About me and this blog

I was born on a native reserve in Ontario, grew up on the west coast of Vancouver Island (as far west as you can go without running out of Canada), came of age in Mexico City. Between times, I lived in the Fraser Valley, Texas, Seattle, Oklahoma, Bella Coola, on the BC north coast, and the Fraser River Delta, just south of Vancouver. For now, I'm "settled" in Campbell River, on Vancouver Island.

I have a boatload of stories to tell. These are some of them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Three dreams: Dream Three


It had been a grey day. The snow had melted into mud, but the trees were still bare sticks, with no promise of spring colour about them. All day it had been just about to rain, but never actually wet. 

In the inlet, the wind whipped the waves up into froth and stole the breath from our lips. The float plane tied by the wharf bucked and bobbed and yanked at its ropes. It was not flying weather, yet the pilot was waiting for us to board and "they" were hurrying us along. 

I hung back; I had worked long hours that day, and the kids were waiting for me at home. I had no reason to fly. "They" said I should. I gave up and scrambled across the skittery pontoon. Sooner done, soonest over.

The plane took off quickly, nosed up towards the first mountain, then tipped forwards and dove into the water. I had a window seat; I saw the top of the waves, the froth and the grey water. They slid up and away, and the light was shut out. Tiny bubbles streamed past my window.

Behind me, someone was calling to the pilot. A woman prayed aloud, making promises. The man across the aisle kept repeating, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus..." Someone laughed, a nervous-sounding laugh.

The water at my window turned green and luminous, then it fell away and sunshine blazed. The plane taxied to a stop. The door was opened and we all stepped out, across the pontoon, and into an ankle-deep stream. The water was cold -- glacier runoff, it felt like.

I stopped on the banks and looked around. We were in a green valley, bright and warm. The plane was moored in a shallow, bubbling creek, almost narrow enough to jump over. I needn't have waded, but it didn't matter; the sun was already drying my shoes. Along the banks of the creek, an old road stretched ahead, bordered by a row of poplars on the water side, and a split-rail fence on the other.

The light was everywhere, golden and alive. Even the fence posts seemed to glow with an internal light. The grass was that once-a-year springtime green, the wet rocks in the creek sparkled, the water looked like dancing glass.

Everybody was walking down the road; I joined them. We passed a 1920's car parked on the grass under a poplar. Weeds were growing through the wheel and over the running boards. We walked on. The creek veered away and there were hayfields on both sides.

The kids were laughing and running in the meadows ahead, where the fence had ended. I haven't mentioned the kids earlier; in truth, I hadn't noticed them. But they were all there, my kids and their best friends and the cat. They had found a lamb and were following it up and over the hill.

"Are you going back?" one of the men asked me.

I looked at the kids. "No", I said.

"Me, neither," he said, and his wife nodded.

We came to a barn and went in. It was so neat it looked like a stage-set; pitchforks hung on one wall, clean straw covered the floor, bins were full of feed. All the wood was silvery-grey from age, but there were no broken boards, no missing shingles. Against the outside wall, fragrant bales of hay were stacked nearly to the eaves. The cat was already half-way to the top; she found a crevice and slipped through. Somehow I knew she was claiming the barn as her home. She would never go back to our cold valley.

The kids were out of sight; we followed a narrow trail through the hayfield up to the top of the hill and found a long-abandoned farmhouse; the door was open and the kid's voices echoed from inside. I was embarrassed by their lack of respect; it wasn't their house, even if no-one lived there any more. We went in after them.

The house had the same odd neatness as the barn; most of the rooms were empty, but the floors were swept clean and the windows polished. In the kitchen, a shining white cookstove stood alone; my grandmother's chair was in the dining room on a circular rag rug. The house was ours to keep, if we wanted to; somehow I knew it.

The kids were laughing upstairs. Just off the landing, there was another open door, leading to a flat deck looking over the valley. We all just stood there for a moment, then, without words, joined hands to form a circle and started to dance. Round and round: I realized I was holding the hand of a woman I had never liked before. No matter. We danced.

The circle was too big. At one point, I looked down and realized that only some of us were on the deck. I was dancing in the air. I woke up.

Months later, walking down a forgotten road in mid-summer, I came upon the house; Josephine's house, my friends called it. It was abandoned, but not empty; the doors were locked.

Stories from Alternate Realities
© Susannah Anderson, 1999

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Three dreams: Dream Two

I was at a poetry reading in the park. We were using a large wooden platform with a greenish tarp for shelter overhead and behind us. A small audience sat on folding chairs or on the grass.

Others had read; it was my turn.

My poem was long, printed out in irregular stanzas, one per page. Large print, for easy reading without glasses. I began.

