In My Solitude     

“In my solitude you haunt me, with reveries of days gone by. In my solitude, you taunt me, with memories that never die. I sit in my chair, and filled with despair, there’s no one could be so sad. With gloom everywhere, I sit and I stare, I know I’ll soon go mad.” –Ellington, DeLange & Mills

I used to often play piano in the dark. “She’s weird,” I would hear my mother say, before turning on the light, closing the door and going back to the kitchen. I would wait a few moments, and then turn off the light and continue playing in the dark. I would be feeling it and making it up, so I didn’t need to see the keys or notes. It did sink in that perhaps I was weird, and weird definitely had a negative connotation, but I always felt different and I really loved to play piano in the dark. I could play for a half hour on an instrumental or sing my heart out on one of the fifty songs I had written by seventh grade. Usually the door was closed to the kitchen and the rest of the family, and it was my own time. I have two sisters, one of which I shared a room with for ten years, and two loving parents, and otherwise my schedule was jam-packed with school, sports and music. I have always loved writing, singing, reading, and wandering (I used to meander in the ravine behind our house for hours), however, and these things required solo time. Outside of the crowded classrooms, team sports and family time, I found solace and happiness in my solitude.

By grade nine, I was really into Jazz. I played Jazz tunes in my spare time at home and sang in Vocal Jazz in school. On a five-state US tour, I bought my first Billie Holiday cassette (yep, it was the ‘90s). I put on my headphones, pressed play, and for the next two days tuned the bus and the rest of the world out, listening exclusively to Billie. After performing, our group was adjudicated by Western Michigan University’s “Gold Company” Vocal Jazz instructor. Apparently he was impressed with my ability to improvise on demand, and my instructor said he had noted a bit of Billie in my inflexions during my solo. Three years younger than all the other soloists, and despite singing happy lilts such as S’Wonderful and I Got Rhythm, we walked away with the Outstanding Musicianship Award, Billie and I.

When I think of Billie Holiday, I think of, In My Solitude, Good Morning Heartache, and Ain’t Nobody’s Business – songs about utter lonesomeness, broken hearted pining, and forlorn love. Usually low self-worth and surrender were involved, and one who didn’t treat you right, but you loved just the same and you wanted back, after all, it was better than being alone. There seemed no end to Billie’s blues. She sang so beautifully, emotionally, honestly, and when she sang, you felt it, you knew it, and you were not alone because Billie, too, had obviously deeply felt your pain.

I soon found Ella (Fitzgerald), Miles (Davis) and Chet (Baker). Ella was incomparably smooth, thrilling and exuberant, but her renditions of Good Morning Heartache, Blue Moon and Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered floored you and your heart every time. Miles, without even singing, could be heart-wrenchingly blue (Try listening to Blue In Green on a dark grey afternoon, or with the lights off before bed) and Chet was incredibly soft yet commanding in his resignation to life and love (just listen to Almost Blue or My Funny Valentine). I am not discounting the drug habits of some Jazz greats, nor whatever impact the drugs may have had on any of them or the true melancholy they seemed to tenderly espouse, but no one can discount how compelling and masterful their ability to translate deep, dark lows and relentless hopelessness into absolute sonic beauty: Here was pure heart & soul in music form.

I am considered by many to be an extrovert. By those who know me well, know I am more introverted than extroverted, seeking and needing more solo time than most, and maybe even a bit of a loner. Despite my shyness, I have always had many friends. Yet it is music that has been my most steadfast, unfailing and unfaltering friend. From a young age, I was honest, serious and sensitive. I felt and loved deeply and the hurt of misunderstanding, rejection and unrequited affection were always nearly unbearable. Perhaps this is why Jazz artists, more than others, sang out to me. We were all forsaken – we had loved and lost love, we all found solace and a lifeline in music, and I was not alone, in my solitude or agony: – the Jazz greats got it – they had had it bad, and it wasn’t good, but, in their empathy and understanding, had turned the unbearable into enduring music perfection.

