Rediscovering the Poetess Inside

"Wine is Bottled Poetry"

“Wine is Bottled Poetry”

My book writing, of recent, is augmented by poetry that keeps pouring out of or through me, inspired by images, sensations, and various approaches to life that I am exploring. I experiment with translations, usually from English to Polish or French, occasionally writing the original poem in Polish or French with subsequent translations into the other languages. I seek assistance from my relatives and friends—benefiting from the social interactions this allows—to make the translations sound more native. I am also inspired by other poetesses and poets, some still living and some long passed, to reply with a poem to theirs. I have, thus far, amassed 50 poems in my collection, half of which I have written this year, while the first one that began my collection dates back to pre-1992 (about 25 years).

In part to test the waters and partly in response to encouragement to honour my gift of writing, I begin sharing some of my work by submitting it to writing competitions. Earlier this year, I submit a creative nonfiction piece to a CBC Canada Writes contest—a story about communicating my approach to my breast cancer recurrence through a poem that was inspired by a Shakespearean soliloquy writing contest from the year before—and subsequently, I submit that poem as part of a 4-poem collection to another CBC Canada Writes contest. While awaiting those results (which can take up to 6 months), I enter 6 more poems to literary magazine writing contest by the Room Magazine and 1 poem to the Walrus Magazine writing contest, where voting for Reader’s Choice Award will begin on September 1 for shortlisted entries (fingers crossed).

While all written works submitted to contests must be original and not previously published anywhere (including on personal blogs), the Writer’s Relief resource advises that sharing one’s work with a few close friends and family members in a password-protected section of one’s website—for the purposes of testing the waters and receiving some feedback prior to wider publication—is permissible as “not previously published”. Hence, I create such password-protected sections on my website—one for a poetry selection and one for a nonfiction selection—to provide a flavour of my work, and I invite those interested in perusing it to share with me how my writing is resonating with them.

The Writer Composing Her Works at Bowen Island Yoga Retreat

The Writer Composing Her Works at Bowen Island Yoga Retreat

To assist me with slowing down and practicing more *being* and less *doing*, I take myself to Bowen Island on a yoga retreat organised by an amazing yoga instructor and founder of Ocean Breath Yoga. Serendipity that brought us back in touch for last year’s yoga retreat connects me this year with another poetess and encourages us to exchange our poetic expressions. She shares with me her freshly printed photo and poetry coffee table book prototype, and I spur her on to enter her poetry in the CBC Canada Writes contest. Various exchanges and self-reflections over the weekend also inspire me to read some of my poetry after dinner to a generously captive audience of fellow yogis. Though appreciation of poetry naturally varies among individuals, my initiative turns into an invitation for others to also share their writing projects, and the entertainment that our collective readings provide is more universally appreciated.

The Writer Crossing the Oceans to Write and Yoga

The Writer Crossing the Oceans to Write and Yoga

I continue to indoctrinate myself in the world of writers and poets by attending various events frequented by these types, their readers, and their publishers. Together with another writer friend, we encourage each other’s efforts to connect with others of our kind by attending monthly prose and poetry readings offered by Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) The Writing Studio (TWS) program at a local artsy restaurant, the Cottage Bistro. Another new monthly event I try out is the Kitsilano Poetry Group, which is a combination of poetry instruction, readings and critiquing, and I participate by sharing and receiving feedback to my short poem entitled, “Pillow Talk”, that I dedicate to a poetry-connoisseur friend who is barely holding onto life in the hospital when I visit earlier that day.

Earlier in the Spring, I have the pleasure of attending a writer friend’s book launch, where she reads an excerpt from her chapter in an anthology entitled ”This Place A Stranger”—a book about women of all ages travelling the world on their own. This indoctrination introduces me to several resources in the publishing world, including a call for story and poetry submissions for an upcoming anthology entitled “Boobs: Explorations of Women’s Relationships to Their Bodies”, and a connection with a publisher who expresses an interest in possibly assisting me to shape my book’s manuscript—an opportunity which I am following up on with some more of my writing samples.

The Writer Enjoying Warm Summer Patio with Friends

The Writer Enjoying Warm Summer Patio with Friends

The Writer Connecting with Literary Friends

The Writer Connecting with Literary Friends

Taking advantage of some highly unusual warm summer weather in Vancouver, I join some friends for a patio seafood feast at Bridges Restaurant on Granville Island, sharing and receiving feedback to some poetry I am submitting to a writing contest. I connect with another poetess—one who has published her poems in the “Breaking the Surface” anthology—and a couple of other prolific reader friends at the ACME Café in Gastown for a tasty—iron and protein rich—Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich brunch.

My travels thus far this year take me nearer to home to a tranquil sanctuary on Pender Island—thanks to the generous invitations from a good friend—as well as inward, inside myself, to practice more *being* and less *doing*, both paths inspiring several poems out of me in the process.

In March, a lovely lake-side walk through a forest at Roe Lake on Pender Island inspires the poem “Blanketed in Love”.

A Sun-Kissed Pender Island Cemetery Stroll

A Sun-Kissed Pender Island Cemetery Stroll

In April, a series of serene promenades through nature and among human creations—including tranquil a sun-kissed stroll through the Pender Island cemetery, a still chilly walk on a calm rocky beach, and familiar-looking tall, erect, winged statue nearby—evoke the poem “Standing Tall with My Soulmate”.

The Writer Absorbing Serene Calmness of Pender Island's Coastline

The Writer Absorbing Serene Calmness of Pender Island’s Coastline

Winged Statue Inspiration for “Standing Tall with My Soulmate” Poem

Winged Statue Inspiration for “Standing Tall with My Soulmate” Poem

Delicious Outdoor Meal at Pender Island's Sanctuary

Delicious Outdoor Meal at Pender Island’s Sanctuary

The month of May brings more sunshine to this part of the world, allowing for deliciously fresh outdoor meals and gorgeous sunsets while travelling to and from Pender Island on the requisite Pacific Gulf cruise, which together with thoughts of good friends and an image from Granville Island’s Dragon Space entreat me to compose the poem “Revived”.

Sunset on Pacific Gulf Cruise

Sunset on Pacific Gulf Cruise

Dragon Space Fairies Inspire “Revived” Poem

Dragon Space Fairies Inspire “Revived” Poem

The Writer in Her Natural Environment

The Writer in Her Natural Environment

And over the Canada Day (July 1st) long weekend, during another sojourn on Pender Island, relaxing beaches, exotic hors d’oeuvres, romantic moonlit sunsets, and nature abound, give rise to the poem “Entangled”.

Exotic Hors d'Oeuvres Whet the Culinary and Poetic Palate

Exotic Hors d’Oeuvres Whet the Culinary and Poetic Palate

Moonlit Sunset Ignites Poetic Imagination

Moonlit Sunset Ignites Poetic Imagination

Intertwined Rosebush Reflects Inspiration for “Entangled” Poem

Intertwined Rosebush Reflects Inspiration for “Entangled” Poem

These days, I am guided by some pretty simple yet profound approaches to life that keep me feeling content:

I live because I can.
I write because I must.
I share to honour my gift.

Portrait of a Writer

Newest Rose Thorns Turn One and Six

Having celebrated well over a month of birthday events from February into April, I make a concerted effort for month of April to prioritise sleep (or at the very least, restful relaxation), with some success of reducing my goals and the intensity with which I tend to live my life. But as life-long habits that make one feel alive are challenging to change, my Thorny Roses anniversaries celebrations continue—this year many of them are marked with a newly composed poem or with some form of sharing my poetry with others.

Reminiscing and Celebrating Past Loves

Reminiscing and Celebrating Past Loves

This April marks my second year of enjoying single life again, and I celebrate it reminiscing about past loves, reading a top-secret message from an old love, and writing a poem inspired by a new one, entitled “Our Quieting”.

In May, I celebrate 13 years of enjoying my high-perched abode in the West End of Vancouver, with its spectacular views and location. It is a home with by far the deepest roots that I have ever set.

Sunset Views from High-Perched Vancouver Abode

Sunset Views from High-Perched Vancouver Abode

In June, on the heels of having my contributions to the creation of BCIT’s Sustainable Energy Management Advanced Certificate (SEMAC) program recognised at the 5-year reunion of its first graduates, I celebrate the 1-year anniversary of completing my last contract in a series that spanned my 3-year tenure at Natural Resources Canada.

Garden Fairy Inspiration for "Releasing" Poem

Garden Fairy Inspiration for “Releasing” Poem

June also marks the 1st year since my last breast cancer surgery. This was the 5th surgery related to my breast cancer, and I celebrate it with a life-affirming visit to a gardening store, where a garden fairy statue inspires a breast cancer-related poem out of me, entitled “Releasing”.

A month later, in July, I celebrate the 6th anniversary of my 1st breast cancer surgery—the one to which the 5-year cancer survival statistics would apply had I not been diagnosed with my recurrence few months shy of 5 years. For this occasion, I share my myelin sheath-healing bone broth Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup with a lovely dinner companion, and we spend the evening contemplating the 6-poem submissions that I make to the literary magazine poetry contest by Room Magazine. Also for this occasion, I treat myself to a unique and enjoyable healing touch experience of professional cuddling from The Cuddlery, which also inspires a poem—this one entitled “Strangers Embracing”.

Looking forward a little, in August, I look forward to celebrating 31 years of living in Canada and 18 years of living in Vancouver—both quite remarkable places to live out parts of one’s life.

