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Just got on the train from Bath to London, Paddington Station, once again watching the patchwork of green and golden hills flying by, interspersed with brick walled train stations, each with their own unique character, industrial lots and a hodgepodge of hedge and grass walled hills thrown in. Dotted along the countryside are centuries old farmhouses, power poles and in the distance a church steeple or castle rook draws my gaze when I break from typing to muse on the past couple of weeks in Somerset. We stayed in a lovely converted barn just off of Dark Lane, near Witham Friary, names that can’t help but send my writer’s imagination off on creative tangents every time they pass through my mind.

Why two weeks in the middle of the English countryside? Well to start with, I spent some time as a young adult tending bar in an English pub called the Queen Victoria, in a little town called Rottingdean, just outside of Brighton. My stepfather (I don’t like using that word…he was my Dad and that’s all there is to it, but somehow I have to differentiate between him and my birth-father) was a Brit through and through, and most of the time he spent as an ex-pat on Vancouver Island trying to recreate a little piece of Britain there, building a pub called the Crow and Gate, the first English Pub in Canada, and a few houses along the same theme. He always wanted to come back to England to retire, but wanting to be close to his sons and their families kept him on the Island, although he visited England often. I miss him so much and every time I come here, especially when sitting in a “Proper English Pub”, lifting a glass or two, I feel him with me, so that’s one of the reasons for sure. Like him I dream of spending more time here someday, as he would say, it just suits me.

Then there’s the fact that our son Austin has moved to London, and shows no signs of returning to Canada, so we’ve started coming here more often. But London is a crazy place to stay for long when you aren’t as young as he is, so a few days there is just fine by me, then I need a little quiet to hear the things that make stories and songs find their way through my heart. But he was close enough to be able to visit us in the country for a couple of days when he wasn’t working, so that was nice too.

Then there’s my friend, Mandy.

I met Mandy almost thirteen years ago, at the preschool our sons, Jesse and Arran went to. They both seemed to hit it off one day, out of the blue, and as we watched them playing on the little field outside the school one day, we started chatting. I started having kids late in the scheme of things, and Jesse was my second, so there’s ten years between us, me on the older end, but right away I liked her. She was well traveled, had street smarts, and a great sense of humour, having grown up just outside London…yes, another Brit had found her way into my life. She laughed at my jokes, loved dark chocolate, good food and red wine…what more could a gal ask for in a friend?

We arranged play dates for the boys, but of course we found excuses to have a glass of wine, then the play dates went a little longer.  There were lunches, then dinners with our husbands, and the friendship grew as we added each other’s friends to the circle and the years went by.

Sometimes, very rarely, we took each other a little for granted, said the wrong thing…feelings got hurt and then healed, but always we made our way back to the circle, and continued where we had left off. Our boys seemed to be following the same path with their friendship. We used to marvel at the fact that years would go by without an argument between them, they would just run up to one another’s rooms or outside and play, invent and we could hear them laughing hysterically, or sometimes hours would go by where we would hear nothing. We’d get worried and go to check on them, but they would be playing with Lego or doing something creative in absolute silence, they were so comfortable in each other’s company.

Mandy and I were becoming the same way. If we didn’t see each other for a while, it wasn’t a big deal; we would pick up where we left off when we did get together. We were busy with our families, both of us had other friends and I had my hobbies. In those days I didn’t tell many people I was a musician, I had let that part of my life rest while I focused on the needs of my family, hoping that one day there would be a chance to find my way back to my music and art.  When I did, I found out how much Mandy loved music, that her father was a musician. I knew she loved art, as she had lovely paintings all throughout her house, and when I started painting again, and writing, I couldn’t have had a better sounding board than her. She has been there to cheer me on, to listen to every new song, read every story and praise my art, being one of those rare souls that exists, it seems, to see other people happy.

Our trust grew and we started sharing the important things; stories, both happy and sad, sometimes just silly. Our boys were growing up and as is inevitable, in some ways after all those years of being so close, they grew apart a little. We talked about it, but we didn’t force it. No friendship should ever be forced, we understood that very well. But we did talk to them both about how rare and precious it is in this world to ever have a friendship like they had, and that they shouldn’t count it out just yet. Like two strong rivers, they would be sure to meet and then flow away from each other, but in the meeting there was a strength they would miss if they let it go.

During that time Mandy and I also were giving each other a little more space. I was moving towards my art again, which meant less time for friends, more time alone with instruments and paintbrushes; she was expanding her circle, had new friends, became an expert skier, while I prided myself on my après ski abilities and tennis. When we did get together we always picked up where we had left off, as if we had seen each other just the day before.

Then Austin grew up and moved away. We started thinking about crossing the bridge to live, which for people on either side of the bridge is akin to moving continents…lost a few people I thought were friends in that move. Live and learn. But Mandy kept coming over, glad for a change of scene and once again we resumed the closeness we’d known before, realizing that maybe we’d been taking our friendship a little for granted, we worked a little harder to find time for each other again.

Then came a spring break bombshell over a dinner at our new place. “We’re moving back to England…” she said nervously. I caught my breath, took a long drink of my wine, my mind racing, a thousand thoughts running back and forth. She told us why, and although I was shocked, I knew that a real friend understands that no one ever makes a decision like that flippantly. It was the right thing for her family, at the right time…for them. And although my heart was saying, “Nooooooo!!!!” out of my mouth came, “I totally understand…hey! I can come visit you!” I’m sure my eyes weren’t as convincing as I was trying to make my words, but after all the years of laughter, of her listening to my music and supporting me and me doing my best to support whatever she needed support in, of sharing our thoughts, our children, our love…surely a country the size of Canada and an ocean the size of the Atlantic wasn’t going to get in the way of that!! She needed my support then more than ever, and I knew there was no choice, so I said, “I think it’s going to be awesome! Good for you!!”

