The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

28 February 2010

Fourteen and coolio

Hello, dear Reader; I've missed you.

I've been doing a lot of writing away from the Lighthouse over the past week, and will likely continue to do so for the next few days as well. So much to do!

Not to mention a certain small thing called the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, in which my country, the host nation - CANADA won fourteen golden medals... the last of which being for hockey. Those fourteen medals broke records, for no other host nation has won as many, and in fact no other country ever, has won as many golden medals in the winter games. Well done, athletes of Canada! Life returns to normal now, which means catching up on assignments that have piled up and other dreary things like grocery shopping and laundry.

If you are so minded, please offer a prayer for me: there is a lot to get done, of a challenging nature. Thank you! I shall offer those challenges for your intentions.

In the meantime, I did recently receive another challenge: to use the word 'coolio'. Here is the result:

It was late at night on the West Coast, which made it even later on the East Coast. A phone that was dialled in Burnaby rang a phone that was answered in Antigonish.

“Ugh.” was all that was said on the shores of the Atlantic.

“Georgie, is that you? You up, man?” -- the query from the Pacific side of things.

“Leo? Buddy, it’s, like, three in the morning. Whadda ya want?”

The sounds of a happy heart traveled down roughly three thousand miles of cable to arrive in the ear of a very dear friend. “I’m engaged, man! I asked Jessie tonight and she said yes! I’m getting married!”

A mumble wrapped in a yawn traveled those three thousand miles in the opposite direction. And then a click was heard – Georgie had hung up the phone.

A girl wearing a very large and sparkly ring asked of her beloved, “What did he say?”

The beloved who had bestowed that ring was puzzled, but answered, “It sounded like he said ‘coolio’ but I don’t know what that means.”

“He was happy for you sweetie. He said, ‘Cool, Leo.’”

Which was all that was needed to make this the happiest of days for the successful suitor.

*'golden' medals was deliberate. Number Two and Three Peanuts refer to them so.

23 February 2010

At last

While the hauntingly lovely tune as sung by Etta James wafts through your mind, I bring the image of love-at-last-requited to a screeching halt with the news that today's At Last is actually Number Two Peanut's birthday.

Two has been marking thick black X's through the boxes on a calendar in the kitchen since Christmas. Christmas was exactly 60 days ago. That's 60 X's, 60 boxes, 60 times the question has been asked: How long 'till my birthday now? It started out as a vague awareness that his birthday was next in the family lineup, but in the last two weeks or so, it has gained in intensity; until, approaching this weekend, he began to think we really may as well begin celebrating now, eh?

Yesterday morning, he asked his Mama Nut if she could call him The Eight-year old from now on, to which she answered: Well, yes of course, if you really want me to. I could say "The Eight-year old, time for supper! The Eight-year old, stop hitting your brother with the sword! I love you, The Eight-year old.

He gave that some thought, and concluded that The Eight-year old sounded a bit too... something, so he kindly informed his Mama that instead, she could just call him Eight-year old.

Two has been dispensing birthday beneficence for a few days now. For example, indicating he would like his brothers to be served first, since it was going to be his birthday; and, if one or the other of his brother Peanuts got into trouble (something, I assure you, that rarely happens) he would plead their cause on behalf of the fact that he would shortly be a year older.

Yesterday he asked how many hours until his birthday, suggesting that his level of anticipation had racheted to an unbearable level, but when he got up shortly after midnight to visit the loo, we called out to him that it was finally his birthday! Happy birthday, birthday boy! To which he answered, very blase: I know. And shrugged. With one shoulder!

This morning was an altogether different story though, as the house fairly vibrated with his excitement. I said extra prayers for his teacher today, for I can only imagine how many times the words 'my birthday' will be mentioned, and how hard it will be to keep this boy - who needs to be glued to his chair at the best of times - in his seat for seven whole hours! Not to mention, a once-famous Canadian singer is at their school today, giving a small concert. No doubt for Two, it's no coincidence it happens today, and surely Mr. Frew will be singing just for him.

Don't you just love the whole-hearted enthusiasm and utter self-abandonment of the young?

21 February 2010


Lent, Day Four.

I haven't written about Lent yet. Normally I'd be all over it like white on rice. Or like ashes on a Catholic's forehead the day after Mardi Gras. My feelings about Lent vary from year to year: sometimes I'm really eager for it, and settle right into it; other times I feel as warm and fuzzy toward it as I do a toothache.

