Category Archives: MY TENDER HUMAN JOURNEY

(vulnerable sharings on my very human journey)

Us

I have a headache… probably from staying up too late, watching “This Is Us”. The writing is brilliant. Beautiful. Heart warming. Heart breaking. Both, sometimes at the same time.

Why is life so complicated? How did kindness become such a challenging state of being to bestow upon those around us?

I am constantly reminded that kindness is a choice, as are many other things, and sometimes kindness means to be honest with the kind of integrity that makes you quake inside, that makes you worry that everything meaningful you’ve ever hoped to build toward will crumble.

Sometimes it means to be brave and to persevere, even though failure might be the end result. I feel I’ve done that, time and again in my life. Not always, because sometimes fear yanks away the wheel from my grip and relegates me to the back seat, but when I let it drive for a while, I realize that I’m moving farther away from where my heart wants me to be. So I relent, find the resolve to take my seat in the front again.

I try to lead by good example, and I fail that too, at times. Spectacularly. I fail because I can’t see past my own humanity, or that of the ones who surround me, by whom I fail, sometimes. I look at people and see what they are not. What they could be. What I think they are, however erroneously. The strengths and weaknesses intermingled into one hot mess that I can’t rise above, at least not then, maybe not ever.

The thing is, I keep coming back, showing up to give it another go. I do that because I believe in us, all of us. I believe in people, and their beautiful frailty and strength. The two don’t diminish each other, they make each stronger, more enduring.

When I was young, I would get into these dark moods. It was a kind of sadness that would grow out from my marrow and overwhelm me. It felt sort of like covering myself with a big comforter in the early morning, in an attempt to sink back into sleep, not sure whether it was to rest some more or as an escape from the weight of trying to learn to be a human being.

No one really teaches you how to be that. Sure, we are told what to do and not do by anyone who has an opinion to give. Mostly though, we each end up finding our own way, no matter how skewed the journey. We learn from those around us how we want to be; who we want to be less like. Our hearts are broken a million times in a lifetime, and in the end it is up to us to figure out how to find a way to mend each break.

Sometimes, people come into our lives, at times briefly, at times more enduringly, and teach us the things we need to know to become more of who we are meant to be. Sometimes they just hold our hands while we figure things out, and sometimes they hold all of us, our lives, together while we make our way through to the other side of the painful things that break us down and force us to remake ourselves again. Sometimes, they do the breaking, or watch us break, hoping that we will find a way to mend ourselves, on our own.

I have no answers – I never have. I have only more questions, many without any answers.

I’ve learned that being told what to do seldom works. My mother, on those darkened days, used to urge me to “cheer up”. There was never a moment that she reached out to try to solve the why of it, or how to go about finding a solution. It’s not that she had any answers, per se, but maybe going through the motions of coming up with solutions, to be witnessed instead of reacted to, I might have found my own way to the answers, at least a whole lot sooner than fifty some-odd years in.

I still don’t have all the answers, though, at least not definitive ones. The solutions change as quickly as the dilemmas do, and what worked today may not work tomorrow. What I have learned though is to stay the course, through the good stuff, the less than pleasant stuff. There is always some kind of revelation that arises, if I am patient enough, if I allow myself to be open to its receiving. If I forgive myself when I give a less than stellar performance and allow myself to be the human that I am.

Life is miraculous. The fact that we exist is miraculous, that we’ve persevered as a collective species; that I am alive, despite so many odds of it being otherwise. I don’t understand, can’t even pretend to know, why it is so. That is part of the great mystery.

What I do know is that the reason we have survived is because we have been able to find common ground… to pull together and help support each other in the face of insurmountable odds. We have found ways to persevere, and to thrive because we have been able to become greater than the sum of our collective parts.

Sure, for millennia, the weakest amongst us were eliminated from the gene pool by virtue of the fittest outliving those that were less so. We live a comfortable existence today, by comparison. We have luxuries and comforts that very few were afforded with any sort of regularity even a century ago. You could say that such softness was an affliction of the ruling class, a class that got to where they were by originally being the hardier and smarter of the populace, but that became diminished by dint of their self-inflicted segregation.

