The Best Of Times…

It’s been the best of times, it’s been the …well, interesting.

So if you read my last post you will remember we had plans.  Real plans.  We were going camping.  Somewhere in the interior of beautiful British Columbia.  We were going to barbecue, bake on a rock, read books on a boat, drink lake-chilled beer, play with water guns….

Then my husband got promoted.  Very unexpectedly.  Twice.  In the space of two weeks in the middle of the best Summer in recent memory.

Getting promoted is really good news.  But.

No Summer road trip.  No getaway for the four of us.

So I’ve been working (and sulking just a little because I’m a child) and reading (I am determined to get through my Summer reading list no matter what).

Maybe, the Mr. tells me, later this year.  In the Fall.  When the bears are their hungriest.  The wolverines their feistiest.  We will lie on a carpet of molten gold and copper and shiver in our blankets as we watch the Harvest Moon rise.

I think not. I tell the Mr (with a stomping of feet).  No camping in the Fall.  I demand a hotel room, room service, warm towels, chocolates on pillows.  But I’m bluffing and he knows it.

We both want the bush.  Wild, untamed, gnat-infested bush.

For now I am home with my boys who in a desperate attempt to salvage what is left of Summer have the tent up in our backyard and the barbecue going.

What are you up to? 

Here’s a pic of a local rascal in our plum tree yesterday morning.

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Thoughts On The Creative Process

About six years ago I lost a YA novel I was working on.  I thought someone grabbed it in cyberspace.  Now of course I know you should backup files and carry a USB flash drive around your neck.  In hindsight I realize it wasn’t a particularly good novel.  It was too heavily populated with ghosts, suit-wearing vampires and earth-bound angels to be anything but horrible but still, it was going to be my first complete work in years.  I was devastated.

I grieved the loss of that book.  I don’t want to compare it to losing a loved one but it came close.  I moped around for months drinking way too much sherry and eating chocolate.  Eventually an enigmatic character made her appearance (in my mind of course, in case you’re thinking I’m a stalker) and I was compelled to follow her and soon I was writing another story…

I’m now on my third novel which means Book 2 will also not see the light of day unless I rewrite it – completely.   This writing journey though – this process of creation – has been very illuminating.   I find my approach to writing has changed.  There is no longer this sense of urgency.  I still commit words to paper (screen) on a daily basis but without the old pressure.   Yes, I am burdened with feelings of inadequacy (I am more than a little intimidated by the novel’s characters and the plot) but still for the first time in years I am calm; unhurried.  I have a sense that the process of creating is perhaps more interesting than the end result.

What do you think?  How do you approach the blank page?

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M.C. Richards, poet, potter and teacher tells this story in her book “Centering”:

There are many marvelous stories of potters in ancient China.  In one of them a noble is riding through town and he passes a potter at work.  He admires the pots the man is making; their grace and a kind of rude strength in them.  He dismounts from his horse and speaks with the potter.  How are you able to form these vessels so that they possess such convincing beauty? “Oh, ” answers the potter, “you are looking at the mere outward shape.  What I am forming lies within.  I am only interested in what remains after the pot has been broken.”

 

How To Finish What You Started

A good friend of mine is always buying things in order to ‘start’ things.  He once filled his truck with pots, seedlings and bags of soil because he was going to ‘landscape’ his garden. Another time he bought the hollowed out, beaten up shell of a car so he could ‘fix it up’.   He started on the garden and got as far as digging holes for the seedlings before apparently moving on to the car which despite his protestations to the contrary looks like it has only ever been attended to by the harshest of elements.

I am sure we all know someone like my friend.  Someone who is good at starting projects but never actually finishes anything.  Maybe you’re a little like that.  I know I am when it comes to writing short stories.  And it bugs me.  It really does.  Enough to keep me up at night wondering why I still haven’t summoned the energy or courage to return to that back alley in downtown Vancouver or that Southern plantation in 1910 or that ramshackle house on Sweet Meadow Road in the late afternoon when Aunt Jess is just about to serve tea and disclose something…something of great import, that well, I still haven’t figured out yet.  Because those characters are waiting in the wings, wringing their hands, shaking their heads…

I know what the problem is of course.  I am waiting for the ‘prefect time’ to return to them.  Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re waiting with me – oars in hand – for the right conditions.

Buddha once said there are two fatal errors that keep great projects from coming to life:  1.  Not finishing 2.  Not starting.

We’re never going to find that ‘perfect time’ to start or complete a project. The perfect time is NOW even if it doesn’t look or feel like it.

This week let’s commit to finish at least one thing we started.  Are you with me?

What makes a place “home”?

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A dear friend of mine who is considering a permanent move to Paris asked me the other day what I think makes a place ‘home’.    It got me thinking.  I have been fortunate enough to live in different countries and in various settings before coming to Beautiful Vancouver.  In my early twenties I lived for six months in a rural village in Portugal.  I loved getting up with the roosters and sitting down to a breakfast of fresh bread and milky coffee served in soup bowls!  I loved feeding the chickens and working in the vineyard.  There was so much to love about the place and the country but I certainly wasn’t “home” and I knew it.   I have lived in crowded and dirty cities and  I have lived in history-rich and architecturally-dazzling cities that weren’t ‘home’.   I have lived with family and friends and I have lived in my city of birth; a stone’s throw from the hospital I was born in.  And yet,  I wasn’t ‘home’.

Then I came to Vancouver.  I saw it from the air as the plane circled the city before landing and I just knew.  I was home.  To me ‘home’ is the place where your soul is at peace.

What makes a place ‘home’ to you?

 

Walking with despair? How to choose life.

So it’s Friday and I’m probably supposed to write something light and fluffy but something happened and I can’t shake it off.  I don’t want to shake it off.  I want to remember and keep remembering. And I want to share it with you.

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I found out yesterday that friends of ours lost their beautiful and vibrant fifteen year old son to suicide.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, following motor vehicle accidents in this country (Canada).  And rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.

I don’t have the specific details or the answers as to why our much loved young friend took his own life but there are many reasons why people take their own lives ranging from mental health disorders to socioeconomic, family and issues with identity.  From when I was eight years old to when I turned ten I was bullied. The ‘ringleader’ of this campaign was a girl called Celia and yes, she was the meanest but also the most popular girl in our small primary school.   Why are the meanest so often the most popular?

She was tall.  I was not.  She was Barbie/Prima Ballerina.  I was not. You see, Iice showed up in my hair and my mother, horrified, shaved it all off and since my hair was never going to be anything more than what it is, thin and lifeless, she decided to keep my hair short.   Really short.  So I got teased a lot.  I was called names.  Hurtful names. I learned at a very young age about intolerance and prejudice. I learned your looks hold  a lot more sway in this world than the contents of your mind.  I learned that words are weapons and if you let them they can wound even kill you.   I learned all this at a tender age because I was picked on and pulled apart not only by a girl called Celia but by my peers and teachers too.   Because my teachers thought I was odd.  They thought my mother was odder and told me so.   My mother was a very young single mother.  Back then a very big no-no.  So I was the ‘possibly- Hare-krishna-lesbian daughter’ of a single mother.  I shouldn’t have made it.  But I did.  Because of two things:

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I had two very devout grandmothers.  They weren’t necessarily always emotionally available but they introduced me to God and took me to church.  So I believed with all my heart in someone Greater and something Bigger than all my problems. And it made all the difference because I didn’t feel so alone with God on my side.   Even when Celia was dragging me around the school yard by one of my skinny legs and the other kids jeered.   I’ve been told by people who should know (they hold PhDs in Mind Reading and the like) that I survived because I’m the resilient type.  I’m not saying I didn’t hit the bottom of my own personal Marianas Trench.  I did at the age of eight.   I swallowed a handful of some pills I found in the bathroom cabinet and waited for death.  I was still very much alive when my mother got home from work so I told her what I had done and she drove me to the hospital.  Turns out I tried to overdose on contraceptive pills.  I don’t remember being reprimanded.  I don’t even remember being hugged.   

Here’s what I think:

Maybe we should talk about God.

Maybe we should read more.

Maybe we should talk more to our children.  Maybe we should be more alert to the warning signs.

Maybe we should turn off our smartphones/tablets and listen more.

Maybe we should sit around a table with our children.    

Maybe we should bless our meals and the people sitting at the table with us.

Maybe when the people who are supposed to love us simply can’t or don’t know how to we should reach out and find those who will.

Maybe we think only children are capable of bullying.  Think again.  If you know or suspect you are a bully get help

 

 

 

 

Do. Because it’s good for you.

In my twenties I read every self-help book I could lay my hands on.  This included classics like Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh and the lesser known but equally worthy Florence Scovel Shinn’s The Game of Life.  I was hungry for knowledge, especially any so called ‘secret’ knowledge that would get me promoted quicker or married sooner or making millions.   The problem was I was going to scale mountains, this included Mt. Everest, in my twenties.  I was going to own my own house and I was going to be married by the time I was thirty and it was all going to happen because I had a vision board on a wall of my small apartment bedroom. 

It certainly didn’t help that I was a lazy cow or that I thought that if I stared long enough at Brad Pitt he would call or that the dollars would translate into lottery millions.  He didn’t and I didn’t win the lottery.  Well, not yet. 

I still plan on achieving certain S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals that, back then in my twenties, were certainly S.M.A.R.T.  Not so much now. Like, living with a jungle tribe in the Amazon or learning how to touch my head with my feet while doing a handstand in yoga (known as the Handstand Scorpion). 

In order to achieve anything of substance you have to actually go for it and you have to work for it.  And work hard. And you have to do things you probably never imagined you would have to do like wait on tables or clean other peoples’ houses or run errands for your boss.  And it’s all good.  Because experience builds character and what writer (with perhaps the exception of Emily Dickinson) could not do with more experiences?