T’was Brillig….

Ice fog rolled in yesterday.  It’s a colder fog, seen only in winter, when the snow has melted on a day of respite but the air remains chilly.

I wish I could have gone out and wandered in it.  It has been a week of distractions and I felt in my soul the need for a touch of magic.

Spousal Unit is away on conference.  Young one is in preparation for her great nautical adventure.  I am managing my usual, plus the load Spousal Unit typically handles.  It is grocery week.  There’s a teachers’ meeting tonight.  And like a sensible thing, with all this going on, I elected to participate in Inktober, a drawing-a-day challenge, with my eldest. Insurance issues are still pending as well, and I have errands to run after the meeting.

I feel pulled from this thing to that, never being allowed to settle on anyone item for more than a few minutes.  The writing has been affected, or perhaps I’ve got that backwards: the poor writing is affecting me.  Jumbled grammar, repetitive phrasing, overused words. Little of it sparks.

Is it any wonder I need a touch of mystery amongst the mundane?

To that end, I have taken a break from Handmaid’s Tale, and picked up a random buy called “Mythago Wood,” by Robert Holdstock.  It has the right autumnal mystique to it, but it has drifted into evolution, psychiatry, and something akin to pagan/witchery.  Not sure how well I will like it in the end.  It feels heavy.  Not quite the flavor I was looking for, but undeniably engaging.

I find I need an engaging idea to pull me forward in my own work, something to aim at that I wish to capture, like faerie gleam.  A sparkling bit of juicy flame to call me onward.

Right now, it is scene link, scene link, sentence smooth, and order comb.  Muses said there’d be days like this.

But then what do I expect?  I haven’t been exactly faithful to showing up at the page.  Life keeps getting in the way until the point where I let it, which usually means I’m scared about something.  The usual inner critic stuff.  Unoriginal, repetitive, uninteresting, cheesy.

My mind is engaged in trying to hit all these practical, somewhat mercurial, targets.  There’s no space for mulling, savouring.  I might forget the tactical, to the ruin of all.  And the irony of it all is that I don’t even get a report card to tell me if I made the grade!

I have to remind myself that if writing is my mission, then mulling is as tactical as sleep, something else I neglect too often.  I think there are times wherein my mind just wants to play, and so I stay up doing screen things.  Imagining needs to be fun, to have the whimsy of play, or the gears grind.

I’m all for the discipline that produces our dreams, but if one over-schedules, I think one kills the flow.  “We will now participate in play from precisely 4:37pm to 5:02pm” just doesn’t work any more than “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

I need to kick through more leaves.

Whither Thou Goest

 

Three days away from writing here and I have already forgotten how this dance goes.

What should I write? What if I have nothing to say? What if I’m crabby today? Do I say so?

Short walk to Anxiety-ville for creatives. Makes me think of the 21 Pilots’ song “Stressed Out.”  https://youtu.be/pXRviuL6vMY   Go figure.

Autumn came back for two days over the Thanksgiving Weekend.  Very happy about that.  Got to see all the golden, brown, and red leaves on the ground again.  Some are still in the trees.

Poor trees.  They weren’t ready for winter either.

Recovery was better today.  Only halfway down the tree-line before breathing eased.  Misery week has been pushed off by two weeks now, which could account for it.

Took a different train to work today.  Saw a sculpture downtown, three silver blocks jumbled together.  The silver and the angles make it interesting.  Too simple to really float my boat, but good public art all the same.

Where does that line lie, anyway?  Is good public art only what pleases the majority?  Are we not then at risk of having mall art instead of real art?  The visual equivalent of Musack (real songs sanitized of lyrics for generic public consumption, ie. elevator music).

My favourite sculpture is still one I photographed years ago: the Iron Horse.  Taller than I am at the withers, and constructed of all manner of iron bits.  I call him Clangstomper, after the steam powered horse of January Junction fame (animation: Jack Frost, 1979)

Incidentally, ‘whither’ and ‘withers’ are completely different words (Had to look up the spelling). And ‘withers’ is not just the high point below a horse’s neck, but also the high point on sheep, and cows etc. Who knew?

Hoof

Kick the Can

There’s a contest going on between me and one I call  “The Can Destroyer.”

Over the summer I decided that if I was going to have to wait at this one particular bus stop often, I was going to make it as pleasant as I could.  I trimmed back branches, swept walks, raked the grass.

Frustrating business.  Cigarette butts are the worst.

They sink down into the grass and fall between the rake tines.  Pretty much have to pick them by hand, like bugs.

So, I acquired a coffee can, some sand, and some leftover road gravel and set it up as an ash can, with its own square of gravel for safety.

