Influence

25 08 2014

Over yonder in Facebook Land, I was nominated by my friend Jennie to list the 10 most influential books I have read.

It really got me thinking about that. Not my FAVOURITE, but my most INFLUENTIAL. (Fortunately, a few of them are not either, but both)

Books are what I would bring on a deserted island with me. They are essential to my life. Like so many others, I get lost in the words, time can pass with my nose buried, kids can repeatedly ask me questions with no response from me, my mind often wanders during my busy workday back to the pages of what I have waiting for me on my nightstand. Sometimes all I have with my book is a precious 1/2 hour before falling asleep.

These 10 books I’m listing have grabbed me, made me think, delighted me, horrified me. I have re-read all of them, some to tatters.

1. Anne of Green Gables – Of course this is on my list. My love for this sweet red head, for Matthew and Marilla, for the love that finally is brought to the surface between her and Gilbert and that friendship that I coveted for myself with Diana and Anne. How I wished as a child that I too would have a bosom friend. And I sure wish I could try raspberry cordial at least once! I went through two copies of this book.

2. The Stand – epic, horrifying, fascinating and alarming in its possibility of actually kind of sort of maybe happening to the world. Maybe not King’s finest writing, but whoooooooaaaa did it ever freak me out. And when he came out with the unabridged version that included an extra 400 or so pages, it thrilled me to BITS.

3. The Handmaid’s Tale – this was my virginal foray into the wonderful wacky world of my beloved Margaret Atwood. I have since gone on to fall in love with many of her books. Her precision of words in ways that no one could ever write, how succinct she can convey those indescribable emotions and her off-hand humour and unbelievable skill as a storyteller gripped me from page one. This was my first dystopian novel. I still wonder what the handmaid’s real name was, did she make it out? Did she have her baby? Who is in the Network? And May Day has always meant something different for me since I read this book.

4. I can’t remember the name of the book – but it was a collection of short horror stories, all gathered up in a cheap paperback, probably bought at the check-out at the drugstore. There was one story in that book that thrilled me to bits and looking back now, it seems as it was a cheesy,  ridiculous (and probably not well written) little tale of two best friends sleeping in, of course, a creepy house. When the one friend decides to investigate that strange thumping dragging sound downstairs, well, there was no subtly in that foreshadowing. Nothing was better for me at age 10 when the best friend returns to the room, without her head and the friend is sent into madness in a screaming hysterical fit.

5. Gone With The Wind – ah, this book. I can’t read it now without being disgusted by the racism but that story of Scarlett and Rhett was and is the most frustrating love stories ever. Those two…. I mean, come ON! Rhett could have done so much differently, and he was just as childish as Scarlett was. I do take it into consideration of when it was written, and when I did first read it around the age of 13, back in the early 80s, sadly, the race thing wasn’t as unacceptable as it is now. Still, it has stayed with me ever since.

6. Roots – now this one was my eye opener at a young age, still wrapped in my white privilege and not a lot of awareness of the true nature of the world and its history. I would re-read a section, sickened and somehow hopeful that I hadn’t read that right. I questioned it. The white masters didn’t really do that to the slaves, did they? And I would read it again, and my stomach would drop. This was the first book where I wept when I finished it. And what a finish it was, in the heart of Africa as he described being surrounded by Kunte Kinte’s tribe. The laying of the hands still gives me goosebumps to this day.

7. A Fine Balance – oh, Rohinton Mistry. You write so well, but so sparsely. Why oh why don’t you write more books? This novel is wonderfully nuanced, dreadful, joyful and so bloody epic. The depths of each character make me feel as if I would know each one if I saw them on the street. And the way he describes things. His style is butter, it’s soft and creamy and delicious to read. It truly envelopes the reader. The heartbreak, the love and the true human spirit is captured in these pages.

