aging · dreams · health · life · nonfiction

Whale Dreaming

I dream: 

We are in an open row boat, crossing a river, when I see a dark shape in the water below.  “That looks like a whale” I say.  “But how can it be?”  Yet as I watch the figure pass and emerge from the water, my suspicions are confirmed:  it is a whale.  It breaks free of the water and appears like a cartoon of a whale hovering over the river. “We are on the St Lawrence” Ric offers, and I understand, but how did we get here? 

Back home, my cousin drops by.  “I have rented a cottage in PEI, and I’m looking for someone to join me,” she says.  “I’ll put the word out,” I respond before realizing that I could join her.  Why not?  “I was hoping for that,” she smiles.  We make our plans – whether to go by car or fly.  I am excited.  “You can see whales from the shore,” I exclaim. 

Well, whales are different from snakes, and hopefully, an improvement.  We have been whale-watching twice, and both times it has been incredible, and awe-inspiring.  Whales are gentle creatures, despite their size.  To be close to a whale is to marvel at the power and grace of Nature.

So why whales?

Dreams bring us symbols and metaphors that speak to what lies below our conscious, ego, selves.  For the past seven months, my husband has been battling cancer as well as trying to heal from two accidents, and now four surgeries.   Up until a few weeks ago, we have both attempted to keep up with the normal pace of life, but the pressure has broken me, and I have succumbed to the stress.  I am exhausted by the emotional and psychological strain, physically incapable of keeping up.

It is as if we are crossing a wide river in an open row boat – crossing a wide, unknown river, with little protection from the elements – yes, that is how it feels.  We keep going even though we feel inadequate and we aren’t quite sure we know where this is leading us.

It is as if a large creature lurks in the water below us.  That large creature could be cancer, loss of life, or healing and renewal.  We have no way of knowing right now.  In the dream, it looks like a whale, but it ends up being a cartoon caricature of a whale.  Does that mean that my imagination has got the better of me, or that what appears to be so overwhelming will, in the end, seem trivial?

It is as if I have an opportunity to travel to P.E.I. with my cousin.  The cousin in my dream was one I looked up to and admired.  She suffered ill health for much of her life, but maintained an attitude of quiet acceptance until her death at the age of 53.  To have the chance to spend some time with her would give me new perspective and understanding.  P.E.I is not a place I have ever visited, but have been interested in.  It exemplifies simplicity and rural peacefulness, although my brother says it is too commercial.  He thwarted my one attempt to visit P.E.I. by rerouting me to Grand Manan, an island in the Bay of Fundy.  I definitely watched whales off the coast of this tiny island, and they accompanied our ferry ride to and fro.  It was the highlight of my trip.

So how does this dream apply to my life right now?  In the dream, I seem to lack clarity, not picking up on the signals and opportunities.  I am not aware of where I am, and question what I see, and when opportunity does come my way, I am slow on the uptake.

I do feel confused, and lacking clarity right now.  I worry that I am not taking the right course of action, and that I might be missing out on important opportunities.  While my husband seems to know where we are, I do not have my bearings.

In the dream, I am hoping to see whales.  How is this a metaphor for my life?  I want to experience the numinous – I want to feel the presence of something larger than life, something so magnificent that it will make me stop in awe and believe again.

I need a sign or an omen that will waken me from this nightmare of survival and remind me once again, that while this is one ‘whale of a tale’ that we are living, it only a moment in the greater scheme of things.  I need to be reminded of the miracle of Nature.

I need to remove myself from the constant churning of fear and anxiety and retreat to a place where time stands still and simplicity is the norm.  I need to slow down and let my heart calm.



aging · culture · life · poetry · spirituality


Time passes,
shadows shift, waning
light made precious
by beckoning end.

Once believed in forever,
guaranteed tomorrows –
fallacy now shattered
by mortality’s knock.

New souls, born
of promise, eyes hungering
for what shall be, ignite
a fire of hope in me.