We weaken when we become exclusive, when we stop engaging with each other. It is a sure recipe for die-off. We owe it to ourselves, our children and their progeny, to learn from what has come before, to let all of that sink in real good, and find a way to rise above all of it.

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tidings on the eve of a new year

Saturday, the last day of this year. I sit on the living room couch, waiting for the kettle to boil for my second cup of coffee. As I look outside, I see a dense snowfall curtain of various sized flakes. There is a calm that settles upon the world when it snows. I don’t know whether it’s the ions in the air that provide the shift or whether it is the flight of the flakes of snow as they travel through the air that elicits a mesmerizing effect.

Gabriel is in the bathroom, showering and getting ready for work. The sound of rap music permeates the otherwise silent house. I wonder how this music, so foreign to anything that I or his father would have introduced him to, is his music of choice. Perhaps it is my lack of providing him with enough cultural influence that created the void that he chose to fill with it. Obviously Loreena McKennitt and Sarah McLaughlin, the two whose music I most often listened to at home while I was working on my art projects, would not become his music of choice. In any case, he is preparing to start work at 1PM and I will have the house to myself for the rest of the night since he plans to go out after work to ring in the new year.

I will spend the rest of the year, as I do most of my free time, alone. I’m not sure how to change this hermit-like existence that I lead. In some ways I wish that I had a more active social life, one in which I am surrounded by friends and family that care to include and embrace me into their fold, and another part of me finds the whole prospect tiring. The enforced interaction, while I warm to it once engaged in it, still requires an effort on my part that is oftentimes overcome by my lack of interest in the effort required to get to that place.

I wanted to do a reading for myself on this final day of the year, to get a glimpse of the overview of what the new year has to bring. Again, I wanted to engage with it with some fanfare, ritualize the process, but the same part of me that skirts the effort required for human interactions also determines that the fanfare is unnecessary. I have stripped my life down to bare bones, and it feels more real this way, devoid of pretense or posturing. The effort it takes to maintain that extra veil of being human often feels like a waste of time and energy. We eventually get to the nitty gritty and find that had we gotten there in the first place, so much of the side-effects of the delayed revelations could have been avoided altogether.

Life in this middle age of my life is proving even more dumbfounding to navigate. I can see how people come into a crisis of sorts at this point in time. Everything is the same on the surface yet so much is shifting. Mortality becomes obvious – people around us start to die, our idols and icons, friends, relatives – and we come to a place where we feel compelled to take stock of our own lives, if we haven’t already been forced to do so before. In whatever disarray it appears to be, I must make peace with where it is now, and more importantly find within myself the will to carry on and make new goals, goals that are in alignment to where I now find myself. The challenge is to find within myself the motivation to carry them out despite the proven failure or questionable success of those that I had previously set or envisioned. What is success, anyway? Does it matter in the end?

I am trying to determine what, if anything, will encourage me to take a step forward, in any direction, to determine what will ignite within me the impetus for a desire for movement of any kind. Perhaps it is the wrong time of year, for me, to be exploring this. Perhaps now I should simply sit with the influx of various possibilities, let them fill my belly and, as the French say, let the whole thing mijotte (which is so much nicer than its English equivalent, “stew”).

I was considering getting dressed and going to the store to pick up a few things, items for a meal that I wanted to prepare for dinner. Chicken paprikas sounded good, with elbow macaroni dolloped with sour cream (since making nokedli is just too much work for the likes of me). I have not made a Hungarian dish in so long that I wonder if I still know how to do it. Anyu has been gone for thirteen years and I’m pretty sure I haven’t made anything Hungarian in going on two decades, maybe longer. Perhaps today will be spent pouring over her cookbooks.

