Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Power out, wicked thoughts

It was windy last night, and this morning the power was out, knocked out sometime before dawn.

Wickedly, one of my first thoughts was that with the router down, I wouldn’t be able to get on the Internet. No emails to read or answer, no intrusions from Facebook. A morning to do whatever I felt like, not what anyone else might be asking. 

Even now, typing the words, I can feel my shoulders going down, as I think about crawling back into bed and reading by the light coming in through the window...

Oh, and the significance of all those phones? I bet if any of them were hooked up to a landline, they’d work, even if the power were out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Writing down the demons

Dawn. You can almost see the spirits, rising in the cloud.

This was another of those weekend writing retreats at Matsqui penitentiary.

The word 'penitentiary' -- a place for penitents to deal with their sins -- in other words, a place for showing regrets.

One of the most interesting aspects of this weekend's discussions was the nature of the issues facing writers, both the inmates and those of us who live outside the walls (are we 'outmates'?).

The number one demon facing all of us is the many-headed monster of doubt. I call it many-headed because it whispers to us in so many ways, telling us we have nothing to say, that our thoughts are far too mundane. How it tells us we should give it up, that it's pointless trying to put our feelings into words.

But that's where the strength of group enters the scene. We were able to remind each other that we do have things to say, and that we each have our own way of doing so.

So, those spirits rising out of the clouds -- were they malevolent? Probably not. Were they real? Absolutely.

But we dealt with them, harnessed them so we can carry on, after the group experience comes to an end.

And with that in mind, today is a day for using that harnessed strength and putting words to page again. Simply because that's what we do.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chasing the snow away

Transit is usually my mode for getting to Vancouver. Only, sometimes it just doesn’t work -- the bus or train doesn’t go where I need it to go, or the timing means the car’s the only way.

Last night was one of those times – only wouldn’t ya know, it turned out to be the day for Vancouver’s first dusting of snow.

It’s always a treat when that first icing of white decides to decorate the North Shore mountains or Mt Baker. But when it comes down onto the plain that is the city and environs, the thrill quickly fades.

The day's trip was for a cause – a downright writerly one. An afternoon meeting with my ever-helpful writers’ group, supper together, then a dash across town to the delightful Prophouse Café for an event in the Twisted Poets Series.

It felt like a heck of an honour to be reading with Michael Turner who is, after all, the only writer I can think of who’s had a book of poems made into a feature film. And of course, he didn’t bite. In fact, he bought me a drink. He was a perfect gentleman and read from a range of work that encompassed the whole of the city and then some.

The poets who read at the open mic were amazing as well. From Dennis Bolen’s explosive work to the night’s closing reader, Miguel Burr (a finalist in the 3-Day Novel Contest, a poet who even provided back-up tunes), it was not your average open mic event. Many were very skilled poets, poets I know we’ll be hearing more from – Eva Waldauf, Shannon RayneTimothy Shay and of course, the evening’s organizer, Bonnie Nish.

I’m grateful for venues like the Prophouse and White Rock’s Pelican Rouge. Especially in these arts-endangered times, they provide a lot more than coffee. Food for the mind, food for warming the soul. Warm enough that when I came outside to leave, although there was a dusting of the white stuff on my car, the roads were clear and fine.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Food from Mars?

No, but it sure looks as though it’s from someplace other than earth. Don't you think so?

Although there seems to be some dispute whether it’s cauliflower or broccoli, the experts at least agree that Romanesco is in the family brassica.

It was just one of the treats I found at Port Townsend’s winter version of their famous Farmers Market.
I offered the Romanesco as crudités to accompany homemade homous, then used the rest of it in a stir-fry.

So far at least, no little green horns growing from my head…

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ones of a kind

When we started our big crazy trip last year, the place we began in was just across the line in Washington state. We’re taking advantage of the long weekend, and gone back across that invisible line of the border, spending a few days in one of our favourite places by the sea, Port Townsend.

Readers of this blog will know that I often observe ways to make new beginnings – whether that’s observing the formality of January first, the beginning of September, or my birthday. Besides revisiting the spot where our tour began, today presents another kind of new beginning.

Unless our calendar starts over at zero again, or we get a new kind of year that contains 22 months, we won’t have another day where we can write the date with only a single digit – and not just in this particular lifetime – ever.

I feel especially hopeful for this particular round of new beginnings, partly because we attended a very different kind of ceremony to observe this always-significant day, November 11th.

We joined in with the locals and attended a midday observance at the local Legion. A fabulous band played wonderful music, the speeches were thoughtful and respectful – and best of all, every speaker seemed to focus on peace.

Peace, that’s my kind of new beginnings (and hey, the free lunch, complete with yummy desserts was pretty all right too).

Monday, November 07, 2011

November Ferry to (and from) Gabriola

I can’t think how many years it’s been that I’ve been meaning to read Malcolm Lowry’s novel, October Ferry to Gabriola. And I suppose for at least as long, I’ve been meaning to actually take the ferry there myself.

Yesterday, I accomplished one of those goals, finally visiting this seemingly hardest-to-get-to Gulf Islands.

It’s all but impossible to get there as a foot passenger, as the ferry to Gabriola is nowhere near either of the arrival points from the mainland. Luckily, I was travelling with a friend, so expenses were less of an issue and I drove.

We were there to take part in a reading for the League of Canadian Poets -- a benefit to raise funds memorializing the poet (and painter and writer of prose), P. K. Page. Here’s my colleague and co-reader, Sandy Shreve, hypnotizing the crowd with her poem about crows.

It was one of those crisply perfect autumn days. We even got a quick show from a few orcas in the bay.

From what I’ve been able to learn in reading about Lowry’s book, the main character doesn’t quite make it to the island. At least I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve finally set foot on Gabriola, even if this visit was much too short.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Anniversaries and other observances

There’s something about November that lends itself to remembering. And it’s not just the fact of Remembrance Day on the 11th.

Even the words form a kind of imperfect rhyme: ‘November / Remember’.

On a happy note, today is the day to observe the 75th birthday of our national public broadcaster, the CBC. Even people who don’t listen to it mostly acknowledge the value of having such a system in place – and commercial-free at that! I can’t describe the many things I’ve learned or been entertained by or fascinated by – just by the sounds that come out of that little black box in my kitchen.

Today is also the day we still celebrate our friend Miki’s birthday. We even ate some wild mushrooms with our supper in his honour.

But that flame in today’s image is also there to observe the anniversary of Norman Morrison’s self-immolation. Technically, he wasn’t the first to take such drastic action, but he did it outside the office of then-Secretary of US Defense, Robert McNamara.

Morrison’s death marked another turning point (or maybe it was a ratcheting-up point) in the rise of the movement that helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.

Thinking of that brave 31-year-old (far braver than I will ever be) renews my faith in the idea of hoping for change. And while I’m not extolling any more self-immolations, I am firmly believing in the power of the people, especially as represented by those who comprise the Occupy-Wherever forces. May they continue speaking out, and continue to do so with the voice of consensus.