Magical Mysterious Moe

An orange face peers out
From a hole in the wall
Where were you my boy?
Where did you go –
Oh there you are
Looking for mice between
Ceiling and floor in the
Basement closet and
Somehow you found a
Way up from the top shelf
Through a broken tile
How did you get in there
Anyway
My magical mysterious Moe.

Everyone’s a friend
Cranky visitor cat
Giant Black Lab
Timid Tall Bengal Cat
Strangers who come to the door
Bosses with wide shoulders to jump on
Kids selling cookies or
Asking for Hallowe’en candy
No problem there
He could sport a purple cape like
The best of them and wear it proudly
Our magical mysterious Moe.

He would sit on a sofa near the
Bottom of the skinny stairs
Yet at the end of my climb
There he would be
Laying comfortably at the top
I have no idea how he could do that
And yet he did
This magical mysterious Moe.

He could purr away any ill or pain
At 528 Hz and suitably kneaded
I could drift off knowing
I’d been at least healed at a
Soul level
By magical mysterious Moe.

So it doesn’t surprize me
That on a long Easter weekend
When vets offices were closed
And snowbanks were blocking
A favorite catnip spot in the garden
He spent it close by me in the living room
Beside a fire warm and comfortable
He seemed to feel fairly well on my birthday
Then slipped away in the first clap of thunder
Of 2018 when nobody was looking the next day

And

I know someday soon these tears will
Turn back to smiles for our
Big marmalade mischievous man
But forgive me if
I just can’t get over
The suddenness just yet –

You Magical Mysterious Moe.

 

(c) Catherine M. Harris – April 2018

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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

This short story was written for the 2018 CBC Short Story Contest.  It didn’t make the long list so here it is and it will be added to the short story collection I’ll be putting out eventually (but is on Tablo if anyone is interested in reading my other short stories in one place).

Big disclaimer here:  As always, fiction is fiction.  There’s a couple of similarities to my life in this one however I want to make it very clear that this is in no way a portrait of  my ex or my own mother.  She is a wonderful person who has been very much present and supportive of me all of my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her quiet understanding.  I got very lucky that way.

———————————————————————–

In a little corner of nowhere I lay my head. Some might think of this as paradise; hell, maybe even I do sort of. It really is a run-down falling apart cabin on a small lake far from anybody else if you call about 2 ½ acres far, that is. It doesn’t matter. It’s peaceful. That’s what counts.

It used to belong to my mother. Before that, it belonged to my father. Before that, his father because my grandfather bought these five acres when it was just a bunch of trees and grass and hills and a rocky shoreline on a lake. He liked to fish I understand. I never met my mother’s father. He died long before I was born.

I kind of wished I was like other kids growing up, you know, those kids whose grandparents were permanent fixtures in their lives. Built in babysitters and step in parents and keepers of candy and fun places to stay in the summer. It seemed like all my friends had these people. I didn’t find out until my other grandfather was dying that he was even alive. I never met my grandmothers because they had both died before I was born. My parents were orphans, or at least one of them was. The other suffered from the family curse of somebody cutting the other one out. Or not living up to expectations or some other shit like that.

So here I am. Pushing 60, living in a cabin heated by a woodstove that I just put in because the old one could have caused the cabin to go up in flames. This one is supposed to be miserly with the wood and burn it completely. That’s good because I need to figure out how to cut down trees, split them and dry it if I plan to stay here. Maybe I should get someone to do that, I don’t know. I can’t think right now.

All I know is that I have got to get this place cleaned up and patched up where it needs to be. I have things to do too. The deed is signed over to me that happened at the lawyer’s office for a small fee, but I have to switch over the electricity. So much depends on electricity that I’m considering – no planning – solar panels. It’s the backup heat, the pump for the water, the microwave and stove and fridge. Think I’ll get a generator. Thing is, I’m so remote here that if the power gets knocked out it could be weeks or even months before they reconnect it. I’m an hour away from civilization but you know if I were hurt or freezing or starving or something that I might as well be a hundred hours away. This is what I want – no, need – right now though.

