Bohemian Forest Love

In the narrow window between work and home, between duty and laundry, feeding the cat, trying to sleep, getting my ass to yoga, and tweeting, I have been working on a poetry book. I have until the end of November to submit it to the publisher so I’m focused. Even if it is only in that narrow, intense little pocket of time. So because I have nothing to say except through poetry, I thought to give a few highlights of some of my fave poems.

The book is called ‘Surrounded by Water’ and it is a capsule of my time living on Vancouver Island. It was 7 years and I had a lot of ups and downs, as in broken hearts and falling in love and broken hearts and–yeah, . It’s behind me and a big namaste to all that pain. I’ve put it all in compact collection that I hope will be a nicely balanced boat I can finally sail off into the distance. If you are a writer that has spent a lot of time with something you will know what I mean but feeling excited I’m almost ready to be done with this collection of words.

A lot of the poems have the ocean flowing through them. When I lived on Vancouver Island, I used to go to a fabulous place called Mystic Beach (check it out, it’s magical) and there was this amazing experience of walking through the cool, mossy, lush, brown bark filled forest and then down worn driftwood steps to the ocean I never tired of.

Down, down the rooted path

the blue areola draws us to her

through the womb of old growth forest.

It feels a little–or rather a lot–west coast but the summers there brought out the Bohemian in me. It is very hard to edit nearly a thousand poems and think about which ones need to go with which. I see many books there but which book is this one I have to ask myself. It’s sometimes a lonely journey and one full of memories.

I don’t miss being bound by ferries on an island but I sometimes miss being able to get out into nature more. One of the things I did love about living in a smaller community was the smell of cedar. Before the island, I used to live on the Sunshine Coast and many of the homes I rented had a wood stove that required me to, of course, chop wood and I got highly accomplished at slivering cedar for kindling. The smell and heat from cedar is like no other. Here, a little poem I wrote after getting wood for the stove one day:

Getting Wood

This morning at the wood pile

A crow or raven?

Flutters overhead

Then is gone.

Now a day full of longing

From some umbilical place

As though my infancy

Could be explained by wings.

Now I live in a big city, well not as grand as New York or Berlin but Vancouver is a growing city, a cosmopolitan city and one that has an intense pace that can blanket the mind with a hum twenty four hours a day. The other day I found myself in the Spirit Forest on the farthest western edge of the city–isn’t that a great name, Spirit Forest? As a kid I just called it the Endowment Lands but now it’s a proper park with beautiful trails that nestle deep into its barky, woody, wet, green dripping west coast heart. And I kept inhaling and inhaling and there was something there at the edge pulling me in, reminding me of my connection to nature and then I knew–it was my own voice. The forest just gave me the silence to hear it again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

California revisited

IMG_7880

Hanging out in Long Beach, California.

I’ve been away–both metaphorically and figuratively–and have ended up untethered from my writing for a while. I think we do that when what we have to write isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it will feel more like a tonsillectomy without anaesthetic I’m sure. But I digress. So, where was I anyway? Long Beach, California. A place that I think once likely had a sheen to it but since the recession has a decidedly tired feel, like a convention town without the big acts playing anymore. But there were still palm trees and a pool and I got to present to universities from across North America on my Transmedia character named Emily who I created for a sustainability campaign last year so that was kind of great.

The highlight of the trip, however, was visiting the Queen Mary. Being a hotel nut, this was on my bucket list and it did not let me down. The old world elegance was there in her bones and as you walked the length of the teak deck you could imagine corsets twisting, tiny umbrellas dipping, waiters whisking drinks away and courtly flirtations all happening along the remarkable length of this stately ship.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The ship was built in 1939 and the art deco details still remain. Apparently, 1.5 Titanic’s could fit inside the Queen Mary! Still used as a hotel, I ran into guests amidst the many tours that were being hustled around the ship and wished I’d stayed overnight. I did feel that the management could put a lot more effort into the tourism experience since I for one considered it to be a once-in-a-lifetime visit. They could take some lessons from a few of the heritage Fairmont properties in Canada.

 

Whenever I am in California, I always have the sensation of duality. On one level, I am so happy to look up and see palm trees and feel the warm air on my skin and slurp on beachside margaritas but on another I remember myself as a young woman with dreams and desires who worked, first in my sister’s print shop then in the San Diego regional theatre, and drove the California coast with my ‘official’ Californian licence plates. But my time there was also a time in my life when I had been lost, misguided and searching for a life that would bring meaning, joy and love to me. I found it, just not in California.

I do still like to visit though, mostly because there’s few things more joyful than a palm tree against a blue sky with miles of beach ahead of you.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-fiction, Solo Travel

September

20140804-IMG_2326

You notice the cooling of the air, just a brush against your cheek and you turn, as though someone had called your name but there is nothing–only a slight shaking of the trees, as though they know something you do not. They always do. You begin to have a sense of missing something, someone. There is a slow tide pulling out. There is a conspiracy happening, ancient, sure of itself, and inevitable. It doesn’t ask your permission. It doesn’t care that you remember the night you fell in love, thinking it was still summer, wearing a short black cocktail dress–a dress you never wore again–believing everything was touched in the last long lapis blue of an August night. Only, it hadn’t been August and the blue was a reflection of neon and a city heaving its last hot sigh of summer.

