Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Canada’

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

32 Recipes for Joy

51jMFwLXU2LFinding Joy Around the World by Kari Joys MS.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Join the author, and people from around the world, as they describe what joy means to them, and how they came to find it. Kari Joys, “While happiness is often defined as the experience of well-being, satisfaction or pleasure in your life, joy includes those characteristics, but it also brings with it the qualities of spirituality, higher consciousness and true delight.”

Most all of those in Finding Joy Around the World have dealt with some kind of loss, trauma, or difficult situation in their lives (death, poverty, abuse, loss, etc.), and all of them share their story. Whatever they have lived through, or had happen, did not prevent them from still finding joy in their lives. In fact, many felt that their hardships are what helped them search for joy, and try to find some kind of meaning in life. Here is what some of the thirty-two people interviewed had to say:

Santosh Sagara (Nepal) – “Joy means mindfulness and peace within.”
Gede Prama (Indonesia) – Read and meditated to find joy.
Deb Scott (USA) – Experiences joy through prayer and volunteering.
Barasa Mayari (Kenya) – “Trust in God has been the anchor.”
Sylvester Anderson (USA) – “Never give up on yourself.”
Jayne Spenceley (England) – “Feeling expansive from the inside out.”
Hanneke van den Berg (Netherlands) – “Connections with myself and others.”
Sakatar Singh (India) – “Read good books and make friends.”
Ashleigh Burnet (Canada) – Believes meditation is instrumental.
Gimba A. (Nigeria) – Gets joy when he can “care for my children.”
Eugenie Areve (France) – “Love ourselves unconditionally.”
Bill Zhang (China) – “A state of feeling ‘good enough'”.
Marcia Conduru (Brazil) – “We are more than our ego.”

Ms. Joys noticed some common threads which ran through the responses from all those she contacted (or who contacted her). They are provided in a list of ten traits at the end. Some of the conclusions are that joy is experienced in the present moment; gratitude is a big component; it grows out of compassion for others; when noticing beauty of nature; and there is often a connection to the “divine”, or something greater than ourselves.

Many of the responses in this work remind me of my book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call, which is a compilation of interviews I did with fifteen people who had someone die, and then decided to help others in some way as a result. Some are well known, and others not so. This was written before the internet, so I did all the interviews in person across the USA and Israel.

Finding Joy Around the World is an inspiring mix of tales and observations, from a variety of people around the globe. Ms. Joys asks all the right questions, and lets the kind people who responded answer in their own words. Each person’s story begins with a quote from a famous writer, or person, which corresponds perfectly. Thus, Joseph Campbell is quoted before one of the participants shares their understanding and experience of joy. “Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Happy Family, Happy Cats

51WoCiuudlLThe Happy Cat’s Detective by Alex Mahon
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The Happy Cat’s Detective is a delightful story combing a budding romance, close family escapades, and trying to figure out why, and who, stole Mrs. Casanova’s cat, Fetish. The tale begins in Canada, but takes place primarily in the small town of Lleida, outside Barcelona, Spain.

Told in the first person, by Christina Solans Sentis, we hear about another volunteer veterinarian she meets in the forests of Canada, Alex. They fall for one another and he promises to visit her upon her return to Spain. Christina fails to inform her mother, or her mother’s friends, about Alex upon her return home. This fact eventually comes out, but none too soon.

It is the relationship between Christina, her mother (Irene), and her mother’s close friends since childhood (Laia and Ingrid) that steal the show. They all move in together in the country and start a cat sanctuary they call The Happy Cat’s Home. It isn’t long until Christina is asked to search for a missing cat (and get paid for it), that she becomes the books title.

I really enjoyed The Happy Cat’s Detective. The sense of familiarity between Christina and her mother, and between her mother and her friends, is heart-warming, funny, and authentic. Their joking around, memories, and shenanigans, make them seem much younger than their years. Nobody is perfect, yet they enjoy one another’s company and always have each other’s back.

YA At Its Best

41w-kjfxSrL._UY250_Charla Visits Earth by Dianne Astle
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Charla Visits Earth is a wonderful short story that is almost believable, if it weren’t for the dragon and mermaid, and for all we know maybe they’re real too. Just having returned from a trip to Vancouver, it was the perfect time to read this tale by Ms. Astle, as it takes place in the same region of Canada, and includes places I visited.

