My aunt in Hungary still goes to the market daily to buy bread. She feeds the remains from the day before, to the birds. Wasteful perhaps, or all in the way you look at it. When she was a little girl following the Depression, it took a cart full of paper bills to buy a single loaf of black bread.
My father, imprisoned in Hungary for nearly seven years, was content enough to eat the wedge of dry bread he was given; it was better than the blue mouldy crusts he was sometimes left. Even his dinner companion, the rat, had trouble consuming that.
My mother baked bread over thirty-five years for my father. Hers was the only kind he would eat: white with a thick golden crust, crumbly after the first day. No wonder my aunt replaces hers daily.
Arriving in Canada sixty years ago, I remember my delight when a classmate at lunch time offered me store-bought, uniformly sliced, white bread that tasted sweet and stuck to the roof of my mouth.
That is the same kind of bread with the crusts off and cut into tiny, even sized cubes with an electric knife, which is served at Presbyterian Communions. It also sticks to the roof of the mouth, needing to be swallowed with a drop of grape juice, pretending to be wine, offered in minuscule glasses. Husband, the Protestant Minister, would sometimes rebel against the minute bread cubes when serving Holy Communion. He would hold up a full loaf of his favourite Italian bread, tear it into two parts before the congregation, rip off a piece for himself and pass the rest to the Elders to do the same: the bread of life to commemorate the Last Supper of the man Jesus, before his death. In the Roman Catholic Church where I’m not permitted to take Mass, wafers are distributed that melt in your mouth, intended to represent the body of Christ. The wafer ‘bread’ is meant to mimic the unleavened bread likely provided at the Last Supper, marking the Passover when the Israelites had to flee Egypt from their captors; there hadn’t been sufficient time to allow the bread to rise.
Most restaurants place bread at the dinner table. Indian restaurants serve Nan bread, which too is flat and hardly risen, and which I rather like. This type of bread is close to the initial bread, discovered by mistake no doubt, by the female some 30,000 years ago, while accidentally splashing water on the cooking grain. Variations sprung from that kind of unintentional experiment ‒ passed on, refined, and redefined throughout history and cultures: cooking, grilling, frying, baking bread to share among the family, the tribe and even with strangers.
Throughout my travels, my most delicious bread experiences have been the baguette devoured with a hunk of cheese while sitting on a bench along the Seine River, overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral; and while still in Paris ‒ the croissant ‒delicately consumed with café au lait, from a bowl. I’ve even attempted to make croissants years ago. Unsuccessfully! Do you know how many foldings and days are required to follow this process? Never mind. Some patisseries sell good ones. A woman I know bakes several loaves of whole wheat bread for a group’s fund raiser auction, every year. I give up bidding at the $20 point. They must taste like manna from heaven! I’ve tried to catch onto the gluten free fad, but the frozen loaf I purchased for far too much money at the grocery store was as dry and crumbly as my Mom’s bread on the second day ‒ though I need to digress ‒ when Mom’s bread came out of the oven, the air in the house floated in an aroma of utter ecstasy…
Sitting with friends at lunch recently, we gravitated for the warm rolls, permitting ourselves to enjoy their intoxicating fragrance and luscious flavour while poo-pooing this generation’s fervour that means to control carb consumption. Yet even Oprah, who is currently promoting Weight Watchers on television, confesses with what can only be defined as orgasmic passion: “I LOOOOVE Bread!”
Well there it is. Bread crosses all cultures and customs since its invention. Bread is a staple that has been part of my entire existence. Bread connects me to life long memories. The bottom line for me is that bread is about sharing and love. And no one has expressed it better than Omar Khayyám:
A book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread ‒ and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness ‒
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Who do you think I am?
Eulogies given at funerals are often interesting and sometimes surprising.
“Why didn’t I know that about her?” One might ask.
The answer is fairly simple. A eulogy is often prepared by contributions from a number of people who knew about the departed. They may discuss some quaint personal stories, accomplishments and even bits of humour which give a seemingly rounded picture of her life. But make no mistake, even if the eulogy had been pre-prepared by the deceased herself, it will only provide a glimpse of who she really was, because she will only offer information that she wishes to disclose.
Two questions come to mind: Why do others want to know about us? And why do we seem to have a need for others to know who we are?
