Three Deer



We spotted them very late and by the time I had found my camera they had walked past the kitchen window and my only shot of them was through the bars of the back porch. Not a great photo, but better than nothing. We see them regularly in the winter, but usually at dawn of dusk. We have never before seen them at mid-day, not that we are looking for them ‘out of hours’ so to speak.

We speculated on why they were there, what they were looking for, but we could come up with no answers. Hungry? But this was an early snowfall and there would be plenty of food out there. Confused, perhaps, as were were, by the early snow? That is a possibility, but we’ll never know for sure. What I do know is that they haven’t been back. With the snow down they would leave tracks, but we have seen no tracks in the snow.

Maybe, without the photo, I would have forgotten about the and thought that maybe I was mistaken. But I have photographic evidence and no, it isn’t photo-shopped or forged. In spite of all my doubts and misgivings, they were there, in the early snow of Snovember. They passed through the garden last night for their first nocturnal visit. I heard a cough and a snuffle at the feeders, but didn’t get out of my warm bed to take a peek. This morning, they had snaffled all the seeds in the bird feeders and they left tracks leading up from the trees, then back into the woods again. The chickadees had a rough time of it as there was very little breakfast for them, early this morning. We have re-filled the feeders now, and life goes on.


Here is a link to an earlier blog post that contains more pictures of deer in the yard.
Five Deer.


Pork Pies



This is the climate change monster wearing rose-tinted glasses and peering out of the woodwork to say ‘Boo’! And Boo to you too, because, guess what, while California is burning, and Carolina and Florida are drowning, and the Island of Puerto Rico, all surrounded by sea, because it’s an island in the ocean, is being blown away by hurricane force winds, the only people who can really and truly do anything about it have buried their collective heads in the sand, checked their profits [why do they never listen to their prophets?], and declared that it isn’t happening.

And a great many people believe them. I lived through Hurricane Arthur, going twelve days without power in 2014. I saw the devastation on the Acadian Peninsula, where I have so many friends, especially in Paquetville. I witnessed the flooding downriver in the Quispamsis area this spring. I visited the tragic remains thrown out from flooded homes in Maugerville and Sheffield and abandoned by the roadside for the garbage men to pick up and drive to the dump. I also visited the growing mound of electronics and scrap metal flourishing by the Burton Bridge over the St. John river here in New Brunswick.

I saw what was happening and I thought to myself ‘This isn’t right. Those men who could do something about it are absolutely telling the truth. This isn’t happening.’ So I put on my dark glasses and my blinkers and then I couldn’t see what was happening around me. I was happy and immediately knew that there was no problem and that everything was fine.

Fracking? I am voting for it. I don’t  care if the ground water that fills my well is polluted, I’ll just go to the Superstore and buy bottled water in plastic bottles and throw the plastic away afterwards, because I can’t see anything bad happening. The Bad News Bears are out there, bringing Fake News of terrible potential disasters, just to scare me, and I know they are wrong. Those wind storms last month that left 100,000 people in New Brunswick without any power, well, they were greatly exaggerated and didn’t really happen. Anyway, I guess it was less than a thousand people. Not as many as they said. The Bad News Bears always fake the photos of the misery and the cold and the unhappiness and wow, did they do some convincing videos, except they didn’t convince me, because I know better than any of them, and I know they are faking it.

And, guess what? When I wrote twelve days without power after Hurricane Arthur, I was not telling the truth: it was really less than twelve hours, or maybe it was only twelve minutes, and no, we didn’t have to take buckets out and fill them in the ditch in order to get water with which to flush the toilets because it was only twelve minutes, yes, really it was. and we could hang on that long with no problem. And those linesmen from Quebec and from Ontario, well, they were there in minutes, not after twelve days days, and we didn’t really need them, because the fallen trees weren’t really fallen and the power lines weren’t really down, and dear, dear, dear: what pork pies people do tell, and all to make them feel important and get attention for themselves.

“Pork Pies, for sale or rent!”
“Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
“True: I’m not selling pork pies,
I am giving them away for free.”




The snow came early this year, hence the above cartoon: Snovember. The deer came early too, and we saw three of them wading through the bottom of our garden, about fifty feet from this tree, where the now-bare trees separate our lot from our neighbor’s. It was just after lunch, and quite the surprise, as the deer usually arrive just before dawn or just after dusk, and much, much later in the year.