Ben is a student at Fairhaven boarding school, a private school whose principal, Miss Templeton, is also the Earth’s Watcher, though only a few students are aware of such. Ben is one of those who knows, because of a previous visit he made to another world where he met Charla, a mermaid. It is quite an adventure when Charla turns up on earth to see Ben and wants to explore the city and see what life is like on this planet.

“Everywhere Charla looked there were things she never, in her wildest dreams, imagined, and humans came in so many different colors and shapes, and wore such a wild variety of clothes. It made her own world seem so plain and ordinary and drab. Mer all had the same color hair, the same dark eyes, and they dressed alike.”

This story is an off-shoot from the author’s novel Ben the Dragon. I haven’t yet read her other stories, but after reading Charla Visits Earth surely will. Her writing is to the point, descriptive, and endearing.

Water Under the Bridge

51JYwz0aZ4L._SY346_The Flowers Need Watering by Marcus Lopés
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This story was not at all what I thought it was, and I’m not sure what I thought it was before reading it. Either way, it turned out to be a real treat. The title alone is worth the price. In essence, The Flowers Need Watering is a love story that involves boy meets boy, falls in love, then moves away and loses boy. Then, boy returns, they meet again, and… let’s just say there is a lot of water under the bridge.

The primary characters are Mateo, his partner Simon, and Liam. All of there family and friends (Melinda, Zane, and others) are intricately involved and come together with the death of Mateo’s father. There is also a long-term conflict with Mateo and his family, that involve a painful split when he was a young man. The tension between Liam and his father, and especially with his religious mother (Doris), are perfectly portrayed and explain why Liam is estranged.

The Flowers Need Watering feels real, which speaks volumes for the authors insightful writing. The story is both ordinary, and extraordinary. It is the understanding of human behavior, and our need to love and be loved, that shines throughout this tale of love lost and found, though not found as one may expect. This reads like a good romance, interspersed with family drama, and a big dose of realism and undercurrents of unspoken sorrows and events. Recommend picking this up when you can, and anything else the author writes in the future.

“I Demand My Rights.”

“I Demand My Rights.”

Kaia* was eleven years old when she was assaulted and raped on the way to school. A teacher took her to the hospital, but the police demanded bribes for even taking down a statement.

So Kaia did something incredibly brave. She sued the police for failing to protect her. What’s even more incredible is what happened next.

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In Kenya where Kaia lives, a woman or girl is raped every 30 minutes. Police there routinely turn a blind eye, further isolating terrified young survivors and reinforcing the notion that rape is ok.

Kaia and ten other young survivors challenged that. On the day of the case, ignoring threats to their safety and a blockade from court security, they marched from their shelter to the courthouse, chanting “Haki yangu” — Kiswahili for “I demand my rights.” And then the judge issued his ruling: The girls had won!

The amazing advocates and human rights lawyers that worked with Kaia are ready to bring similar lawsuits against police forces across Africa and beyond, but they need funding to do it. We won’t process pledges until we reach our goal, but if just 30,000 of us pledge a small amount now, we can repeat this game-changing victory in other countries, remind police that rape is a crime, and take a powerful step forward against the global war on women:

Click to pledge what you can — we’ll process your contribution only if we hit our goal of 30,000 donors.

When Kaia’s story began, she looked set to become just another of the countless victims of child rape ignored by the police. But Kenyan child rights advocate Mercy Chidi and Canadian human rights lawyer Fiona Sampson joined forces to challenge this injustice in the courts.

The plan was hatched in Kenya by a group of colleagues from Canada, Kenya, Malawi and Ghana — it seemed like a long shot to sue the police force for failing to act, but they stuck with it and took risks… and made legal history. The work has just begun: like any win, it takes time, effort and money to make sure the ruling sticks, and to use it as a springboard to wipe out violence against women.

