Apple Pie laced with Salt

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I once held a dinner party during which the guests were served apple pie laced with salt. Before the dust settled on that episode, I realized that earlier in the day I had given out sugar to cure a deer hide. *Note to self; label glass canisters. I once filled our home with the lasting and pungent aroma of cornbread made with garlic power instead of cornmeal. I have tasted hand cream instead of toothpaste and greasily arrived at a social event having washed my hair with conditioner.
The wandering mind is pretty much the human condition and these days we are aided in our natural distraction by the infinite pathways of the internet. Just when you begin to educated yourself on the Isis crisis or the latest ecological atrocity, up pops a link for reducing abdominal fat or that video of the dog dancing with a parrot. I’ve often wondered what might change in a world where we were all actually paying attention. Would we have less capacity for randomly killing one another and pissing into our own winds or for that matter running red lights? Have you noticed how everyone is running red lights now?!
About thirty years ago I started to practise meditation. My brain was getting in the way of my sanity. If I were to bestow diplomacy on myself, I would tag this attribute as an active imagination. Or maybe brilliance! I take keen comfort in the story of an absent minded Einstein having to use a rope to keep his pants up. I’ve spent many years on and off the cushion, well mostly off. It’s really hard.
In the west we have a tendency to spin gold into manure. The great eastern philosophies have been hi-jacked, dressed in hooker outfits and pimped out to e-bay. That’s all right, it’s our tradition, we like to sell stuff. We offer gurus on book tours, yogis hosting elite retreats and magical knickknacks to fill your mediation corner and speed up your journey to nirvana. It just that sometimes it’s hard to see the mirror for the smoke…or the looking glass for the rabbit hole…ok I’ll stop that.
I don’t really notice that I’ve been dangerously distracted until I’m not. But once I’ve gotten back on the cushion, then it freshly dawns on me that we are sharing an incredible and brief ride. There is also a renewed sense of acceptance and tenderness. And if I’ve practised for maybe a week, then stuff starts to happen. I slow down for yellow lights.

Flight of the Bumble Me




10496916_10154531764970372_4730051328642767965_oAll the details were in order, but a few days before our departure, I discovered to my dismay that I had booked our London to Lisbon fight on ‘The World’s Most Hated Airline’. This was alarming and I decided some deeper research was in order. It turned out Ryan Air had a notorious history, but it’s future was terrifying. Although some clause in health regulations had prevented them from installing pay as you go toilets, they had plans to concoct stand up seating. Their refurbished planes would have skinny poles with tilted seats for bottoms to lean on. This had me imagining us in a tin box filled with little sardine people, all happily saving money. We all have experienced tortuous travels in a world where bums are increasingly gaining in a disproportionate ratio to the steadily decrease in the size of airline seats. I remember picking up a long neglected thread with God, as I watched a bountifully bodacious woman approached my row. God unkindly sent me a disturbing vision of a Kardashion ass and then delivered. And then there are the muscle men with elbows suspended in the air, far beyond their hard earned bulk and their intimidating knees sprawling out on either side, way beyond acceptable boundaries. I think there must be some exclusive natural law meant for sociopaths and the alpha-inclined folk.

