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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Words inflamed

I want to write again from the heart
to sing the songs within
ignore the calls and walls that hem in our dances
entranced, withdraw into my soul
and with words inflamed by visions
tell of what is there
I will not chase praise, approval
no longer slave to the tide,
I want to turn around and ride it
I want to tell of the roaring in my ears,
the wonders I see through the veil
to rise up with the mountains
and greet the moon
drink down the rain
and embrace the many seconds
of this word-drenched existence

a world women inhabit

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Agbeni Market, Ibadan, Image courtesy of digitaljournal.com

love literature defies the terror
roving beyond closed doors
in here, she is protected
liberated
sentence by sentence
alone among many
(do they know?)
they are sisters in word-whispers
illicit but spared
they breathe life into a world
forbidden, sin-ridden,
unveiling secret truths unspoken

shadows beguile her face
downturned, glow-lit
she smiles
only inside

stories bound by secrets
strapped, wrapped
stacked roadside in table-heaps
traded and spread between foodstuffs
yams, tomatoes, Milo
this resistance, bought and sold,
outpaces the oily, gun-fed noise
of the times

 

Title taken from a line in this article about the northern Nigerian women who overcome the oppression and atrocities surrounding them by writing what have become extremely popular romance stories.