Somehow our common appreciation for food has united us past the grave, despite time passing, despite our differences, despite taking so very long to come to terms with all that had transpired during our shared time together, as a family, as individuals. So much of everything that she was, that we were, leaves me with the impression that I really didn’t know about anything, and what was divulged was too inadequate to really grasp the whole of a picture. It leaves me sitting here, on this winter day, watching the snowflakes fall outside my window, with a hunger to understand more and the certitude that it will be buried in a past that can never be recovered.

My curiosity for good (and different from what I was eating daily) food led me to seek out the food of many different cultures for the sake of variety, while her staunch disinterest in anything but traditional Hungarian cuisine and her proficiency and excellence at the execution of the meals she prepared instilled in me an understanding of how a great cook cooks. I can finally say, now in my midlife, that I am edging closer to culinary proficiency when I stand before ingredients and stove, when I have some inkling to the flavour that the recipe is intent on eliciting from the fusion of its parts and process.

More exciting still is that I now also am often inspired by an inkling in my palate that I seek to reproduce by virtue of bringing ingredients and flavours together in the execution of a meal. This atout (once again borrowed from the French language, a word that hints at a sort of innate skill or gift that puts one ahead of the game) was something my mother already possessed when I began observing her in the kitchen. She always insisted that I observe and taste, touch. I know what a dough is supposed to feel like when it’s ready to be rolled out for beigli and how it’s supposed to taste. The flavour of it lingers in my palate’s memory. I haven’t attempted to replicate it, but it sits there as part of my collective history.

The snowfall is heavier now, falling faster – as I observe it, it has the effect of the static hiss of the after hours station identification when television stations would go off the air for the night. This again reminds me of how things have changed in the span of my lifetime, for better in some ways, and not so much in others. It leaves me to ponder the dissonance between the experiences of each generation in relation to each other, and the inability to communicate them adequately in order to allow for cross-generational learning to occur.

I wonder whether humanity has evolved enough to wield the power that it does technologically, whether we are capable of making humane choices or whether our base nature will always lead us toward disaster. I’m sure people from every generation that have seen history unfold itself over a segment of time feel this way.. having seen what had come before and the choices that were being made on a global scale, were left to wonder whether the best or the worst of human nature will rise to the surface.

We forget too soon the horrors that we inflict upon each other, the unnecessary suffering that we allow others to endure at our hand or at the hands of others that we do nothing to allay. Daily I see preached at me that we must be the change that we desire to see in the world, that we are empowered to make the changes, and that our sovereignty has always been our own and doesn’t need to be wrested from another’s hands. In one breath I am told that love is the key to all interactions (when I know that this is not the case – sometimes steps must be taken to protect oneself, because not everyone is motivated by that precept; rather its opposite) while another suggests that I already have everything that I need within me to manifest all that I desire, and that I should wield that power, that I am a fatalist if I don’t perceive that I have the capacity to change my lot.

I don’t know what affects, or how it does, the scales in either direction. I believe that the universe comprises of a controlled chaos held in balance. I don’t think it picks favourites or that one is innately lucky or unlucky. I think that it’s perhaps a numbers game, a likelihood of outcome simply by how many times something happens within a pattern. Perhaps the pattern can somehow be affected by virtue of will and observation .. that much has been shown in the study of quantum physics at a macro scale, but to what purpose? May the odds fall ever in our favour?

As a young adult, I set out on this life to find love; I wanted so much to feel a part of something safe and something greater than myself. I found it time and again, in so many different varieties. It has taught me much about myself and others, but mostly that love, while it gives me a sense of belonging and comfort, and empowerment, even, is never a static force – it changes, unpredictably, and if I lean on it too much, I will always find that it will eventually cave in and I will be left to pick up the pieces of the thing that I have structured my safety around. There is no structure that can sustainably do that. The sooner I can free myself of this expectation of perpetuity, the sooner I can live as a free person. Perhaps even to love again in a much more powerful way than I have ever before.