Lent is an important beat in the yearly rhythm of our lives. We need this reminder that we are more than body, and that our concerns compass more than this life. Lent then, offers balance and perspective. More than that though, Lent can be an intimate encounter with God. If we take care to ease our busy activities, and hush the frantic noise in our lives, it becomes possible to hear Him.

As part of my Lenten observance, I am reading a book called 'The Hermitage within'. It addresses the vocation (call from God) of actual hermits - those who cast off all earthly pursuits to live in solitude and silence in order to attain holiness - but it also speaks of the need we all have for solitude and silence in our lives. As St. John of the Cross said:
The Father only utters one Word, that is to say, his Son, in a eternity
of silence. He is saying it forever. The soul too must hear it in silence
(The Hermitage within, pg. 15)

There is a tradition of 'desert' in Catholicism. There was the 40 years pilgrimage in which God led the Hebrews out of slavery; John the Baptist lived in the desert before he began preaching about the coming of Christ; Jesus withdrew to the desert for 40 days, and endured the temptations of Satan; the Desert Fathers of the early Church withdrew to live secluded lives in the desert. There is also a metaphorical understanding of desert - it is an arid state, parched of consolation.

It is the arid and parched I was somewhat dreading this Lent. All of last year was difficult enough, that we (my family and I) felt permission to tread more lightly through the penitential season. No such excuse this year - it's time to stand on my feet again. No more hunching over in protective self-pity.

For you, the desert is not a setting, it is a state of soul. This is
where the difficulty lies. The centre of this solitude is you, in whom the
absence of human beings and human vanities creates a first zone of silence. On
the steppe there is only one sound: the moaning of the wind. 'This is,' runs an
Arabic proverb, 'the desert weeping because it would like to be a meadow.' It is
for you, O arid, waterless land, to beg the Lord to distil His dew on you. Only
the breathing of the Spirit should be heard. (
pg. 13-14.)

That is where I will be this Lent - in the desert.
God is bestowing a special favour on you by drawing you into the desert. [...] He is calling you to live on friendly terms with him: to nothing else. (pg. 10)

I pray that you too, will have an experience of solitude and silence in the coming days.

18 February 2010


Doodadderie: unnecessary and distracting embellishments, such as the arm flapping of figure skaters who don’t know what to do with their arms, and the excessive assortment of doobers young girls use in their hair all at once (clips, pins, elastic AND hair band).

Doodadderie as a word came to be while we were watching the Olympic Men’s Short Program Figure Skating. Our pet peeve with figure skaters is the boring ‘skate skate skate jump’ business which puts more emphasis on gymnastics than it does on artistry - closely followed by the incessant flapping. My sister lamented the flapping and all the hoo-ha, saying “enough with the doodadderie”, thus minting a new word for our lexicon.

Which got me thinking about what it would be like to be a figure skating judge. Not as a professional, totally-into-the-moment-judge, but me – someone who has lots of opinions but little inside knowledge of ice skating.


Fade to black

Scene opens on an ice arena, early evening, crowded stands of cheering fans waving national flags, piped rock music, occasional indecipherable announcements.
Skaters are seen in various conditions of dress en route to changing rooms, walking through routines on rubber-covered floors, twitching and kicking nervous legs, rink-side. Coaching staff, medical teams, security personnel, event officials, and the press blend with the athletes to create an atmosphere of tension, anticipation and important-business-underway.

Seated at the blue-draped judge’s table is the heroine of our story. She doesn’t belong at that table, behind her very own computer (the instrument by which she is supposed to render judgement on the hopeful bladed, but instead emails her boyfriend who is currently in Indiana looking for himself - India being too costly a flight), as she is not an expert in figure skating, figure skaters, or figure skates. How she ended up at that table remains a mystery, and may actually be a case of mistaken identity.

As the evening progresses and the skaters take their turns exhibiting their athletic and artistic prowess, she submits her marks to the panel: 6.8, 5.3, 7.0, 7.2. Not knowing a lutz from a salchow (imagine her surprise to discover it wasn’t actually a sow cow), she devised her own marking scheme: everyone starts with a 5.5, and either gains or loses points depending on how much she likes the costume and music. Glitter is good, and the more there is, the higher the mark. Generic classical music warrants point deduction. Not making her stomach clench in failed-jump-anxiety is worth a solid two points, whereas points are taken away for useless arm flapping – doodadderie being the worst offense as far as she is concerned. She always adds an extra column on her marking sheets for ‘instances of doodadderie’ and keeps track of each empty gesture of the hands, every pointless toss of the head, the meaningless hops, and the void-of-artistry accelerations across the ice.

The highest marks of the night go to a young man from Spain. Not generally considered to be a hotbed of figure skating superstars, she gives him a point for nationality. Another point is awarded for not choosing the obvious matador costume, and still one more for sequins on his skate covers, which are mesmerizing in contrast to his all black outfit. His jumps are simple but landed cleanly – another point. Only one moment of awkward flapping – minimal doodadderie deduction. Too bad about the floppy blond hair though, which seems to circle his head when he spins, which he does often. Maybe she should have docked a point for repetition?

The story goes on, but I have lost interest in it. Our unqualified judge continues to monkey with the international figure skating federation; her boyfriend discovers he’s in Cleveland, not Indiana; and the blond sequin-footed Spaniard goes on to win the 500 m. short track in the next Olympics. It was all that spinning.

Thanks to my sister (and the oliebollen)for this challenge.

17 February 2010

Squirrel chase

I'm taking a break. Well, it's not a sanctioned break so much as my feet got cold, so I went upstairs to get my slippers. But before that, I posted a thought online, which caused me to wonder if my style guide was in a box or on the book shelf upstairs. Why not check the basement, I thought, and so off I went. As the laundry machines are set up there, I strayed from my course to shuffle some loads around, thinking about my sister while I did so. Which thought propelled me all the way upstairs to make sure the door was unlocked for when she comes home. On the way I spotted the main phone, which reminded me that one of the extensions went missing a few days ago, so why not look for it while the house was quiet? But when I pressed the button to signal each extension, I couldn't tell if what I was hearing was the one I knew was downstairs, or the one that might be hidden downstairs. So back down I went to get the one I knew about, and back up again to press the button once more. The phone was found under a sofa cushion in the living room. By this time I was feeling parched, so I prepared a glass of water with a squirt of lemon (it's Ash Wednesday) and headed back downstairs to the laptop. At the bottom of the stairs I remembered the book I was wanting, so went back up again, found it on the shelf, and descended again to where the work is. Then I realized my feet were still cold, as I had totally forgotten to get my slippers which triggered all of the above.

Which does rather make me question: how do people manage to get work done, when their office is in their home? Discipline is definitely required - a virtue I demonstrably do not have, as one random thought led me on a convoluted squirrel-chase through the house, before settling down again, 20 minutes later!

Since I'm not being productive at the moment, I'll take this opportunity to share with you some exciting news: I got my first rejection letter yesterday! It's official, folks -- I'm a writer!

Now where did I put my glasses....

15 February 2010



Like the top-most leaf
In the last tree
Before the end of the world

Softly stirring
In the final
Last breath of wind

With a gasp of soft
Almost silent despair
Fall, twisting, drifting
To earth

Thanks to Unnamed for the word 'solitary'

Maple Leaf forever


My blood and bone are from the soil of another land; my imagination is stirred by the histories of other countries I spent time in before settling down here in the True North Strong and Free, so I don't always think of myself as being Canadian. But seeing the red and white uniforms of Canadian athletes, and the proud Maple Leaf on flags and mittens stirs up a national pride I'm not aware of most of the time. Not to mention the understated but (again) proud display of the opening ceremony in Vancouver which had me wanting to yell out from the front stoop: "Hell yeah, Canada!" And then add for good measure: "eh!"... there is no doubt: I am Canadian.

13 February 2010

Gated communities

Walls serve the dual purpose of keeping things or people in, and keeping things or people out; a gate in that wall controls movement from one side to the other.

By and large, walls are protective; they keep rabbits out of the cabbage patch. When Italy was a collection of city states, communities such Lucca and San Gimignano constructed walled fortifications to claim territory, control trade, and preserve their own autonomy. Cloistered religious communities erect walls to keep the world at bay as they retreat to focus on the things of God. Schools use walls (real or implied) to keep their students from harm... and to prevent them from running away. Prisons employ walls for protection in reverse - to contain a criminal element in an effort to safeguard the community outside.

Physical protection is certainly a big reason people are drawn to living in gated communities when the concerns beyond their walls are unsavoury elements such as drugs, guns, or gangs. But some people seek the emotional security of a buffer against the world ‘outside’ which may seem unstable, uncertain, or unsafe. Perhaps the need is for a buffer against the unfamiliar and uncontrollable nature of open society, and for the assurance of homogeneity.

Likewise, some people (I’m thinking primarily of celebrities) retreat behind walls for reasons of secrecy or privacy, in order to keep an intrusive, inquisitive public at a distance, hoping for some level of normalcy in their home life. I suspect even their vast resources cannot make up for the lack of free movement. Brad Pitt once commented in an interview that in a perfect world, the first thing he would do would be to tear down the walls that surround him, so he could sit on his front porch and talk with the people walking by (or words to that effect).

I lived in gated communities of a sort for many years. Though at times there were no physical barriers, there was a definite awareness in those of us ‘inside’ that we were separate from the rest of the world. Looking back, I know I was isolated; I was protected not only from harm, but from experiencing diversity in attitude, ideas, even appearance.

In contemporary society, the safety and comfort of a gated community bears a price tag high enough to be beyond the reach of most people. This means that the majority of people remain vulnerable in the messy, unfiltered, and perhaps dangerous life in the wide-open world.

Walls are built for protection, but building a wall does not remove the danger – drugs, guns, gangs, cultural and ideological differences still exist beyond the gate. Withdrawing into a controlled-access community can lead to detachment from society. It could be argued that individuals and families do better within the context of a broader community not available to them when isolated behind walls. We need connection with other people; we need to be challenged in charity for our neighbour; we need to be involved in civic life and work for social justice. Besides, life behind walls with a small, select group of ‘like minded’ people is likely to include as many challenges as life on the outside.

For a light hearted comment on gated communities, take a look at this Silly Song from Veggie Tales.

This topic was suggested by a reader; thanks for the challenge, Bob.

(My opinion of life behind walls is that it is fundamentally unnatural and unhealthy, though I often dream of a hidden island of my own somewhere far away from the travails of the world. I do recognize that there are valid reasons for such a life, and safety is an important priority. For instance: Mexico City is a dangerous place to live, and behind protective bars may be the best place to build your home. However, Mexico City would remain a dangerous city to navigate, so my preference would be to move to the countryside where I wouldn't even have to lock my door.)


Little boys, it seems, can fall asleep anywhere, quickly. And inconveniently. If we've been running errands, or out for a drive, it's as we turn the corner into our street with home in sight that one or the other of them will drop off. Last night, our whole collection of Nuts were arranged in piles watching the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics. Number Three Peanut spent the last two hours in various poses on my lap, dug deep into my side, or otherwise draped over me, twitching, stretching, wiggling, poking, groaning about the ballet dancers, big-haired opera singers and just how long was this going to take? He struggled valiantly against sleep because he wanted to see The Whole Thing... and fell asleep 10 minutes from the end. We shook him awake to see the torch be lit through bleary eyes before sending him, stumbling, to his bed for the night.

Going for a walk with Number Four Nephew one blue-sky afternoon, we were on the home stretch when we came across a booming-voiced older gentleman, talking to a neighbour in his driveway. Four reached his arms up, telling me to pick him up. I suspected it had something to do with the man with the loud voice, but I asked him why. To which he replied "Because you want to!"

Enjoying pizza for supper one night, Peanut Two finished his slice and asked for another before Mama Nut even sat down to eat. I advised him to take a breath and relax, and when he didn't respond, I made the suggestion again, demonstrating how to do it. He turned to me and said "But I don't breathe when I eat!"

I was looking up at the sky, praying for a stick to fall in my backyard - Two explaining what he'd been doing outside after school.

Wow, it's like sock skating! - Four, sliding on the kitchen floor. (He's 3 years old, and never been on the ice. For him, socks on the kitchen floor is as good as it gets)

11 February 2010

Musical interlude: Like a stone

On my jukebox just now: Like a stone - an Audioslave tune, sung live and 'stripped' by Chris Cornell

First of all, he's got some chops, does Mr. Cornell. He sings this as if for the first time, with utter sincerity. In the song, he is a man confronting death and facing his uncertainty of what is to come. He considers his life with some regret and is hoping for redemption and acceptance from the Eternal.

Angels in the rafters

A quick piece inspired by a phrase from Carly. Thanks for the challenge, Miss Tree!

Challenge: Angels in the rafters

Away in the Marchlands on the rough hillsides, there stands an old ruin of a church. All that remains are three walls and a half, with here and there a bit of timber and what was once a roof. The hills and fields surrounding are littered with stones pulled down and abandoned during the time of Henry’s Dissolution, leaving St. Crispin’s open to the sky in fair weather and wet.

