May 18, 2020

A Poem: Rewild in the City

Every spring I marvel as the earth comes alive again. Despite everything we’ve done to Earth, her plants and other creatures take every opportunity they can to live. They take full advantage of the sunlight and warmer temperatures and every bit of soil.

As human beings we are capable of so much. But there is a cost to that. We've become rather muddled.

Rewild in the City

Branches, barely green,
Reveal the wind
Blowing cool air
Through our city

Birds fly past
Busy with spring’s endeavours
Mating, nesting, feeding

Early flowers bloom
Each day new plants sprout
City lawns need cutting

Life abounds
Among the trees
In the yards
Wherever growth is possible

It’s an energy
That flows
An energy that lives on possibilities
Light and moisture and warmth

A responsive energy
It lives when it can
Rests when it must
Moves on when viability has ended

There’s a gentle ebb and flow
To life in the wild
No fear
In winter’s rest
Or even in departure

That’s a freedom
You and I dream of
Our sense of responsibility
Our concern for future things
Our multitude of thoughts
Weigh us down

See the trees budding out
Leaves hungrily unfurling
Smile at the bright flowers
Reflecting the sun
Let your heart soar
And dip
With flight of the birds
Rest your back against the
Solid stillness of a tree

There is a wisdom
In the wild
A different kind of intelligence
Every leaf, every bird, every fly
Can teach us

In the strangeness of this time
Let yourself be a student
Attend the class of the wild
Anywhere in the city
Rewild the human

Fear not the endings
The changes and impositions
Grow where you are
Reflect the sun
And live

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If you are looking for my short novel, A Matter of the Soul, click here

May 14, 2020

Short Story: Masked Date

Life has changed so much; it feels like we need a road map to navigate it. But we don't have that. None of us have been here before. And things are constantly changing. This story imagines a situation where restaurants are open but physical distancing and the wearing of masks are expected. What would you do if you wanted a first date? Dinner out used to be so easy!

Masked Date

Sandra sat back in her armchair, phone propped up on her raised knee. “Have you been to any restaurants yet? They’ve been open for a couple of weeks, but I haven’t been able to get my head around the safety of it.”

On the screen in front of her, Kelly shook her head. “No, I haven’t. I’ve spent so long staying away from places like that, it just feels like a strange idea.”

“You know, six months ago I would have just asked you to join me at The Old Squire and we would have dinner together. We’ve been chatting for four months but thanks to this virus we’ve never had a real date. I like walking in the park with you, but that doesn’t feel like a date.”

“A date would be so nice. But do you understand how anyone could sit at a table with someone they don’t live with and still follow the rules? We wear masks when we’re in the park. How can someone eat and wear a mask? How do you ever get to move on in a new relationship if you can’t even eat together. Honestly, I’ve been feeling really stuck with this. I love chatting with you, and walking, but I don’t know where to go with this.”

“I guess you haven’t heard about the new masks? It’s of such economic importance to get restaurants flourishing again that someone invented a different kind of mask. It’s a win for the manufacturers and the restaurant owners, apparently.”

“What?” Kelly laughed. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”

Sandra shook her head. “As far as I can tell, it’s legit. I watched a video. The masks lift up easily from the bottom. You quickly spoon some food into your mouth and close it back down while you chew. The restaurants supply them. It’s really easy to pop a straw in for drinking.”

On the screen in front of her, Kelly’s head kept shaking back and forth. She stopped to speak, “I can’t believe this! I’m going to go crazy soon. Life will never be normal, will it?”

Sandra shrugged, “The thing is, I really want to have dinner with you. I want to sit close enough to look into your eyes, to take our time and sit and do the things people used to do when they were in a new relationship with someone. The way things are right now, it feels like we’ll never do more than just talk to each other through a screen or walk side by side. I just want you to come over to my house and have dinner and take our chances, but I haven’t even had a chance to sit and look into your eyes. Somehow, I want us to move forward.”

Now Kelly was nodding slowly. “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, Sandra. I’ve just been telling myself to be content with a relationship that’s a lot like a long distance relationship, but that doesn’t seem fair. I just don’t know how to make the next step without it being a big one.”

“Would you give a try to a restaurant meal with me?” Sandra asked her, feeling like she was wearing the beseeching puppy dog look. “It will be strange for both of us.”

Kelly shook her head again, and looked down at something off-screen. Then she gave a little shrug, “I do really want to have dinner out with you, even just once. Yes, I’ll do it. But we better do it soon before I lose my nerve.”

Sandra met Kelly in the park, and they walked to The Old Squire together. This time they walked side by side for the first time, without keeping the mandatory six feet distance that was required for people who don’t live together. They were both masked, as always.

It felt good to be walking in such close proximity. Walking near Kelly felt so comfortable. “You know,” she said to her, “this is the first time in months that I’ve spent any time this close to someone else. It feels wonderful and at the same time it feels like we’re breaking the law. It’s hard to believe now that this used to be the most normal thing in the world. It’s amazing how things can change and become the new normal.”

“I’ll admit, I’m resisting the urge to grab your hand.” Kelly ducked her head away, so Sandra didn’t see her eyes when she looked over to her. She let it go. Soon enough they would be sitting across from one another.

They walked along in silence for a while, then Kelly spoke. “I hope they have those masks you were talking about.”

“They do. I called them to make sure. Sorry I didn’t let you know.”

Sandra put her hand on the entrance door and turned back to Kelly. “Are you ready for this?”

“Yes, I need to sit with you,” Kelly nodded. Sandra thought she was smiling behind her mask. She held the door so Kelly could walk in without touching it, and then pumped a dollop of sanitizer onto her hand from the nearby pump.

A young man in a colourful mask greeted them. “Welcome! A table for two?” Sandra nodded. “Do you know about the masks that are required to be worn? We aren’t permitted to serve you unless you agree to wear them.”

“Yes, we know,” Kelly answered.

He grabbed two packages containing masks. “Do you have your phones to access the menu? Then I’ll show you to your table.”

It had been six months since Sandra had been to a restaurant. Here each table appeared to be two metres from the others. The space looked bare compared to the look they were accustomed to, but each table looked comfortably private.

After they were seated, the young man opened a package, ripped it open, and held it out to Sandra so she could pull the mask out. Then he did the same for Kelly.

“Your server will soon be with you.” He nodded to them and returned to his station.

Before they had a chance to settle in, a young woman in the same colourful mask arrived with two glasses of water on a tray. She introduced herself and set a glass in front of each of them. She pulled the end off a straw cover and held it out so they could pull the straw out for themselves. Then she did the same with a package of napkin-wrapped cutlery. “Are you ready to order or shall I come back?”

“Please come back, we are in no rush,” asked Sandra. She just wanted a chance to settle in with Kelly before they got busy eating.

Finally they were alone. She looked at the woman seated across from her, and felt lost in her eyes. It was such a strange feeling. She felt hungry for the closeness, and at the same time she was overwhelmed. Kelly broke the contact first, and reached for her straw to take a sip of her water.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “This won’t work! Let’s check these masks out.”

They took their own masks off, shoved them in a pocket, and immediately applied the new mask. They looked at each other and laughed, each of them sounding a little hysterical. Kelly shook her head, “Oh my, it’s a good thing I didn’t know they would look like this! I might not have agreed!”

“They didn’t look like this in the video! They must have modified them for it.” These masks had a plastic frame that fit around the nose and mouth area. Shaped filter material fit inside it, made to fit over the nose. But it was the plastic frame that gave them such a strange look. There was a ridge along either side, and a little tab sticking down at the bottom. She examined Kelly’s, since she couldn’t see her own. “I think this plastic part is hinged.” They each felt their own mask. The panel lifted out from the bottom, leaving a gap.

“This is supposed to work? Really?” Kelly reached for her spoon, and went through the motions of filling it with food. With one hand she moved the panel, with the other one she brought the spoon to her mouth. “Huh, it might work. If I don’t knock the food off in the process!”

“I guess we take it slow and careful. It must work, other people do it.” Sandra stole a look around her. Two adults and two kids sat at another table, all of them busy eating. They seemed to be managing fine.

Kelly followed her, watching them. “I feel like I’m inside the strangest movie, you know the kind where you can completely reassure yourself it’s just a crazy story. But it’s real.” She shook her head and gave herself a shake. “Seems like all I do lately is shake my head. It’s a strange new world.”

She stopped and met Sandra’s eyes. They sat there, just looking at each other, no longer noticing the grotesque masks. “I like your eyes, Sandra. They feel very safe, but at the same time, my heart is racing like crazy. I think it’s because I don’t know what to do with the closeness. It’s not you. It’s just that I haven’t looked into anyone’s eyes in so long.”

“It’s the same for me,” Sandra told her. “It makes it very hard to figure out how I feel about anything right now.” She looked down to her water, opened her mask’s panel a little for the straw, and took a drink, glad for the break.

“I can’t believe how hard this is! Maybe we should check the menu.”