From a humanistic perspective, others may want to know us so that trusting relationships may be formed, or unhealthy ones avoided. Finding out information about another person boils down to a matter of judgement. In some cases we immediately ‘relate’ and therefore ‘like’ an individual upon first contact. At other times the opposite is true. How does that happen? We hardly have any input for making that instantaneous judgement and yet ‒ we do. But being human, for some reason, we have a need to continue probing. If we have decided that we like the individual, then we want to look for commonalities which will further connect the bond between us. This may turn out to be a long lasting, strong attachment. Or we may come upon points we consider disturbing, which may eventually sever the initial tie. In the case where there was a negative reaction to the individual, one may want to give reason a chance rather than leave it all to an emotional reaction. Perhaps by taking the time to get to know the person better, we may conclude that the first impression was not correct. Or we may validate that indeed it was accurate.
Yet all this analyses is bogus. We do not live on an island nor in a cave, high on a mountain top. Whatever community or group we belong to, there is an unwritten expectation that we accept other members, in some measure. The premise is that we understand human beings come with all kinds of positive as well as negative characteristics. As time progresses, we find out aspects of their life, as they choose to reveal it. We get to know about them by listening.
And now to the question why do we seem to have a need for others to know about us? Simply put, I expect it is because we want to be heard; and that we believe our existence matters. I think we constantly tell some story about ourselves. From an initial introduction when we give our name, we often offer some inkling. As time progresses, we tend to give away more data, depending on who the audience might be. We have various presentation tools. The professional ‘curriculum vitae’ is a well known written document; there are those who have a need to expound this format, even during informal exchanges, in an attempt to endorse forcefully who they are. Others will have different ways to summarize what they wish to convey.
Having worked in social service programs, specifically the prevention of violence against women, I have always been of two minds concerning the disclosure of a survivor’s abuse. On the one hand, the story needs to be told by the individual first for herself and second to authorities. in order to bring justice to the situation. But, how often is it necessary for the survivor to retell her story is something that I continue to question. The reality, however, is that like the survivor, we all do in fact retell our stories, over and over again.
As a writer, I often object to readers assuming my stories and my novels are about me. I object because that somehow dismisses my creativity when I tell my tales about the human condition. All the same, I am well aware that my stories address my insights and my interpretations that I have grasped through personal experiences, interactions with others, as well as observations and judgements I have made about individuals, perspectives, theories and issues.
During my lifetime, it is inevitable that I will continue to offer bits and pieces about who I am through my writing, as do other writers. At this juncture in my life I don’ t plan to write my memoirs. Nor do I plan to have a funeral, thus no eulogy. Nor will I summarize who I am in some neat little package. If you want to know me, then you need to listen when I tell my stories. Nevertheless, regardless what I tell you, it will always be you, the listener or the reader who will interpret who you think I am.
Marketing the second novel “Reconnecting”
Each time I think of the term ‘marketing’ I cringe. And each time the term comes up I recall the words of a Director I once had: “None of you know how to market yourselves!” Was that some sort of curse I continue to carry with me?
When my first novel “The Women Gather” was accepted by Baico Publishing in 2012, I was utterly grateful. What I hadn’t considered was the next step: marketing! What it really meant was self promotion:
“I have written this wonderful novel. Please buy it!”
Alright. I know that isn’t the approach one uses, but that is exactly what it feels like to the novice who is attempting to launch her work. Quite frankly, I was absolutely tongue tied during my initial venture into the sales world. Thankfully, my artist friend Emily MacLeod gave me some excellent tips, which encouraged me to engage with those who came by my display.
Nevertheless, I continued to hold onto my belief. What I do is write, because I need to write. It is in me to do that, just as it is in the artist to paint, the musician to play, the actor to perform.… It is not in me to sell, never mind to sell myself.
The reality, however, is that we live in a competitive world. Those of us who are writers know that there are thousands of us working at our next novel. Technology has given anyone and everyone the opportunity to create and word craft and get it out there into the blogging and eBook networks. Yet, I’m still the product of the old school: I need to see and feel my books in hard copy. There is a price to pay for that! Oh yes. It costs, regardless whether one has a publisher or not. The dastardly word ‘marketing’ is very much left in the hands of the author.
And thus, I am here again at this juncture! My second novel “Reconnecting” was again accepted by Baico Publishing and released in June 2015. Once more, I have to come to terms with the need to promote my work. It is no easier than the first time. Perhaps I am less awkward when potential customers ask me to tell them about the novel. Perhaps I am less disappointed when they walk away without having purchased it.
OWEN’S POEMS from “Reconnecting”
If you only knew
When we met by chance
In crowded rooms of people ‒
If you only knew.
When we met by chance
Alone in empty hallways ‒
If you only knew.
When we met by chance
With her, in that small café ‒
If you only knew.
When we met by chance
At the station heading home −
If you only knew.
When we met by chance
In the building where you live ‒
I will tell at last.
Often you have passed this way.
Did you know that I had
summoned your name?
And you have come ‒
not to stay,
only to remain for a heartbeat.
The battle with uncertainty ‒
The mystery of the eternal hidden from the ephemeral.
Dare I show you too much of me?
Someday! Not our time. Not yet.
I watched you in moon light
Caressing our child,
While you sung to her softly
As she nodded and smiled.
I capture these moments
Like a thief in the night
To glow in my memory ‒
You are my life, and my light.
Out there ‒ existence mingles with reality and truth.
Out there ‒ lies the depth and essence of life.
Out there ‒ the nucleus of good mocks the three-pronged deity.
From out there, the nucleus transcends supernatural symbolisms
and penetrates the soul of man
in the image of God.
There is peace in the world
when gentle flakes flutter from the heavens
like white blossoming flowers.
I arose early
to see the earth blanketed
in white crystalline velvet.
The sky loomed dark
but the shimmering snow
seemed to radiate the surroundings
in a light of its own.
Thickly piled flakes
smoothed the jagged ground
as though a sea of white petals
flowed ever so softly.
I longed to step bare-footed
onto the luscious covering.
My parched lips thirsted
to taste the cool wetness.
The meadow where we stroll and run
Is spread with blue straw flowers,
And butterfly wings reflect the sun,
While we dream away the hours.
Such golden times are in my heart,
For our days are surely numbered;
Though we cannot know unto what part
We journey when we’ve slumbered.
Yet in that field you will dance again ‒
Once my earthly life has left you ‒
With friends, holding hands after the rain,
Chanting songs for dreams anew.
There will I send a rainbow to let you know,
My soul rests within you, forever aglow.
Waiting for the words to flow
One of the treats of living in the country for Marlie, was her beloved geese. Going for a drive with Owen always meant that she might see them. To her great disappointment, however, there were no geese to be seen anywhere on that particular day. Marlie chuckled to herself. It made her think of the blank screen on her computer, as she waited for the words to flow from her mind to her fingers ‒ but nothing.
“Perhaps the geese got tired of being stalked,” she had told Owen. “They can’t keep away from us indefinitely.”
Just as with her writing, she hoped that they would reveal themselves to her, maybe even tomorrow.
How Marlie had wished that she could just transfer thoughts and feelings to paper as she experienced them. In her head, she had written many chapters, connecting each phrase with precision as though indeed someone was going to read it, nay, proof read it, and therefore ‒ it all had to be just so. She was very good at writing this way in her head where everything flowed without effort. She particularly loved the beginning of chapters or paragraphs. She knew the importance of simple provocative phrases to grab the interest of the reader. Whenever she was alone with her thoughts, a lead phrase would pop into her mind and off she would go. Her chapters were not linear but circular, always returning to that one subtle foreshadowing comment, tucked away some pages before. Once she transferred her mind-work to the computer, she could cut and paste as she wished. But ‒ before all that ‒ she had to get these thoughts out into a tangible form and obsess about the wording later.
Perhaps a small recording device would help. Instead of the silent head-thoughts, she could instead speak into the machine. Afterwards, the audible thoughts could be transferred to a visible state. She would spend time alone and write her book that way, the first draft being the spoken word. But, she realized that profound thoughts tended to come to her during long afternoon drives with Owen. Therefore, a recording device, didn’t seem to be the solution. If only she could go straight home to the computer and just get on with writing.
Being a meticulous planner, Marlie had set herself a time to begin her work. It would be in early September. Others may think of new beginnings as January, but for Marlie, it had always been September. She associated the going back to school as the time for reorganizing with new books and new clothing. There was a freshness to this naive way of thinking. It brought her back to her school days when she had really believed that she was the master of her own fate and that she could do anything she set her mind to. Without a whole lot of effort, she had always done well in school. She was never a fanatic; she didn’t ever go out of her way to excel. But if she liked a particular subject, or a special teacher, she would give the subject her all, which of course was a useful way of being at university where she had an astonishing experience. It was here that she finally became her own person. And it was here that she had met Owen, that first time.
