I remember the sound…

I can see my breath in the air as my gloved hands fumble for the play button. I’m indoors, if you can call the space between two rusted and dented white sheets of metal indoors, but it will take over half an hour for the slow and chugging heat to fill the car. By that time, I’ll almost be home. For now, I have a hat, gloves and a new mix CD to keep me warm.

The first few bars fill the car as I pull out of the parking lot. Already, I can feel myself relaxing, easing into the sense of rightness that this song instantly creates in me. I have never listened to it before but it feels like I have been hearing it my whole life. Of course it exists. So perfect, it fills my heart and head and leaves me unable to imagine the time, short minutes ago, before I’d heard it.

How pale is the sky that brings forth the rain
As the changing of seasons prepares me again
For the long bitter nights and the wild winter’s day
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away…

photo by me

Over the next four years, I would listen to the CD hundreds of times. I would cycle through relationships with each song, love and boredom interchangeably. Always changing with my mood, with my age, with my life. But two songs would remain, too perfect to fade.

And every time I hear those chords I’m taken back to that cold December day, shivering in the old Sunfire we lovingly called Blanche, my soul melting into the piano, violin and Allison Krauss’ beautiful voice. My heart hooked on each word that told it’s own story.

I remember. I remember the sound of November and December, the melancholy created by that time of year, a juxtaposition of holiday joy and sadness. I remember a 5am bus to Toronto, watching the rain against the window. I remember the first lines of a song.

I should know who I am by now
I walk the record stand somehow
Thinking of winter
The name is the splinter inside me, while I wait…

I should know who I am by now. The words haunt me still. Each year I’m brought back to this song and the fact that I do not know. I remember thinking that I was following that path, on the road to figuring it out. Who I am. What I want. Where I belong.

This November I feel even further from this. The song has changed again, and it is now a dull ache reminding me that I have not gotten far on this journey, that I’ve been derailed or detoured or taken too many breaks and now I’m too late. Or that maybe I was going the wrong way all along and I’m not even close anymore.

photo of my sister, by me

The first song is Get Me Through December by Allison Krauss, the second is Winter by Joshua Radin. The mix CD, which I call the December CD, was a gift from my Dad and remains one of my favourite presents ever.


As I sit here, once again writing a blog post instead of an essay, I wonder why it is we fall into the same patterns. New country, new school, new degree - same old Heather, not quite willing to commit to anything. Not quite willing to try harder.

I also wonder why it’s so easy to forget the things you love in the world. How do we get those blinders on that don’t let you see anything but what you hate? How do I forget to sing? How do I forget to tell the people I love how I really feel? How do I forget to explore, and sit instead in my bedroom with the same old fears and inadequacies?

It’s easy to stay stuck, no matter where you are in the world or who you’re with. It’s harder to remember where hope is.


I’ve been listening to Regina Spektor’s Loveology on repeat today.

Porcupine-ology, antler-ology,
Car-ology, bus-ology,
Train-ology, plane-ology,
Mama-ology, papa-ology,
You-ology, me-ology, love-ology,
Kiss-ology, stay-ology, please-ology…

I’m sorry-ology,
Forgive me-ology,
Love-ology, love-ology…

I started thinking: what is the most powerful word in the English language? I mean, surely words have so much power - ask Plato, Ovid, Descartes, Marx. One word can represent so much to so many people. Words are dangerous and words can be our salvation. And words… their millions of different meanings that aren’t defined in a dictionary, that grow with a person and all they absorb from the culture around them… that’s what makes the difference between simply studying and truly understanding a language. That’s what I love about words, their very fluid nature.

How about faith? What does it mean? Religion? Taking chances? Trust? Leap of faith. Blind faith. It’s such a charged word - powerful for being misunderstood as much as understood.

What about please? Please stay, please don’t go, please help. Please.

Love? Surely one of the most loaded words in our vocabulary. We squeal I love you! from excitement to near strangers but hesitate at using the word with a partner. Because it means more then just affection, it means commitment. But that’s not in the dictionary definition at all.

Peace? If you’re living somewhere where war is a constant reality, surely peace is powerful. I mean, Augustus gained control of the entire Roman Empire with the words pax Romana - the Roman peace.

Or is war more powerful? Hate? Fear? Does power come from consequence? How about terrorism? That’s a word our media is happy to throw around in the last couple of decades, completely changing the meaning of words like insurgent and democracy.

Hate is constantly perpetrated by words. The first step to racism, homophobia, sexism and any bigotry is the creation of a word that separates one group from another. Just think about the power behind those words. Can any of them be matched by peace or equality or acceptance?

When I got my first tattoo I chose a word, because, for me, words are eternal. You can’t tire of a word because it’s meaning to you is always changing. Because it represents so much. I can think of at least five different things that the word imagine means to me right now, and a handful of others that it’s meant to me in the past.

I asked for a thesaurus for my birthday one year. I used to pick a word at random and just write about it. In poetry form, usually. Eventually, I would find a way to bring my exploration of the word back to the way I was feeling that day. It wasn’t hard, because it’s all in how you interpret it.

So, I ask you, what do you think is the most powerful word in the English language?


All I’ve got is
and rainbow coloured socks
and shaking hands
and a few words
black and blue and red
Faded jeans and a t-shirt
and goose bumps on my arms
and hair that’s red and brown and blonde
and blue eyes lined in black
An affinity for fiction
and a love for music
and yellow walls
and castles in the clouds
and cat hair on my pillow
A guitar pick in my pocket
and two cents
and all I’ve got is
and letters on the floor

Autumn Storms

Red leaves on burning bushes dot the hillside
Passing through the window in the blink of an eye
A litany of empty thoughts floating by in the clouds
And every time I fail to pin them to the page

Tire tracks line the cracked and dirty roads
A speed that offers no heroes or villains
Simply the endless fight to catch one’s breath
Strapped in facing forward, but looking back

The distance offers little more than mountains
Beautiful and looming in their silent solitude
Painted in shades of red and orange for fall
Unflinching, they send roads the long way ’round

The sun sets and colours the sky to match the trees
A spectacular finale with which to end the show
Without applause or heavy curtain’s fall
It quickly fades itself to shadow’s hue

A second set of stars shine for me alone
Looking up through eyelashes that sparkle
Like tears, they blur the stars and meld to one
As if I’m seeing it all through Van Gogh’s eyes

If I should falter or maybe lose my way
Perhaps take off my shoes and rest for a day
Would the road remain or be washed away
When autumn storms roll through the hills?

I’ve decided that I’m going to start posting some of my old poetry. The ones I liked when I wrote them and don’t hate now. This one actually won me a poetry contest and $75.