Maybe my love affair with solitude is due to my love affair with Jazz, with identifying with the Jazz greats and their pain and hurt, their longing and sadness, their understanding and compassion, and their amazing capacity for musical eminence. I wonder how much my love of Jazz has impacted and infused my outlook, sense and need of solitude; or, how much Jazz appealed to me, from a young age, because of a predisposition for loving and pursuing many things that require solitude. Both cases are merely testament to the power of both Jazz and solitude. I used to play many team sports, and throw in a few group activities, but now mostly do solo sports like running, hiking, biking, and the gym. I have lived with 25 people, but have mostly lived on my own. I am a singer, songwriter, writer and blogger. I am also a traveler – and have often done so solo.

Solitude is frequently associated with unhappiness, loneliness and lost love. Definitely, the Jazz lyrics highlight these aspects. And popular health and culture are touting the negative impacts of not enough social contact and ties. But it is also commonly thought that the number one “Creativity Habit” (Leo Babauta, is solitude. Writer Joe Fassler ( claims, “Great artists need solitude:” that, according to award-winning author Dorothy Nors, “It’s not drugs, wild lovers or poverty that make a great writer. It’s discipline and time alone.” Psychologist Rollo May concurs, stating, “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

I think there is a general fear of being alone, and that darkness and loneliness ensue. I think there is also a general idea of how social we, human beings, should be. But how much social time is enough? How much social contact do we need? How much solitude is acceptable? It depends entirely on who we are and what we love to do. Artists, writers, and those pursuing creative paths, I think it’s safe to say, require more solitude than others. I don’t advise constant solitude, I don’t advise constant anything. Some age-old adages are age-old for a reason: It’s about balance, moderation and what works for you. Find your bliss in whatever amount of solitude works best for you.

*Originally written for ANALOGUE MAGAZINE, Issue 6 (May), Victoria, BC


At a café in Walnut Grove, we are descended upon by at least 35 teenage boys followed by 12 teenage girls. All but three ordered a donut and a coca cola – a few got two donuts, two got egg sandwiches and one bought a bottle of water and had brought grapes. Are we rearing the next generation – or enabling them to rear themselves – as a coke-n-donut generation? Sugar Kids or The Sugar Era – will they inherit the earth? Take over from where past generations have left off? Skyrocket us to and cultivate Mars? Will they advance technology? With their diabetes and hypertension? Is it the single families or two-income households or expensiveness of local, organic produce, a lack of health information dissemination? Can we blame schools for this, the kids themselves, or ourselves?

Admittedly, prior to their arrival, I ordered an americano and – since I was here – an apple fritter. Probably the worst donut out there, and though it is rare, usually the only one I get. Go big, right? I am visiting my folks who this morning, were both hacking up lungs in different rooms. Mom had an appointment at the clinic so I decided to go along and find a quiet café to write in. Throw in a few f-bombs and the blitz lasted all but fifteen minutes. It reminded me of this one time at a Tim Horton’s in Victoria, BC around 10:30am. It was across the street from a high school, and as sure as the Pope’s Catholic (they still have to be, right?), there was a similar kids-n-donuts storm. I remember feeling badly for the sixty-something ladies working behind the counter, all flustered, moving as quickly as gravity and age would allow, wondering how they got to be working there, if they wanted to be working there, and regardless, pitying them and wishing them and myself a better fate. That Tim Horton’s was later shut down – perhaps the only Tim Horton’s to be shut down ever, I would guess. There is now one a few blocks further up the road attached to a gas station, at a busier intersection, and past much heavy traffic, for the students to travel to get their carbonated beverages and sweet sugary treats. Location is key, and it is smart business economically in the short-term – but medically and long-term: What are we doing?

My sister has three kids. The McDonald’s, late night nachos, mega-packs, family- and Costco-sized bags of chips, cookies, you name it, seemed unending. Structurally we are not making it easy to raise a family healthily. Why not? How long since we’ve discovered and been told ad nauseum of the irrefutability and clear and statistical fantastic-ness of  “prevention” (an ounce is worth a pound of cure) and the undeniable evils of trans fat and sugar?  But sometimes sugar is what we want, whether in a cola, a donut, a bowl of frosted flakes or a frosty pint. We have been trained to want sugar by having sugar. Trained through pricing and advertising. And in this indoctrination and inundation of anti-health messages, we have trained ourselves to be more used to feeling unwell than well.