It’s been over a year since that night, they moved a few months later. She came back for a couple of crazy weeks to pack up her home, see all the friends she was going to miss, and she stopped at my place on the way to the airport. I didn’t get to see as much of her as I had hoped, but I was glad to be the last stop. Then when I came to London for Austin’s 21st birthday, we got together for a couple of wonderful days. And now we’ve just said goodbye after a wonderful couple of weeks in the English countryside that they’ve made their new home, going to “proper English pubs” and country houses, cooking together again and as far apart as we will be until the next time, I feel like we are closer than ever, and am so grateful we were able to have this time together.

It never gets easier saying goodbye though…so my dear Mandy, how about we call this farewell, until the next time? Thank you so much for your hospitality, your friendship. I wish you all the best on this new adventure, I know it will turn out great, no matter what:) Love you so much my friend, miss you already, but I know it won’t be long until we meet again. Cheers!



 A couple of nights ago, while leaving the bathroom in our vacation rental house in the lovely English countryside, my eyebrow came into a rather unfortunate contact with an “invisible” glass shower wall edge, resulting the following morning in a palette of angry purples and reds showing up on my swollen left eyelid, it’s pots of colour slowly blending and edging under my eye throughout the next day.  I had spent about half an hour icing it after the initial bump and frequently for the next couple of days, hoping that would be enough to avoid said discolourations. However when I showed my friends back home a picture of my eye, I knew by their shocked reactions that there was nothing much to do but wait this one out. I’m famous for my ability to continually forget that invariably when I come into contact with walls, chair and table legs, and seemingly benign objects to others more graceful than I, the laws of physics dictate that I will lose the battle of impact, but obviously that knowledge still has not taken effect upon my consciousness and it’s piloting of my finer motor skills, and so it seems I am to continue my journey in this life, now and then interrupted by reminders.

 As it has been my lifelong habit, this accident caused me to reflect, albeit through one eye slightly swollen: What was I thinking just before I literally hit the wall? Was this a reminder of something besides my own lack of coordination? Of course reflections like these led me to make a few jokes about myself, to which a friend replied, well, if you can laugh about this, you must be okay. Yes. I am okay and recalled immediately after impact I had thought to myself, well THAT could have been a lot worse! There was no cut, no concussion, no stitches, my eyesight was good and if all I had to do was avoid external mirrors for a week or two, then I got off lightly. But the internal mirrors, well there had been a few signs over the past week that I needed to refresh my soul with those, check inside my conscience, listen to “the bird” that my holidaying had recently left on the back perch, just out of earshot. 

 On social media lately I have noticed people making efforts to recognize their own states of grace, being grateful for at least one thing a day in their life. Reading them I have often smiled to myself, albeit a little smugly sometimes. Since I can remember, being happy where I was, being grateful has been a bit of a struggle that I often attributed to being an artist; never being content with anything I had created, always looking to the next, better song, painting, essay and so on. Many people have said things like Kirsten, get off the hamster wheel, what are you trying to prove to people? Can’t you just relax for a while? In fact, relaxing is the very worst thing I do. I am a workaholic. Sitting and doing “nothing” is agony for me. But it’s not about impressing others…mostly:) It’s about my own inner demons, pushing, always demanding more. After a great deal of introspection over the years I discovered that because of my own rather wacky family situation, I was catapulted into the world, on my own at a very young age without having been given the tools to cope. It was never a given than I was loved, I certainly never took love for granted and at a very young age I was conscious of thinking that maybe if I worked harder, if I was more talented, more beautiful…more quiet, more clever, more…loveable, then someone would be able to find love in their hearts for me. It seemed quite obvious, in my young mind that the problems in the hearts of the people around me rested with me, not with them.

 What I was blessed with was my creativity, born of a need to escape in those early years. I would run through the fields and forests of Cedar and Yellow Point, mostly alone, pretending, imagining to be anyone but who I was. The stories I would invent, the songs I would sing, from as early an age as I can remember, would take me all sorts of places…anywhere but where I was. That imagination got me through some very tough times, and I am very grateful for it. I am also grateful for learning at a very young age that when “bad” things happen, there is an opportunity to learn from them, about yourself, about others, providing you are willing to listen. In fact the more you listen, everywhere you go, the more lessons there are to learn.

My husband and two sons started our vacation almost three weeks ago in London. Our oldest son is a wonderful musician, making his way in that grand city. He’s been working very hard, and we are proud of what he has accomplished in so short a time. We also miss him a great deal, so we picked him up on the way to Budapest, where we spent a week, then to Istanbul for a few weeks before dropping him back in London and continuing to the English countryside. I wasn’t sure why I had picked these destinations, just felt a calling there.

In Budapest we visited “the Terror Museum”, a must see for anyone in the area and indeed a must learn for the children of the world. It is a lesson in inhumanity, following the occupation of Hungary through the regimes of first Nazism then Stalinism, then the terror of Hungary’s own secret police. The last Soviet troops left Hungary in 1991. My experience in that museum will haunt me forever…I can only imagine what horrors the people of Hungary have gone through, and I am grateful that, so far my family and I will live through it in our imaginations alone, although one can never be too sure with the way the world seems to be going sometimes.