They took out their phones to look at the menu. The menu had changed from what she remembered: all the options could be managed with utensils or fingers. There were no sandwiches, wraps or burgers. Talking together about the choices, with short moments of eye contact, felt more natural. Sandra could feel herself relax, and sensed the same from Kelly.

They had just settled into their choices when their server returned. Sandra ordered a vegetarian salad with pecans and apples and a side of french fries. Kelly chose a chicken pot pie, also with fries. They both agreed that it had been too long since they had eaten fries, and they would be easy to eat with masks on.

Feeling more at ease, they settled into chatting, just as they had in their video chats. “I’m glad we spend all those hours in video chats,” Sandra mused. “I feel like it’s pretty easy to know when you’re smiling even though I can’t see much of your face. I find that when I don’t know people very well, it can be hard to tell for sure if they are smiling.”

Their server came over with two plates of food and set one down in front of each. “Enjoy your dinner,” she said and walked away.

They each picked up a fork, held it up in hesitation, and their eyes met. Sandra gave a little laugh. “Let’s do this. I’m hungry.”

She stabbed her fork into her salad, came up with a few pieces of lettuce and a mushroom, and aimed her fork toward her mouth. She tipped up the front panel of her mask and slipped the fork in. The mushroom fell off, bumped by the panel, but the rest of the food arrived safely.

She felt her eyes open wide. “Oh, no, I just had a vision of this mask being covered in dressing with bits of lettuce hanging out this bottom part! This could be a very challenging experience. Can you imagine trying to eat a burger, with ketchup and mustard smeared everywhere?” She checked on the status of her napkin, imagining she would have to try to keep her mask clean. “Oh, I guess that’s why there’s an extra napkin here.”

Kelly chuckled, “At least if my mouth is dirty, no one will see it.”

“I can’t believe this is how things are now,” said Sandra. “I got used to keeping physical distance and wearing a mask whenever I’m out, waiting in line everywhere, but this feels even crazier than I imagined it would. I just really wanted to sit at a table with you.”

Kelly filled her mouth again. “Mmm, it might be crazy, but the food is good. Let’s just enjoy it.”

It was a slow process, having to be so careful with every mouthful. When they were both satisfied, they set their forks down and sat there looking in each other’s eyes. Kelly spoke, “They say the eyes are the window to the soul. I never understood that until now. Your eyes truly are the window to your soul, Sandra. Thanks for letting me in.”

“And thanks for letting me in, Kelly.”

Kelly nodded, while her eyes crinkled in an obvious smile. “What now?”

“I want to navigate my way through this with you, Kelly. With you I will experience this as a brave new world. With you, masks are irrelevant. I feel like we can find our way, and it will be good. For the first time, I don’t feel afraid.”

Kelly reached her hand across the table, and Sandra reached out with hers. They rested comfortably together, an instant warmth soothing them both.

“Kelly, will you come to my place for dinner tomorrow? We can eat without masks, and talk, and find our way together.”

“I’d love that!”

Sandra paid the bill. They removed the masks the restaurant had given them and carefully re-applied their own masks.

Kelly pumped a dollop of sanitizer, opened the door for them, and then rubbed it carefully into her hands. As they headed down the sidewalk, she reached out to Sandra, who reached out to her, and they walked back to the park, hand in hand.

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If you are looking for my short novel, A Matter of the Soul, click here

May 07, 2020

Short Story: No Return

I wrote this short story mostly just for the exercise of sitting down and writing a complete story in one day. I couldn’t avoid something related to this pandemic. Consider young people who don’t coping with staying home:

No Return

Stan sat on his bed, back against the wall, arms pounding down at the bed. He wanted to yell, but that would bring his mother to sit on the bed with him and start another lecture.

“You know this is just how it has to be, Stan. If you go out, you’ll just get sent back in. It’s the only way to make sure this virus stops spreading and to make sure Dad doesn’t get it. You know he’ll die if it hits his lungs. Everyone is staying inside, You aren’t the only one, you know. You have a roof over your head, we have lots of food, you have internet and video games. It could be so much worse. You just have to find a way to accept it. Get on the exercise bike, burn off some of that excess energy.”

She had thrown some version of this lecture at him every day, as if it would change how he felt if she said it often enough. It wasn’t working. He just felt more frantic. He had to move! All he wanted to do was run and run and never stop.

He got up from the bed, put on a baggy sweatshirt with large pockets, and the cargo pants he rarely wore. He went down to the kitchen. His mom was intently looking at her computer, headset in. He grabbed food, filling his pockets. He filled his water bottle, and slid it into a pocket on the side away from her.

