1. Mary Lou van Schaik

    A holy string of losses

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    5
    This week, we buried our last and oldest cat. Closing in on 18 years of age, Henry survived all the other strays who arrived to huddle against our front door. Fast cars on our country road, disease, and probably a hungry fisher claimed the lives of Martha, Max, Arthur, Freddy...
  2. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Wind, water, stone

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    3
    This past September, I spent a week solo hiking the Pembrokeshire West Coast Trail in western Wales. Each day, moments of intense visceral joy shot through me as I beheld the stunning landscape and savoured the pleasure of my solitude. To my left, the wide sea and its constantly changing...
  3. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Eye-gazing with an owl

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    5
    The other day, while I was hiking through the forest, a barred owl rose suddenly from a clump of mossy logs on the side of the trail. It launched itself in an upward diagonal across my path and settled on a branch of a nearby maple tree. Turning about to...
  4. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Kinship, past and present

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    6
    The heavy heat of the night combined with sporadic coughing from the tail end of a summer cold makes it difficult to sleep. I lean against propped pillows and resign myself to fitful dosing. Slipping into a quiet stoic mood, I rest my interlaced fingers against my stomach and, as...
  5. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Loneliness: the gift of love

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    7
    I miss my husband John more than I had expected. The house is too quiet, the cats too cautious, the meals too boring. No, he hasn’t died. He’s off canoeing with friends in the wilds of northern Ontario. Usually I love being on my own when John’s away, basking in...
  6. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Trembling uncertainty

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    5
    My mother was an accomplished worrier. She had an amazing capacity to fret, especially about anything to do with her children. I used to tease her about it, telling her she could worry if she wanted to, but that her worrying would not change anything. Whenever I said this, Mom...
  7. Mary Lou van Schaik

    The long breath of stone

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    6
    Once looked at, how can I stop looking? How can I not imagine this ancient boulder alive? I am sitting on the hillside next to an old large rock that I’ve nicknamed “Resting Bison” although looking at it more closely, the boulder resembles a bison’s head more than its general...
  8. Mary Lou van Schaik

    A poem for Pete

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    9
    One month ago, my younger brother Pete and I stood in his kitchen, waiting for the stove-top espresso machine to bubble up our coffee. Pete was breathing through an oxygen tube, which ran down the front of his T-shirt and snaked along the floor behind him to the tank. He...
  9. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Alive in each other’s company

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    6
    On a recent Saturday morning, I spoke poems to passersby at our village market. My booth held two blue lawn chairs with grey cushions, a small table graced with autumn flowers – bright orange zinnias and yellow sunflowers, and a shallow hand-woven basket filled with poem cards, all face-down. As...
  10. Mary Lou van Schaik

    Lakes so blue and far

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    6
    I’m paddling with my sweetheart in Quetico Provincial Park, a canoeist’s paradise located northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Practically every year for more than 20 years, John and I have driven the 1900-some kilometers from our home to paddle the lakes and rivers of Quetico with good friends. For various...