So it’s clearly a season of firsts and readjustments. Yesterday, we went wild and invested in an early Christmas tree. It’s a six foot tall white birch (plastic and ever-lasting) with 120 led lights and we will plug it in the corner of the dining room by the computers.

In the short dark days of winter, we are affected by Sun Absence Depression (so SAD) and keep a set of lights burning in the corner of the dining room by the computers. These lights are particularly effective in the early winter mornings, before sunrise, when the world is dark and we need warmth and comfort. Turn the computer on, and on come the lights shedding joy to welcome us as we read the enormous amount of bad news that seems to be circulating through our world right now.

Light in the dark: I think of it as a pair of rose-tinted glasses that allow us to reject the bad news and to look for the bright side, the silver lining that blesses every seeming cloud. That’s why the snow falls in bright flakes in my cartoon. The tree appears to be bare, but a couple of birds and some scrag ends of leaves adorn the branches.  The days may appear to be dark, but the bright lights on the tree are a silver lining to the cloud of unknowing that hangs in the air like a black umbrella.

The cloud of unknowing, the dark night of the soul … so much mystery, so much joy and despair, in life around us, yet it is a mystery to be grasped and savored, to be tested and tasted … and what is life without uncertainty, challenge, faith, belief, and lights, colored lights, a festival of lights, and humor, even in this darkest of all seasons?




How many ghosts loom out of our past and stand over our beds at night ready, willing, and waiting to enter our dreams and haunt us? I guess we all have them. But, like the animals in Animal Farm, where some are more equal than others, I guess some of us are more haunted by our childhood past than other people are.

What haunts me most from my childhood? Loneliness, rejection, and abandonment, I think. An only surviving child, I was sent to boarding school at a very early age. This initiated the sense of rejection. In my own mind, I was clearly being thrown out and equally obviously, nobody wanted me around. This reinforced my sense of abandonment. Rejection and abandonment were complicated by loneliness. When I came home for the holidays and talked about ‘school’, nobody in the family knew what I was talking about, because nobody in my family had ever been to a boarding school. My school experiences were foreign to the rest of the family.

We lived in a working class area of Wales. It didn’t take long for my ‘posh accent’ to further single me out and this led to even more torment inside and outside the family. I will not repeat some of the things that were said, but I have never forgotten them. Only recently have I begun to understand what many of those words and snide comments actually meant.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but words will never hurt me.”

The old Welsh proverb seems to ring true. I certainly got the sticks and stones, above all the sticks, daily beatings and canings in school. Back home, the words swarmed like black-fly and yes, they stung, hurt, and did a great deal of damage, much of which still clings around me.

Loneliness: how important was that? Both my parents worked, so when I was home from school for the holidays, I was either at home all day during the working week, alone from early morning until late afternoon when my parents came home, or fostered out to family members, not all of whom wanted me around. Many, many days I spent at home, on my own, face pressed against window panes, waiting, watching the eternal rain.

There were some blessings: I learned very early how to cook and I have carried the love of cooking with me always and everywhere. For me, cooking is a joy, a filler of space and time, a beloved occupation that dispels loneliness, and abandonment, and fear. Cooking: the thinking, the planning, the creativity, the activity … I hated cleaning up afterwards, always have. But, it’s amazing how many people love you, and love to hang around you, when you know how to cook, and how to cook differently and well.

Why do I write about this now? Well, I read this article on trauma and addiction a few minutes ago and it moved me greatly. Clearly it’s time for me to face some of those past ghosts and to banish them from my life. Can I do this? I don’t know. But I’ll give it a WIGAN, a jolly good try.

Rain / Il pleut



I remain fascinated by Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. I first met them when, as a  teenage flâneur in Paris, I wandered the quays along the banks of the Seine, entranced by the literary treasures of the bouquinistes. Eighteen years old, I had just been released from a twelve year sentence to a boarding school education (6-18 years of age). I loved the freedom of Paris and the joys of choosing my own poets and my own poetry books will always stay with me. Apollinaire was not a set text. He was a personal discovery and a true  joy. I remember the light blue cover and the worded rain drops inscribed upon it when I bought my first Livre de Poche, the poems of Apollinaire.

Caligrammes are out of fashion now, their virtues taken over by the joys of concrete poetry. I still write some, drawing them out by hand. I find this much easier than planning them on typewriter or computer, though I have done both. The cartoon – poem hybrid, printed above, is my intertextual reflection on Apollinaire’s original Rain / Il pleut which can be found on page 62 of the above link from Le Mercure de France.

