The knowing 

I remember the ancient glory of the stars
the vast flinging-out of existence
I remember the creation of planet rings
(soft dust-glow in the darkness)
and the tying down of moons
I remember the truths and the answers
to questions now forgotten
to an essence of this universe no one can grasp
for I have seen beyond the nebula and the galaxies
to the edge of nothing.

A dark twist spun off from a section of the poetic, philosophical and beautifully bright Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. 

The last prompt for NaPoWriMo 2016 was to write a poem in a different language or to translate one from a different language. This darker thought came to me as I read through that favourite French masterpiece. But what I really intended to do was write this in translation:

When you look to the sky,
at night,
because I will be living in one of those stars,
because I will be laughing in one of those stars,
it will be for you
as though all the stars are laughing.
For you, the stars will know
how to laugh.

moments in life


Weekend Orchids, Copyright Silverleaf 2016

We lay still
and the sun rose,
its light sliding,
reaching into the darkness
that hides between these walls
it lingered a moment
upon white blooms
a bird passed overhead
flickering shadows across the brightness;

The sun keeps moving,
it passes beyond the flowers
the bird flies on
but the day shimmers still
beneath the clear-blue
and we, we are swept up in life
once more.

Some days it’s all a bit too much

The cold settled into my bones and in the grim grey light, I pondered the Fates – how they decide which innocents to steal, whose time is up. I suppose they’ve been at it long enough to know.

Some days there is too much to say. Too much, and yet the words won’t come.

When I feel so deeply, my thoughts tie themselves in knots, my words strangle themselves in my throat, and I fall silent. I feel dissatisfied no matter how much I try to write it out. Even music – all music – seems discordant. I move from chair to chair, never quite feeling comfortable. I can’t be with people. I can’t focus on reading.

When nothing else works, I sit alone in silence. I let my mind wander where it will, I don’t try to escape or entertain or distract.

Today, I thought about the Fates.

At the end of this restless day, I went out to pick up my son from his friend’s place. As I drove down a busy, well-lit city street cocooned in my silence, I happened to look up between the streetlights and see the thin, red, low-slung crescent of a new moon. It was large and otherworldly. Beautiful.

For a moment I imagined I was on a different planet.

Then, I turned on the radio and belted out songs until I had thoroughly shattered my carefully constructed silence.

The future is unwritten, tenuous, and we are all pulled along into it, day after day. All we can do is find whatever we need in the moment to keep us going.

Climb every mountain – at a reasonable pace


I was on a lunchtime run, pounding up a hill about halfway through my fourth kilometer, when I recognized my fatal flaw. I probably have more than one, but this is a big one. (That’s one of the beauties of running – it leads you to insights that are so deep they’re able to knock the breath right out of you.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to make things harder on myself than I need to. But as I forced myself up that hill — faster, faster — the voice from my phone’s running app cut through my thoughts and the driving bass to inform me I had just sped up that hill faster than I had run the flats, faster than I usually run when I go much further but avoid hills altogether.

I realized that I was forcing myself up the hill as fast as possible, putting myself under strain just to get it over with, instead of settling into a reasonable, steady pace. Interestingly, I never run down hills because I’m always too busy enjoying the view.

And that’s when it hit me. I do exactly the same thing for any challenge I face. I try to fly through it, rush, get it over with, get to the easy part, or the end. It’s like a panic response – get to the end, fast.

I do it in conflicts at home, and it just inflames the situation.

I do it at work when I have a big deliverable looming, and instead of getting through things calmly, I thoroughly stress myself thinking that I have to do it all “now” when, for the most part, it will take several weeks of methodical work.

I even do it when I have a to-do list. I can’t handle to-do lists. I have to fly through them, check off all the little boxes, leave nothing hanging over my head. Get to the end.

All this rushing through things leaves me feeling overwhelmed, drained and as though I never have time to do what I want. It never seems I will get to the end of anything I have to do because, let’s be honest, life is just one big to-do list. It’s impossible to rush to the end of it. Instead, it’s better to keep a steady pace and grab the odd moment to breathe, to look around, to stop and take in the view, to remember that there are pleasant aspects to whatever it is you’re in the middle of, and to even sometimes take a break partway through and do something else.

