Sunday, 15 August 2021

Of Living and Dying, and the Stories we Read Inbetween


If there’s one thing that people know about me, it’s that books (and the stories therein) are my first true love. From the earliest story times on the orange-carpeted steps at the library to perusing crowded tables of secondhand books under a bridge in London, there seems no place in my life which hasn’t been touched by my love of reading. 


It should come as no surprise, then, that I’ve always felt the need to engage in the myriad stories that surround me in a deeper sense. 


After I finished my undergraduate degree, which was expectedly rife with the enforced reading that an English/History Major entails, I figured that to keep my writing habit going (and to curb the endless stream of intake slightly) I wouldn’t just keep a book journal listing everything I had read; I would write, as well. Not nearly so formally as I had to for the completion of my degree, but in a way that still provoked a deeper thought process. Enter the world of social media, combine that with a book journaling project for my Master’s degree, and the results are history: shared book reviews for the world to see - or at least a handful of friends and colleagues who enjoy stories equally as much, and who don’t mind my occasionally fangirl-toned reviews of books I absolutely adore. As I opined years ago: booknerds, why aren’t you all on Goodreads and LibraryThing?! That’s where the good bookish times are at!


We dabbled briefly in Bookstagram (Instagram’s not-so-secretly nerdy sub-community): a project that lasted about a year before I got tired of being confined to posting strictly bookish content. Are we really surprised by that change, either? Instagram is great, but its lack of dedication to books meant that my ever-changing interests couldn’t hold fast to the single-focus of a book page nor could my ever-changing aesthetic. (Similar reasoning also halted the creation of a proper Tucker dogstagram account, in addition to his complete lack of regular cooperation for photos… but that’s another story). Sure, I’ll still jump into #bookstagram style posts occasionally (today being a case and point), but mostly we keep the reviews confined to Goodreads and LibraryThing, with teasers to head thattaways in my stories. 


So that’s where we’re at today: still reading (voraciously), still reviewing (semi-critically), and still obsessing over certain books that take our breath away (give me a whimsically cranky protagonist and an exceptional setting, and I’m there). If you’re curious what the latest one is, head on over to Goodreads or LibraryThing. I’ll see you in the stacks!

Sunday, 4 July 2021

The Historian




Maybe it’s the plight of the historian that we see too much. 
That we spend so much time looking at the past
That we no longer see it as anything but an endless wheel turning and turning
And turning the turmoil and hurt we see in endless repeat 
    into dispassion.

The black and white (if there ever even were) blurs to become an endless field of grey.

Punctuated by moments of light, to be sure, but more often

Swathed in a sea of darkness and misdeed. 

Blinded, we become, even as our eyes continue to see what is 

    apparently hidden. 


So no. 

We are not shocked. 

We are not surprised. 

But yes, 

We are furious. 

(Still).


Sunday, 27 June 2021

Solstice


Between the fires of Beltane and Samhain the shadows begin to
Lengthen
As Sun begins a hiding game
And Moon chases the light.

As we were bathed in new light we found the world revealed; 
New paths forward
Away from a broken past that kept us bound.

Yet in the dark our own is revealed; 
Finding a truth and knowledge
(hidden)
About why we left and how we can love forward.

The light may have brought us out from a darkness in the world,
But our own dark must be balanced by a steady glow within.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Untitled


Fuck grounding. 
Walk with me through the fire and flames. 

From the ashes grow a new spring

fed by an earth renewed

Not through destruction but through cleansing.


Paths made barren by a wasteland of past

hurt and anger and emptiness

Should still be walked, one foot in front of the other. 


As we come to the edge of the cliff and peer over

to depths unseen and unplumbed

The path is not broken, so much as changed.


Choose to walk the edge and find a new way,

feet still leading forward,

Or better yet, build a bridge and learn to fly.


Fuck grounding. 

(Take my hand) 

Walk with me through the fire and flames.


Sunday, 13 June 2021

Becoming



Begin at the end, they said. 

And so she turned her face towards the full-bodied moon and howled. 

And then again when the moon was gone, to call it back to her night skies. 


Make love, they said. 

And so she found a man with the heart of a lion. 

One who roams the wild, alone, and yet alongside her wildness. 


Collect the bones, they said. 

And so she dug deep, pulling remnants from her chest which no longer served. 

Bones to be honoured and then buried in the woods to be returned. 


Listen, they said. 

And so with eyes closed she brought silence to the screaming world around her. 

In the white noise the words she needed to hear became clear. 


Raise the children, they said. 

And so with a softening she turned to her inner child in remembrance. 

Standing tall for those who are not yet grown and yet someday will be. 


Be grounded in belief, they said. 

And so she questioned and answered and kept her friends close. 

Building a forest of strength, so like a tree surrounded she would not fall in the storm. 


Walk the earth, they said. 

And so she ventured, journeying far but always returning. 

Sometimes staying close, to find new secrets in the familiar and the known. 


Sleep, they said. 

But she was not yet ready, and so drifted and dreamed alongside the stars. 

Asking questions amongst them until the dawn brought awakening to her soul. 


Feast, they said. 

And so she did. 

