The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

26 November 2013


I just yelled through my front window at a couple of Lake Town's fine firefighters. They were here to follow up on a smoke detector with Mr. and Mrs. van Landlord (they are Dutch), but Mr. and Mrs. v L are down south enjoying warmer climes for several weeks.  Lake Town's finest kept knocking on the door, and as my window is right next to their door, I cranked it open and yelled at them. 

By yelling I mean nicely, of course. Merely to raise my voice and impart the important information. We had a brief but awkward conversation as I leaned over my desk, very conscious that my hair was askew and there I was in my oldest hoodie. All of which hardly mattered as it was pitch dark out and I couldn't see them anyway, so they might actually have been a figment of my imagination, called forth out of desperation as I sit and struggle to find something worth writing about.

I used to have interesting neighbours. There was the Crazy Car Couple who kept moving their car from curb to driveway to garage to just in front of the front door, to just a little further back, in between going into the house, coming back out and moving the car all over again.  There was the Hootin' and Hollerin' guy next door when I lived in New Town and his dog Harley.  Now I have very nice, very normal neighbours, which makes for a very nice, very normal life, don't provide much by way of writing fodder.

I used to live with the Peanuts - the five cutest and funniest and most dramatic boys you ever did see. They fill page after page of this blog (CTKS is the tag - check them out) but as I don't see them as often, I miss out on the daily insights and developments and drama. I visited ever so briefly last week, and Number Five Nephew said something funny, which I then promptly forgot by the time I got home again. So my life is calmer, quieter and a great deal neater than it used to be, but again, sadly lacking in writing fodder.

Just as the firemen were pulling out of the driveway, I decided to light a candle. (Was that subliminal?)  As I blew out the match, I watched an ember float effortlessly, gracefully down to the plush carpet. It started to burn.

In my mind, I could see the whole scene... the carpet smoulders, and soon enough, flames grow bigger, licking along the floor to the wall, where the curtains catch light. As the truck begins to drive away, they see in their rear-view mirror a crimson glow as now the walls are limned in fire. What plays better? Should I be bravely battling the flames myself when they break down the door, or curled helpless and frightened with arms wrapped around my head as they come to my rescue?

Germanic practicality set in. It would be so inefficient to have to replace the carpet. As I stepped on the ember, I could see all the ink of my imagined story disappearing off the page, leaving me with a blank white space once again.