I have worked in pubs for a decade, and as a professional musician, I play in bars too. I am around alcohol more often than I am away from it. Inevitably, after abstaining from alcohol for two or three days, I feel grrreat! And inevitably, I think – I could really go for a beer! I have developed a sugar habit, an adult, almost exclusively alcohol-based habit, borne primarily of my environment, and the social acceptability of it in my environment. Take me out of these environs – as I frequently and happily do – and I would rather run, hike, bike, kayak, adventure, make a healthy meal, read, write, play music, and learn of goings-on in the rest of the world. I crave the outdoors and the escape of pubs as much as I at times crave a pint. I guess you could say I have been trained or trained myself into both habits.

I was raised on a lot of $1/loaf bread, sugary cereal, and cold cuts. With both parents coming from low-income and British, French Canadian and Ukrainian backgrounds, the diet left much to be desired. I moved out at 18 and have maintained a healthier diet since. I cannot afford to buy organic much, but there is a lot of local produce available in southwest BC, and many alternatives to sugar. I was raised with hand-me down clothing and on hand-me down philosophies of cheaper-is-better, go for the deal, you-get-what-you-get-and-you-say-thank-you, and cheap, packaged meat and dairy from the Great US of A. We were taught the value of things – raised to not waste, throw things out or overindulge – and bred to work hard, be honest, respectful, courteous, grateful, and when possible – happy and quiet. I was taught many things and trained in many ways by various people, institutions and news sources, on everything from mathematics to Catholicism, and riding a bike to the socio-politics of Burma. We can be trained, untrained and retrained. We need to weed out the bad and nourish the good. What is essential is to cultivate our own minds, question everything, and learn what works for us as individuals and as a society. I know, one cause or fight at a time. I guess today is Anti-Sugar Day.

My angle is not about blame, but personal agency. The responsibility is on each of us to inform ourselves and keep ourselves healthy. And with this responsibility comes personal freedom and power. We need to retrain ourselves to aim at being healthy and feeling good. We need to surround ourselves with others who have the same values and goals in this regard. Nothing like support and community to help a cause, and what better cause than our own health and happiness? I don’t need to get into the biomedical arguments of how so many illnesses and diseases feed on and are accelerated by sugar, how predispositions can become full-blown diseases, ultimately hugely taxing our health and medical systems funded by our own tax dollars. There are so many arguments against sugar, what are the pro-sugar arguments outside of short-term economics and immediate craving gratification? I am not going to sit here and tell you how to raise your kids or how easy it is to just be healthy and conscientious. Nothing is always easy and times are tough.

What I implore is this: Let’s do the best we can: let’s focus on what matters most to us – as individuals, families, friends, societies; let’s care about ourselves and those around us. We don’t live in a vacuum – if I get sick, you are more likely to. I believe and urge that health should be a top priority, whereby enabling other values and goals. Individually and collectively: less sugar feels better, inside and out, in both the short- and long-term. Less sugar is in the best interest of our bodies, souls and economy. Let’s promote less sugar. Cheaper is not necessarily better, especially when cheaper often means more sugar, fat and preservatives. Don’t you want real food, and to feel good more often? With a little forethought and effort, we can move our selves away from sugar, one day, one apple and one glass of water at a time.

It is often said and felt that the younger generation has an unmerited, overarching sense of entitlement. So, let’s “N” -title them, and ourselves, with real nourishment. Let’s kick the sugar habit, one cola, one donut and one pint at a time. What do you say?

years ago

a friend of mine told me

his mother read about


a carcinogen

found in most shampoos

most shampoos

that claim to be



and i remember

i used revlon’s


for years

made my hair

super shiny

and soft

i had no idea

if it was natural

no idea

if it used


and i found out

in canada


don’t have to list

all the ingredients

on all things

like shampoo

it was up to me

to inquire

so i called

the 1-800 number

and in those days

you still reached

a real human being

on the other end

of the line

and promptly

i found out

that no

outrageous did not have


the dreaded carcinogen

in it

i was happy

and relieved

not so much

because i didn’t have

to change shampoos

but to learn

that for years

i could have possibly

been rubbing

a carcinogen

into my scalp

and letting it


into my brain and


slowly infecting

my whole body

but then

quickly after

realizing that no

this was not the case

and to my knowledge

thus far

my scalp

was mainly


there was a lot

of discussion

over sodium

laureth sulphate (SLS)

as well

but the revlon


assured me

that SLS

was not


and without it

shampoo would


not have


for SLS

is the lather


just as

pseudoeffendrin or


is the decongestant


in cold medications



being banned in canada

as it’s really just

synthetic speed


being the body’s

natural adrenalin


DEA was bad

SLS was fine

but what is with


and natural claims

i can’t barely


nearly all of the


i mean

usually water is #1

and the ever-present

sodium laureth sulphate #2

there is glycerin

citric acid?

sodium chloride (salt)?

and ‘fragrance’

-as a blanket category?-

outside of these few

you find

multi-syllabic words

abbreviations, numbers:

cocamidopropyl betaine

cocamide MEA





disodium EDTA


is the same preservative

used in foods

like canned chick peas

and ichiban

you find

poly- this and methyl-that

hydroxy- this and coca- that

C12-16 Pareth-9

in english please?

is this in code?

i’m not clear as to

why we use

preservatives, salt

and heaps of chemicals

to clean our hair

that’s dead already

isn’t that right?

and to caress our

scalps with

to sink into our cranial pores

add a little silk and wheyproteins

and you’ve got yourself

a ‘healthy’ shampoo

one that works for you

whatever your pleasure





perhaps it’s worth

a few moments’


Stunted Mind. Volume 3, Issue 1. © Stunted Mind Productions Ltd.

Thank you, from your Sidestep Mindwarp Service Provider:

where is the line

between unmotivated

and lazy

between depression

and the blues

how do you know

what to blame yourself for

when the instinct

is to blame


for everything

to critique everything

you find you are

judging others

so you must too be

judging yourself

and as this war goes on


you don’t defend yourself as

you would with an outside


you are used to this attack

you don’t see it as an attack

but you do see it

as something outside yourself

something that falls upon you


like a cloud

that at times

just lifts

and how do you explain it

to everyone

to anyone

that has never experienced

what you experience

it’s like this thing

that overtakes you

it’s not a part of you

you feel it coming on

and you feel it dissipating

and you negotiate with this

cloud of gloom

this heavy load

the weight of the world

you try to talk to yourself

talk it away

talk yourself strong

but it’s still there

until it’s not

how do you retain control

over yourself

respect from others

it’s all you

your siblings aren’t depressed

your folks are awesome

it’s how you interpret

you over-think

no matter how much

or little you drink

it’s too much

it’s the main thing

you get mad at yourself for

because you know better

it can lower your mood

it wastes your time

you feel guilty

you have no willpower

you self-recriminate

you feel like everyone

is progressing more than you

faster than you

why can’t you decide things

why can’t you let things go

and as this war goes on


you feel as though

everyone can see it in you

some days

people seem to be

looking at you

differently or more

what is different about you


or are you always different

but today you’re smiling less

you don’t feel like smiling

but you have a great smile

why don’t you feel like


is everyone else

happier than you

does everyone else

‘get it’

