Bath Bombs at Last

Putting bath-bomb enjoyment on hold for six months does not rate highly as an example of noteworthy sacrifice during a pandemic. However, from March to August of this year, it made me sad every time I saw the lovely non-violent bombs (a Christmas present from my sister-in-law) languishing in the bathroom cabinet.

Without access to a spacious lounging bath at home, I usually count on hotel rooms with tubs to provide ideal conditions for foamy immersion in swirls of moisturizing colour. During this unreliable year of ordinary expectations dashed, travel restrictions grounded my bath bombs on the shelf, turning them into symbols of the luxurious freedoms that I had previously indulged in without a thought.

On July 31st, Ontario entered Stage 3 of re-opening from lockdown, and I celebrated by planning a trip within the province, vowing, “I must not take this privilege for granted ever again!” The chosen destination was Bancroft, and I booked a motel for five days near the end of August.

When the day of the road trip arrived, I carefully packed the four bath bombs that had remained inactive for so long. Upon settling into the motel, excursions to Silent Lake Provincial Park, Papineau Lake, Egan Chutes, and downtown Bancroft took place in the days that followed, and evenings were devoted to long soaking sessions in playful combinations of fizzing blues, purples, yellows, and pinks.

On the last day of the holiday, bittersweet satisfaction accompanied the ceremonial dropping of the fourth unexploded bathing-device in the tub (indigo with gold stars) before fully packing up for departure. Never had I appreciated with such fervour the deferred pleasure of travel, motel life, and a return to decadent bathing.

Mechanics of Forgiveness (2019)

Neither smooth nor automatic,

the mechanics of forgiveness

clank fist-first into the soil

broken by a rusty plow

that moves so slowly

it strains to finish the first row.

Forgiveness is not a miracle.

It is work to be done

and redone as the seasons cycle.

It requires the engagement of gears,

calls for the mallet, the shovel, the hoe

to smash resistant brick

and stony clods of dirt

with the energy locked

into coils of resentment.

Muscular labour turns the wheel,

pulls up the choking nettles,

and digs a clearing for rain,

for seedlings,

for tenderness to grow.

Say yes to this employment.

Grab the tools from the shed.

Go.

Thistle Seeds of Kindness (2020)

A single fluffy nipple detaches itself

from the bed of its closely-nestled siblings

and rises free to ride a forest updraft,

sail the length of three trees,

and land in the crook of a sister thistle.

This flight so miraculous, so matter of fact,

is the work of gossamer gliders

that carry their freight of weighty seeds,

trusting the wind to lift and distribute them.

Ghost stars that surrender to be drifted,

flung into the future,

they commit to move beyond limits,

beyond expected life-spans,

and beyond the hope of praise or reward.

Without guarantee of fulfillment,

the feathery travelers are like wishes

blown from hushed candles to the ears of gods,

cotton lyres tuned to spiritual chords

that call for exquisite listeners.

So also, when the smallest compassionate action

leaves the nest of our minds

and vaults into the loom of the world,

connective strands weave a furrow

for the sowing of kinship and love.

Like the time the guest met a grieving daughter

at her cousin’s wedding and said,

“My older brother was your dad’s friend forty years ago,

and I used to tag along with this teenage crowd.

Your dad showed me how to dribble and shoot a basketball,

taking the time to coach me when the others didn’t bother.

I never forgot that.”

No matter how worn from the telling,

threads spun from memories of empathy

go home smiling into the unknown,

illuminated pilgrims with the power

to comfort a yet unborn daughter

whose father lives again in the story

of a kindness that defies death

and returns to bless the living.

For a legacy can be borne lightly through the air —

almost weightless —

but land with the density of possibilities,

such as the seeding of fiercely-protected blossoms

by aerial beings with no ability to steer,

zen pilots who abandon all control.

As for the daughter at the wedding,

she is too old to conceive a child,

but her heart still connects to the open fields

where compassionate deeds

land silently with the sweet rain today

but echo with glad harvest for generations.

May the beloved descendants

one day trumpet the creation of heaven on Earth.

May they transform narrow conceptions of family

to cultivate wide communities whose deep bonds testify,

We are all of love-bearing age.

Sidewalk Glacier (2019)

The slick gray humps —

shadows of glorious glacial whales of old —

have ebbed from cycles of freeze and thaw and rain

to create islands of receding winter.

From January to March,

these masses have shrunk,

slunk much lower to the edges

of the sidewalk by the cemetery.

Saturated with soot and exhaust,

the sullen ice-beasts resist the warmer air

and clutch at soggy remnants of broken

plastic spoons, cigarettes, and coffee cup lids.

It’s not time to release caution and rejoice in change,

for the evidence of a harsh season

still lies in gritty drifts on the ground.

Spring is not to be fully trusted

because she hasn’t earned it this long winter.

