Late for dinner





What what is this place where they tell you

they’ll hold dinner for you

because there are right whales off the lighthouse

and you have a little time.  Maybe you’ll see them.

What is this place where the broad flat sea stetches away from the

lace-rimmed rocks out to the horizon where the paler sky


The swallow tail light is as white as a virtuous woman.

The air rivals the wine left half-drunk in the glass.

The sea birds are clustered together in tremulous knowledge

of the two right whales.

They are there and sometimes I can see their plumes

white against the blue sea far off out from shore,

I wait patiently in the early evening, the breeze waiting too, gentle

on my light clad arms.

I would be glad, no, transported with joy to see them

but I know they have their own business to attend to.

Even in this place I cannot wait until dark, I cannot

keep the others waiting.  The others are of my kind

and the right whales have their own business to attend to.

Even though I could only feel them there off shore and know

as sure as sure

that they were there  attending to their right business,

well, this was enough and more than enough to transport me

to the watery depths, to the cold boundless places where the right whales

with no regard for me attend to their right business.

What kind of place is this where no bird or seal or tree or breeze or wave,

pays attention to my tender waiting?

It is the right place.





The Lighthouse




Set on some windy highland where blasted trees struggle for survival,

By definition prey to storms.  No silence here, the breath of wind and shush of wave below

Punctuated by the cries of gulls, the sighing wet breath of humpback or minke whales

and from time to time the chugging motor of a fishing boat.  The lighthouse.

Saved, restored, shored up, paid up, cabled up, held up, kept erect, alive.

But wait, isn’t that your job, lighthouse?  Standing up in all weathers, in all winds, eternally

saving, restoring to the shore puny mortals?

Of course, now there’s radar and sonar, GPS I suppose, but still,

there’s something forever about a lighthouse.

I used to lie down here in the summer grass where wild roses spread over the windy peninsula.

I’d wake to bees or crickets and follow the paths of desire over the rough ground.

I never dreamed a lighthouse would need help.

For decades in the sunny days the keeper’s wife would knit or nurse her child.

In the winter night the light, the bell, sometimes the deep fog horn would sound.

And those at sea would chart and steer a course, safe in that way at least.

The keeper tending the light in the high wind-shuddering lantern peering into

snow or darkness, knew he and the light had done the best, the best they could.

Long-gone the lighthouse keeper and his wife, long-gone the many wrecks

so must we save the lighthouse?

Is there “forever”on this rocky wreck-strewn shore?






Sky whale









Crossing on the ferry, between the shaggy islands

I scanned the sea for whales.

Was that a spray from a blow hole?

a fin? Or just the crest of a subtle wave on the day’s calm sea.

I came for whales!  Where are they, in the churning wake

or white side water of the ship?

They had their own business to attend to,

in the vast ocean, plunging or plotting a course to their own ends.

As a little consolation, a joke, reminder of my place in things

here appeared a cloud whale.

I thanked the spirit that sent him.

Small town




image       image

It is it is a pretty town.  Artists come to paint the boats in the harbour or the grand Algonquin Hotel.  The town has a United Empire Loyalist history complete with a cemetery.   The streets are classically named for King and Queen and for their many children, William, Sophia, Augustus, Ernest, Maris.  You can guess which king of course?  The houses must conform in shape and color.  McDonalds gave up years ago in it’s attempt to open up here.  Even Tim Horton’s is kept at bay at the outskirts of the town.  There is a famous golf course and an arena where kids come to hockey camp.  There are “sets” in St Andrews.  You can belong to the arty set, the Community College set, the Marine Biology set, the tourist trade set.  Most exclusive of all are the old timers’ set.  You have to be in that set to be hurried in the United Empire Loyalist cemetary.  There are no homeless people sleeping in the street in St Andrews.   Years ago a Jew died in St. Andrews and the Anglican minister had to arrange his funeral.  St. Andrews is a mysterious town.  It is a pretty town but there undercurrents.  The real estate agents are out in force.  There are a lot of old rich people in St. Andrews.  Just one disconcerting sign posted discretely on the wharf made me a little queasy.  But it was a very discrete sign.  For a few days one can walk past the pretty shops, or down the wharf or to the block house where canons once faced the enemy Yankees.  Now the Yankees happily buy English China in the little shop or go out for an excursion on a sail boat.  As soon as it leaves the harbour the icy wind of the Bay of Fundy reminds them that St Andrews is a special world.  I have walked down the autumn streets of St Andrews when the painters had all packed up and the ice cream shop was closed and the wind blew leaves down the deserted street.  To spend a winter in St. Andrews!  How mysterious that would be — perhaps even terrifying.




Roofs in St Andrews




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I forgot many things in preparing for this trip.  I forgot my hairbrush, my waterproof shell, my painting kit.  I was a bit scattered.  I was distracted by my preoccupations, my emotions, my worries about how I would manage the rented car, the various parts of the trip.  It is a classic hidden belief of many seemingly capable people that they are ” pretenders”; that they are not really so able, so confident, so adult.  I have this feeling sometimes.  It was a familiar surprise when I discovered how many things I had forgotten.  None of them are vital and most were rectified by a trip to the remarkably well-stocked dollar store in this little town.  So, here is a picture of the roofs of the Main Street in St Andrews.  And here is a photograph of what I noticed and liked very much-the sharp daring roof lines of the buildings.  It was painted with a one dollar kit if children’s’ watercolours .  For you to judge.








A cloudy day.  The city sits dark

beneath the clouds.

Solid with roads, bridges, buildings, runways

yet moving too, the cars, the trains and taxiing planes

beneath the grey clouds.


We rise.  The brilliant sun illuminates

a dazzling cloudscape.

Impenetrable white in the constant light.

The faithful propeller spins, keeping us above

The whipped cream clouds.  A cloudy day.


School bus




There it is, appearing round the corner

They’re safe inside I’m sure.  And yet, for all I know

one might be sick, absent for a worthy reason.  Or not.

Around the corner in that clumsy way school busses have

With their oddly placed mirrors and random bus drivers.

Last year’s fat and jolly fellow mysteriously replaced

by someone with a baseball cap.

Already on the fifth day of school, the second week beginning

he knows me and lifts his hand in wary salute.

Who is this strange one out on the street corner

this waver who greets the three first riders on my bus?

Empty save for these two brothers and the sister, only them for a just a few more blocks.

And I at the corner, watching, waiting, for those first few moments of the quiet day

only a little disturbed by the city’s steadfast buzz.

There I am, waiting a little nervously, observing clouds or birds, the neighbourhood trees.

But waiting, waiting for the tentative salute of the new driver and the three pale faces.

The two little ones in front, waving and blowing kisses, already the scolding or kiss from home forgotten.

Their pale faces medallions at the window

And at the back the older boy, his face alight, perpetually surprised, the knowing smile

and “perfume” kiss delivered at the mercifully slow pace of the school bus as it goes by.

For all the wish to help them, show them, convince them

that there might be a better way, an easier way, a truer way, less fraught with terror or worse, worry

for terror has it’s self-contained limit.  Not so worry.

for all my yearning to teach them, they are carried along past me

only a look between us, a fondness, a sureness of my figure at the corner.

The way of the world that oh so soon the baseball-capped stranger carries them off and what is left?

the smile as I turn to start the day and their kisses and mine sweetening the street,

landing where they will.