One day we hired a driver, Adam, to take us to Lake Balaton, far off in the Hungarian countryside. He was a lovely young man, 28 years old, full of dreams for himself and his girlfriend who he hoped to marry as soon as they had saved enough for her to “stop working” and become a mother. Of course I chided him a little and reminded him that motherhood is one of the toughest jobs there is, he laughed, agreeing, then proceeded to tell us how the government worked in Hungary, what life was for the people. Over all he was optimistic about his future. He owned his own car, bought a new one every three years, then sold it to a cab driver. He had been the only one of 13 driving associates who had passed his “transporter” license, qualifying him to drive movie stars, politicians from the airport to their hotels. His shirt was freshly pressed, even in the intense heat. In a country of bruised and broken souls, he was one of the believers in a great future for Hungary, and I believed him. He will do well. 

On the way to the airport to fly to Istanbul, we had another driver. He did not give us his name when we introduced ourselves. He was guarded, about forty years old. His smile had a sadness; he was jaded. One thing he said when we asked him how he felt about the future of Hungary will stay with me forever: Left hand, right hand…both are from the same corrupted body. 

As I got onto the plane I couldn’t help but think about how people create their destiny, often without even being aware of it. Of course every time I think about that idea, my inner debater says, well what about sick children? Did I create the sadness in my early life? Over the years of this internal argument I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all linked, and that sometimes these things we go through are not about our karma, our lesson, but more about the lesson that someone near us needs to hear or learn, that we are all here as a mirror to someone else, to help them see a part of themselves. I can think of many people in my life who have taught me that, family members, acquaintances and complete strangers on the way to the airport. Some people are positive. They make the best of everything, find something to smile about or even laugh about in the worst of times and some people are just plain negative and bitter. Does the negativity come from experience or lead to experience? Recently during similar debates with two friends, both who I’ve known a very long time, all of us starting out in the music business at the same time, I noticed that the “successful” friend put forward his arguments in a respectful, reasoned and caring way, leaving us both aware of our similarities more so than our differences, but I think it was obvious that we both learned from each other’s arguments a great deal. The other wasn’t that way at all, was bitter, resentful and I would feel no loss if our paths never crossed again. I couldn’t help be struck by their differences, and the differences in the paths our lives have taken. As painful as the latter argument was, I am grateful for it reminding me of one of the truths of the universe; What you give, you shall receive.

In Istanbul I was faced with so many lessons about being grateful, it would be too great a task to list them here, but seeing the poverty held up to the wealth in such an obvious fashion, feeling the tinderbox of emotion ready to light all around me made me very grateful for the geographical lottery I won by being born where I was. Istanbul is fascinating, would take at least six months to lift just a few of it’s veils, and I highly recommend a visit to anyone, but I was happy to get back to London again, that I will not deny.

We dropped off Austin at his place in Notting Hill then proceeded to the train to Bath, then to our holiday rental about half an hour away. Of course at this point of the holiday, the workaholic in me can’t wait to get back to work. I had stored my guitar at Austin’s place and our first morning here I ran outside to practise in the sunshine. It was wonderful!! I found myself thinking about an upcoming gig that I was preparing for, about the things I needed to get done when I got home, about practising my saxophone, about just about everything except my family, this vacation, this long sought love…this NOW!! I was reading a book called “the Red and the Black” by Stendhal, if ever there was a treatise on being grateful for where you are, that book is it.

Until a couple of nights ago, when in the middle of the night, after lying awake, fretting about this and that, things people had said, things I needed to do, and so on, I got up to go to the bathroom and WHAM!!! It took a shower stall to literally knock some sense into me! And you know what? I’m grateful for that too! I’m grateful for every lesson, every hardship, every dumb ass in my life that does and says silly things, every blessing, my family, my world, music and art, my dog Lucy, my friends, for all the love around me, I am so grateful! Many years ago I cut out a cartoon from a series called “The Artist”, and pasted it into a photo album, it was so important then. The first frame was a guy staring to the heavens, saying, “I need a sign, I’m lost!” The next frame showed a sign being placed in front of him that said, “You are here.” The guys looks up and says, “Can you be a little more specific?” and a big fist with the index finger extended points to the sign. The guy looks at the audience and says, “He’s hard to stop when he’s on a roll…”  Still learning. Sometimes it takes a whack on the eye to make you see clearer. Guess that’s why they call them “shiners”:)))

It was morning, late morning.  At least I think it was morning.  The sun was shining in through slat-blinded windows, radiating down from midpoint in the sky.  Bright, but not too warm, so late morning it would have been. Yes.

When I was a little girl, I liked to spirit the scissors from the ledge of my grandmother’s sewing machine table.  Withdrawing into myself and the wall beyond Granny’s pulsing feet in the space under that grinding machine, I would open and close those scissors, one little hand on each steely grip, marveling at the sound they made in transition.  Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  And I would smile to myself, a small smile at this weight of power in my hands, this wanton act of defiance.  

Bits of lace would fall from the workstation above, very small bits.  My grandmother was dutifully thrifty and prone to reminding me thus when I did not want to eat my oatmeal, even if it was the third time it had been served that day!  “Eat it or wear it!” Granny would threaten. Just a few days before the one this memory rests upon, I had discovered what Granny was talking about.  Most of the oatmeal had come out of my hair by the second wash, although some of it had dried hard due to my own darn stubbornness Granny told me as she briskly snipped away the baby blond, wispy, knotted pieces. 


Granny’s dear mother had died when she was a young girl, leaving Granny and her youth strangers of convenience from that point on.  She was the eldest of fourteen siblings, so in the order of the day, the task of looking after her brothers, sisters and a domestically and otherwise ignorant farmer father fell to her. Granny did the only logical thing a girl could do those days to escape her lot. In grand Catholic tradition she married the first guy she literally rolled in the hay with and went on to have five children with him. Her new husband was a dashing pilot, fresh out of the war. Grandpa was brave. He had medals and big dreams. Grandpa had been quite a catch those days, women fawning, draping all over him, hanging onto every word as he regaled them with stories of patriotic risk and daring. He brought with him the breath of lands far away and exotic, and exhaled it into the Vancouver Island backwoods town they called home. 

