The Lighthouse

solitude + inspiration

30 July 2014

What I can hear

What I can hear right now:

It is 8.35 on a Wednesday night. I am visiting mom, and she is in the living room watching someone decide to purchase one expensive home over another. I sit in the kitchen where the refrigerator just announced the end of its cycle with a click and a thump.

The clock that has been the background rhythm keeper in the soundtrack of my life tick tocks with resonance and familiarity in the hallway. Nearer to me in a syncopated beat is the kitchen clock. The two together sound like: tick thuck tock thuck tick thuck tock thuck. Through the open windows and stretching out to the distance are crickets scratching their chirruping melody on hind legs. A little further away and perched on a roof corner somewhere is a pair of mourning doves trading their tender woo-hoo hoo's.

I can hear the indistinct sound of a man's voice but I cannot distinguish words or hear who he is talking to. His voice and steady and unchanging so he isn't sharing exciting news. The fact I cannot tell what he is saying makes him feel like company without the demands for attention.

Somewhere over there a dog barks but it is a muffled sound, so I picture him on a leash behind some trees in a backyard, far away from this house. Even further, in the most distant layer of sound is the shushing roll of far-off tires and cars that never draw closer. I wonder about the people in those cars - where they're going and what they're thinking about.

Every now and then comes the gentle brush of wind through the tall grass. I look out of the windows and see how still the trees are - the leaves are not dancing tonight.

Even on a summer's evening, life slows down and gradually withdraws from the activity of the day. It is replete. It is done.
Good night.

11 July 2014

In which I ask a question

Where are the editors?

It used to be unusual to find typos (a technical term for spelling mistakes) in a published book. It used to be that once a book reached the shelf-in-a-bookstore stage, it had been vetted and perfected in style and substance.
Not so today.  Today it could be a fun, bookish (yes, it is possible to partner those two terms) drinking game: spot the errors.  One shot of whatever's going - Lady Grey Tea if that's your thing - for every abused apostrophe, forgotten comma, plot hole, and instance of mangled grammar.
Sadly, episodes of egregious editing are not limited to an excusable one now and then, but are populating books by the handfuls, scattered like seeds between the covers of a single book.  It's sad!
(A good editor would rebuke me and reign in my runaway alliteration)
The book I am currently reading - half-heartedly - is an example: The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs. I've not read anything by her before, but it tempted me as it sat in the new book display at the library when I returned what was a really good read, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris. I wanted another delightfully light but satisfying book and thought this would hit the spot.  It's about a beekeeper, or so you would think. It promised to tell about a cookery school in the Napa Valley surrounded by orchards and gardens and beehives, with a dash of romance thrown in. I was up for that.
Instead, the story is skimming over those elements, focusing more on another character's backstory about being a resistance fighter in Copenhagen during WWII. There are so many secondary characters involved in the plot but who are not actually present during the events of this book that a big chunk of the story falls flat through lack of their support. The author focuses on some minute details while conflictingly overlooking others: for example, Isabel (owner of cookery school) and her beekeeper (who is pregnant) are folding laundry one morning (details about this being a new, industrially fitted-out facility are provided). Isabel talks the girl into visiting the doctor for a prenatal checkup, then they go to see an adoption counselor. When they return, Isabel's sister is in the renovated barn with her mother and grandmother (neither of whom are related to Isabel - it's a complicated family) discussing plans for the sister's wedding. After a brief conversation, Isabel goes to the kitchen to prepare supper by drizzling cheese with honey (the book is chock full of honey recipes and every mention of food involves honey). Then - and this is the bit that got me - she stirs a sauce for the roast pork!  Grand.  I have no objection to either the sauce or the pork. I'm glad to know they are there, as Isabel is meant to be a good cook, what with the immanent cookery school and all, but if you're going to account for every moment of her day, you can't have her suddenly pulling out a roast pork to follow the cheese she just drizzled with the ever present honey!
The pregnant beekeeper was hired just a few days ago, and yet talks about making changes to the hives as she'd planned a month ago.
Isabel is described as being shy and uncertain, over-protected by her grandmother, and yet she's charging ahead making bold decisions and organizing everyone's life.
The cooking school is supposed to be a risky endeavor, a last shot sort of deal to save the estate, yet she decides on a whim to have a big swimming pool installed amidst all the other renovations.
She has an unhappy romantic past involving a traumatic assault and admits to another character that she's had no significant relationships. She meets a man at the beginning of this story, and not a handful of days later she goes skinny dipping with him.  This of course is the shy and uncertain lady mentioned above. He is crude and talks constantly about how he wants to go to bed with her - totally out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the book.
The grandfather's story about his boyhood in Denmark is told in snatches as flashbacks so his and Isabel's plot interrupt each other.  Sometimes this device works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes the reader takes a shine to one character over another and then might be tempted to skip the other bits. Two interwoven stories don't always enhance each other. It didn't work for me in this case.
This is part of a series that I'm sure tells each character's stories in turn, so that as a whole we have a complete picture of the family, but as a one-off I'm finding it weak. I think the weaknesses could have been fixed by a good editor.

03 July 2014

To dazzle in five sentences

Five sentences inspired by a challenge over at Lillie McFerrin Writes. I gave myself a 30 minute time limit at which point I had to just let it be what it was.

The prompt was: dazzles.
This is the result.

Was it inevitable that hearing a thing often enough would make it true?  They'd told him so often to not have unreasonable hope, to lower his expectations, and he wondered if their own doubt was strong enough to ruin the admittedly slender chance he had. He'd lain in this hospital bed for what might have been a lifetime; his fingertips had memorized every tuck and fold of the bandages and he spent his days remembering what the light looked like that he now could only feel warming his face.

At last, fingers other than his own moved softly over the wrappings and he could feel the gauze loosening from over his ears and across his eyes; every sound in the room hushed, receding from his awareness as his eyelids flickered open for the first time in nearly a year. At first he feared they had been quite right, that the procedure to restore his sight hadn't worked; but then, exultant and grateful, he realized the dazzling striations he was seeing were not the result of diminishing vision he had become so used to, but rather bursts of sunlight shining through the lingering raindrops on the window, glittering and dancing, bringing tears to his eyes with its welcome brightness.

01 July 2014

A little July, a little CTKS

Hello dear Reader,  happy Canada Day to you.

It is officially July. I am appalled when I open my Blogger dashboard and discover it has been well over a month since the last time I wrote anything here - and it fact it has been much longer than that since I've written anything of note.

Well, you see, the World Cup is on.

"Tess," you're thinking, "the tournament has only been going for just over two weeks, so that's not a good excuse."
Scary, isn't it, that I can read your thoughts? You are quite right: it is a weak, pitiful excuse without foundation or teeth.

I have a plan which is to write every day of this month.  I have very loosely plotted a story, though it's not as developed as I'd hoped.

I have another cunning plan to start freelancing as an editor/proof reader. Do any of you do freelance work?  I'd like to talk to someone who has experience and advice.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with these Cute Things Kids Say, all with thanks to Number Five Nephew:

A video montage of his kindergarten class asked the students what they'd like to be when they grow up. Most of the answers were Police officer, Veterinarian, Ballet Dancer.  What did Five answer?  "Myself."

When the family was speculating why that particular fan movement of rising and siting in a rolling progress around a stadium is called "The Mexican Wave", Five piped in with, "Well, because they're Mexican, why do you suppose?"

Called away for some reason from snuggling with me, Five turned back in the doorway to tell me, "I'm not done sitting on you yet."

I want to eat him up.

03 June 2014

Of birds and leaves

Do you have a list of things about yourself you'd like to one day improve, overhaul, or change entirely?  Maybe we all do, and not out of a sense of failure or self-loathing, but because we're meant to grow, to learn, to improve, to move forward - even if the moving forward is in more of a circular direction.

That sounds very deep, and while there certainly are substantial things about myself I'd like to change, the improvement on my mind causing this mullitativeness (hey, if everyone else can make up words, I want in on the game) is that of nature knowledge. I'd like to be more of an outdoorsman (to me, inclusive language means that every person is included in the use of 'man' and 'men'). I like to be outdoors but know very little about it other than that I prefer creepy crawlies to be far away from me. Except the cute ones, like snails and caterpillars.

Three birds were just peering at me in that head-tilted way they have. Two were hopping in the lawn beyond my kitchen door, and one sat rather plumply in the branches of the ornamental tree outside the window in which sits the desk I write at.  One of the lawn hoppers was, I'm almost sure, a robin (it had a red breast) and the other looked to be a crow - unless it was a raven or a grackle.  I used to think I was safe on that one until my sister's father-in-law grilled me as to whether we had true crows here because ravens and grackles were often mistaken for them. As for Aves Plumptious, it had a pretty spotted vest, and moved slowly like a statesman. In fact, though he reminded me of my cat (who was also plump, but incredibly sweet and affectionate), I'm going to name it Winston. Or Chesterton, for he too was plump but not nearly as stuffy.

