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My husband witnessed somebody writing this graffiti on a small switch box of the now defunct railway line that passes by our house. A young girl walking quite quickly by suddenly stopped, pulled out a giant black marker pen, and in fancy script wrote these words and swiftly strode away. My husband was enthralled. I, on the other hand, am taunted daily by her flippantly forceful words. How? The question haunts me.Quite frequently, as he pauses from work to gaze out the window,I can hear him repeating the words quietly, which only adds to my torment.
I pause in my fledgling musing on graffiti to contemplate beheading. A few nights ago, a man riding a Greyhound bus headed for Winnipeg began repetitively stabbing a complete stranger sleeping beside him, eventually hacking off his head and waving it at the other passengers. Savage beyond belief. In fact, everybody is walking around simply uttering "unbeleivable". The media is in a frenzy, digging up every badly dressed closet crime expert to discuss, despite a hundred or so years of safe travel, the need for more security on the buses!As if there might be a rash of random beheadings.
Sorry, I thought I was finished with beheading: just 88 more words. People are still trying to make sense of it. The media keep asking the experts if they think it was a random attack. Was the killer provoked? As if they are not experts, but psychics. They say we are too terrified to think it was completely random, but I find the randomness a relief. To see it as the bizarre act of a madman means it is an anomaly. To think that some behaviour, action, or belief provoked such a vicious attack is much more terrifying to me.
Never Really Belong
This is written in glittery silver lettering on the Smithrite behind my house. I can’t avoid looking at it as I walk out the alleyway door of our building. It is a feeling that I grapple with each and every day of my life, trying to rationalize it into oblivion. Yet the first words entering my consciousness each morning, and the last each evening, as I take my dogs out for a walk, are these. If you subscribe to the belief of the power of the mantra, it doesn’t give me much hope of winning the battle.
I came across 100 words many months ago, but couldn’t get started for fear of running out of words. When I don’t write, this fear plagues me. I am convinced I have nothing to say. This is what stops me from attempting so many writing projects. I believe that, no matter how many ideas are usually swilling around in my mind, if I actually try to form them into a shape of some kind, they will suddenly dry up. Yet, in finally doing this exercise, I have discovered that the existence of some words seems to inspire the appearance of more.
Some days (not today as my brain has been dehydrated by anti-histamines) I walk around all day at work (unfortunately with no writing implement handy) thinking in perfect 100 word shaped vignettes. I know, I don’t really know they are 100 words, but I am starting to get the rhythm. One that I did manage to jot down was 99 words straight from brain to paper. Although it took some struggling to figure out how to get that last word, it amazed me that it was so close. Can the mind really be shaped this way? I had no idea.
Sometimes I forget that not everybody goes to work and encounters life and death on a daily basis. Well I guess everybody does in some sense; in any human encounter the potential exists for extremes of experience. But I think when people ask me about my job, or ask how my day was, I need to learn to tell them semi-truths. I should just tell them it was a great day, we saved everybody and sent them home safe and sound. Some people don’t want to know that it is one extreme that makes the other so devastating or beautiful.
It’s 6:00 am and the sun is just coming up, slowly illuminating a chaos of clouds. Long thin threads that stretch the width of the sky outside my window, interspersed with lone puffs, struggling against the wind that constantly changes their course.
I really have difficulty describing nice things. I am much better at the sullied and profane. When I try to describe something beautiful, I sound worse than a Hallmark card. I think maybe it is lack of practice, or similar to the difficulties that critics face when reviewing something they hate as compared to that which moves them.
I am in the process of clearing out- my head, my body, my heart. I seem to go through periods of living in a drone-like state where my body is going through the motions of life automatically, and my mind is off on its own. This is how I have lived through times in my life when I have felt “stuck”, unable to move. My mind drifts off to a place of fantasy and possibility. Then one day something happens, and my mind and body come together again, and I look around me and think, “what the hell happened here?”.
I talked to my sister last night. The talk came around to familiar ground. Things are not working out here, it’s time to go. Part of me wants to say changing your location is not the answer. Nunavut reflects only its own beauty.
I had a dream a few months back, which left me with the phrase “dream of a second skin”. I think that is what my sister is looking for. To find a new skin to inhabit, the skin of that person she hopes and wishes she is, and not the one she wakes up to every morning.