Will I be remembered
when life has begot more life
and I am faded ancestry –
will my essence linger?

Flesh rots, memory
fades, but the spirit
has its own calling –
will mine rise again

in trait, or disposition,
or with fresh complexion
and renewed intention –
an immortal circle?







aging · Family · life · Love · memoir · mental-health

Birthday Weeds

“Can I have a bike for my birthday this year?”  A typical, impatient eight-year-old, I must have asked my parents this question a million times.  I was excited for my upcoming birthday, and really wanted a bike with a big banana seat, and raised handle-bars.

“You’ll have to wait and see,”  was the constant reply, but my birthday falls in the middle of the summer, and so many perfect bike-riding days were passing me by.

As my big day approached, my father teased me that I was getting bubblegum for my birthday.   I was confident he was kidding and that I would soon be soaring through the streets on my new, longed for wheels.

Birthday morning came, and no present.  “You have to wait till your party,” Mom informed me.  The hours just didn’t pass fast enough.   My friends arrived in the afternoon, and we swam for awhile before my father barbequed burgers and hot dogs, and then it was time for gifts.  After opening all the gifts from my friends, the moment I had anticipated finally arrived.

“There is one more gift,”  my father announced, disappearing into the garage.

And there it was!  A shiny, new, all-mine, bicycle.  “Here’s your bubblegum,”  Dad beamed.  I beamed back.  It was exactly what I wanted.

“Thanks so much!”  I gushed, and was about to say more when I noticed my mother following with something else.  Another new bike……for my little sister.

What?  It wasn’t her birthday until November.  “Me too, me too,”  she started to squeal.

I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t know what to say.  I got what I wanted, so why was this bothering me so?

It was a question that would fester inside me for a long time.  That year would mark the end of birthday excitement for me.  It was the start of a legacy of disappointment that I never addressed, and therefore; allowed to grow out of control.

For my ninth birthday, I got a new bike, but I also gained the realization that life is not always fair.  I knew without asking why my sister got a present on my birthday – it was so she wouldn’t throw a temper tantrum – but I also knew with certainty that I wouldn’t get a present on her birthday, and somehow that didn’t seem right.  I wasn’t given to temper tantrums, but did that mean that I also had to forgo being special for one day?

In the years that followed, my birthdays were celebrated on family vacations, usually in public places with just a cake to mark the occasion.  I told myself it didn’t matter.

I lied.

Truth is, I allowed that initial seed of disappointment to ferment inside me.  I didn’t confront the issue because I thought I was being oversensitive.  I didn’t want to hurt my parents feelings, and I certainly didn’t want them to think I was ungrateful.  But the more I pushed the hurt down, the bigger it grew.  In my own mind, I compounded the issue.  My parents didn’t love me as much as they did the other children;  there was something wrong with me.   Every time I felt left out or overlooked, my feelings were just confirmed.  I came to dread my birthday month.  By the time I reached adulthood, this dread was accompanied by depression.

The issue exploded on my 40th birthday.  My mother, in her usual way, had been calling me leading up to my birthday, making comments such as:  “You have everything you need, I don’t suppose there is anything I could get you anyway,”  or “Don’t know if I’ll get you anything for your birthday this year,” and so on.  When she showed up with a frozen turkey, I lost it.

“Mom!  Why do you have such a problem with my birthday!  If you don’t want to celebrate it, then don’t, but don’t taunt me with it!”

“Of course, I want to celebrate your birthday.”  She was taken aback.

“You never have!  You always make it sound like it’s such a hardship.  I’d rather you didn’t acknowledge it at all!”

“What do you mean?  I’m here with a gift aren’t I?”

“Yes, Mom, but all week longed you’d hinted that there might not be a gift, as if you really don’t want to give me anything.”

“Well, it’s just that you have everything.”

“It’s not about the gift, Mom.  It’s about the acknowledgment.”