If we raise enough, here’s how we could turn a huge victory for Kenya into a win for countries across Africa and even the rest of the world:

* help fund more cases like this, across Africa and around the world
* use hard-hitting campaign strategies to make sure these groundbreaking judgments are enforced
* push for massive, effective public education campaigns that strike at the root of sexual violence and help erase it for good
respond to more campaign opportunities like this case — with super smart strategies that turn the tide in the war on women.

Click to pledge what you can to start this important work right away — we won’t process any contributions unless we hit our goal of 30,000 donors.

As citizens, we often appeal to political leaders and other officials to get serious about protecting women’s rights. It’s important to keep doing that, but when they fail to hear their consciences, we need to appeal to their interests, and take them to court. That sends a powerful message: not only that there are new consequences for their crimes, but that the era of unchallenged misogyny in the culture of our societies is coming to end.

With hope,

Ricken, Maria Paz, Emma, Oli, Nick, Allison, Luca and the rest of the Avaaz team

* Kaia is a pseudonym, but her story is real. She is not pictured here.

Dirty Tar Sands Pipeline

From CommonDreams.org.

Published on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 by The Narcosphere

Indigenous Peoples: Civil Disobedience to Halt Dirty Tar Sands Pipeline in US. At the Protecting Mother Earth Gathering, First Nations activists announce civil disobedience to halt dirty Tar Sands pipeline in US. by Brenda Norrell

NEW TOWN, North Dakota –The resistance to the dirty Tar Sands announced plans for civil disobedience in Washington to send a message to the Obama Administration to halt a plan for use of the dirtiest oil on the planet, which threatens natural resources and humanity in North America, including Indian country.

Speaking at the Protecting Mother Earth Gathering, Clayton Thomas Muller said civil disobedience is planned for Washington to challenge the Obama Administration and US State Department, now presiding over a key decision regarding dirty oil from the tar sands pipeline, the proposed TransCanada Corp. Keystone XL pipeline.

Muller said if this pipeline is allowed to proceed from Canada to the Gulf Coast, it would cross sacred lands and endanger Indian country resources, including the Lakota aquifer.

“It is an absolutely insane plan, especially in a time of climate change,” Muller said, adding that already Gulf Coast industries are getting ready for this dirty oil.

Muller spoke to Indigenous Peoples gathered from as far away as Guatemala, Mexico and Canada, at the Indigenous Environmental Network’s 16th Annual Protecting Mother Earth Gathering, July 28-31, 2011, in New Town, North Dakota, which included two workshops on halting destruction from the Alberta Tar Sands. Navajos came who are fighting coal-fired power plants and the draining of their aquifers by Peabody Coal, while Wixarika (Huicholes) came to join forces to halt mining by First Majestic Silver Corp. in Vancouver, BC, from destroying their sacred mountains.

Read Complete Story at CommonDreams.org

Dressed In Black

Excerpt from Saint Catherine’s Baby – Stories.

Dressed In Black

Stephanie came every day. She came without presumptions, ulterior motives or expectations of exalted visions or transcendent love. She came out of habit. She came because of a promise.

She arrived promptly at six in the evening, in stormy or serene skies and sat on her cushion of leaves inside the hollow of a burned out stump, protected from the weather by a neighboring family of Ponderosa Pines.

She never faltered or dozed. Her vigilant eyes were fixed upon the lush meadow before her; the meadow that transformed from dry golden browns in the summer to sparkling sheaths of undulating greens arching towards the fall and spring skies, enticing the wet rains to provide them their full desire of liquid fuel.

She didn’t meditate on the present, reminisce about the past or worry about the future. She remained on duty like a royal guard. Nothing could distract her from catching a glimpse of her departed father.

Stephanie was thirty-four; old enough to know the difference between reality and fantasy; old enough to have been cut and burned by men’s’ promises and women’s’ expectations; old enough to have married, miscarried, divorced and buried a friend.

She had lived at three diverse locations in her parents’ province; by the river, in the valley and most recently in the mountains. The total population of the area was less than a cord of wood and spread east to west like an open picture book.

Each of her previous living quarters had been to her liking, simple, adequate: free of pretense or superficiality. The two-bedroom home she presently rented, after her divorce from Marty “meticulous” Johnson, was far more space than she needed, but it would suffice. It held her few belongings in the comfort of its wooden walls, greeted her at night when she returned and warmed her breakfast on its four-burner gas range before she left at sunrise to make her rounds.