My sister and I first noticed the change when we found mom trying to put her gloves on her feet instead of her hands. It was one of those moments that cannot be ignored. My father, sister and I were chatting together when we all suddenly fell silent, noticing that mom was taking an awfully long time to put on her shoes. There was a screaming silence, and then my sister began to laugh, and we all joined in and quickly helped mom on with her shoes. She laughed a long with us. Nothing was the same after that moment.
Working so many years in a hospital, I think I have been chasing down death, stalking it: trying to exorcise its power, to stop it from stalking me. Not in relation to my own death, but the loss of those I love. Since my father’s death, one that I feared for many years, I have realized that it is not death I fear, but a prolonged, painful and bewildered lingering. My mother suffers from this. Before my father’s death, he and my mother drove head on into a semi-truck. I think he was trying to stop it from stalking them.
All day I was overwhelmed by mundane tasks, and people, particularly co-workers, whining about petty things. Do I think I am better than all that?
I just think getting caught up in the gossip and small-mindedness takes all the joy out of life. It’s more important to hold onto the small moments of beauty, like the feeling of the cool morning air on my face as I ride my motorcycle to work along Beach avenue, catching a glimpse of the early-morning-calm sea, and the sun slowly warming the couple doing Tai Chi with their bare feet in the cool sand
There I go again, trying to describe something nice and feeling awkward. I just seem to default to clichés. I am almost embarrassed about trying to write something positive or beautiful. In my mind real writing is cynical and dark, so I don’t often attempt to write about things that I find inspiring, which explains the lack of practice and the subsequent inability to capture my true experience.
I will have to make an attempt to read pieces by my favourite authors, to look at how they deal with encounters with beauty. And I will have to practice, practice, practice.
A man moved into the parking garage in the building next to ours. He slept there a few nights, and during the day swept the garage clean with an old broom. In return the owner of the catering company would give him coffee and let him use their washroom. Before long he had a table set up with a lamp, a radio, and an old oil painting that somebody had discarded. Everyday he cleaned, and waved heartily to everyone who passed by. I never quite got used to the sight of his sleeping bag laid out nicely behind the dumpster.
Everyday the same thing. Lather, rinse, repeat
I saw this grafitti at the entrance to Burrard St. Bridge while I was walking to work and thinking about my fellow trudgers whom I see everyday. Nobody acknowledges each other and everybody has the tell-tale white wire hanging from their ears, plugged into their iPods to help distract them from what they are doing. Everybody wants to be distracted from what they are doing. Every moment they live, they are trying to be somewhere else. A constant search for a better place, or a mere distraction from the mundane? Lather, rinse, repeat.
Last night I spent about 2.5 hours reading entries from different members of 100 words. I have done this before, usually through clicking on a featured writer’s whole batch for that month. But last night I discovered the fun of “random” selection. It was totally enthralling. I would end up going back and reading that person’s whole monthly batch, and maybe even another. Such variety - from a teenager’s desperation to get out of small town Saskatchewan, to intricate details of a life lived simply, to the excitement of a young woman on the brink of a life-changing adventure. Brilliant!
One of the problems with my writing is that I censor myself too much, taking away from the honesty of expression. Even in a first draft, I second guess everything. It’s different than editing, which is to gain more clarity, it’s more about questioning my instincts, which I think is deadly for writers. Like in my entry from the 12th, about my parents being involved in a head on collision. What I really wanted to say for the last line was “for the love of my parents, I wish it had killed them.” But I thought that sounded too harsh.
I hate it when I start whining about writing, but I’m afraid I am going to have to do it for just a bit longer. I think this entry might be a two-parter.
It has taken me many years to be able to call myself a writer again. When I was 17 and taking a writing course in high school, and writing every chance I could get, I had no problem calling myself a writer. It was what I was. But then I started spending time with other
, some I guess whose egos had too much control over them…
I started to be influenced by them, (they were
artists), and began to believe their subtle criticism of my work. Up until then, writing and creating were as natural as breathing. But then one particular person, whose opinion I thought mattered for some reason, (although looking back from here I see him as a bartender and wannabe guitar player…) strangled me with his criticism, as swiftly as if he had pressed his thumbs against my windpipe. He wasn’t aiming for death, just to squeeze that life force down to a wheezing gasp. I’ve been on life support ever since.
The man that was living in the parking garage has been evicted. Yesterday, as I was coming into our parking garage, I heard somebody calling me. It was him, loaded up with cans and bottles. He asked me if I could let him into our garbage room to collect anything he could return for money. He promised he would clean up the mess that had spilled onto the floor and remained there for several days. I thanked him, but was too much of a coward to ask him what had happened, and where he was laying his bed these days.
