Great Things To Come

I few days ago I wrote an article about mental health issues. More humane care has been provided and sufferers have been treated in various ways through the 1900s, with questionable success. Writer/poet/blogger Frank Prem, in his younger days, worked at an Australian asylum and has written a number of poems to capture the lives and feelings of the afflicted.

Now he’s excited to be launching his compilation of these poems. He says The New Asylum should be live on Amazon November 1st and you can pre-order it now. In mid-November he’s doing a local book launch — here are the details — and here’s the book cover:

The New Asylum: a memoir of psychiatry (Poetry Memoir Book 3) by [Prem, Frank]

His other poetry books, SMALL TOWN KID and DEVIL IN THE WIND, have gotten great reviews. You can read my review of this second book HERE.

Devil In The Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires (Poetry Anthology Book 2) by [Prem, Frank]

The Night of Feathers

Here’s Sammi’s weekend writing prompt, and my response:

AURORA BOREALIS

The northern lights took the form of giant feather plumes that night, and I, alone in the house, felt sheltered and comforted under the heavenly glow rippling above.

Northern lights.ansgar scheffold
Pixabay image from Ansgar Scheffold

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This actually happened one night some years back. Edgy because my husband was away on a trip, I glanced outside around midnight and saw a lot of lights in the eastern sky. I went outside to get a better look and discovered that the aurora was not only in the north and east, but completely circled our village in the sky above. I’ve never seen northern lights in the south before and probably never will again. Others who also saw them commented on how spectacular, and how widespread, they were that night.

Of course I thought of angel feathers, then the Bible verse:
“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:4

Montréal Métro

I read a short verse this morning that flipped my mind back to our days in Montréal and how many times we rode the métro across the city. My nostalgic journey has inspired me to write the following verses as a tribute:

Montreal métro
a swift whistle to the chaos
of Berri-UCAM

middle subway car
the first one on wakes up
at the end of the line

fruitful trip
to the Jean-Talon Market
squashed on the ride home

Montréal métro
all trains stop — riders whisper
another sad exit?

Montréal métro
“merci d’avoir voyagé”
lingering ear worm

Baby Bird Shuffle

One Boy’s Efforts to Correct Nature’s Shortcomings

Finding herself an impoverished widow at the beginning of the Great Depression, Maida (Parlow) Knowles moved back to the old homestead her grandparents had established on the banks of the St Lawrence River. This abandoned farm had a large apple orchard, but the trees had been neglected for years. Rather than living in a seedy, cockroach-infested apartment and leaving her three young sons to roam the streets of Toronto while she tried to hold down a job, she wanted to bring the orchard back into production and earn a living for herself and her boys.

Having lived all their lives in the city, however, she and her three sons were having quite the learning experience getting their run-down farmhouse fixed up, and the apple orchard ready. When they arrived at the farm, she was appalled to see the house’s back porch and its roof lying on the ground. She was also dismayed, those first few nights, to lie in bed and see the stars through the holes in her roof.

One day during that first summer, she was outside picking up some of the porch roof shingles that were scattered. They made great kindling for the old wood stove, on which she was learning to cook their food. Suddenly she heard loud, angry voices and her three sons came along, the oldest two dragging five-year-old Alan by the arms.

“You’ll never guess what he did now, Mom!” The older boys glared in righteous indignation at the tearful transgressor. “He got into the birds’ nests in the apple trees and moved all the eggs and the baby birds around. They’re so mixed up now their poor mothers will never find them!”

“Yeah. Whatever is God thinking about the awful thing you did, Alan Knowles?”

She felt an urge to laugh at the very idea, but stifled it. This was, after all, a major crime to the two oldest boys. The accused hung his head and made no defence. (He told his mother later that he hadn’t dared to explain with his two big brothers screeching and glaring at him so furiously. They weren’t going to listen to a word he said, anyway.)