In the meantime, I ponder my relevance – and everyone else’s. To what purpose have we come into being? Surely our journeys must be as unique as each of the snowflakes that fall outside my window, and only in retrospect will the whole of the picture become clear.. or perhaps there really isn’t any other purpose than to have the experience of living this life, encased in flesh, within the limitations of this third dimension. Perhaps its purpose is for us to breach its limitations and to gain mastery over it, or to concede that chaos reigns, despite our best efforts. Perhaps purpose, too, is as individual to each of us as the snowflakes are.

I’m off to draw some cards, and then to the store to pick up some chicken and sour cream.

May the odds fall ever in your favour.
May your journey take you exactly where you have determined that it must go, ever with your highest good in mind.
May the journey be as gentle as it can be, and may love surround and embolden you so that you can shine your brightest throughout it all.

xo

Walking, remembering, the footsteps of those that came before us

One of the cats, Leia, awoke me at the crack of dawn this morning. She didn’t know that today should be treated as a weekend day, and was up at the same time as usual, protesting about her food bowl not being filled with enough food, quickly enough. I shushed her and tried to get back to sleep, but to no avail.

I was up a little after 7, shuffled out to the kitchen to make some coffee and toast some slices of bread, rub them with garlic and smear them with a bit of butter. I sat in on a teleconference call with Jill Badonsky at 9:30 this morning, who mobilized on the tail end of the US election.

I don’t even want to write about that here. I’m still in shock at the amount of prejudice of all kinds streaming out in the aftermath. I have no words for how it makes me feel. In many respects, I am grateful to be living up here rather than there, but there is so much work to do, work that was previously done and accepted as de facto, but clearly there has been as much erosion to it as there has been to the California coastline and the arctic icecaps.

Anyway, back to Jill. My aches and pains are physical in nature, rather than emotional, so even though the push for the work was different, the result benefitted me equally well. My right shoulder has been hurting me since my fall at the end end of July. Another fall last month (on October 20th) reinjured the area that hadn’t yet fully healed (and perhaps created new injuries) and so the pain is once again keeping me from sleeping well, from moving fully, from being strong on my right side. I’m not sure whether one of the medications (a branch of statins that I’m taking for high cholesterol) is contributing to the pain or whether it really is just a question of those injured ligaments taking long to heal properly.

All I know is that I’m growing weary of the pain that I’m in, constantly, and frustrated by the constraints in mobility that these injuries have caused. This body, that I expected to have full and perpetual mastery over, and faith in its resilience to heal itself forevermore, is beginning to show me that my haphazard treatment of it over the years is now biting me in the ass (figuratively, and literally – if only you could have seen the size of the badass bruise on my right butt cheek from my fall on the 20th – it was impressive).

Changes in diet and exercise (though the exercise mostly consists of walking and working a till at my second job, thus standing and moving for hours on end during the evenings and the Sundays that I work there rather than sitting in front of a computer monitor, which is what I typically do when I have some free time – to write) have let me drop a handful of pounds, but I have so much more to go. I fear that it will be quite some time before I have the time and energy to integrate more of it into my daily habit.

I have to believe that there is still lots of time.

Upon waking this morning, I read an announcement that Leonard Cohen has passed. I am saddened by the loss of his creative genius even as I realize that we have our inevitable mortality to contend with. He was 82, still young by many respects. Younger than my mother was when she died, though she was perhaps a few years more frail that she might have wanted to be. She watched me struggle through most of my life throughout most of hers, and in some ways I am grateful that she didn’t have to witness the wave after wave of challenges that continued to lap at my door (and do, even now).

I’ve come to make peace with the fact that life will continue to provide those waves, whether or not I want them. They will come in all forms, and I have no control over them. All I have control over is how I tend to the results they produce within the small scope of my life. All I have control over is what I put out into the world. I say that loosely, because on some days I don’t have any control at all. My reptile brain kicks in and reacts to things in less than favourable ways and I then spend days, weeks, even, regretting what I’ve put out there. However, I can’t take those things back; I can only learn from them going forward.

