Fly Away

There were days in my writing life that I was not in the flow. Words just weren’t coming. I’d have the urge to clean something and I’d think about my life. If only I lived on the beach or in a cabin in the woods, if only the phone wouldn’t ring and my life wasn’t so busy, if only my health problems would just let me sit and think about my story. I’d sigh and wring my hands knowing that the life of a writer is tough and maybe I shouldn’t write that day. Tomorrow would surely be better.

I’ve been at this long enough to know those voices for what they are, excuses not to write, and yet, they are very real. And then I met Ahmet Altan and he turned my writing life upside down. I didn’t really meet him because he is in prison in Turkey for speaking his truth and he has been there for more than two years. He expects to die in his tiny shared cell because his government is tired of him making comments upon their policies. I met him through a CBC documentary stating his position and his plight and then bought his book, “I Will Never See the World Again.”

The book is by turns horrifying and inspirational as he writes about the circumstances that put him there and his life as a writer and how it keeps him sane. It was written on bits of paper and smuggled out by his lawyer. After finishing it he wrote a comedic novel called “Lady Life” that will be out soon.

His view of life is uplifting and the last chapter of the book shut up the whiny voice that whispers over my shoulder. I would like to share an annotated version of it with you here.

“The writers paradox. A moving object is neither where it is or where it is not, concludes Zeno in his famous paradox. Ever since my youth, I have believed this paradox better suited to literature or to writers rather than physics. I write these words from a prison cell. Add the sentence, I write these words from a prison cell to any narrative and you will add tension and vitality. A frightening voice that reaches out from a huge mysterious world. Wait, before you start playing the drums of mercy for me, Listen to what I tell you. Yes, I am being held in a high-security facility in the middle of the wilderness. But it is not the whole truth. When I wake up with the autumn rain hitting the window of the cell,  bearing the fury of the northern winds, I start the day on the shores of the Danube River, in a hotel with burning torches out front, which are lit every night. When I wake up with the whisper of snow piling up between the window bars, I start the day in that dacha with a front window where Doctor Zhivago took refuge. I have never woken up in prison, not once.

Others may have the power to imprison me but no one has the power to keep me in prison. I am a writer, I am neither where I am nor where I am not. Where ever you lock me up I will travel the world with the wings of my infinite mind, besides, I have friends all around the world that help me travel, most of whom I have never met. Each eye that reads what I have written, each voice that repeats my name holds my hand like a little cloud and flys me over the lowlands, the springs, the forests, and sees the towns and the streets. They host me quietly in their houses, in their halls, in their rooms. I travel the whole world in a prison cell. As you may well have guessed, I possess a Godly arrogance, one that is not often acknowledged but is unique to writers and has been handed down from one generation to the next for thousands of years. I possess a confidence that grows like a pearl in the hard shells of literature. I possess an immunity, I’m protected by the steel armor of my books. I am writing this in a prison cell but I’m not in prison, I am a writer. I am neither where I am nor where I am not. You can imprisonments me but you can not keep me here because like all writers, I have magic. I can pass through your walls with ease.”

No matter how many times I read that it gives me shivers and I challenge you, like these words challenge me, to leave the cell that holds you imprisoned and fly. Leave ‘it’ all behind and leave the imprints of your adventure on the page. Only you can write the story you need to tell and it’s time.

Ahmet Altan, “I Will Never See The World Again,” Other Press, New York, 2018. Pages 207-211

A story for a pandemic – Stone Soup

“What if….” a writing prompt. What if there was a pandemic in the world of stories and tales.

She skipped into town like Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandma’s house. She was smiling, strange in those days of lock down. They watched her coming through cracks in the closed shutters and pulled their sweaters tighter. Her robe swishing around her seemed to dispel the grey. She carried what appeared to be a small cauldron over her arm and when she reached the town square, she set it down on a park bench. Lifting the lid, she pulled out a small brazier and a handful of twigs. In no time at all she had a merry fire going, then she picked up the pot, looked around and then stepped toward the first house on the square.

“Go away.” A voice shouted from inside.

Her voice was merry, “I only need some water to fill my pot.”

“No water here.” Called back the voice.

“I’ll just use the garden hose.” She stepped toward the yard, “I only need such a small bit, to make stone soup.” She bent to turn the tap.

“We’re isolated,” the voice called back, “Don’t touch the faucet.

Too late. It was done. She carted the pot back placing it on the brazier and the flames wrapped their glowing fingers around it, warming it.