To defuse the issue a bit she told him he’d best go and tend to the cats so they wouldn’t find out about the confusion in the orchard before the baby birds learned to fly. Happy with his light sentence, he dried his tears and hurried off to the shed where their new cat family lived.

Looking back some years later, he explained to his mother the reason for his actions that day. “I’d been watching the birds coming and going to their nests and I noticed that some mother birds didn’t leave their nests for long; they seemed to grab some food and come back quickly. Others stayed away a lot longer. I was afraid the eggs and babies would get cold when their mothers were gone so long, so I just moved the eggs and baby birds to the nests where the mothers came back sooner, because I thought they’d be better looked after.”

It made perfect sense to him at the time. ☺

This was one of the accounts Maida recorded in the diary she kept during those first years and later published as her memoir: Apples Don’t Just Grow by Maida Parlow (Knowles) French
© 1954 by McClelland & Stewart Ltd

Thanksgiving Revived

A week ago I  read an interesting, humorous post over at the blog, Tales From the Mama Duck. If you liked my story about Firecracker the rooster, you’ll get a chuckle from her post, titled I Can’t Have A Relationship With My Turkey. Click here to read it

Her post brought to mind the account of another dinner menu that was changed in a hurry one Thanksgiving morning. I first posted this in Nov 2013, so I guess can make a second appearance now. This account appeared in New England Scene almost 25 years ago in a collection of humorous Thanksgiving memories. It was submitted by a lady from Tuscon, AZ, USA. I’m retelling her experience as I remember it.

Turkey
Photo from Pixabay

The Thanksgiving Turkey
A Raw Experience

One year someone gave a young wife, new to the farming life, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. She got quite enthused and decided when Thanksgiving rolled around she’d invite both her family and his for this Thanksgiving feast.

So she set out to raise the turkey that would grace their festive platter. She decided that a happy bird is bound to be a delicious bird, so she fed her turkey chick by hand. No hard scrabbling for this bird. To encourage optimum growth, she gave her bird many an encouraging word.

The chick grew into a fine specimen of its breed that summer and by fall it had plumped up nicely. In spite of its maturity, it still came running if it saw her outside and tagged along after her. She smiled and pictured a family feast with all the relatives commenting on her tasty turkey. Thanksgiving Day was around the corner and she had issued her invitations.

Over time, though, she smiled less when she looked at her turkey. On the Eve of the event she knew it was time to deal with the Thanksgiving platter’s guest of honor, but a strange sadness niggled at her. When her turkey came running to meet her as she stepped out the door, she burst into tears. She went back into the house sobbing and told her husband, “I can’t do it!”

“Just leave it to me,” he comforted her. “I’ll take care of it. You make room in the fridge.” He went out and came in half an hour later with the limp turkey in his arms. She sniffed the air as he passed and caught a vague whiff of… Chloroform?

Hubby opened the fridge door and stuffed the turkey in, feathers and all. “It can chill in here overnight and we’ll pluck it in the morning.”

She was good with that. Avoiding opening the fridge that evening, she and her husband passed a few relaxing hours. Then, thinking of the busy morning ahead of her — and perhaps feeling some unconscious stress over poor bird — she said,  “I’m sleepy; let’s go to bed.”

She woke up quite early the next morning, her mind on the task at hand. She was anxious to have the turkey plucked, cleaned, and dressed for the oven in good time. She dressed and headed for the kitchen. And when she opened the fridge door the turkey leaped out at her. Its garbled gobble would have translated as “Mom! Save me!”

She screamed and fell in a dead faint. Her husband came running and found her out cold and the well-chilled turkey staggering drunkenly around the kitchen. He must have thought he could avoid the merry chase around the poultry yard and bloody-axe episode by drugging the bird, but hadn’t used enough chloroform. He grabbed it and ran outside, dumping it in the yard. Then he came back to revive his wife, and face the music.

His parents and siblings arrived on time for the Thanksgiving dinner and heard the sad tale of the Thanksgiving bird that got away. The couple invited all the family to a nice meal at the local restaurant. Strangely enough, no one ordered turkey.