I got paid yesterday and then paid some bills, picked up some medication. All said, I currently have fifty dollars and change until my next pay check next Thursday. This is my life. But yesterday, on my way home from a doctor’s appointment (at which I received the prescription renewals for the medicines that I would pick up later in the evening), I stopped at A&W at the train station to pick up a burger. I’d been craving one all week but since I paid rent recently, I really didn’t have a lot of money to go around for extra expenditures. I was standing in line waiting my turn when a man that I used to see regularly panhandling downtown stood beside me and asked me if I would buy him something to eat. I was silent for a few moments, and then said “Alright. What do you want?” He told me and walked up to the counter with me to place his request alongside mine.

I am always torn when I do this. I’m sure he’s probably as broke as I am, on any given day, except that I work a full time job and another part time one so that I can continue living in a nice home, to be able to buy good food and provide for some of life’s creature comforts to myself and my son, things like high speed internet and cable, and cell phone service, and in my case, books. I got my new cell phone bill yesterday and it’s in the neighbourhood of $208. I bought a book at the Book Warehouse on Broadway, too, but I’m glad I picked it up because I felt the need to escape into a fictional world after the goings on of last week, and this one happens to be one created by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (entitled The Long War). I read in the doctors’ offices, on the train. It’s good medicine.

Today I plan to write some more on The Story Wrangler. I have a scene in mind, and want to flesh out more of the plot before forging further into the story. I wish I had the discipline to write to an outline. In some respects, I’d like to see how others have constructed them, be shown visual pictorials of their processes, so that I can better grasp what their process looks like. I tend to let the characters take the reins, for better or for ill.

I have this underlying sense of what the story is to be – how it feels in my body as it’s coming into its own – but I don’t yet have the words or the thought forms to articulate them. This is actually really difficult to explain, but maybe it will make sense to other writers. In many ways writing a story is for me like walking through a lucid dream with a video camera. I know that I’m recording what I am seeing, ostensibly outside of myself, but also that I am in control of what is unfolding before me. Somehow the two are not mutually exclusive.

Time to make another chai tea and get writing. Peace to all of you. xo

The only constant is change

 

bee-kindI’m on vacation today – sort of. I have a 1:45PM follow up appointment with the cardiologist and then start work at the grocery store at 6PM. Tomorrow is a stat holiday so I won’t have to wake up early (though I probably will anyway, because of last weekend’s time change and the cats waking me).

Yesterday I got a text from Gabriel just after 2PM letting me know that Vader had brought in a bird. He’d mangled it quite a bit by the time it arrived indoors, and the bird got loose in my room. He warned me that there was blood on the netting on my window (which he had opened to free the poor thing) and that he’d cleaned the blood off of the window. I braced myself for where else I would find the poor little creatures remnants. Sure enough, there were tiny little droplets on my headboard, on my quilt and one at the very top of my flannel sheet. I found more on the top book of the stack that sits on my night stand (which is right below the window opening). There were a few matted feathers on the floor next to the night stand, and another one by my mirrored dresser, which apparently was the first thing that it tried to fly into (thinking that it was a window). It flew behind the dresser, and Gabriel needed to usher it out (with my besom, no less).

Minutes before, I had just been ruminating on a post that I’d read about letting the sacrifices begin (it had been a tongue-in-cheek remark about virgins, sacrifices and the election). I thought that perhaps we needed to make more of them, and was thinking on what constituted a sacrifice. For Catholics (which I am by baptism but not by adherence, except that I think Mary is the bomb), Lent provides a way to perform a sacrifice by giving something up that is beloved. I thought further that perhaps we have become so comfortable in our affluence (because really, when compared to even a century ago, many of us in the western world are incredibly affluent in comparison) that we have a great aversion to experiencing discomfort of any kind.

I know this because I’ve experienced discomfort many times, and each time it required making an adjustment to what was rather than what my expectations were. It made me all the more grateful for the little that came my way, and forced me to focus on the good that surrounded me rather than on the things that dissatisfied me. This is not to say that I wasn’t focused on improving my circumstances, but that while in the thick of unpleasant experience, the only way to surmount the pull of its darkness is to reframe it in some way, and to focus on the steps that can be taken to make them better.

