Category Archives: Uncategorized


I have decided to partially relocate to tumblr, quite literally because that is where all the cool kids are.

I will still, probably, post longer entries here, because that’s not really what tumblr is about… but I feel the need to shake things up a bit, and maybe actually become a bit interactive with the internet.


silver linings (?)

Just watched Silver Linings Playbook, then rolled off of my chair and onto my bedroom floor and wept. Looked up at the blurry underside of my desk with un-glasses eyes. Observed my jar collection, which has by necessity moved to under-the-desk. Crushed my cheek against the carpet. 

Picked myself up and did what I always do after I see a movie: read reviews of it online. Previously my first person to go to was always Roger Ebert… maybe sometime I will write about how sad I was when he died. But he is dead. I’m sure he reviewed Silver Linings Playbook, but it hasn’t felt right to me to read his reviews after his death. So this time,

“All the crockery ends up on the floor, along with the remnants of Raisin Bran, and we’re left with the realization that these two people are falling in love but may be too screwed-up to deal with it – a phenomenon that afflicts many of us at one time or another, from you and me to David Petraeus and that lady with the upper arms.”

Of course, in the movie, they deal with it. 

Why is real life so hard? Reason 1, I guess, is because it takes longer than 122 minutes for everything to get resolved…


For the past few days I’ve been taking these amazing 20-30 minute naps after lunch, just falling asleep wherever I am… What is this?! Summer? Laziness? LISTENING TO THE RHYTHMS OF MY BODY? A sign that I need to move to some South American country, slash other place that has siestas? Today it was on a bench outside of the Mt. Pleasant Community center. I woke up to realize I was directly in front of an enormous window looking into the dance studio. It was filled with middle-aged Asian women doing some kind of gentle salsa aerobics. So many Asian perms! As they kicked their feet and turned in circles, they looked at me with curiosity or disapproval… tough to say.

Mom, never surrender. Never surrender to the Asian perm.

Letters to X. Second Letter.

Dear X.

It’s May Day! I’ve only just realized it as I typed the date into the top of this letter.

I’m sitting in the public library, having decided not to go to school today. I dawdled around the house for awhile, and just as I was about to leave, I spotted the marigold seeds I had bought several days ago. Confession: I am, not unexpectedly, a compulsive seed buyer, hoarder, and planter. I dream about my plants almost every night, and I wake up in the morning eager to tend to them, wishing they had drunk more so that I could water them again. After I’ve inspected them all for dryness, I run my fingers over the tips of the basil seedlings to simulate a light breeze… Susie told me, when she was visiting, that it makes them stronger.

I put on my backpack and slipped the marigold seeds into my pocket and went outside. Nine o’clock and sunny, brilliant, the sky already a perfect pure blue when my alarm went off at seven. The sun had flattened itself out in a possessive layer of heat and nourishment on top of the garden box, carefully covering every corner of it in photons, slipping around the possible shadows offered by the not-yet-leafy maple tree and the glorious wreck of the neighbors’ German camping van (the interior is covered entirely in faded orange shag carpet, relic of the previous owner, who pasted the carpeting to every surface for the purpose of cheap and outrageous insulation; he did a lot of ice fishing). The sprouts are everywhere: radish, spinach, arugula, black kale, green kale, Swiss chard.

I inspected the box for extra space to plant the marigolds. To be honest, there was no room for them. I shave inches off of every spacing recommendation, fudging it in my head, pushing aside the niggling voice that reminds me there is no way to beat nature and I will eventually have to thin them out – silence! It is something for Future Jenn to worry about!

The marigolds, though. “This is the one that will suppress ‘bad’ nematodes in your soil,” the seed package informs me. Do I have nematodes, bad or otherwise? I think not, because this is new soil, fresh from the landscaping supply lot, uncontaminated by weeds or nematodes or other horrors. Nevertheless the seed package encourages me. Perhaps I need marigolds after all. They will be beautiful, and I seem to recall that they are a good “companion” plant for vegetables.

The real reason I want to plant marigolds is the movie “Monsoon Wedding,” which I am sure that you have seen. I wonder how well you remember it? There are many images from that movie which circulate in my mind, though few of them have to do with the main characters or the primary thrust of the plot. One of them is the servant girl sitting in the mirror wearing her mistress’s jewellery,  tilting her chin with one slender index finger and flirting with her reflection like a Bollywood star. Another is of the hapless wedding organizer, skinny and awkward and often berated by his mother. He is erecting the decorations for the wedding and in a moment of tranquillity  he plucks a dense, ruffly marigold – like a pom-pom – from a garland and carefully places the entire thing in his mouth, and eats it. Many things about this image speak to me: how he does it entirely without thought, a natural action carried out by his body, or even his soul, while his busy mind is elsewhere. It reveals a certain sweetness and depth to his character, this habit which has remained untouched by the nagging of his mother or his own peevish anxieties or the ridicule of his employees. There is also something magical, I think, about eating flowers. About taking something so beautiful into your mouth, whole. Maybe letting it exist there for a moment, balanced on your tongue in that dark cavern, and then swallowing it into your body.