8. The Valley of Horses (and the predecessor, Clan of the Cave Bear) – let’s not mince words here. This was all about the sex. Primal cave man sex. My friends and I would giggle and squeal over sentences such as “like a bee, he dipped and tasted”. Ayla and her time with the Neanderthals was a good story, but her sex scenes with Jondalar were just what my burgeoning teenage lust needed. I sure wish I knew what that hand signal looks like (wink wink nudge nudge).

9. The Little House series – I can’t pick one as my most influential, mostly because it is truly just one long story of Laura’s life. I can still quote sections of each book, I still feel Laura’s anger at Nellie Olsen, I still feel all misty eyed at Almanzo’s subtle courtship. But for me, the whole thing is so wonderful because it was real. That family really lived and travelled and played the fiddle. Mary really did go blind. One day, I wish to travel to Laura’s home and actually see the fiddle, the platter, the organ. I still have the whole series as a complete set, bought by my mom for me at a young and obviously impressionable age.

10. Left blank on purpose. I know another book will come along and fill this spot and knowing that I haven’t read it yet is the biggest thrill yet.

Here’s to books and the love of reading. I’d love to hear your top ten!





Liquid memory

1 08 2014

The rise and fall of seasons is my life’s heartbeat. With each turn of the planet brings echoes of seasons of the past. The whisper of woodsmoke on a crisp fall morning or the blast of spring air rushing in the window: doesn’t really matter what it is, but these flashback moments evoke in me memories of long ago. Truthfully, they can fill me up with giddy anticipation or blanket me with melancholy.

But every year, every single year as the snow melts and the days lengthen, that sun shines strong and the heat grows, I grow too. I am more than me in the summertime. My roots cling deeper, my existence is more tangible. I feel more, I laugh more, I love more. Summer awakens something in me that slumbers the rest of the year.

The way I mark my summers now are by epic swims in the lake. I call these my prodigal swims.

These are what I recall when it’s dark at 4 pm. I cling to them, knowing that yes, summer will return. The memories of water dancing around my body, quenching my spirit, the balm to my very cold soul in mid-January. (and, yes, I know I go on about how much I love winter. And I DO! I love skiing and all that winter brings, but let’s be real here. Nothing beats sun-kissed shoulders and warm summer days.)

My favourite time to swim is in the evening. I sometimes run and reward myself with a naked cool down dip at my chosen spot along the edges of Queen’s Bay. The water here, I don’t know. It’s magical somehow. Slightly warmer than The Arm, of course, but there is a profound happiness I get by plunging myself in the water. Baptism? I could go as far as using that word.

These are long and relaxed swims, as I slowly move out far and deep into the Bay. There is distant hums of boats narrating these evenings. The flies hover over the surface, which by this time is usually like liquid glass. If I am lucky, rainbow trout and kokanee rise up to feast all around me. I swim, as the lake smell permeates my skin. It is a scent of warm air, of clean water, of fresh fish. Of joy.

I am usually alone. I consider the half hour swim a gift to myself. One where I don’t have anything to do but just be. I float on my back, filling up my lungs and I dangle on the surface, my eyes closed, ears submerged. I relax as much as I can. The water muffles the sound, and sometimes I lose myself in it, and when I do open my eyes, I am always slightly surprised that I haven’t really moved that much, because I feel transported in some meditative way. Transcendental enlightenment through H2O.

I always swim when I get the chance. I don’t want wintery regret, thinking I didn’t swim enough during the summertime. I am ravenous with these swims, they nourish my need. I am fulfilled. I am me.

 

 





If you guys really know me, you’ll get this…..

27 06 2014

One day my boss (a doctor) hired a man to mount a TV support on the wall of his office so he could hook up his ultrasound to the television in order to do injections on patients for the pain clinic I work in.

The older fellow came out at one point, asking “where the guys are”. I told him they were both in with patients and couldn’t be disturbed. He looked like he needed help, and so as I was not so busy at that moment, I offered my assistance.

He looked at me (literally, up and down) and said (with a slightly condescending smile):

“Oh, no. I need a man. I need to lift a heavy piece of metal to the wall to mount the TV on.”

I said: “Oh.”

He smiled at me, but then he read the expression on my face.