He walked past her to the front door, grabbed his coat, hat and shoes and opened the door before she had a chance to get to him. By the time he was two doors down and stopped to put his shoes on, she was standing in the open door.

“I’ll be back!” he shouted. “Don’t worry, I’ll be safe.”

“No, you won’t be back,” she returned, and shut the door.

He stood there a moment. That made no sense. She must not believe him.

The sidewalk stretching out from their house beckoned to him. It had been a month since he was outside. Other people went outside, he’d seen them walk by. But his mom had refused to let him outside, for fear of the virus coming in. None of them went outside except to grab groceries and other items that had been delivered. He had read enough about this virus. If he didn’t touch anything and didn’t get near to another person, he would be fine.

The fresh air was amazing. The expanse of sky above him filled him with awe. He shook his head. This was crazy! It used to be so normal.

He started running, but his water bottle bounced against his leg. He pulled it out to keep in his hand, and continued. He was a few blocks away from home when he had to stop to catch his breath. He hadn’t moved like this in a month! He was never a long distance runner, but he could always pull off a kilometre with ease. He settled into a walk.

The sun was starting to set when he returned to his house. He turned the door knob, but the door wouldn’t budge. His mom usually kept the door locked, so he wasn’t surprised. He knocked quietly, then stood back a bit so she could look through the peephole and see it was him. He tried again, knocking louder. Maybe she had her headset in. Still no response. He knocked as loud as he could. Still nothing.

He walked over to the front window to peer inside. His mom was standing there, her hands on her hips, like she’d been waiting for him. He gestured to her to let him in. She just stood there, shaking her head and then stopping to say “No.” He could just barely hear her through the window, but there was no mistaking the message. She really wasn’t going to let him in!

“But all I did was walk all day! I didn’t even sit down anywhere. I’m tired and hungry. I need to be home!” He pleaded to her, even though he doubted she could hear him. He had to try.

She shook her head one more time, then reached up to close the blind. He was completely shut out.

He sat on the step to text her. She sent back, “no”. He kept trying, pleading, but all she said was “No” until she just stopped replying. How could she do that to her own son?

He sat three, on the front step, and despite his grown-up age of 22, he cried. He was so tired, and had no clue what to do.

When his tears were cried out, he wiped his face on his shirt and stood up to look at the house. A backpack was on the porch. His mom must have set it out there for him while he was crying. Under it was a sheet of paper.

He took the paper. It was still just light enough to read it. “I’m sorry, Stan. The risk is too great. I love you so much, but you are an adult and you chose to leave. You will have to find your own way. I packed some stuff for you. I’m sure you’ll find a way to be okay. Stay safe!”

He didn’t feel sure at all. He crumpled the paper into a ball, threw it at the ground, then picked it up and stuffed it into a pocket.

He would have to take his chances and knock on some friends’ doors. Surely someone would take him in.

Stan was trembling with exhaustion by 10 o’clock. He had knocked on doors, starting close to home and ending up just now at the door of his friend Joe who lived with his girlfriend. He was the farthest away, but with no parents around, Stan had felt so hopeful knocking on his door. Joe shook his head from behind the safety of his screen door, “I can’t let anyone in. Sorry,” and closed the door. No one would let him in.

He had walked all day and all evening, but no one had stopped him. A few people had smiled hello, mostly those out walking dogs. He had to lie down somewhere. He wondered what other people did. The city was full of homeless people, but he hardly ever saw them.

There was nothing to do but keep walking and look for somewhere to rest. He saw a small park. It had some of those large evergreen trees whose branches went all the way down to the ground. That would have to do.

He stopped to check what was in his backpack, using the light from his phone. His mom had clearly put a lot of thought into packing it. There was an emergency kit, a blanket, an extra set of clothing, toiletries, and some food. He grabbed the blanket, shoved everything else back in, and crawled under the branches of a tree.

Trembling with exhaustion, he lay there crying. Then he started shivering. The blanket felt like nothing, lying outside on the cold ground, even with his coat on. But soon his exhaustion won over, and he was asleep.

Three days later Stan was still wandering around, spending his days walking and his nights shivering under a tree or bush. He was exhausted and felt filthy. His food was gone, and his belly grumbled. He had a new appreciation for what it was like to be homeless!

It was starting to get dark. He would have to find a place to spend the night again. He groaned out loud, but there was no one to pay attention. A lecture from his mom would be very welcome right now.

He looked around, then realized the darkness came from heavy clouds. He had lost all sense of time, and his phone battery had died long ago.

He had no idea what to do! He couldn’t sleep in the rain. He couldn’t even walk around in the rain. He would be drenched and cold and all his stuff would be soaked. He didn’t have any rain protection.

