Journalling Ottawa

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Stubbornly, because I had been planning to for several days, I pushed on out into the pelting rain this morning, walking the streets that stretch away from my immediate neighbourhood, headed toward a little cafe I had heard about not too far away.

I took photographs along the way. This was part of the plan: to wander Ottawa’s Centretown, take photos, and write, on this, my last real day of holidays.

I took photos of the small, aging houses that still characterize much of our downtown core, the brick and coloured clapboard pieces of this town’s early history. I captured the fog rising thick from the quick-melting snow, puddles reflecting signs and roofs and the white-grey sky, quiet city streets. I managed to catch an umbrellaed man emerging toward me from the fog, framed by brick houses.

This is my “ode to home” day.

I have had other themed-days: there was a ski day, a cross-country ski day as well, the skating-to-the-library day, and several (many, if I’m honest) lazy book-and-Netflix days. With the exception of the latter, it generally took a good mental push to get me out the door, but I was always glad once I was moving. Glad, and pleased and relieved.

Relieved to be out, living, experiencing, seeing the things I only half remember exist when I’m stuck at my desk dawn to dusk for months on end.

There is a beauty to this little city. A sort of indie vibe, if you look. And a woodsy, green, outdoorsy vibe (you don’t have to look as hard for that), which is what brought me here originally, 15 years ago pretty much to the day. I had been living in Ireland for 5 years at the time and had decided to return to Canada, though not to my hometown of Toronto. But that’s another story…

My father grew up in Ottawa and left as soon as he could. With the exception of a blip when he tried to live here again a few years ago, he never really looked back, and now he refuses to come. “Boring” is, I think, how he describes it. Or maybe there’s something deeper, some unpleasant memory he’d rather avoid. But again, that’s another story, and it’s not mine to tell.

I never planned to end up here, never thought I’d “move back.” But I couldn’t face Toronto after 5 years in rural Ireland and Ottawa’s proximity to hills, rivers and forests seemed a good next home. So, here I am and, with the exception of my dreams of moving back to Ireland, I don’t really see myself living anywhere else now.

It can be boring, sure, but it isn’t really. If you look, walk, explore, there are little magic places. Small cafes. Vintage shops. Quirky places that can fill up the hours with poking and observing and people-watching.

I feel creative here. And by here, while I mean Ottawa, I also mean the little cafe I have landed in today. It’s quiet. People are dotted here and there, 5 of us in total – all writing, coffees gone cold on the tables beside us – plus two staff-members, a woman behind the counter and a guy who moves between bar stool and behind the counter as well.

I don’t recognize the music they have playing. It’s a sort of singer-songwriter collection that is perfect for rainy day writing in a cafe. Unobtrusive yet interesting. It could even been one of those coffeehouse mixes, but a good one, not the trite type you’d find playing in a Starbucks.

After this, when the feeling strikes, I’ll make my way home, stopping in at several vintage shops along the way. People in Ottawa are friendly for the most part, and all of this will take hours as I stop to chat to the strangers I meet.

And that will be that. My last day off for a while. My last day of poking about Ottawa, re-discovering this home I have made for myself.

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Adrenaline – and stars and blossoms, too.

I recently found this fragment of writing in my drafts folder, written at a time when work was beyond busy. It sums up the frantic energy — tiring but rewarding — that has been tearing me away from any creativity recently.

 

How rare is it now that I look up to see the stars, or down into the tangled sprawl of blossoms? Though I may look, I so seldom see beyond the words on a screen, printing their way across my thoughts, or the many tiny puzzle pieces of a schedule I must fit together, the ever shrinking number of days left to do it.

None of this is to say I am unhappy. Busy, tired, at times overwhelmed, but challenged, stretched and growing, too. 

So many thoughts employed, so much to do, that I must beg your pardons, stars, blossoms, but it will be another few weeks till we meet again. Till then, I am flying by will and grit alone.

Hiatus interrupted

It has been a little over a year I think since I posted anything I’ve written. Cyber-silence doesn’t mean not writing, though. I’ve written things, jotted down thoughts and impressions and moments I wanted to capture.

I just haven’t shared them…for multiple reasons: because they have been incomplete, or unpolished, or because I forgot to or never got around to it.

Or because I have managed to lose some (why does that always happen to the best ones? There was this one fantastic one about my emotional Irish homecoming this summer…).

Snippets of poems and stories and posts have continued to jump into my head, but life happens and I forget their substance. By the time I am ready to write, I remember only that they existed and that I was excited about them, but I don’t remember what they were.