Many mornings the highest peak of the broken belfry is lost in rolling mist, cloaking Crispin’s profile from distant view, leaving the church to its solitude and neglect. Man has long forgotten to honour God within, but birds nest in upper corners, while below under the broken altar stone, a fox has dug its den. The talk of ravens echoes from wall to wall, and owls watch over the grazing of far-off sheep from the tree beyond what was once the vestry.

Grass has grown over the fine floor, hiding medallions of the saints and softening the footsteps of the rare explorer. Ivy marks the passage of time with its climb over the fragments of stained glass high up in the walls.

To the eyes of man, St. Crispin’s appears abandoned – a relic of quaint devotion to a forsaken god. But bird and beast know, as man cannot, that God is yet present: there are angels in the rafters. This is hallowed ground, a house of God, a sanctuary of grace and peace.

10 February 2010

I have it under control

I have it under control
Promise I do
Don’t cut me, delete me, erase me, revise me
I know what I’m doing – it’s part of the plan, see
I’m committed to
This new me; I’m on a roll

I live by the calendar
The tick of the clock
The minutes, the hours, the months pass
Till time itself shatters – like glass
Next you’ll remark
You didn’t think I’d last; it’s been a whole year

There was a long list
I was to attempt
To remodel, improve, revamp and re-do
I’ve kept my part – now it’s about you
Don’t think you’re exempt
Expectations are so few; I insist.

~ Thanks to Jon for the challenge


I relish the challenge of writing spontaneously on an assigned topic (when it's not going to be marked by my curmudgeon of a prof!) Some of the results have been posted here: Carly, and here A Lass, and Martina, and here The Squire.

If you feel devious, inspired or helpful, drop me a line with an idea, scenario, suggestion or a single word. I will attempt to turn your prompt into a story or a poem.

I reserve the right to decline, modify or delay, but look forward to making the attempt. Don't be shy; come and play with me!

My entire life's happiness

I wasn't going to write about football again. Honestly. I do realize that I'm an odd duck and most of y'all think I'm a bore for rabbiting on and on about this silly game. That's because to you it is just a game, whereas for me, football is... it's like oxygen. Football lifts us up where we belong. All we need is football! (catch the quote?)
An important midweek game. United play Aston Villa (who haven't had a home win in donkey's years). Arsenal and Liverpool attempt to tear each other apart. Everton takes on the mean blue machine (John Terry) and his squad of toughies. United have had a good run of solid games and should have had today's match in the bag. In The Bag! But no, Villa scores early and convincingly. Their 'keeper, Friedel was a brick wall. Our man, Nani, was sent off soon after on a bogus red card (I call it bogus cause it was, not cause I'm biased). Villa manage to score an own goal (United have been lucky recipients of these gifts, of late) and the two sides scrambled to the final 4 of added time, in a 1-1 draw.
I'm watching the other scores of the day come trickling in. Interesting, but not deeply impactful. (is that a word? I'm too busy chewing my nails to look it up) The Chelsea game is where my future happiness or deepest despair lies. Everton is ahead by one goal. There is one minute of regular time remaining, but Chelsea seem to have it written into their television rights to have 4 minutes of stoppage time added to each game. Which means if there were any injuries or other silliness, I have seven minutes to endure before I know my fate.

She pondered

I've had cause to reflect, of late, on the veracity of calling myself a writer: what are the requirements of being a writer; what does writing mean to me; why do I do it; can I write; do I really write; what ought I write and so on.

I'm not a composer of deep thoughts, but I do have an abiding love of words and language. I believe they are powerful means of providing information and entertainment. For some people writing is a compulsion - as for others it is necessary to heal, to teach, to protect, to sing, or to build.

For years, I've been drawn to a passage from Isaiah 61, and believed that in some way it revealed my purpose. The prophet speaks of bringing good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, comforting those who mourn - these are things I hope to do with my writing. I want to tell the truth, impart beauty, encourage those who struggle, and hopefully provide little moments of respite, joy, and laughter in hard or tedious times.

Those are lofty goals, to be sure; I know I have much to learn, and am still finding my way. I've stopped fretting about whether this experiment will ever 'come of anything' and how many of you are out there. These months of blogging have taught me much about myself, including how important writing is to me - from processing and pondering to being a creative need.

The following is a quotation from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
"There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids
you write, find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places
of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were
denied you to write. This above all - ask yourself in the stillest hour of your
night - must I write?"

Food for thought.