The expression on my face was a cross between subtle disgust and disdain, topped off with a raised eyebrow. I slowly crossed my arms and waited for a second. And then I said: “Let’s just see if I can lift it before disturbing the doctor.”

WHAT I REALLY WANTED TO SAY WAS THIS:

Oh, I beg your pardon. Does my vagina get in the way of lifting something that is roughly the same weight as a load of laundry and a toddler? Or four bags of groceries hanging off one arm while I close the trunk with my right foot (while in high heels)? Or the cord of firewood I loaded last weekend for my father in law? Or the furniture I move on a regular basis to clean? Or the fact that I can run 800 meters as a warm up and then go on to complete a WOD that includes push presses, burpees, lunges and pull-ups that would make you weep?

Right. That damn vagina of mine.

He LITERALLY backpedalled you guys… right into the office.

I marched in there (in my heels and skirt, y’all) and lifted that motherfucking mount up onto the wall and asked “Is here good?”

He agreed it was the perfect place and proceeded to place the mounting brackets while I patiently waited, bracing it up against the wall, while I admired my flexed biceps AND my pretty painted nails.

After it was all installed, he complimented my strength. And so I thanked him.

 

 

 

 

 





For the love of my lake.

4 06 2014

Have you ever been by a lake and wanted to simply just be by it? Be a part of it? Swim in it, gaze at it, dip your feet into it? Live your life by its simple beauty?

When I was a little girl, my family would sometimes venture from our lakeless home in the East Kootenays to travel north of Kaslo to camp at Schroeder Creek with my grandparents. I recall my nose pressed against the window of the back seat of the Plymouth Fury, goggling at the houses dotted along the North Shore of Nelson: Kim and I would marvel at the lucky unknown souls who got to live by this lake all the time.

We played in her water, found treasures on her shore. (I once found a chunk of weird looking wood that Grandpa said was petrified…. I lost that bit of wonder that weekend and still mourn the loss). We experienced the “black line” of a summer storm in my Grandpa’s boat, rushing back to camp after fishing, the last kilometer or two an exhilaration, wrapped in my life jacket, the bow slamming down after each breach of  the whitecaps of Kootenay Lake…. I would guard the precious cargo of Kokanee, some still gasping for air in the bucket, to my wondrous and morbid eyes; ready to have Grandma prepare for dinner. (I admit I hated eating fish back then, the invisible bones of the fish would fill me with fear, as I took tentative bites, nibbling miniscule morsels in fear of a bone lodging in my esophagus.) We swam and returned lobster-red back in the pre-sunscreen days to run wild among the campers. Rosie would hand out the dredges of her giant buckets of ice cream she sold from the store… I still remember my baby cousin Jami Rose crawling right into that bucket to lick the last bits of goodness, her diapered bottom and dirty feet the only thing we could see sticking out. Dusk on the shores meant fires and marshmallows and canvas-scented infused sleeps.

Who knew that I would one day call this lake home? I could only dream of that gift. But one day I got a call from my Dad telling me that they were moving to Nelson. “What the fuck” I thought to myself, years before WTF was the thing… but I still decided to tag along, thinking it would be temporary stepping stone to my next adventure.

And lo and behold, here I still am, some 23 years later. I still travel along the shores of my lake every day, I see her moods day in and day out. The glint of the winter sun casting steely grey flashes at me, ice gathering along the shore, the spring comes with the rise of the water, hiding my favourite marks along the lake (including a rock formation at Nasookin that I call “Sleeping Man”). The summer months invite me into her waters, cold and icy, refreshing and delicious. Deep dives off the boat, races off the beach with my besties, dangled feet off docks. Evening runs along her shores, rewarded with cooling skinny dips at my favourite rocky beach. Ospreys soar and dive, proving the superiority of their fishing prowess. Seeking high mountain outlooks through hikes and quad rides so we can marvel at the vastness of her size. The moods and ebbs and flows of this lake is much like a wanton woman. Passionate and fierce and full of desire.

I love this lake so much.