It’s never been the fear of crashing that has me in a heightened state of vigilance when I plan air travel. I play a decent game of chess but in real life I’ve never had the facility to understand what the logical conclusion might be if I were to park my Queen diagonally opposite my enemy’s Bishop. I think I would have entered the arena blissfully bowing to the cacophony of the Roman spectators, oblivious to danger until looking into the lion’s mouth. And if Goliath appeared before me, I would fearlessly drop my gauntlet with the same abandon Rick Mercer used while challenging Rex Murphy to a game of Scrabble.
Anyway, the fear has mostly to do with my checkered past involving the logistics of travel. I did a short stint as an almost/at any minute, internationally renowned singer. My status was such that a well know promoter referred to me as being in his ‘stable’. That didn’t work out and it may have been due in part to my unsophisticated abilities in the art of transporting myself. I can still remember that winter’s day in the Toronto airport. As usual, I utilized my directionally impaired sensors and found myself outside the building on the Tarmac beside a plane that looked to me like it might be going to Saint John. Looking up I met the eyes of the Pilot in his cockpit. I mouthed a question to him and his head disappeared for a moment, reappearing soon after, along with his co-pilot. I’m not sure how it came about, but though I missed my connecting flight, I was placed on one that arrived sooner.
Filled with trepidation and joy, I began to plan a fantastic journey. To coincide with our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary my husband and I would spend three weeks in Europe. It would be the trip of a live time! My well travelled daughter gave me a gem of wisdom, ‘There is as much joy in the planning’. I set to work in earnest, but in the months leading up to our grand tour, my husband became increasingly uncomfortable. At this point in time he had resisted all interaction with the cyber world. He was beginning to realize that he had just placed his life the hands of a woman who could at any moment get lost in her own back garden.
I have travelled that highway to Antigonish instead of Halifax. I am probably the only human who managed to do 10 km on a dirt road while on a trip from Saint John to Halifax—in my defence this had to do with an ill-timed bathroom break and trust in a demonic-minded GPS device. And one time, leaving the Sussex Balloon Festival with my little girl, I decided to practise ‘meditative driving’. I watched my progress between the ditch and the line with calm precision, I flickered my attention between the speedometer and the tack and counted off “1000 one – 1000 two’, keeping the proper distance between cars. We were into the journey about 40 minutes when I noticed a lake that had miraculously appeared for the first time on the road to Saint John. When I relinquished my meditative state, I found a detour off the road to Fredericton and we had a delightful side trip to Nannie’s place in Wickam.
Anyway, the planning for Europe began a year in advance. Did you know that there are videos showing how to work the ticket machines in the Paris Metro? I downloaded and cached maps of airports, streets and train schedules on my tablet. I studied Rick Steeve’s bible and with monk-like determination distilled our life into two carry on knapsacks. Luckily, these days most chain stores are happy to provide us with lightweight disposable clothing. My daughter was right, the planning was as intoxicating as the trip itself. I spent countless hours, burning the midnight laptop, google-earthing the icon of that little man down onto the streets of London and Paris. I expertly ferreted out cheap but safe hotels and out of tourist district dining. It was a huge education. At least a graduate degree.
As it turned out, we enjoyed our Ryan flight and arrived in Portugal unscathed. There was one uncomfortable moment where we were suddenly set upon by stern faced, doberman eyed, carry-on baggage Police. They marched towards our line-up armed with threatening tape measures. We watched helplessly as fellow tourists were shamefully pulled away and exiled to the checked baggage area, credit cards in hand.
It was a fantastic and almost flawless adventure. We successfully aligned with my brother and his family and travelled the road to Bath, wildly careening on high ridges– occasionally on the wrong side of the road. We negotiated the various transport systems like children on a scavenger hunt. We became masters of the underground. There were no disasters. Well, there was that one terrifying moment on the bus to Paris. The horrid revelation slowly unfolded. The bus was not boarding the Ferry where we would romantically view the white cliffs of Dover and blue skies, it was descending into the bowel of Mordor and the ‘Chunnel’. I swear I felt the weight of the English Channel hovering over my head. Generally though, all connections were made, no lives lost. My finest moment came when I successfully navigated the complex lab-rat labyrinth of Gatwick airport to arriving with precision at our Oxford bus stop. My husband still tells the tale at night around the fire pit.

