Steel melodies (haibun)

(C) Clr’19 Brockville, On.

Riding on the train from Montreal to Toronto is a long ride but it’s a train and nothing is more comfortable for long rides up to 5 hours.

She was raised in a train town [hog town they called it for the railroad engineers]. Trains passed through her little town a dozen times a day. There were at least six passenger trains that went to Montreal which was about 40 minutes away and too many freight trains that passed, stopped, shunted and road at a snail’s pace every day.  The shunting could wake you up at night sounding like thunder booming in your bedroom…no kidding!

There were freight trains that could hold up the town forever and block streets and prevent people from getting home in time for lunch or home at night in time before curfew…if you had one of those.

Looking back at those days, she considered herself pretty lucky. Her mother would let her and her sister go out weekends and come home when they were ready. She would simply whisper, “I trust you darling.” And THAT killed any mischief they might consider.

So back on this train, she could not get over how comfortable the newer trains were these days. Wow!! So much leg room for an economy class and the seats were leather and sleek…real fancy! What she loved most were the panoramic windows where you could see forever and just stare off in the distance and let your imagination run wild.

She was going to see her family, celebrating her uncle’s 91st birthday today! He was like a dad to her. She had lived with them for a month twenty years ago so she could save first and last month’s rent and found a place less than thirty minutes from her family and fifteen minutes to downtown Toronto. She loved this city. It held so many memories, both good and tough times but still, it was a place she truly grew when she moved here in her mid forties. Now she was just visiting…she would stay in Oakville for a few days to see her family. She would be staying in a B & B just off Lake Ontario.

The rest of her trip would be be in mid-town Toronto in another B & B in the same borough where her dad live the last years before moving on to different dimensions. It would be nice visiting that neighbourhood. She had fond memories of a few places she loved to go dancing not too far from her dad’s complex. His apartment was called ” Montgomery Place” but he joked calling it “Montgomery Morgue” because everyone was over 65 and from the looks of many of the residents, they were well into their late seventies. Many turned in for the night before eight and her dad was a night owl like herself. She wondered if she could stand living in a place like that when life (to her) began after nine at night and ended just before the sun came out the birds started clearing their throats for the day’s concert.

She sat back and looked out at the trees rushing by and allowed time to stand still…

(C) Clr’19

Rumble of the train

Lullaby of her childhood

Mumbling “peace”

(c) Tournesol 31/05/2019

Daily Moments – steel melodies

ostinato purrs (haibun) daily moments

©Clr’16

Hearing an old song from the 1990’s brought her back to fond memories. She was back in her 1984 Renaud V driving one of her children from a sleepover. A song started that they both liked (correction, Mom loved) and arriving home before the song had ended, she puts her car back in first gear and drives around the block until it ends. A smile is painted across her face now as she thinks about those times.


Music has allowed her to connect in some ways with her children. Her son had a rich eclectic selection of music and one was 1970’s Rock genre especially when he was playing guitar. She grew up moving to the beat of Motown, and so getting a chance to appreciate Zeppelin and Hendrix twenty years later were some of the benefits of having children.


Her daughter had joined a children’s choir in her preteens and she too opened her to classical music and allowed her to share her love of musicals with her daughter. She remembers going to Les Misérables in Toronto when her daughter was sixteen and looking over to see her face, now and then, as she was silently lip-singing.


She remembers having a block birthday party for her son when he turned five and playing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” vinyl album and the kids thought that was so cool!


It is so amazing how music brings you back in time like that. She remembers lying on a blanket at her friend, Jane’s place, when she was twelve, studying for finals and listening to the hit parade on a transistor radio. They both vowed that day that they would always listen to the hit parade even as old as 40 years old! She chuckles at their perception of “old age” at that time.


Now she is a “senior” but still appreciates a variety of music. Indies folk acoustic is probably equal to her Motown love these days. Mainstream music does not attract her as much, so she probably left the “hit parade” scene in her early 50’s. Well, at least she kept her promise…listened to Mainstream popular music well passed her 40’s! [She smiles wondering if Jane still remembers that vow]


Music brings you back in time like the snap of fingers.  It is magic, allowing you to travel back in time on that musical flying carpet. She can remember what she was doing and where she was when an old song is playing…some feelings of joy or melancholy wrap her for the duration of that song. This is something she also noticed when visiting her mother at the nursing home those last years.


When she would walk into her room, her mother eyes stared at the blank wall until she popped in a CD of Oscar Peterson, Frank Sinatra or Judy Garland. When she was still able to walk, they would dance and her mother would lip sing the songs. How she loved those moments and that is why she decided to include a few items in her living will…music and books.


She listed artists from the 1970’s up to the 1990’s to create a playlist if EVER her mind did drift away. As for books, well there is a list of English and French authors she likes (such as Atwood, Chaim Potok, Michel Tremblay, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Khaled Hosseini, Lawrence Hill, Anne Rice, Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Hill, Julie Parenteau, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, Sreejit Poole) and a note to get a volunteer to visit her at a nursing home once or twice a week to read to her.


She created this to make her life tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable but mostly to try and avoid having her adult children feel obliged to visit if they are too busy and not to feel guilty because she wouldn’t know the difference as long as she had her music and her books.