This lake holds my soul. She nurtures my heart within her blue depths. She is me, I am her.





Once upon a time.

20 05 2014

About 15 years ago, a sweet little soul strolled into our lives and claimed his spot in my parent’s heart and home, and ultimately in our little extended family’s collective hearts.

His name eventually became Charlie. My dad had brought him home one day after finding him wandering all alone: a cute rough-haired fully-grown Jack Russell with dark golden blonde markings along white fur. Little patches of rough fur sprouting every which way, like wayward wizard whiskers. His dark eyes took it all in as he strolled, self-assured and confident in his stocky way as if he owned the place. He brought smiles to my Dad’s face and tenderness to my Mom’s. He just fit. Instantly.

Our family dog had died a couple years before then, and I had just began my own family with the birth of our son Nicholas. Ultimately, my parents both concurred that the real test of keeping this fully grown dog was his behavior around our young son. They had found Charlie’s owner, who was willing to give him a new home with my parents and the only caveat was this pooch’s behavior around the baby.

Charlie (who was previously named Harley) and Nick were introduced to each other. I’d like to tell you it was love at first sight, to recount every minor detail in their first meeting, this wee terrier and my own wee terror. But I can’t and you know why? It’s because Charlie was already a part of our family. In some strange foggy haze, it was like he had always been there. There was a sweet indulgent gentleness from this dog, despite excited baby antics and hair-grabbing fingers. It looked like Charlie was a keeper. Nary a growl from him when he was irritated; rather, he chose to vacate the premises if the baby (and the three more that followed) got out of hand.

He was the endless boundless bullet of speed. If you dared to throw that ball, well, buddy, be ready to throw it all day long. He’d push a frisbee along the ground with his nose, warranting wonders of how on earth he had any skin left there. Garter snakes met their Maker via Charlies’ vicious attacks. He once buried an earwig-infested bone deep within my sister’s newly born son’s bassinet. You can only  imagine the new mother’s rage at discovering that particular treat. He despised baths and would disappear when Mom would take a towel out of the closet, inspiring curiosity that maybe he could actually read minds. You could hold him like a baby and he would eagerly kiss your cheeks with typical canine love. He was kind and gentle, his antics inspired guffaws, he adored quad rides in his own custom-made seat, he was the boss of the two dogs that eventually came along in my own and my sister’s families, he played with the kids, he chased anything he could, he gave all of his love freely every chance he got and in turn he was loved fully and completely like any Good Doggy should.

Today he left his little worn out 16 year old body behind in a peaceful way, wrapped in love by the two people who cared for him the most. He leaves behind a legacy of sweetness and charming flagrant cockiness. He will always be loved and always be missed.

There is no sweeter and pure love than that of a dog. And boy, did Charlie ever deliver.

We love you Charlie. You were a mighty good dog.

charlie

 

 

 





Tonight

3 05 2014

I stood by the open patio door tonight, the fresh air rushing past my face during a brief reprieve from this rain. Wine glass in hand, I watched the antics of my four male Rufous hummingbirds who returned today with a testosterone-fueled vengeance.

One by one, they took turns tussling over the best spot at the feeder which was only filled this morning after one male circled the empty birdseed feeder, giving me the side eye. I know they return to the same spot every year. I believe I know this little guy from last year. His brazen demeanor demanded I hastily fill the feeder, so I do so with glee. These birds are nature’s entertainment.

These four males dance around; with their dashing bronze backs and ruby throats flashing in the remnants of the day’s rays that are breaking through the bluish black clouds waiting to deliver more spring showers. Their eternal cynically suspicious expressions verify their intent. To guard the feeder from any others with furrowed brow and manly intent.

They fly up, so that they are a mere distant dot in the sky and dive-bomb whoever dares come near their nectar. Precarious and daring, they whizz by in alarming speeds, gifting me irrational fears of death by hummingbird impalement to the eyeball. The call is a “chu-chu-chu-chu”, fading as they rise up and away. Dusk brings the daredevils a ballsy attitude, not unlike a few beers shared among young men.

