Posted by: sulya | 24 May 2012

Perhaps All That’s Left is Poetry

No prose

too much living
to be writing
the way I am accustomed
to be writing

too much school
and theory
and abstractions
so much more
than prose



word games without
or prose


a hollowness
a missing
an ache
a wonder and loss
of identity
of which none
are prose


or me

not entirely myself
not in my entirety

hopeful though
that I will
find my way
to prose


Posted by: sulya | 3 December 2011

Conversations With Grain and Guest

This last summer was challenging.  I mean it was challenging in a profoundly middle class way and I am mindful of that but it was challenging nonetheless.   There were fantastic car breakdowns at hour 12 of a 14 hour drive with three children and one teenager leaving me alone with all of said offspring on the side of a highway while the tow truck whisked the other half away to the dealership with the broken vehicle.  There were epic family fights about which the six year-old has since said, during a conversation about how people sometimes fight but it’s actually how we fix things that matters most:

“Yeah, you and Aunty  yelled at each other a LOT and then we were allowed to come back in the house.”

There was the cause of that argument which is rather old as it was heralded into existence as I took my first breath and created the family categories of “second child” and “little sister.”

There was a severe infection in one of the children and a genuinely scary case of bacteria-IN-THE-BLOOD pneumonia in the grown man.  Pneumonia, I might add which was misdiagnosed as a flu by a GP and left untreated for two more days with fevers that could only be broken for 1 hr at a time with 5 advil and 4 tylenol.  It was only properly diagnosed when I had had it and decided we were driving right from the farm to the hospital in the city where someone would be able to provide fluids immediately, if nothing else…

There was a solid month of house painting and renovation and de-cluttering to put the condo on the market where I did all the painting myself while everyone else was at work or summer camps.  Probably due to the fumes, but perhaps also as a result of the longtime tendency to personify inanimate objects, I wound up in rather deep closeness and conversation with my paintbrush.

“Why are you talking to your paintbrush?” I would be asked when people got home.

“Who else would I be talking to?”

“Okay, then…”

There were midnight stints waiting for rural police officers to come away from Domestic Abuse situations in other small towns to check whether or not a community store had been broken into.  There were disappointments and tensions galore.

And at a certain point I felt as though I really had no one to talk to at all and like I had been taking care of everyone and everything with no one taking care of me and that was, frankly, to eerily familiar a feeling.  And it spooked me on top of the drained and sad and self-pitying…

The house was quiet, the sick mate was asleep, the one child we had with us was 10 and contentedly playing and watching TV.

So, I went to get some fresh air and clear my head and wound up at the top of the farm’s Cessna, runway surrounded on three sides by grain as tall as my hips, my waist.  The closest thing to me was the farm house nearly a half mile behind me.  I had the spooky and liberating thought, a city girl’s thought:

“There’s no one to hear you scream.”

I started to pace.  And rant.  And yell.  I truly, truly lost my shit.  I was screaming and screaming at that grain and the endless sky and everyone and anyone who had ever wronged me or anyone I care about with a fury I had not expressed that way maybe ever but certainly not in a very long time.

That grain got quite the earful and, as it turned out, it was not alone.

I had landed on my knees, in tears, exhausted, only to stand again because my stillness had encouraged mosquitoes to find me.  I turned to head back to the house and saw an animal, as gold as the grain in parts, low to the ground with a darker stripey mask marking around its eyes.  It was out of the grain on my right and frozen by the sight of me as I turned.

I froze too.  Lowered myself slightly so as not to seem too intimidating but kept my distance because it was clear this animal was frightened and it was equally clear to me, somehow, that it was a carnivore.  A threatened feeling carnivore.  I was aware and grateful for the awareness that it was – at this time at least – more frightened of me than I was of it.

It turned and moved back toward the grain.  Stopped.  Looked at me again.  Turned and moved back toward the grain again.  Stopped.  Turned to look at me again and make sure I was not moving or following.

It disappeared into the grain.