08 February 2010


Isn't that a lovely word? Felicitous. Like anon, and vex and mischance, felicitous doesn't get enough use in the modern lexicon. We settle for all-rounder words like 'great' (it was great; I had a great time; this pizza tastes great) when so many abandoned words are withering, neglected... outsourced to the low and common mean-nothing options shared by school yard children and presidents alike.

By telling you this day was felicitous, hopefully you get an idea that it was a delightful, enjoyable day - nothing stunning or spectacular, but pleasing and satisfying. The Italians have an expression: quanto bene, meaning 'just enough' or 'the right amount'. This day was just enough; no surfeit, and nothing was lacking...quanto bene.

If I'd written that today was a 'great' day, you might imagine that I'd received an invitation to house sit for King Juan Carlos of Spain, been nominated for a Pullitzer (the first nomination for an as yet unpublished work!), or only had to read "Duck in a truck stuck in the muck" three times today. They each qualify as "great" depending on your point of view, right?

Today, almost exactly six months between birthdays, I got a present in the mail. (which included two books! Hoorah! And a cheque with which I bought something sparkly) We went for a drive through beautiful countryside, walked in the sunshine (Spring is just around the corner, I can feel it!) Number One Nephew is getting the hang of The Dreaded Times Tables (shouts of jubilation all 'round - the past week has been horrid for him and us) and the library called about a book I requested (it's in and mine for three weeks and now suddenly I am rich in reading material), I learned how to double crochet (why did I ever settle for single?) and not a blessed thing was crossed off my to do list!

I am fortunate, blessed and thankful to have days like today. Soon I may find myself behind a desk once more, doing office work and dreaming of being able to live like this, of enjoying all these little moments. I know today was a gift; it was a day of great felicity.

06 February 2010

In the soup

I can hardly bring myself to write this, but there's no way around it: it is Super Bowl Weekend. Now Reader dear, you know me. You know I love football. But my football is played with a round ball, on a neatly divided pitch by 22 men who politely tap the ball back and forth, to the accompaniment of couth supporters who clap sedately in joyous approval of their beloved side. (Yes, I know I've finessed the facts a smidge. I know that football can be by turns brutal or boring and it's not always civilized in the stands, but it remains the Beautiful Game and the passion of my heart.)

But this weekend is about American football. I don't understand this game that is so entrenched in American culture and informs the thinking and attitudes of so many American people. I believe football was invented as a way to develop national pride and identity: 'Forget the old country and salute your new flag' kind of thing. Americans get riled up about high school football, never mind college ball, so you can just imagine the level of fervor the Super Bowl inspires. I don't understand the game at all. At all. It seems to be about getting into a huddle, lining up, throwing a ball and then sitting on your opponent. Men on the sidelines talk into very large headsets, cheerleaders freeze their tushies off waving pompoms, marching bands blow into their horns and the latest hot musical act sings badly at halftime. And small fortunes are spent on advertising. However, it's such a spectacle that even I - a scoffer of the NFL - will watch all the hoopla, and get excited at some point during the game. I think I'll root for the Saints 'cause I don't know where the Colts are from. I keep thinking of wine-tipped cigars when I hear their name, but I'm pretty sure they don't have anything to do with tobacco products. (Plus, cheering for the Saints should score me some time off purgatory for supporting the Red Devils of Manchester)

A friend of Daddy Nut is an American and big football (NFL) fan. He and his family of wife and four boys has arrived for the weekend so we can all watch the Big Event together. Have you done the math? That's 14 people - 11 of them being boys (ok, two of the boys are dads, but still...)!! It's going to be very exciting. The house is stocked with food and drink; the basement overflows with bedding; hard surfaces have been disinfected; laws have been laid down... laissez les bon temps rouler!

Flowers of Manchester

Feburay 6 2010 marks the 52nd anniversary of the Munich air crash, in which 23 people died on the return flight home to Manchester, England - eight of them were United players. They were in Munich only to refuel, having played a European cup game in Belgrade.

The United team at the time were known as the Busby Babes, so named because Matt Busby was their manager and they were such a young and promising group of players. They have passed into legend, those young men, and the United of that era has the power of myth to stir the imagination, and inspire awe and loyalty among Red Devil supporters today.

When United take the pitch today, they will be wearing black armbands in memory of the talented and hopeful young men who died in Munich on this day in 1958. They will be at their home ground of Old Trafford, where 69,000 supporters will observe a moment's silence before the match.
Result: Manchester United 5 - 0 Portsmouth. Now we do a happy dance as we take top spot in the EPL.

