last week I got a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.


It included this PERMISSION RELEASE - MEDIA CONSENT FORM.  (You can click on the image if you want to read it.  Use the back button to return to the post.)
I will show up on January 11, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. for the ceremony.

I will solemnly repeat that OATH OR AFFIRMATION OF CITIZENSHIP.

And I will sign the Citizenship Ceremony - Permission Release to allow the media to photograph, video, and/or record me at the ceremony.

It is an important occasion.

I have been a Landed Immigrant/Permanent Resident for 63 years.

It's been a long time coming, but a week from tomorrow I am going to become a Canadian.

And I am happy for that.

Just wondering if I'm supposed to start watching hockey -- have to do some research on this being Canadian thing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

It is 07:20 on January 2, 2011, the second full day of this new year.  It is still night outside, but the sky has lightened to a dark bluish grey.  The black silhouettes of two crows just flew past the window cawing.  Day is breaking.

This morning I boiled the kettle and savoured the faint aroma of bergamot as I poured water into the teapot.

I nursed the coals in the woodstove into the morning’s fire using the stub end of a Christmas candle to help it go.

I noticed one red bud on the potted azalea and wondered what we had done or not done to help that happen.

I checked Gmail and my mobile for messages and understood that there was likely no change in my mother's condition on the 8th floor of the Halifax Infirmary.

I thought about the day ahead, a Sunday, and decided I would stop in for a visit even though my next scheduled bedside vigil was not until after midnight.

I wondered which of my six brothers I would see when I went in and whether or not she would be awake and present.

As I drank my tea I thought about my beloved who is still with our children in Ontario and how utterly beautiful she was when we chatted yesterday on google talk.

And about our youngest granddaughter sitting on her lap showing me the bandage from her new doctor’s kit, her dad in the background wearing the plastic stethoscope and saying, You know you can really hear a heartbeat with this.

And I thought about our lovely serious daughter who texts me for updates on her grandmother and wonders whether she should be flying down to see her as she works on finishing an application due on Friday for a doctoral program.

And my mother saying, in a clear moment last night, Oh no, she mustn’t come, she must do the application.

And I thought of our firstborn son sleeping on the couch yesterday, his back in spasm as my back used to be in spasm, being cared for by his beloved and by their beautiful girls, waiting for him to wake up to show him the pictures they made with ballpoint pens at the dining room table.

The sky has turned a uniform grey, the harbour the same, the spruces are almost black, but the trunks of the birches are bright white.  It is day now.

My mother may be reaching the end of her life, but it has been a full life.  Her seven sons, aged 52 to 67, are all alive, all well.  She has eleven grandsons, five granddaughters, and sixteen great-grandchildren, all alive, all well.  She has much to remember, much to be happy for and proud of, and many promising beginnings to dream about in her last days.

And we all begin our new years. 

I think of two longtime friends I have seen in the past few days with their newfound partners and the happiness that shone in their faces. 

I think of other good friends, some close by and some very far from here, and the enduring substance of their friendship and love.

I think of the kindness we show each other at this time of endings and beginnings. 

I make a connection between heart and hearth, the warmth of each, even though the Oxford doesn’t.

I consider this new year with its endings and beginnings and the hard times we all may face in it, but I also think of the promise and the possibility and am heartened by it.

I notice a bit of blue sky and sunlight reflected in the screen, turn off my desk lamp, and think of what I might make for my breakfast.

I am heartened by that too.

January 3, 2011: Update on my mother's condition = much improved today after several days of very serious concern.