I look at the snow steadily mounting outside my window and I hope that we will not see rain for a long, long time. Not until Easter and the welcome warmth of spring. That said, I miss the rain. It was a constant part of my childhood and I remember spending day after day, head pressed to the window pane (yes, I do know how to spell it), watching the raindrops sliding down while behind me, the old coal fire threw out enough heat to warm me in my daily loneliness.

Run, Turkey, Run


Do turkeys vote for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Good question. An equally good question, do turkeys have a democratic vote? Well. I doubt that. If they did, they would probably vote for vegetarians and vegans, and who could blame them? I certainly wouldn’t.

One of my memories of the Dominican Republic is seeing young ladies standing on corners by the highway with chickens and geese beneath their arms. The birds looked very excited to be out, flapping and squawking at their moment of liberty. Every so often, a car would stop, a bird would be exchanged for cash, and off it would go, flapping and squawking happily away with its new family. Little did it know the fate that lay in wait. I am reminded of Boxer, in Animal Farm, promised freedom and an after-work-life of clover-filled pastures only to be led unceremoniously into the rag-and-bone man’s truck, destined for the glue factory.

I am reminded too of the Quebec referendum and Separation H. The vote was close and, as the Parizeau man said: “as soon as they have voted ‘yes’ we have them in the lobster pot.” The lobster pot, the roasting dish: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Brexit, Separation H … oh boy, the joys that await us as we mark our little square boxes with their little neat crosses, never remembering the crosses, row on row, that mark the graves in Flanders Fields where all those lovely poppies grow. ‘Sheep unto the slaughter’, thought the French troops as they bleated like sheep while marching towards the meat-mincer of Verdun. A voiced protest, maybe, but not really a mutiny. In spite of that, 1 in 10, 10%, the true meaning of decimation, were then shot by their own side … for mutiny. Afterwards, the offending regiments were forcibly broken up. Clearly, the authorities didn’t want the war effort affected by the voicing of any hint of the realities of that war.

So, my fellow democrats, liberals, free-thinkers, and well-wishers: let us link hands and join in the Lobster Quadrille, or if you’d prefer the YouTube version, click on the second link. And while you are waiting for the link to appear you may as well sing that sublime chorus so often associated with Separation H:

“Parizeau, Parizeau:
is it yes or is it no?
Parizeau, Parizeau:
into the lobster pot you go.”


Moo Cow


Moo Cow
for Geoff Slater

It’s his story to tell, not mine, but I’ll tell it anyway, since he told it to me.

We were talking after lunch, de sobremesa, as they say in Spain, sat around the table. Chewing the fat, or the cud. The subject turned to farming in Wales and how Welsh farmers were sometimes trapped in the stall with the bull and crushed against the wall when the bull leaned its great weight upon them.

“It nearly happened to me,” he said. “But it was with a cow, not a bull. I was nine years old. One of our cows got into the manger and couldn’t get out. My father sent me in, hoping that I could shoo it out, but instead of leaving, the cow turned and trapped me against the wall. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe,” he paused.

“Go on.”

“I carried a pocket knife at the time. I had just enough room to pull out the knife, open it and … ”

I watched him shrink, grow younger. He returned to nine years of age. In his hand, he held an imaginary knife. The room shrank around us until it became the size of a manger. The cow loomed large, filled the room.

” … I stabbed, stabbed, stabbed … ”

His eyes tightened. His face grew grey. A sea-change came over him: white-caps whipped over his flesh. Storm clouds threatened. I watched his clenched hand stab … stab … stab … at empty air.

” … I stabbed it again and again and it turned and moved away … and finally I could breathe. I was lucky.”

He relaxed, started to breathe again. The room returned to its normal size. The cow vanished. The sun shone through the kitchen window, high-lighting us as we sat there, breathless,  in silence.


Bully Boy



We asked several people round for estimates, five turned up. Estimates varied from $1,000 > $1,200 > $1,400 > $1,500 > $2,000. My friend, Bully Boy, came in at $2,000. I said no, “No thank you,” I thought most politely. But he wouldn’t go. He was a very large man, super aggressive, and towered over me.

“It’s the best deal you’ll get,” he told me. “I won’t take no for an answer.”

“You already have ‘no’ for an answer,” I told him. But he still wouldn’t go.

“Mind you,” he said. “We’ll do a good job. We’ll tear up this, and that. It will all cost money. But it will be worth it, when you sell the house. Sure, $2,000 is the initial price. but it may rise. $2,400, $2,500, maybe $3,000 … we won’t know until we see what needs doing.”