I started to wonder at what it might be.  I had never seen one of its kind before, that I knew.  After a while, certain that it was gone, I began to walk back toward the house.  Fifty feet in front of me the animal broke the boundary of grain on the right, bolted to the other side of the runway and disappeared into the grain on the left.  It had booked it up the side of the runway on the right to be clear of me and still cross over.

The sight of it, so earnest and fearful, made me laugh a little.  Not because I find another creature’s fear amusing but because the fear was so entirely unfounded.  I had no interest in harming the creature, no more than the presence of humans already harms most animals.

It was this unbridgeable misunderstanding which made me laugh.  The universality of it.  The near hopelessness.

When I got back to the house, I did a Google search on a handy laptop and found this photo by Gerald Romanchuk :

Photo borrowed specifically from HERE

What I saw was a BADGER.  Given I had never before seen one and given the farm is on both Cree and Blackfoot territory, I decided to see if I could find any stories or myths about badgers.  I didn’t necessarily find ones pertinent to those tribes specifically but I did find this, written by Ina Wolcott:

Badger symbolises aggressiveness, reliance, self-expression, holding ones own, link to the underworld and the magic and mystery of creation, link to plant and animal spirits, fearlessness, boldness, braveness

The power of the badger lies in is its aggressiveness and the readiness to fight for what it wants. On the flip side, the badger is also about healing – they are the keeper of Earth’s healing herbs. Badger will persevere in finding a cure. People with this power animal are often healers and have the guts to use unconventional methods.

And that’s just the first two paragraphs.  Read the rest HERE if, you like.

I read those two paragraphs.  I considered what I was doing right before  I saw the badger frozen near the grain.  I considered who I have been, who I am.

I whispered to myself:

“I summoned that badger.”

I grew up in a house that yelled.  We shouted and argued and yelled.  Sometimes it was fun and part of debate.  Other times it was just painful and trying and full of emotions one or the other of us couldn’t really understand or handle.

The long and the short of it is that I am not afraid to raise my voice but, as it turns out, I am terrible at expressing anger – at even acknowledging to myself that I am angry – until I am  pushed so deeply into it that it is articulating me more than I can possibly articulate it…

Since the badger, though.  Since I summoned a badger.  I am getting better.

Last night, in bed,  in our new house where we do not share walls with anyone, in a house that did not have any kids in it.  I yelled and ranted and raved.  I screamed until I cried.  I screamed so loudly at one point I couldn’t quite believe it was my voice I was hearing.

It was not, in any way, an ‘indoor’ voice.

I was not alone this time, though.  And, I chose to let all of it out.  It didn’t just happen to me.  I chose it.

And when, on the flip side – exhausted – I asked this man I now share my life with if I had scared him, if he was regretting his choice to be with me.  He said:

“Of course not,” he pulled me more tightly to him, “you need to talk to the badger once in a while.”


Mr. Romanchuk and Ms. Wolcott, if you are in any way upset with my borrowing your photo or words for this post please email me and I will immediately remove it from the site.  I have no interest in breaching copyright, only sharing your work in the body of my story and cannot possibly afford any fines so please do let me know as soon as possible if you would like me to take it down or remove the copy. 

Thank you, T.O.I.R.

Posted by: sulya | 5 September 2011

Still More Bits & Bobs From the Watery Nook

The other half wants to build his own airplane which tops out at speeds on the order of 333km/hr.  He says it will make it easier to go and visit family… I quipped that it would also make it easier to accidentally fly into the side of a mountain…  Though, truthfully, the idea of building one’s own anything in this age of prepackaged everything is truly fun and inspiring.  He’s not finished his licencing course, though, and until he does and has logged many many many hours of flying time I feel confident that we won’t be strappin’ the roof rack to anything aeronautical anytime soon…


The boy is excited and shouting for me to come see.  He is on youtube.  He is telling me, “you could do this, Mommy, you have almost all the colours!”  It is a woman who is painting each and every one of her fingernails to look like a different Spongebob character.