Stephanie would faithfully sit in the tree stump every day of the year. Her frizzy red hair was stuffed inside her pale leaf-green forester’s cap. Her short, strong legs crossed lazily in front of her ample hips, as her camouflaged gloves held the binoculars up to her sharp hazel eyes or rested comfortably on her lap.

Marty, her ex-husband, had always called her Cinderella. No matter where they were or what they were doing, she would run off in the early evening to her spot in the woods. She wasn’t afraid her car would turn into a pumpkin or her gown into rags. She was afraid she would miss seeing the form of her father when he reappeared.

When Stephanie was a young girl and she and her father had been sitting at dusk, in the very hollow she now visited, he had once said, “If reincarnation is real, which is highly unlikely.” He worked at the university and despised shallow religious dogma or superstitions. “But, if it is,” he had said seriously, “by some remote possibility true, then I want to return like that.” He had pointed at the magnificent creatures grazing in the meadow before them. “I want to be as big and black as the one I saw when I was a kid camping with my dad.” He had turned his endearing gaze upon his precious offspring, his only child and confessed, “I’ve never seen anything like it since.”

Ten months later, while Stephanie’s mother was picking her up at school, her father had suffered a heart attack and dropped dead on the hard linoleum floor of his fluorescent light-filled laboratory.

Stephanie and her mother had rushed to the hospital, after returning home and hearing the frantic message from his long-time colleague on their answering machine. It took them two hours to get to the city.

Her mother had tried to prevent Stephanie from going behind the curtain in the emergency room, but a battalion of marines couldn’t have stopped her from seeing her beloved father.

She hadn’t shed a tear. She’d looked at his ashen face, felt his icy hand and said, “Don’t forget Daddy. I’ll wait for you.” She knew he hadn’t really died. He had just changed form. She knew it without a sliver of doubt. She knew it because if she had allowed her self to believe otherwise, the pain would have ripped her to shreds.

As she matured, studied mathematics, biology and physics, her faith in reincarnation was bolstered again and again. She had underlined statements that confirmed her belief. “Energy doesn’t disappear into a vacuum, it always has an equal and opposite reaction. Matter never dissipates, it simply changes form.”

Even when she attended medical school, at the same university her father had worked, she had kept her internal contract and driven two to three hours a day to sit at their spot in the woods. She was thrilled when, after graduation, she had been offered a position as her home districts medical officer, covering three sparsely populated counties on the Canadian border. The only condition she’d insisted upon and been granted, was being off-call between five and seven every evening.

She waited and waited and waited some more. Thousands of images had passed through her hungry mind. She knew when it happened it would fill the void, the pit in her heart that had been filled with despair over her father’s long absence. She knew it was the only sane thing that could give her peace. She couldn’t pretend, imagine or dream it into being. The large black moose had to be real. Its reality would let her know her Daddy wasn’t dead. It would confirm her belief in medicine, in science, in living. Its existence would bring order to chaos.

She had seen every shade of brown and tan; mothers, fathers, siblings and babes. She had watched several generations come and go, heard their mating calls and crashing clashes as they fought over the women of their species. But in the twenty-four years since her father’s death Stephanie had never seen a large pitch-black figure like the one her father had witnessed as a boy.

Winter had arrived early. Soft white freshly fallen snow covered what she now considered “her” meadow. The sun had gone down early. Her hands felt like ice cubes stuck inside a freezer. She rubbed them together under her father’s down jacket. Her heavy-duty flashlight stood on its end next to her aching knee. She silently stretched her legs and slowly refolded them, years of practice and patient persistence guiding them effortlessly back into position.

She heard branches snapping and loud snorting immediately to her left. She grabbed her flashlight and anxiously waited until the footsteps subsided. She flicked on the head lamp. Her hand shook as she found the silhouette of the towering Bull Moose against the white snow. Her heart leapt into her throat. The sudden gasp for air burned her lungs. The mammal with pitch-black fur raised its head, looked knowingly into her eyes and winked.

