Monthly Archives: August 2004

Jan & Feb 2003

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January/February 2003

Well, now that the blush is off the New Year, how are those Resolutions holding up? I’m quite pleased with myself so far. When I went through last year’s list (which I keep in the back of my daybook as a reminder) I discovered I had succeeded in accomplishing a few consistently enough that they didn’t need to be rewritten onto this year’s list. And I actually started a number of this year’s in September, so they were well entrenched by January 1st. I find that starting resolutions at a time other than the artificially delineated New Year takes some of the pressure off. If you’re having trouble, remember that there are many other New Years on the calendar, so you can start a New Year’s Resolution, or bolster your commitment to existing ones, at many times throughout the year.

For instance, February 1st marks the beginning of the Year of the Goat in the Chinese calendar. It’s supposed to be a year of peace and calm (let’s hope). It is a year of introspection, when emotional and artistic energies are closer to the surface. A good year to do good things for yourself or to commit to creative projects.

February also marks the beginning of my personal New Year. I am somehow turning forty-one. Strange that when I was a kid, that would’ve seemed an impossible age for me to reach, yet now that I’m here, I’m the same person. Age is a very odd, relative thing. No matter what age you are, it’s always a new experience. I’ve never been this old before, so it’s an adventure (even if certain people still comment on my being a “spring chicken”). And I’m reaching an age when I’m really beginning to appreciate my genetics (thanks Mum & Dad). I’m very healthy, especially when I consider some of the ailments a few of my friends and acquaintances have. I fully expect to live a long and relatively happy life, ending my days as an eccentric writer/composer/photographer in the company of many cats, well-loved by my peers and the next generations of creators.

March 20th marks the spring equinox, another New Year, full of the mud, muck and mire of life, crocuses and robin’s eggs. If you’re in a city, it’s also the time of year when the air is filled with the aroma of thawing dog poo, but never mind. This too shall pass, as spring’s long days bleed into summer.

After that, it’s September, the New Year of back to school and back to business – the new work year, often a fanatically, frantically busy time. A time also of readying for winter, of stocking up and preparing for year-end holidays and celebrations.

Which leads back to another New Year. And through all these New Years, the world will continue turning, events impacting individuals in various ways. People will die, others will be born; some things will fail, others succeed; books will be recycled, new ones written. Throughout this inevitable activity, one needs to remember that we do have personal choices, strengths, and the power to make positive changes in our own lives, that in turn effect the world around us. Even when events threaten to run us over, to make us feel that things are happening to us over which we have no control, we can hold to the knowledge that we can decide how to respond, we can still control our actions. The notion that there’s no room to manoeuvre is nothing more than a limiting mindset. Although sometimes we may feel weakened, no one is ever powerless. You can change the world, if you start small and keep advancing.

©Catherine Jenkins 2003

April – May 2003

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
The Waste Land
T.S. Eliot

This year, April seems to be full of death. Here in Toronto, the SARS outbreak is causing anxiety. People are dying from it, at a lower rate than first feared, but still, each individual is a person likely to be missed. Statistics don’t reflect true loss.

And overseas bombs are dropping, people are fleeing, aid isn’t reaching those who need it most. In some cities, anti-war protests are turning into pro-Iraq/anti-Semitic rallies. Intolerance is running high and individuals are dying from it. I encourage people to express their opinions, but no one should have to die for what they believe. In the back of my head I keep repeating the line from an old CeeDees song, I hope the world doesn’t blow up tomorrow. A form of prayer.

april 12Spring is my favourite time of year, but this year it’s overshadowed by CBC news broadcasts. The first bombs were dropped just hours before I got on the train to embark on the Milds of New Brunswick mini-tour. Under the circumstances, I was relieved I’d decided to go by train rather than air. In transit, there was no news and I liked that, a blissful silence, a let’s pretend world where I didn’t know what was going on. Through the night we travelled endless miles of snowy white flats, wet-iced streams and trees black-shadowed against a wasted grey sky.

But the television in the Moncton train station was tuned to CNN. When Kathy Mac came to pick me up, she found me glued to the American propaganda station, shaking my head in disbelief. The first words out of her mouth were, “You don’t need to be watching that.” It was three days before I realized Kathy doesn’t have a TV. Smart woman. I listened to the CBC radio news a few times, but found I wanted to be thinking about other things.

The reading at the Attic Owl Book Shop in Moncton was a great success. April 13We had a very attentive audience who enjoyed the reading and chatted with us afterwards. Next time you’re in Moncton, you really should check out Ed and Elaine’s store at 885 Main St. It’s one of the largest, friendliest, best organized, mostly used bookstores I’ve ever been in. Kathy drove us back to Fredericton that night. I tried to stay awake, to be an extra pair of eyes watching for moose on the road, but ended up passing out for a while.