He would have to find a place with a roof, even if it meant he couldn’t hide properly. He headed toward the downtown core. As he walked, he spied a bus shelter. He would be dry there, and even have a place to sit.

The bus shelter was well lit by a street light. There was no privacy here. He shrugged, and sat down on the little bench just as the first raindrops started to fall. They were huge drops, and soon a river of water was running down the street. The steady beat of the rain lulled him to sleep.

“Hey!” a voice yelled. Stan straightened his stiff body and sat up. A police officer stood in the rain, yelling at him. “What are you doing here? This isn’t a bedroom! Get yourself home!”

Stan shook his head. “I’ve nowhere to go. I’m sorry. I just wanted to stay dry.”

“If you have nowhere to go, you have to come with me. I have a place for you. Wait a minute.”

The officer reached into her car. She came back with a bag on the end of a stick. “Put this mask on. Then get in the car.”

She opened the back door, then stood aside as he got into the car. She closed the door, then got into the car. She put a mask on herself and got the car moving.

“I’m taking you to a shelter. They will have a bed for you, and you’ll get fed. As long as you follow the rules, stay at least 6 ft away from everyone else, you’ll be okay.”

“Thank you,” Stan said. He didn’t know what else to say. It would be good to be dry and to eat, but he didn’t know what it would be like to be in a shelter.

“How long have you been living on the streets?” asked the man at the shelter, who introduced himself as Bruce.

“Three days. But it feels like forever.” Stan explained what happened.

“You really messed up, huh? It’s a rough time to be out on your own. There is no way you can go back home now, unless you can stay completely separate from everyone. This virus is a strange thing, and it seems to spread in ways we don’t understand. It’s a huge problem, because you have just been given our last bed. Every day there are more people who lose their homes or got kicked out. We don’t have a place for everyone.”

“Shit!” Stan shook his head. “I’m so sorry. I really messed things up. I couldn’t stand being inside any more, but if I had known this would happen, I would have found a way to cope. If there was a way I could undo this, or do something to make up for it, I would.”

Bruce looked him in the eye, nodding. “I believe you, man. It doesn’t help in the moment, but I hope some kind of solution appears for you.”

They talked some more. Bruce had a long list of questions for him, including some that were clearly intended to find out how likely it was that he might have caught the virus. Stan figured he was still pretty safe. He had sat in public places, like that bench in the bus shelter, but otherwise he kept to himself for the three days.

Bruce tossed a package containing a mask toward him. He explained how to use it safely so that it could be re-used.

“I’ll show you where you can go to have a shower. Later you’ll be called for your supper, and shown the way. Remember to always keep your distance. Other than that, just stay here on your bed for now.”

“Thank you so much!” said Stan.

Returning from his shower, feeling so much better for being clean, he laid himself down on the bed. He was exhausted, but didn’t want to sleep. He had a lot to think about, and wanted to be awake for supper. He was so hungry his stomach was clenching in pain.

He woke to someone calling his name, roused from such a deep sleep he couldn’t remember where he was. Looking around at the other beds spread across the large room, all two metres apart, he was jolted into wakefulness.

“It’s your turn for breakfast,” said the person at the end.

Stan sat up abruptly. “I’m so hungry!” he exclaimed, clutching his stomach. “I must have slept through supper, and I was so hungry then!”

The person waited while he put his shoes on, and then led him to the eating area. He pointed to a chair at the end of the table. “When you’ve eaten, go back to your bed. Others need to eat as well, and we can only serve a few at a time. If you haven’t eaten in a while, go slow. You want your stomach to have a chance to absorb it.”

Stan hungrily filled his mouth, not even noticing what the food was. “Go easy, man,” the man reminded him as he walked away.

Stan forced himself to slow down, reminding himself that the food would be more help if he enjoyed it. As he did, he looked around. The large room could only serve six people at a time, because each table only had two chairs, one at each end. When someone left, the table and chair had to be disinfected before the next person came.

The enormity of the situation struck him then. Anyone who didn’t have a home of their own needed to be housed like this. He thought of all the work that went into it. The constant cooking and cleaning. He felt like such a spoiled brat, sitting here eating a free meal when he could have held it together and stayed home.

He had been lying back on his bed, just thinking about everything, wondering if it were possible to charge his phone, wondering how his mom and dad were doing, when he saw Bruce walk over toward his bed.

He stopped at a distance. “Hey, Stan, I’d like to talk to you. Grab your stuff and follow me.”