I lay in bed last night reading “The Satanic Verses” and in the latest chapter we have encountered a woman who eats butterflies; it’s the same thing. Anyhow, I will grow marigolds. I imagine I will eat at least one.

I should abandon this letter for work, but as always when talking to you, a thousand tangents suggest themselves: both the garden and the fact that it is May Day remind me of my favourite family, in London, and many stories about them. The glorious May Day party at their funny little unfinished house in Kodaikanal; the rooftop allotment garden I helped them plant when I visited last summer, surely one of the best things I have ever done for another person; double-decker bus rides and orange trees and dreams of Indian palaces. I wanted to tell you about the crow I saw chasing a black squirrel along the power line, as both squawked and chattered, and about the noise that the poppies at 16th and Ontario made when I ran my fingers over their hairs. It was like a miniature rain stick, the ever-so-slightly brittle spines rattling against each other as I stroked them. The plants were silver-green and each surface was covered with perfect hairs, each one distinct, an impenetrable force field around stem and leaf and bud.

Most of all, maybe, I wanted to tell you about sitting down cross-legged on the warm pavement and smiling, and feeling the spring growth surging up all around me and filling me with the sure knowledge that it will be okay. And that I couldn’t possibly know this without everything I’ve learned over the past year and a half, the fraught eighteen months since I met you, in which perhaps everything went wrong, but actually went right, or, as always in the world, exactly as it had to go. Everything is unknown, as you often try to tell me. But I think maybe I realize it better than you do.

Letters to X. First Letter.

Dear X.

Last night at midnight I said goodbye to you on gmail chat, drank bourbon out of a wine glass, and left my house in my pajamas. I walked down the street alone, past the cherry tree you tried to climb – though you don’t remember it, because you were too drunk. You only know that you tried to climb it because I told you, days later, in Confessional Park. All of its blossoms are gone now, and it is in what I like to think of as the Ugly Duckling phase: straggly weather-beaten petals strewn beneath it, the new leaves unfurling like feathers not yet grown, damp and awkward compared to the glory of the blossom that preceded them.

Walking further, I found another cherry tree and climbed it, quickly, scraping my wrists on the rough bark, finding the familiar footholds in the dark, disappearing into the dark nest of branches. I often escape to trees when I am unhappy and need to feel secure. Physically secure: the high ground. Psychically secure: I am still me, I am defiantly still me, escaping the world of humans and returning to the world of trees. I can run away to somewhere better, if you don’t want me.

In a few seconds I had settled myself in the rough hand of the tree, cushioned by my Cowichan sweater. It was knitted by my mother: another reassurance. Every stitch of the springy, well-worn wool has felt her fingertips. It seems possible to imbue such an object with protection. I will wear this sweater for the rest of my life, and when I die it will still be full of protection, and so much more besides.

From my hideaway I could see the bike route. It is always busy, even at midnight, and I watched the intermittent cyclists whisk by with their backpacks and bike lights and jerky stop-go at the intersection. They didn’t see me, of course. Cloaked in shadow and cradled by branches, burrowed in the heart of the tree with my legs stretched out along the long licheny boughs – even in daylight, nobody looks up. Hair collecting dead blossoms and moss, elbows crooked to make as many points of contact as possible. Not for balance, but simply to be a part of the tree. The day had been windy, outrageously 90 km/hr windy, and now the last breaths swept through the tree, swirling the leaves and ruffling my loose cotton pants around my bare ankles. The waving branches patterned pale streetlight across my arms.

I thought about you. I thought about the mistake I had made that afternoon: reading some of our correspondence from back in the Year of the Quasar, the Flying Squirrel, the Marigold, the Soapberry. The Year of the Early Radish. When everything was Murakami, in the absolute best of ways. It was a mistake to return there. I thought about you and held onto the tree and wondered what I was doing. Gusty midnight in the cherry tree, tin-can-telephones strung out from my heart to a half-dozen houses in this lonely city – including my own – but nobody picking up.

I watched a car pull up beneath my tree and discharge two young women who, laughing, never saw me as they entered the house across the street. Simplicity is easy to imagine in the lives of others.

You don’t like climbing trees, I know, but I have always gone to them for refuge. Maybe it was my earliest means of removing myself before I could be removed.

I’m updating you from here.

Great Dane Coffee, UBC Campus.

I’m updating you from here.

Picture a desk and I’m sweeping everything off of it: Adams peanut butter jars full of pens, a mirror, several potted plants, loose papers, index cards, envelopes, erasers, stray bits of yarn, half-folded paper cranes, stacks of books. Rilke, Neruda, Ginsberg, A Primer of Ecological Statistics (Nick Gotelli, how many lives have you saved?), The Satanic Verses, Spud (and I miss South Africa! I lean back in the chair and look at myself in the mirror and put on a dreadful South African accent, and laugh at myself), a few copies of the New Yorker, each turned to a different page. All of it! SWOOSH and it’s all on the floor, along with a healthy coating of dust.

