Moment From Fifteen Years Old.

I don’t know what the Eugene, Oregon kids did to get us a camp with fireplaces in some of the cabins, but we lost no time starting the fire and dragging mattresses down into the light.
The adults
keep warning us to be careful, and we nod, but we are being careful, so it’s ok.<supportEmptyParas]—>

There are five of us around the fire. Friday Night at a conference is usually about a different energy. Meeting, reacquainting, asking all the questions we never got around to in the furtive letters written in math class. There’s already some pairing off of couples. There always is. I bucked the trend by waiting til Sunday morning, but that’s another story.<supportEmptyParas]—>

We’re here for Faith. She caught her boyfriend Rabbit with some girl from Tacoma. Threw a can of coke at his head and ran away crying. We’ve got blankets around her and she’s stopping the sobbing,beginning to gaze into the firelight, her blonde hair a sheet of fire in the light.<supportEmptyParas]—>

There’s Maia. I adore her just about more than anyone else in the whole world. She’s gothed-out,wearing cruelty-free eyeliner and a kind of spiderwebby sweater. She’s political, you know? She knows stuff about the world, and writes letters and stuff.<supportEmptyParas]—>

Max is leaning against the hearth, curls tangled. She’s usually in the kitchen at conference. She says the only way she can show her love is by feeding us vegan treats with love. She loves people with food. Later on in my life, when I realize I have the same tendencies, I will remember her gentle smile and bless her for teaching me some basics.<supportEmptyParas]—>

Laura’s sitting up, chewing on her thumb. She was Rabbit’s girlfriend a year ago, but she broke upwith him because he wanted to have sex. Her bangs sweep down over her delicate face and her brown eyes are troubled. I reach over and squeeze her knee, knowing that I can’t know what to say. I’m the junor witch at this Sabbat. But I can be there, as hard as I can.<supportEmptyParas]—>

I’m the fifth person at the fireplace. And I’m there because my heart is so full of love for these people that there’s nowhere else in the world I’d even think of being.


<supportEmptyParas]—>

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From Russia…With Love.

It must be hard to go on a blind date if you’re in the KGB. I mean, think of all those questions you can’t really answer: What do you do, where do you live, what’s it like to assassinate a political dissident? You can’t talk about those things.

So I wonder about the evening ahead of the guy I saw on Broadway tonight. What CAN he talk about?

He’s about 5’11. Dark brown hair, cut close to his skull. Square face, roman nose. Straight, thick eyebrows over dark eyes that take in everything as he walks. Thin lips that could look cruel.

He’s wearing one of those double-breasted wool overcoats. Either there’s padding in the shoulders or he’s got an impressive physique. No matter, the coat’s too hot for the evening. He’s got to be sweating under it, but his intent, impassive face isn’t even flushed with heat.

And he’s holding a single, long-stemmed red rose. He’s holding it out, stock-straight up, and his elbow’s stiff, like he’s afraid the rose is actually made of plastique and he’s saving us from mass fiery annihilation.

He sees me staring and frowns slightly. Then he is past me, off to a hot new wine bar to meet a mystery lady.

A Series On ‘Home’

The cleaners cleaned today. The house is empty, but I couldn’t go up to see it. I just didn’t want to see it empty.

I wanted to see it with my mom and my aunt and me, laughing like loons while stringing up greenery on the banister for Christmas.

I wanted to see it when I’m the last person up, looking at the Christmas tree in the livingroom corner, reveling in the lights and smell of the tree, before tiptoeing upstairs.

I wanted to see it with my dad sitting at the dinner table, tweaking my earring because he hates piercings.

I wanted to see it full of my brother’s friends, eating salsa and arguing politics.

I wanted to see it with the family in the TV room, shouting ‘Jeopardy’ answers.

But those people aren’t there.

So I’m going to be blogging a lot about ‘Home’ for a while. What it means to me, different ‘homes’ I’ve had.