Stan carefully re-applied his mask, grabbed his backpack and outer clothes, and followed him. Bruce brought him into a room. “Have a seat,” he motioned to one of two chairs.

“I have a proposal for you. I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I can tell you are honest and wish things were different. The thing is, we need help here. We have a separate room for people like yourself who can both live and work here. If you want a chance to turn things around and make the best of this, you can sign a contract that you will work for us and keep yourself as safe as possible and we will assign you a bed and the freedom to do things like take showers and charge a cellphone. But let me warn you that you will be watched closely and if there is any hint that you aren’t as reliable as I think you are, you will be out of here.”

“Oh, that is just what I want!” exclaimed Stan. “I would like the chance to do something helpful, to give back for the help I’ve been given. Thank you! You won’t regret it.”

They talked over the details and signed the papers. Stan was now an employee.

Stan sat on his bed, back against the wall. He shared this room with four other people, each in their own corner, but right now he was the only one in the room. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. He never would have imagined he would enjoy disinfecting and cleaning or delivering meals, but he was happy. His life had meaning, and he had been given a chance to make a difference. He was grateful.

You can subscribe to my blog by Email (click here)

If you are looking for my short novel, A Matter of the Soul, click here

May 04, 2020

A Poem: Bewilderment

(If you are looking for my short novel, A Matter of the Soul, click here)

This time of pandemic has brought a lot of changes in people’s lives. For me, it has meant that I have more time for writing. I intend to use this blog to share some of my current writing, particularly as most of it relates to the pandemic in some way. Some of it you may merely find interesting, but other pieces may touch your heart. They may resonate with you in a way that helps you understand better how you fit in this confusing time or what this time demands of you. They may also in some way give you a sense of peace.

This poem considers our response to life in the covid-19 pandemic and the changes that are coming as civilization attempts a return to normal.


Well-adjusted was a picture
Seated in the car driving to work
Kids in school and daycare
Spouse at their own office
Each one in their place

Every Friday
Family dinner out
Saturday date night
Soccer practice, swim lessons
Each night had its slot

Or without a family
Dinners out with friends
Conversant on movies
Musicians, all that’s new
Shopping the latest designs

Then came the upheaval
Workplaces closed down
Shopping only for essentials
Lessons and games curtailed
Gatherings outlawed

The rules have changed
But we will survive
We will wait this out
Soon to be back to normal
Business as usual

This might not end, they say
You might go back to work
But no gatherings
Continue to maintain your distance
It’s a new normal

We shake our head
Try to understand
A return to work with new rules
To survive as a person
As a country
Financial survival

Well, we are the resilient ones
We survive
We learn the new rules
And move forward
Just tell us what to do
And if you don’t tell us, we’ll figure it out

The picture of well-adjustment narrows
Some will fit
Make the transition
With no fear, no health concerns
No loved ones hit by the virus
They wear masks with ease
Manage physical distance

Some will wait
Buoyed by hope
Confident the new world will hold a place
For them and their loved ones
A new world with new rules
History rewritten

Some will flounder
Ill with virus symptoms
Broke and homeless
Stuck in fear of the new world
Resources depleted

Look around you and inside you
Acknowledge bewilderment
You can give up
Surrender to hopelessness
Or accept the new order
Whatever it is
In hope it will save you
Or you can live
In the middle of it all

Nothing is as it was
Nothing is as you thought
Fling aside all spoken
And unspoken

Live in the tremble
Of the unknown
Dare to find the in-between spaces
Between laughing and weeping
Up and down
Serenity and fear
Accept bewilderment

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April 09, 2020

(If you are looking for my short novel, A Matter of the Soul, click here)

As millions of people across the globe are doing, I have been pondering the implications and meanings of the covid-19 pandemic. Someone told me near the beginning about the possibility of the pangolin having a connection to the virus. At the time, I couldn’t even call to mind the appearance of a pangolin, but I knew I needed to do something creative with that knowledge.

And so I wrote a poem. And then I realized that this time I had to do more than share my poem in written form, I also needed to read it. That led to a project that caused me to produce a youtube video. I used drawings of pangolins for that video (as a slideshow), so I also wrote a poem for children, particularly so those who made drawings would be able to watch a video.

The poems can be heard by going to the following links:

For mature audiences: Consider the Pangolin.
For children: The Pangolin.

Written versions of these poems follow.

For mature audiences, who think abut COVID-19 and care deeply:

There have been stories surfacing that suggest pangolins are thought to be the transmission vector for the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. According to Wikipedia, the evidence is not at all conclusive. Maybe they were. Maybe many of these vulnerable creatures were killed because people thought they were. It matters not via which animal the virus was able to pass on to humans. What matters is what we do with the possibility that it was the pangolin.