MORE STORIES

Framed

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

We flew in from Montréal, with a stopover in Chicago. I combed my hair and smoothed out the incorrigible wrinkles in my pants, before stepping out from the hot taxi into the dry heat of New Mexico.

Bending over to pick up our bag, I noticed the large stain covering the underarm of my white shirt. “Just what I need,” I fretted. “Wrinkled pants, hair that won’t stay down and stinking to high heaven.”

My face felt naked. The sun was beating it into a hot iron. Something was missing. I felt in my shirt pocket and found only damp vacancy.

“Have you seen them?” I asked Rosalita, my lover and confidant.

“Maybe there, in the bag,” she nodded towards our luggage.

“Should I put them on?”

“Go ahead,” she replied. “Take a chance.”

“You sure? You know how some people are.”

“Don’t be so paranoid,” she smirked, laying her hand on the small of my back.

“I’m trusting you on this,” I said, bending down, carefully pulling them out of their hard, plastic case in the side of the bag and placing them firmly on my face.

“How’s that?”

“Fabulous! Come on, let’s go.”

She took the sacrificial lamb by the arm and led me to the slaughter.

Sweat dripped from my forehead like a steam bath. I thought about home. It was a refreshing 42 degrees Fahrenheit when we had left that morning. Calm, sunny, delightfully cold weather had embraced the landscape, requiring long-sleeve flannel shirts to keep out the chill.

“I’d rather freeze to death, then live in this baking hell,” I thought, as we approached the adobe style home in the suburbs of Albuquerque.

Rosalita’s parents met us at the front door. She introduced her mother and father, Carmen and Francisco Morales and announced lovingly, “And this, this is my sweet Jacque.” I felt her hand guiding me forward.

Her parents looked stoically at their future son-in-law, blinked several times to clear their vision and realized I wasn’t a mirage or distant heat wave. Her mother recovered first, stepping forward and extended her large, brown-skinned hand.

“Buenos tardes Jacque,” she smiled sweetly, as if she was about to give someone on death row their last wish. “Mi casa, su casa.”

“Our house is your house,” Rosalita translated, seemingly oblivious to her parents’ demeanor.

“Thank you,” I replied to Mrs. Morales. “It’s a pleasure.”

Rosalita locked eyes on her father, who appeared to have been jolted into a sudden catatonic state of unknown proportions.

“Papa?” she said. “Papa!” Her raised voice hit him like a whip. He turned, forced a strained smile and shook my hand as if it had a sign reading, “Wet paint.”

“Come in. Come in!” her mother insisted, putting her arm around Rosalita. Her father followed robotically, carrying our bags as balancing weights to keep him grounded. I could feel his eyes flinging poisonous darts at the back of my head like a blow-gun.

It was refreshingly cool inside. “Ah. This is nice,” I sighed. “How can you stand the heat?”

“We kind of like it,” her father said brusquely.

“I guess you get use to it.”

“I guess so,” he said, turning abruptly. With our luggage in tow he walked slowly down their clean, whitewashed hallway. He had large, rough hands and moved as if he was in a military parade.

Mrs. Morales followed her husband. “Let me show you your rooms. You might want to freshen up,” she added, glancing back at the clothes hanging on my body like wet laundry. “Here’s yours,” she motioned to Rosalita, then turned to me. “You can stay in her brothers’ old room. he bathroom’s down the hall. Come out to the back patio when you’re ready. Lunch is almost done.”

“Merci . . . thank you,” I replied.

She nodded, “De nada.” then spoke to Rosalita. “Rico and Junior will be here any minute.” She kissed Rosalita. “Oh no, the enchiladas!” she exclaimed, running to the kitchen in her light green fluorescent pants and pale yellow blouse with ironed on lace.

I looked to Rosalita for an explanation. “Rico and Junior?” I’d heard of Rico and her brother Francis, but no Junior.

“My brother. Francis was named after Papa, so we just call him Junior.”

Mr. Morales squeezed between us. “Excuse me,” he mumbled and disappeared out back.

“This is a disaster,” I said out loud.

“It will be fine. Just give them a little time, OK?”

“Time’s not going to help. Did you see those looks? They don’t even know me and they hate me.”