She turned back to the house. “I’ll be needing 3 rounded stones.” She called. The silence was hard. She walked toward a white picket fence and looked over at a rock garden.

A woman stepped onto the porch, a grey scarf wrapped around her face. “you could take three little ones I suppose.”

The traveller laughed, “thank you. Would you like to choose them?”

The grey woman pushed herself against the wall, “No, just take what you need, but, oh, not that one. It has moss on it, and dirt.”

“The dirt will add texture.” She placed the rocks into the pot which was beginning to bubble. “Now,” she said to no one in particular, “we will need some substance, some warmth, some thickening, and perhaps a bit of plot and some words.”

A child in flannel pajamas came running across the square with a broken doll.

“Yes, that will do fine, if you can part with it that is?”

The child stood on tiptoes dropping it in. The pot accepted it with a glurg. Surprised the child started to cry. The woman reached out with a tiny spoon capturing a tear and stirring it in. It left a sparkling trail on top of the liquid.

An alarmed voice called and the child left as fast as she had come.

Someone appeared and offered an idea, throwing it into the boiling soup. A woman dropped in a metaphor she said she would never use. An old man went through his wife’s jewellery box and brought memories of times past and the Pastor found some prayers left at the bottom of the rectory stairs.

The woman pulled a ladle from a deep pocket and stirred. She was aware now of many people on their porches. The scent of her soup was bringing others to their windows. A hunger was moving within them.

A toddler escaped its mothers grasp and ran to the woman, its laugher echoing from the walls of the buildings. The woman made a quick motion and caught it into the sauce which had thickened considerably by now. She stirred vigorously and then brought out a spoon. She tasted and then smiled, her cheeks turning pink. “Its ready.”

She ladled up words, still damp from their birth. “Stories,” she told them, “your stories to nourish you until you are free from this thing.” Then she lifted the cauldron and moved from house to house, spooning words, phrases, paragraphs and pages of comedy, tragedy and drama woven together by threads of love and laughter, memories that would hold them until the world was theirs again.

Then using the hem of her robe, she dried the cauldron, poured the ash from her brazier into the garden and put it back into the pot which she took with her when she blew out of town.

What are you doing to pass the time? Writing, painting, dancing, music. Weave your magic.

Happy New Year – Use it up!

Happy New Year. I usually don’t mark the movement of one year to the next. Why? Because I have my own personal new year on my birth date in March. That is when I usually do my best self reflection. This year though, maybe because of the cold outside, or the wonderful family time I have spent or maybe even the gift of a whole day doing nothing but walking in the winter wonderland, I decided to give myself a 2018 task. I am not thinking of it as a resolution so much as part of my minimalist project which is on going, usually at a snails pace. This year I am going to take all of the beautiful notebooks and journals I have been given through the years by people who know I love paper, pens and writing things, and I am going to use them.

I have many beautiful books lovingly placed on a shelf, actually several shelves, waiting for inspiration. They are all different, lovingly bound, handmade paper, given with love, special books I have saved, too pretty, fancy, special to write lists or random thoughts in. I have hard cover sketch books and lush watercolour paper pads also waiting for me, gathering dust. It is just not fair to have a book, so hopeful at its moment of gifting, relegated to my, ‘as soon as I have time or the ‘right’ idea’ shelves.

In 2018 I have decided to use those books for any scribbles, sketches, writing and play. I will not wait to use them until I am certain I am beginning the great Canadian Novel or a poem that will change the world. Maybe while I am at it I will wear the plastic draped party dress, eat off the good china and use the special soap stored in the cupboards. I hope this will leave space for the muse to sneak in and check out my space.

Loving Bindweed

Convolvulus, or bindweed, sometimes called wild morning glory is found in my backyard. When I first moved to my house, the retired, gardening couple who had the place before left me with immaculate English gardens and two huge vegetable gardens. I was reluctant to move there knowing my record with plants but, other than the gardens the place had everything we needed so, we moved. In two years I had effectively destroyed the flower gardens by not know what was frost hardy, what needed to be lifted, and by pulling things I thought were weeds that weren’t. I was sad. There were however some pretty pink flowers growing in the lawn and up the fence that I didn’t kill, actually couldn’t kill

Continue reading

Don’t fence me in

My vest center RS           I am crocheting a vest. I like to crochet and I usually do projects for everyone else but this one, it’s for me. Probably for that reason, I don’t get much time to work on it. If I was doing it for you, I would be rushing, stressing and burning the midnight oil, but this time, I am working when I have time, when the light is right and I am relaxing into it.