I made potato salad.  The kind I used to make over and over for work back in the deli-days of yore.  It has sundried tomatoes, feta, fresh basil, kalamata olives, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh sliced bell peppers.  It tasted good and familiar as I shared it with two new friends in an apartment so clean it defies reason.  (If anyone is looking to buy a really nice two-bedroom condo, please let me know…)


I spent the better part of this morning colouring and cutting out Krabby Patties and spatulas and burger dressings and my son’s fabulous Spongebob pictures.  I stuffed my bun with toilet paper and taped the edges so we could have some 3D stuff in our game.  This was after he designed a shield, hatchet and music player out of Rokenbok and Tinker Toys to make himself look like a Playmobil character he owns…  Tell me childhood isn’t weird and that kids don’t have imagination anymore…


I have actually written two blog posts in one long weekend.  This is a small miracle.


My new course for Fall – mandatory – is called “Research Design.”  When I read a section of the textbook to my mother she asked me if I was reading the table of contents.  Please insert all appropriate wailing and gnashing of teeth.  That said, I am assured that it can be a “brain break” if I let it.  That’s the key, too, I must LET my brain take a break.  I am not sure I know how.

Posted by: sulya | 2 September 2011

There Will Definitely, Maybe, be Casualties

I was never into Ryan Reynolds until he started playing romantic leads with dry and kooky comedic timing.  I wonder why it took the powers that be so long to cast him that way given his full head of hair and tall broad, dimpled jawness, but what I couldn’t see coming at all was that he would be in a film that unhinges me every time I see it.  And, perhaps, it wouldn’t unhinge me the way it does if I were not a divorced woman in love with a divorced man whose combined offspring total four…  But I am that woman and so the film “Definitely, Maybe” punches me in the gut with remarkable precision.

For those who have not seen it, it is about a man in his mid-thirties getting a divorce whose appx 7 year-old daughter insists that he tell her the story of how he and her mom met.  It turns out it’s a rather long story and the daughter is forced to guess which woman in her father’s story is actually her mother because he changes people’s names.  It’s easy to think, “what is he doing telling a girl this young this story about the foibles and failures of fidelity inherent to a small group of adults?”  But the answer is equally simple.

She asked.

With her whole self she is trying to understand her story and the only way to do that, at this time when her parents are choosing to part ways in all ways save those that concern her, is to understand her father’s stories… Her mother’s…

Thomas King says that all we are is our stories and I am more and more convinced that he’s right.  We live in a perpetual fog when we don’t know the important stories of our lives, missing pieces, trying to fill them with pieces of things that will never fit.  We make bad decisions because we often tell ourselves awful stories about ourselves or wind up internalizing the awful stories others have told about us.  The little girl in “Definitely, Maybe” asks for a story because she needs it and regardless of it being, perhaps, a bit too PG-14, her father tells it to her because on a subconscious level he understands that need.  You can judge this man – and Hollywood for making the daughter a bit precocious (though I now too have a precocious daughter so perhaps the characterization is not that far off base) – but unless you’ve ever been divorced with a child, you won’t be judging him fairly.  With divorce, by necessity, the story changes and the order in which stories need to be told changes too.  It isn’t easy or fun or fair – especially to the children – but it’s the way it is.

The part that gets me every time though is that at a tense point, Reynold’s character addresses his daughter’s upset by telling her the story does have a happy ending to which she responds with even more desperation.  How can it have a happy ending if her parents are getting divorced?  It’s a fair question isn’t it?  So fair.  So reasonable, especially in a culture which more-often-than-not fades out at first kisses and wedding bells ringing to the tune of forever and ever amen.  But the answer is that she is the happy ending.  And that is not saccharine tripe.  That is the truth. The daughter in “Definitely, Maybe” and my son and my other half’s sons and daughter in our story, they are all the happy ending to one part of our stories  and an exquisite beginning to so many other stories that as parents we only hope to remain a part of for as long as possible.

But God, it’s messy.  And this movie knocks me on my ass because it represents the mess fairly if not necessarily in a way that will feel accurate to all who live a story of divorce because all stories of divorce are so different.  It goes right inside me with every complicated and difficult exchange between that father and that daughter because I’ve had conversations just as complicated, just as difficult and my son is only just six.

I’m going to get a kleenex now.