The Hidden Swan

It was like one of those dreams where you suddenly realize you’re naked or that you are naked on the toilet in a room full of mixed company, you know. Only this is real. I’m almost sixty years old, crossing a dance floor as a ballerina, but my arms and legs are doing things that make me want to pretend they don’t belong to me. They actually don’t seem to belong to me.
I like to think of myself as innovative, creative and intelligent, with one major flaw. My memory has never been of any practical use. Everyone likes to say things like that and that’s pretty frustrating for those of us with a real affliction. It’s like being a natural blond in Hollywood. You are surrounded by fakes and get no credit. One of my favourite detectives created by one of my favourite authors -sorry I forget which ones- said that intelligence is three quarters memory. Living without a memory is a major handicap, but I like to think that under this blank dust mote of a mind, I’m still pretty smart. The problem is that without a proper memory, you can’t remember all those things that you should never do–ever again.
I still regard people dressed up at social engagements or on TV reading the News, as the grown ups. I realize I need to acknowledge the fact that I am now at least thirty or perhaps forty years older than these grown ups. I’ll be sixty on my next birthday and I know I should be pursuing whatever pursuits the grownups and venerable veterans of life move to at this point. Trouble is I have no idea what that might be and I’m still not sure I’ve properly finished with my childhood. My life has been littered with a myriad array of winding paths… lovely garden paths really. I have been summoned, cajoled and led down these paths, always on the lookout for that glowing exit sign, the one that will lead me directly to the glories of the fast lane. So far it’s been a series of dead ends and u-turns, just this side of the turnip patch. Basically, most of my personal road trip thus far makes no real sense.
I grew up in a lake and forest suburb ingeniously called ‘Spruce Lake’. As a child the most common instruction I was given was; GO OUT AND PLAY. I had a wonderful friend and we would trip lightly on secret paths disappearing for entire days through the forests to the lakes, streams and ocean. We made shelters from sticks, branches and muck. We found meadows that looked over the ocean with no visible sign of civilization. We pretended our parents were dead, killed in some nebulous world war three and we were survivors. We played our flutophones – black and white plastic recorders – and dangled out feet into icy streams. We read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.
I should give thanks for the beauty and richness of that self made heritage, but at some point I became aware of Other People’s Childhoods. Other People’s Childhoods sounded pretty good, something like Other People’s Facebook Walls. They just seem better. So despite countless experiences that have clearly shown my inability to follow simple instructions, to learn any kind of fine technique or deft skill, when my neighbour suggested enrolling in an all ages ballet class, it sounded perfect!! I have limbs that can still bend upside down and backwards. My knees touch the floor in cobbler. This is a trick….I’m pretty sure my hips aren’t properly attached to my body. A few pounds off the lithe mark these days, but still relatively limber. I reasoned to myself that I have a wonderful sense of rhythm and my dancing is filled with that rhythm. Graceful energetic rhythms!! I can move to music and I will tell a wonderful story with my performance.
It’s just the instruction….I am unable to follow simple instruction.
We are a variety pack class. Young stream-lined beauties, middle aged and senior women of various proportions. Most come to re-connect with their childhood passion. I am happy to connect with someone else’s childhood. I’ve borrowed one that includes horseback riding and perhaps even piano lessons. I begin my warm up by dancing lightly, allowing my yogic grace to flow. Tiptoeing, I ease into the mock ballet movements I developed as a child. Most importantly, I have on new leather slippers. As a vegetarian, this purchase created a dilemma, but I was outclassed by my inner budding Diva.
Our Beautiful teacher enters and music box piano wafts from her computer. So I begin, with optimism unscathed by past embarrassments. The warm ups are simple. Directions for one limb at a time. Perfect, I execute these with grace. Long limbs soar, giving me distance. I can count!!…. and keep the time. Well! I love and understand that the power of graceful hands comes from the magic spot on the palm just below the fingers. I lift my arms and spine and stretch into infinity. I bend like a willow sweeping my fingers to the floor. I am content. Now we are to cross the floor in pairs on a diagonal line. The instructions have begun to change….no, they have morphed, it’s become an enigma code. Plie, jete Arabesque, triples grande plie….pirouette. “Begin with left foot, it’s simply hopping and skipping” our instructor helpfully says. Left arm at second position first arm at third. I now have information in regard to four limbs requiring individual attention. I regress to default and my organic computer crashes. As I move across the floor, I try to coerce one or two of my appendages into behaving themselves. They have developed some sort of solidarity and it’s mutiny on the dance floor. Having placed myself last in order to pass unnoticed, I find that I am now the only one on the dance floor. My graceful new friends watch with embarrassed concern as I turn into a creature that could only exist in a world where Mr. Bean and John Cleese were allow to mate and produce a child.
By the end of class, I am cruelly transported back to the second grade. We are to partner up and I am politely avoided. The women are lovely and show me how far I’ve fallen by smiling at me too much. I realize they have to protect their dignity and how disconcerting it must be for them. In the midst of executing their arabesques, plies and pretty fluttering, they can’t help but be distracted by this creature galumphing along beside them. I’m sure they know I am harmless but I fear that maybe, if only from the corner of their eyes, I am coming off like some sort of escapee or at the very least someone who is a danger to themselves. I am in disgrace.
The class begins to wind down and we return to our line. We practice bowing for our finale and instantly I am transformed, executing grand graceful sweeps. My swan-ish limbs reaching for infinity with silky abandon. I brush the floor with my delicate fingers. I soar. I am reprieved. The humiliation is already fading from my memory….my forgiving, my forgetting memory.

My Guardian Angel is a Snitch


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It’s 1962, the Beatles audition for Decca records, Jackie is decorating the white house and John Glenn orbits the globe. It’s also the year Fidel Castro gets excommunicated and now I’m about about to join him. (not in Cuba, just as an outlaw from God.) I move down the aisle to the confessional like a prisoner to the gallows, it’s like wading through molasses. Candle smoke and the musk of incense fill the air. There is divine presence in the heavenly shafts of light radiating from the stain glass. Tiny angels dressed as dust motes are floating in this essence and God is quietly judging me.

Trembling, I make my way into the bleak box. I’d always felt the confessional was like a little clubhouse, only holy. I’m seven years old and don’t realize that the sin I’m about to confess requires at least two people to carry it off. All I know is that somehow it involves naked women. The priest slides the tiny window open and I blurt it out. ‘Bless me father for I have committed adultery.’