It was a beautiful day for running. I was able to appreciate that once I slowed my pace and stopped pushing myself as fast as possible every time there was a hill. The sun was shining on the last of the season’s golden leaves while purple-grey clouds created a dramatic backdrop over the river and the Parliament buildings. People were out walking and running, chatting and laughing – enjoying the mild fall day. As I came to the top of the final hill – Parliament Hill, as it turned out – I paused, looked up at the Canadian flag waving on the Peace Tower and smiled.

Life is really very good, I thought.

I know there’s a valuable lesson in all this, but I may just need the equivalent of that running app’s voice to cut through my thoughts and remind me every now and then that I don’t have to rush past where I am to get to the end.

Two sides of the whole

I often try to look into my son’s soul, to understand who this growing, independent person is.

I’m not always sure what I’m seeing.

The times he spends with me one-on-one, he can be insightful, even wise; he comes up with solutions I can’t, he applies the things I tell him in unexpected ways.

Of course he can be silly, too, and manages to drag out descriptions of the perfect goal (his or someone else’s, doesn’t matter) to the point that I completely loose track of the subject. But for the most part, he is and has been for as long as I can remember, a fun little companion. I’m always reassured when parents volunteering at the school or hosting him for sleepovers say the same thing.

Then there are the reports from camps, teachers, some extracurricular activities. Tales of a bright but disruptive boy who does what he can to be the centre of attention. Pleas to me to remind him to be less silly, less overwhelming.

He’s not bad, they say, and yet the calls and emails do express some frustration. Are these systems simply not set up for rambunctious boys? Is this just the norm, something parents of boys have heard for generations? Do I, on those days that I worry about it, just take it all too much to heart?

I think about this question a lot, this “who is this person?” question. I try to look past the version of him that he offers me when it’s just us, when he has this adult’s full attention. I try to see who he truly is.

But the view I have of him is unreliable. It is shadowed by my own perceptions – of him, of life, of myself – and by the light he chooses to shed on parts of himself, while stowing the other parts in the darkness, just out of my sight.

And maybe that’s ok. Maybe that’s the way a person develops their independence, their sense of self. This could be an important process I’ve been watching unfold.

I’m thinking about all of this as I lie in bed, looking at the night sky through our open blind. The moon is a thin sliver tonight, just barely rising above the skyline. I can see its dark side, too, but only just. Venus shines brightly higher up in the sky.

I am struck by the beauty of the thin sliver as it floats serenely, glowing golden, so thin, its dark side glows, too, if darkness can glow. It’s a simple, everyday sight, easy to look at without seeing, to take for granted. But every now and then if you really stop and look you see more, you see the deeper things in that orb.

I’m really looking now, and it’s hard to be sure about any of the details I think I see in that mostly-dark side. It is a darkness that is pregnant and full and seems to threaten to overwhelm the small sliver of light floating along attached to it.

Before I have a chance to find out whether the darkness will win or if that bit of brightness can hold on and grow, the moon touches down on the roof of the cityscape. Then, so quickly I almost wonder if it was ever even there, it slips behind the buildings and disappears, leaving only Venus shining brightly – easily mistaken for a large, vibrant star – in the expanse of night.

All of these things – the moon, Venus, my son – are perceived differently from the way they actually are. The observer will never see its subject the way the subject sees itself. We can only watch from our own perspective.

Venus is not a star.

The moon is in darkness because it is shadowed by us. The only parts we mere mortals know are those parts we manage to see when we get out of the way and let the sun shine on them, however fleetingly.

Like the moon, there are multiple aspects to people; we can never know them the way they know themselves. We can’t be sure whether they are more darkness or more light, or simply different than our perceptions.

The best we can do is stand back, appreciate the beauty, observe what we can see, and let as much of who they are shine back at us.