Who hasn’t updated for months?

What’s an update, anyhow?

I’m drinking coffee and I drink coffee perhaps once every two weeks, nowadays, so I’m anticipating hyperactivity in my near future, likely followed by a hollow sense of unwellbeing. It’s okay: I’ve long since surrendered to my weakness for momentary highs. Meditating (meditating!) in the mornings doesn’t seem to have made an impression on my susceptibility to these brief pleasures.

It is summer now, exams over, and most of the students have left. A few weeks ago it would have been wall-to-wall: frantic undergrads poring over textbooks, coffees flying off the counter and into distracted hands already jittery from caffeine. I wrote a poem once when I was an undergrad which contained the line “adenosine, with its four sharp syllables.” I think of coffee that way, but never tea, though it’s the same drug. Secondary compounds etc. Anyhow, here I am. At the counter sits a group of three men eating toasted sandwiches, perched on stools that seem slightly too small for them. Two are young, one is old, white-haired. Are any of them students? It seems possible that none of them are, which makes me happy.

In the low table next to the door, three young women, undergrads. They have lingered into the broad, indolent, luxurious summer days that I didn’t learn to appreciate until it was too late: the space between the end of school and the beginning of home, where you might loll about in cafes with your friends talking about nothing, or experience a strange possessiveness over the ghost campus. Their plates are empty but they push around the small chocolate crumbs with their forks, rearrange the crumpled napkins, idly discuss their plans to travel home and the adventures of the previous semester. They wear shorts and rest their Toms shoes on the leather armchairs.

I have brought my mouse with me. There seems to be some significance to that.

The girl behind the counter – also Asian – complimented me on my dreadlocks. I didn’t tell her I’m planning to cut them off. It will be good to be ugly for awhile. Confrontational. To be seen in a different way.

Summer! Time to kick out the crutches…

People seen while riding my bicycle around Vancouver

In early April, I bought a bicycle. It is by far the nicest bicycle I’ve ever owned, and the first I’ve had in Vancouver. It has transformed the city for me. I like Vancouver about 150% more now that I experience it on two wheels.

(It troubles me, slightly, how sincerely I’ve slipped into several much-ridiculed Vancouver stereotypes: Vegetarian. Cyclist. Hippie. I don’t do yoga but I wish I did. I don’t own anything from Lululemon but I’m sure I would be helpless in the face of their garments’ superiority, had I the money to buy them. I am trying to eat more quinoa. Go on. Label me! Plaster me with stickers proclaiming what I am, until only my little eyes peek out. It’s okay. I’ve done it too.)

Vancouver is a cyclist-heavy city, with a large and ever-growing network of bike routes. Most days, I ride my bicycle to and from school, which is a 40-50 minute commute each way; a significant time spent traversing these miniature highways of the city. At peak times, the popular bike routes become downright congested. I have friends that choose their routes specifically to avoid the presence of other cyclists. Occasionally I, too, wish that I didn’t have to jockey for position at the stoplights, or debate when and how to pass the just-slightly-slower cyclist in front of me. I wish I didn’t have to hear the approaching chatter of a mob of lycra-clad super-cyclists as they blow past me on hills, or check my speed behind a crew of variously-wheeled dudes that are swooping back and forth across the entire width of the road, glancing indifferently over their shoulders at the traffic behind them. Sometimes the best thing in the world is an empty road.

But then I would never see the characters. And this is one of the best parts of Vancouver’s bike routes, for me: you speed down the quiet backstreets along with hundreds of other people that are in some way your kindred, and many of them are very interesting. Straight-up crazy. Eccentric to say the least. Or, simply, gorgeous. At the very least, most of them fit into some characteristic subset of Vancouver Cyclists, and there’s always a pleasure in being able to catalogue and recognize. It’s like birdwatching. To name something, and name it again and again as you encounter it. To order your world, and in ordering it perceive the more complicated depths and details.

Sometimes I’ll ride slowly on purpose, just to keep ogling or eavesdropping. Some people I never see again; some people I’ll see over and over again as we both make the same commute day after day. Do they recognize me? We all look up at each other as we flash by, scanning for a familiar face or a potential mate, smiling or scowling with the effort of the ride. The camaraderie, somehow, is much greater than that of pedestrians. Or perhaps it’s simply boldness. We can look into each other’s faces as openly and shamelessly as we like, our curiosity bald-faced and our own expressions unrehearsed, carved more by the wind than by our social graces; in a second we’ll be carried past by swift two-wheeled momentum. There’s none of the awkward eternal seconds of the pedestrian approach, the uncomfortable inner monologue of look at them.  no,  look away.  am I creepy for looking?… is it offensive if I DON’T look? are they smiling? should I smile? do I KNOW that person? are they flirting? is that flattering or offensive? eye contact no eye contact eye contact no eye contact WHEW they’re gone. On a bike the other person is half a block behind you before you can even start to worry about these things. We look at each other with frank curiosity as we fly past.

……. Later: actual people seen while riding my bike.