The first got flattened and thrown into a neighbouring yard.  I, with the help of an extension pole and a magnet, fished it back, straightened it, and set it back into the sand.

It got stomped.

I relocated the can closer to the bus shelter, thinking it might be in the way that close to the sidewalk.

It got stomped flat.

I painted the next one, and added a small “help keep the area clean” note.

It got stomped again.

Since then, the can has got stomped daily.

And daily I unfold it, rebury it and replace the sand as needed.

Stomp.

Replace.

Stomp.

Replace.

It’s like a meditation in stoicism. Or endurance, like climbing stairs.

A quest against persistent evil.

Stomp.

Replace.

Stomp.

Replace.

Stomp, stomp, stomp.

Replace.

Who will give up?

The Destroyer?

Or me?

I can tell ya, honey, it ain’t gonna be me.

I can only wonder what they get out of it.

Maybe one day they will get bored and give up.

It is frozen into the ground now.

Persistent evil?  Allow me to introduce to you Persistent Good.

As in, Good luck with that.

Civility

You’d think it was still night.

I look through the bus stop glass.  All light is diffused.  The sun, so strong yesterday, has melted much of the snow and left speckles.  They scatter the passing headlight beams as they cut through the dark.

On the train, square brick structures with arrow slit like openings pop out of the dark, lit by floodlights.  How many times have I ridden this train, yet I have never seen them before, until the contrast of light against dark makes them plain.  There they are, no accident of nature.  Deliberately placed, by someone.

The air changes.  A sharp, unpleasant smell.  Skunk?  Poor skunk.  Must have tried to cross the tracks.

The intercom blares.  “There is no smoking of any kind permitted anywhere on the train or platforms!”  It is the driver.  She is agitated.  So, not a skunk.

The smell gets stronger.  The culprit must be in this car.  It stings my nose like pepper.  I put my scarf over my nose and mouth, to breathe.  This is a first.  As if the consequences of alcohol abuse were not unpleasant enough.

I’ve climbed platform stairs bathed in barf, sat amid groups of large angry people who feel the need to shout their obscenities for all to hear, witnessed the intimidation of the helpless.

Did something about that last one. (Don’t worry.  No violence!)

Somebody needs to, else we devolve as a society into mobs of grunting cave dwellers.

Makes me wish for the days of conductors on trains.  Parasols and tipped hats.

The angry announcement sounds again as the train reaches the next stop.  The smell goes away.  The train waits.  A transit officer paces up the aisle, solid in his dark blue uniform, and talks to the driver.  The culprit is no longer on the train, but he knows who it is, and will go talk to them.

It’s a bit like watching a white knight heading in to sort things out.  I think I’m grateful.

I wonder about the culprit, the defiance, and what they are doing to themselves, and I sigh.  Sadly, as pot becomes legalized, this sort of thing is likely to become more frequent. A society spiraling down, civility—Civilization—on the brink.

There is an ad campaign on the platforms right now, against sharing “nudes” on smartphones; a call to decency and an advisory about the law.

Have we become a society of rebels yet?  Will this kind of call inform, or inspire?  Are the lawmakers the keepers of the national conscience now?  Is this a good thing? Who manged this task before?

I walk off the platform and see mounds of snow like marshmallow cookies with all the chocolate peeled off, or maybe like alien igloos.  It’s odd and pretty all at once.

But further on, I pass a bank of snow in which someone has scrawled: “I share nudes.”

Kicking back.

I don’t have my gloves on, but I use my hands to erase the message.  I sweep and sweep until the ice crystals bite my hands, burn them red with the cold.  I crunch it between my fingers, melting shards.  I strangle it.

Then I pause.   I rewrite the message.

My answer.

My kick back.

“I share (heart symbol).”  (Would you believe Wingdings has no heart symbol?  I can find every shape of snowflake, but no heart.  Typical).

I walk the now slick narrow ice path.

“Let me get out of your way,” says a man.  Just like yesterday.  But this one is young.  A little further, and a boy steps silently to the side for me.

“Thanks,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” he answers impeccably.

Perhaps civility –Cicilization—is not dead, yet.

Today’s Quote:  We dream because writing is so much of what makes us … us. We dream because the whole idea of writing powerful stories and profound non-fiction won’t leave us alone. …We dream because we can’t not.” – N. Rue, from her blog “Doorways”

Snow

Reading the Handmaid’s Tale takes me to a deeper place in my mind (soul?), a place beyond to-do lists—the t-valve still needs changing; winter menu should be tweaked for the new schedule, is the young one too lonely in school?—to where my sense of self and my creativity sits.  The writing makes me look deeper, but it also depresses me.  So much physicality in a time when the physical is too intrusive.  But I am a body and I must deal with that.  “Annabel Has a Doll,” a song from the steampunk opera The Dolls of Albion, starts to play in my head.  https://youtu.be/bD_zjjExqYg

The landscape is blanketed in white on today’s commute, an early heavy snow.  The smooth open whiteness, as yet unmarred by sanding trucks or traffic cheers me.  I take the long stair, my daily task, but I go at it gently.

I spent the 15 minutes that I waited for the bus kicking snow off the bus stop surround.  Side walk?  Does it have a proper name?  The snow is heavy and wet.  Some of it is compacted by the road ploughs (plows?  I think that is the American spelling).  It is a small workout.

I get to the top of the stairs out of breath as usual, with that little frizzling sparkle of panic that the air I draw in won’t be enough, but it soon fades. I wonder if the people I pass think I am some kind of weirdo because I am breathing like this.

Half the time, people don’t register as anything more than shapes moving past me on my commute as my to-do lists or other thoughts crowd my mind.  Other times I see each face and I know each one has a life attached, a story, a battle, a list of their own, and I wonder what it is, what their stories are.  Mine fills almost all my brain, and yet each of these many, many faces has the same thing going on.  It’s overwhelming.

How does God keep track?

Maybe that is why people blank each other out.  It is too much to think about.

But if we don’t think about it, people stop being people in our eyes, and that always ends badly.

The walks are slippery here.  I try to step along the edges near the snowbank and on the frozen tire grids of the sidewalk ploughs, but it is still treacherous.  A fall here could brain you. I fiddle with the things in my pockets.

This is my winter coat.  Glossy paper comes to hand.  I pull it out.  Movie stub?  No, Esso receipt.  I give a wry smile.  From the time when we had a car.

It was a decision, and an influential change in lifestyle.  As I slip for the fourth time and almost go down, I am grateful.  I wouldn’t want to be driving in this.

The salt man is at work with his little barrow of sidewalk salt.  A labourer. I wonder if he knows he is saving lives.  I wonder if he thinks about his work that way.

The snow is deep, but there is a narrow path where others have walked before.  I could blaze my own trail, but then I would get snow up my ankles.  Following the same path as everyone else is easier, but it’s slippery.

I meet a man at the corner.  I stop to let him pass, but he stops too and we laugh.

“Which way are you going?” he asks.

“That way.” I point along the path behind him.  He moves to the third option, the narrow path for crossing the road.

“I’ll get out of your way!”  He smiles.  He is older than me, and I think I should be the one to get out of his way, but I am she, and so not wanting to argue old courtesies, I thank him and step on.  “It’s a one way street!” he laughs.

“It is!” I agree.  Sometimes it seems we have only one option. Suddenly he is less blank to me.

The path ahead has been cleared.  The going is easier, but I still turn an ankle hard on the piled up snow in a driveway.  But after that, I can look up, and I realize that when the going is treacherous, my scope dwindles to my toes.

The snowbank here is cut clean and crisp, like icing on a professionally done cake.  The even sparkling shape makes me happy.  Further on, the edges are rounded, blown by the wind.

I wonder if I will dye my hair purple this year, for Halloween.

Today’s Quote:  “Claim thine swords thou art warriors all;”    -from “The Faerie King” by Dorothy Bentley.

Synergy!

Safety Bananas
Safety Bananas
Electric Pie.jpg
Electric Pie
Tesla Piano.jpg
Tesla Piano

Beakerhead is an event where science meets art.  This year there was the Tesla coil piano and lightning machine, flaming iron flower sculptures and tree sized blossoms that pulsed colours with your heartbeat. It was exciting to see the academic camps traditionally placed in opposition to each other coming together in a joyous explosion of functional creativity.

Oh, and there was glow in the dark e-coli too, thanks to the biology guys.

Seasons

They change here like stadium lighting operated by a mad switch man.

I wonder if that ring means there are faerie folk about.

In Transit

It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” on my morning commute this week.  She’s offering an online Master Class I might take.  Money’s an issue, and so is time, but I can read her books on the train—when people are not talking loudly or if four year old’s aren’t trying to scream like an avant garde exploration of opera.

I miss the old Saturdays where I would bike to the library, grab a stack of anything that I liked, and spend the afternoon, reading for delicious, uninterrupted hours on my bed.  Now I catch it “in gasps,” to borrow a phrase from Margaret.

I have only read one other book of hers. “Oryx and Crake.”  Even the crunchy title is tasty.  I loved it.  Not for the story, per se.  It was sad and brutal, a screamed warning that rattled me.  But the WRITING was so delectable!  The weaving of detail and image to subtly speak of something more.

I met her shortly after that, at a book signing at the university.  I didn’t have the words, but I tried to tell her how much I loved her book.  She gave me “oh, please” angry eyes, like I was some literary fan-girl that totally missed the point of a dystopian novel.  I wondered at that.  Wished I could sit down with her over coffee and talk ideas and writing.  And here she has a master class. And so I read “Handmaid’s Tale”, where I can.

Her word weaving and imagery is no less delightful.

I have known about this book for years.  I didn’t want to read it back in university days, back when I was uncertain where evil came from, and whether or not it was contagious.  It is a book about THOSE sorts of things.  (You know: sex, drugs, fashion, adultery).  I didn’t want to get trapped by it.

We’ll see if I feel any different now.

Now that I am older.  Now that I have crashed into various kinds of evil, and am less worried about it.  It is a kind of relief to know it is not all up to you.  I do what I can with what is in front of me. Maybe that is why I pick up trash on my walks to work from time to time.  It is a small thing.  But it is a defiance against that which destroys.

Why do people destroy, anyway?  Randomly?  Specifically?

I walk up the steps at the train station four days out of five.  It is day four today.  I do this to keep my muscles strong and to tell my body I have not wholly given up on it.  The first flight goes pretty well.  I feel good.  Hemoglobin must be up again. Not surprising in the lull before misery week.

Second flight I start to feel it, not in my legs anymore,—it’s been a few weeks now—but in my lungs.  By the time I get to the top of the third flight, I am breathing hard, but not in that scary way that I used to where it felt like I was never going to get enough air.  Still on the verge of that.  It’s a little frightening.

But I round the corner, thinking about recovery times and how fast the depleted hemoglobin must have to travel around my body to deliver sufficient oxygen.

And then I see this man smoking.

I want to shout at him, how stupid can you be?! What I wouldn’t do for heart and lungs that work right.  And here you are, killing yourself, squandering the luxury of breath by smoking.  How stupid can you be?

I pick a 7-11 cup and lid out of the shrubbery.  I must have gone faster than usual up the stairs, because I am past all the trees I count to measure my recovery time, and round the next corner before I notice that I am not sucking wind anymore.

I pick up a soggy pizza box and look up to see a lit bus poster advertising the old show “Heaven Can Wait” with Michael Landon and that scruffy guy whose name won’t stick in my head.  There’s a new TV station in town, apparently.  The slogan makes me roll my eyes.  “More caring, less swearing.” Right up there with “Safe and fun for the whole family,” slogan of the one Christian radio station.

That kind of pap makes me crazy.  There are things in this world that really should make a saint swear—like idiots who destroy perfectly good lungs by smoking.

I remember “Little House on the Prairie.”  I had to quit watching.  I don’t know where they got their theology in some of those episodes, but they completely missed the ego issues of the main character.  Or maybe just the actor.  Every show seemed to centre on him.  How did the rest of the cast stand it?

How do people of faith offer help in this world without this level of cheese and blindness?  Or without becoming an all-out ranting lunatic?

I pick up a curled bit of wet cardboard.  There’s something written on it.  A name I know well.  How weird is that?  I turn it over.  Coloured graphics list a song name, I think. “Heat, Not Burn.” Huh.  More heat, less burn.

I walk past other trash, napkins, cigarette butts, but I can’t pick up any more.  My hands are full.

Thank the City for bus stop garbage cans.

I see another bit of litter.  I drop off my burden, pick up the scrap and throw it out.  Still some five minutes to work, but the path is tree-lined and the grass is lush.  Rain dew sparkles on the leaves.

I think about theology.  I think about writing.  I think about Margaret and if she’d ever tell me why she gave me those long-suffering angry eyes.

Ideas come so thick and fast sometimes, it is like walking in a hailstorm.  Other times, it’s crickets.

I’ve tried voice recorders, but thoughts are fleet and half a dozen leave by the time I figure out where the buttons are.  And what happens then?  Do I ever go back and transcribe?  No.

So I have learned to use memory, and catch what I can in my one-sy cup, like that poet who sometimes had to catch her poetry by the tail and write it backwards to get it down.  The rest of the ideas go skipping off, white pearls along the black pavement.

I hope the Muses don’t mind pitching again from time to time.

Today’s Quote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? According to poet Muriel Rukeyser, ‘the world would split open.’”

Waking

A scene from last year.  Appropriate, as snow is falling today.  A little soon for my liking.

 

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