There are people who find comfort in the familiar. Knowing where they should be at a particular time and having connections in that place which bring an order to things. I have met such people.
There are days when I have wished to be one of these people. But some dissatisfaction always creeps in. The splinter in my heart shifts slightly and sends a wave of pain so intense that it sharpens my mind enough to see a flash of reality. A flash that lasts long enough to raise questions that cannot be ignored, but cannot be answered easily either.
Johnny Bennett died when his 16 ft sailboat capsized in a storm on Okanagan Lake a few years back. Anybody who knows that lake knows a storm can brew up on it without much warning, but people in the town were still shocked by the accident. The talk in Sam’s coffee shop was that of disbelief as Johnny, an almost 60 yr old experienced sailor, who always arose early, would have been warned by the strange red glow in the sky that morning. It wasn’t until his family arrived for the funeral that they discovered that Johnny was colour blind.
It’s 9:01 and I have not heard the 9 O’clock gun yet. I hardly notice it most nights, yet it is strange to have not heard it tonight.
It was brought to Stanley Park in 1898, and was fired each night to allow ships chronometers to be accurately set. It has only been silent on 4 occasions since. During World War II, in 1969 when UBC Engineering students stole it, and returned it only once a “ransom” had been paid to Children’s Hospital, during a work stoppage in 2007, and again when UBC Engineering students painted it red in 2008.
Today should have ended before it started. Truthfully, there was nothing really wrong with the day, it was me that was all wrong. Being a woman really sucks some times, and since I don’t plan to use these damned ovaries, I wish they would just stop producing eggs! But then I would have the fun of hot flashes, etc. to look forward to. I work in a department that has 30 woman and 2 men. Of the 30 women, probably 20 are menopausal…so it’s a bit like looking at a preview of my life for the next however many years.
My legs feel like screaming. Every part of me is hyper-sensitive, not the least my psyche. I am volatile and ready to explode- every cell in my body is crying out for freedom. It is so hard to contain it, yet when I go to work, I must. But those niggling little things that can be laughed off in normal situations, like somebody’s slightly shrill voice, seem to excite every nerve causing unknown and unpredictable reactions. Then at the end of the day some unexpected and beautiful poetry.
I challenge anyone who questions the existence and potential power of PMS.
From our apartment we can see the south end of the bridge that crosses over from downtown. There is a large wild area under the bridge that was a sort of no man’s land. It now belongs to the Squamish Nation, and is soon to become a parking lot.
Every Wednesday evening about 10:00 pm, a group of fire spinners meet underneath the Bridge, and put on an impromptu, spectacular show. It is one of the many unregulated activities that has been able to take place in this area, including outdoor theatre, off leash dog playground, and homeless tent city.
I grew up in what can only be called an anti-dog household. This meant that most of my siblings were not particularly fond of dogs. My father harbored a hatred for dogs that bordered on the pathological. He did not hate animals. He had owned a whole aviary of Budgies when he was younger, and was in awe of wild animals. But he thought dogs were stupid, and couldn’t stand the sight, smell, or sound of them. I think he saw their loyalty and their need to be part of a pack as neediness. He hated weakness more than anything.
I was a reluctant dog owner. At least I was the first time a dog moved in to share space with me. My roommate had started hinting about wanting a dog, but I had successfully ignored her, or so I thought. What little I knew about dogs suggested that it was probably not fair to a dog to bring it into a house where the humans were always out working, studying, etc. But one day I came home to find a furry ball of Bouvier lying on the living room floor. I didn’t want to admit how cute she was.
The problem was this cute little ball of black fur was undoubtedly going to grow up into an uncontrollable beast unless she received the direction of a responsible adult. There were none to be found. She would need something called obedience training, and proper “socialization” (from two people who had difficulty with their own socialization), and more exercise than we could easily provide. My roommate tried the “attach the dog’s leash to the handlebars while you ride the bike” trick, but the dog, of course, hadn’t had any “don’t chase the neighbour’s cat” training. So that all ended in tears.
Cleo had a sweet and gentle canine spirit. In the mornings she would jump up and lay half on top of me, trapping me with her front paws and smothering me with kisses. She loved my husband-to-be as well, sensing his goodness. But in public she was different, aggressive and fearful. It wasn’t her fault.
My roommate and the vet decided to put her down, but C. said couldn’t face it alone. Out of misplaced loyalty (I loved Cleo more than C.), I agreed to go with her, and then found myself taking her in on my own.
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