Only a few months earlier my classroom was preparing for our first communion and official debut into the Catholic church. I was too young to understand the miracle of the virgin Mary, but I liked the way she looked. We learned about things like mortal and venial sins. Mortal sins are bad, like when you kill someone or you miss church. If you die with one of these on your soul it’s straight to hell, no parole. Die with a venal sin, like lying or stealing a cookie, and you do time in purgatory. To get to heaven from purgatory you need someone to pray you out. Purgatory was not a ghastly as hell, just grey and boring like a hospital waiting room. It all sounded a bit like a complicated board game. There were other rules too, girls couldn’t enter the church with a bare head and we must eat fish on Friday and beans on Saturday night. Wait. I think the beans thing was my mom’s idea not God’s.

The biggest news was that we were to have our own personal Guardian Angel. This turned out to be a nebulous presence that acted as a liaison to God and watched over us…all the time. I began to feel that my privacy was being violated. I had a sense of being watched and became increasingly paranoid. The scariest part was the suspicion that this angel could read minds as well. It occurred to me that my guardian angel could be doubling as a snitch to God. Years later Nixon pulled something like this off when he had CIA agents spy on the democrats under the guise of offering security.

The glorious morning of of our first communion came and went. I got to wear a beautiful bride-like dress, a gossamer veil and white gloves, plus I was given a set of amazing glow in the dark rosary beads. The bonus: I now had a perfectly pristine soul, no bad marks. I vowed to keep it that way forever.

On the Sunday following first communion, the girls and boys were asked to come to regular Mass wearing their communion dresses and nifty black suits. I was so excited! I envisioned myself flowing down the aisle like a saint on a catwalk. This was not to be. In order to take this sacrament you must be sin free and fasting. That morning an inexplicably dark force drew me towards a Cheerio box. When I came to my senses, I had a single heretic Cheerio in my belly. After a brief but tumultuous argument with myself (mediated by the guardian angel)I fessed up. I was sidelined, sentenced to sit in my now glaringly white gown, while the congregation side-eyed me wondering what atrocity I had committed. I pretended not to notice as an endless line of smug saintly classmates flowed past.

Later, I kept up my religious studies by watching a series of Cecile B.Demille films. I was enthralled to hear God’s rumbling voice through the silver lined clouds and see Jesus wandering on and off screen scored by a Hollywood choir of angels. I became fascinated with the half naked woman (Ann Baxter) who loved Moses. Wrapping herself around him she slowly keened ‘Moses Moses Moses’ with a deep and sultry voice. But it was after watching a movie about Saint Bernadette with her beautiful face illuminated by the Virgin Mary that changed my life for…well for at least a few weeks. A misguided epiphany fired and I began to believe that I too was made of such stuff as could attract the attention of the heavens. I began practising in the mirror, rehearsing for my audition with the saints. I cultivated an ethereal grace and piety and allowed it to radiate from my face. I patiently waited for some talent scouting angel to take note and invite me into the loop.

Time passed and so did my holy aspirations. Life went on, our scuffed up souls occasionally needing the shoe polish of confession. It’s the morning of the afore mentioned wicked sin and I have forgotten my hat. My quick thinking Aunt bobby pins a kleenex to my head and I enter the church. Most weeks, my sessions in the box are embellished. Rather than bore the priest I make stuff up ‘I lied, I cheated, I hit my sister, I stole cookies.’ So, usually my only real sin was lying to the priest.

It’s no surprise, that once adultery enters our conversation, the priest requests some background information. I told him that I had been innocently nosing through my brother’s stuff when I happened upon a magazine that brought to mind those fascinating Cecile B. Demille women, only with less clothing. A lot less. I don’t remember the exact number of rounds I had to make on my ‘glow in the dark’ rosery beads but I do know it took awhile and that my mother looked quietly alarmed.

When I think back on that brief moment of sin, I realize that I could have shrugged it off and reasoned that I had done no real harm. I might have gone about the rest of my day carelessly stealing cookies. But I was not alone that day. My old familiar nemesis cast it’s shadow and I felt the unmistakable breath of an avenging angel. I was busted. My guardian snitch to God was in the room.