It may get maudlin. The prose may get downright purple. Feel free to avoid, or bring a barf bag.

If you’re unbarfy or immune to purple prose, tell me, what makes a home for you?

Beureaucratic Crap.Or However You Spell It.

So with my father moving, I have to change my address wiht all sorts of people.

I just had the following conversation on the phone to the government.

“Hello. I’d like to change my address, please.”

“Fine,” comes the indescribably bored voice. She asks for my birthday, my previous address and all kinds of things like that. Then: “Who did you work for in 2004?”

What? “Uhm…” I name the place I think I was at. Score! I was right!

Then she asks where else I worked. She has a T4 on record for 200 dollars. I can’t actually remember how I made two hundred dollars two years ago.

She sighs. A big, bored sigh like I’m her mother and she’s fifteen and I don’t understand anything about her. “I also need your Line 150.”

“My Line 150?”

“Your total income for that year.”

“Oh.” I can’t remember. “Can it be approximate?”

“It has to be exact. We send them to you every year. You are supposed to keep them for six years.”

“Oh. What do you suggest I do?”

“I don’t know. I can’t send you anything until you give me your address. You can’t give me your address until I know your Line 150.”

What a fabulous system.

Gold Key

My father is driving me home. He doesn’t have to-I have a bus pass. But he feels compelled to.

He’s spilling tears and secrets in equal amounts. He pulls over when we get to my place. His voice wobbles.

“There’s a thing called a gold key, Elizabeth. It’s a house key that’s been cut down and gold plated.”

I can’t think of what to say.

“It’s a charm.”

“For or against what?” I ask.

He has no answer. “It’s a key. A charm to get into a house.”

I nod. Does he want me to make one? Is there one in the Safety Deposit Box, waiting for me to go on a secret journey of discovery?

He takes a deep breath. “I’m telling you so you know. When the time comes.” And starts crying again.

This sets me off, and we’re sitting in the hot car, weeping together.

“I’m sorry, Dad, I wish I could help you. Do something, say something.” I wipe my eyes. “I wish I could be more useful.”

“You are being useful,” he says. “We’ll get through this.” This is what I would say to him right after Mom died: We’ll get through this. People do.

We WILL get through this. People do. But what about the gold key?

Sold.

The house is, that is. To a couple in their thirties, apparently.

I kind of wonder who they are and what they’re like.

I also hope they’re buying the house as a home and not an investment property. Even if it’s not ‘mine’, I want it to be loved.

House Up.

It’s on the market. The photo on the real estate web page doesn’t do it justice. For some reason the Montana Rubens clematis didn’t come out this year. The roses are transplanted and waiting to go to Dad’s new house in Cowichan Bay. The clear, clinical description sounds like, well, anybody’s house. Not my home.

And the ‘nanny suite’ described on the website? That was where my grandmother stayed when she visited, helping out my mother and having pyrotechnic battles with my brother. I would pad down there early in the mornings and cuddle my grandmother, just the two of us, with no outside interruptions. We’d get up and make tea and toast, the morning light coming into the kitchen slowly.

Even now, there’s such a thing as a perfect cup of tea for me. Only about one in five have the exact chemistry needed to make perfect tea, the way my grandmother did, every time.

In time ‘Gramma Mom’s room’ became an illegal suite for kids going to UBC. My mother was sometimes paranoid and often told us to call those kids our “Cousins”, so we wouldn’t get busted for the suite. I’ve had “Cousins” from England, Ontario, and Barnston Island, to name a few.

Oh, and the price of the damned house? I let Dad buy me dinner tonight, thank you very much. He can afford it.

Bogota Blackberry

It’s that time of year again. My feet, so long encased in boots and my trusty mary-janes will be open to public view as I make the annual transition to flip flops and sandals.

Each year, I promise myself I’ll get a pedicure, slough off the old skin, push back those cuticles, and let my feet shine. And every year, I leave it too long, until I give up, slap some polish on my toes, and go forth.