The Writer Tour Guiding en francais on Bowen Island

The Writer Tour Guiding en francais on Bowen Island

Meanwhile, my recent tentative plans (or perhaps more accurately, dreams) of living in France for a year are presently and indefinitely on the back burner while I enjoy the life I have weaved for myself right where I currently am: in Vancouver, Canada.

My efforts for learning the French language, however, continue, although admittedly in less earnest—another goal I decided to deprioritise—in the form of occasional practice through the online Conversation Exchange portal, translation of some of my poetry into French, and playing tour guide to some Parisian couchsurfers by showing them around Yaletown in Vancouver and on a hike to Bowen Island.

"Meals on Wheels / on Bikes" Bone Broth Soup Creation

“Meals on Wheels / on Bikes” Bone Broth Soup Creation

I continue various healing modalities at the holistic wellness organisation, Friends For Life, including naturopathic, physiotherapy, counselling, massage, member brunches and other support opportunities. I turn my love of cooking, my recent re-discovery of bone broth soups, and my exercise-motivating need for cycling destinations into a healing touch for others when I play Meals on Wheels (or rather, Meals on Bikes to deliver my large (1L) peanut butter containers filled with healthful bone broth soups to some new friends who have received worse health news than me. When the opportunity arises to go for an afternoon sea kayaking paddle on Bowen Island, I gladly join a small group of my new friends, give my left electric arm a fun stretch workout, and contribute my skills of steering a double on a lovely and healing adventure.

The Writer on the Way to Bowen Island Sea Kayaking

The Writer on the Way to Bowen Island Sea Kayaking

In the 10th month of my painful neuropathy symptoms, which I affectionately refer to as my left electric arm, my neurological test results are confirmed by my MRI results that, so far, there is no permanent nerve or muscle damage along the arm, nothing is pressing on the nerves in my shoulder, and oncologically, no new cancer (or “tumour infiltration”) is evident in my shoulder and spine area—i.e., the site of radiation treatment from last year. The MRI does, though, show possible scar tissue in the top corner of my lung likely related to the radiation, “…however a metastatic deposit from…breast malignancy cannot be excluded”.

So, it is good news for the left arm, and neither my oncologist nor I are too concerned that the lung result is cancerous, but the possibility is there and naturally, it is a little stressful—but I know that stress will certainly not help the situation, and my option for monitoring the spot on the lung is to receive more radiation in the form of CT scans—so I am working on letting it go.

The Writer, Ever Pensive and Hopeful

The Writer, Ever Pensive and Hopeful

However, I am no closer to a resolution of this neuropathy problem, and my previous tricks from five years ago of increasing aerobic exercises for resolving my neuropathy following my chemotherapy treatments are not working this time.

Other than “give it time” (at nearly a year of the electric arm pain) and educated conjecture about possible damage to the myelin sheath around my nerves, my oncologist does not have anything else to advise, so on my way home from my oncologist, I stop by InspireHealth to get advice from the nutritionist for supporting neuropathy recovery with nutrition and supplements. I receive some good suggestions about sources of the building blocks for that (primarily proteins and fats), with specific ideas for enhancing my bone broth soups and for increasing my lecithin intake along with my doses of vitamin C and B Complex to help with collagen production (i.e., the tissue recovery substance).

I also plan to continue with semi-regular floating and neurospa (syncing sound and massage vibrations) sessions, energy healings and gentle massages, as those have been helpful at least in the moment and possibly extending into some decreases in electric pain sensations throughout the day since I have been doing these in the last several weeks.

As I try to get back to capturing my story in a book, my efforts are challenged this week by the uncertainty of being inadvertently exposed to the chickenpox virus during my MRI appointment. Since I cannot be sure whether I have had chickenpox as a child, which would make me immune to it, and thus not a carrier of the contagious virus, my main concern is for the friends in my support circle whose immune systems are more compromised than my own. I have one more week during which the virus may activate itself—just around the same time I am told I can expect to receive my chickenpox anti-bodies blood test results.

Blue Heron in Self-Imposed Exile on Man-Made Island, Pondering

Blue Heron in Self-Imposed Exile on Man-Made Island, Pondering

So, I go about my days, continuing my health recovery, feeling a little like a ticking time-bomb, learning what I can, and taking as many precautions as possible without completely quarantining myself, feeling grateful for my immune system once again, and reminding myself where true healing comes from—writing about it in verse and prose.

“The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy.” Proverb

Special Dish for the Week: Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup

These couple of weeks, my Special Dishes for the Week—recently turned ‘Maggified’ Meals on Wheels—take another couple of turns when I join two more car share programs (car2go and evo, in addition to having been a long-time member of Modo, thanks to free or discounted memberships from HUB, Vancouver’s cycling organisation), and I deliver some of last week’s soup by car at the end of a tiring day of cycling and hospital visits—the other turn being the “lecithin-ication” of my soup:

Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup

Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup

Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup

In month 10 of my painful neuropathy symptoms of constant pins and needles along my left arm, with additional shooting electric pain when reaching for something with it—with no medical clue for how to resolve it and my previous neuropathy cure tricks of increased aerobic and lymphatics-moving exercises not working this time—I pay another visit to a nutritionist at InspireHealth for advice.