Granny, as a young and seductive farm girl, it would seem, was more fertile than the others, and a few months after a hasty marriage a baby girl was born.  Grandpa always believed he could of, would of and should of, but he never did, preferring instead to stew in his own bitterness because, for reasons he never cared to divulge, he preferred it there.  It was what he knew.  In that war and world-damaged soul of his there was solace in the dark. But the darkness he carried with him made it difficult to hold a job, to hold respect for himself and for others, especially his family. With each new baby his ability to cope grew more and more difficult to grasp.

In the grand scheme and desperation of things it would have been obscene if abuses hadn’t have happened.  They just weren’t spoken of except in the silent screams of a black eye or thumbprints thickening, whispering from the soft skin under a livid ear to matching, swelling fingerprints on the other side of Granny’s neck.  When one was suddenly caught aware, the voices of the town criers of purgatory were unmistakable in clarity and bareness. 

Lost dreams can be dangerous things.

Open. Close. Open…

Red velvet was a rare find. Small bits were useful for stuffing inside the porcelain mouths of the antique dolls my grandmother outfitted to sell at the local summer trade shows.  If an errant piece did manage to be lost on it’s way to the remnants pile, by the time my little fingers had happened upon it, it’s edges had frayed and it no longer presented much of a texture to rub like some exotic fur in my childlike imagination.  But the ragged weft could no doubt be well trimmed and shaped by the scissors, although the execution of such a task could prove fatal to my mission of wanting to keep said scissors to said self and not have said Granny take them away upon discovery of possession. Such a feat would require two hands for the unwieldy scissors and something to balance the tattered velvet on to allow for easy trimming.  Such options were limited under the sewing machine table, especially with granny’s nylon-clad feet always tapping and pulsing and dancing about on the treadle, one or another of her big toes poking its’ way through a fresh run.

This cherubic felon would not be deterred by circumstance and peril.  

Open…close…opening very slowly…closing very carefully, precise, almost surgically I went about notching the beleaguered velvet scrap balanced against the toe of my scuffed white shoe in a series of “vees”, letting the cuttings fall into my lap and onto the linoleum floor around me. I felt a perverse thrill as I manipulated the cold steel blades, one handle gripped in each determined little hand. 

When the door to the sewing room burst open, and a red-faced Grandpa planted himself in it’s frame, his stocky torso listing from one side to the other, I was so far down in myself that at first I did not react. When I did sense him from my shadowy vantage point, my instinct was to press my little body so hard against the wall that my spine seemed to buckle and cave into itself, as if by pressing deeply enough into the peeling wallpapered wainscoting I would cause myself to disappear.  In my short life’s experiences with my grandfather I had found that disappearance was by far the favoured option to discovery.

With a kind of frozen stealth I slowly lifted the scissors up the wall with one hand and poked them quietly and precariously back onto the ledge from which I had pilfered them only moments ago. Granny’s feet were still dancing on the treadle as her crackled voice hummed along with Sarah Vaughan on the radio.  Jazz had been a staple in the sewing room since I could remember, since my mother had gradually left me with Granny so it would be easier to find a new father for me. A new father had been found, quite quickly really, but it seemed now my mother needed more and more time without me, especially after a new baby brother was born. My mother, this new father and brother set up house together, but it must have been a very small house because there was no room for me there and I was small enough to fit under the sewing machine table! So me and granny passed the days, then weeks, months and years in and out of this room, jazz pumping in and out of time with the machine above me, flanked by dolls of all sizes and expressions, leaning on shelves against each other in various states of dress and undress.

I could see my grandfather, looming large, bloated and belligerent, saying something to Granny, but Granny was making so much noise singing and sewing that she didn’t notice him.  Three shaky steps and his hand was cupped and cuffing the back of Granny’s head hard enough to knock her off her chair.  The sewing machine stopped but the old tube radio kept playing loud until it was silenced under a vicious fist. Bending down to his sprawling wife Grandpa spat in rancid, gin-soaked breath at the hands she held protectively over her face, “Now do ya’ hear me, ya’ deaf bitch?”

Then his attention turned to me, having, for all my efforts, not been successful in disappearing. Granny pulled herself up. Ranting and raving about this bastard child and her slut mother, Grandpa reached down to drag me out from my hiding spot but then Granny hurled herself at him, using all her weight to shove him aside. The sewing scissors were knocked back down the wall to rest again on the floor in front of me and I was crying uncontrollably now as Granny grabbed them away. Holding the scissors up over her shoulder like a furious bird with a murderous beak, this wife lunged at her husband, pecking madly and violently at his shoulder.  He recoiled, slapping his hand over his fresh wounds, fearful, indignant and shrieking obscenities as Granny stood her ground. Liquid velvet seeped between Grandpa’s fingers, as he sputtered, cursed and seethed then slowly backed away back through the door. Slam! Heavy, staggering footsteps stomped through the living room. Slam! A toxic torrent of incoherence fading as the heavy car door crunched closed.  An angry engine fired and howled away and then all was silent but for me sobbing, breathless, wanting to be stronger than this.  By now I should have been stronger than this.

Then I was in her grandmother’s arms as, kneeling down, Granny discovered the bits of red velvet cuttings scattered under the table, and shaking, smothering her teary cheeks in kisses Granny held me tight as she cried, “Oh, you monster!  You precious monster!  I told you not to play with my scissors!”


