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Why I Write.

I had planned to write a more thoughtful blog today, but things went off the rails late last night and today I’m so tired that it hurts to think. I’ve never done well with little sleep and it doesn’t appear that age or experience has changed that fact.

Hubby got a tiny sliver in his finger a couple of days ago. He managed to find it and remove it, but yesterday, over the course of several hours, that finger turned from a normal-looking digit into one that was red and swollen. It worsened over the course of the evening, so we visited my friends in the ER about 11:00 last night.

After a period of waiting, a dose of IV antibiotics, and an x-ray, we didn’t get home and into bed until 3 a.m. A few hours later, we got up so we could return to the hospital for a second dose of antibiotics. All’s well, but my head is so thick right now that I can’t think. 

Instead of writing much more today, I thought I’d share my very first writing assignment ever. In that first class, fabulous teacher Dorothea Helms, who has very aptly called herself The Writing Fairy, waved her magic wand and gave each of us the power to call ourselves Real Writers. Then she asked us to come to class the following week with 500 words explaining “why I write”.

Here’s my answer, exactly as I handed it in. And, just for the record, I clearly remember the events in the first two paragraphs, including the fact that I just couldn’t figure out how to spell “house”, so I used “hom” (home) instead.


            The young girl sitting with her classmates on the floor of their Grade 1 classroom pulled skinny legs up under her plaid skirt, hugging them tight to her chest as the teacher printed another word on the blackboard. She recognized it immediately, but when the teacher asked who could read it aloud she was too shy to raise her hand.  Her toes wiggled impatiently inside red canvas running shoes as classmates tried to sound out words she easily recognized. In those moments she had an unexpected need to take these magical words and use them to write a story; a tale as wonderful as those her mother often read to her. The minutes dragged until dismissal but she was already composing a story in her head.

Home at last, she found a paper and pencil and started to print.

The litel gril went owtside to play; she began. The sun was hot. Then she stopped, wrinkling her freckled nose in deep thought.  The girl wanted to describe so many things but the words were beyond her spelling ability. Disappointed, she resigned herself to an ending she could manage and added the gril had fun owtside.  Then she went in to her hom. She stared proudly at the paper, enjoying the thrill of seeing her thoughts written there.

The girl grew, and as her abilities changed, so did her writing.  In Grade 5 her much-loved Granny died unexpectedly and she had a compelling need to allow written words to flow with her tears. In Grade 6 she laboured for several weeks over a medical drama written on long sheets of foolscap she kept folded on the ledge just inside her desk. In high school she took every English class she could for the sheer joy of the written assignments.

Teen years brought copious diaries and long letters to friends. College meant more writing assignments, of course, but time for personal writing nearly disappeared as life became busier. The urge was still there but for many years it lay undeveloped until the girl, now a woman, took time from children no longer completely dependent to write of her idyllic childhood on a farm, a fast-disappearing lifestyle she wanted to document. She knew she should make room in her life for writing again.

One bitter winter’s day the woman’s life was turned upside-down when she learned that her husband would be taken from her by an exceptionally deadly cancer and the writing began again. Journals and stories overflowed with words charting the devastating journey. This time the writing brought healing and a renewed sense that she should pursue it in some way.  But life events once again crowded in and took over the woman’s free time and the need to write continued to haunt her.

At last she resolved to take a course that would give her a formal reason to write.  There, someone asked her, “Why do you write?”  Her answer was, quite simply, “Because I must.”


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Ode to Cheese

As a tribute to this blog, I enjoyed some of the photo props for lunch.

When I was taking an advanced writing course with Sue Reynolds and James Dewar, we were called upon to write poems as part of the curriculum. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a writer of Real Poems, so I broke out in a bit of a sweat. Then they threw in a twist. Not only were we to write a poem, but after the poem was finished we were asked to change the nouns into verbs, verbs into adjectives, and adjectives into nouns. That may not be the exact pattern, but you get the idea. Continue reading “Ode to Cheese”

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“They” say you can’t go back, but they’re wrong.

My elementary school years were spent at a three-room “little red schoolhouse”, just north of Toronto. It still stands at the north-east corner of Meadowvale and Finch, kitty-corner to the Toronto Zoo property.

When I hear schoolyard horror stories these days, I’m reminded that my school years were relatively idyllic. They weren’t without social hierarchy, hurt feelings, or arguments, of course, but in hindsight I realize it all worked out well because ninety percent of us went to school together from Kindergarten through high school. We played, learned, and fought together, just like any other family. But a few other things made our years at Hillside Public School truly unique.

Continue reading ““They” say you can’t go back, but they’re wrong.”
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Would you like some coffee with that whine?

I really need to find a great big, stainless steel travel mug that will keep coffee hot for, like, ten hours. If you have a line on such a beast, I’d like to know, because I’d pay very well for a mug that actually worked.

Over the past few years I’ve tried taking coffee to work in several different thermal vessels, most of then not inexpensive. None of them kept my coffee hot — really hot — for longer than an hour or so.

After several such failures, I purchased another rather expensive cup, naively believing the “guarantee” written on the packaging, and optimistically anticipating a cup of coffee that would never grow cold. As soon as I got home I boiled the kettle and poured in the water, anticipating that my test cup would stay hot forever. An hour later it was lukewarm and I was bitterly disappointed. Continue reading “Would you like some coffee with that whine?”

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The day I nearly killed my mother.

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you’ll know that I grew up on a farm in rural north-east Scarborough, Ontario, where there were comfortable and predictable rhythms to the seasons. Part of that rhythm meant that the warm months were very busy, and we children were expected to find ways to entertain ourselves.

One day in late summer, when my father and grandfather were busy in the fields with the harvesting, my mother’s friend, Anna, came to our place so they could can peaches together. Peach canning is a long, sticky, steamy process, not helped at all by having small children in the house, and between the two of them, there were seven.

Continue reading “The day I nearly killed my mother.”