I recently ended a week-long housesit for Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell in the Lindenlea neighbourhood, just north of Beechwood. Oh, what a difference a week makes. Writing poems, exploring the neighbourhood, learning new songs on guitar, even hosting a dinner party. Finally caught up inside the beginnings of the first season of re-vamped Battlestar Galactica. A stay-cation of sorts, but in a completely unfamiliar space, babysitting his dog. Just what was required. Originally, there were plans for December, financially-thwarted, when I’d hoped to train down to Poughkeepsie, New York to hang out with poet Lea Graham, swing through Montreal to see Wanda O’Connor en route. Not yet, it would seem.
Do you know anything about Lindenlea? One of Ottawa’s smallest neighbourhoods, upper Lindenlea dating back to the end of the First World War, designed by Thomas Adams. Large back yards and gardens, a children’s park, tennis courts and a bowling green, bordered by Rockcliffe Park, Vanier and New Edinburgh. I hadn’t even heard of, now enough poems to perhaps produce a small chapbook of such, “Linden lea.”
The dog, the dog. Like a distracted, mindless… what was that? What? Why was I here? Doesn’t even realize he’s not a small dog, my black jeans seemingly magnetic to his lackadaisical curls, shedding white. Every morning I re-christened him with new name, since he wasn’t listening anyway, from Neo to Larry to Telford to Biggles. What does it matter? Regularly dumped into backyard where he tore around, barked at all the invisible things in the driveway, or behind the big tree. Dumped. Friday night hosting a dinner party where we performed music until all hours, with two guitars, five voices, one autoharp. One guitar and voice short. Fantastic harmonies.
There was the opportunity to visit with Cathy McDonald-Zytveld of Dusty Owl at her job at the Scone Witch. I read my newspapers in-between making faces. Has anyone asked why the Scone Witch has a painting of John Lennon and Santa Claus on its wall, a framed souvenir from old Queen Victoria in the washroom? And did you know there’s a cupcake place down the street? A Second Cup too small to get anything actually done. A bookstore that actually carries my second novel. Afternoons of listening to Johnny Cash, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, the Stars. A bathtub you could fit more than a few people into. Probably. A week out of my usual routine, helping to clear some of the clutter from my weary, confused head. When might he have to travel again?