When the lights go down

there’s no one else around

she steps out in the silence

like she was dancing on a cloud

Those who love her stay

others go away

guess that’s what keeps a girl remembering

who she was

when the skies were not so undecided

when the stars bowed to the sun

when a soul, so strong, could be divided

they’d come…she’d hear those voices singing

Somewhere in the cool night breeze

the world stood still while she believed

that anything can happen

in a dream

But the truth is that miracles

are seldom what they seem

Dancing on as the floor fell from beneath her feet

she gazed down the street

at passers by

reaching out her hand

she tried

to touch them

Katie and Me                                     Fiction-by Kirsten Nash

Katie and me were sitting in the field and we were smoking.  We were smoking grass, and not the kind of grass that you could brag about behind the backstop at school, but the kind of grass that you rolled in the paper insides of cigarette package foil.  You needed a Bic lighter to run the flame under the tinfoil part until it kissed the paper goodbye.  When the paper was lifted from the glue, we curled the hay up in it, because that’s what the grass really was…shredded hay, and we licked, twisted and snapped at the edges of the paper until we had a cigarette.  We were desperate for any vestige of sophistication, and so we took long, languid drags from our “cigarettes” and pretended we were big city bohemians in bookish, jazz-laced coffee shops, arguing over the respective mojos of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.  I thought Leonard Cohen was the sexy one, dark and lost, but Katie thought Bob Dylan was the renegade, the cool one.  After all, he smoked pot with the Beatles!  Then we pretended we were Bob Dylan groupies, which seemed kind of lame after awhile, so we changed to Katie being Bob and I was Leonard, smoking each other up at a rock concert, in San Francisco, 1968, backstage at The Airplane and Grateful Dead concert.

“Now that would be cool!”  Katie had the joint, and was trying to get some continuity out of it.

“D’ya think maybe Jimi an’ Janis will be joinin’ us?”  I was trying to lay myself out like I was reclining on the velvet couch on the front of the Janis Joplin record my stepbrother had left behind for me when he moved out.

            “I don’t think so, man,” Katie droned in a mock stoned voice, “But we can check out Jimi at the Filmore next week, man…”

“Cool man…” 

We sounded more like Cheech and Chong than Bob and Leonard, but we didn’t care.  Whoever we were being wasn’t from anywhere near us, and that was all that we cared about as we dreamed our dreams on that late summer day.

Even through the smoke we could smell the shedding arbutus and the impatience of autumn. The week before the fields had been splendid, waving and arguing with the split beam fences, but now they sputtered and lisped with the urgency of time out of hand, ruing any wasted seconds of sunshine, heads bent, waiting for the thresher. 

We both took turns sucking at the reefer, fat and bulbous, roughshod and lacking.  Lacking in substance and conformity, it flared and stifled, and one match after another was sacrificed on the path to its’ eventual demise.

Katie’s new stepfather had false teeth that clicked.  When I sat down to dinner with their family before our sleepover the night before, it was the one thing at the table that everyone knew but nobody talked about.  Click-click…clack-slurp-click…all through the soup and the salad his dentures rubbed and crackled. Listening to him chew a steak was like hearing a drunk tap dance; no cadence you could count on, just spastic rhythms and sliding, grating tendons engaging in a kind of tribal, primal mastication.

Katie and I looked at each other across the table and she kicked my shin when I crossed and uncrossed my eyes in time with her father’s porcelain maracas, trying to crack her up.  Then later, when we were in our pyjamas, we stood in front of her dresser mirror in her bedroom and I tried to show her how to cross her eyes, but try as she did, only one eye would reach it’s corner.  Her other eye was a “lazy” eye, and stayed a few beats behind.  But she could bend her thumb right back on itself, like there was no bone there at all, which was pretty cool once I got over the way it made me feel like puking.

When Katie’s new dad finished supper, he took out his false teeth for a while and set them on the table beside his chair, then lit a homemade cigarette (a real one, not like ours) and his face collapsed.  He had a mechanical cigarette maker, cartons of hollow cigarette tubes and bags of tobacco that he set on the kitchen table with a box of red wine. When the butt was ready to be stuffed in the glass ashtray they got from Reno on their honeymoon, he popped his teeth back in then he and her mother sat down and took turns stuffing the tobacco in the metal groove and cranking the lever that filled each paper tube as they drank the wine box dry.

I tried to get the last gasps of smoke out of our hay cigarette, sucking my lips in like Katie’s stepdad, but there’s no way you can get the same depth with teeth in your gums to stop your cheeks from imploding.  The best I could do was to look like a cross-eyed grouper fish on fire, with the smoke pouring from my nose and mouth.  Katie started laughing like there might have been something more than hay in that cigarette, and I joined in, between coughs and wheezes.  We laughed the kind of laughter that only two newly teenage girls can laugh, rolling side to side, convulsing under the harvest sun until, our stomachs both aching, the last giggle had been spent.

            I can’t believe school starts tomorrow…Katie didn’t much like school.  She didn’t have the clothes for it.  All summer on the farm left the dust she wore thicker and less patchy than her t-shirts.  No one saw fit to teach her about hygiene, and as her body changed no one seemed to notice or care about the new odours coming from her pubescent pores.  Except for early last spring at school when her favourite teacher, Mr. Hines, had to take her aside and tell her that other kids were refusing to sit beside her because she was smelling so bad and went on to tell her how to properly wash herself and use deodorant.  She was even more humiliated because she had thought he was going to tell her she had the lead in the new school play.

            WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY FRIEND!!  Katie yelled at me on the way home that day.