I hadn't looked at the poem since I had printed it out, and now, reading it, I was pleased. It was good stuff, if a little obscure.

But wait! I had done a companion piece, hadn't I? Kind of a series of mini-essays, to be read alternately with the stanzas of the poem. I apologized to my audience and stooped down to my black loose-leaf, on the edge of the platform. But the pages were not where I expected them. I leafed through the bound pages, then through the pockets. Twice. Nothing there.

In the other loose-leaf. Of course! "Sorry, everyone. Just a minute," I said. The second binder was down on a chair in the front row; I climbed down and retrieved the essays, took a deep breath.

Back on the platform, the poem had gone missing. I had left it on the stand, now empty. "Did anyone pick up my poem?"


Maybe I had put it in the binder when I was looking for the essays, I thought. Back to the edge of the platform, back to the chair. No poem.

"Sorry for the delay, folks."

I would read the essays, instead; I hoped they would stand alone.

They would, sort of. They were well-written little pieces, only tangentially related to the stanzas of the poem, meanderings about home and memories and life in this crazy world. Gentle and accepting little nuggets, too gentle. The bite would have been in the contrast with the poem. If I could find it.

My audience was drifting off, heading for the hot-dog stand, the other exhibits. Half the chairs were empty. The people who had stayed were probably there out of some sense of loyalty; personal friends, my kids' in-laws from Bella Coola, my grandchildren. I was embarrassed to hold them, but I continued reading; what else could I do?

I needed that poem. And I had some pictures, illustrating the essays; where were they?

"Kids, did any of you see that poem? And some pictures I drew? Big ones?"

While I read, they bustled around, searching. Finally one of the kids came up to the platform with some papers he found in the back of the pickup truck that would carry away the chairs.

"Is this it, Grandma?"

Yes, but it was too late. The in-laws had gone for lunch; there was only one person still seated. My aunt. And she would not approve of the poem.

The kids liked the pictures; they had divided them among themselves. "Can we keep them, Grandma?"
Sure. Why not? What did it matter?

I rescued one drawing, two Mexicans in bright clothes against a blue Mexican sky. Well done, if I said so myself. Worth keeping.


When I woke up, I could remember everything clearly: the planks on that wooden platform, the disorganized papers in my binder, the feet of the chairs making holes in the lawn, my aunt's dress. My picture, the one I'm keeping. But not the poem. Not a word of the poem.

Stories from Alternate Realities
© Susannah Anderson, 2000

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three dreams: Dream One

Mom and Dad were on their way through town. They had left the house they were renting, and they were moving. Somewhere; it didn't really matter where. Something would turn up. But they had more stuff than they could take with them. Not a problem; they brought it over to my place; they knew, they said, that I wouldn't mind keeping it for them. It was just a little while, anyhow. A few months, at most, maybe a bit more.

And I said, sure, I could store a few things; just bring them in.

Dad got James to help; Mom sat on my sofa and knitted. They brought in a few cardboard boxes, an old suitcase or two. I stashed them neatly in the laundry room closet, and came out to the living room again. They were carrying in the big things now; bed rails, a mattress, folding chairs. Dad stacked them against the wall behind the dining table.

I went to clear space in the shop, but when I came back, there was stuff leaning against all my walls. Chimney pipes. Odd-shaped sheets of plywood. Copper tubing. Tires. Creosoted lumber, scrounged from someone's garden; the dirt still clinging to the back sides, the sides marking my freshly-painted wall just at eye level.

"Thanks, Sue," Dad said. Mom packed up her knitting and they left. In the driveway, Dad rolled down the car window. "We'll be back for our things as soon as we get settled somewhere," he said. "Bye, now!"

I went into my bedroom -- at least there was no stuff there. Just my things, my photos and baskets and bottles, my collection of mirrors. My clean desk, my dresser with its crisp white dresser scarf. Everything in order; everything carefully co-ordinated to create a soothing haven. I went to bed.

In the morning I woke up mad. How dare they? And why didn't I stop them? Why did I always have to be such a dutiful daughter?

I tried to go back to sleep, to put off facing the lumber defacing my living room walls and staining my carpet, but my eyes kept popping open. Even with the blanket pulled over my head, the sun shone through, turning my crazy quilt into a kaleidoscope. I was forced to get up.

At the door to the living room, I stopped cold, my hands arrested half-way through tying the knot in my bathrobe belt. My walls gleamed. The room was spotless, awaiting company, the way I had left it every night since I moved in. But not last night; surely not last night!

I went to check the laundry room closet; nothing there but detergent and fabric softener. I forgave Mom and Dad. But not myself; dreaming or not, I had done what I would have done.

Stories from Alternate Realities
© Susannah Anderson, 1999