From that day on the festive bird enjoyed an unthreatened existence in the farm yard and lived to a ripe old age.

Traces of Paranoia

We moved back to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1998 and I soon made the acquaintance of an older lady in Saskatoon. In time she became very dear to me, though she lives in another province now. Over the time we’ve been friends I’ve had lots of fun visits with her. We went out for coffee often and I helped her figure out various things.

You see, she’s what sociologists call “functionally illiterate.” Bank statements, bills, contracts, sales slips: she’s brought them to me and had me figure them out — until she moved away five years ago. She finds it about impossible to figure out her (direct-deposit) pension by looking at her bank statement. She can buy things, but has a hard time looking at the sales bill and figuring what she should have gotten for change. Also, she was often suspicious people were cheating her.

This spring she called me up one day, all alarmed because of the discrepancy in a purchase she’d made. The item cost $6.25 and only got back a dime and a nickel (15¢). It really bothered her to think that sales clerk had cheated her. I did a quick bit of math and reminded her of the 60¢ tax on her purchase, which would account for the difference. Ahh! She was happy again and we had a nice visit.

Concepts like health, nutrition, drugs and their use, all needed to be explained in the simplest terms. Different times I went to the doctor with her and translated. She didn’t ask him, because she didn’t want to appear dumb.

One day she told me her doctor had said she was borderline diabetic. “But how can a person be ‘borderline’ diabetic?” she asked me, somewhat annoyed with her doctor for that dumb diagnosis. “I figure it’s like being pregnant: either you are or you aren’t.”

I went for a simple illustration. “Your body’s pancreas, that makes insulin, is somewhat like a well. A well holds so-and-so much water, but when the well’s almost empty, there’s just a bit of water and the bottom is muddy. That’s borderline. When there’s no trace of water or even mud, we say the well’s gone dry.

“Our pancreas gland makes insulin as long as it can, but when it can’t keep up anymore, we’re on the borderline of having diabetes. When the gland stops producing insulin, we can’t digest sugar anymore. We’re diabetic and need to take pills or injections to make up for what our body can’t do.”

That made sense to her.

Before she moved, being almost eighty and forgetful, she was misplacing things, then was convinced they were moved or stolen. “Someone with a key, ” she claimed, “is coming into my apartment and taking things or moving stuff around.”

With her eyesight not being very good, she couldn’t see the normal wear-and-tear until something was quite worn. Then she’d say, “Look what someone did to my blanket. They frayed it somehow. It wasn’t like this before.” Sometimes the intruder would scatter a few things on the floor, just to annoy her.

She was convinced that “someone” was watching — that is, sitting beside a closed-circuit camera somewhere all day — to see whenever she went out. Then they’d come in and do mischief. She started hiding her precious things (she had nothing of any real value to a thief) like her many rings and watches into suitcases so they wouldn’t be stolen. Which made things even worse because she couldn’t remember which suitcase they were in.

I tried to be a helpful friend and hurried to the city several times to help her find important “lost or stolen” bank card, wallet, credit card, etc. Thankfully they’ve always turned up — in her apartment. I’ve helped her replace credit cards when she’s lost them. I’ve tried to be patient and be there (if I could) when she needed help or transportation, even though it meant an hour-long trip to town.

She bought a motion sensor camera to catch the culprit but, though it’s been set to take a picture every minute, saw no trace of the culprit on her film chip. I tried to convince her that people have more to do with their lives than sit and watch her apartment on closed circuit camera all day, but one thing I’ve learned over the years: you can’t reason with paranoia. Fear doesn’t respond to common sense.

She extracted a trace of criticism from what I said, got angry with me for not being supportive, and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of months.

I was happy for her when, with the help of her children, she moved to a seniors assisted-living apartment in another city and her intruder woes faded away. I do miss her — just not THAT part of her nature.

Fandango’s prompt today: TRACE