Saturday, 24 June 2017

Well, Here's One Way to Respond to Homelessness: A Friend in Need

I somehow didn't realize that a friend of mine had ended up where we all don't want to be, and where I have actively worried about being for the last year since my building sold--homeless. Now she has started a gofundme page to help get out of the homeless shelter with the overconfident mice. (Read more!)

May I introduce the lovely (and funny, and very good at swearing, though she doesn't do it here) Sam Whyte, who asks, "Help Me Back To Orange Street". (But where, we may ask, is Orange Street, exactly?)


Help Me Back To Orange Street

Well, this is awkward. No, it’s more than awkward, it’s an abdication of dignity and I really hope you wont think too badly of me. I left a very solid and dependable field of employment to do something stupid and frivolous for less money. It was great and I don’t regret it, except there’s no sick pay. If you are occasionally laid up and unable to do owt then it’s the difference between poverty and penury.
I’m loathe mention "charitable work"; firstly because you don't give your labour freely then assume to get something back; secondly because I know a lot of you will object, as I do, to the notion we should only help those who've been fortunate enough to be in a position to make a contribution in the past. But if it helps my case ...

I have happily done lots of community work alongside paid work; I have done free research, policy, and copy writing for the LGBT Foundation and additional digital support work for Mind ; I even kept a digital peer support project going on a voluntary basis after the funding ended because I was really committed to it . Now I need some help back and it bloody kills me to ask for it, but ask for it I must ...

As some of you may know my flat was sold by my landlord late last year after they went into administration and I had to put my possessions into storage. I am currently staying in a room in a council hostel with most of my things in a storage container.

Staying in these conditions has been incredibly difficult and my mental health has suffered to the point where I cannot work enough to put any money aside. I need  some money to get a flat deposit sorted and get my possessions, furniture and white goods out of storage.

Living out of a hostel in unsustainable in the long term and has such a negative impact on my health that I'm currently caught in a vicious circle.

It's shit. It's SO shit. There's no wifi and a grotty kitchen and bathroom I share with 12 other women. Not only are there mice crawling about, they seem in no way fazed by humans. I'm struggling to live in the same environment as over-confident mice. I feel like Robert Smith in the Lullaby video, only less compellingly sexy and with literally no musical accompaniment.

If you are able to help I would be extremely grateful. If not then that's completely cool too.

Much love,


Thursday, 22 June 2017

“To Eva on the Day of Your Surgery” (Poem by Casey)

where I sit
sun scatters wide
through sky and window
over smooth blonde wood

this streetside café
just me and pen and you
in my thoughts

where are you now
consulting with the anaesthetist
scribbled on by your surgeon
whose sure hands soon will
hold you
fold you back
and nick
where nick is needed
where knit is wanted
fold you in again

are you ladled yet onto the gurney
smoothed out on the cot
is your breathing easy

I see it easy
the sun’s fair light
finding you somehow
easing you

are you sleeping gently
anxiety a million miles away
are the stones and sun and stars
silent in your dreamscape
your heart strong
your heart strong

have you wakened
turned your head
looked about
are the drugs still playing games
with equilibrium and thought

have you seen our eyes yet
smiling      weeping
joyful      worried       loving eyes
all pleased to see you
waking up

do you know the love
a strong thick woolen blanket
scratchy      caring
swaddled round you

you are always loved
all and always loved
heartbeat strengthening
heartbeat deepening
your tender organ
filled now with our
reciprocating love

sleep now      Eva
rest and grow
we will be here
when you wake

copyright: Casey June Wolf, 2015.
Image: “Medical staff and female patient”, Wellcome Images, file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Internationallicense.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Thanks Be To Writers

I am aware that I have been neglecting this blog. Not that I expect anyone but you, Pat, to actually read it but still, the blog arose out of a desire to simply write, just for the love of it, or to offer some piece of writing that inspired me--to somehow acknowledge once a month that writing is a beautiful act, often one of healing, often one of outcry, sometimes (though I try to avoid this sort) of revenge.

I spent a number of days last week on Bowen Island, resting in the bosom of a quiet room, windows that looked out on mountains, trees, a small stretch of ocean, and even occasionally on deer. A bathtub beckoned me after walks in the woods or on the labyrinth. (One of those days--no, two--my labyrinth walks involved children bouncing along peering up to see how I'd react. It is amazing how grounded one can be in walking meditation even with all that ululation and dashing about, but even so I permitted them a small smile if they got right inside my tiny circle of attention. There is a line between focus and foolishness.)

I wrote no poems while there, though I did write a simple hymn, and worked easily on its melody a few times over the days. If having it become a brainworm is success, then, well--success!

I was very anxious when I got there. Somehow this housing thing is really eating away at me. Having the island to go to to bargain a few days of respite from my despairing brain is a real godsend. By day four I could feel actual calm beginning to surface. By day five, well, it was time to prepare to go home, and the calm evaporated in a cloud of tears. But.

Writing prevailed. Not mine, but that of others. I read a novel while I was there, but also spent time with a number of other books--Thich Nhat Hanh's How To Relax, via Overdrive (ebook through the library system), Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth (beautiful and ugly; audiobook via Overdrive), the Autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (this one really got me missing my gramma), and most particularly In Age Reborn, by Grace Sustained: One Woman's Journey Through Aging and Chronic Illness by Sister Thelma-Anne McLeod.

This book reached me on a number of levels, in part because the illness she suffered was Parkinson's, which killed my grandfather in the 1980s and which at the time I was too scared to learn much about. (Instead, I put my courage into getting myself to visit him when I was so afraid of losing him I was inclined to bury my head in the sand instead.) Her thoughtful examination of her physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles in response to the illness was gripping and illuminating. (Her sense of humour, humility, and pride were a delight, as well.)

I was surprised, though, by how much of her experience of chronic illness and the emotional turmoil that comes with it reflected my own. I tend to discount my illnesses and blame myself for the limitations in my life. Seeing her grapple so courageously and publicly with things I have endured for so long was a shock but also an inspiration. And some of the deeper lessons she drew from her grapplings struck me resoundingly, as well. So, the gift of grace, borrowed from others, helped me through another week.

Many thanks to the authors whose joy, sorrow, and wisdom touched me over these days.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Stunning Photo of (Saint Francis?)

Reminds me of him, anyway, Saint Francis. Preaching to the birds. What a gorgeous shot, Raimond. Thank you for making it available on Wikimedia.

Sgraffito am Haus Schadowstraße 7, Köln-Neuehrenfeld

© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Jenny Kwan Responds (Housing Crisis)

I posted Jenny Kwan's initial response to my letter about housing and poverty in Vancouver. I will add the links to that and to the original posting below. But I heard from her again today, and here is what she said:

Message body

Original post: Housing: Guess Who Pays the Price?
First response: Housing: the Responses; the Process; the Fear

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Feet in the Earth, Head in the Sky

Still Creek Community Garden 2015

I lurched home, dress drenched and sticking to my calves, groceries bundled protectively in my arms, garden paraphenalia and leftover seeds stored soaking in my pack. Stripping at the door, I emptied my pack on the floor, left the food where I dropped it, pegged the pack up on my Get Kist Here! corner-grocery door-push, hung my coat and hat to dry, and climbed into the shower to rub down my chilled torso and my beet pink legs. When I could bear the torment of my attentions no more (that skin is sensitive when parboiled by rain and friction), I rubbed down, put on two long dresses, thick-knit wrist warmers, a shawl, a cable knit sweater, and a pair of thermal socks. I couldn’t stick my socked feet into my wooly slippers, or I would have done that, too. Two prophylactic vitamin C tablets later, I put on the stove the last of my homemade black bean and barley soup (featuring hunks of my winter parsnip, still delicious and hearty despite their months under snow), and started peeling open seed packets to dry—soaked through, most of them, despite being kept in a ziploc bag and under an umbrella at the community garden through the four hours I worked there today, because the hands that kept going into them were undryable.

That done, I planted the accidentally remaining scarlet runner beans (two) in one of my balcony pots, threw my dress in a soapy sinkful of water to soak, washed my garden tools, set my muddy gardening gloves and sleeve protectors aside for later attention (triage!), cleaned the mud off my boots and left them to dry for later application of mink oil. Peeled apart the leaves of my notebook so they wouldn’t dry glued together, redid my sketch of the new plantings on a fresh piece of paper, divided my groceries into that-which-is-coming-with-me-to-Bowen-Island-tomorrow and that-which-stays-in-Vancouver-to-get-the-homefires-burning-when-I-return, boxed, bagged and put away, and at last sat down with my bowl of hot, wonderful soup.

I have not had so much fun in a coon’s age.

My limbs are trembling. I keep mistyping because my fingers are ungovernable. My back swears vengeance. My skin threatens to peel off, dessicated from the continuous rain and being plunged repeatedly into the earth. (There’s only so much you can do with your hands protected. Sooner or later, if you will pardon the expression, the gloves have got to come off.)

What did I do today to cause such heartiness in the face of apparent discomfort?