They buzz and whir, and fly off to lie in wait for an unsuspecting member of the gang to dare to drink. I can’t quite figure out the hierachy here. One of them is the biggest but at this point early in the season, I suspect it might not be indicative of the ultimate winner. Sometimes the smallest can be the feistiest.

The females are absent right now. I like to imagine them in tiny nests dabbled about in the trees by my house. These lesser-coloured but equally scrappy mama hummingbirds settled on eggs the size of a two-year-old’s thumbnail. I’ll see these mothers in a couple weeks, as they take turns guarding the feeder and their tiny babies.

I can sit for hours and watch. Birds have this hold on me. Their story is eeked out to me in the weeks to come, the warmer days, the long dusky summer nights. They will buzz and circle and demand more sugar water. They dance, tails pushed down, zee-ing back and forth in show. I’m nothing more than a post, an object or a threat, unless of course, the feeder is empty. They live their live in zest and fervour, passionate and whole-hearted.

To feed and love, and raise babies; they defend their right to dance and fight, these feathered miniature warriors.

 





Anticip………..ation

27 03 2014

Oh March.

You silly little month. Sometimes you gift us unbelievably warm days where our cheeks and noses pink up from the sun and bare arms are warm and tingly. Days where a cold cider or beer tastes so good, sipped on the deck while that sunshine warms up everything. You’ve pruned, raked, burned, plucked, mucked everything, and then you reward yourself in the late afternoon on your dusted-off deck furniture you’ve finally rescued from storage.

Days that are the promise of what is to come. Hot days, sun, beers with your best friends. Sitting on the deck in midsummer, the sounds of sprinklers and motorcycles hum in the distance. God, summertime is just the best isn’t it??? I mean, I love every season for its own distinct beauty, (you all know me + winter = skiing/heaven. I love my winters SO much)  but nothing and I mean NOTHING beats summer time.

So, this brings me back to March. You tease us with warm days, delightful foreshadowing, and then you drop the bomb on us: freezing rain, sleet, 8 cms of snow, wind. It just SUCKS. You know what March is? TRANSITION, my friends. Where we all have to dig deep and bear with it. BREATHE IN AND OUT. Just like birth, those last 2 centimeters of dilation where you think you’re going to lose your freakin’ mind…. Take each day with whimsy and humour. Hahah, Mother Nature, fuck you and that muddy slop out there, crusted over with a sliver of ice… I am wearing a skirt with no leggings and I DON’T CARE.

One day soon it will be April and tulips everywhere will be standing proud, chock full of Hallmark Easter colours. Sun will shine and bike rides will be new again. Baseballs and soccer balls litter the deck. Those damn birds wake us up at 4 am with their incessant and delightful chatter. (It’s kind of okay to waken that early; the light and breath of air is alarming in its pleasant vigour) Chocolate eggs and coffee in the morning? Yes please.

May is soft rains and the full moon over the “Swooping Swallow” across the lake behind Procter. Mosquitoes squeal incessantly in your ears and hummingbirds remember their feeder in your yard. Windows wide open! If you’re lucky, you’ve been wearing shorts for a few days and your legs are no longer blindingly white.

June can be a bit of a dirty whore around these parts. She brings epic rains, closed soccer fields and floods down Baker Street, where ski bums hoist their kayaks out and paddle around the main drag while people laugh and take pictures to post to Instagram. Everything is lush. Trees are drunk with spring rain, the green is almost gaudy.

Finally, the heat arrives with July. When it’s warm at 6 am and HOT by 9. Gardens act like leggy teenagers, growing inches overnight. The water in our lake no longer bites, but envelopes us. Light lingers late into the evening allowing lazy swims just before bed.

This is when my soul exhales, even though I haven’t even been aware she was holding her breath. We made it another year, summer is finally all around us. We can relax, paint our toenails and laugh more freely.

It is all in front of us, every single delicious moment. Take a look around and savour it, this wanton anticipation. The reward is almost here.








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