I didn’t really notice…honest!  Maybe ‘cause I’m around you so much, maybe I’m used to the way you smell!                   I was getting angry.  She was always blaming me for something she should have been angry with her parents for.  I was proud that she looked up to me, but sometimes her trust fell a little heavily on my shoulders.  Besides, most mornings I got up, the first thing I did was milk the cow and feed the chickens.  I smelled more shit before seven in the morning than most people did in a lifetime. By the time I got to school, my nose was used to a funky smell.  How would I know it was coming from Katie too?

It’s not like you can tell your best friend their smell blends in with your cow shit, so when we got to my house, I gave her one of my Dad’s old deodorants to try as a peace offering, after I picked a couple of hairs off first.  I would have given her one of mine but I only had one, and it was the first one.  Dad and me got it just a couple of weeks ago, with his sister, Aunt Jo, who was visiting us all the way from Nova Scotia and said “You know…” a lot in a high, twangy rasp and then usually went on to tell you something you actually didn’t know at all!

“You know, Abe, she really needs a trainin’ bra…an’ you know, some deodorant would be useful right about now too.  You can’t just leave the girl growin’ wild like them raspberries out back, you got to prune her, clean her up now an’ then!  Jaysus!  Don’t her mother even come an’ take a look at her ev’ry so often?”  And Aunt Jo paced the kitchen with her cigarette fidgeting in her hand, ashes in feathery chaos settling on the floor around her.

Dad took her rant in stride, fidgeting with the saltshaker as he stood by the counter.  “I guess now’s just as good a time as any.”  And he started walking to the front door and out to the car, just expecting us to follow, screen door slapping shut behind him.  Aunt Jo jammed her cigarette in the sink’s hole and as it hissed a quick death she grabbed her purse and sweater off the bench she’d set it on when she first came in.  Her wedge heels were shaky on the gravel driveway as she followed her brother out of a lifetime of habit to the truck waking and coughing beside the garage. 

I stood for a minute more in the kitchen, trying to process what had just happened and what was about to happen.  A bra?  Deodorant? The awkwardness of the mission overwhelmed me.  I was only thirteen!  As yet, only one of my nipples had popped out, and the other had caved in!  What kind of bra was going to work for me?  Katie had talked a few months ago about getting a training bra, but neither of us could figure out what she should be trying to train her titties to do?

For me it went deeper than that.  I had one of the best arms in the school.  I out shot the boys in shot put, discus, javelin and I had a mean over-hand pitch.  When I struck a boy out sometimes they would snort and smack their bat on the diamond or chuck it at the backstop and get a warning.  They’d be blaming the wind, blaming the bat and the umpire for not calling my pitch a foul ball.  They’d just about do anything than admit that a girl just struck them out. But up until now I hadn’t been much of a girl. If I were to start wearing a bra, that would be the end of it, there was no way the boys would let me keep playing with them.

Katie stood up. Bits of hay stuck to her pants and she was brushing them off but I was rolling on my back, side to side in the bristled grass.

“Whatchya doin’?”  Katie cocked her head critically to one side, watching me writhing in the dust.

“My back’s itchy…” I jumped up, suddenly self-conscious and dusted myself off.

            “What do ya’ think you are?  Some kind of cow or somethin’?”  She set off impatiently, shaking her head toward the gravel road without waiting for an answer that was in no hurry to come, and I followed, distracted, our footsteps absorbed by the matted field.

The road kicked up more dust as we set off to where my bike was waiting, leaning against the fence.  My backpack, stuffed unceremoniously with my pyjamas, toothbrush and the training bra my aunt had picked out for me, was hanging off the handlebars.  I would be waiting until the last minute to put the ridiculous pink contraption on. Just before our driveway there was a large cedar and cottonwood thicket, and therein was my impromptu change room.  It would go on to serve me through most of grade eight as I did my best to fend off the inevitable changes that nature was hoisting upon me.  Every morning I would stop in the thicket on my way to school, take off the bra and stuff it in my backpack, and rain or shine, wet or dry, every day I would stop on the way home and put it back on again. Not that Dad would have noticed its’ absence.  I figured that he had made an effort in getting me the damn thing, so I ought to respect that by wearing it around the house. But the Devil’s ass would be frostbitten before I’d be shackled by it in the schoolyard.

The truth was, for a year or so nobody, even Aunt Jo, would be likely to notice if I was wearing a bra or not.  Not like Katie.  No boy had looked her in the eyes for a few months now, especially at the lake in her new two-piece swimsuit.  She said she thought the boys were creepy, but I’d known Katie long enough to know that she thought boys were anything but creepy.  Her body was just catching up to where her spirit had been all along.  Soon, I knew, not only would she have her own deodorant, scented like lilacs, but she would be taking long baths almost every night and nagging at her mom for bath salts and musk oil soap.

We said goodbye a little stiffly and as I bounced along her driveway on my bike steering clear of the potholes, Katie disappeared down the forested trail to her house. Turning out onto the pock-marked country road, I was conscious of the slapping of my backpack on my hips as I pedaled through the maze of blazing maples, fields, fences and roadside brambles that marked my way home. It always seemed that around the end of summer was when things started ending and beginning.  Some people think that the beauty of it happens in springtime, but I think it’s at the end of summer.  For something to be born, it seems like something’s eventually got to die and what could be more beautiful and selfless than that?  As I jumped off my bike in the cottonwood thicket and pulled my bra, already hooked, up my legs, under my t-shirt and slipped the straps over my shoulders, I wondered too if autumn was nature’s way of testing your faith. As the world browned all around, I reasoned, one had no choice but to believe in spring. Things are always simpler when you have no choice but not necessarily easier.