Nevertheless,

see how this reticent mistress has lifted

the curled edges of sidewalk ice

so that currents of rippling melt-water lift the floes,

stirring hopes we guard like hungry seeds.

Ragged (2020)

What’s left of me is ragged lace,

more absence than presence,

gnawed upon but not consumed.

I forbid you to pity me.

If you impose sympathy

with those I’m sorry for you eyes,

wholesale disdain will meet your gaze.

Instead, reach below O poor leaf!

to ask yourself ‘Where am I torn?’

‘Who would recognize me if they knew

how fragile the web is that holds my flesh together?’

Once you have opened the gate

that isolates my suffering from yours,

I will accept empathy from you.

But only then, mind.

I might even tell you about the time

I believed romance meant total surrender.

And you can describe the trusted beloved

who professed support but undermined from within.

As we share stories side by side on the forest floor,

let’s strengthen our arteries together,

arching them upward without apology,

neither holding the heartstrings hostage

nor concealing our corporate wounds.

Farlinger Ravine Loop Poem (2017)

Meet me at Farlinger Ravine,

Ravine west of Kennedy Road by the Dollarama,

Dollarama that conceals the lost banks of Taylor Massey Creek,

Creek that is witnessed from this rusty bridge.

This bridge where I loll at the rail and examine,

examine the sticky burrs on my mittens,

mittens that spell “Love” on my knuckles,

knuckles that soften with warmth as the sun rises,

rises to lavish its image on the stream.

Stream of Farlinger where youths from the shelter,

they shelter under maples, entwine limbs on fallen logs,

logs that block the narrow path to the culvert.

This culvert that thunders in storms, eases the stink of sewage,

sewage that swirls over submerged shopping carts,

carts from Giant Tiger, condoms, and Tim Hortons cups,

cups whose rims did not win.

Win next spring, maybe, but today ice curls at the edges of flow,

flow of water that plays with the sun’s colours,

colours of frozen glass in red, purple, and silver,

silver that polishes the depths of Farlinger Ravine.

Partly Frozen: Leaf’s Lament

A screen of ice has pinned my body to a puddle.

Caught between the surface and the depths,

my fluted edges have been numbed and blurred,

robbing me of external definition.

The blessed sun has melted my face to visibility,

fooling casual viewers with its tawny cheer.

In fact, the roots of my smile do not reach the deepest veins,

which await the entire body’s liberation

from constraining clutches of fear.

Testifying to repressed power,

iced etchings echo the shapes of submerged wings,

wavy carvings that design their whims

as they skate on the very surface they groove.

The stem lives in contradiction;

part of it captured in ice

but the tail released from confinement.

Not gripped by the dark blue crystals,

nor defined by white scratches,

this licensed grace heartens me,

strengthens my desire for freedom

to be lifted whole from this chill bed.

Hopeful of return to movement,

the blood irrigates polar and temperate veins alike

whether I believe in restoration or not.

If I desire to be more fully alive,

I must warm and be warmed –

reviving faith in winter’s promised end.

Celebrating the Seasons: Haikus by Ellen Jaffe in Response to Photographs by Catherine Raine

Taylor Massey Creek (2017)

Tree branches, blue sky

reflected in melting ice —  

winter hieroglyphics.

Wexford Woods (2017)

Fractal patterns,

webs of connection,

forest’s neurons awake.

Port Union Waterfront (2020)

Branches stretching out

over cold morning waves

sunlight glints on stones.

Lord Roberts Woods (2017)

Bluebells in spring,

spring into life,

forest wakes in mute beauty.

Taylor Creek Trail (2020)

Reeds stand sentinel,

green and straight against a wavy background —

one moment in a changing world.

Taylor Creek Trail (2020)

Cormorant on a stump,

its shadowy image

echoed in still water —

listening, watching, waiting for a sign.

Banks of Highland Creek (2020)

Wildflowers nestling

by a fallen fence — sweet colour

on this spring morning.

Morning Glory, 2020

Tilting its delicate head

the morning glory listens

to the world’s song . . . and silence.

Tree Shelter in North York (2020)

Tree-shapes sheltering

this quiet forest clearing —

a splash of sunlight.

Wilket Creek, 2018

Sparkling light in the darkness

shower of stars

fallen

down to earth.

Fall in Ottawa (2018)

Dewdrops on a leaf,

red, yellow, dark purple

expanded moments, radiant.

Montréal’s Mount Royal (2019)

Profusion of golden leaves

reflections in the stream —

The world is a narrow bridge

we need to cross.

(Note: italicized words from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav)

The Saint of the Lake (2017) with Recording by Sean Mc Dermott

The saint of the lake sits high in a sequoia

that grows from an ait kissed by mild waves.

Alone yet expansive, the art of silence

presses the holy woman’s heart between two ferns,

releasing notes of dried clover, cornflower, and marigold.