Music, hopefully would cradle her like her mother’s lullabies when her time comes…if not, she has also a few mantras on her playlist…soothing songs in Sanskrit.
Her feline friend snuggles up close to her as they both relax to soothing music…


ping of a guitar
ripple of ivory keys
ostinato purrs

© tournesol ’19-05-25

all in a day’s work (troibun) Daily Moments May 17 2019

Today was the day she was having  minor surgery on her big toe. Oh boy, she could not help but worry about the pain. She really hates pain. She has been tolerating it throughout her body for decades but her big toe…oh my, that was such an acute pain. She remembers when she was pregnant for her second child, she had a plantar wart under her big toe. Her doctor tried to remove it unsuccessfully with dry ice…OUCH…burrrrn!! Then she heard about a surgeon at a local hospital did this regularly. Why not? It would be over and done with for good since surgically the doctor would see the root of that sucker.

The needle to freeze her was brutal and the doctor lacked compassion. The weeks following were very uncomfortable. She could feel her heart beating in her big TOE! Thankfully she had her two-year-old son who brought a cane to her when she needed to get up. He was such a great helper all throughout her pregnancy.

Now today she kept thinking of that damn needle and it worried her. So what do you do when you have 5 hours to kill? — clean the apartment. May as well get it ship shape so when she returned if she needed to keep her foot UP, her place would be tidy and dust free.

She really liked her podiatrist. Last year when she was on the verge of burning out and her work refused her doctor’s letter for time off…she would go for a pedicure and cry throughout the appointment.

Today, she felt she would not need that kind of support and she felt much stronger emotionally. Nah, she would not be crying today.

The podiatrist pricked her toe once, twice and then three times. It hurt but she did it slowly, just like her dentist does. Yeah, she is special. After twenty minutes, the podiatrist returns ready to snip away but she could feel the knife…nope, one more needle here and then one more there. After a few minutes she tried and nope, the bugger still felt pain. Darn! After two more shots, she finally was able to get it done. And yes, her toe is quite big!

During the procedure she talked about how her work had celebrated a 30-year anniversary last night and yet she felt sad. She had read about a young boy who had ended his life despite having given all his friends virtual messages that he would no longer be in this world. His friends told their parents, but nothing was done. She could not help but think of him yesterday when they were cutting that anniversary cake. Somehow it did not feel celebratory.

Suddenly, she felt tears running down her cheeks. The podiatrist asked her if she may be suffering from PTSD hearing so many traumatic stories. “No,” she said, “I think today I was thinking of my friend whose son took his life 19 years ago today. I met her over ten years ago and I find when it is personal, close to me, it is harder to set boundaries.”

As she was doing her “thing” or “magic” on her big toe, she was thinking about Adam. Gee, 19 years ago is when she started working at this helpline. People often tell her how great it is what she does for a living. She cannot help thinking of the ones who did not make it and hope there will be a time where there is not one ounce of stigma on mental health. She dreams of a time where a complete medical check up includes a mental health check up and that when a youth misses school for a week or two or even months for mental health reasons, it is not misjudged but treated by society as a broken leg that gets treated, goes through physical rehab and in time gets strong and sturdy again. And for those fractures that may cause rheumatism and long-term treatment, that too will not be criticized.

After big toe procedure completed, she limped to the pharmacy to get some items and on her way back to the bus stop, she noticed her bandage somehow, just flew off in the wind. Good thing the bus came early! What a day!

Looking back on her day, she wonders if perhaps her work may be pulling on her heartstrings more and more in the past few years. The productivity is so overwhelming that now there may be casualties on both sides of the lines.

playing catch-up
only keeping them at bay
putting out fires

playing catch-up
“Hello, how can I help you?”
twenty wait in queue

only keeping them at bay
child abuse, grief, depression,
suicide taunts them

putting out fires
spreading like wildfire
one at a time

Who can see
beyond the flames?
hell populates

© Tournesol ‘19/05/17
Daily moments all in a day’s work Troibun May 17 2019

Originally posted at StigmaHurtsEveryone

trust your instincts haibun

They called her Wolf Girl on the psych ward at the hospital . No one had been able to approach her …much. She was like a wild animal. If you came too close to her, she would howl; if she was hungry she would stand at your table, looking at your tray with the puppy dog eyes, no one could refuse her. The staff was curious about her but all, without exception, fell in love with her especially when she would curl up into a ball in the fetus position on the centre of her bed…thumb in mouth, lights ON. If ever a staff member felt pity for anyone sleeping with those bright neon lights and turned it off in her room, she would sit up, howling, eyes wide, holding on to her blanket for dear life. 

Her name was Torey.  Child services brought her in 3 months ago to Emergency for a check up and after examination by doctors as well as the psycho-educator in chief, they assumed she would get her discharge no later than 3 days (which was customary in “those” cases). But she never got that release and Dr. Shelley, the Psycho-Educator in chief would not release her. She had a different reason at each court hearing…this last one was selective mutism, and that this youth was sexually assaulted multiple times for years.