I walked my bike slowly out of the thicket and onto our driveway, wanting to hold the last few memories of summer close to me.  School started tomorrow.  It was Katie and my first day of high school.  There would be new girls, girls with curls and lipstick who dotted their “I’s” with hearts and gobbled up gossip and sugarless gum in the halls. There would be boys who would stand around them, shifting foot to foot, trying desperately to be cool.  I didn’t much care how or if I fit in, I never had.  But Katie was different. It mattered to her so much that just my not caring seemed to threaten her these days.  Of course, that idea could have been more rooted in my own insecure teenage imagination than in fact, but one thing I did know as I leaned my bike against the back porch and clomped up the stairs to open the creaky kitchen door, was that times, they were-a-changin’.






Morning in Whistler…no snow yet of course, but so peaceful…deciduous in full bloom, evergreens hunkering down for the weight of winter, a few birds still calling, chipmunks furtive, dashing and stashing. The sky grey with a slight mange of blue, the sun slow in waking, scant rays getting through.
Autumn and pumpkins outside the store yesterday where I saw the boy…I can see him right now, all of five years
holding with wild-eyed glee a pumpkin carving kit
And I smiled to myself just to think of it!
And in this remembering, a smile too and then the faintest of a tear
These seasons, these lessons, this never-ending thrust
the leaves, they keep falling as ever they must, in showers of lime, tangerine and rust
Seasons that leave me here remembering my own little boys, pumpkins carved, broken toys. And Christmas mornings, tooth fairies too! Mornings in panic, homework lost, sick days and monsters, then girlfriends! Oh my! And then just an echo, a life that’s gone by. The leaves they start falling, as leaves always do…it’s morning in Whistler…I’m thinking of you:)

Read this and tell me if you still want a revolution…I see a lot of damn the rich out there still…to be expected, that’s the way politicians have been setting up the propaganda for years now. Course not the very rich, like the ones that help get the politicians elected; just the ones you see day to day, the ones that bug you because of what you perceive they have that you don’t, the ones you figure got there because they were lucky, the ones you assume have no sense of charity, the ones people like to assume a great deal about. It’s so easy to point fingers and Mao’s cultural revolution is what happened when pointing fingers got out of hand. Of course many of the people who profited from this revolution, government ministers and their cronies and their families are bringing billions into the North American economy, from a country that supposedly has made it illegal to take any money out of, they bring billions, much of it stolen from the people in one form or another. And we can say, oh it’s just the Chinese, or just the Russians, just the African despots that are the corrupt ones, but they are people, we are people, separated only by geography and circumstance. Just like in Egypt, one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, and no matter how much blood is shed, the same government gets in…maybe not the exact same people, but their nephews, cousins, sons etc. We live in a very dangerous time, where people only learn their history in wikipedia info bites, headlines are all many people read, few can be bothered to take the time to read more than a paragraph or two…most people can barely get through a song without being distracted, which has a lot to do with the state of the industry these days, and ultimately with the state of the world. When a society is as ready to absolve itself of responsibility as ours has become, that’s when a Mao or a Hitler comes along and says, tell you what. You make me the Dude, the divine Man, and I will play Robin Hood and take all the money the rich stole and give it back! Hooray! Except they are humans too, if only barely, and they inevitably get to like the trappings of power, more than they care about the people they exercise that power over, and they decide that money they’ve taken from the rich they’ve killed is better used to coat their toilets with gold, because a golden toilet is a sign of how great a nation is theirs, in fact embassies worldwide with golden toilets would really show them….and so it goes. Because as I always say, it’s never “them”, it’s only “us”, and as such we, the collective humanity have allowed the Maos of the world to do their evil because of base emotions that exist in all of us: greed, hate, and envy. If we can change those emotions to love, empathy and acceptance, that will be all the revolution the world needs.