Rain begins and the saint stirs, prays and praises

the blesséd cover of a thick branch overhead,

its tough bark more waterproof than a nimbus.

Though distance obscures the hermit’s face,

one brown palm is visible against the green.

Cupping the rainfall has awakened her birthing sense,

and she is listening to the tadpoles’ legs emerging,

the fox lining her den with leaves for the coming kits,

and the egg-teeth of baby finches tapping their shells into openness,

their long embryonic wait almost at an end.

When the creased cup of the saint’s hand overflows,

she empties its reservoir with a dancing turn of the wrist.

Backing closer to the tree’s broad column,

she gathers heels into the thighs’ shelter

and circles warm knees with her arms.

Breathing into the curled nest of a compassionate self,

she sleeps in Love, heartbeats lapping in sync

with the lake’s gentle rhymes deep below.

Highland Creek Park on a June Afternoon

Just behind Cedar Ridge Creative Centre, a steep switchback trail leads me to the west bank of Highland Creek, where tall grasses sway beside a sandy bank with cheerful stones below. As I continue along the narrow path beside the bank, I stop to photograph an elegant monarch butterfly before moving into deeper tree cover beyond.

I soon come to a tributary of the stream that is flowing much more slowly. Thanks to its shallowness, I can cross by hopping on the most stable stones. As I pause on the series of stepping-stones to survey the next viable perch, I experience moments of flowing water, such as a chartreuse leaf bathing in the stillness.

Although sunlight struggles to filter through the thick canopy, the very steep bank offers a vision of hopefulness in grasses that are beginning their rooted stance, a scrap of sky above, and more tree leaves arching over the negative space. I have the sense of inhabiting a cut-out furrow or deep groove in an earthy canyon, transforming me into a creature who has been given the option of crawling up and out from a den.

And I do just that, scrambling up the bank with the steadying aid of roots and branches for balance. I emerge onto the manicured openness of Scarborough Golf Club, owner of the footbridge I had glimpsed in a clearing on a previous walk. After I observe a few treasures of the golf course, including a short boardwalk in a marshy area, a group of four irises, and an apiary, I return to the creek’s edge. Then I retrace my steps to the departure point of my hike on this lambent June afternoon.

Healing with the Arts Journal

Journal Cover
Detail from Journal Cover
Detail from Journal Cover
Journal Page Collage
Journal Page
Journal Page
Mandala Assignment (before I coloured it in)
Mandala Assignment (after I coloured it in)
Journal Page
Journal Page Collage with Rumi Quote
“You Are the Honored Guest” (Rumi)
Detail from “You Are the Honored Guest” (Rumi)
Detail from “You Are the Honored Guest” (Rumi)
Connective Solitude (Journal Page)
Chains of Disconnection, Catherine Raine 2020

Sample Chapter from Visualizations for Heartbreak: Words, Photographs, and Collages by Catherine Raine

Anguish

Your anguish is a force, a separate soul that cries out for solace and remedy. Although I have some medicine for you, I cannot restore the beloved person who abandoned you without warning. Into this void, my voice may drop like a stone.

A picture containing animal, food, standing, cake

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It hurts to see you cry, face in your hands, unable to sleep, eat, or even feel real. Dizzy from the shock of desertion, each second refuses to pass, remains incomplete. Your injured heart has lost its rhythm and your movements seem leaden, as if masses of melted tar are dragging your arms down every time you lift a glass.

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While your body slows to glacial time, brain activity accelerates to epidemic levels as you struggle to comprehend this alien reality that cannot be happening but is happening anyway. Like a never-ending game of tether ball, your thoughts spin faster and faster into smaller and tighter circles, shackled by panic to the iron fact of loss.

A picture containing riding, wave, water, surfing

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If I had the power to heal you, I would gather the softest banana leaves in creation and soak them thoroughly in shea butter. Then I’d wrap them round your head to cool and cradle your brain, drawing out the poison of self-punishing thoughts, soothing the pain, and smoothing the wrinkled loops of endless tormenting questions.

A close up of a green plant

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For your heart-wounds, I offer a poultice composed of clay, feathers, and ferns to press against your chest as if in prayer. The heart-poultice cannot mend the cracks, but it honors them with love and witnesses the agony of brokenness.

A painting of a person

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A picture containing table, indoor

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And for your whole body, a pool has been sunk into the cursèd room that most haunts you with memories. The pool is not very wide — the width of three ordinary bathtubs — but it is fathoms deep. The sides and bottom of the pool are made of peat-black marble, turning the water so dark that it gathers you into oblivion. When you sink into this personal well, the only things you experience are the present sensations of cool healing water, your steady breath, and the kind red beating of your heart.

(To purchase an ebook version of Visualizations for Heartbreak in its entirety for $10, please contact the author at cafrinie@yahoo.ca)