In any case, I'd like to know what sort of bird he is, and the name of the tree in which he sat.  I've got various pretty growing things in pots on my front steps, and I think I know only half of them - the other half came with long Latin names.  My dad, being army knew a great deal about wilderness survival. He endured being dropped into the Arctic tundra and fending for himself with nothing but a small pack to keep him alive. I don't anticipate having to forage in the tundra but it would be a comfort to know that if Sobeys ran out of produce I'd be ok.

It would also be nice to know the name of the bird glaring at me as I water the leafy green thing.

30 May 2014

To sleep, perchance to dream

I woke up hung over this morning.  It's ok though, 'cause I was hungover on sleep. Don't fret for me, dear Reader, I haven't yet reached the stage of drunken stupors.

Those first few moments of wakefulness were confused and disoriented (please note: not disorientated!) because on pushing back the sleep mask the sun was so bright for seven ay em, my reluctant-to-open eyes promptly squeezed up in defense. I was also confused about why I was still in bed. I think that when you wake up in the normal way, you travel gently through several states of wakefulness - some of them experienced after the eyes have opened. For some people, true wakefulness doesn't happen for hours, or until after the first cuppa coffee.

I think I jumped clear over those gentle stages and went from comatose to conscious between one breath and the next. So, when I reached for my phone/clock and peeled open an eyelid I was shocked to see it was not seven o'clock, but ten! Shocked, but I have to say also ecstatic.  My inner little girl was wiggling with delight and fist pumping to a refrain of, "Yes!  I slept!" It felt so good I had to share it with somebody, and at eleven o'clock on a Friday morning, you're all I've got.

I also woke up hungry - so hungry that every time I moved, my stomach would growl. It became a continuous rumble, increasing in volume when I stooped in front of the fridge, and again when I bent for a pan from the cupboard. I wonder, if I practice often enough, would I be able to work in some modulation of tone so I could perform a musical number before breakfast?

Anyway. The clock is creeping into laggard territory so I'd best get on with things. So much to do with little time to do it, you know. I hope the sun is shining where you are today.

21 May 2014

Take two

Well, here I go again.
The cataloguing job came to an abrupt end on Friday morning when I was called into my manager's office and told that as of that moment I was no longer needed.

If I wanted to, I could work up a good head of anger at how they handled proceedings right from the interview stage, but frankly, I mostly feel relief to not be there any longer. I am grateful for what I learned - including important questions to ask during the interview - particularly new cataloguing conventions. I won't miss the highway in the morning, or the continual pep talk I had to give myself (only six hours to go, you can do it!). It wasn't a good fit, they and I, so hoorah for early dismissal!  I tell you though, temp workers and casual staff really do get the short end of the stick. Though policies dealing with their employment may be legal, they aren't terribly ethical or humane.  Shame on us for treating people like that!

Anyway.  I've been brimming with ideas and enthusiasm and determination for how I'm going to fill my time until the next job comes along.  It's taken me this many days to get my head on straight, though, and for the giddiness to subside.  I'm excited to see what comes along the pike next, and have just this moment sent out the first resume.  Wait and see.

Looming large on the immediate horizon is The Arrival of Mom.  I love having my mom come to visit as we always have a delightful time. What makes her arrival 'loom' is what I put myself through in advance:  what to cook?  (gak!)  must clean! what activities to arrange?  Also - and this will probably help  you to realize I am indeed a nutter - I prepare a mental list of things to talk about.  I'm a quiet sort of person. It's not natural for me to vocalize my thoughts. I know my dad was the same way because when we were together, I just knew he'd been saving up some news or funny thoughts or observations... and then we'd be silent. I had a definite sense he thought to himself, "ok, conversation... check." and be completely fine there was nothing else to say. On the phone he would actually say it outloud, "Well, that's all for me." and we'd hang up.  My mom and sister are chatters, however.  I find it hard to keep up, so I have to be prepared before I see them, both in stamina and material.  Mom isn't just popping in for tea, though; she'll be here for days. That's a lot of chatting.

I hope you're well, dear reader.