I realized, when I was having a bad go of things, how crucial the people that surrounded me (near and far) were, that without their help I would have been so much worse off. I learned how to reach out and ask for help, and receive it graciously. Not everyone in my circle was willing or able to help, either, but even knowing that they were supportive in spirit helped.

There will be suck in every person’s life, sometimes worse than others. Many years ago, when I went to a weekend workshop put on by Carolyn Gross (Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos), I pulled a bumper sticker (she was offering them the way you would a blind card pull) that read “The only constant is change”. The truth of this struck me at the time, and I carry it with me today. The changes may feel minute but they happen, whether we want them to or not. It is our responsibility to work toward building the sorts of change we wish to come about, tiny step by tiny step, if that is all we are capable of.

I think that this human embodiment is an incredible gift. We develop strengths and weaknesses over the course of our lives and have an opportunity, if we so choose, to build on the former and weed out the latter. Fortunately, this is not a one mistake sport. Sometimes the results are disastrous, because we don’t have the needed skills at the time to overcome the obstacles, but they always provide a learning experience, if we choose to sift though the debris and find them. It doesn’t even mean that we will be exempt from making the same ones over again… sometimes it takes several goes before the necessary adjustments are made.

So I leave you with that thought, and wish you all strength, love and hope. xo

Vacation, day 1


There’s a story happening on my window sill this morning. The spider, the fruit fly and the cat who’s over the moon. With joy. To be sitting outside. Or close to me.

I am often in front of the sink, which faces the window. I’m in the kitchen now, making breakfast. Pour over coffee with lactose free whole milk, two cubes of raw sugar and two slices of bread, toasted and buttered. Not the best of menus, but simple and sufficient.

The butter was hard as rock when I pulled it from the fridge, so I cut a little corner of it off and tucked it into the microwave for a few seconds. The temperature has cooled off so much now that butter can safely be stored in the cupboard again without becoming a melted puddle.

I moved to the living room, ate the toast as I sat on the couch. The cat was meowing at the window, “Where are you?”

When I finished eating, I brought my plate into the kitchen and told her, “I’m here; come inside” but it took a few moments for her to decide to join me. I downed some ibuprofen for my shoulder pain. The physio session at noon yesterday (as it has for the last five Fridays) always sets me back a bit in regard to the shoulder pain. Everything feels like it’s raw and on fire, stiff and resentful.

I sat down again in the living room to take my coffee when she eventually lumbered over. She speaks to me in meows, certain that I understand. Maybe I do, now that I think of it. She seems to understand me too.

After kneading and walking across my legs a few times, she finally settled herself down half on the couch, half on my lap, rapt and purring for as long as I rubbed her behind the ears, under the chin.

After a while she left me to go back outside, and I decided that the call of the comfort of my warm bed outweighed the comfort of typing these words out on a keyboard rather than on my smart phone, so my thumbs are doing the hard work this morning.

Plans for today are largely to rest. I am so beyond tired at the moment that I feel a week off (well, nine consecutive days, actually) will barely scratch the surface of my fatigue, but I’m hopeful.

I want to rest but also do some planning, make lists of the things that I want to do so that I can slot them in, so that they get done. Time is so easily frittered away if not paid attention to.

The rain will surely help with getting me to complete the inside tasks simply based on the fact that it isn’t appealing to be outdoors. One of these days I’ll have to invest in a proper neoprene raincoat, pants and some waterproof shoes. Nothing I dislike more than getting my feet soaked, having them be cold and damp. Now that I don’t wear glasses, I don’t mind my face getting wet, and my hair as a fashion statement has been long abandoned.

There is a muscle twitching in my left quadricep. I worked out on Tuesday but that was days ago, so why the twitch now? The mysteries of this body has me in a constant state of both wonder and alarm. What next?