On all the world had to offer, 

And in return she learned and grew and

Became.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Six Degrees


They say the world is a small place, but sometimes the reality of that statement hits you so hard and in such unexpected ways that you have to stop for a minute and take stock. Living in a small town (which has played host to my family for four generations in varying capacities), those six degrees of separation shrink to about two. It’s not even people sometimes; even a location can spark the wheels turning. 


Small towns and their inevitably slow pace of change sometimes make the years and the scenery blur together so much that I don’t even notice them, but as I paused outside of one of Kamloops’ well-known eateries the other day with my friend D those six (or two) degrees got me thinking about how much *has* actually changed. 


The Art We Are serves up latt├ęs and lunches to a hungry artistic crowd, and their neighbour Botanical Scene is busy making everyone’s homes greener, but the building that houses these popular spots (The Freemont Block) has a history that traces its roots back to immigrant John Fre[e]mont Smith. This foursquare brick building was built by Smith in 1911 after he found success in… well literally everything. Alderman, shoemaker, prospector, businessman, Smith’s list of achievements could go on for days, but you all have access to Google, so I’ll let you discover more about him yourself! 


My history with the Freemont Block starts circa the early/mid-1990s. By that time the building was occupied by the Camera House, another downtown staple, whose schtick was  - you guessed it - cameras and the accoutrement that goes with them. My dad was also a photographer and, in typical small town fashion, did business with the Camera House - so once and a while I was sent down the block from our West End home to see “uncle” Barry for more film for pops. Favourite memories: one of their employees, Brian, always talked like Donald Duck for us errand-girls; if Dad came with me, he could always be talked into a slice of cake at Swiss Pastry or a donut at Tim Horton’s down the block; and spending the pocket change dad paid me on 5-cent candies at Erwin’s!


The next chapter of this building’s personal connection came to me in high school, when I met my BFF, A. Over the years A and I have discovered that we shared a LOT of the same childhood hangouts, ranging from our brief time in a Catholic private school to being on rival soccer teams, and yet it took us until an art class in Grade 10 to actually be in the same place at the same time. There were Skittles involved this time around, so clearly it was meant to be. I don’t think we knew right away, but we later made the connection that her parent’s yoga and bellydance studio lived above the Camera House for a few years - just a few degrees of separation away.


A more recent late night stroll making sure that my original A bestie (yes, apparently I have a small A-squad) got back to her hotel safely revealed another connection to the brownstone. A (the First) spent most of her childhood in Kamloops, and may have ditched the Interior’s sagebrush for coastal surf, but she inevitably winds up back in good old Kamloops - at least for a time. On one of these sojourns she was working towards one of her many degrees, and needed a place to stay, and apparently the place of choice was a cool downtown loft. I heard the stories at the time of the XXL Christmas tree that toppled, wardrobe simplification techniques, and the boating adventures that are the only way to get through overheated Kamloops summers, but somehow I missed the fact that her exposed brick walls were none other than the familiar Freemont Block! 


And that brings us back to today: standing on street corners, wondering what small bits of history lie hidden amongst the brownstone and bricks, while we wait for pastries. At this point, I don’t think that I could be surprised by any fewer degrees of separation with the world, but I still can’t help but wonder… 

Sunday, 30 May 2021

1985


The internet can be a funny place, full of interesting trivia, connections to far away friends, and (maybe most importantly) funny animal videos. And yet, sometimes what the nostalgic web reveals can pack a bit more of a punch than we expected…


No, I’m not talking about Facebook Memories - they’re a whole other bag of mental gymnastics-inducing depressing or joyful moments which fully deserve an entire blogpost of their own. Rather, recently I keep stumbling over a particular music-based clip trending inevitably from the newest-fangled web portal of amusement (TikTok) which makes me laugh for a second until the cringes set in. But not for the reason you’re thinking - but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 


In said clip the Tiktok-er (is that what we call them, idk?) has an unfortunate revelation about the aparent drabness of their life while listening to the classic nostalgic banger “1985” by Bowling for Soup. The song begins on a positive note, led by and upbeat drum beat and catchy guitar riffs, but as the band begins to wax eloquent about lost opportunities and sour memories the listener begins to think that the song is about them…


Were any of these kids even alive in 1985?! I sure wasn’t, and even though I’ll always have a fondness for the mid-decades of my childhood, my high school years, and even my 20s (as an amalgam for what the band’s singing about), I’m going to call bullshit on lamenting all the things in life that have gotten away. Staunch disbeliever in FOMO, here, if you couldn’t already tell. 


Sure, there are always going to be missed opportunities and a certain sense of “how did we get here from there” as we get older, but sitting there and whining about the choices we made isn’t going to get us anywhere. So you didn’t dance on Whitesnake’s car (an opportunity to hard-pass on, IMO); so you married a CPA (presumably he likes other things than finance…); so you bought and paid for that yellow SUV (way to stand out in a parking lot!), but none of that has to be a negative if you don’t want it to be. There are new places to find music other than MTV, that antidepressant is doing its job to boost your serotonin levels, and you bet your ass there’s a podcast (or twelve) out there to satisfy your craving for radio sitcoms. 


Limits went out the window with the millennium, so here’s to having access to a way bigger world of opportunities than were available in 1985 (or even 2005). So, Debbie, rather than hitting the wall, maybe it’s time you broke right through it.