18 November 2013

Of buildings and Ben

Buildings. Houses. Public places. Civic spaces.
Structures, the designing of, and construction of, are fascinating.
It's fun to read Dwell and Domus and der architekt.
Conversions, reproductions, restorations, cutting-edge new builds, all are scope for imagination and dreams and daring.
The home I live in is charming. It's warm and mostly weather-tight (one outside wall tends to be cold in winter, and my toes freeze in the bathroom.)
It isn't terribly imaginative or innovative, however. It's very typical of detached houses of its time, which means solid and stolid construction, not terribly sensitive to the landscape or in cooperation with the environment.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching design and real estate programs. "Constructing the world's tallest office tower - in a desert", "Building a new life in the country", "Redesign a room in your neighbour's house", those sorts of things. It's nice to dream along with the poor sods who are undergoing the stress and pressure of a thousand and one daily decisions while watching the plot of land they just paid a fortune for slide away unexpectedly down the hillside.
There is a common bit of folly I've noticed, and that is the trend to super-upsize and uber glamorize the dwelling. It could be an empty nest couple, on the brink of retirement, and there they are, moving from a 3 bedroom semi-detached to a five bedroom, six bath behemoth in the countryside. Or on a steep slope for which they'll need to buy a herd of goats to tend the grass.  Or on soft clay that requires dozens of truck loads of gravel to stabilize.  The houses always have multiple 'reception rooms' and a formal dining room and an eat-in kitchen. So they can entertain. And have visitors stay.
Unless they have a very wide social circle and have staying guests frequently enough to qualify as a B-n-B, to me that seems like a lot of space to heat, and light, and furnish. And clean.  Who wants to clean six loos? Not to mention the stores of toilet paper and towels needed.
Our families have gotten smaller, so there are fewer people in the house. I think it's natural, too, for people to gravitate to a favourite spot or two, and generally prefer a place that feels cozy and welcoming... which is why most of today's living happens in the rec room, underground. Perhaps if the living room were finished as warm and friendly-like, I'd be seeing more lights in front windows as I walked the neighbourhood at night!
I just watched two episodes back to back of Grand Design from England, a show that follows people through their (mostly) unusual building projects. In one, a family was undertaking to build from scratch a Georgian rectory (to modern eyes it looked like a mansion. If Mr. Collins lived there, he wouldn't be doing too badly!) Not ten weeks into the project they were more than a hundred thousand pounds over budget. You read that right. These were not millionaires indulging themselves with a little architectural conceit; it was a woman who'd 'always dreamed of living in a Georgian manor'. They had to stop work before the house was finished in order to raise another hundred thousand pounds to complete the painting and decorating.
In contrast was Ben, a woodsman, who'd after ten years of living in tents and caravans in the forest was granted permission to build 'a house that stands lightly on the land'. He tends the forest, builds bespoke furniture, makes shingles, poles, timbers, charcoal... all completely from his land. And from his land he constructed a remarkable, beautiful, simple home. By himself. He uses solar and wind power to run the few electrics he has, uses harvested wood for heat and cooking, grows his own food, etc. You're picturing a hippy, aren't you?  But he's not. He has  real eye for design and the craftsmanship to bring it to life. The house was built for something like thirty thousand pounds.
Guess which house I wanted to live in?
After building his home, Ben met a lovely woman. They got married, and Ben's simple, beautiful construction is now home to two children.
I just loved Ben's approach to life which is evident in his home: choose only what is necessary. Let that be well made and beautiful. Simple, simple, simple. Harmony with and appreciation for the environment and land.  Ben was a big hit all over England, apparently, because Grand Design went back to visit him twice more over six years. He now teaches workshops and has open days where he tours people over his land and through his house.  Which, by the way, is now thoroughly lived in, with evidence of young and busy life all over - bookshelves chock full of books, toys on the floor, and so on.  Simplicity looks slightly different for him now, but it's still there at the heart of his family's life.
Why would you choose a mammoth construction and a massive bank loan instead of that?

17 November 2013


Bear with me... this is about more than it seems.

What's a girl to do when she suffers from the stress of tight budgets, deadlines, job hunting, relationship fracture, and friends in crisis?

She changes her hair, of course.  And because of stress contributor number one, she visits a hair cutter rather than a hair stylist.

Which results in five inches less hair in length and roughly five pounds less in hair volume.

I don't know where my hair went, but it's no longer at the back of my head. I feel bald in behind from ear to ear.  I can only be thankful it is now hat season, and that perhaps with no hair, my head may finally be small enough to fit a hat.

Of course hair grows back, and in comparison to starvation in the Sudan and testicular cancer not to mention everything being endured in the world the state of my hair is an unmentionably infinitesimal, paltry concern. So I'm not really complaining about it. I'm merely sharing my shock. I went from searching for some way to shake up my life while simultaneously wresting back some control to feeling scalped and vulnerable.

Again, not that my situation bears any resemblance, but in the bible study I'm following, the people have been led out of Egypt and slavery and Pharaoh and are figuring out how to follow God and trust Him. He tells them He will provide, He will be with them, and that He will be talking face to face with Moses.  They're quite keen to go along with that, and say, yes, Lord, whatever You ask of us, so shall we do.  Well, Moses is away from them for a few days, and they go bonkers, thinking God has left them, and they take matters into their own hands. That's where the golden calf business got them into trouble. They forgot to trust God, and things got pretty sticky there for a while.