The conversation didn’t go well.  My mother left feeling hurt, and I felt I had made a worse mess of things.  I would like to say that things have improved, but they haven’t.  For the second year in a row, my mother has completely forgotten my birthday.  I asked for it, I guess.

When you allow things to fester, they grow roots, and like untended weeds, can get out of control.

I am fifty-four years old, and I still don’t know how to uproot the weed associated with my mother and my birthday.

aging · Family · life · Love · memoir · relationships

How Tables Turn

“All I want is to have my family around me.”

I was giving my father a therapeutic touch treatment to help ease his pain.  His suffering was relentless in his last years.

“I guess they’re all too busy for their old Dad.”

“You didn’t exactly teach us how to be around you, Dad.”  I didn’t want to be unkind, but he needed to hear the truth.  When I was too young to understand about his ‘needs’, I thought we were an inconvenience to him.  Mom would whisk us off to bed before he got home from work, so we’d be out of the way.  Later, when his secret was out, we would have to call ahead to make sure it was okay to come home.  When I moved out and became a parent, Dad would visit for ten or fifteen minutes before he had to leave.

“I suppose that’s true.”  Were those tears in his eyes?  “I lived a very selfish existence.”

“Yes, you did. You just have to be patient with us, and give us time to see that you have changed.”

He caught my hand in mid-motion and gave it a squeeze.  “I always loved you, though.”

“I know that now, Dad.  But there were many times when I didn’t.  I could never compete with sports.”  Sports were Dad’s excuse for everything:  I can’t come see your play, because the game’s on; or:  I’d love to spend time with my grandchildren, but this is the deciding match.  Trouble is, there was always some sporting event on.

“Silly, isn’t it?”

“You missed out on a lot.”

“I know.  I know.”

My father had changed.  We never could have had this conversation years ago.  He was too intimidating, and never open to criticism.  Something in him had softened.  Mom said he cried regularly over all the things he had done to us throughout the years.  Still, I wasn’t totally convinced.

“It’s ironic how the tables have turned.  It was always Mom who suffered with so much pain, and now it’s you.”

Isn’t that the truth, Dad’s face said.  “I wasn’t very sympathetic either,”  he confessed.  “Serves me right, I guess.”

I didn’t say anything.  Dad had never understood Mom’s suffering; he couldn’t tolerate weakness.  Now he depended on oxygen to breathe, and didn’t go out much because his immune system was so compromised.  His life was reduced to pain medication and ointments.  Mom seldom left his side.

“I messed up, didn’t I Squeegie?”  It was his nickname for me when I was little.

“You certainly had your trials, Dad.  No one can imagine what it was like to be you.  I guess you did the best you knew how.”

He squeezed my hand again.  “You’re a good kid.”

“I wish I could take your pain away, Dad,” I responded.

In the back of my mind, I was remembering something my father had always preached:

You get out of life what you put into it. 

aging · creativity · dreams · life · nonfiction

Dream House

There is a house that I often visit in my dreamtime.  I am either thinking about buying it, or have just moved in.  It is set in the country, high up on a bluff overlooking the water.  It is not a new house, nor does it stand alone; it shares the quiet street with other houses, different from itself.  Tall trees line the street, and green sloping lawns surround the house.  The setting is idyllic, but I have concerns about the house.  Sometimes the house appears as a yellow brick, two-story, older style home; other times it is a small white raised ranch.  Every time, I worry that the house is not big enough for comfort.

When I enter, the main living area appears cosy, and has a certain charm.  It is liveable, I think to myself.  Then I look around, and am amazed to find that there is so much more to this house than I first thought.  Always there is a second kitchen and living area, as well as endless bedrooms and bathrooms.  I awaken with a feeling of pleasant surprise and a longing to explore more.

* * * * *

None of the houses, nor the setting in the dream are places I’ve been to in my lifetime, however; there is a certain familiarity.  The setting is a feel good place:  quiet and serene, and off the beaten path.  Years ago, as a single mother, I used to drive up to the lake and admire the houses on the bluff, wishing one day that I could live there. I would dream of a simpler life, where I could be close to nature, and write.

The old, yellow house reminds me of a rental property my former husband and I bought, hoping it would be an investment that we would profit from.  The house turned out to be a money pit and a bit of a nightmare.  We just didn’t know enough about real estate values at the time.

The white house reminds me of the home my parents bought at the lake for their retirement; a home that became a wonderful gathering place for friends and family.

Often, I think the house in my dream represents me:  aging, and plain on the outside, although surrounded by beauty and comfort.  Inside, I appear uncomplicated at first, yet there is more to me than even I know.  I love the idea that there are many more rooms to discover within.




aging · Humour · life · recovery

Excuse Me While I Unload

Excuse me, but it seems I have been carrying around an extraordinary amount of baggage for some time now and I’m thinking it’s time to unload, so pardon me but I’m going to dump them out here, and do inventory.

Wow, what a pile of stuff!  I don’t know where to begin.

Black lace catches my eye.  I pull it out of the pile.  It’s a woman’s hat, with a black face veil.  I know this one.  It is the veil of self-loathing.  While I try not to wear it in public, I take it everywhere with me.  It keeps me humble.  The veil whispers:  Don’t believe what other people say about you; they’re just being kind; they really don’t know you like I do.  Boy, looks like I should have done this sooner;  I think I’ll just set that aside.

Ah, there’s my graduation cap; my teacher’s cap.  It’s a keeper.  And my mother’s apron.  That can stay too.  My reading glasses, my writing pen, my friendship necklace.  All those parts I want to keep.  Oh, and that teddy bear – all Grandmas need teddy bears – definitely carrying that around with me.

What’s this big, woolly, grey thing?  It’s heavy, and to be honest, it stinks like cigarette smoke, stale alcohol, and mildew.  It reeks of shame.  I’m not sure this is mine, but I’ve been carrying this around forever.  Wouldn’t be surprised if it stunk everything else up.  This needs to go.  I might even have to get a new suitcase to start fresh.  I’ll just put that one out in the trash can.

Better make sure the smell hasn’t lingered.  Sure enough, the lining of the case has absorbed the stench.  I’d better air it out also.  Wait a minute, what’s that in the lining?  Something is sticking out.  It’s silver and pointed.  Looks like a brooch.  It’ a very delicate piece:  silver leaves swirling around a peridot stone.  Is this mine?  It’s beautiful, but I don’t recognize it.  Just my taste though, I’m more silver than gold, and I love the peridot green.  I wonder how long it’s been here?  I should try it on, and see how it looks.  No, I’m not ready for this.  I don’t have anything to go with it.  I’ll tuck it back away for another day.

Will you look at that!  A pile of mismatched socks.  So like me, to carry around odds and sods hoping to make sense of them sooner or later.  Thing is, young people don’t wear socks or stockings anymore, so all these do is date me; they don’t serve any other purpose.  I think it’s time to let them go.

Wow, look at that!  It’s a rusty old paintbrush.  I used to love art – even won the award in grade eight – but I was advised against pursuing it – not intellectual enough – so I set it aside.  Could this still be in me?  I’d like to know.

Oh!  A feather.  I know why it’s here.  I tucked it in here to remind me of my spirituality.  I’ll keep that too.

My cookbooks can stay.  Here’s an old ship in a bottle.   It’s pretty dusty, and the vessel inside is covered in cobwebs.  I’m thinking whatever dream that was has long past; no point carrying that around anymore.  Time for new dreams.

This is kind of fun.  Can’t remember the last time I took inventory of what I’ve been carrying around.  Here’s some comfy yoga pants.  Those need to come out more often.  I can just hear my body screaming yes, please.

Hope you don’t mind if I carry on without you.  I can see a few more things I’d rather deal with in private.

What have you been carrying around?