Consider the Pangolin

My home has grown a repellent coating
My dog and I squeeze out the door for walks
But none may enter

My own body carries a forcefield
A six metre radius to keep others away
Save those in my own home

Social distancing, they call it
A microscopic bug
Reinforcing our lack of real connections

Take time to meditate, they say
As my heart cries out for others
Helpless to act for the lonely, the fearful, the destitute
Nothing I can give, nothing I can do

A tiny bug
That drives huge wedges between people
Destroys our equilibrium
Leaves us unmoored
Floating aimlessly on the sea of uncertainty

This tiny bug can not be ignored
We follow the numbers it has infected
The numbers sent to coffins
We learn to disinfect, clean, isolate
And still, the fear never leaves us

Now we seek answers to this huge change
Scientists warned of possible pandemics
While we kept living our twenty-first century lives
Finding our way in this human-centred world
Ignorant of the rising trauma to our land and its creatures

The fear rising in our gullets
Threatens to spill out of our throats
Spew itself over our neighbours
If they were near enough
Burn them with its caustic energy

This fear does not come from you
The humans do not get to own it
Stop and consider where it came from
Consider the pangolin
The bat
All the so-called exotic animals in
The Wildlife Trade

Trade is such an ordinary word
Wildlife the critters that hide away from us in the forest

The pangolin is curled in a cage
Surrounded by other wild creatures
Awaiting its turn for slaughter
Its blood spilling out in the streets
An interesting meal for a human

Consider this pangolin
No longer safe in its own habitat
Its fear is touching us.

A minor animal virus mutates
And through the web of physical connections
A new virus comes rushing toward you

In this social distancing experiment
Distant from human bodies
Distant from the normal activities of civilization
You have been given space

We have lost our way
Distanced ourselves from the pangolin
Considered ourselves separate, above, non-humans
And now
We are distant from our neighbours and human friends


In this web of inter-connected life strands
You and the pangolin are not so separate

Offer your heart to the fearful pangolin
The power of healing this vast disconnection
Is within you

And for less mature humans, notably children, who also need to consider the pangolin but in a different way:

The Pangolin

It is covered in scales
But it’s not a fish
Or a lizard, either

It curls up in a ball
But it’s not an armadillo
Or a hedgehog

It loves to eat ants
And termites
But it’s not an anteater

It can spray
Very stinky!
But it’s not a skunk

It is a pangolin
A mammal
Warm but not furry

It wears its scales
Like armour
Hard and strong
And even sharp

Long, sharp claws
Dig for insects
In the ground
Or behind bark

Longer tongue
With sticky saliva
Scoops them up
It has no teeth!

Tiny rocks stick to that tongue
Join the insects
Down into its gizzard
That’s a stomach

A tough stomach
With spines inside it
Is ready for this food

Spines and tiny rocks
Chew those crunchy insects
Help the pangolin
Be healthy and strong

I have not seen a pangolin
Just pictures
They like it that way

They get food
When we are sleeping

When we are awake
They curl in a ball
Some in trees
Some in burrows

They like to be alone
Away from humans

But some people
Find them
Capture them

You and I
We learn about them
Send love to every
Especially when they are scared

March 27, 2020

Breathing Compassion

If you are looking for my short novel, A Matter of the Soul, scroll down to the next post or click here.

I planned a post like this a couple of weeks ago, and then suddenly the world changed. Business as usual is no longer possible. People are confused, frightened, sick, dying. It was like we blinked and everything fell apart. Businesses closed, jobs disappeared, store shelves were bare, and every day there are more sick with COVID-19.

People are left wondering how they can cope and how they can help. The advice is to stay at home and to look after your neighbours, particularly the elderly. It’s not very helpful advice. Many of us don’t know our neighbours. And if we do, we might not have shared our digital contact information with them. It is not easy to help someone while you are sitting on your couch.

I care, but what can I do? How often have you asked yourself the same question? Some would say pray, but traditional prayer means calling on someone outside yourself and all you can do is wait and hope they fix the problem. It lets you do something, by speaking the words of your prayer, and is itself a form of connection, but it might leave you feeling like a bystander. It might leave you wishing there was more.

So now what? We have compassion, but what do we do with it?

There is this:

A couple of years ago I read a book by Pema Chodron, a Bhuddist teacher. This was where I first learned about Tonglen breathing, as it applies to Universal Compassion. I myself do not ascribe to any particular teachings, Bhuddist or otherwise, but I have used this breathing ever since because compassion is important to me.