But enough of daydreaming. It was September now and Marlie acknowledged that she hadn’t written anything. She couldn’t quite grasp why it was so difficult for her to start. She had always written. She remembered writing from the time she was at least ten. She had written poems in grade school and throughout her life, in fact: there was one about the garden which she had recited in grade six; she remembered the teacher had asked her who had written it, and to Miss Taylor’s surprise, Marlie had nonchalantly said, “Oh, it was me.” All through high school and university she had written poems. Then, everything had been easy. Everything just flowed from her mind onto paper. Her favourite continued to be “The River’s Tale”. She had switched to short message stories during the first few years of her marriage. They had become part of an annual tradition and printed in a newsletter. She had compiled a dozen of these and sent them off to a publisher. The rejection letter wasn’t a bad one, but enough of a deterrent. She didn’t try again. She remembered now that her last manager had asked her: “‒ and have you published?”‒ to which of course she had to say “No!” She had taken the question as a not so subtle put down and knew instantly that it was meant to impair her. Is that what had happened? Would she ever be able to convey her creative silent thoughts to the tangible visible state?
Then one day someone with whom she had worked had telephoned her. In later years, Marlie remembered this happenstance as a sign. Miranda had also written unpublished stories and continued to do so. When Marlie asked her how she got past the blank screen in front of her, Miranda let out a full, hearty laugh:
“If I knew the answer to that I would market it and it would be worth millions ‒ Marlie, you just have to keep trying and waiting for the words to flow!”
New Novel: Reconnecting
My second novel “Reconnecting” was again published by Baico Publishing.
Please come to my Book Launch on Saturday, June 13 at 2:00 p.m. at the
Cornwall Public Library, Program Room, 2nd floor
CORNWALL, Ontario, Canada
Copies of my first novel “The Women Gather” will also be available.
I look forward to seeing you.
Writing the First Novel
“And how long did it take to write and publish your first novel, The Women Gather ?” This was one of the constant questions asked during the interviews leading up to my book launch. If one were to survey my friends with this question, they would no doubt answer, “Forever!” Through all their support and encouragement, it must have been painful to keep being told: “I’m working on it!”
Truth of the matter, I’m not sure I wanted to come to the novel’s end. After retirement and moving to Cornwall, I worked hard to become part of the community. I joined various organizations to feel a sense of belonging. I also worked hard to disengage from my status as an ’employed person’. I needed to reinvent myself. Overall though, I was clearly searching for something more. I knew so many who pursued specific creative endeavours with what I could only define as ‘a passion’. While my many involvements did give me a sense of satisfaction, none remotely resembled a passion. Delving into my memory, it came to me that what I have always enjoyed was writing: short stories, poetry, articles, even briefing notes. I came to realize perhaps that is what I needed to tackle, seriously and with dedication.
And there’s the rub. Dedication! When I finally decided to get on with it and write the first novel, I was quite methodical. I knew what theme to promote; I knew what the story line would say; I knew how the chapters would evolve; I knew who the characters would be; I decided what the ending would reveal. I am after all an organized person ‒ perhaps an obsessively organized person. But then, once the writing began, something bewildering started to infiltrate and grasp hold. The characters as well as the story line indicated signs of taking on a life of their own. I’ve heard most writers describe this mystical experience. What I also discovered was that the process of creating became my passion. Reaching the goal of completion was quite secondary. I finally understood. The journey itself is the joy! Having said all that, at some point, reality called. I needed to write that last chapter and finish the work.
Now that my novel has been published by Baico Publishing and launched, it is finally out there. I have to let it go. It needs to take on a life of its own, with you, as the reader.
July 2012 article
Kindness column, Seaway News
‘The Women Gather’ – Baico Publishing Inc. – e-mail: email@example.com
Katalin Kennedy – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Available at Chapters.
In Cornwall, also ask for ‘The Women Gather’ at:
- ‘Life’s Little Pleasures’ – 108 Pitt Street, Cornwall or
- ‘The Grind’ – 35 Second Street, Cornwall or
- ‘Friends of the Library’, Cornwall Public Library
Price: $20 plus if applicable: $3 shipping and handling.
Tuesday, April 6 – Rhianna Returns
Aideen found mother and daughter surrounded by Snow (the Akita) and Lily (the cat) at the kitchen table in front of the tea pot, laughing at some story Rhianna had just told. They didn’t look like each other, except at the eyes. Yes, the eyes were the same, huge and open and dark — eyes that could see through you whatever your thoughts. But as for the rest, there was no resemblance, none at all. Where Tunde was tall and imposing, Rhianna was short and engaging. Her face too was quite beautiful, but more rounded than Tunde’s, with pink cheeks and firm uplifted lips. Her hair was curly and long with dark black strands spattered with gray. She had pulled it all up in a clasp that was fighting to fall out with every movement she made. And Rhianna was movement personified. She talked with her hands, her head and her shoulders! Where she was animated, Tunde was elegant. Where she was boisterous, Tunde was reserved. Yet there was an unmistakable connection between them, as though they were bound together with invisible silk threads that pulled and gave — one in harmony with the other.
