Poetry by memory

Earlier this week my mum mentioned that it would have been her father’s 104th birthday. It shocked me to realise how long ago he passed away… more than a decade and a half. Despite not having many memories of my younger years (I’m told I had a happy childhood and the photos certainly support that!), I’ve retained strong impressions of my grampa. They’re mostly fleeting images or smells or a remembered turn of phrase or tone of voice; often comforting and rarely complete. And sometimes those memories arise at strange times.

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Pandemic entertainment

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Keeping entertained during the novel coronavirus crisis is a balancing act.

I’m torn between wanting to stay informed about the current state of the world (physically distant, begrudgingly hyper-local with an undercurrent of pervasive anxiety) and the desire to dig my head in the sand. I don’t want to numb myself to reality, but I also know that too much awareness about the number of infections, the dangerous absurdities unfolding in the US, and the prognostications on when we’ll return to ‘normal’ (ha!) are bad for my mental health.

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Boycotting the bros

I read a chunk of a review for The Gentlemen to my husband last night. Something along the lines of: Colin Farrell is a scene-stealer, but it’s not quite clear why he’s even in the scenes to begin with.

“I like Colin Farrell. We should go see that,” he said. 

“I can’t,” I replied. “There aren’t any women in it.”

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In the year ahead

Dense fog a head on a highway
Will forgiveness, kindness, and gentleness lift the fog ahead?

2019 was a rough year for me. I felt out of place, uncertain, overwhelmed—like my life had been uprooted. A plant yanked out of the ground rather than a seedling pre-emptively watered, carefully dug up, padded in burlap, with the root structure lovingly secured for replanting.

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Creative convergence

I started a creative writing course in September and our first assignment was to write a 500-word story with only one primary character and one primary setting—not a heck of a lot of space to develop anything. Thankfully walking the dog (or more accurately standing around while she wanders slowly from sniff to sniff) gives me lots of time to mull over story ideas. That slow-paced dog walking was the genesis of the fictionalised episode I created for the assignment and have included below.

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A very personal library

Escalators in Copenhagen's central libraryWhen I first moved from Canada to Europe in 2013, one of the hardest tasks was to dramatically reduce my personal library. Over the course of many years and two university degrees, I had collected over 400 books and I knew it was unreasonable to move or store them all. Print books take up a lot space and are a pain to ship!

I gifted many titles to friends, donated the rest and said farewell to all but a handful of print books. My collection shifted to digital format (thank goodness for iBooks!) and I resolved to stay out of bookstores in case the temptation to rebuild my collection was too strong.

Despite having millions of books available electronically, there’s something special about turning physical pages and getting a library card was at the top of my to-do list after moving to Copenhagen in September 2016. Before I had even received my yellow health card (a must for anyone settling in Denmark!), I was at the main library on Krystalgade bumbling through the process of setting up a library account.

Library card in hand, I wandered the many floors at the main library enjoying the range of materials, marvelling at the intermixed languages in the non-fiction section (Danish, Swedish, German, English, French – all side by side!) and trying to determine how the subjects were organised. As a life-long lover of libraries, I often visit public libraries when travelling and I’m fascinated by the differing classification systems – I still don’t understand the Danish scheme!

I’ve since become familiar with Østerbro’s two local libraries, attended author talks at the Black Diamond and discovered that my yellow health card is also my library card – no need for one more thing in my wallet! I’m impressed by how much Danes care about the written word, as demonstrated by the striking architecture of the Black Diamond, the wealth of the library’s collections and the ability for users to access local libraries after-hours.

I am also delighted by the ‘Hygge only’ zone at the main library: a sign directs visitors to use the space for reading or chatting – no phones or computers. ‘Hygge’ is one aspect where I notice that Denmark has a surprisingly different culture from Canada or Germany (where I lived in 2013-14). I’ve jumped into Danish culture by studying Danish, watching Olympic curling on DR, experiencing May Day at Fælledparken, making pilgrimages to H.C. Anderson’s hometown and the Dybbøl windmill, overindulging at Julefrokost celebrations and cycling just about everywhere and I’m still uncovering all that Denmark has to offer.

In spite of warnings about the Danes’ frosty nature towards strangers, I’ve been welcomed warmly by people at the two yoga studios where I teach. I have Danish and expat friends, can order pastries and engage in small talk in Danish, but it’s really the library system that makes me feel like I belong. Spotting titles I used to own on the shelves of my local library in Østerbro cements the feeling that Copenhagen is home and satisfies my desire to read ‘real’ books – without the need to build a personal library again!