05 February 2010

The notebook

I took a deep breath and plunged into the deep end last night. I went out in public. I talked to people. And not normal people - these were strangers. What I mean to say is, they were perfectly lovely people, but completely unknown to me.

SOHOE has a group of writers who meet in a coffee shop downtown to share their work, challenge and encourage each other, and talk about being writers for a couple of hours once a month. They were a unique, diverse, interesting bunch of people. I can't begin to imagine the stories they have hidden away, real or imaginary. I could see some of them in a movie about writers: dressed in black, deeply meaningful prose, tortured and difficult past and so on. I wouldn't get a part in that movie unless I were cast as the straight-laced religious aunt or old-fashioned editor or something equally plain and ordinary.

It didn't take long though, before I felt at home with that crowd. And that was because of the notebooks. In my life there has been a long series of notebooks - from my dad's old field books to very chic and pricey concoctions. I do have a paper fetish, and am uncommonly attached to my pens but I'm a lifelong jotter of notes, recorder of dialogue, sketcher of scenes, scribbler of ideas, keeper of lists... it all ends up on paper. Very little of it ever reaches a completed form, none of it is organized or categorized (don't tell my fellow librarians!) but it's like a thing isn't real until or unless I've written it somewhere. A quick tally reveals I currently have 5 notebooks on the go. They each have their own purpose: one is a journal, one is specifically for school, one is for ideas I want to develop and snatches of actual writing and two are for random notes and reminders. There are two others floating around for scrap paper: grocery lists, books to look for at the library, that sort of thing.

Getting back to the group. I noticed they all had notebooks too, and each was as unique as its person. The notebooks were well-worn, lived in, referred to often, jotted in, flipped through, held with familiarity and affection. We may look very different, have different politics, lived very different lives, but what we have in common is a love and respect for the written word. We share the desire to be chroniclers and have a creative need to compose using consonants and vowels. And it all ends up in our notebook.

03 February 2010

Smoke gets in your eyes

I joked in an earlier post about how you can read up on just about anything - including how to apply a smokey eye. I see this on the cover of magazines while in line at the check out: 10 steps to the perfect smokey eye; how to get Eva's smokey eyes; smokey eyes like the pros do... and so on. I realized I didn't know how to do a smokey eye like an amateur, let alone a pro, and I began to worry about it a little - as if I would be quizzed on it the next time I got my hair cut, or stood in line for tea at the Hockey Player's Coffee Shoppe.

Thinking it would be fun to try, and that it would be good for me to have it in my repertoire in case I ever had the chance to go to a Smokey Eye Event, I dragged out my collection of eyeliner and eyeshadows, and attempted to demystify the process.

Reader, it is harder than you think. I chose brown, because black eyes are yucky (Remember Vespa in Casino Royale? Her smokey eyes looked like she had tried to light a campfire in the rain, and that's because she used black.) Without reading anything about how to do it, I just went for it. I drew a brown line in the rough vicinity of my eye lashes and ended up looking like I traced around a pop bottle bottom. The addition of dark brown shadow all over my eye lids did nothing to alleviate that impression. I didn't feel exotic, or alluringly feminine, or mysteriously foreign; I felt like a victim (of fashion, apparently) which is not at all what I was hoping for. Never mind!

I don't use eye makeup removers, because they are basically baby oil. Have you ever gotten oil in your eye? It's not very nice: you have to peer at the world through a film for roughly a day before it dissipates, and you have to blink about 30 times more per minute. On average. So while I can see perfectly well today, I am, however, left with a brown stain all around my eye which will not budge. I look like I'm recovering from pink eye, or have been crying for days, or am a convert from Goth.

You know I'm going to have to try this again. Different colours maybe, or I might try to stay inside the lines - I haven't quite figured out yet where it all went wrong. I have learned, though, that this is not an endeavor for the faint of heart.

Lo, behold, and anon

This was written just for fun, for a dear friend who liked the expression 'lo and behold'. The exercise was to use flowery, purple prose. And anon. We don't use enough anon in modern parlance.

The Story of Carly

Once, there lived a lovely lass. Carly of the Tree, folk called her, for Carly was her name. She was often to be found under a tree in the glen reading books, composing poems or dreaming of adventures in faraway lands. Ere the age of seven, she had taught herself the ways of letters and words, and ever thence her mother knew Carly could be found under the old oak twixt brook and pine, lost in a story of damsels and dragons, having forgotten to bring in the washing which fell off the line in the wind and now needed boiling up again.