When I last saw my mom she was a tiny curled up comma in bed. Long past words or knowing, just existing. It’s been twenty something years since I last saw her. Back then she was in her seventies but still vibrant and living on her own. She called me out of the blue saying, “Isn’t it time we talked? It’s been so long.”

I went, she poured tea which I took plain though she remembered I used to take it with milk and sugar. She had little cubes of sugar in a bowl with those silver claw tongs that belonged to some great aunt that went untouched. We talked about the weather and my brother and sister and their kids and spouses and I knew she knew all about me even though we hadn’t talked because they’d told her and she didn’t bring up my ex-husband or the fact he’d long since remarried or the fact that she cut me out of her life instead of him when we split up, but hey. Water under the bridge, right?

So she just nattered on about the grandkids and I smiled and sipped my tea and after an hour or so I said I had to go and it was nice seeing her again. After that I planned to not answer her phone calls but I didn’t have to worry about that. She never called.

She died last month, not long after I visited her in the hospital. I went because my brother – the sibling who still sort of regularly talks to me – told me to get my ass home and go visit because she wasn’t long for this world. So I went and in my mind I had a long list of things I wanted to say to her when we had a few minutes alone so I could maybe make some amends or at least explain my side ‘cause I’d been told that people can still hear when the body is breaking down.

That never happened because my siblings made sure there was always a niece or nephew with me in the room when I visited. I don’t know what they thought I would do to her if I were left alone and I didn’t ask. I’m used to that. I’m almost afraid to know what they really think of me based on what’s been said of me. I wish someone would have taken the time to ask me the truth of my life but they haven’t, so here we are. I long ago gave up telling my truth; they weren’t listening, what they’d decided was my life was all they wanted to know.

I found out I had a living grandfather when somebody came to tell my dad his dad was dying. I thought, what? Why did we not know about this person? My mom never told me. I do remember meeting grandfather and thinking, wow, he looks just like my dad, just like me. So when my dad left my mom a few years later for a younger woman my mom told us he was dead to her and if we loved her, he’d be dead to us too. I thought, why? He’s our dad.

My sister defended mom fiercely, my brother though somewhat angry he was more open minded. He wouldn’t visit dad’s house, but he would have coffee with him and call him once in a while. Me, I couldn’t cut him out like he never existed. He was my dad. So I stuck with him and you know what? His new wife wasn’t so bad. I liked her anyway.

Family rifts are evil things. At my wedding I was told if I invited him the rest of the family would go if the new wife wasn’t there, even though at this point my parents had been split up for 15 years. I said no, so my dad was there and my brother but that was it.

In an effort to make it up to me, my mom treated my husband like he was another son and he could do no wrong in her eyes. Not when he drank away the rent money, not when he “accidently” head butted me during an argument. Not when he disappeared for days at a time. Not when he pretended nothing happened when I had that miscarriage and wouldn’t go away with me for a week or so when I asked him to so I could swim in the ocean and heal my soul. Not when I told him to get out after he slept with a coworker. My mom asked what I did to cause that.

Somehow everything that happened in my life was my fault. The ex though, he was always wonderful in her eyes. Holier than the Pope, she thought I should have had a bunch of children and shouldn’t be working. I did have children but they didn’t go to church so I was a bad mother. Then she orchestrated trying to have my children be raised by my sister so they could be raised in the church.

Of course later having a boyfriend didn’t help me either; rather than being happy for me she interrogated the kids looking for signs of sexual abuse that didn’t exist. She wouldn’t accept that he, and I, were actually pretty good people. When he died, she never said a word and one of the three people in this world who actually knew me and cared was gone. That’s why I went to see her for that long ago tea party.

I know why she left me this cottage. She didn’t like it ever. It was too much work. The beach was too rocky. The water too cold. Fish nibbled at the air bubbles on her toes and I remember her screaming at that. It was too far away. So for thirty years it’s only been used off and on.

I know why my dad left it to her. She said it was because he forgot to change his will but I know that isn’t true. He left it to her because he knew she hated it, and she would have to pay the taxes. Just maybe he knew that someday it would go to me. I don’t mind the taxes. It’s a small price for my little piece of the world.