is it the rules you trip on

or the words

your sense

you lose trust in yourself

when did you lose trust

you always felt different

nowadays you try to remind

yourself that we are all


and no one is watching

no one cares

but you care

you feel like you care less


and you worry then that

you don’t care enough

it’s never enough


are never enough

everyone else seems

okay with you

at heart you feel

you love yourself

you think you are interesting

you try to be a great person

you try not to offend

you don’t want

to be taken advantage of


you aren’t assertive enough

listen to you

you’re so self-absorbed

but you are aiming for peace

at times you feel

highly motivated


you smile a lot

though it’s been a long while

since the last time your sides

hurt from laughing

all this talk about

your insides hurting

accepting the hurt child

you know you’re your own

worst critic

but you’re trying to be your

own best friend

and you think you’re

stopping it

but are you

you can’t do relationships

you try to be yourself

stay true to yourself

but you feel like a bitch

feelings are lost to thoughts

never mind

this is why you have

whatever gifts or skills

it’s nature’s compensation

for the way you are

as if born with some defect

some lack, some misfiring

always seeking

meaning, fun, love

always seeking

how do you stop

wanting to be

a different way

working so hard on positivity

on yourself

on enjoying the moment

on being enough

without drugs

without anyone else

you can do this

Stunted Mind. Volume 5, Issue 5. © Stunted Mind Productions Ltd.

Thank you, from your Sidestep Mindwarp Service Provider:

pretend fucking

and pretend baths


and wondering

and spitting up masts

masts of protection

masts of self-destruct

masts of leverage

and masts of not much

that’s how you get off

that’s the main way

you get off

and no one knows

no one can know

how it is

that you really

really get off

for how could they

should they

it’s not

their business

not their understanding


i mean

it could be

but one must hold in

some parts

of some desires


one’s goodness

and badness


what the hell

why the hell

what the hell for

why the hell did you…?

that’s what i mean

that’s when you

get off


not always

you don’t need it rough

not always

but sometimes

and in imagination

in pretend

by yourself

the things you say

the words you reiterate

the guiding words

the vocalization

that you could never

say out loud

for fear you’d feel funny






etc etc etc

if it wasn’t for those

timberwolf eyes

you wanted to say…


it was the way

he grabbed you

and pulled you


the way he said

to you


let’s go home’

as if

it was your home


the way he listened

and seemed

to take not only

interest but delight

in what you

had to say

you felt wanted



no one else

existed in the room

when those eyes

were on you

but those eyes

those eyes

were lost


through your forest


and at heart

you knew it

how could you not

but how could you

not let yourself feel

what they gave to you

what those hands

did with you

to you

all over you

and then

there were the teeth

bite after bite

only the odd


except for once

or twice

worth it all

as you knew

it was not

a long engagement

but loaded and brief

a tacit contract

both of you knew

it was for fun

for now

no way in hell

you should be more

or take your time

no reason

not to try

take it in

take him in

as he took you


things got hot



a love sprint

or lust sprint

more like

it couldn’t be

all pretend


of feeling

and thought

but mostly




both trying

to be steel

what of it

it was

what it was

no one’s business

opened your mind

and your body

to other senses

new sensations



so have your trysts

your baths

your masts

pretend all you want

if it’s what

gets you off

you don’t have to

say it out loud

though you might

enjoy the release

either way

get off already

Stunted Mind. Volume 2, Issue 5. © Stunted Mind Productions Ltd.

Thank you, from your Sidestep Mindwarp Service Provider:

it used to be

back in the day

one drank to celebrate

one drank at the end

of the work day

but these days

we don’t drink

to celebrate

we drink

to drink

or i do

a lot of us do

there was that lyric..

by ben harper

some drink to remember

some drink to forget

some drink to satisfaction

some drink to regret


beautifully said

a lot of us drink

way too much

keeps us out of touch

keeps us from progressing

keeps us from becoming

what we think we want

from ourselves

of ourselves

keeps us from being

who we already were

who we were at 23

or 18

or whenever

you felt your best

your most creative

most en route

to self-actualizing

we drink drink drink

years go by

you don’t black out

you don’t do shots

now that’s the key

don’t do shots

you realize

it’s the hard booze

that you don’t tolerate

don’t metabolize

don’t DO well

you didn’t do shots

for several years

you learned your lesson

you attended new year’s eve


and liked it

you got so much done

researched things

ran the 10k

finished that book

did that course

played more guitar

got groceries

honest to god

even just got groceries

and they didn’t all expire

in your fridge

all the organic produce

that you love

cause you’re eating less

running more

then running less

you took some time off

from the booze

the bottled amigo

your body was happier

not right away

it gets confused

can you blame it?