It is made with a very fine, wool silk combination in rich colours. Because of the size of the wool, stitches slip and I find myself undoing frequently. Well, actually I am undoing a lot because I am not working with a pattern. I don’t follow a pattern well. Yesterday when I was undoing other hard won section I looked at it and sighed. It’s not that I don’t know how to follow a pattern or understand the short forms for the required stitches; it’s just that I can’t do it. In the midst of ripping I think I figured out the connection to the rest of my life. I don’t walk on the path well; I want to be in the field. I don’t want fences, I want wide open spaces, I don’t like to plot my writing, I like it to flow…I guess, I don’t like to follow a pattern, I like to experiment, rip out bits that don’t work and figure it out by myself. I like to re-invent the wheel.

I know, I know, why re-invent the wheel. But it looks so easy my way, so much more fun so…. well, I can see advantages to rolling with the already tested. The vest will turn out a certain way if I follow the steps, but, it is fun to do it myself. I won’t claim to be overly creative, I saw the Stevie Nix bohemian vest years ago and decided I have to have it, or at the very least, a version of it. I don’t know if I will ever wear it, although it looked great on Stevie Nix. I just want to experience it. Maybe that is why adventurers climb mountains, something you won’t find me doing any time soon.

So, my novel is done by the seat of my pants, as is my crocheting and I guess so is my life. There are others of us doing life without the pattern. In the end we will end up at the same place the pattern users do but maybe it will just take us a little longer to get there and we will see different scenery along the way.      stevie nix vest RS

Trapped in the Mirror

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My friend, when I see you after a time of not being with you, I am started by how good you look. I notice your smile and the crinkle of your eyes at the corners. Every time I throw my arms around you and say, “You look so great!” Continue reading

Wanda and other Friends

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Wanda has a furry face, an inquisitive nature and is my best friend. She is also seventeen years old which is pretty high up there in dog years. She smiles and wags and has no idea or cares about the fact that she has pulmonary edema and her days are numbered. She lives life to the fullest every day. This morning she skipped and romped through our walk because it was warm and there was no ice to slip on. When it starts raining she will look out the door and gently decline her walk, preferring instead to spend a quiet day inside. She is not worried about will happen to her or how many days are left. She is just living them. Continue reading

Reinvention – the 60’s version

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“There is no statute of limitations on starting over. Re-invent yourself every day. Be the girl who walks barefoot and listens to the blues. Tomorrow wear a trench coat and speak fierce truths. Be a Phoenix. Be Ashes. Burn Down. Resurrect. Let go of the idea that you must always be who you have always been.”

If found that on Facebook yesterday. It was not credited to anyone except Instagram so I can’t tell you who wrote it, but thank you to the author because it reminded me of something I used to know. Continue reading

Why Seagulls Can Fly or making my way back to real life

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Did summer seem short to you this year? It did to me; I would say it was the shortest ever. The time sped by and here it is September with all that implies. Thinking back to those long hot days, what I remember most is the ease, the flow. I met old friends and time stretched out to include a stay at the beach, a cottage, kayaking, long walks and good books. I worked, spent time in the garden, enjoyed my grandchildren and ice cream. Everything fit together and I felt my shoulders relax.

Then the calendar changed and it’s September with its commitments, garden pack up, dark mornings and early evenings. What happened? It’s still hot, it still feels like summer and yet somehow things have changed.

Wait. I want to keep soaring on the thermals, letting time move past me like a breeze not a tornado. At the beach in Port Stanley the last week of August I watched the seagulls. They are such a presence in the sand and in the air. I would walk toward them and they would rise up in front of me, settling back on the sand behind me, no feathers ruffled. I was just part of their day. Maybe that is the way to keep summer with me. Follow the wind, rise to the challenge and settle back down with my feet in the warm sand when it is past. No anticipation of what it will mean, just fly.

I have heard the reason seagulls can fly is they take themselves lightly. It isn’t that I don’t want summer to end, I love fall and winter, but I don’t want the idea of summer gone from my life. I want to stay in that flow and perhaps take myself lightly.

Mountain Climbing

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Did you ever notice that sometimes you forget things you already know? I don’t know how it happens but, even things I guide my coaching clients to do, that I used to always do, I forget and drop from my habit list. So imagine my surprise when I am met on the road by something I know to be true. Continue reading