The Lighthouse

solitude + inspiration

01 May 2015

Accountability: April, a month in review.

It's enlightening to look back over a month, a period of time near enough for accuracy but removed enough for detachment - and hopefully honesty. April has been a month of challenges. We've gone from the harsh depths of winter to the breaking free of spring. The work situation has become interesting, matters of the heart have been surprising, and the future feels like a vast and beautiful landscape before me, only I'm standing on a bluff, and from where I am I can't see the path to get from here to there.

Anyway, here are the numbers:

Books read: 4
Writing here: 6
Writing elsewhere: 2
Plotting or actual writing of story: 0





Fish Meal Summer

Years ago, back in the Age of the Nuts, my sister and I got quite enthusiastic about gardening. By which I mean we drilled holes in the bottom of a big Rubber Maid container and buried five potatoes that had sprouted in the back of the kitchen pantry. We also bought two tomato plants in pots, and tried our hand at little lettuce seeds in a bowl. For fun we had a geranium or two. There are always geraniums. (For us, this was taking gardening to the level of, say, the Chelsea Flower Show.) (I told you – we were garden mad.)

The point of this little story is not that we reveled in a bountiful harvest that summer, but that suddenly everywhere we turned, we were inundated with gardening advice. Every magazine had helpful lists of 10 easy ways to turn your thumbs green. Every novel featured a gardening diva or tree surgeon. Miss Anne, our next door neighbour, could be found trimming our shrubbery at all hours of the day, and would helpfully suggest ways we could improve our landscaping.

For some reason fish meal was a common theme. Even the novel with the gardening diva mentioned fish meal. And because we’re experiencing a surge of organic everything, the ideal source of fish meal is fish bones, from actual fish you’ve cooked and eaten yourself. Preferably ethically-sourced fish, at that.  Fish meal is particularly beneficial to the growing of robust roses. 

I can’t think how many articles I came across that summer that extolled the virtue of fish meal for roses. I began to fret about this, worrying that as I don’t particularly enjoy eating fish I’d have to endure a few miserable meals for the benefit of the roses. Sigh.  Then I’d have to research exactly how to prepare the bones, and the application methods. It became a regular topic of conversation between my sister and me.  Should we try it? What kind of fish?  Would it be ok if we cheated and bought fish meal from a garden centre? Would Miss Anne be able to tell?

This continued a pattern of long standing: we’d learn about something new, or hear about something another person did, and we’d feel some expectation that we should be able to do it, too. Anything from brushing your hair a hundred strokes a day, to baking bread with flour from wheat you grew yourself, to oil sketching your own family portrait. No pressure!

The summer of the fish meal brought an end to that.  One day my sister and I looked at each other and said, “But we don’t even have roses!”  Were we about to plant roses, just so we could eat yucky fish, then grind up the bones for fertilizer? No!  So “But I don’t even have roses!” has become a shield against feeling the need to take on the latest trend or do something I’m not the least interested in just because someone else can or does.

Every now and then that feeling wiggles its way in, though.  One such occasion was last night at work, when I came across this book:  “365 guitars, amps and effects you must play.”


But I don’t even have roses!

28 April 2015

Departure : Five Sentence Fiction

Five sentence fiction from Lillie McFerrin Writes - a story told in five sentences.
This week's prompt word is Departure.



Two little feet inched over the side of the bed, tip-toed across to the door, and snuck down the hallway to the top of the stairs. Two little hands gripped the banister as one little nose poked over the top. Two little eyes, spying no one, gleamed with mischief. One small body stepped from tread to tread, cleverly avoiding the creaky places in the middle.  The sounds of dishes being washed in the kitchen sink didn't falter as the front door silently snicked closed behind one little boy not taking his nap.

25 April 2015

Be ye lionhearted

I don't often post here pieces I've written for other sites.  Today's an exception.


April 25 is the Feast of St. Mark. He is known as St. Mark the Evangelist, and St. Mark the Lionhearted.  Isn’t ‘Lionhearted’ a wonderful name to have? It paints pictures of brave deeds and acts of courage, of nobility and fortitude. In the case of St. Mark the name is well earned. He preached and taught the gospel, winning many converts to Christ. He founded a Christian community in Alexandria, which grew into a large and thriving church, which roused the displeasure of non-believers who determined to stop him. He was captured, bound, dragged through the streets, imprisoned, and again dragged through the streets until he died. Accounts say the ground was stained with his blood and strewn with pieces of his flesh, but he continued to praise and thank God.  Lionhearted indeed.

 The Church continued to flourish in Alexandria and other cities St. Mark had visited. No doubt his teaching and exhortation were significant factors (along with the work of many other disciples busy spreading the Good News) but there was probably something else at work as well.

In June of 2014, Pope Francis said this: “The Church grows thanks to the blood of martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness, with blood.”

There are times when, as Pope Francis said, “historical situations require a strong witness.” He has spoken several times of the seeds planted by those who work for the gospel and die for the faith.  In the early Church, when new Christians were being persecuted in horribly creative ways, the fact that believers were willing to die for Christ was a profound, undeniable testament to the truth of the good news.

 Are we living in a time when “historical situations require a strong witness”? It would seem so. There are appalling stories coming from faraway places of beheadings, burnings, drownings, and mass shootings of Christians of many different confessions. Our brothers and sisters are paying with their lives for professing Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They are Lionhearted.
 