after a few days

you went a whole week


i need to go visit the folks

and dry out

is what you say



what does it take

you ask yourself

i don’t know who i think i am


he texted me one night



and there’s talk of AA


my god

my god my god

how scared are you

how worried

you beat yourself up


how often

for drinking

you can dapple

with drugs


but essentially

you know your vice

you know


is what takes you

the turning point

is the starting point


the odd time

you can have

one or two

but the odd time

is increasingly odd

two or three drinks

a day

becomes eight

no shots

quickly becomes five

because you know people

you work in bars

you know people in bars

your friends are out


there’s that thing


there’re seasonal


but we don’t drink

to celebrate

i don’t

i used to drink

to get away from myself

off my own back

now i drink

to be impervious

to not be affected

by others

i drink

because i like booze

i like the non-sweetness

i’m sweet enough

i joke

joke’s getting old

we’re getting older

we used to DO stuff

go to art galleries

attend functions

write and play more

the first step

the lessons learned

years ago

was to self-love

and i did that

i think

now to

accept what is

discern the necessary actions

change what you need to

what you have to

discern and gather the



make the change

Stunted Mind. Volume 2, Issue 8. © Stunted Mind Productions Ltd.

Thank you, from your Sidestep Mindwarp Service Provider:

and the men are hanging out in

their cars

waiting beside the sidewalks

with their motors running

gets me thinking

i should walk like the motor

run that is

if i plan on safety

at least my own ease

people are whistling

at cars

at other people

people are bustling

people are busy

who do you see

who do you want to meet

wait for the light or turn

turn first then wait for the light

only when you have to

there’s no difference

between the struts outside

the struts inside

just wear suits more

and do you want

middle class suburbia

the cars the dogs

the okily dokily neighbours

the life of so many

making many so random

taking many into the hands

of many and indistinguishability

do we want to be unknown

could we be more careless

than those who don’t subscribe

would you rather contrive

be the ten-millionth one

to reach the american dream

participate in patriotic disarray

are you that disillusioned by

the suits and clothes and shoes

fancy this and fancy that

technology must reach you

you must reach out to it

is that it

the eternal technological calling


needing to run the race

race time

beat aging

be the one

are you not

fighting yourself

beating yourself

you want to be number one

but you are

containing yourself

within a shallow box

uniform and patented

for the masses

and common

not to say you’re common

unless you’d like to be

what do you want to hear

do you listen most

to what you want to hear

to who tells you what you need

to hear

to believe

what you grew up believing

you don’t want to lose sight

but you never had it

and you’re scared


light trying to seep through



of all the things you wanted

of all your dreams

concave with fear

concave with uncertainty


you’re frantically shitless

where are they

all those who used to tell

you what to do

what was wrong

what was cheeky

how to decide

so many decisions

little lamb lost

do you want to be found

it takes energy

strength will desire

is there desire


in you

is there love


in you

are you enough

lying on this question

day and night

hour after hour

are you enough

do you feel adequate

do you feel secure

you want to be secure

safe and sound

that’s what you always wanted

reliable route

gone astray or

going the right way

you’re looking

for the signs



to a new way of thinking

to a new realm of gods

where you can be god

because you don’t feel

like your own god

you want to be


there’s nothing wrong

with bussing to work


with the same people

the odd new cough or sneeze

there’s nothing wrong

fill the quota

there is no wrong

does it make you happy

do you think

you deserve to be happy

does your want outweigh

your reservation

do you hear

your biological needs



wanderlust of other


worn like leather

keep at others’ dirty dishes

master of no one

what of this

what of you

none of this

is real


has to be real

until you let it be

let it in

master of you


it just flows

comes like a river

you can no longer


that this

is definitive


is definitive

nothing at all

survive this

survive yourself

it’s natural

can’t go against nature

why destroy?

it’s harder to fight

it’s harder

any other way

won’t satisfy

the hungry soul

the inner drought


no longer



music suggestion: PJ Harvey: Is This Desire?

Stunted Mind. Volume 1, Issue 1. © Stunted Mind Productions Ltd.

Thank you, from your Sidestep Mindwarp Service Provider: