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.

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.


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.


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.’”


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


And So It Begins… again

For the THIRD time, I venture into the blogging world.  The first time, I lost my site due to faulty memory (mine!  I forgot my login credentials!). Second time, Blogger ate my blog-work.  Still not sure what happened there…but it is gone.  So herein I start over to chronicle my writing adventures and file my random thoughts and opinions.

On the up side, between last attempt and this one, I finished the first draft of my fantasy adventure novel while on legit medical leave. (It’s a horrible way to write a book.  I DON’T recommend it).  Somewhere around 400 pages and 26 years later, I am almost ready for the rewrite.  Almost.

Realized at the end of the project (phase one) that I needed to do the back history for it and so I am 201 pages into the (re)writing of my Franken-novel.  Current challenge: how to keep it meaningful without it becoming a soap opera or romance novel (Bleh!)  Now I will back up this post and hope for the best!

Fun side note:  starting this only 4 days after my main villain’s birthday.  Wish me luck!

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