It is deceptively simple. Just long, slow breaths. You breathe in the pain, the discomfort, then breathe out some ease, some relief.

Why might this work?

We are all connected, you and I and your friend shaking with anxiety and the person with Covid-19 lying under a respirator and a South American person sweltering in a heat that never allows their perspiration to dry and the pangolin curled up in a cage.

We are all connected in the Soul. It’s not just your soul or my soul but the Soul of the whole universe, bigger and fuller than we can ever imagine. When you breathe as deep and slow as you are able, you reach to the place where you can sense your soul. You may not sense it at first, but it is there, in the stillness. This is the place where we are all connected. When you breathe in, you can take with you the pain of others. Take it down with you to that place of stillness where it can be transformed, and then breathe out some ease.

Here is something to be aware of about the physical act of this breathing. For some reason, it doesn’t come naturally to us to breathe like this. I think the busy-ness of our lives causes us to become accustomed to short little breaths. You might find it necessary to hold your hand on your stomach to remind yourself to push out your stomach so that your diaphragm has room to move down to allow you to take a deeper breath.

Ignore the voice that says this is crazy or hokey or non-scientific. We don’t have the luxury right now of holding onto rigid ways of seeing things. Give yourself a chance to try this kind of breathing. It can allow you to send compassion to anyone, anywhere. It requires concentration, but you don’t have to maintain it for a long time. Once you have a sense of it, you can do it for a minute here and there throughout your day, according to what you are able.

As the world seems to grind to a halt, except in hospitals, stillness might be just what we need to help us to find true compassion.

March 02, 2020

Introducing: A Matter of the Soul

A Matter of the Soul

Peyton, who lives a pretty ordinary life in our current times, becomes increasingly frustrated by all the things that are going wrong. Sleeplessness finally drives them out of their bed one night, into their car and down the highway.

But Peyton is not as alone in this universe as they think. There are people and circumstances that come together to send them on a spiritual journey and help them find answers to questions they didn’t know they had.

I intended to write a blogpost about my progress regarding the short novel I was working on, but I just kept working on that novel, unable to be distracted. Instead, this post is the official announcement of a completed novel.

A Matter of the Soul is a written, revised and formatted book. It is ready to be enjoyed by others. Personally speaking, this is a first for me and feels very momentous! I’ve written a number of novels and embarked on the revision process, but this is the first time I’ve completed the process. I understand now that this is the first story I’ve written that needed to be completed and shared. The others were all preparation.

I’ve tried to express before that this novel is so much more than just the thoughts in my head. It is so much more than just something written by a single person. For those of us living in the mainstream individualistic society of today’s world, this is a difficult concept to understand or to express. I am one with all of life, with the very universe, and so, this novel comes from me and from all with whom I am connected. I am honoured to have been the one whose job it was to write this story. I believe the Universe, the fullness of life, wants you to be able to read this story.

And so, I am offering A Matter of the Soul in digital form to any who desire it, without restriction. There are those who would say this is not a wise decision. I’ve been told that if you don’t put a monetary value on something, then people don’t think it is worthwhile. But this book is not intended to feed capitalism. It is truly a matter of the Soul.

From a purely financial perspective, I wrote this story in my spare time and as such do not need it to be my source of income. As long as I have a computer and internet access, I can freely offer digital versions. Also, no one is restricted from passing the story on to others. I would love to have print copies; if any money becomes available I will arrange printing according to available funds.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the world around us right now. My wish for this story is that it gets passed from person to person, taking full advantage of this digital world we are currently living in. I believe there will be people who find some peace within themselves after reading it. I will attach my name to the story, because I am a real person living in the here and now who wrote this book, but I have no need to have my name or reputation become anything more than just me, just one of us.

Edit: to acquire a copy of A Matter of the Soul, you can go directly to this dropbox link to download a copy. In the increasing uncertainty brought about by Covid-19, I want to be sure you can access a copy without having to look for the contact form.

To acquire a copy of A Matter of the Soul, use the contact form on this blog. I will respond by sending you a copy in the format you request, as I am able.

Please note: If you are using a cellphone to access my blog, it might be necessary to scroll down and tap on “View web version” in order to find the contact form.

This book is available in three formats: pdf, epub and mobi. Reading it as a pdf file in a pdf reader may require you to read it by scrolling. A pdf file is the smallest in file size. Reading it as an epub or a mobi file will allow you to read it in book form, by flipping pages. They will require a reading app or an e-reader, but appear from my tests to work best in the brand name apps/ereaders. Most apps are offered freely and can be installed on any device. The file will be sent to you by email, as an attachment.