The Lighthouse

solitude + inspiration

12 October 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, eh

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, one and all.
This holiday often takes me by surprise as I've spent much of my working life in schools. The weeks between Labour Day and Thanksgiving happen so very quickly that I never am properly prepared to deal with turkeys.

I'd like to share one moment with you. It took place while reading The Magician's Nephew to a grade five class.  We came across the detail that Aunt Letitia wears a bonnet. I paused to ask the kids if they knew what a bonnet is. After a few guesses were made, one boy piped up, "It's like a hoody, but without the jacket."

There is much to be thankful for this year. You may or may not know that I have been seeking work since February. Somehow the bills are paid and my belly is full. There are more miracles happening around us than we think - they just happen to deal with the prosaic, the every day things. We're looking for grand events to happen, and so miss God's touch in our lives, or the lives around us - my life being an example. God often works the extraordinary in the ordinary. I've had no lottery winnings, or mystery uncles leaving an inheritance, but there is always just enough for what I need week to week. It comes from part-time and unpredictable work, from a week's pay I forgot I was owed from last spring, from a cheque I wasn't expecting but arrived just in time.

This time of year I'm also always thankful for Autumn, my favourite season of all. I love the cool, crisp air, the turning colours, the changed light, wearing sweaters, roasting vegetables, the smell of wood smoke.

I am thankful for friends near and far, real-life and online. I carry many people in my heart, and am thankful for each of you.

02 October 2014

Hunger: Five Sentence Fiction

This week's prompt from Five Sentence Fiction is:

I am cheating again, this time not in number but rather in form. This is not a story.

The last piece of pie on the counter
A kiss under the old apple tree
A letter from a long lost someone
The sound of baby gurgles
The scent of wood smoke on the chill air
These things make me hunger.

16 September 2014

Waiting leads to Conflict

Five sentence fiction recently gave "Waiting" as a writing prompt. I immediately had a particular scene in mind, but was unable to put it to paper. A week passed and the next prompt came along, being "Conflict". The idea that came to mind was a natural follow-up to the first scene that I wanted to write them as one.  But by now so much time has flown by that I can't bring myself to post the result as an official FSF construction.  And since it isn't official, I'm bending the rules a bit by not counting the sentences exactly.  This is a short description of a scenario we're probably all familiar with.


Ugh; why is waiting so hard?  I chose the express lane (12 items or less, the sign admonishes) thinking it would move much faster than the next one over where a careful husband is handing a month’s worth of soup and cat food one tin at a time to his wife who just as carefully places them on the conveyor belt. I was wrong. I must have been standing here for at least an hour (at least an hour as I’ve wrung all possible entertainment from the gossipy magazine covers, admired the polish on my toes, and practiced counting backwards from one hundred. In German. By twos.) when I come out of the fog of boredom to pick up on an ambience of tension: people in line behind me are grumbling and throwing significant looks at one another. Is there going to be an uprising at the NoFrills?


I lift an expressively puzzled eyebrow at the lady behind me; she in turn nods to the fella taking his turn at the cash. Having sussed out the situation I look back to my informant, mouthing an exaggerated, “Wow!” She plays along with an equally exaggerated and appalled, “Twenty-three!” To which the lady behind her contributes an affronted nod to confirm her awareness of the injustice taking place right in front of us. But other than the cashier casting significant glances at the admonishing sign, we none of us do anything to prevent this blatant flouting of the rules. We are Canadian.  

12 September 2014

The Sound of Moonlight

A writing prompt: What does moonlight sound like?

Moonlight has a gentle voice, soft and hushed as befits its reflected light. It does not shine as brightly as the sun, nor does it sing with such gusto as the sun.

It speaks in whispers, sometimes crisp and clear, and at other times in muted, lamenting tones.

The sound of moonlight is like a brook moving over stones, while the light of the sun thunders over cliffs like a mighty river.

Moonlight reaches through clouds and whispers through leaves. If you listen closely, you can hear memories. 

24 August 2014

In which I have encounters with animals. And racoons.

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now, but it has taken a different turn from the original plan. Back in June while driving home from work along the country lanes I would spot cuteness and sights that compelled me to pull over and marvel. One day it was a mama beaver leading her little ones over the road; on another it was a faun leaping across a lawn. 

While at my mom's in the spring we were visited by turtle. That may not seem remarkable, but her house is two roads away from the pond and up a sloping gravel driveway. We looked out the window while washing up the supper dishes and spotted said turtle behaving strangely very nearly at the peak of the drive. It turned out to be digging a hole in such a remarkable way - scooping one clawful of dirt at a time with one hind leg and dropping it to the side, then using the other leg to do the same.  It laid its eggs, then filled the hole in again and used it's belly and hind legs to smooth the dirt and place the rocks back just so, that by the time she left we couldn't tell where it had happened. Any day now I expect to hear from mom that the eggs have hatched and baby turtles are scattered all up and down the hill. In the meantime, mom has been adopted by a neighbour's cat. The two (mom and Walter, the cat) have become so friendly that mom has bought him treats and he has free run of the house. I now get Walter Update text messages.

I'm not giving more detail on any of those stories because I want instead to tell you about the racoon.
Three years ago I moved to New Town. I lived in a beautiful century home that had been renovated into flats. Mine was on the second floor, which I entered via a charming though rickety iron fire escape. It had tall windows, beautiful moldings, hardwood floor, the tiniest bedroom closet and hot water radiators that never seemed to shut off.  It also had plaster ceilings, the living room one of which had a hole in. The landlord told me it was due to a racoon falling through. He was having a difficult time finding a master plasterer to repair it, so the hole remained while I just pretended it wasn't there.

But now and then, late at night, I'd hear sounds.  To me it sounded exactly like little clawed feet scratching across the hardwood floors, and now and then a subtle noise much like a cat makes when it licks its whiskers.  Now, as I hinted above, my coping mechanism when it comes to unpleasantness is often to pretend it doesn't exist.  This always worked when I babysat as a teen and very unwisely spent the evening watching Nightmare on Elm Street.  As long as I didn't look over my shoulder, there was no way Freddy Krueger was going to get me.  So there I lay in New Town, in the dark, hearing these noises, keeping my eyes tightly closed and my limbs firmly tucked up well within the edges of the bed, pretending there was nothing (ie. racoon) there in the room with me.

Not even I can keep the illusion going for long, however.  One night, I'd had it. I boldly turned on the light and dared whatever it was to come out from its dark corner and face me.  But I couldn't see anything (by 'boldly' I mean I hurriedly reached my arm out and peered quickly over the side of the bed).  I measured the distance to the door, wondering if I dared stop to get my jeans and slippers or if I should make a run for it.  Racoons can move fast, right?

So I did it. I flew into the hallway and slammed the door closed behind me. I found an empty bin and set it on the floor beside me and settled into a chair in the living room, waiting for whatever it was to come out and find me, at which time I would upend the bin over it to confine it.  What I meant to do with it next, I have no idea, but it felt good to have a plan. "Next" was up to the landlord who had left that darned hole in the ceiling.

It may have been hours later, or it could have been a handful of minutes when I admitted to myself I possibly might have been a little foolish. I brought the bin into the bedroom with me and actually managed to sleep a little before the alarm called me into another day.  I can't remember now how long after that I realized what was causing those scratching noises: the side of the building was covered with a beautiful creeping vine. Wind would causes dry branches to scrape along the bricks and the window screen, while the leaves would rub softly on the surfaces.  Once the landlord had pruned the branches back from my bedroom window, I didn't notice those sounds at night anymore.  No more nocturnal visits from the 'racoon'.

Here it is now a year and a half into my time here in Lake Town.  My little flat at the edge of the fields and orchards continues to delight me, and aside from occasional appearances of creepy crawlies I have no complaints (well, to be honest, the kitchen could use a wee bit more storage).  Until, that is, two nights ago.  Once again, I have from time to time been hearing sounds at night, only this time more like little clawed feet catching in the bedroom carpet.  Like before, I pretended there was nothing there, no need to be alarmed, all was fine.  That's what sleep masks are for, right?This happened only two or three times in 18+ months.  Two nights ago I decided once more to be brave and turn on the light to see what I could see. 

And see something I did.  A small something or other moving very quickly out of sight.  Without my glasses on, I could have convinced myself it was really nothing... but a few moments later the curtain jerked and suddenly there was a little brown mouse clinging to it about halfway up, looking at me.  It gave a mighty leap, and I shrieked a little, thinking it meant to leap at me.  Instead it flung itself away. I could hear it continue to scamper about the room, occasionally going at the curtains again. Need I tell you I slept not a wink that night? I couldn't think how to trap it and entreaties certainly were ineffectual.

I laid my case before my landlord and pleaded his help.  He bought some traps, showed me how to arm them, and assured me he would come and empty them should it be needful.  That was a relief, but for the rest of the day I entered each room cautiously, wondering if I would see brown furballs running around. I was out quite late that night, not returning home until nearly two, and sure enough the bedroom trap had a captive.  At that hour I wasn't about to ring up the landlord, but no way was I going to sleep in the room with a corpse!  So I girded my loins and did what every country-dwelling single girl must do: I squinched my eyes shut and quickly scooped the apparatus into a plastic bag and flung it all out the front door. I must say once the shivers of revulsion passed, I felt quite proud of myself and somewhat liberated. I now knew how to set a trap and had proved I could handle the disposal, too.

If only that were the end of the saga.  I'm sorry, dear reader, that it is not.  Today I found evidence of a mousish visit in the kitchen cabinets.  Ugh.  And ick.  So I did what anyone would do: I pretended for a while that I hadn't seen anything.  And then I took to Google, to find out how to keep mice out. (Despite my seeming hardheartedness, I truly would rather just keep them out than kill them.) As always with Google, there is a lot of conflicting advice, but what I came away with was that they don't like strong odours. The most frequent suggestions were peppermint oil, dryer sheets, and cloves.  Having neither peppermint oil nor sufficient quantities of cloves to do the job, I made use of what I had on  hand: oil of oregano.  Oil of oregano is a very potent herbal concoction for the use of easing sore throats with a tremendously strong scent - so much so that when I use it, I must rinse and soak the glass specially after, otherwise it lingers and taints whatever I have next in that glass.

While I may initially prefer to ignore unpleasantness, once I decide to do something about it, I tend to really do something about it. I washed the cupboard shelves down with a strong solution of water and vinegar, then practically covered them with dryer sheets. Next, I doused cotton balls with the oil of oregano and tossed them liberally throughout.. I may have gone overboard.  Now the kitchen smells medicinal - reminiscent of a Victorian sick room, perhaps.  I only hope that this mad scheme works, because I can't think what to do next.  I shudder at the idea of a mouse crawling over my packets of tea and tins of soup or curling up in the mixing bowls. 

That was now two hours ago.  I'm reluctant to go back into the kitchen in case there should be further signs of occupation.  If there is, I just may have to concede and move out.

19 August 2014

In which I am sine loco

There is a set formula to provide information about books - actually all materials, real or insubstantial - in libraries.  Author -- Title -- Publication information - Physical description - Notes - Subject - Additional authors, bodies of responsibility etc.  When the place, name of publisher, and date of publication are unknown, what is given in the catalogue record is [s.l. ; s.n., s.d.]  which are abbreviations for the Latin terms meaning: We haven't got a clue. Cataloguers used to be big on Latin terms. And German.  And abbreviations.  But we're in the modern age now, in which text language has reduced English to unintelligible babble unsuitable for deep thought and grand ideas - so libraries now use up the left over vowels and consonants to spell everything out. In plain old English.  So long tradition!  Farewell custom! Goodbye romance and mystery.

I do apologize! This was not meant to be a diatribe on the languishing of language or the demise of bibliographic tradition. I shall now return to the point, which is this:

Today, I found myself [s.l.].  I was sine loco - place unknown.  It is a common occurrence among those of us who suffer from itchy feet.  Itchy feet result from being a rolling stone, a person who moves house with regularity and frequency.

What often happens is this:
I'll be driving along somewhere, and be struck with the thought: "Whoa!  This looks just like the ferry landing at Upper Gagetown!" But I'm really thousands of miles away from there.

Or, "I'd like some of that nice prosciutto. I'll just pop out to Nicastro's." But Nicastro's is in Ottawa and I haven't lived there in years. Or I think about the second-run theatre somewhere else, or the campground in the other place... none of them anywhere near where I am now.

I'll try to give directions using street names of a different town I used to live in.

Sometimes I'll just plain forget where I am. I know who I am and how to get home and all of that... I just forget that I no longer live there, that I live here now.

I've shopped in chain stores with whom I have a loyalty account. When they try to find me in their records, the address and phone number are from 10 years ago. I've had six different address since then.

So today it didn't surprise me when, driving along a road I frequently travel, I saw a convoy of military vehicles. There are no bases here. I haven't seen olive drab in years, and yet seeing them go by gave me a thrill of homecoming. It seemed so right, so natural to have them zipping along the road - until the confusion set in. Wait a second!  There's no military presence around Lake Town! Hold on now, am I in Lake Town? I had to remind myself of where I live. It all happens very quickly - fractions of seconds - but it is disorienting enough to linger for a while after.

My name is Tess.  I live at the Lighthouse.  I am home.

16 August 2014

Let's get critical

I don't really mean the title; Olivia Newton-John jumped into my brain and that's what came of it.  I've come across some amusing literary critiques lately, and thought to share.  I'd like to have the pith, the wit, and the humour of these critics:

From the movie Epic.  One of the snails says to the bad guy: "Your stories are boring and torturous!"

From the movie Hitchcock. The man himself animadverts the bulk of the publishing industry, saying they produce, "Sleeping pills with dust jackets."  (I do not know if he ever said such a thing in real life, but as a quote, I like it.)

Dave Barry on Fifty shades of grey: "If Jane Austen came back to life and read this book, she would kill herself."
In describing the main character "you, the reader, find yourself wishing that you still smoked so you would have a cigarette lighter handy and thus could set fire to certain pages, especially the ones where Antastasia is telling you about her 'inner goddess'..."
Describing the plodding, cyclical nature of the plot, in which the characters act, then talk, then act, then talk "and so on for several hundred word-filled pages."
There are two more books in the series, Barry writes, "Fifty shades darker and The third fifty shades book that was required to make it a trilogy. I assume these books bring these two lovebirds back together [...] I don't know because I haven't read them, although I fully intend to do so in the future if the only alternative is crucifixion."  Then he describes it as badly written and unrealistic.  But he did so with great humour.  I'm such a big fan of his writing.

Not funny ha-ha, but funny what-a-coincidence, was this comment on the website Bookriot about a book that was recommended to the reviewer despite "some major editing issues (the funniest error was a reference to Janie's 'parental grandmother'...)"  Ha!  Bad editor strikes again.

It can be difficult to balance being kind with being honest, I know. When in doubt, go for humour.