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil.”  This from Pope Francis a few days ago after the news broke that yet another group of Christians was killed.  The part of that sentence that caught my attention was the Holy Father’s use of ‘still’.  These martyrdoms cry out to be heard by those who can still distinguish between good and evil, which suggests that there are those who are no longer able to do so.  Good and evil are one and the same to them, which emphasizes the great need in the world for more – many more – seeds to be planted.  It may take many, many more martyrs to shed their blood, and it will also take us offering our own sacrifices, professing our faith in our own daily lives (which can be a martyrdom in some circumstances) but we can trust that Christ spoke the truth when He said there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the Kingdom of God will triumph.

St. Mark the Lionhearted, pray for us.

23 April 2015

Of near death experiences and dotted lines

I almost died yesterday.

Well... that's not precisely true but it's a much better beginning to a story than, "I went for a walk yesterday" which is the precise truth. The part where I almost died was in my imagination.

The weather was glorious, with bluesome skies, shiny sun, and the merest hint of chill in the air. Irresistible, wouldn't you say?  So I took myself off to a local woody spot with marked trails (by marked trails I mean that occasionally a tree would have an arrow pointing vaguely leftish-but-maybe-it's-really-straight-aheadish). There was a 'map' that, with dotted lines showed the various trails.  This 'map' was as accurate as a subway map is in representing actual direction and scale. (This detail will be important very soon.) One of the little dotted loops suggested a gentle, bucolic stroll that would have me back at my car in plenty of time for an afternoon appointment, so that was the path I took.

Really, they need to make important signs much bigger, such as the one that said people should stay away - for their own safety and well-being - in wet conditions.  We've had rain lately, plus, under the trees snow and ice is still melting - both of which qualify for wet conditions. (This detail will also be important soon.)

Within a very few steps, I was ever so glad to have been clever enough to wear boots.  And roll my pants up. High. At first it was quite fun, squishing along in ankle-deep mud while around me birds chirped and beams of warm sun drifted down through the trees. And then the trail began to descend, and the squishing turned into sliding. As I moved deeper under the trees, snow patches expanded into, well, snow and ice with intermittent mud leading me further down hill. Now and then I could step off the trail and walk on last Fall's leaves, but for the most part there was nothing but steep slope to one side, scary drop to the other, and treacherous snow and ice underfoot. I'd slip and slide my way forward clinging to fragile branches whenever I could and madly flapping my arms for balance when I couldn't. By this point I realized I'd probably gone too far forward to go back but I couldn't be sure because the 'map' hadn't shown this trail sweeping so far right, so I couldn't be sure how much trail still lay ahead. Or how much of it was going ever further downhill. Or if the uphill bits would be as life-threatening. This was when I began to think I might die there, spattered in mud to my knees, fingers stained green from clutching branches, sprawled on a patch of ice with a message scrawled in the snow beside my body: Dear Parks People: important signs must be bigger. And maps should tell the truth!  ~ Tess.  (I'd sign my name so they could identify my body.)

Onward I slipped and careened, to find myself, unexpectedly at a road.  Huh.  There hadn't been a road on the trail map, so where on earth was I now? Had I wondered onto a different map and was now following someone else's dotted lines?  If only there were helpful trail markings, or even, you know, a map or sign with words saying, "Scary Trail continues this way" with an arrow.

I figured there'd been enough of travelling right, so took the unexpected road to the left, which, while ascending sharply uphill, was wonderfully free of either mud or ice and snow.  Hoorah! And sure enough, after huffing and puffing my way upwards and leftwards, there in the distance was my car. I've never been so happy to find myself in a gravel parking lot.  I made it! I survived the Scary Trail; escaped near death; defied vague and unhelpful signage; overcame deceiving maps with deceptively friendly dotted loops. If I was a marine, I would have yelled huah! in that moment.

And I was on time for my appointment.

20 April 2015

Underwater

Today I am working underwater.

Well, good thing that's not precisely true, as I don't have gills, but it makes for a good beginning, don't you think?

My work location today is in what used to be a school gymnasium. They installed wall-to-wall carpeting (in a very forgiving though not very pretty grey and brown pattern), chose some fun colours for the walls, and brought in a few pieces of office furniture. Despite the cosmetic sleight-of-hand, there is no disguising this cavernous space was once filled with the sound of bouncing basketballs and the ripe odour of physical activity. Every sound - including the tapping of my keys - expands outward and bounces off the far-away walls.

I sit along one short wall while my colleagues are arranged against the long wall to my left. I can hear the scissors snipping at the desk half a soccer pitch away as if they were in my own hand. Imagine if you will, then, what it is like in this room when a group of 50 large, enthusiastic, talkative IT guys (with a very few women sprinkled in) gather here for a celebratory lunch and awards presentation. It got loud.  Very loud.

So I put my bright green earbuds in (the ones with the pretty orange flowers) and went through my Rockin' playlist which not only allowed me to win my very own lip sync challenge, but also muffled the voices around me. I could see hands gesturing energetically, and mouths moving with gusto, but to me it was as if I was hearing it all from underwater, which was very calming and peaceful.

Tomorrow I work at the school library. I wonder if anyone will notice my underwater trick when the kindergarten class comes for a visit?

Isolated : Five sentence fiction

I missed this one, so was not in time to link up with Lillie McFerrin Writes and the Five Sentence Fiction challenge.
Here is my response all the same:



We stand behind her, one at each shoulder like a guard at her back. She faces a door - clear glass to view the world, yet closed, unbreachable and impassable. We sense the yearning in her; she is longing, straining to open the door and enter the world, but is frozen. Isolated.