Someone once said I should write mom a letter, read it out loud when no one is around then take that letter and burn it. That was the first fire I burned in the fireplace. It was twenty pages long. The second was to my ex-husband, the third to my sister. The fourth, a one pager, was to my brother. Then I swam in the cool clear water and laughed at the minnow tickling my heel. My dinner tonight was a trout I caught earlier that I fried in a pan.

Life is good. I have a plan, a place to fix up, a pen and some paper. Tonight I start my novel as the sun melts its way into the copper and gold water. I sip my wine and think that maybe someday they’ll want to understand my side of the story and realize that maybe I did my best. But if not, that’s fine too. I know what’s in my heart and my thoughts.

I lift my glass and say, “Thanks mom and dad for this gift that you gave me. I’ll appreciate it more than you will ever know.”

I start writing: “Now I lay me down to sleep,” the little girl whispers into her pillow.

I’m free.

(c) 2018 Catherine M. Harris.  All rights reserved.

The Ashes

Thinking of lives in containers
Of souls trapped in bodies
And dreams left undreamt
When I hold these
Cold boxes
Plastic doesn’t suit you
You never were that.

I have your ashes
Caught in two containers
Cloaked in black velvet
Waiting.

Someday I will
Take you to the place
Where I was born
Far away Europe
Far away spirit
And I will see
With grown up eyes
The place where I
Breathed my first breath
Here I will leave
Half of your ashes.

Someday I will discover
Rome in Italy where
You sang in the streets
Young and carefree
You fell in love
And left a piece
Of your soul
Here I will leave
The last piece
Of you.

If ever I go
If ever I go
If ever I go

Across the oceans
That rest at my feet
And land on your shores
That far away
Some day
Dream.

(c) Catherine M. Harris, 17-Mar-2018.
To dad.

Chicken Fricot

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken pieces (thighs or breast)
  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 7 cups water
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning (thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Bay Leaf
  • Salt to taste (I usually let people add their own)

For dumplings:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder

This makes 8 tbsp dumplings.

Directions

Add olive oil to pot, select Saute.  When oil is hot, add the defrosted or raw chicken pieces to brown.  While chicken is browning, cut up the potatoes, carrots and onions.

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When the chicken is browned, remove from the pot.  Add a little water to the pot and deglaze the bottom.  Add the chopped onion to soften.  While the onion is softening, cut up the chicken pieces and remove any bones.

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Once the onions are done, deglaze the bottom again if necessary, then sprinkle the 1 tbsp of flour over the top.  Turn off the pot.

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Add the vegetables, spices, meat, broth and water.  I used the Soup button with 25 minutes setting (same as Manual for 25 minutes).  NPR for about 5 minutes.

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When ready to release the steam, make the dumplings.  Drop them into the pot changing the setting to Saute.  Put the lid on to keep the steam in.  Let cook for about 10 minutes until the dumplings are done and serve.

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This recipe is an adaptation from the February page of the 2018 Buy New Brunswick calendar.  I cut down the amount of chicken and water, and added a green vegetable.  I like this recipe because it’s simple which means you can add all sorts of things to it to adapt to your taste.  My thoughts are:  celery, something spicy, corn, okra, paprika, peas, turnip…Maybe not all at the same time but you get the idea.

Note:  Yes, I put the Instant Pot on the stove.  I don’t have anywhere else to put it, but I make sure nothing else is going on the stove (except maybe the 3 qt Instant Pot) so that the burner doesn’t accidentally get turned on.  If you’re in this situation and need to use a burner on the other side I’d recommend removing the burner if you can (like my stove) or using a fireproof cover over the burner on a glass top stove.  I wouldn’t do this at all if I were using a gas stove.  In that case I’d probably break down and buy a stand on wheels or something 🙂

 

 

 

I Love You

I love you.
Say what you will about me
I love you.
Say what you think is my truth
I still love you.
Tell me things that aren’t true
And it’s all about me
Yes, I love you.

Nobody knows anyone completely
That’s not possible.
It’s easy, oh so easy
To take what people say or think
Or to twist things known and surmised
Into something else and apply them.
I love you.