Torey was 11 by now but what did,   “hell did multiple times for years” even mean?  Dr. Shelley just knew that this child should NOT be placed in foster care without guarantees she would be safe.   The system had failed her in the past when this child had put her trust in adults who should have kept her safe.  Dr. Shelley knew there were NO such guarantees.  She  took it upon herself to ensure she remain the ward of the court and in the children’s psychiatric ward indefinitely.  She had hope that some day soon, she just may make a breakthrough. Torey may decide to talk.

It was December 24th,  three and a half months since Torey’s admission, and she was in her daily interview with Dr. Shelley. This therapist had a unique approach with youths with selective mutism.  Her past 10 years of experience working solely with teens who had autism spectrum had given her a new skill…EEP.  Her colleagues, mostly professors at the local university scoffed at her when she said it was actually a skill that had to be learned with working with “exceptional” youths.  EEL stands for Exceptional Empathetic Listening skills.  Dr. Shelley had a knack of drawing out the most difficult and resistant child into trusting her enough to start talking…even if it was one hour a day, that was a miracle in many cases she had worked on.

Torey was different. She was brilliant. She had a way of knowing what adults were thinking and what they needed. This is how they discovered her exceptional talent or sixth sense you. 

One day, Nurse Grant, who had been working on the pediatric ward on the psychiatric section for 20 years,  walked on the floor with a limp wearing tinted glasses.  Staff all inquired with sympathy what had happened to her over the weekend and she just brushed them off with a, “Ah just clumsy old me bumped into the glass bus shelter. With the darn sleet and snow mingled, I could not see an inch in front of me and I banged the corner of my left eye and slipped and sprained my ankle. Enough said, no need for pity from anyone, so I got these glasses to avoid your mushy sad looks. Now ya’ll get to work!”  She did have a bit of a bark and everyone went back to work. No one asked her again and most of the staff avoided looking at her in the eye…or rather, glasses…except for Torey.  She looked at her suspiciously, sucking her thumb. She circled around her looking up at her and raised her eyebrow. 

Then she followed Nurse Grant into the nurse’s lobby and sat right next to her on the couch while she sipped her coffee. Torey looked up and did the most surreal thing…she spoke! “He gave it to you, didn’t he?” she said  in a raspy voice. Nurse Grant almost spilled her coffee and looked at Torey wide eye, in shock.

“What are you talkin’ about young lady?!”

But Torey did not balk nor did she feel intimidated by Nurse Grant’s harsh tone.  She just looked up at her with those puppy dog eyes and gave Nurse Grant a hug, whispering in her ear, “I know what them do to you.”

Nurse Grant froze at first, then relinquished to this precious moment because she had a feeling that Torey did, in fact, know.  Torey’s compassion melted her heart.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Shelley was advised about Torey’s first spoken words in private by Nurse Grant who had to come clean of her own personal circumstances. 

Dr. Shelley, called Torey to her office.

“Well, now, Torey. You certainly gave us a bit of a surprise today and I have to say a very nice surprise. I want to thank you.” 

Torey had arrived arms crossed, ready to keep her silence but was cut off guard when Dr. Shelley was thanking her.  She dropped her arms to her side and raised an eyebrow and waited…she was the prize of detectives…she had to know for sure…

Dr. Shelley continued, “Torey, Nurse Grant has been in an abusive relationship for years and no one but no one has ever had the courage to confront her and plead with her to get out and to a safer environment. Today, Nurse Grant came up to me asking to live in the nurses’ quarters for the night staff temporarily until she finds a new apartment.  I want to thank you for doing something not one counsellor, nurse, doctor or psychologist was able to do until you did.”

Torey stared at her, sizing what she had just heard, and took her usual seat in front of Dr. Shelly’s arm chair and said, “Yeah, well, it’s about time she left that f…..g loser. She deserves better.”

That was the first session Torey felt she could trust Dr. Shelley and started disclosing the sexual abuse she had been exposed to by her father from the age of 7 to 10 and the abuse in foster care the months following her removal from her home.

Trust had to be earned.  Torey was not fool enough to trust just anyone; she knew who could be trusted and she chose to speak to Nurse Grant because she saw an ally…a soldier in the fight against abuse  in her.  As for Dr. Shelley, well, Torey, knew she had an exceptional way of listening and she was just waiting for the right moment to feel she could actually trust her.





 the frog tries to help
a scorpion cross the river
an act of kindness

halfway to the other side
scorpion shows its true nature

smell cunning cruelty
even words soaked in honey
instincts are wiser

©Tournesol 2016









free rides to Kerala Troibun

Images floated in her mind of travelling from Nepal to the South of India to Kerala. Visiting Amma at her ashram would be her last stop. She could feel a smile form on her face visualizing her warm embrace whispering in her ear as tears of joy rolled down Oliana’s cheeks. That image made her feel at peace.

floating by lagoons
soaring over mountaintops
magic carpet ride

floating by lagoons
rivers and lakes form paths
on the way to joy

soaring over mountaintops
dipping in the saltwater
Arabian Sea

magic carpet ride
free and fancy as can be
in her mind’s eye

© Tournesol ‘19/05/14

Daily Moments May 14 2019 free rides to Kerala