Going Off the Grid.

I was asked the other day if I had ever considered “going off the grid.”

I am still laughing. Granted, it’s a hysterical laugh because the mere thought of moving off the grid leaves me shaken.

The person asking me this is what the current culture would term a survivor – ie. a survivor in the outdoor, who needs pesky running water, I can start a fire inside a sleeping bag in a rainstorm kind of a person. And indeed she has been completely off the grid for longer than I have been wearing nail tips.

Propane factors heavily in her life as do multiple layers of clothing in winter and hypothermia. I told her that not only had I never considered going off the grid but that I may even be considered married to the grid in some cultures. I know it’s a close call as to which I value more, my husband’s affection or an indoor toilet. Just don’t make me choose.

She said there were two types of people and when she said this I knew it wasn’t going to be flattering to me. Don’t ask how I knew that: I just did. She said the first type could be dropped off naked in the forest and feel comfortable. The other type, well, the other type wouldn’t. Feel comfortable, I mean.

I clarified for her that not only would I feel uncomfortable but that even entertaining the concept was causing me to take short, gasping breaths. I told her that I didn’t feel comfortable naked in my own shower at home, but I don’t think she believed me.

She said we have too many possessions and that we are plastic people. I had several reactions to that, all unspoken. The expression plastic people is so 1979 I can’t even begin. And yes, of course we have too many possessions. Blah, blah. Just stay away from my itemized, alphabetized shoe closet.

She said I had to be prepared to do without, that the time is coming when we’ll all be forced to live by our wits and eat berries and wash our hair with lichen.

I asked her what lichen was and then assured her that if we go apocalyptic, she’d be the first person I’d call.

Thirst

The sun was hotter:
You can tell.
Look at the people squinting against it in photos then.
Everything washed out by glare: Faces, thoughts,
All detail surrendered.
We could be anybody.

The gardens are parched,
Look at them.
It hurt to walk on the grass.
Everyone burned raw.
We lay in barren backyards
slathering butter on our chests,
Chain-smoking and eating fluorescent cheesies,
Swilling scarlet soda.

Nothing could go wrong.
Caution was ahead of us.
Men were above us,
Landing on the moon.

There’s Always the Guy.

There’s always the guy
At pub closing time
Mall food courts
Wedding dinners.

He wants to sit you down
Straighten you out.
Tell you how things work.
You have it all wrong, you see.
He laughs in your face.

You listen
Because it’s late, or it’s early,
You have nowhere to go
And no one waiting.

His oldest kid is 27, hasn’t seen him in years,
but good riddance.
And three exes,
somewhere.
Hey, where do you think you’re going?
He’s yelling at your back.
Wait. Honey.
Let me tell you about love.

Aloha!

Looks like it is going to come to pass. Off to Hawaii on Tuesday. The poet Goethe was right when he said: “Be brave and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

Or as a childhood friend mispronounced it, HeeWee.

It should be a balm for the four of us. Bring on the champers and the hula girls, the latter not politically correct anymore – alas, because although some of that old (other) world stuff was horrendous, granted, but some of it which has been lost was just plain fun. I always enjoyed having a door opened for me, not that I expected it. But I enjoyed it when it happened. Nowadays at the shopping mall I consider myself lucky if I am not kicked through it.

HeeWee hee wee come.

Relay for Life

I have been committed emotionally to the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life since losing my mother far too many years ago to stomach cancer. My lovely Scottish mother was my touchstone and I miss her every day of my life. As a poet I pour much of my grief into my work – just as I did when I lost my father the year following. I think my poetry helped save my life (yet again) in those dark days after both were taken from me too young. If you’d like to read some of these poems I wrote about their lives visit my website at http://www.triciamccallum.com Once on my homepage choose the heading entitled “Time Was”on the left hand side menu bar. I would love you to come and visit. Some day when you find some quiet time. And bring a cup of hot tea.

Sadly, my commitment to helping stop this modern day scourge was forged even deeper this past year when I learned my younger brother had been diagnosed with Stage Three colon cancer. The news was devastating for all of us, hitting us like a bolt out of the blue, in particular his young family. He has just completed a six-month course of chemo and soldiers on with such an upbeat wonderful attitude he humbles me. He jokes and makes light of it all, making it easier for everyone who loves him. And many do. We all pray he remains in remission.

Our culture of fear.

Following the sad story of Natasha Richardson reinforces for me the kind of culture we are living in. It is basically a culture of fear.

All the reports now are focused on helmets. Buy them, wear them, never take them off. Save your life. Endless discussions and film clips of brain swelling and surgical procedures. In fact on the National last night it showed there were a mere 14 deaths due to brain injury on ski hills in Canada in the last DECADE! (When I say mere, I don’t minimize the tragedy or the value of the lives lost, but you get my point).

But very little discussion about the very real fact life is precarious, accidents happen every day, in less likely places than ski hills. Life is fleeting, fragile. The message should be: Live it fully. Not carefully.

Returned from Eleuthera!

We returned to below zero temps so it wasn’t the most eloquent of homecomings. But still good to be back and ensconced. And this helped immeasurably to soften the blow…

Walking in to a warm house with a stocked fridge and handmade notes from the two wee kids next door. Evan, the 4 year old, launched himself at me from across the threshold, a long hug first, and then, when he had collected himself, demanded to know just how long we were away. Arms folded on chest, scowling, looking quite miffed.

I am ecstatic to report that the news on my brother Scott is good. His CAT results came in two days ago and showed nothing of significance. But the oncologist cautions it is early days. (This doctor sounds like a real charmer: very dour and to the point, but Scott says he prefers that to the Disneyland approach.) Scott will be retested in May and of course his testing will be frequent and thorough from now on. Apparently the first three years are the most critical for metastases activity. This makes our Hawaii trip all the more special for us and most certainly for Scott and Kim. They are over the moon about it, and with this reprieve we can all breathe easier for a while.

When I think back now to Eleuthera and the magical Double Bay, even though only days have passed, it has a dreamlike quality. It is ever thus when I leave there. We thought last night of everyone around the piano at Tippy’s, with the swells of the ocean as backbeat. Driving on the 401 at the time, amid eight solid lanes of traffic with an icy rain descending, needless to say which scenario was the more appealing.

We are preparing our letters toward a possible home exchange for next year. I like the barter idea, much like thrift shops – bring one bag in, take one out. A lovely economy.

Off to manage this mountain of luggage and laundry – and, oh joy, oh bliss, my tax return, now there’s a page turner, but buoyed with Scott’s recent news – and we were all on tenterhooks – I’ll be singing through it all. (OK, calm down, Tricia, maybe not the tax return…)

I already have chosen our film selection for 2010’s movie nights in Double Bay: Glengarry Glen Ross (David Mamet’s absolute brilliance at work here– he is also a gifted short story writer – see if you can find or download “The Rake.”); The Winter Guest, (Emma Thompson) The Visitor, just saw this one and loved it. Full of spaces and silences, the camera lingering – deliciously – as in the Leone movie, Once Upon A Time in America.

I miss Eleuthera already.

t.

Once

For my very first post, I chose a poem I wrote last week that is close to my heart, entitled “Once.”

Once

Never the one you think
Never the one that should.
Never the right time
Or enough time.
Never again the sweet lull
of the day-to-day.

No more easy solace
Or just passing time.
No more the open-ended chat
The breezy how are you
The unburdened goodbye.

Never again
The unbridled laughter
The unfettered innocence
The making sense.
Never again the sweet lull
of the day-to-day.