Tell me you won’t be my:
Mother
Father
Sister
Son
Daughter
Lover
Coworker
Friend
Acquaintance
Stranger
Because of whatever you think
You know about me or
How I think
Okay.

I don’t understand,
But okay.
I love you.

Everything I do for anyone
I do for their best interest
Understanding that:
I have a family
I have a life
I have dreams
And most importantly
What goes on behind closed doors
Are privy only to those that are there.

You may think I’m a fool
Or selfish or crazy or weak
Whatever.
I love you.

Cut me off
Force me to cut you off
From unkind words and actions
Okay, I understand.
I may not like it,
But I understand.
Still, I love you.

And that’s all
You need to know.

Catherine M. Harris © February 2018

Children of the Snow

New Brunswick New Years week
Snow falling hurricane style
Nor’easter they say – it’s just
White and swirling and
The flames on the log in the
Woodstove dance to the
Music of Leonard Cohen playing
In surround-sound from a
Tribute concert and I’m alright
Now.

Thoughts of when I first heard
These words come back in
Snap shot glimpses of my children
My daughter holding a snow globe
Up to the falling snow and wishing
Her grandpa could come home
Angels in the snow
Ice skates on a polished
Mississauga rink.

Son on skis up and down a
Pakenham hill flying free
In goggles and bundled against
The cold and snowshoes on
Trekking to the ice caves where
A small troupe of Cubs and
Tic Tac and I curled up in
Sleeping bags while the ground
Shook from an earthquake
That we survived cold and wet in
Parc Lafleche Quebec.

Seems I blinked and suddenly
I’m in my 50s boldly going
Forward on my own and
Those days seem so long ago
And just like yesterday
So for now I treasure
Those small moments
Warm percolating
Back through time
Each of us in our grown up
Far flung spots in Canada
We
Children of the Snow.

©January 4, 2018 Catherine M. Harris
All rights reserved.

Cathi’s Comments for December 31, 2017


I’m a day late writing this, mainly because a big part of me wasn’t sure I even wanted to post it. But then I thought, why shouldn’t I? If I go back to my very first Cathi’s Comments there’s a whole lot of water under the bridge, so much soul searching not only in the time when I posted almost every day, but also I’m constantly doing that in my essays and poetry and in a more abstract way in my fiction. So yes of course I should post my thoughts on this god-forsaken year.

I’ve been depressed since late last summer and I’m doing my best to keep my head enough above water to keep functioning and on really good days, be laughing but it isn’t easy. I try to look always at the possibilities of things but again its hard when the outcomes all seem kind of dark. When that silver lining is just aluminum foil, what do you do? For me I look at the causes then figure out what, if anything, I can do to make stuff better and if I can’t, what to do to get out of the situation. I’ve got a lot situations right now.

In short they are: family, money, work, perception of self, future of my career. Kinda heavy stuff. So let’s see: it’s a long story but one year I made enough because of one-time payments (one of which I paid back at gross for over two years) put me in a higher tax bracket. I owed taxes but in a few years this would go down by itself because I always get tax back. This August I found out I was losing 30% of my net pay for almost a year. Add to that the acting position I’d been doing for over 2 years was ended and I went back down two levels at the end of October. Somewhere in all of this there are still bills to be paid and I really don’t want to or even know how to get a part time job here. Jim tried for 3 years for a part time job before he gave up. I’m not sure what I’m going to do so I’m just putting my faith in the fact there’s always something that saves me just before I go over the brink. I just have to find it.