Father’s Day

I have had three fathers. My birth father, a Belgian, my first stepfather, a German and finally my British father. Jokingly, or not, I often tell new friends interested in the cacophony of my family tree, that my mother was one of the founding mothers of the European Union.
My German father, Werner, is the first I remember. His voice a baritone as I remember it. It is very difficult to give the reader an idea of what kind of relationship I had with Werner….I was so young. He was a difficult man….and in my mother he had found a difficult woman and so the relationship was by default a difficult one. There were loud voices and violence…he was a man who would stay propped up drunk in a chair in the corner of the room, folding his belt in half and snapping it….rhythmically…Then there was the inevitable conversation in the kitchen.
"Who do you want to live with, your father or me?" my mother asked. Except that somehow I knew, at age 6 that he wasn’t my real father and so I said, "I want to live with you," and my little brother, his son said, "I want to go where Kirsten goes!" He didn’t say he wanted to go with his mother or father, but with me because at age six, I was already both to him.
Werner lost that battle, but came back a few years later to claim my little brother. I wasn’t there but my brother told me of Werner almost beating him to death with a baseball bat when he found out my brother was gay. Werner committed suicide, like his father before him. One day he taped up his garage, started his car and went to sleep.
The man I call my Dad was a Britsh man named John. Soon after Werner finally left, my mother met John in a nightclub she sang at. In no time we were living with him, a widower with four sons who I came to revere as older brothers. But mostly I came to love “Uncle Jack” as my brother and I called him.
When he married my mother and told me he would like it if I called him Dad, I was so happy! Firstly, my brothers had brought me a wonderful Scottish terrier puppy we  named MacGregor, but I felt like for the first time I had a real family. Dad and I hit it off big time! I used to love watching him build things in the basement…the stacks of wood here and there, shavings on the floor. He would always make sure there were big chunks of wood for me to create with, circles, bricks and half moons, all vessels of my imagination. He built a rabbit coop with me, had me hold the sea grass tight while we made benches. When I was sick, it was him who made sure the edges of the toast weren’t too hard, when he made my lunch for school there was a Roger’s chocolate and one of his special biscuits and a perfectly carved sandwich. He taught me to read time and not to cheat at Scrabble or any other parts of life. 
But he was tough too, strict and unforgiving sometimes…I dreaded “going into the drawer”, where the ones who disappointed  him would end up, smiling photographs shoved in drawers until the storm passed. Sometimes the storms never did pass and one or another would be stuck in the rain clouds against a mountain praying for sun. But I loved him fiercely, love him still. He was there for me when no one else was, and I am forever grateful for that.
It was Dad that encouraged me to seek out my birth father, Paul. My mother had told me that my birth father was dead. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I finally learned that he was not only alive but living in San Francisco. He had known my mother when they had lived in the same brownstone in San Francisco. At some point, the story goes, I was conceived, he questioned paternity, she took offence and yada yada, here I am! But he is not. I met him the first time in my late 20’s, but then my Dad, John, got cancer, and I abandoned the birth father ship in hopes that my martyrdom would save my Dad. It didn’t.
After Dad died, I received, in a very round about way, a call from my birth father’s(heretofore known as Paul) wife, saying  in a very round about way, “He would like to meet you, I would like you to sign off on any rights to our(mine and my two children, his step-childrens) money, estate, our family history as it pertains to him and if you will do that, and take a DNA test, providing it is positive, I will allow you to come to his birthday dinner”.
And you know what? I did that! And yes, it turned out I was his daughter. It turned out he was thrilled to have me as a daughter, and my son, 4 years old at the time, who looked just like him, as his grandson. And we had a wonderful day, despite his ice queen step daughter and her mother. We connected, I played piano for him and sang and he hovered and couldn’t believe that he had a second chance with a daughter having messed up his first chance. And it turned out that his wife really wished it wasn’t true. His second wife that is. His first wife was my half sister’s mother.  Confused yet?
A month after his birthday Paul was in a coma. I had received a call at 4 am from his wife that he had had a stroke and was in intensive care just outside of SanFrancisco. I took the first plane I could get on, arriving some time around noon and going straight the hospital. I was in shock. Things had happened so fast…just a couple of days ago we had been emailing back and forth and and finally said “I love you” and “I love you too!” And now he was in a coma, this stranger father man, who looked so much like me, who I knew without knowing. In the hospital room his step daughter was busy on the phone calling his lawyer to make sure that the codicil to his Will they had asked him to sign in case the DNA test came back negative, had in fact been signed. I was stunned. She and her mother left for the night, leaving me with him. I remember holding his hand, my hand. I said, “Remember how you said you never wanted to disappoint me? Well this is pretty darned disappointing!” I cried a bit…well a lot. Then after a while, his eyes opened. They weren’t focussed, and I had been told not to expect much. So I sat quietly holding his hand. Then I swear he focussed. He, from it seemed a million light years away looked at me, for maybe 15 seconds and in those seconds he reached out and held me and said I’m sorry and then he went.
I watched as his eyes checked out, felt his soul say I’m done, machines clicking and whirring around him and kissing his cheek I said goodbye. The next day I came back with his wife and son as she did her best to get him off of life support. I listened as she questioned on the telephone the expense of a $250 cardboard casket and asked why she couldn’t just bring him over in the body bag. Of course, he was still alive at this point…she was just thinking ahead.
He was alive when I left, but by the time I got home again, he was gone, dead for sure this time. His wife offered to send me a lock of his hair, one of his ties but I said no thanks. I was tasked with calling a sister I had never met, who had no idea I existed, to tell her that our father, who lived no more than a mile away from her, was dead. 
Father’s Day has always been a tricky time for me. When Dad was alive it was easier, I used to look forward to making cards, to bringing him tea, to having a joke and a few of his “biscuits” in the Marks and Spencers tin. He always knew he wasn’t the only focus of the hand coloured cards. He knew and encouraged me to search out my roots, putting my happiness above his own. And so he will always be my only “Dad”. But I have had 3 fathers, none of them perfect, but then who is? Three men loved me enough to call me their daughter. Perfect or no, sometimes that’s all a girl has, and so I wish them and all of you a Happy Father’s Day! Above all, let there be love:)

I know I’ve been pretty quiet here. I find all these social media sites both fun and exasperating…fun to be able to update people and express ideas as well as enjoy all the news and ideas others share with me, but so time consuming. What I’ve been focussing more on lately is practising, getting ready for my first solo opening set…just me and my Hummingbird, opening up for the R&B Allstars on July 5th and 6th at the Anza club. I’ll also be taking my old spot in the horn section of the Allstars, so of course there is much practising to be done for that. THEN, somewhere in there I’ll be recording my new EP…maybe CD…there’s a lot of songs to pick from:) This time I really want to focus on making it all flow together, a sound unique to this period. It’s amazing how the creative river flows here and there, now and then getting stuck in pockets then moving on. I am also looking very forward to going on a writer’s retreat in June with Richard Wagamese, the very prolific and successful author of “Indian Horse” and many others, acting as host with his wife Debra in Kamloops. I am so grateful for the opportunity to focus on writing for those 5 days and to hopefully grow as a creative being. Of course I am a little nervous…I’ve never done anything like this before, but I always find my greatest learning is done outside my comfort zone, so I’m expecting big things…but then I’m always expecting big things!

Anyway, back to practising I go and will be updating…when I can:)

Have a great day!