You see, I don’t actually like people touching my feet. Mostly because I hate touching other peoples’ feet and can’t think that someone would willingly touch mine. Especially, say, by the time June rolls around, and my feet stink. I mean, everybody’s do, but I just think it’s cruel to inflict foot stench on someone, even someone being paid to give a pedicure. That, and I am wildly ticklish.

But not this year. I made the appointment, I went to the spa. A lovely woman named Julia took my feet in hand and passed me a colour chart. What colour should I go for?

I had in mind something simple, a pale shell-pink, maybe something pearly. But I looked at that chart and I saw the colour I wanted. It’s called Bogota Blackberry, and it is SASSY! “Hello, World”, my feet cried as I sashayed out of the salon. “We are sexy and cute, and so is Liz!”

It was like the time I dyed my hair red and felt like I could stop traffic just by walking down the street. Amazing! So small a change with so huge a result. I can’t justify a manicure when there’s still so much to do in the garden, but I am going to buff my nails later tonight.

Shaken Phobia

I have always been afraid of spiders. They used to fill me with a kind of paralyzed terror. But after moving into our basement suite, I discovered that I’d better get over myself quickly, because we have quite a few of them. I got a lot less scared of the Cellar Spiders very quckly. I can squish even the biggest of those with ease. We call them ‘spindlies’, because they’re skinny and weak and not scary. But the other species scared the hell out of me. Tegeneria Domestica, the House Spider. They’re the ones people usually call Wolf Spiders around here, even though they’re not. They’re dark brown or grey, fast and ugly, and can get very big and hairy and beefy.

I decided to start a campaign to overcome my fear of them. I named the one outside the window Thelonious, the one outside the doorjamb Pepe, and the one in the wall of the house beside us Raoul. When we talk about them, we call them all “Thelonious”. I got a bit used to them, but sudden Thelonious spottings scare the hell out of me. If I have to kill one, my adrenaline goes into overdrive and I start shaking and gasping for air.

Or, I did.

Tonight, as I was idly gabbing with Gen’s mom on the phone, I looked over to see a rather large Thelonious spider running gamely across the living room floor. I leaped back from it and cast about for somethng to squish it with.

But wait: What’s this? Baxter came leaping over to pounce on it. He played with it for a few minutes, batting, cornering, gumming, but the thing was tough. It just kept going. As he was playing, I grabbed a shoe, just in case he got bored and I had to squish it. But the little guy badgered that thing until he broke its back as he flung it against a wall.

The thing that interested me was that as he attacked it, the spider wasn’t scary to me anymore. It was wierd and creepy, but not scary. Because there was a bigger predator (Thousands of times bigger than it) killing it. And that bigger predator purrs in my lap and tries to lie on my neck in the mornings.

That bigger predator, that fanged killing machine, is my cuddly pet. That makes me the baddest-ass badass I know. Sweet.

Beachcombing: Instructions.

You have to go slowly. The familiar shapes of shells may be almost buried under pebbles or sand, so you have to see every shape and think of it as maybe part of a whole. If you go too quickly, you might miss a tiny periwinkle shell, or a perfect whelk shell tossed up by the tide.
Dig. Investigate. Turn it over and see. When you go slowly, you can see more.

You also have to be gentle. Mussel shells break easily, but nothing beats the blue pearl sheen when you hold a whole one up to the sunlight.

Be thorough. Comb back layers of pebbles. Look closely. Rocks that are beautiful when wet might look like nothing special when dry, but you have to be aware. That little grey lump may show you nothing, but if you saw it in the water, you’d see the delicate green tracery of minerals running through it, a river-map on a rock.

Trust your instinct. If you think there’s a hidden sunset in a dull smudge of oyster shell, touch your tongue to it. Taste the salt of the ocean, of tears, blood, the primordial soup, and look again at that piece of shell. You may be disappointed and you may be astonished at the wash of colour. But you won’t know unless you try.

And always look up to see the sea.

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