Family: it’s no secret there’s people in my family who won’t have anything to do with me. Why? Because I don’t fit the mould, and they won’t listen to my explanations of why my life has gone the way it has. I don’t live up to their expectations, and they didn’t listen to me so they’ve made up stuff that unfortunately is now being fed to other people which I find out about of course. If any of them read my essays or my comments they’d know what they think is wrong, but they don’t. Unfortunately I find myself in another situation where I’m blamed again for things that are misinterpretations. Rather than listen to my explanations, it’s discounted and erroneous stuff is believed. And it hurts to be in that situation. Nevertheless, I won’t apologize for falsehoods and for decisions I made for reasons that people don’t know the whole story of. I also am very good at keeping secrets. Where it’s important I won’t be telling the whole story even if it hurts me. So there we are. I can only be who I am, live my life the way I see fit, and if people really want to lay down the sword and actually come talk to me and then believe me when I tell my truth then maybe there’ll be some hope. I’m not holding my breath. It’s just that this year someone I didn’t expect did the same thing to me and so yes, I’m at a loss because if they aren’t willing to understand the truth as I lived it, well…. That one came out of left field because I honestly thought they knew
me better than that. So I can only let the ache die down and carry on.

Work and perception of self are kind of tied in together though perception of self is also a part of my family issues. Here’s the thing: I’m 55. I have officially 36 years service in my employment though it’s actually a little longer. Now I could – and did if you remember 5 years ago – retire. Thing is, as much as I want to, I can’t. I still have bills to pay that go back to when my ex and I split up 16 years ago if you can believe that. It’s almost paid off but it’s still there. I can’t retire really until all my bills are paid off and I have enough to live on for at least a year, preferably a year and a half. That’s how long it’s taking to get pensions these days, not everyone but many and I have no doubt I’d be one of the ones waiting and living on nothing. For me to pay off stuff I need to get paid properly. I also need not to be paying back pay at gross or back taxes at insane percentages. I need to be in a job that pays consistently at the level I have been for the better part of the last 8 years but for some reason can’t be it officially. A couple of years ago I was told “hey you came in third (for a promotion that had 2 positions) but you’ll have lots of acting. It’s all just pensionable time, you have 4 years to go don’t you?” (this is paraphrasing but the words are the same). To me that was age discrimination but to nobody else I’ve complained to it is. I was recently put on a waiting list for a course I needed for my certification after someone told me they told the person organizing the course I didn’t need it because I had 35 years service. It was one of the last ones I did need for the certification. I complained. At least that one got corrected and I took the course. Then came the news that the new way of hiring is based on pools, and the pools were “upping the bar” – you had to have a degree, a diploma or certification. Gone was the high school with x years of relevant experience. Last summer I was an expert. Now I’m nothing. So if I wanted to apply for my job at the moment, I couldn’t. So much for 36 years of my life devoted to what I do. This hurts. A lot. I have some things to still do for certification but it’s hard when my heart isn’t in it, knowing they don’t really want me. Maybe it’s the depression talking but that’s how it feels.

The thing is, 55 isn’t old. Most places you can’t retire before 65. Many people of my age range who would like to retire and even are allowed to at full pension simply can’t because life got really expensive 30 years ago and it hasn’t stopped. We’re the people who were crazy enough to buy houses at 20% interest rates, who saw credit cards go up to ridiculous levels and wages get frozen so we used them, especially when our marriages went down the tubes. So yeah, freedom 55 is a pipe dream for an awful lot of people. And most of us reject the notion that 55 is old, especially when we’re healthy. My mom is 98 years old. Don’t put me out to pasture yet, in many ways I’m still just starting.

I am pleased with myself in that I did submit to the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest – I didn’t win but it feels awfully good have submitted. This can be read at mrssauga.wordpress.com under Essays. I also submitted to the CBC Short Story contest for the first time in a few years. I don’t expect to win but I will say the same disclaimer I do with all my fiction: it’s fiction, if you want the truth read my essays; and, my mother is wonderful person who has been a strength in my life, the character in the story is not my mother 🙂 You’ll get to read it whenever it’s rejected or if they accept it, when it’s published.

I’ve also been painting (in the middle of a painting called Ben After The Rain), and playing my guitar again. I’m still working on other writing and yes, I keep saying this but I do intend to update this web site to something more relevant to me now.

Here’s hoping that 2018 is the year I reverse all this nonsense and my money and career problems are solved. I can dream can’t I? I wish every one the very best and I truly hope that you live your life with compassion, show empathy for others and maybe just try to put yourself in someone’s footsteps before you react. Things are never as they seem. Remember that.

À la prochaine,

Cathi …..