I tended my gardens. I tended our garden. I met new community garden members and talked with old, learning more about them and loving them all.

This morning I finally got the home garden sprinkled with organic fertilizer before dashing with Mary to StillCreek Community Garden for our first work party of the year. I got about an hour’s work in my own beds done before the “party” started: string strung to demarcate sections, seeds swapped with Mary, lupines inspected (I fear losses), potatos and garlic babies planted, and I forget what-all-else before my maintenance crew-boss Lucia arrived and we got chatting, then Clélie, bless her, and a big hug and introductions to new folk (whose names I won’t venture at the moment), and then the gathering up of fallen cottonwood limbs, the weeding of communal beds, (the chatting, the chatting), the back groaning, the back groaning, whispered love-words to horsetail and buttercup and dandelions as I dug them up, apologies to cursing earthworms, to sadly hacked back blackberries (though I defended them, I did, against complete removal: the birds need them more than we don’t), and hot Tim’s coffee and Timbits (ahhh...), till at last I declared myself done with the work party and returned to my beds.

Then it was figuring, plotting, planting, covering, and praying. Have you ever tried to plant a garden when you are dripping wet and the deluge continues all around you? I thanked India for those nice big nasturtium seeds (heirloom Indian, apparently), and mourned the frail tiny mixed lettuces, who glued to my hands in the sprinkling and were, like the rest, unceremoniously brushed off of me and onto the earth, roughly and lightly covered over with numb fingertips, watched by crossing eyes that were barely able to make them out through my bifocals, and left to fend for themselves with only a single defunct Adobe Acrobat CD turning wistfully from a string over the kale, the leeks, the spinach, and the chard.

Those words! Delicious. My tongue tastes them as I speak; my teeth feel their texture and their crunch.

I went nuts this year, perhaps with increasing confidence, as I manage to harvest something every Gardener’s Question Time while unable to do more but watch my hardy kale die mouldering in the snow and my hardier Gladiator parsnips unmoveable in the frozen ground. (Next year, my pretties, there will be burlap around you, or at least a little cardboard, so I can wiggle out a root or two in the Dark Times.)
Katherine Laflamme, 2017.
Still Creek Community Garden Facebook page
season, perhaps with increasing recklessness as I recall the many unviable or at least violated plants that never made the light, perhaps with the sap-lust of many months listening to

Back to the words:

Have you ever heard such beautiful words in your life?

I know, then I forget, then I remember again, that I am never happier than when I am tending a wee plant or animal, or indeed a massive plant or animal. I don’t care what kind. There is no weed, no pest to me, although I do sometimes have to negotiate, if you get my drift, and urge other pastures on my associates. But I truly love them all, and when I am able to spend time with them, joy runs through me like sap through leaves.

A few years ago my neighbour Darnelle urged me to join a community garden, which she had done and which was bringing her such happiness. I thought I didn’t feel like doing that. Too much work, too many rules, and besides, I don’t know a thing about gardening. Then Darnelle died and I kept looking at her neglected plot and I kept thinking, I wonder.

The next year I faced cancer. I spent a while dealing with that and where it was not a mortal blow, gras a Dye, it scared the pants off me. After a few months of dealing with that I had the thought that I would like to grow something more life-giving than cancer cells, so I asked for and miraculously got a place in a community garden. I was very cautious at first, shy of the people and shy in my planting, because I knew so little, and worried so much.

Is it five years later now? Something like that. And that plot, now two plots, has sustained me in many more ways than gustatorially in that time, growing in importance every year, roots growing out from it, through me, into the community that welcomed me, so that the food I get from it is not only for my body, but for my soul, not only for me as an individual, but as part of a world.

One of the first things I planted was a purple tulip given me by my friend Kathy, who died of her own cancer three years ago. I see today their leaves strong and their buds on the verge of opening. (That one tulip is now two.) And they link me back to her and all we went through, all she went through, all the people who helped, who tended our garden of the heart along the way.

Parsnips, tulips. Marigolds, “weeds”. The earthworms I had to dig up from other places and slowly introduce. The rain. The cottonwoods. The peace.

It really is a community garden. And I am so grateful I have a place in it.


Images:  Casey Wolf and Katherine Laflamme

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Lovely Note

Opened my email to this. How sweet.

  Dear Casey, 

  I'm going to bed with an irrepressible smile on my face,  
  because I've just read The Ziz. How wonderful your stories
  are. Thank you. 

  I hope something's bringing you such joy. 



This did, Kaitlyn. Thanks.

(She is of course referring to Finding Creatures & Other Stories.)