“Come sit with us, Aideen!” Rhianna invited her. “My daughter has told me about you. Welcome to Lemuria. Here is a nice cup of jasmine tea to start your day.”
“I believe that Aideen’s day started several hours ago, Mother,” Tunde smiled at her young charge. “What did you find out about our beginnings, this time?”
“I was reading Lin Yao’s letters, mostly to her mother and to Patia, about her trip to China. It felt like being there. I’m looking forward to more stories about her. I hope she kept up her diary, because Nora gave her a white leather bound journal for her sixteenth birthday.” Aideen’s voice was eager, wanting reassurance.
Tunde smiled with obvious fondness. “You have become quite the detective, unraveling our history! .. “The work you are doing Aideen has not been attempted, owing to the sheer volume of our constantly growing acquisitions. You are indeed an unexpected gift from the gods.”
She excused herself as she and Rhianna hurried off to the Temple for the first plenary of the day.
Aideen waited a bit, pulled her hair back into a knot and placed the gray caftan that Tunde had given her, over her outer clothing. She cautiously followed the path which mother and daughter had taken to the Temple. Once there, she found an inconspicuous archway at the back where the chelae were already seated. Aideen hoped to blend in with the other young women. There was something going on. She felt it instinctively.
Akkasha Chaeli was on the platform at the head of the Temple. There was excitement in her voice…
“And now I have a wonderful surprise for you. We had hoped that she would be able to be with us, but with her heavy schedule of commitments we were not sure until last evening. I am of course speaking of our Ambassador Rhianna, daughter of Patia, who is our official liaison representative to the Norean Order Network of Sanctuaries.
Aideen watched in awe as a magnificent woman walked methodically up the steps of the platform. Her dove gray robe flowed about her body with exquisite assurance and the rainbow silk shawl caressing her face floated over and behind her shoulders elongating her physique. She removed some papers from the sleeve of her robe and carefully placed them on the podium. She attached the translation device to her bosom and smiled brightly.
How wonderful it is to be here among you my Sisters. Thank you for fitting me into your very busy week. I bring you greetings from all parts of the world. I know so many of you. I have sat with you sharing tea. I have sat with you at your satsangs listening to your discoveries and thoughts. I have mourned with you when we buried your dead. I have rejoiced with you at the birth of your babies and here I am again among you, celebrating our past and looking with great anticipation to our future…
Excerpt from ‘The Women Gather’ by Katalin Kennedy
“THE WOMEN GATHER”, Katalin Kennedy
Published by: BAICO Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-1-926945-87-3
EMESE’S DREAM PRODUCTION
“We live in a period of history which has the potential to be the most enlightened. Yet, it has become almost expected that we adopt a blaming, pessimistic, dark attitude, both for today and for what lies ahead.”
“The Women Gather”, reflects author, Katalin Kennedy’s passion to put forth her belief that the world can, indeed, create a more positive future.
Katalin’s optimistic attitude is not surprising. She and her family escaped Hungary in 1956 and immigrated as refugees to Canada. She graduated from Ottawa’s Carleton University and has managed major national projects as Program Consultant on Seniors’ and Women’s Issues with Health Canada. She now lives in Cornwall and writes the monthly Kindness column for Seaway News.
“The Women Gather” takes place in Lemuria, Ontario, at a teaching retreat for women, founded by Nora Fényes-Bryson to provide a safe haven for women so that they could rediscover their true selves and make the world a better place. With time, the Norean Order spread throughout the world. Women from various Sanctuaries are now attending the International “Gathering” Symposium to report on their researched progress and evolution.
Starting in the late 1990s, “The Women Gather” journals the phases our society has gone through, the problems and resistance encountered and projects a world into the year 2066.
“The Women Gather” is not a work of Science Fiction rather a learning journey with which that readers can identify. The members of the Norean Order feel ready for their re-entry into the world outside of Lemuria to carry the message forward. The book portrays the potential future for men and women alike.
Join Katalin Kennedy at the launch of “The Women Gather”.
Date: July 21, 2012
Time: 2 – 4:00 PM
Place: Cornwall Public Library, 2nd Floor, Second Street East, Cornwall