Almost Infamous

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It’s late on a February morning circa 1997, I’m curled up on the coach when my husband, eyebrows raised, begins to read out loud. He is periodically peering over the top of the newspaper at me with a look of disdain. I’ve been mentioned in an article and I am listening with horror.
I am recovering from a weekend in Sydney, where the annual ECMAs has been held. My experience of this event was always a melange of musical magic, mayhem and misadventure. I loved the bits where you connected with old friends and the impromptu jams that spread and jelled in every other hotel room. Doors were opened wide, musicians wandering to and fro. I was less comfortable with the part where you moved your career ahead. As a closet introvert, having to attend networking sessions with business folk made me nervous and my instinctual remedy was always to either hide behind a plant or drink too much.
I was attending this year as part of a duo called Madrigal. We had been nominated for best folk recording and because of this were given the honour of presenting one of the awards at the Sunday night Finale. We prepared by shopping for brightly coloured clothing. We arrived decked out in flaming reds and copper sequins looking somewhat like two Ukrainian folk parrots. As it turned out we did make an impression and with the most important man of the weekend.
Every year the ECMA offers a variety of workshops led by leaders in the industry. It’s part of the draw, you attend hoping to win the attention of music presenters, producers and successful contemporaries….oh and to learn stuff too. This year, the king of the castle was a promoter who had actually worked with Elvis and the Dixie chicks. As we made our way back to the stadium seats after our on stage appearance, we found ourselves placed directly behind this man.
The show was a wonderful concoction of musicians and celebrities with the occasional humorous film clip. At one point, the promoter turned and introduced himself, complementing us on our fashion sense. He began to elicit our interpretation of the maritime and Canadian references being made. ‘Who is this David Suzuki guy?’ etc. We graciously began to impart our culture. As he became more and more familiar, my partner and I began nudging each other excitedly wondering where this fortuitous connection would lead.
The climax came when he turned and asked ‘Do you have any time at all?’ At least that’s what I thought he said and of course in my mind I began to prepare for a meeting and contract negotiations. ‘Yes, what for?’ I eagerly reply. ‘I have this pinched nerve in my neck, it’s really hurting right now’ he responded. I was confused. When I tell this story, at this point I ask and invariably everyone has the same reaction as mine. So reluctantly I queried ‘did you want a massage?’ At this point, he fully turned and looked me in the eye. ‘I’ve heard you maritime people were a friendly bunch, but really all I want is a Tylenol. Do you have any Tylenol?’
There was much hilarity following this exchange and we went merrily on our way. At the next year’s event we encountered the industry magnate once again. Casually, we made small talk while secretly hoping to be launched on the circuit with the Dixie chicks. It was later, in a smoke filled and noisy bar that I made the error of benevolently bestowing the previous year’s comedy moment to a reporter. He was on assignment from our home town to write about the weekend. I thought my story would make for a funny paragraph. It got one line. I listened as my husband read. ‘Debbie Adshade made a valuable contact at last year’s ECMA, when she offered a massage to an important US Promoter.’

The Brigadier General who loved me



I have never been particularly flirtatious, especially when it comes to strangers on the internet. So when I started to receive invites from some formidable gentlemen via Skype, it was with detached curiosity. Over the last couple months, about twenty vintage men have asked to be added to my contact list, they include four doctors and two Generals.
In the photo above this post I’m smiling beguilingly at the lens and some trick of the light has me twenty years younger. I’m pretty comfortable with this mild farce. Although my secret goal in life is to exist in a perpetual state of enlightenment, occasionally I am aware of less noble goals, some of them laced with vanity. So when it comes to choosing photos to be made public, I don’t linger over images set in realistic light exposing a craggy furrowed crypt keeper.
A few years ago, we set up a Skype account to keep in touch with our grand twins and I used the before mentioned photo. Up until this influx of potential suitors, it seemed to be a private thing. These new intrusions were annoying at first but eventually it became amusing. So instead of hitting the ‘decline’ or ‘accept’ button, I simple began to collect these rugged military men and doctors.
Giggling I googled the Generals. :)
I saw their photos on official sites. At least one of them had a wife who was in charge of a battalion of soldiers. What husband in his right mind would risk enraging a woman who had a thundering hoard of trained killers at her beck and call? Another of them was a German Brigadier General in charge of the entire American army in Europe. That seemed like a very important position and I could only surmise that it had been my rather fetching Fraulein pig tails that lured him to me. And then there were the doctors! One of them was hugging a Springer Spaniel and although most of his face was missing from the photo, it was clear he had an actual stethoscope around his neck. My husband happily pointed out the Skype versions looked like badly reproduced screen shots.
Sadly, I had to admit that what I actually had here was a collection of lonely hearts, stalkers and possible serial killers. Why are they not afraid to get caught stealing the identity of a German Brigadier General? Isn’t that treason or something? And what would they do if I accepted their invite to Skype? Whose face would they wear? For that matter what face would I wear. The fetching Fraulein might require special lighting.