Poster borrowed from here

That’s what I said to my friend’s husband when he got home last night. When he asked me why, exactly, his son might ask about Alzheimer’s I started with, “Well, your wife left me alone in the car with all three kids…”  And then, when this didn’t seem explanation enough, explained that on his mother’s exodus from the vehicle their son had immediately told me, in solemn tones, that a friend’s Great Grandpa had died. We all agreed this was sad, except the three year-old girl who was pretending that she was a baby and revelling in the ever-amusing word ‘poop.’ This then got us talking about who did or didn’t have Great Grandpas and/or Grandmas.

He, in fact, has two Great Grandmas but, for some reason, we wound up talking about my son’s family relations and it came up that he does, in fact, have a Great Grandma still technically alive and living in Florida.  My son immediately said that she should meet him, “We should go see her so she can meet me.”  The narcissistic construction of the sentence notwithstanding, it was a fair request.  Only, I used the words “technically alive” for a reason.  To the best of my understanding my mother’s mother is basically non-responsive and hasn’t remembered anyone or anything, really, in some time.

I started, when the kids pushed, to say that she’s alive but she’s not really “there” which is what I would say to adults who can comprehend that kind of abstraction.  But, of course, the idea that someone could be there and not there at the same time was too much for the 5 year-olds.  So, then I said, she wouldn’t know us, she doesn’t remember things.

This made more sense to them but was still at odds with what they know of anyone in the category of “grandma.”  I mean, seriously, how could any of their doting, amazing, loving, generous grandmas not remember them???

So then I started to explain that she had a sickness in her mind that took those memories.  This was starting to make a bit of sense to my friend’s son – who was on point for this particular question period – but he needed more.  That’s when I said something like this:

“Okay.  You know all the stuff that makes you who you are?  All your friends and your family and the things you did today and the things you played with yesterday and all the foods you eat and like to eat and the ones you hate?  All your memories?  This sickness makes all of those things go away.”

He paused.  Huge blue eyes even rounder than usual in his pale face.

“But where did they go?”

“No one really knows sweetie.  Not even the doctors.”

“But can she go and get them back?”

“That’s an amazing question, kiddo.  No one has figured out how to get them back really, not really.”

And then I saw an opportunity because the research I do know something about where these diseases of the mind are concerned all indicate that keeping your mind supple and firing in lots of directions can really help to ward them off.  And that’s what I said.

To a car full of kids who aren’t super good at trying new foods, who like their routines even as they bridle against them.

I told them that one thing we do know is that you have to keep trying new things with your body and your mind.  You have to do hard things,   challenging things.  You have to do things even if you don’t think you’ll be good at it because it keeps your mind strong.  I said you have to try all kinds of different music and sports and books and meet new people and try to go new places to see new things so that the mind is always busy and growing and changing.

There was a kind of silence back there…  It had a note of reverence… Like they were hearing something important.

It didn’t last and the subject was abandoned for other projects (whining about the failure to procure ice cream or play in the ball room at Ikea chief among them) but perhaps, I wonder in light of the speech I gave them, that’s a good thing.

… to the exclusion of many other far more important things.  Like eating.  Like playing with my son or being much of a girlfriend or doing my homework (which is plentiful and piling up).  I am fantasizing about incinerating most of my belongings, vaporizing them and all their history, smashing through walls in my home with a sledge hammer and rebuilding it in a new shape with nothing leftover from before but ashes and the people I love who live here despite the fact that I am currently ignoring them to watch endless episodes of Alias…

I am angry and sad and hopeful and happy all at once and all the time.

I am strolling down memory lane, finding things which both mortify and amuse.

I am over-my-head and struggling for breath.  Breathing slowly and deliberately all the way out so that my body will naturally take a full, satisfying breath on its own.  A breath which makes me feel as though I have actually gotten oxygen.

I want to be a writer again, spend full days at my desk lost in my own mind and the characters I know I can create there.

I want to kick ass like Sydney Bristow.  I want to use terrible fake Russian/Swedish/French/Hungarian accents and go on missions with quirky fantasy gadgets to open safes or jump off the roofs of buildings.  I want tranq guns and righteous fury…

Scratch that.