I haven't been rescued from Egypt or slavery or Pharaoh, but I am having to put into practice... I have to live day to day my faith, my trust in God. He brought me here, back to Sohoe, to Lake Town, which I love so much. I have had this wonderful job that I have enjoyed thoroughly - honestly, there has not been one day that I have dreaded going to work. This year has been blessing upon blessing, and now I must believe that what comes next will be just as fine, that I will still be provided for.

I would so love to be able to carry on with the same job, in the same home, but I have to let that go. I can't turn what I have into a golden calf.  I do my part, of course: searching and applying. But the biggest part is to trust.

So I'll do my best to be stripped of anxiety rather than be shorn of more than hair.

09 November 2013

It's a Marathon - NaNoWriMo style

Having given up the word count approach - a sure way to despair and despondency if ever there was one, I have decided to dedicate large chunks of time to writing and in that time get huge chunks of the novel down on paper.

And so was born The Marathon.  I can't go to San Fran to participate in the official one, but a friend (hi Sarah!) and I are writing our own marathon, roughly 700 kms apart, connected by technology and sheer will to write and write and write until we just can't write any more.

This is Hour One for me, rather later than I intended to begin, but begin I shall.  As soon as I post this, I am picking up the pen and writing my story forward.  I've left her (Caroline) in an awkward situation, and I've felt sorry for that for two days now.  Must go and rescue her.

Marathon supplies
Write on!

05 November 2013

The head exam

My dad used to say things like: "Someone needs their head examined."

He would usually be talking about a politician or an engineer - he had the same amount of respect for both classes of people.

In this scenario, however, the person needed a head exam would be me.  What was I thinking, signing up for (and paying $50 for!) a 24-week bible study that comes with roughly 2 hours of homework each week, and then taking on a nearly 2,000 word a day writing challenge?  Was I thinking?  Evidently not, because I have conveniently forgotten the fact that I must also begin a job hunt. Now. Which means scouring newspapers and bulletins boards, and, ugh, revamping my resume yet again.

Oh, and I just realized that I'll be away for three weekends this month.

I'm not regretting any of it. I am actually enjoying it all. There just isn't sufficient time for it all - oh, and The Great Reading Project!  How could I forget that little detail?  And the Christmas crafts I'm hoping to get to.

The only thing to do in these situations is to take my father's advice.
I shall go to bed at once.

03 November 2013

The Fourth

Ah... 1,667 words feels pretty good, once you've got them down on paper.  They look, good, too, all neatly marching in their lines across the white pages.  Thing is, it's taken me two days to get one day's quota.
I have an excuse though, please hear me out:
I was on the road yesterday.  I'm spending four days with my mom so writing time is going to be scarce, though not nonexistent. There will probably be plenty of imagination fodder, so I'm sure it will all equal out somewhere around the middle.
Not entirely sure what I have written so far fits into the idea I had for it, but I'm barely 1/30 of the way there so I'll keep at it.

Something interesting: I am writing by hand in a little notebook. My penmanship is actually getting neater as I go along - something I'd have liked to know about when I wrote about writing vs typing. Who'd a thunk it, K R Smith!

Another interesting fact: I was able to listen to a ManUnited game on AM radio as I drove here yesterday. However, pressing on the gas caused interference with the reception. I've never had such inducement to ease off the lead foot!

Happy NaNoWriMo Day Four to all.

01 November 2013


300 words.  1367 to go.  Not a bad beginning.
I have found my way into the story. I know who my main character is. I can hear her voice. I know what will happen to her.
Well, some of what will happen to her.
We're going to be spending a lot of time together these next 30 days, she and I. I think it will be fine.

I've come out of my self-imposed 45 minute writing bubble* to find large pieces of tree on the front lawn. There is a fearsome wind blowing through Sohoe.  Most of Ontario, it seems.  Stay safe, dear Reader.

*my shaky math skills calculate that at 300 words per 45 minutes, it will take me 4 hours a day to get 1,667 words down.