“No,” I said. “No thank you. No,” But he still wouldn’t go.

“Look,” he said. “Those other guys are cheap-skates. They won’t do a good job. Me and the boys, we’ll dig down till we find something, then we’ll repair it. You won’t regret it. We’ll do a real good job, me and my boys.”

Two equally big louts climbed the back steps and knocked on the door. They opened it and let themselves in.

“How’re you doing, paw?”

“Great, kids, great. We’re just about to pen a deal here, aren’t we?” He thrust a piece of paper into my face, then put it on the table. “Just sign here.”

Bully Boy passed me a pen, almost stabbed me with it, and leaned over me as I bent to read the document.

“No,” I said. “No. I’m not signing this.”

“Why not? It’s the best deal you’ll get.”

Bully Boy and his sons crowded round me. I felt like I was standing at the bottom of a deep well and they shut out the light.



“I hate doing this … ” Bully Boy said, rolling up his sleeve to show an arm knotted with muscle and fat..

“Me too,” I said and whistled. My two Rottweilers came at a rush, stopped at my hand signal, and sat.

“Growl,” I said, and they rose as one and growled a deep, throaty, chuckly, mad-dog growl.

“Show your teeth,” I said and pointed at Bully Boy. The two dogs pulled back their lips, leering and drooling as only Rottweilers can.

Bully Boy and his sons vanished out the back door faster than they came in.

Now, your mission, should you choose to accept it: multiply those prices by ten (that’s thousands of dollars), multiply me by a thousand (there’s a lot of people in my situation out there), subtract my Rottweilers (not everyone my age has a trained guard dog, let alone two large, protective pets), and remember, I am a small man, seventy-eight years old, and this was a very large team of con artists.

You too will age and shrink. You may not have any pets. Your tablets may make you muddled. Now, if you live alone, like me, think about my story, and be scared … be very scared.




Heart Dance


Heart Dance: This is what the heart does when you have a good friend around for lunch and you spend an hour or two discussing art, creativity, meaning, change, artistic development, moving on, changing one’s style, and welcoming and creating new artistic visions. Heart Dance is about possibilities, about opening things up, seeing the interior self more clearly, watering the creative soul and encouraging it to grow outwards until it fills the whole person.

Heart Dance moments happen at different stages in the artistic life. They are urgent moments, impulsive moments, moments when you can suddenly hear the music of the spheres and see the universe dancing for you, before you, and with you. They are magic moments when the heart becomes one with the universe and heart and soul join mind and body in a universal heart dance where the dancers are one and the dance is not just for one, but for all sentient and creative beings who can hear the music and feel the rhythms pounding through arteries and veins.

The dull, grey, concrete life of the nine to five desk-bound existence fades away to be replaced by a flowerbed of activity, full of light and sound and color and music. Usually, this happens to the individual in the privacy of his or her own mind. Occasionally, we can share the event with a friend who is going through the same, or a similar, change at the same time. A unique experience to feel and witness the music with another person and to be bound into the circle of dancers, treading where other artists, great and small, famous and less important, have all danced before.

We talked of the joys of visiting great museums and of staying in one room, before one painting, and of spending the day there. This I did with El Greco’s El entierro del Conde Orgaz / The burial of Count Orgaz, with Picasso’s Guernica when it was housed in the Mesón de Guernica, with Hieronymus Bosch’s The Hay Wain, with Velásquez’s Las meninas, and with Goya’s Desastres de la Guerra, not one picture, but a series of etchings taken in, day by day, over a period of a magical month spent in Madrid.

In poetry it happens when I return to poems that I love. I read and re-read them, again and again, finding new nuances, new meanings, new depths. I think of the anonymous Poema de Mio Cid, of Góngora’s Polifemo, of Quevedo’s Canta sola a Lisi and his Heráclito cristiano, of Octavio Paz’s Piedra de sol, of Lorca’s Romancero gitano and his Poeta en Nueva York … the wonderful original poems of Fray Luis de León and of St. John of the Cross … and this is just scratching the surface of an exterior world that I have interiorized until it has indeed become a part of me.

Heart Dance: my heart dances and sunshine floods my soul as I write these words, words and thoughts that I have just shared with a good friend, as he shared similar words with me and we joined together in a heart dance during which the sun shone brightly and the whole creative universe sang and danced with us.