 

It’s an in-between place. Everyone rushes to the park, to the air mattress, the pool, the lounger, for one last long bronzing afternoon of feeling carefree marked by sandwiches in a small cooler and warm soda.

Jericho 2014 (30 of 77)

 

The gold of early September isn’t tinny or plastic–it’s a burnished, warm, oozing gold that saturates the horizon. It’s giving you its best. It knows there’s just a few more days and it will be gone again. It rolls along the coastline, painting beach bodies, lifeguard chairs, cardboard fish and chip containers that tumble out of city garbage cans, and crows perch, pecking at leftover fries while the sand soaks it all in, humming its last summer song before it goes to gray.

 

Everyone longs for the summer nights to go on, even knowing they won’t–with absolute certainty they know they won’t–still they long for it, lean towards it, gathering together to twist out of the rays every molecule of warmth, as charcoal smoke blots out the dying sun, and small dusty feet run towards grandparents who have seen in the distance a leaf float and drop and feel relieved. They alone wish for the coming cold.

Jericho 2014 (1 of 1)-2

 

Summer and fall meet at the beginning of September and for a short time, have a kind of exchange–silent, done at night, finished by morning. My son was born after one of these nights and we woke to a deep cloud, the forest shrouded in fog and the first cold rain. His birthday is always a day I never want to end. He, deeply tanned now with a single lock of blonde dappling his forehead, shoulders strong from early morning weight sessions and ocean swimming, with a new tattoo that holds secrets I will never know, doesn’t care as much. He shrugs, accepts it is time to wear pants again. Me, knowing it is time to let go, stand in the sunset and listen to the shore sounds, now quiet as fall brings in faint whitecaps and wind, and I realize the way forward is always like this–a receding tide, a falling leaf, a new season.

Jericho 2014 (74 of 77)

 

All pictures and words © Margaret Doyle 2014

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Let the sun find its way to you

HARRISON LAKE 1I used to always feel nostalgic about love during summer. I think the kisses I had in a little park with my first boyfriend made it that way. I would lay with my head on his chest and he’d lazily draw a blade of grass over my shoulder, then slowly along my neck then gently over my ear, finally making me giggle and turn away. And we’d do that for hours. So innocent. So perfect. So sweet.

Lately, I’ve been hugging summer close to me, stretching out in its warm embrace and letting it romance me like I was fourteen again. It isn’t always easy to move towards the present, to really be in it and let go of the past, but once you have life feels as it was meant to.

It feels like the sun can make its way to me without any need for someone else to improve it or a song to score the sunset so I can enjoy it or a book to describe the feeling for me or lover to whisper in the night and tell me what it really is.

No, it’s just seeping into my skin and heart, fully saturated with ripe possibility.

Sweet Sun

 

The sun bleaches all the bruises–

sweat hard, forgive the sun

she’s a guest here, she’ll be gone.

 

Moon gives you blue light

just blue light with no strings–

hold it in, let it go with your lungs

at ease at last in bed alone.

 

Summer

lazy as a cat on a couch

coy and calling in a bowl of berries

finally

you sit down too

content it’s only you.

4 Comments

Filed under Non-fiction, Poetry

Summer Laze

IMG_2072

Holiday. It can be a state of mind, sure, I’ll give you that. But it truly only happens in a specific place. When we tell each other memories of our vacation, we usually start with the place. The way the trees drooped down over a boulevard or how the sun set every night beyond your balcony or the way the lavender smelled in the air long after you’d hiked beyond those purple fields lit by a moody afternoon sun or the sound of waves, crashing in the dark just beyond your window.

My holiday place every year is in Kelowna, British Columbia in a region called the Okanagan. It (as in life) has usually become so unbearable in Vancouver by the time July rolls around I am itching to hit the highway and get to my happy place where peaches hang from trees and counters overflow with fresh berries of every kind and I am at peace under the hot glare of a true summer sun. This time around I drove a slow, lazy route up to the Okanagan, stopping in Osoyoos which is a desert and hot as, well you can imagine a desert could be, and then meandered up to Kelowna where I stayed with my ex sister-in-law of nearly 30 years who isn’t an ‘ex’ anymore but a dear friend. She cooks, I eat. A lot. We talk, water the garden, cocktails are made, plans hatched, relationships pondered and dreams unfurled for inspection. Everything is extraordinarily ordinary and simple and satisfying. Salad and herbs freshly pulled get tossed in a bowl with homemade dressing. Magazines get sticky from the heat, and are turned slowly, as you drift off to sleep in the sun. But best of all, I get to laze around with a small dachshund by the name of Louie who is my favourite animal in the entire world. You’d love him too if you met him. You can see him in the slideshow below.