She gave me a hug. “They don’t hate you. They’re just scared. It’s not every day their only daughter says she’s getting married.”

I tried to ignore my gut. “I hope you’re right.”

“I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She swayed coyly towards the bathroom, her long braided hair rocking in unison with her heart-shaped hips.

After drying off and changing my stained garment to a casual short-sleeved blue dress shirt, I took my skinny self and ventured out to the back patio. A gorgeous garden of blooming cactus filled the yard, with a vine-covered trellis covering the patio from the blistering sun. Her father was hand-watering a small patch of grass between the cactus and patio. He had on a large brimmed, white cowboy hat. He didn’t notice I was there until his wife came out with a basket and offered some bread.

“Have some homemade bread.”

“Thank you,” I replied and proceeded to devour three pieces in a row. “This is delicious.” I licked my fingers, seeing that she was making a religious effort to be cordial. “What is it?”

“Cornbread . . . Jalapeño cornbread. You’ve never had cornbread?”

“Never,” I innocently replied.

“How could you live without cornbread?” Mr. Morales interjected loudly. “Rosalita has surely made you some of her mother’s famous cornbread?”

“No.”

Her father looked accusingly at Mrs. Morales, who frowned back, shaking her slightly rouged cheeks in utter dismay.

“We eat out mostly,” I explained, “or I cook up something at home. I’m pretty good with a little sauce and some wine.”

“You cook?” Mr. Morales exclaimed, as if I’d told him I was a serial killer. I nodded. “I need a drink,” he exclaimed and headed towards the house. Before disappearing he stopped and turned. “You want a margarita, beer or something?”

“A margarita?” He shook his head in disgust. “Water would be fine, thanks.” He nodded, visibly vexed and went inside.

“Please,” Mrs. Morales motioned towards the flower-decorated picnic table laid out methodically with shiny silverware and maroon and turquoise ceramic dishes. Before the bottom of my fifty/fifty percent nylon and cotton pants touched the wooden bench she asked, “Where are you from Jacque?”

She plunked down directly across the table, leaned forward and waited for me to continue. Her well-rounded, bronzed face had wrinkled crowfeet protecting her knowing eyes, bordered by thick black and gray hair. She sat like a voyeuristic priest, waiting for a secret revelation or confession.

“Montréal. Actually, a little town north of Montréal. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. It’s called Saínte-Thérèse.”

“I’m sorry,” she smiled. “I don’t know Montréal.”

“It’s in Quebec province. Do you know where that is?”

“It’s in Canada, right?”

I nodded, bemused with Americans’ ignorance of geography.

“But where are you from originally?” she persisted. “Your family . . . your people.”

“We grew up in Saínte-Thérèse. Our parents moved to Toronto for awhile in the early sixties, but didn’t like the crowds, so we moved back to Saínte-Thérèse.”

“No, no. I don’t mean where you grew up.” She shook her head. “Your parents . . . your people?”

“My parents met in Quebec,” I offered. She shook her head and was about to give up when I smelled Rosalita’s sweet fragrance. She hugged me from behind, sat down, looked over at her mother and saw her frustration.

“What’s wrong Mama?”

“Nothing,” her mother said, looking away.

“Your Mom was wondering where I was from. You know; my family and stuff.”

“Mama, shame on you!”

Her mother got up and went towards the house.

“He’s from Iceland!” Rosalita shouted. “Or is it Sweden?” she said to her mother’s back. “One of those bleached white, Northern Anglo families!”

An involuntary sigh escaped from my throat. “I should have seen it coming.”

She gave me a squeeze. “It’s just ignorance.”

“Perhaps,” I replied sadly. “Whoever said ‘ignorance is bliss’ must have been pretty stupid.”

Angry sounds drifted from the kitchen with unintended clarity. We could hear bits and pieces of jumbled distress. “I am not!” her father exclaimed. “You don’t like it any better than I do!”

“Don’t say that!” her mother shouted. “It doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Shhhhh . . .” her mother countered.

“How long are we staying . . . a week?” I asked. “By then I’ll have been drawn and quartered or systematically tolerated to death!”

CONTINUED

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