The nutritional remedy recommendations that I receive for neuropathy in general, and more specifically for damaged myelin sheath regeneration (i.e., the rebuilding of the tissue that encases the nerves in our bodies) include:

  • lecithin supplementation*
  • increase Vitamin C and B Complex (especially inositol) supplementation*

* Supplementation being in nutritional supplement form and/or dietary intake of (good) fatty foods and proteins, including:

  • some red meat
  • nuts and seeds, especially sunflower seeds
  • beans, including non-GMO soy
  • eggs
  • fermented foods and/or probiotics
  • fatty fish
  • organ meats in bone broth
  • citrus fruit

So, in addition to giving my symptoms more time to resolve, I am curious to see if this nutritional remedy works for me too.

Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup Ingredients

Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup Ingredients

And so, I introduce a few new ingredients into my weekly bone broth soup:

  • 3 L bone broth made from chicken bones, wing tips and chicken feet
  • 1 cup red lentils, pre-soaked
  • sunflower seed oil, for sautéeing onions and chicken livers
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (half cooked with red lentils in bone broth, the other half sautéed with chicken livers)
  • kelp, shredded and cooked with red lentils in bone broth
  • 1 lb organic or unmedicated free range chicken livers (or chicken hearts, beef liver, beef kidneys), sautéed in sunflower seed oil with onions and puréed with some bone broth using my handheld smoothie blender.
  • tomatoes, coarsely shopped
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • cilantro stems, coarsely chopped
  • basil leaves, shredded
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • cilantro and basil leaves, for garnish
Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup Dish

Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup Dish

I leave this soup chunky, garnished in green and accompanied by a cup of lemon balm tea and a lovingly gifted to me aloe vera plant, both to deal with other aches and pains.

I feel engulfed by TLC, from within and on the outside, and await sharing this feeling with my ‘Maggified’ Meals on Wheels soup recipients.

Special Dish for the Week: Brine Fermented Dill Pickles

One of this week’s Special Dishes for the Week is the super healthy and super easy summer treat:

Brine Fermented Dill Pickles

Brine Fermented Dill Pickles

Brine Fermented Dill Pickles

Among the thrills of the downtown farmers market is the availability of fresh dill and small fresh cucumbers, perfectly sized for “pickling”—or to be more precise, for fermenting in brine.

The accolades of fermented foods are listed in the post on Fermented Beet Juice, praised primarily for their ability to boost immunity and aid in nutrient and mineral absorption.

Brine Fermented Dill Pickles Ingredients

Brine Fermented Dill Pickles Ingredients

The ingredients include:

  • 2L water, boiled and cooled
  • 1-1.5 tbsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • 1-2 bunches fresh dill
  • 2 cloves garlic per jar, peeled and halved
  • 3-4 lbs pickling pickles (small cucumbers), washed but not scrubbed or peeled—to maintain the needed starter bacteria

Also needed are several small or large glass jars (reused honey or peanut butter glass jars work great). I give the jars and their lids a bath in boiling water for a few minutes to reduce molds and other unwanted creatures that might compete with the desired lactic acid-forming bacteria that reside on the pickling pickles.

I layer about 2 halves of garlic cloves with about 2 springs of dill on the bottom of each jar. Then, I pack the small cucumbers vertically in the jars. (In taller jars, I lay horizontally a layer of 3 or so smaller cucumbers before packing the rest of the jar vertically.)

TIP: It is best if the pickles are packed rather tight (requiring some muscle power to fit them in), since they soften and give way a little as they ferment, possibly floating up above the brine level. While not desirable (the tip spoils this way), it is not a large problem, since the tips can be cut off before serving once they are sufficiently fermented.

I then pack another 2 halves of garlic and another spring or two of dill near the top of the jar, again preferably packing them tightly between the pickles, so that they also stay submerged below the brine level. Finally, I add the brine (water with dissolved salt) to each jar nearly to the top (entirely covering the pickles but allowing a small space for escaping gasses to collect).

I loosely cover the jars with their lids (to allow excess gasses from fermentation to escape), and let them stand on the counter for several days to begin the fermentation process.

Storage: After about a week or so, depending on how warm it is indoors and how quickly the brine begins to turn cloudy, I place the jars in the fridge, still keeping the lids loosely covering the jars.

Shelf life: The fermented pickles keep in the fridge for several months, possibly even years. The increasingly cloudy brine and growth layer on top of the brine are harmless even it possibly unsightly. The growth layer on top can be skimmed off, and more brine added, if needed, to keep the pickles entirely submerged.