I have enough righteous fury.

I want my stomach to feel full and when full to not feel nauseated.

I want my couch to be vacuumed and pristine, the endless crap and dust beneath it cleaned.  But not more than I would like to throw it off my balcony… Watch it fall… Watch it break…

I am restless and shifty and ready to scream.

It must, in short, be Spring.



Posted by: sulya | 15 February 2011

I Can Hear Emily

My son and his friend are playing pretend right now.  I can make out only that there are bad guys and pretend punches that occasionally hit and are followed immediately by apologies, girls to save and marry, to kiss and run away from.  They periodically laugh so hard I worry that hard-won bathroom skills might be compromised…  But mostly, I hear Emily.  I hear Emily and myself at the same age.  Only we were witches and good fairies and teachers and there were hula hoop portals to other dimensions, a yellow acrylic yarn spider web that filled a room, tents thumb-tacked into walls to the chagrin of adults.  It’s a body memory so complete and whole that I nearly cried when it first found me in the form of my son and his friend’s voices trickling down the stairs to me where I wait for my friend to return from her outing.

She’s an awesome friend and an amazing woman and I can’t help but wonder why, exactly, we don’t play with as much creative abandon as do our children?

Because it would scare the kids?  The other adults?

I don’t think I would believe any answer to that question that didn’t lead immediately to the conclusion that it’s ridiculous that we DON’T still play with such creative abandon…  Every day…  With our friends…

Ah, well, I guess when my friend gets back we will discuss it over coffee because it seems that’s what grown-ups do…

Posted by: sulya | 12 December 2010


He starts weeping on the stairs up to our apartment.

He didn’t get enough time with his Papa.  It was too short.

(It was the same as it always was but his sense of time is shifting, growing, his sense of loss along with it…)

I sit with him on the stairs and hold him while he cries for a while… Such abandon for someone so small… I try not to cry myself.  Tell him I will call his father and see if they can have more time together if he wants.  Tell him his father and I both love him very much and we don’t want him to be sad and we always do our best to give him more time if we can.

We make it to the apartment.

He seems droopy beyond sadness… I feel his neck, it’s hot.

He tells me he feels cold.

He tells me his muscles ache.

He wants to watch Inspector Gadget on TV under a quilt.

I put the pieces together to see the fever, the fever that freed his sadness from behind his walls…

Later, he needs more medicine and I ache with and for him and tell him he probably won’t get to go to school tomorrow and this sets off another round of sadness…

“But I want to learn,” he says.

How is it possible to love someone this much?

How is it possible to hold on to the lessons of this fever?



Posted by: sulya | 11 December 2010


I would like to levitate. Lift off of the ground and float, have hoops dragged around my body to prove there are no strings.  I would like to achieve a state surrounded by air where there would be no pressure points, no sore joints, sore muscles, aching hearts or souls. Supported by the invisible strength of the air, the magnetics of the planet I live on, I would like to get a different perspective.  One, perhaps, where certain things might soften and cut me less and other things would gently, beautifully become more clear.


Posted by: sulya | 11 December 2010

One Third

It’s an under appreciated fraction, I think.  Most recipes are all about the quarters and the halves… The supremacy of the “half” is all around us:

Halfway House

Bottle’s half full

Half-sweet Mocha with extra whip

Half Price SALE!

Not gonna’ see a lotta’ sales offering 33.3333333% off…

But a third is special.  It’s unique.  You are not half way but you are close to half way.  You have only two more thirds to go until you’ve achieved something whole and yet a third, itself is a numerically never ending thing… A third has an infinite quality that is, in some ways, never achievable.  Yet, three one third cups of flour do somehow make a whole cup of flour.

I dunno’…

I do know that, as of today at 3pm, I am a third of the way through my course work for my Master’s degree and it feels its own very unique kind of infinite and amazing.

Two more thirds to go… with that 0.1111111111111111111 that will never be done and isn’t that how education is supposed to be?  Always, perpetually unfinished?

Again, I dunno’…

But I hope so.




Photo and word installations created by the boyo at age 4

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