borrowing bones

The occasional weblog of writer Dora Dueck

Category: Personal

Hand in and not leaving


“Nativity” by Brian Kershisnik. Used by permission.


This Advent I’m instructed and cheered by “Nativity,” a painting by Brian Kershisnik. A detail of the painting, framing Mary and Joseph and child, appeared on the cover of The Christian Century and I was immediately struck by the curious crowding-in angels and then by Joseph. Oh my, yes, Joseph with his hand to his face and a “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” look. At least that’s what I see in the gesture. I recognize that look, that question. It’s one I’ve had rather too often in the last while about things I’m “into.” Such as this stage of life –getting older, that is– and the current writing project and the book-juror assignment I’ve committed to for the months ahead. Anguished hand to face for matters one can’t change, and for matters to which one has said Yes.

But then I noticed a kind of lumpiness at Mary’s neck, and her hand up to it, and for a brief moment it seemed one of those fox-head furs, which of course makes no sense in the context, and then I realized it was Joseph’s other hand. His other gesture. Because of course he’s fully “in” and not leaving, his commitment is firmly on her shoulder. What else is there to do? Well, me too, step by step into the inevitable next stage of life and all it involves, page by page through the writing project, book by book to complete the juror assignment.

I’m grateful for the gift of this art, which has been returning to my mind like a shot of courage since viewing it, and grateful also to Utah artist Brian Kershisnik for giving me permission to use the image in this post. The original is 17 feet, but it’s rich and wonderful to enjoy even in small format. He writes about the painting here. I did not know of Kershisnik and his work before, but have enjoyed learning more at his website. His paintings remind me a little of William Kurelek’s prairie and domestic scenes–that sense of vitality and joy and ordinary people doing daily, ordinary things.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas!


In praise of my sisters

A few words in praise of my sisters, two in particular, who have recently given me a great gift.

At first I was the only girl child among brothers, four of them by the time I was eight. The longed-for sister arrived at last, followed by two more. The girls were cute and lively and I loved them. Because of the years between us, however, they were not the sisterly confidantes I’d wished for. They were more likely to be getting into my precious things. I learned later that they weren’t always thrilled with me either, especially when I bossed them as if I were their extra mother. We all grew up, however, the differences in age collapsed, and we’ve enjoyed warm relations as peers. We added four sisters-in-law as well, all of us bonded within a shared extended family.

And now, an unexpected gift. The two sisters who live near one another in Saskatchewan approached my husband and me last spring with the suggestion that we move our 93-year-old mother from her nursing home in Winnipeg to a nursing home in Saskatchewan where one of them works. It was their turn, they said. It would be a privilege, they said. Read the rest of this entry »

Besides grape jelly

IMG_5272While the grape jelly lids pop and seal in the kitchen, a quick note from my desk to say what I’m up to on the writing front, as promised in the previous post. I’ve got that novel that I seem to have been working on forever more or less done (again) and cooling in a corner, but in the meanwhile have been venturing into some creative non-fiction. I’m pleased that one essay-length foray into CNF has landed on the shortlist of The Quarterly Review‘s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, and will be published in that most excellent journal some time next year. It’s called “Return Stroke” and weaves together the father-in-law I never knew, lightning (he was struck by it and his mother killed), and the making of biography. Read the rest of this entry »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers