The Lighthouse

solitude + inspiration

11 November 2014

Envy : Five Sentence Fiction


From Lillie McFerrin WritesWhat it’s all about: Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word.
This week’s word: ENVY

Bitterness burned in her throat, searing away any pretense at grief.
"It is what Grandmother wanted," said Elizabeth.
"No, it's what you told her you wanted," retorted Emily. "You always manage to get your way."
As her sister walked away, Elizabeth whispered, "But you got Robert."

05 November 2014

Feeling the weight of the world

I'm sitting in the library. 
I was driven from my home by a limping internet connection, so here I sit, in a slightly drafty corner, looking at the world through the snow-globe windows of my workplace. I had difficulty connecting to the wifi when I first got here, so I was sitting behind the circulation counter at one of the staff desks. I found myself helping patrons at the desk and answering the phone, so back to the corner I went, and here I still am.  Of course now being without the distractions of my kitchen, or the dusting that needs doing, or the novel I'm reading, or the tv show I'm binging on Netflix I must sit here, staring at the screen, very aware of my idle fingers poised over the keyboard. Words feel so very heavy right now.
Instead of the WriMo novel (which is still in an amorphous state) I am trying to write about the abuse of women.  Talk about heavy words. Is it possible to offer useful insight on that subject? How can it be reduced to a bullet list of facts? Are there conclusions to be drawn, or suggestions for solutions?  Anything I manage to put on paper either sounds dreary or far too simplistic, and yet those heavy words are demanding to come out.
My poor country has been battered by shocking events these last few weeks. Somehow being close to home makes them more vivid, more real, than when they happen to someone else. They, too, are feeling heavy.
A construction truck has been idling outside my window for a long time now, rumbling away at a frequency that is now grating on my nerves. I'm also very aware of how hungry I am.  I suppose regardless of how weighty a matter may be, sometimes a time-out and a medicinal dose of chocolate does a world of good. Or just does the world good.

04 November 2014

In which Carmen suddenly sets a trend ta ra ta ta

Sometimes technology is absolutely the Bee's Knees. One example of BK technology is live streaming to movie theatres. Through the magical qualities of cyber space, a person who lives in Sohoe is able to experience opera and ballet from New York, theatre from London - all live - as well as participate in tours of the Vatican, the Hermitage, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Rijksmuseum... actually, the possibilities are limited only by what someone hasn't yet thought of.  For this particular resident of Sohoe, I think it's fabulous.  Fabulous, I say!

This past weekend was the fabulousness of Carmen. It's an interesting opera for many reasons, one of which being that all my life I've been calling her CARmen, but learned on Saturday that opera-types call her carrrrMEN with a very trilled 'r'.  It's a French opera, you see, but it's set in Spain so throw in as much embellishment as you can.  Here are reasons why CarrrrMEN is fabulous:

*Even if you're not a fan of the warbling long notes of opera, CarrrrrMEN's easy because nearly every duet, aria, and overture is featured on "Top Ten Pieces of Music You Always Hear But Never Knew Where They Came From" type albums. I've still got the "ba da ba DA, ba da ba da, ba da-da-da-da-da-da-da. da.da" piece running through my brain. You know the one I mean.

*Bizet, the composer, was a dude well ahead of his time. You think 50s pop blazed new trails with their do-wa-diddies and shoo-doops?  Not a bit of it, for Carmen's best known aria is full of fa la tra las. I figure we can let Bizet off the hook because there were so many notes to write in the score, he must have been exhausted, or ran out of ink, or maybe he meant to come back to that bit and fill in some rhyming words and plum forgot but by opening night it was too late to change it, and that's how we have the Fa la Tra la-ing Carmen of today. (Yes, the libretto is a different beast. I don't let facts ruin a good story.)

*Because it's in French, there are phrases like tout-a-coup. In what other opera are you going to hear that?  It means 'all of a sudden' and we used to practice it in french class by composing sentences of ludicrous scenarios, such as "Tout a coup la salle de bain a explose" which means "Suddenly the bathroom exploded."  That was made up by a boy. When CarrrrMEN sang "tout a coup something something" I had a happy moment of french class memories.


Opera has entered a period of refreshing, whereby the old standards are being re-staged in new productions with new stage design and costumes, so that the Marriage of Figaro your grandmother knew is not the Marriage of Figaro being staged today. A trend I've noticed this year is bare feet, and principal characters laying on the floor. Perhaps this is a money saving approach?  With fewer shoes to buy and less furniture to build, the Met must be saving a fortune!

One of the very fun things about the live streaming is the glimpse we are given into the backstage world of theatre or ballet or opera. It's like we get dvd bonus features with interviews of the performers, designers, conductors, and being able to watch scene changes from behind the curtain.  I love that kind of stuff!

I leave you with these words from the Choeur des gamins in act one:
Ta ra ta ta ta
Ta ra ta ta ra ta ta
Ta ra ta ta ra ta ta ta

29 October 2014

Bits n pieces

Remember remember the start of November.

I like to hijack poetry. And catchy yet ominous phrases about historic events.

November is nigh; it is very very close.  Which means it is nearly time to NaNoWriMo.  I tried it last year but lost track after about a week.  I fell right off the WriMo wagon.  I had hoped to have this year's story all plotted out, but life has been uncooperative what with needing to work and all that nonsense, so no plot.  There is an idea I really like though.  I like the characters and the general arc, but the bits in the middle are as yet unknown to me.  I'm trying to get my other writing commitments polished now so that I can devote November to writing just for me.  I'm telling you about this - making it public - for accountability's sake.  I want to, at the beginning of December, flip through the pages of this new notebook I bought specially, and see very good bones of a promising novel.  A brilliant novella even.

I was overtaken the other day by the realization that I love where I live. For an army brat like me who has more than 25 moves in her past, it is a relief to look up from the packing peanuts to realize I am finally home.

Are blogs over? They were all the rage there for a while and everyone was blogging about absolutely anything. I started out blogging about living with the Peanuts with the occasional nods to political rants, footie, and writing thrown in. I don't really know what the purpose of the Lighthouse is anymore. Sometimes I feel like Kathleen Kelly speaking into the void: there is a need to send words into the ether and am comforted with the thought that maybe somebody, somewhere, is reading them.

Another query: I must find something to read to a grade six class.  Grade six is difficult. They're too bored to be impressed by anything, too cool to express emotions, reactions, or opinions. It has to be sophisticated enough to acknowledge their maturity yet not be too complex (because, sadly, attention span and vocabulary these days... eesh).  What's a librarian to do?  Any suggestions?

I've had mouse issues recently.  I thought I had it licked with a very liberal application of oil of oregano (later followed up with a very liberal application of peppermint oil) but I was wrong.  So I bought a can of crazy foam to seal up where I think the mouse door is, which is the extractor fan hole. Only the hole is very very high, and way deep inside a dark and awkwardly placed cupboard. And I've never used a spray can like that before with the long nozzle thing that has to be aimed every so carefully and the foam that comes out is ugly and VERY sticky.  So let's just say the extractor fan hole is now very full of lumpy guck, some of which may have dripped a bit.

I keep hearing noises in the basement when there shouldn't be anything in the basement to make noises.  Should I be concerned?

Very last thing:  the footie is breaking my heart this year.  I am officially broken-hearted and it might never heal.

27 October 2014

Thank yer

It's a good day when I can insert a You've Got Mail quote into the conversation. Norah, how we miss you!

I worked at Far Public Library this past weekend. (I also work at Lake Town Public Library, which is just at the end of my road).  Far PL is a busy place at the weekend, which is what brought the phrase "Thank yer" to mind. I don't know how many patrons I served, but according to my feet, it was very many.  In the course of those very many customer encounters, I noticed that very many thank yous were exchanged on both sides.  Not just one each per conversation, but several from them and from me. I reckon the phrase must come up at least 120 times in the course of one four hour shift.  We're Canadian, you see, so it can't be helped. I think thank you is hardwired into our brains.

A typical conversation with a patron runs something like this:

Patron: Hello, how are you?
Tess: Hello, I'm ok thanks, how are you?

P: Good, thank you.
T: Glad to hear it. (... waiting for the library card) If I could just have your card please...
P: Oh, right, sorry, here you go.
T: Thank  you!
P: You're welcome.

T: Here you are; your books are due November 17.
P: Thank you!
T: You're very welcome.
P: Have a good afternoon.
T: Thank you very much; you too!
P: Thank you.

That's 6 thank yous, one apology, two you're welcomes in 13 lines of dialogue. If there's an exchange of money when fines or printing or used-book-sale purchases are involved, there are at least 3 more thank yous, and on the occasions when patrons ask for something we cannot provide right then, they still say thank you before walking away. 

I've done that last myself more times than I can count. Say I want to buy peanut butter, so I go to the peanut butter shop. I'll ask a store employee if they have any crunchy peanut butter in stock (because why bother with smooth?) and they might say "No, sorry, we don't carry crunchy peanut butter." To which I'll reply, "Oh, sorry, I thought you were a peanut butter shop, and that peanut butter was your specialty." (as I look around and notice displays of notepaper and household cleaning supplies) (this is no joke: in Canada, you can buy groceries and furniture at what used to be an automotive store, cleaning supplies and jewelry at what used to be an apothecary, and bedding and electronics in what used to be a grocery store.)(Sorry!  Back to the story) "Yeah," she says, "we're not" (because she's only, like, 12, and doesn't understand customer service.) "Ok, well, thanks anyway" and I leave the store, feeling that I really should have apologized for having made such a gaffe.

Thank yer, ladies and gentlemen!

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."
Exactly.


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:
Hunger

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





Hunger
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.