Anon, Carly passed beyond tender years and grew into a comely maid. She tended well her mother and her duties of the house. When troubled with difficulties of neighbourly conflict or cows not giving milk, townsfolk from near and far would hie to Carly of the Tree, beseeching her wisdom. She mastered the arts of sewing needle and cooking pot, was versed in herb lore and had the way of tending gardens and livestock to fruitfulness.

Brave swains pitched their woo, ever hopeful of taking such a woman to wife. But She would have none of them; in despite of all their pleadings and lamentations, she championed the cause of no man for the honour of her hand. When her mother despaired of her choosiness, Carly would reply that ere she gave her hand to a man she did not love with the whole of her heart, she would live in a cave in the woods with naught but Farmer Becket’s sow to bear her company. For, she said, a man constantly under her roof who was not at the same time in her heart was little better than a pig underfoot. Which conclusion caused her mother to throw her apron over her head in despair and run out of the room.

Lo, and behold, a man new come to town spied the proud red head of Carly as she left the church one Sunday. An indifferent day grew bright for him, as he set his mind at once to have her for his own. He went thence and with haste to think on how best to secure happiness with this woman of his choosing.

Very canny, Geoffrey was, and he plotted his course with care. He first made sure to be often seen by her, as to assure her of his standing among the respected men of town. And indeed she saw and was assured. When he judged the time was right, he approached her as a supplicant for her wisdom which she was sure to give more freely than her hand. Geoffrey’s desire of her was to know the best plot of land on which to build a house and plant a garden. And when the land was bought, how many rooms ought it to have, and in what arrangement?

As weeks and months passed, they grew deep in love, one with the other. And so it was with no surprise that one day her mother received a note from the hopeful suitor, in which he bade her remember that beloved oak tree of yore, and send her daughter thither on some pretext. And so she bade, and thence Carly presently went.

Upon approaching the place of childhood dreaming, her eyes fell on the person of her beloved. Being wise as she was, Carly knew she was soon to be betrothed, and that the years to come would offer richness of life.

And indeed, soon she was. And indeed, life was rich. And they lived happily ever after.

02 February 2010

On the road again (Where in the world)

That might be us: on the road again. Maybe we imagined SOHOE would be proof against winter blahs and cabin fever, but in fact, winter blahs and cabin fever have found us even here. This is Canada, after all, where hours of daylight decrease, and temperatures drop for roughly five of every 12 months.

In an effort to cheer ourselves up, we've taken to watching movies set in lovely Mediterranean locales, perusing beautiful books of Italian cookery, and watching a series called Spain...on the road again, which features four friends (who just happen to be celebrities) exploring the different regions and cuisines of Spain. Very inspiring!

Imagine home being a place that is almost always warm, is almost always sunny, produces glorious vineyards and orchards, olive trees, unimaginably fresh vegetables, and has a 'dolce vita' attitude. Picture yourself enjoying an outdoor life in which your windows are always open, and you can eat most meals at the long table in your courtyard, and you don't need to set aside 20 minutes to get dressed in coat, hat, scarf, gloves, boots and long johns just to pick up the mail.

We joke that in Spain, people are happy all of the time, but wouldn't you be, if what I described above were your reality? So for right now, while we're coping with the news that the darned rodent saw his shadow and thus has sentenced us to six more weeks of this dreary winter business, we are dreaming of parts warmer and sunnier. However, south is no longer the dream destination (for a brief while, it was either Tennessee or Florida) - we're going big now: Spain. South of France. Italy. We're on the road again.

Getting there

A deadline was met last night. With 53 minutes to spare, I submitted 1,192 words of a short story to an online journal for consideration of publication. In the end, the piece feels naive and unfinished to me; it's rather clumsy and abrupt. I still haven't figured out how to "show, don't tell", and part of me wonders if it's ok that I be a tell-er rather than a show-er of stories?

I learned some good things in the attempt this time. I learned that it takes time to develop an idea, and that the idea will often need to be reworked several times before it works. I learned that while I may chip away at an assignment for weeks, I do seem to apply myself with more focus when I'm under pressure of an immanent deadline (53 minutes? Come on!). And, I am in the process of learning my own work habits - the times of day I am most able to write, when I feel most inspired, and what I need in order to work.

The story I wrote won't be accepted for publication, but it was invaluable in what it taught me. I feel more equipped to go on further, and that's important, isn't it? I'm not there yet, by any measure... but I'm getting there.