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   Partly truth and partly fiction ...

The aggravations in my life are more often the subjects of  personal essays than the pleasantries. Writing about things that irk  me  helps me deal with them ; I've registered an official complaint that can be filed away while I get on with more enjoyable activities.  Following is one of those complaints:


After a three-year reprieve, I recently visited a radiology clinic for one of my least favorite medical procedures—a mammogram. I had to produce photo id to prove I was who the paper signed by my doctor at my annual poke and prod said I was.

Someone might try to endure the procedure in my place? Give me her name.

In three years, little had changed. I stood pressed against a piece of rigid machinery, one arm dangling at my side, the other embracing cold metal, my neck twisted at an awkward angle, while a gently smiling lab tech stretched, pulled and arranged pieces of my anatomy in ways that would have resulted in charges of indecent assault if performed by anyone else. Then the machine grabbed and flattened.

“Keep still.”

Where the hell did she think I would move to?

All that for one view of one boob. Two views of each were required. Then one more, as one image showed a fold of tissue.

Wonder how that happened?

“Okay?” the tech asked frequently during the procedure.

No, it bloody wasn’t okay. Not her fault. She did her job professionally, efficiently, by the book. Who wrote the bloody book?

Not for the first time I wondered how long it would take for a new procedure to be developed if the only way to detect testicular cancer was by grabbing a man’s genitals, twisting them into unnatural positions and squeezing them flat between frigid sheets of glass while a technician captured an image.

Five minutes?

Defense departments have cameras that can focus on any location on earth from an orbiting satellite and take shots of an enemy soldier detailed enough to identify the type and caliber of weapon he carries and what it is he pulled out of his nose as he lounged against the side of a crumbling stone building, totally unaware he was being watched.

It’s time to use some of that technology to improve the way breast tumors are detected.


_Merilyn Ruth Liddell (November 2010)

    Life and other incongruities ...

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the writing group I belonged to in 2007 was challenged to write a short piece on the subject of love, a piece that would be shared aloud with other members of the group. This was my offering:


Pondering Love

I considered writing about the power of love to break a heart and mend it again, but Gene Pitney already did that—write the song, that is, not break my heart—someone else did that.

I considered writing about the abiding love of family and friends—but that is a story too long to be told here.

I considered writing about my affair with Kris Kristofferson—about which he knows nothing.

I considered writing about the love of words and the wonder of using them to weave images, tell stories and write poems, such as the following haiku on the subject of love:

He says, “Come on, sweetheart,”

to his drooling basset hound.

His wife follows them.

I decided instead to write about love of place—the place where I was born, grew up and returned to after a long absence:

Even lifetime residents curse the winds whipping through our valley this season. Mighty gusts wallop the sides of buildings and force themselves through tiny cracks in walls and windows with woeful moans. They rip shingles off roofs, break branches, overturn vehicles. They wait for those of us foolish enough to go out walking, pull off hats, yank at scarves, slap exposed skin, invade the folds of coats and sweaters. We trudge with heads down, unable to see the beauty of the hills and mountains, wondering if there’s not a better way to get resistance training than to push against a 60+ kilometer-an-hour wind.

In the background of your mind do you hear Tina Turner singing, “What’s love got to do with it?” I’m getting to that.

The winds forced me from my usual winter walking routes along ploughed thoroughfares and onto the Miners’ Path, a favorite spot I rarely visited in cold weather. I worried about slipping off the icy trail, tumbling to the frozen creek bed and freezing to death while my walking companion licked my face and wagged her tail. But this year, equipped with strap-on treads and a sturdy walking stick, I headed for a haven protected from the gales by majestic trees and rocky cliffs.


It is a sought-after shelter for many species: hearty hikers, laughing friends and neighbors, their snuffling dogs, chittering squirrels, invisible deer and rabbits whose tracks are proof of their presence, and a glorious variety of birds, from the gentle boreal chickadee to the raucous raven. On a sunny day it bustles with the activity of a country market.

But on overcast days, when the temperature plummets and winds sweep the treetops, sending a dusting of snow to cover footsteps, few venture on the path. Silence fills the spaces once occupied by the calls of birds, leaving room for whispers unnoticed in their presence. Shelter becomes sanctuary:

In the cathedral

Of rock, earth, pine, fir and spruce,

Wind is the choir.


And beneath the footbridge,

Water flowing under ice:

The murmur of prayer.


In the cathedral

That is the forest, snow gives

The benediction.


And brings me peace.

                   And love.

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