Sunday, December 30, 2012

remnants and a handbag

Inside Anastasia’s messy apartment, Bernard laid his pliers on the counter.  He surveyed her face.  Black hair, greasy as crows’ feathers, framed her cheeks and forehead.  Patches of crazy glue remained and other small areas were open and bleeding.  It couldn’t be helped.  Removing the mask had been a toilsome undertaking.

Sometimes Anastasia hadn’t understood what was happening.  Sometimes she had despaired or mourned the loss of a piece when he removed it.  Her eyes had been the most intricate part of the process.

“There now,” said Bernard.  “Authenticity.  But remember you’re still in recovery.”

“Yes,” said Anastasia with a smile.   She brushed her fingers along her jawbone.  “The air feels nice and my skin’s getting better.”

Heidi, the woman from apartment 125, burst in through the open door.  She staggered and pointed her finger at Anastasia.  “You’ve got shit on your face!  I could see it as I walked past the window.”

“Oh, um, hello.  Well, I’ve been working with Bernard for quite a long time to get rid of this mask.  It was sucking the love out of me.  What you see here is pretty much my actual face, and this ‘shit’ isn’t that big of a problem for me now that it’s exposed.”

“No, no, no!  You don’t understand.  This will never do!  You have to be presentable and do what’s right,” Heidi said, sharply.

Anastasia glanced at Bernard, then back at Heidi.  “That’s funny.  You remember my Aunt Shelley, right?  She absolutely loves her wrinkly, soft skin.  She had her mask removed years ago and just the other day she gave me a box containing some of the remnants.  They’re a token of the joy she experiences every day.  She asked me to give them to you.”

Heidi tightened her grip on her knock-off Coach handbag.

“They’ve got… um… shit on them, though.  The same sorta shit that’s on my face.” Anastasia said.  “I suppose you don’t want them?”

Bernard laughed.

Heidi’s knuckles grew white.  “I don’t think you understand what you’re dealing with here.  This is very, very serious.  Perfectly well meaning people like your Aunt Shelley go around with shit on their faces without knowing it, and it’s extremely offensive, not to mention evil!  You mustn’t be hurt when I offer you correction, Anastasia.  I’m doing you a favor by informing you of this atrocity!”

Anastasia’s eyes softened.  Bernard rubbed his whiskered chin.

She went on.  “I think they ought to write up a news article about these dangers!”

Anastasia got up and walked slowly toward Heidi.  She examined the severe part in her bleached hair, the curve of her cheeks.  “Here’s the thing,” she said, carefully.  You’re wearing a mask.  It’s damaging you.”

“What do you mean I’m wearing a mask?!  That’s so mean!  And how dare you say such a thing!” Heidi shrieked.

A salty tear traveled silently into one of Anastasia’s open sores.  Heidi didn’t notice.

“It wouldn’t be wise for me to say anything more at this point, but—“ Anastasia made her way past Bernard and opened her black filing cabinet.  From it she drew an old newspaper clipping.

Heidi looked nervously at the window, then fumbled in her handbag for her phone.  She texted some friends, Penelope and Jane, trembling all the while.

“Here.” Anastasia handed over the article.

Heidi, with bruised expression, skimmed over it and said, “Stop picking on me!  Both of you!”  She stumbled out of the apartment building into the dark, cold night.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

composition 9

In the carnage groaning the people go on roaming
They don't know what they do
Sick in flesh and soul, we get so tired
We need help from who?

Can you hear the strains of holy joy
coming through,
Breaking through the fear and violence?  Oh.

Savior as a fragile boy

On we go through the night, through the night
Whate'er befall us
With hands of light, hands of light

In troubles grim and trying amongst the people dying
May we lean on the truth
Some are masquerading, others quickly fading
They don't know what they do

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

my perfect day!

I ride, standing up, on the back of a super duper speedy hippopotamus who takes me into a magical forest that smells like freshly washed bed sheets and pine trees.  I jump off her wide, gray back into a humongous, soft layer of moss.  Tiny fairies float above me.  While I roll around giddy, they sprinkle laughing dust all over me and it feels refreshingly cool on my warm skin.

I get up with no effort at all and I run, my stunning blue dress flowing along with me like the undulating fin of a luminous fish.

My friend comes into view in the distance.  We run toward each other, laughing, and we're not the least bit weary.  We greet each other in a warm, hearty embrace—a hug that's neither too tight nor too weak, but just right.  We rise in the air like vibrant hot air balloons, high above the trees, and we're gathered into a cloud.  Birds that never poop fly along with us as we're carried to a giant picnic table in the sky.

All my loved ones are here and we're all smiling!  And our mouths never get tired from the smiling.  Rainbows, transparent and wet, surround us while we dine on our favorite foods.

We are all filled with light and joy, and our bodies are weightless.  The musical laughter of a multitude of barely visible angels echoes unsurpassably in our ears.

We are finally free. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


i am blue
the color of depth
and sadness
summer skies
enigmatic sea

i am orange
the color of bravery
and flame
warm sunsets

Sunday, December 9, 2012

three fish and fake leaves

We got another fish for our small aquarium on Friday and I love her.  She has one black eye and dark splotches all over her body, along with touches of gold and shiny white that goldfish typically have.  We call her Finley.

Watching our freshwater pets has become one of my favorite ways to relax.  In the evening I had trouble locating the splotchy one.  Finally, I realized she was hiding behind the synthetic plant.  She lingered precariously behind a fake leaf, wiggling her beautiful body to and fro as if she were distressed or suffering.

The other two, Goldie and Spot, swam in the open.  Not always smoothly, of course.  Sometimes they bumped into one another or became preoccupied with their reflections on the tank’s wall.

I thought the two of them might woo Finley out from hiding, using some special language known only by fish.  A girl can imagine all she wants, right?

In the picture, if you look closely at the plant’s reflection you might see a tiny part of her tail fins.

Friday, December 7, 2012

chillin' out

During Sunday morning worship services at Immanuel Lutheran Church, our pastor wears black clothing with a clerical collar.  The black symbolizes sinfulness.  Over top of that he wears a white robe called an alb.  It's a seamless garment meant to symbolize the robe of righteousness Christ has wrapped around us.

He also wears a colored cloth called a stole over his shoulders.  It's a historical symbol indicating that God has placed a yoke of humble service upon his shoulders, and the color of it depends on the season of the church year.

These symbols can be a useful attempt at communicating the mystery that sinfulness is covered by the righteousness of Christ.  Most people, perhaps, don't realize the pastor's outfit is symbolic.  They might think he wears a robe because that's just how it's always been.

Some think the use of these vestments helps draw attention away from the pastor as an individual and instead puts the focus on his unique role in a worship service.  Others think the pastor should wear something less strange-looking so as not to intimidate outsiders who may come in to visit.  Still others adamantly protest any idea of doing away with the vestments because they think tradition is extremely important.

My opinion is the meaning behind the garments is beautiful and worth remembering.  At the same time, it's only symbols and clothing.  Our hearts are more important than what we wear.

People can nitpick and fuss all they want over what the pastor wears, but I'm just gonna be over here chillin' out.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

evening desire

The moon's music wafts on wind
waking me from sickly sleep,
yet shadowy waters deepen
when love's longings move me most.

We, as tiny creatures all crooked,
linger in the moonlight
that spills from each others' eyes
and our arms ache while reaching
in the holy night.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

love a forest, kiss a leaf

This afternoon I walked with my family along a leaf-soaked pathway in the forest.  On the way back I fell behind on purpose because, as any mother can probably tell you, a reprieve from the children is necessary even if it's only for a minute.

All became still.

Except... to my left was one leaf at the end of a thin twig waving violently, as if calling for help.  Why was this one so desperate for my attention?  I plucked it gently and noticed a brown trail, perhaps from some insect or caterpillar, winding through its damp material, over and across the veins and off its zigzag edge.

When I brushed it against my lips, the cruel voices rolled and thrashed—voices that were really just myself.

You're kissing a leaf?!
You nerd.
Stop daydreaming.
Do it this way.
Hurry up.
Quit smiling to yourself.
But as a bird sang I closed my eyes to shut them out.  It was a very important leaf.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

pins and needles

left hand goes
open, close, open, close
prick and pin

prick, prick, prick

blood flow to elbow
getting slow

mind clenched
tears stuck
inside my skull

i call bull
though i don't know
or where
... or how

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

coffee! wooooo!

Ages ago, before I even realized Tim Hortons existed, I was tagging along with a group of peers and I remember them discussing what to do for the evening.  The restaurant was suggested several times and I thought, who is this Tim Horton guy and what’s so great about him?

I was a proud non-coffee drinker.  I didn’t need it to "get me going" in the morning and, anyway, it was bitter.  I was content with tea and secretly enjoyed saying, “I don’t drink coffee,” whenever it was offered to me.

Someone kind and generous, as well as ignorant regarding my non-coffee status, surprised me with a Tim Hortons’ iced cappuccino two summers ago.  We were watching our children at a playground and it tipped over leaving me with only a few sips, a taste sufficient for me to see it was good.

A few weeks later I was enduring one of my many lethargic mornings when I thought, there’s no harm in sampling a small iced capp.  I consumed the entire thing, got a major buzz, then said, “WooOOOoooo!  So this is why people drink coffee!”

In the course of two years I graduated from periodical iced capps to english toffee cappuccinos to french vanilla ones, and by the beginning of this month I was ordering an extra small at the drive thru about three times per week.

Then it happened.  On Friday after a slow and rough morning with two children (Tamara’s day off from school), I really wanted my extra small french vanilla cappuccino.  But I really didn’t want to herd the cats (er, I mean children) into my golden chariot.

So, here is my big news:
I brewed my very own regular coffee with our shiny black Cuisinart.  It smelled divine.  And it wasn’t too bitter for me, seeing as though I added a gigantic dollop of honey.

Evidently, becoming a coffee drinker means becoming a coffee spiller, but I’m okay with that.  While I was writing frantically in my notebook this morning, I accidentally sloshed some onto the page.  Now it appears as if I painted it there with great purpose and I’m rather fond of it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

now is the time

I have something to tell you.

I'm an addict.

And addiction isn't good for me so I've decided to take a break from the computer for the purposes of self-care.  At first I thought I'd only cut out social media yet continue blogging, but I think ANY type of computer activity will intensify the temptation to click into facebook.

Social media is a breeding ground for slander, bullying, and narcissism but it's also a helpful tool that can be used to influence change in a positive way and I enjoy communicating with it.

I've come to rely on it a little too much, though, and when I do that it takes away from real relationships, opportunities and experiences.

I'm doing this based on a suggestion from Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way.  She recommends depriving myself of reading for a week in order to nourish the artist within.

I'll be back next Sunday.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


delicate is the day
as is a woman,
heavenly threads woven in skin of sky
the small nest of her body
wailing under heavy feathers
wondering why


Friday, November 2, 2012

which one went home justified?

An affluent business man walked home from the office, mumbling to himself, "Thank God I'm not like those corrupt East Indians.  I go to church every Sunday and tithe ten percent.  And all they do is cause problems for everyone.  They should just go back to India."

Meanwhile, a brown-faced janitor hailed a taxi to get home.  He buckled his seat belt and silently prayed, "Lord, have mercy on me.  I can't stop messing things up."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

religion? no thanks

I've discovered my favorite chapter so far in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment by Robert Capon.  Allow me to share a few paragraphs from chapter 10, entitled Interlude on an Objection.  I've taken the liberty of highlighting a few statements in bold.
Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.  Religion consists of all the things (... behaving, worshiping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God.  About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make.  The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed (see the Epistle to the Romans).  The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection.  For Christians, therefore, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up, and forgotten.  The church is not in the religion business.  It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade.  The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business.

The Gospel of grace: salvation freely given out of love.  Now comes the question: if we are sinners no matter how hard we try to be good, then why not just go ahead and do all sorts of bad, seemingly pleasurable activities?
The reason for not going out and sinning all you like is the same as the reason for not going out and putting your nose in a slicing machine: it's dumb, stupid, and no fun.  Some individual sins may have pleasure still attached to them because of the residual goodness of the realities they are abusing: adultery can indeed be pleasant, and tying one on can amuse.  But betrayal, jealousy, love grown cold, and the gray dawn of the morning after are nobody's idea of a good time.
On the other hand, there's no use belaboring that point, because it never stopped anybody.  And neither did religion.  The notion that people won't sin as long as you keep them well supplied with guilt and holy terror is a bit overblown.  Giving the human race religious reasons for not sinning is about as useful as reading lectures to an elephant in rut.  We have always, in the pinches, done what we damn pleased, and God has let us do it.  His answer to sin is not to scream, "Stop that!" but to shut up once and for all on the subject in Jesus' death.
Furthermore, the usual objection... that people will take such graciousness on his part as permission to sin, is equally nonsensical.  For one thing, he made us free, so we already have his permission—not his advice, mind you, nor his consent, nor his enthusiasm—but definitely his promise not to treat us like puppets.  For another... the whole idea of people actually being encouraged to seduce maidens, or water stock, or poison wells by the agony and death of Jesus on the cross is simply ludicrous.  We ourselves, thank you very much, are all the encouragement we need for dastardly deeds.
I am left, therefore, with the unhappy suspicion that people who are afraid the preaching of grace will encourage sin are in fact people who resent the righteousness they have forced themselves into.  Having led "good" lives... they seethe inwardly at any suggestion that God may not be as hard on drug pushers and child molesters as they always thought he would be on themselves.

That explains things better than I could. Thanks, Robert F. Capon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

about me

I'm reading a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron which aims to help people get their creativity flowing in the midst of recovering from life's messes and wounds.  The author suggests some writing exercises and encourages artists to be kind to themselves while being cautious around anyone who, by their words or behavior, threatens to hinder creative recovery.

I'm going to share some of my work from the book here.  If you don't agree that I should do this publicly, you don't have to stick around.  Go suck on a lollipop or something.

Writing is, especially today, an activity I'm doing as a way to care for myself.  And I'm more motivated to write if I know someone's reading it, so here I am.

So now... some exercises:

1. My favorite childhood toy was my raggedy-ann doll (that's me with her in the photo above).  I named her Melissa.  She had a red heart sewn on her chest and wore a yellow flowered dress.  I think I became attached to her because she was softer than the other dolls that had plastic faces, and she was easy to carry.  One time I forgot her at a restaurant and I was so distraught my Dad had to go back and get her.  I'm sure I had many conversations with Melissa, though I don't remember them.

2. Best movie I ever saw as a kid: I liked Annie, mostly because of the songs.  I would sing "Tomorrow" over and over again, and I was rather upset when my teacher chose Jessica instead of me for playing the part of Annie the little orphan girl.

3. My favorite childhood game: Scavenger hunts.  I still really like them.

4. I don't do it much but I enjoy playing board games and cards.  Kevin and I did this a lot when we were dating.  We'd get together with my sister, Stephanie, and her husband Rob and play Settlers of Catan or Rook.  And I loved playing Canasta with large groups of people while camping at Saltspring Island.  I haven't played that one in so long that I've forgotten how.

5. If I could lighten up a little I'd... um... have more fun??

6. If it weren't too late I'd elope rather than have a wedding ceremony and all that.  I think weddings are expensive and overrated.  It's the actual marriage that matters most.

There are more of these exercises.  I might share them with you later if I feel like it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

brothers and mice

Paula, a broody twelve-year-old, had mice, each in its own shoebox.  She set them in a row on the dining room table, sat down and grabbed hold of her dress which was the color of stop signs.  She looked from one box to another, trying to decide.

She lifted the lid of the first and inside was the tiniest of her mice, the youngest.  Her name was Binky.  She was curled up, small and weak, amongst pink baby cloths with her eyes shut.

Paula’s older brother, Charles, approached and peered in at Binky.  “She stinks!  Let’s give her a bath!” he said, and disappeared into the kitchen around the corner.

He returned with a Tupperware container of warm sudsy water, plopped her in, and with one of the cloths began to rub her wee head.  Binky squeaked in protest. 

“You have to wash every part,” said Charles, and proceeded to rub the mouse all over.

“You’re hurting her!” said Paula.  And when he wouldn’t stop, the mouse squeaked again.

“That’s too rough!  Don’t!” said Paula, hitting him on the arm.  But it was too late.  Paula began to cry.

“Oh, shut up,” said Charles.  “You’re not a baby anymore.”

With a wincing face, she scooped up Binky and held her to the light.  “You have to have hands gentle like a breeze, or you’ll hurt her.”

She examined the mouse.  “Aww, poor thing.”

“I don’t see any owies,” said Charles.

“They’re not the kind you can see,” said Paula, “They’re the worser kind.”

Charles shrugged then carried the bath container away.

“Oh, Binky, why didn’t you do something?  Why didn’t you bite him?” she said.  She lowered her into the box, covered her with the remaining cloths, and put the lid on.

There was commotion inside the second box.  Paula tried the lid but it was stuck.  How many were in there and what were they doing?!  While she heard rustling and the scratching of feet, vague and fragmented images emerged in her mind.  Images of flesh and fur and tails.  It made her feel as if she were choking and locked inside a hot, fog-filled and crowded room.

She pushed that box aside and opened the third one.  Inside was a mouse, larger than the first, whose name was Alien.  He wore an outfit, a yellow shirt and blue pants.  Paula smiled.

Her other brother, Henry, snuck over.  “Why does he have clothes on?”

“’Cause they look nice,” said Paula.

“He doesn’t need ‘em on.”  He picked Alien up by the tail and swung him into his other hand.

Paula inhaled sharply and froze.  “Oh no,” she whispered, “Oh no, no, no.”

“Come on, little guy.  You’re just so cute.  I can’t get over it.”  He pulled at the mouse’s shirt.

“Henry,” said Paula, “I want his outfit to stay on until he gets a playmate.”

“Aw, I just wanna look at his fur,” said Henry, and tore off the shirt.  When he tried for the pants, Alien bit him hard on the finger.  Henry cursed then dumped him into his box.

Paula picked up the shirt, put the lid on, and ran to get her mother’s sewing kit.  It took much longer than she was hoping, but she managed a rough stitching job and put the shirt back onto Alien who sniffed and looked around tentatively.

She put the lid back on again and pulled the fourth box over.  The lid came off easily and she looked in at nothing which, at the same time, was a very big something, a giant invisible mouse.  She had read about this one when she was doing a school project on cruelty to animals.

This one had been seized and taken to a secret drawer wherein her captor stuffed pieces of cotton ball into her mouth, then tortured and violated her with various objects.  The mouse survived, Paula knew that much, but she couldn’t finish reading about it for she was in anguish.

She knew it wasn’t really her mouse, yet there it was in the fourth box.  She picked up the imaginary animal by its tail and threw it out the window, but it scurried back in and that’s when she realized she couldn’t deal with all those mice by herself.

Paula stacked the four boxes in the corner of the living room and waited expectantly for ideas of what to do next.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

the sound of crying

The stone was small and brown, pockmarked and worn by rain.  When Kendra spotted it in the neighbor’s lush wet grass, she thought she heard someone weeping and picked it up.

When she entered the kitchen, her father raised his eyebrows above the edge of his newspaper.  “Watcha got there?”

“A rock.”

“Oh, you found one?  Tell me about it.”

Kendra began to fidget.  “Well, it’s brown.”

“Uh huh… where’d you find it?  By the back shed?”

“No.  It’s from next door.”

He pushed his cup of coffee aside, rubbed his fingers through his black hair, and put down his newspaper.  “Kendra,” he said, “That’s not acceptable.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t trust the neighbors.  I hear they’re just like the Catholics.”

“What’s wrong with Catholics?”

“They’re strange.  They’re not real believers like us.  We are the Christians and we know what we're talking about!  Catholics, on the other hand, have it all wrong.  They worship Mary.”

“How do you know they worship Mary?”

“Your grandfather said so.  And when I tell him about that stone, he’s going to be furious!  Put it back where you found it, get one from our own yard, and never go to the neighbors’ again!”

The next day Kendra kept it hidden in her pocket.

“Did you get rid of that stone?” her dad asked.

“No.  I want to keep it.”

Kendra’s grandfather barged through the front door with an air of superiority.  “What’s this I hear about a rock?!  Let me see it!”

She stepped back.

“Kendra, this is not up for negotiation.  I’m warning you!”

Kendra tried to escape out the open door, but he grabbed her roughly by the arm and pulled the rock from her pocket.  “This thing is going to be the death of you!”

He chucked it hard, trying to get it out the door and off the premises, but with a loud crack it lodged into the adjoining point between the two walls.

And to this very day it remains the Corner Stone.    


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

writers festival: saturday - 2

After my “happy birthday” moment, I made my way over to the Initiation Trilogy put on by Electric Company Theatre.  It was based on poetry by Marita Dachsel, Elizabeth Bachinsky, and Jennica Harper.

As part of the audience, I walked through three theatrical installations.  In between each one, we’d gather in a room where we could have refreshments and divvy up into our groups again.

I won’t say much about the actual installations because I don’t have the energy tonight to describe it all to you.  There were themes of sexuality, feminism, and identity.

Later I walked.  Around the corner from Waterfront Theatre was a sign:

Cats Social House
test kitchen - restaurant - bar - socialize  

I imagined the place full of felines—cats stealthily pawing their way in through the door, curling themselves up onto the bar stools, mewing at the bartender for milk.  Some of them wore hats.  Some sobbed their horror stories of being declawed or spayed or tortured by small children.

I didn’t go in.

Instead, I went into a small shop called Crafthouse.  Inside were paper mache cats a couple inches tall, blown glass birds, flowered bangles, framed sheep with faces made from crossword puzzle answer keys, and other various treasures.  When I reached for the door to leave, I noticed the handle was a First Nations cat’s head.  Cats are everywhere.

Outside a group of mallard ducks waddled around sort of aimlessly amongst fallen leaves on cobblestone.  I admired their amazing webbed feet.

I was woman and alone, so I felt it was best for me to head home before dark.  The bus passed by a corner building called Covenant House.  The sign showed a picture of a hand and dove which reminded me of help and hope.  A purple flower came to mind and I thought of where I’ve been in life’s journey and I was grateful to simply be.    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

writers festival: saturday - 1

I was much more relaxed the next day.  On the SkyTrain I sat near a window and wrote in a small, pink notebook on the way to Waterfront Station.

When I got on the bus I forgot which way I was supposed to insert my ticket into the grabber machine so the driver helped me.  He seemed depressed.  I began to imagine what his life might be like.  Maybe someone close to him recently died or he was going through a break-up.

Maybe he didn’t like his job.  Did he feel used?  Oppressed?  And I thought about how his work was very important.  If it weren’t for him, we’d have to walk an awful long way.

What could I do to make his day better?  I didn’t know, so I just sat there and loved him.  I mean I held my heart open for him, if that makes sense.  A wordless prayer.  When I got off, I said, “Thank-you.”  And meant it.

Granville Island didn’t even seem to be part of Vancouver.  It felt like a secret magical place, a refuge for creativity.  I walked along the cobblestone sidewalks, stepped in and out of artsy shops: hand carved buttons and yarns of all colors, pottery, paintings, leather-bound journal books, and handmade puppets.
inside a shop called Kimdoly Beads

I bought two small wind-up toys at Kids Market, stocking stuffers for the children.  I also bought a round stuffed raccoon with large, gold-speckled eyes and a “fridge rover,” a magnetic car that drives up the refrigerator door when you let it go.  I took in all the colors, the flashing lights, the kites hanging from the ceiling.

Tibetan singing bowl
When I entered Grandharva Loka, a world music store, I was met with bonging and clanging.  A customer was playing around with a large concave drum.  The store was tiny and packed with instruments I had never seen before—a Satar, Tambura and Dotara, a Tibetan singing bowl, a rocking chair with strings attached to its back.

Eventually I rested on a wooden bench near the entrance to the Public Market.  A young man ran by with an armful of french bread, his white apron flapping.  He reminded me of Alfredo Linguini in Ratatouille.  I caught a whiff of cigarette smoke as an orange Vancouver taxi drove among the crawling cars along Johnston Street.  Two gray-haired ladies sat down beside me to munch on roasted chestnuts they bought from the street vendor.

I loved all the sights and sounds.  And I heard a small voice, an inaudible song upon the breeze.  All this is for you. 

I thought, Yes, now is a time to celebrate my birthday.  It doesn’t come until June but, you see, every day is the best day to celebrate your birthday if you can only remember.

So... happy birthday!

writers festival: friday

Friday morning I put on my gray sweater, coat, black jeans and necklace, the silver one that looks like a tear drop but is actually a lopsided symbol of infinity.  I said goodbye to the babysitter and the children and embarked on my adventure of traveling to The Vancouver Writers Fest.

Believe me when I say it was a huge adventure because I’m a full-time, stay-at-home mother of two young children.  In other words, a slave of sorts, who cannot go about any daily task without a whiny interruption or seven.

Me?!  The nincompoop housewife, out to the Big City all by myself?!  Unheard of.

I was a wee bit nervous.

I drove our Explorer, a vehicle that’s a little too big for me and a little too small for Kevin, then boarded a train to the sky.

Across from me sat two couples who looked to be in their forties.  It was their first time going to the sky.  I knew that because they were having problems with the ticket machine in the parking lot when I first arrived.  Funny that we all ended up in the same train car.

I smiled at them.

But enough of the SkyTrain that doesn’t actually go to the sky.  After asking a few different people the best way to get to Granville Island, I got off at Waterfront Station and noticed a woman on the sidewalk who looked like she might be waiting for a bus.  Her hair wasn’t the white kind of gray, but the dark kind.

“Excuse me,” I said.  “Do you know where the nearest bus stop is?”

“It’s right here,” she said.

I looked up and pointed.  “Oh, the sign’s right there!  Is this Bus 50, the one that goes to Granville Island?”

“Yeah,” she said.  “You going to the Writers Festival?”

Later I found out her name was Gail, that she had a terrible sense of direction and wasn’t afraid to admit it.   Nonetheless, together we found our respective venues and bid one another goodbye and good luck.

I entered the Improv Centre, got my ticket and all that, then sat down in seat #11 only to realize that in trying to find the place I had become more anxious than I wanted to admit.  No, I thought, this isn’t about being stressed.  It’s about enjoying myself.  So I spent the next fifteen minutes focusing on breathing and staying in the moment.

There were five empty bar stools with microphones on the stage and behind that a backdrop of a castle wall with a distorted window.  I’ve been trying to figure out… of all backdrops, why that one?

Anyway, a moderator and four authors walked on stage.  The authors were Jessica Westhead, Rebecca Rosenblum, A.L. Kennedy, and Anne Fleming.  A.L. Kennedy was hilarious, and I really liked the piece she read, but sadly I can’t remember a single one of her jokes.  Afterward, I bought her novel The Blue Book which is about “a nomadic psychic who makes a fortune by fraud but gives generously to charity.”  And she signed it for me.

At about 3:00pm I found a small cafĂ© and ate a lunchy dinner, one piece of cod and fries with a lump of coleslaw.  All the while I felt rather awkward sitting by myself.  The waitress delighted in her work with a soft smile and bouncy step.  That inspired me.

I was tired, but wanted to look around a little so I took some photos of the area and made my way back to the bus stop.  The bus was so full I thought the overflow of bodies might start squishing out the windows, but I was fascinated.  Do some people really travel like this on a daily basis?

I boarded the SkyTrain and faded in and out of sleep until reaching the final station where my golden Explorer chariot awaited.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

just dreamin' a little

In another life, I would be...

a) An actress - I was once told by one of my high-school humanities teachers that I'd make a good actress.  She said so based on me reading a part as one of the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I enjoyed being a witch.  I think acting would be very fun but I've never taken a single drama course in my life, unless you want to count playwriting.

b) A counselor - In my fourth year of university I took a psychology course called "Interpersonal Helping Skills".  I loved the class and got an A+ in it.  I began to consider pursuing a career in counseling, but realized it would take a heck of a lot more schooling, and at that point I was pretty much burnt out and tired of writing essays.  And anyway, now look who's needed (still needs?) a bunch of counseling... ahem.

c) An artist - I'm already an artist (in process), but in another life I'd be a single artist with no children.  I'd rent a simple apartment (aka studio) or a tiny house in the middle of town.  I wouldn't have a car.  The weather would be mild all seasons of the year and I'd walk everywhere.  I would paint, sketch, write, play the piano and guitar and maybe the cello.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Loving Life: part 9


i'm stuck between the pages
of all you refuse to say
and all i have inquired

your skin grows hotter
your lips go tighter

do my words go to you?
your silence an angry stone

i watch you shutting down,
folding into the blurry red pages
of this, our book of lonely wandering
and quiet, desperate pining

please stop hiding

Friday, October 5, 2012

the thing

There’s something inside of me I can’t identify and it needs to come out.  It feels like darkness, like slept-in blankets and blurry dreams, or dirty laundry.  I get up and walk over to my piano, stare at the keys as if they can reveal to me this hidden thing, but nothing comes.

I turn and grab a single, wrapped piece of gum from the plastic bag on my desk.  I love the smell and taste of pink Dubble Bubble gum but it loses its flavor after about thirty seconds.  It’s like chewing on cardboard, so I take it out of my mouth and begin to play.

I stretch it and wrap it around my finger.  I twist and pull until it’s like an umbilical cord, then I squish it and stretch it out so it’s like a thin fragile membrane.  I squish it again and then pull it out long until it breaks.

Yes, I think to myself.  I can write about gum.  So I roll it into a ball and stick it beside my tea mug, and I type.  When I look at the clock I see it’s almost one in the morning, that I’ve been sitting here for three hours and only written four paragraphs.

That’s disappointing, and the thing I can’t identify remains within.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

a musical room

The first room was small and jam-packed with furniture.  Juliet couldn’t remember how it all got there, but she suspected the exclusive Flibbertigibbit Club had something to do with it.  She studied her cousin, Whitney, who was backed against the opposing wall, for any sign of hope or excitement and only saw frustration.

Juliet worried it would be painful getting into the hallway.  The entrance to it was narrow and tight and blocked by a bookcase, but apparently the doorway was magically stretchy.  So far it hadn’t stretched for Whitney, and certainly not for Juliet.

Whitney started kicking and throwing things.  Juliet was turned off by it, so she found a space on the floor and curled into a ball, trying to make herself disappear.  Eventually she got up and said, “Whitney?”  No response.

Juliet daintily took hold of the stem of a Victorian lamp, let her fingers run up and down its ridges like feathers sweeping away fine powder.  Whitney stopped the childish tantrums for a moment and beheld her flighty fingers in an amatory trance.

When she snapped out of it, she said, “We’re stuck here.”

“There’s so much furniture in the way,” Juliet said.  “And the door’s not cooperating.”

Whitney shook her head in defeat.

“There’s got to be a way,” Juliet said.  She tipped her head toward the bookcase.  “I’ll go on top.”

Dust particles slowly danced in sunlight below the frame.  “Yes, this is the way!”

Whitney joined her atop the bookcase.  Together they inhaled the dust.  The doorway stretched and they slipped into the hall.  Whitney grinned from ear to ear, but Juliet was cautious because the hardwood was slick with sweat and slime.

At the next room, she knocked and the door was opened by a tender-eyed, bearded dwarf wearing a pink hat.  Before stepping in, she looked around for Whitney and realized she had withdrawn into the cloakroom.

Juliet smelled crushed weeds and forgotten corners and freshwater fish, though the room was empty save for a few stacks of papers to her right.  To her left was a tiny window the size of a paperback novel and from it a shaft of light met the floor, forming a yellowish rectangle in front of the dwarf’s feet.

“Welcome, stranger,” he said.  “Come a little closer—closer to me.”

Then Juliet began to sing, and it was as though he pulled her voice out from her larynx with invisible silk ribbon.  She sang with gentle melancholy about unexpressed regret and discontented love.  And she listened to her own voice, as if from a distance, while the dwarf continuously pointed to the window.

With eyes on the window, she dropped in slow motion then pressed her cheek to the floor.  She wanted to feel vibrations.  When her singing began to fade, music took over and she couldn’t tell where it came from.  She shifted to a different spot and put her ear to the floor.  Were those vibrations she felt?  It was more like a tension in her eardrum.


She came quickly, and stood in the doorway.

“Whitney, is that it?!  I thought it was supposed to make me gasp with pleasure or soar over the moon.”

Whitney only shrugged and ducked deeper into a gray, wooly cloak.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

the unexpected visitors

Tonight at our little church, our music group was finishing the second verse of a hymn called Crown Him With Many Crowns, and I was accompanying on the organ.  As I was blasting out the music, I sensed a presence behind my right shoulder, so on the final note of the verse I lifted my hands and turned to see a curly haired man smiling at me.

I love it when strangers arrive unexpectedly.  "Hi," I said to him.

"Um... my friend and I are on kind of a mystery tour and he's brought me here.  He has cerebral palsy.  Can we come in for about half an hour?" he said, with an accent (Australian, I think).

I beamed.  "Of course!"

I suspected his friend was none other than Luke, the only person I know who has cerebral palsy.  And I was right.  During his birth twenty years ago, the doctor made a terrible mistake.  As a result of that mistake, Luke is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak.

The curly haired man, Paul, pushed him in and we all gazed at him in awe.  His arms and legs were strapped to the wheelchair and his bare feet seemed to reflect the light.

Amazingly, his computer enables him to communicate via a special kind of sticker placed on the middle of his forehead.  With the move of his head, the cursor glides across the screen and clicks on words.

"Will you pray for cerebral palsy?" the computer voice said.

We gathered around him and he began thrashing around in his chair with gasps and groans of excitement.  We put our hands on him and prayed for miracles.  All the while he seemed to become more and more excited.  When I began to speak a prayer, he thrust his head toward me and made more throat noises.

"I want sing Here I am to Worship," the computer voice said.

I settled at the piano and we sang.

Next, the computer voice said, "Come, Now is the Time to Worship."  And we sang some more.

We all went home, blessed and thankful.