I’ve been invited to a housewarming party later today and I am not sure I will muster the energy to go. I want to vacuum and wash my sheets and bedding (yes, and rest too). And one can’t verily show up empty handed can one, and things are tight this week, especially if I want to do something more than just lay about the house. A social life is sometimes beyond my budget.

And I have loads of books I want to read. And to write, too. My writing habit, established at both financial and personal cost during my year-long writing program, is in a state of atrophy at the moment. I can rationalize many good reasons for not keeping it up, even for a short time, but in the end it’s my heart’s desire that suffers; the passions that set me apart from others whose calls go unanswered. An unrequited love, like the many others that life has pinned to me in some form or other.

So much to do, so little time, and such little order in my life. And ease. Not much in the way of ease, either. Working more provides a bit of financial slack but the lack of time leaves me unrested, or constantly trying to balance fatigue and overwork… hard to fit creativity into there, especially since writing takes so much energy.

Well, not all writing. Not this kind of writing. This is like a one-sided conversation; I can pretend to have an engaged and interested audience, even if there isn’t one. I’m good at suspending disbelief… just ask the cat; she listens to lengthy conversations, saves me from being the nutty one who walks around an otherwise empty kitchen and talks to herself.

Alright… time to rouse myself and brew a second cup of coffee. I can’t be deemed fully human or capable until the second cup is being consumed.

Au revoir! Je vous souhaite une bonne journée.

on reading piles, writing


It’s chilly outside today. I can feel the bite in the air hinting at what the fallen leaves that have begun to litter the walkways for the last couple of weeks have been soundlessly saying: fall is almost here. It’s my favourite time of year.

Nothing is more appealing on days like today (or yesterday, for that matter) than to cozy up in a quilt and read. I can’t resist a good book, even though I should be writing one instead of diving headlong into my reading pile.

I read through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yesterday. Since it essentially is a bound version of the play, it consists mostly of dialog and scene set-up.

I loved the story.

I think we often (as we move through our lives) wonder about the choices we make, and how a different one would have changed our circumstances. This story provides a means for us to vicariously travel along with these characters and see different outcomes. It highlights the perfect imperfection of the human condition, and how much of who we become depends upon those we choose to journey with during our lifetime, and how gracefully we accept our own and others’ periodical defeats.

Prior to even receiving the book (which was an unexpected and most appreciated gift from my son and his girlfriend) I had read through many online critiques of the plot line (and the spoilers, because that’s just who I am). They were a bit off-putting, to be honest, and so when I began to read yesterday I was pleasantly surprised that it was an immersive experience and brought me back into the make believe world that I’d come to love so much.

A week ago from last Friday I took a spill while rushing to the train station between jobs. I injured my right shoulder and it’s been slow to recover. I probably should go to the emergency unit and get it x-rayed but I keep putting it off because I have such little spare time and don’t particularly relish spending it in a hospital line up. I set yesterday as my getting better or going to have it looked at limit and ended up resting instead of going to hospital. It’s getting better but I still can’t properly lift my arm from a certain angle.

I plan on working on one of my own stories today. I have a four hour shift late afternoon but until then I want to get to know my characters a bit better, perhaps write some back story. Maybe I’ll even get to start on the next book in my reading pile. And there will be Dutch Babies for breakfast.

What are you reading these days?

from my kitchen 7.9.16

I had a wonderful visit with friends last night. I only just remembered to snap a pic of the main course and unfortunately, the photo is a little fuzzy.

We started off with fresh baguette slices topped with Chevrai honey vanilla goat cheese, smoked salmon slivers, mango salsa and a drizzle of Bees Knees spicy honey.

The salsa was made with 2 mangos, 2 small shallots, 3/4 red bell pepper, all finely diced, a squeeze of 1/2 a lime, salt and pepper to taste (I’ve been using Le Saunier de Camargue fleur de sel and love it fiercely) all tossed together with a few finely chopped cilantro leaves. I personally love cilantro but some don’t seem to appreciate it as much, so I try to curb my enthusiasm a bit. I used maybe six leaves for mine.