I’ve noticed lately that these snippets and thoughts are becoming more and more frequent. And the thought of posting them is also more frequent, a filter colouring them with a brighter yearning.

So here I am, writing, in the domain of non-silence.

Am I back? I don’t know. But I am for today.

I won’t try to cover all the things that have happened in the past year, at least, not here. Or not in detail.

The most important highlights of the past year are:

  • I have been willingly and completely consumed by my job as an international migration specialist. Those of you who read my earliest posts will recall that I had been on stress leave when I first started this blog, and waiting for a thunderbolt of inspiration to tell me what I really wanted to be doing, but eventually had gone back to work. Well, apparently, my job was my thunderbolt. I couldn’t be happier. But maybe I could be a bit better rested. There’s lots happening in international migration.

 

  • After 10 long years of alternating between daydreaming and denial, I finally went back to Ireland. This is momentous because for the first 23 years of my life, everything was about getting to Ireland, for the next 5 I lived there, and for the subsequent 14 1/2  years, I have tried to get over leaving.

That about does it. Now that we are all caught up, as though I’d never left, I have to get going.

Talk soon.

SL

Call and Response

I wanted to write something new
something daring so you would think
I went out with a bang,
that I ended with a song.

But this is not the end
and there is no bang, this is no song,
forcing meaning on to the page
stops the flow of words.

I began this trip back from silence
with a splash on the page;
small at first, it spread
until it touched each day.

And now though I write for me
I see I also write for you
I write my feelings out
I rise to the occasion
I join the conversation.

 

 

 

Unfettered: The story of an evolving relationship

It has been many, many years since my son stayed overnight at his father’s. Many years since I’ve trusted my ex enough to let him have our son more than the allotted five hours. Many years since I’ve referred to my child as “ours” and meant someone other than my current husband. In fact, he hasn’t stayed overnight there since I won full custody, reduced access to five hours every two weeks and changed my son’s last name to mine. That was all five years ago. Half my son’s life ago.

It hasn’t even been very long that my son has been seeing his father, this time around. After mostly two years of his father being unreliable and absent, my son decided he had no interest in seeing him either. It was only Father’s Day 2015 that my son asked to see him again following eight months of unexplained refusal.

While I don’t know what changed my son’s mind, I can say that as far as my ex goes, things have vastly improved ever since February when he and his partner had a baby. I wouldn’t say I fully trust him – people don’t change – but I don’t feel terror at the thought of our son staying with him anymore, and that’s saying something. For now, he’s in a better place in his life and his mind and  I can’t really justify refusing to let our son stay with him. In fact, it was me who started involving him more in our son’s life again. I even organized this weekend for both of them.

I hope he doesn’t prove me wrong. I hope he doesn’t fall apart while our son is still a child, still vulnerable.

As awful as things were at their worst – lies, drinking, stealing, erratic behaviour – when he’s stable, my ex is charming, fun and able to run a business and a house. He can be a warm, relaxed person. They bond over a shared love of soccer and their shared experience on this earth, however limited it has been.

I’m happy about that. I hope that it will continue. It’s good for our son to feel unconflicted between both parents, to feel he can go back and forth between both households without incident. To spend time with both of us – and his new sister.

So, at the very early hour of 8:00 am Saturday, I packed him off for a day and a half.

My son is my heart and soul, just as much a part of me as my own limbs. Yet, he is also the independent person I have taught him to be. He is able to stand on his own, speak up for himself, and go off and do things and make his own way – the way of an only child. At 8 years old, he chose to go to sleepaway camp for 26 nights straight and he did just fine (survivable homesickness aside). He flies alone to visit his grandparents in Toronto. He walks into all sorts of situations on his own, introduces himself and gets involved. So though we’re very close and I miss him, I know he’s ok away from home.

Still, when it comes to his father, I worry. And it’s more than the man himself. There’s so much all parties invest in a parental relationship, so many hopes and expectations. Especially one as complex and fraught as this one.

It doesn’t help that I’m naturally anxious and a worrier.

I must have kept myself sanely busy, though, because here I am now, about to go pick him up.

I’m surprised to find myself looking forward to hearing all about the house, his new sister, his time with the other part of his family. I don’t feel the expected pang of regret or sadness or even fear. I just want him to be happy, to have had the weekend he was looking forward to. And I’m sure he did.

It is so much easier to abandon the angst, fear and outrage, to leave the bad of the past in the past and, while still watching out for my son, finally move forward, unfettered.