If you are reading this and thinking of coming to BC, please, spend a few days in Vancouver, but ensure you get up to Osoyoos, Oliver and Kelowna and all of the amazing wineries that abound in our beautiful Okanagan. It’s really heaven on earth. And don’t fly. The backroads are what make it a holiday.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Non-fiction

Surrender to the green prayer

IMG_7206

Setting sun on my left cheek as I stand near the bean stocks that are expectant with summer, tendrils of bursting tender beans twirling in the soft air. Verdant respite of whispering conspirators–the poppy least of all, she’s done her dance and slumps now, out of the chorus of tubers and crawling vines–all vying for space, nudging one another as they race towards the sun each dawn.

Here I am in the unexpected moment: an intervention by root vegetables, dill, chives, cabbage, sweet peas, tomatoes, basil, surrounding me with their green insistence to awake, awake! Swallows swoop past my head and hummingbirds tread air wildly, waiting, waiting, for my decision. Will I let go of it? As in really let go of the weight of it, the life before and be in the life that is? Now?

Yes. Yes.

Waking to abundance, the garden goes on, the trees go on, the birds go on and the green prayer comes in each day like a wave, calling me to answer, surrender to forgetting and live the new.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-fiction

Another kind of Father’s Day

Much of what I remember of my father is steeped in fear. His mythical reputation for losing his temper was handed down to me from my 10 older siblings through epic tales of survival to cautionary tales from my younger siblings on how to carefully navigate that temper.

I resented it. I wanted to be free of the yoke of his glowering persona. I longed to be free of the hard and terrible consequences that came with being a child in his world. So, I started up a small revolution in my heart against him. I knew I was the youngest, the smallest and female in a family of nine boys–with the only other female my sister who was the seeming apple in his eye–and because of this, knew there was little I could do other than to take a stand against the monster who seemed to dictate life in our home.

I couldn’t stop the blows that rained down on my brothers but when it was my turn, I was prepared. I was in trouble for coming late to dinner and it was time for my reckoning. I walked solemnly over to the drawer where the spatulas and serving spoons were kept, that were, up until that moment, loving symbols of my mom’s cooking, and pulled out one of the less dangerous looking utensils and walked over to him. This ritual was part of the torture: You had to pick the weapon you wanted to be hit with.

“Here.” I handed him the spatula, which was metal (for some reason my mom had no wooden spoons in the drawer that day, why Mom, why?) and he took it and began to slap my open palms with it. Hard and with fire behind it. I stood firm like a soldier and stared him straight in the eye without flinching. I was four. I was fierce. I would not be broken.

My dad never hit me again. But what was lost in that moment was never regained. He died only six years later when I was ten. I didn’t mourn him. I didn’t know him. I was glad the reign of fear was over.

Many years later now, I am able to look back with more compassion on my father who was, at the time of my childhood, dying. He was dying and it was a slow, awful death where his heart was slowly failing him, and he was slipping from life while at the same time trying to control it.

I started to peel back the violence from my memory and searched for moments when he was kind to me. It took some time. But I remembered he bought me a small lamp for the dark when I was 5 or 6 because I was so terrified at night I would creep down into my parents bedroom and crawl slowly up into my mom’s bed (in those days they had separate beds) stopping when I heard his gruff complaint at my presence to which my mom always answered, “It’s only Margaret, dear, go back to sleep.”

I remember another time I was dancing in our dining room to some music in my head and he snuck a photo of me. I was really shocked that he’d cared enough to capture the moment but also didn’t know how to act–it was too intimate for such a distant relationship. Or the time he let me keep the kitten I found in a box–begrudingly, with complaints of future fleas and cost, and a Pinteresque pause before yes–then his small gesture to bring the kitten to him as he peered in the box and petted his small head. I can see now he was there, albeit far away, trying to be a father to me, but I was running in the opposite direction and he never had the emotional or physical ability to run after me.

More recently, I found an old letter of his to his older brother in a pile of photos, from a year or so before his death. He acknowledges he’s dying and is clearly sorrowful; at the end of the letter he writes about me, saying “Most of all, I think about little Margaret. That Margaret is really something, full of beans and always surprising me.” That I was in his mind at all came as a complete surprise to me but the tone is even more surprising–one of delight, tinged with deep regret and sorrow, knowing he will never see his daughter grow up, and perhaps having never really been a father to her at all.

Now, a single parent for two decades, I have a much better understanding of what my father must have been feeling and the challenges he faced during that time and wish I could sit with him now and pour us a stiff drink. I think I’d see that he wasn’t a villain. I think I’d see that I’m full of his best qualities: Courage, leadership, tenacity, vision. In fact, I think we’d be close friends.

Here’s to you Frank, wherever you are, bottoms up. See you on the other side.

My dad in 1977, the year he died.

My dad in 1977, the year he died.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Non-fiction