We got off to a slow start on Saturday, but still made it to St. John early enough to have a look around and a quick dinner before reading. St. John is hilly with narrow streets and a wild system of elevated roadways entering and exiting town, so it’s virtually impossible to see that it’s nearly surrounded by water. The St. John Arts Centre is a great space used for performances and art exhibits. In all, there were five readers and a good-sized crowd. Another successful evening.

April 14Sunday we were off to St. Andrews, Canada’s oldest seaside resort, and the weather was nasty. We were barely out of Fredericton when it started to rain, then sleet, then snow, then rain torrentially, which it kept up for the rest of the day. I could see that St. Andrews would be a really lovely place in the summer and I’m sure their seasonal population is widely variable. We read at the Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre as planned, but the rain made for a small audience. We then drove up to the Algonquin, a resort hotel privately built in 1889 and later purchased by CP rail. The exterior is Tudor-esque and castle-like; the interior was reputedly used by Stanley Kubrick in filming The Shining. The drive home was somewhat less treacherous, as it was only raining and still daylight. I was glad of a hot shower when we got back though.

The travelling part of the tour over, we remained in Fredericton Monday and Tuesday. On Monday I delivered a lecture to Dr. McConnell’s Women Writers class at St. Thomas University. Although initially a bit intimidating, ultimately it was a very gratifying experience. The topic was my own novel, Swimming in the Ocean, and I was talking to a group of about forty people, all of whom had read it. At the end of the lecture, there was a steady stream of students asking me to sign their books. It was a marvelous experience and one I hope to repeat. That evening, I did a solo public reading to a small, but attentive audience, also at St. Thomas University.

I spent a good part of Tuesday taking a slow meditative wander through downtown Fredericton. Kathy had suggested I check out the walking trail that borders the St. John River. I scrambled up snow-packed stairs onto the footbridge that leads over the highway to the trail, but there was no trail. There was snow. It’d been melting at a furious rate, but was still at seat-level on the park benches. I gave up on the idea and, after exploring various shops and historic buildings, went back to the apartment. I usually go to galleries and museums when I’m in new cities, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I was feeling a strange agitation, perhaps the war I was trying to ignore, perhaps the need for spring air.

Tuesday night Kathy Mac and I did a one-hour live radio interview with Joe Blades of Broken Jaw Press. It was a relaxed event with chat and readings interspersed.

Even though Kathy and I have known each other for many, many years, this was the first time we’d toured in tandem. I’m hopeful we’ll find opportunities to do future events together, sometime, somewhere.

Wednesday morning I caught the bus back to Moncton, April 15where I had a few hours to wander around before boarding the train home. Once aboard, I found I was tired and retired to my single room early, opened the bed, turned out the light and watched small towns emerge from vast expanses of wilderness until I fell into restless sleep.

photos by Catherine Jenkins

©Catherine Jenkins 2003

Sept – Oct 2003

Ten Ways Cats Age More Gracefully Than Humans

(In no particular order and in no way claiming to be a definitive list.)

  1. SkyeBeing quadrupedal, rather than bipedal, cats are much less likely to trip, stumble, fall down and not get up again, break something.
  2. While people are often aware that they’re slowing down, physically or mentally or both, cats are not conscious of this. Mice may move faster, but cats definitely don’t slow down – they’re just being their usual cool selves.
  3. Even when cats lose a faculty, such as sight, it has limited impact on their functioning. A blind cat reads as well as it could before going blind and can still find its food dish and the sunny spot without issue.
  4. As with people, elderly cats may sleep more hours than they used to, however cats normally sleep about eighteen hours a day anyway, so who’s going to notice?
  5. Because of their high metabolism, if a cat becomes morbidly ill, it usually dies quickly, rather than suffering the lingering demise humans seem so practiced at.
  6. Unlike people, cats are very in theMoon moment. They don’t fall into reminiscences deluding themselves about the “good old days.”
  7. Cats rarely complain about aching joints, diminishing faculties, lack of appetite, etc., even though they may experience these.
  8. The existence of a cat is a very immediate thing – now they’re here, now they’re gone. There’s no property, money, or material goods for survivors to quibble over and no lawyers need be involved.
  9. Whereas people often become more prickly with age, dropping masks of decorum, cats often become even more cuddly, happy to be warmly on your lap, purring all the while. (Notice I said “often” in both cases, not always.)
  10. Cats never think about going to the gym, diet (other than liking or disliking a given food), heart disease, stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, life insurance, critical care, what’s to be done with the remains etc. and they CERTAINLY NEVER consider plastic surgery, chemical peels or botox injections.

© Catherine Jenkins, 2003