The main course was halibut en papilotte. I put the halibut pieces over a layer of leek and fennel slivers (sliced using a mandolin), seasoned with salt and pepper, a drizzle of white wine and olive oil and garnished with lemon slivers which I’d fed through the mandolin as well. It was all wrapped up in parchment paper and cooked in the oven on a baking sheet at 425 for 18 minutes.

I served them with fresh English peas using this recipe and a spring potato salad using this one. They did not disappoint.

We cleansed our palates with some Mario’s gelatti lemon sorbet, and then I served up a rhubarb, Saskatoonberry and raspberry pie fresh from the oven. I cheated on the crust (I used the Pillsbury ready-made package) and the measurements were inexact on the fruit… about 5-7 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1″ segments, a large tray of raspberries and about half a pound of Saskatoon berries. I grated the rind from 1 lemon and squeezed its juice in, added about 2 tablespoons of Madagascar vanilla bean paste, and about a cup and a half of sugar. Tossed the whole thing together to incorporate and baked it all in a double crust pie shell arrangement.

The warm pie was served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

We had some lovely Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand as accompaniment, trying both the Matua from Hawke’s Bay and the Kono from the Marlborogh region. I liked both but the Matua was truly something special.

on being human

Some days I just want to curl up into a cocoon and forget about the world. A man is on the street corner of Beatty and Pender, screaming like the guy from Network, only much less eloquently. I’m sure he’s mad as hell too.

The world is being torn apart by soulless people who believe they are doing the right thing. It’s frightening, really. I wonder why God just doesn’t shout down at us from the heavens like a good parent should and say “Enough! Enough of this nonsense!!”

This morning I stayed on the bus instead of getting off at the train station and rode it all the way into town. For a good chunk of the ride I chatted about writing and books and dreams with the woman I sat down next to. Both middle aged (she was a bit older than I am, even), it’s good to know that we still have dreams, things that we aspire to, and passions that drive us from the inside out. After our initial chat we both sunk into the reading of our books.

I got to my stop by 8:13 and was able to pop in to Nester’s to pick up some breakfast. Outside on the curb there was a man sitting there. He greeted me with a cheerful “good morning” and when I said it back to him, it occurred to me that he might be hungry too. So I asked him “You hungry? Would you like something to eat?” and he said yes. I asked him what he wanted.

I got it for him, with a coffee to boot. He thanked me and told me that I made his day. I think he made mine.

We connect far too infrequently with people. I’m not sure what people are afraid of. They use all kinds of methods to keep from really being themselves, from really being seen, or from really seeing another. I know at times I am absorbed in my thoughts and worries and don’t see people as well as I could, but more often than not I am assailed by everyone’s humanness. I feel the pain and the fear keeping people locked behind their eyes, and also their bravery at attempting to free themselves from that which binds them.

It is a constant struggle for me, too.

I have a hard time communicating with people who are closed off. I don’t know how to reach them. They frighten the parts of me that tend to close off too, because it’s so much easier to live reclusively than to take it all in, the good and its opposite.

I’m tired today. I have a half hour work out in a few minutes and then I want to run over to Meinhardt’s to pick up a bunch of lavender. I am plotting the presentation for gift wrapping books that I got for my lovely friends. I had to share the gorgeous book that was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. As book medicine goes, it’s one that would be of service to all of humankind, if only they were willing to read it and hear its messages.

I have friends coming over for dinner tomorrow evening, and I’m trying to meal plan but I’m still undecided. Something with fish and rhubarb pie, I think, with vanilla ice cream.

I’m working tonight until 10:30. And I’m already tired. Hope you are well.

on creativity, intuition and making time

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“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.

I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”

I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.

“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”

This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”

I told her that there were courses she could take online, and sent her a link to Flora Bowley’s website, even offered to lend her Flora’s “Brave Intuitive Painting” book.

Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.

I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.

Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.

I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.

A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.

I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.

Not the art, though.

When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.

It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.

The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.

“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”

On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:

“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”

I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.

While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.

I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.

If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.

I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.