trajets_Canada_en

The country in six days, ending with an exclamation point…

trajets_Canada_enOf course everyone is focused on the madman attack on Parliament Hill, that total abnormality here in Canada, where representatives of the people feel free to walk and work without fear of assault. (well, at least until now). I’m not going to write about that, sad though it is. Suffice to say the assault brought my trip to a sudden, jerking end, reality intruding on my mind much like my post-travel cold throws me flat onto the bed.

I’ve just travelled across the country, stem to stern, on #VIArail, taking the Ocean from Halifax to Montreal, commuter train from Montreal to Toronto, and the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. It is a fabulous trip, one everyone should do at least once in their lives. I sat up in Economy from Halifax to Montreal, cheap-seated it to Toronto, got a room (and an upgrade, thanks VIA!) to Vancouver. All have their pleasures.

The Ocean is fitted with handicapped accessibility (limited though it is). There I met a former biker gal who cheerily named me “D” and took me under her arm (literally) while she pestered the bartender. She told me of her many lives, from legal to slightly not so, then offered to put out a contract on one of my relatives. You see, the thing about the train is that you know you are not likely to see folks again, so stories get told, intimacies shared, secrets revealed. It’s a bit like those five minute dating things – meet, smile, reveal, reveal, leave. One woman told me the horror she felt that her cousin accused her of jumping off the bedroom dressers when she was a kid. The woman was in her 70’s, and she’d never told anyone before. Some hurts lie deep.

I met a gorgeous but naive young gal who was going to Montreal to maybe be a model. Biker gal and I both sat her down for a talk, I gave her my contact info, called on my niece for info about places to stay in Montreal. The young gal listened, but I haven’t heard from her. I hope she’s okay.

But then, that is the other real charm about train travel and, in fact, about Canada. Almost always, you meet people who are going to treat you right, who are polite and friendly and safe and sweet, who offer help or support or friendship, short or long. The trip affirmed that. No matter what train I took, what class I was in, every person I contacted was this way. Even on the flight back, when I shared the plane with a crew of drunken roustabouts heading home from the oil patch, 99% of the people were sweet beyond belief.

It’s a grand trip for the people, but the landscape is breathtaking. I started with the rocky Atlantic shores, rumbled through the Acadian dykelands, on to the rolling Appalachian hills of New Brunswick, the fields and townships of Quebec, through my old town of Kingston and on to the big city of Toronto. Then on to the Canadian Shield, so large it takes a while to understand it. I watched the endless endless trees and rocks and trees and rocks and water of Northern Ontario, gasped with relief when we got to the prairies and Winnipeg and I could see the sky again. Saw the tiny old slumping homes being consumed by prairie, spotted a football-field-sized car dump in Saskatchewan, adored the Qu’Appelle valley. A few oil rigs dipped their heads as we went by.

Then the first mumblings of hills, a blue-grey lump ahead, that grew, slowly slowly, then faster than imaginable into the completely over-the-top (pun intended) Canadian Rockies – they are sharp enough you could cut yourself on them, showing off the rocky tumblings laid down millennia ago, tilted up long long ago, still patterned like a group of seven painting.

By this point we all were in the sky view car, glass overhead and around. We didn’t get the bubble car – we were the last long train of the season and so missed that – but it was chilly in the regular glass one so everyone brought up blankets and curled up for the show.

We stopped in Jasper, rolled down to Vancouver. Beautiful, beautiful. Sea to sea in six days. Unspeakable grandeur, sweet places and huge cities, seemingly more trees than stars in the sky…and not a SINGLE MOOSE.

Our train trip ended in delays from conflicting track use – CN owns the rails so there are battles at most crossings over priority. So we passenger trains wait, then race along like a roller coaster. The engineers were great, slowing down so we could see waterfalls and bears and goats. The staff on the train were fantastic, the chefs unbelievably good, the activity staff endlessly cheerful and helpful. I loved every minute, though I admit to impatience in Northern Ontario. I do love the sky.

I flew back through that sky. It was a shorter ride, but much less pleasant, despite the charms of Westjet. The train rules.

Now, how can I get to N’Awlins by train???

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Where is this heading?

dorothyanneb:

Wisdom from one of the kindest people I know. I wish we had some way to tell our government to take the money away from the military and fund healthcare resources in Africa, and I wish I was well enough to be some use in this crisis. If I still had my brain and nursing license I’d be over there in a flash.

Originally posted on johnageddes:

I am worried about Ebola. It is rapidly spinning out of control.

Photo from internet

Photo from internet

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a four-year old African child whose mother is dying of Ebola and I can not hug her or comfort her as she is dragged off by people looking like space travellers. I can not imagine what it is like to be a health care worker in a facility where there is no clean water supply, limited resources and few beds and knowing that just touching someone who is infected to provide care for them or make them more comfortable is risking my own life.

It annoys me somewhat when I see the panicked response of the U.S. or Spain when they get one case that is treated in health care systems that have funding many, many times that of the West African countries that are struggling…

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Book junkie

I’m moving In a few weeks, and I’ve been busy packing up my life. Altogether too many crafts, every type of drinking glass, too many kitchen implements, and fourteen! boxes of books. I live in an apartment. I’m moving to a smaller one. Those books will ensure the apartment never gets blown over…

So, as I packed the boxes, pitying my movers and worrying about space for the cat, I sorted some out to take to my local used book store, a fantastic kingdom called Doull’s. I’ve written about this place before, but just to remind you, gentle reader, it is a paradise of serendipitous finds filled with staff who can find anything, anywhere. I love this place more than any bookstore I’ve ever entered.

Part of the magic involves the apparently careless piles of books everywhere. I say apparently because I’m onto you, Mr. Doull. I know you are sprinkling bread crumbs to lure your bibliophiles further into the lair, where they will find untold must-have treasures. Tasty titles topple on wobbling towers, begging for rescue.

I find it hard to get down the first hallway without five urgently-needed books in hand unless I close my eyes and plunge dangerously forward. Did I mention there are New Yorker note cards in one corner? They stack very well on top of my seven books (it’s a bit down the hallway).

The wonderful Mr. Doull assessed my cargo, and gave me a value. It wouldn’t have mattered how much he offered, frankly, though he was very fair. In front of me following the transaction lies a glittering trail of books that soon will be mine…once I move, set up my bookshelves and shave the cat.

It’s better than the yellow brick road.

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On anger, depression, Robin Williams, Terry Pratchett, and writing

I read an article yesterday by Neil Gaiman about Terry Pratchett, author of the fantastic, funny, wise, and seriously wonderful Discworld series. Neil was asked about Terry, about how he must be such fun.

Neil told a story of Terry, about how he’d been furious one time and about how he’d told Neil that it was the fury that drove him to write. He was furious about his Alzheimer’s. I felt a surge of recognition.

Though I try to out a good face on it of acceptance and “enjoy each day”, I am completely furious that multiple sclerosis has robbed me of my life. Scrape the surface of my cheer and you’re likely to see tears or rage. I spent years, years, educating my mind. I was moving rapidly forward on my career, heading for a position where I could have significant impact on things. I wanted that, I tasted that, I respected people with a mission. And then MS came and struck my brain. Cognitive assessments tell me I should concentrate on things requiring no more than 20 minutes concentration.
This is very true for complicated tasks, and , alas, my writing. So I’m trying to shift my focus to less verbal/executive/numerical things, to more generalized creativity, but I feel the loss. I feel it every day I get up and am baffled by simple tasks. It breaks my heart, every day.

And so I rage. And like many, I turn that rage inwards, towards depression. Part of the depression is because of the MS brain damage – perhaps the depression associated with Parkinson’s damage was the final push for Robin Williams, poor and wonderful man. Part is because, like Terry and Robin, I share the telescope-turned-backwards view of a progressive, disabling disease that will not just kill me, but will make me a crippled, incompetent, incontinent, dependent thing first.

It’s all about generativity. About the ability to contribute in some meaningful way. For Terry and Robin, perhaps the thought of no longer being able to be brilliant is/was too much. I’m not burdened by assumptions of brilliance – I’m nowhere near these guys on the scale. They bring (still) joy to millions, I might do the same for a few, and I’m content with that, most of the time.

Other times I grieve what I might have been.

And then I give my head a shake and vow to make every minute count while I can still manage those twenty minutes. So I pick up my pen, my creative projects, my advocacy, my friendships, my joy, and surge onwards…

Because it’s the rage that fuels me, too.

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/neil-gaiman<<a

Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

dorothyanneb:

Definitely worth a read…

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

&quot;Rotten apple&quot; by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Rotten apple” by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There is something seriously askew with the supposed values of the publishing business.

The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.

As always, I’m conscious of whose agenda this serves and why writers allow themselves to be used as pawns in this game.

Exhibit A: Harlequin

Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using extremely common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company (and many other multinational corporations too).

You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree), but these actions are legal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the major publishers, and the global media conglomerates which own…

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Transitions

I’m moving again, to a smaller apartment, with adaptations for my disability. It’s pretty swanky and I am looking forward to it, though I have a disturbing feeling of claustrophobia as I pack my fourteenth book box…but I’m not ready to part with those books yet.

Many I have on my to be read list; others are dream books; some are classics. My books encircle me, help define me. Where would I be without Winnie the Pooh, with the original illustrations in colour? Or Ogden Nash’s crazy poetry collection? Or Thomas Merton, Henning Mankell, philosophers, Anne of Green Gables, Hop On Pop, Trevor Cole, Alistair Macleod and Alexander, Bronwyn Wallace, oh so many more friends of books lined up, each of them offering either a new adventure or a familiar visit with friends.

But I feel a bit as if I am in “the garden of forking paths”, as J.L. Borges said, or is that “the forking garden of paths?” In many ways my life seems to be getting smaller, forcing me to work small, think small, focus small.
This is not altogether a bad thing, just unfamiliar to this ‘big picture’ gal. I’m finding small projects in writing and otherwise, and adjusting my expectations.

It’s all part of growing up, I think, and settling into who I am. I’m leaving writing mystery stories and easing into humour and stories for younger folk. I’m playing with new fibre arts, music, and other artistic venues. Every one of them small, so as to fit in my smaller life. I’m not bothering to try to be what people think I should be any more. It’s a good place to be, though the one thing I wish was smaller (me) stays firmly round!

I wonder how long I can bear it before I need to break out and breathe bigger air….or before I fold and change my life again….for right now, all seems cozy and comfortable. It’s all in boxes, tidily tucked away…

The ethereal, synchronous nature of writing, and how it can totally creep a person out

There’s a magical thing that happens when I write. My brain gets into that flow state and I wander along, my thoughts outracing my consciousness. My characters develop their own interests, go off on unplanned adventures, mutter to themselves far too much. They wax rhapsodic about sunsets and hair colour and the flush on their cheeks. They stride and growl, snort and writhe.
In short, they take over and become boorish. They start talking over each other, minor characters drink too much and push the major ones around. But somewhere underneath this rambunctious behaviour, they talk about truth.
Yesterday I met with my writing mentor and discussed my current work in progress, a young adult book that I thought my characters had made up as they played, loosely based on some terrible events in my life. As we talked about how to make the story better, my mentor gradually narrated the story of my life to me.
Totally freaked both of us out. We don’t know each other well at all. We’ve met three times, and it’s always been in an “honourable teacher/humble student” arrangement, at least on my side. And there she was, supposing this, supposing that, based on the story I had made up (which was quite different), telling my life.
And I realized the story was really about something I hadn’t dealt with, about a different event, and my powerlessness in that and my regret that I hadn’t been able to solve the issue, or protect the people involved.
Not the event I thought it was about at all.
So now I’m excited about rewriting, for many reasons. First, there’s a truth there that I think might help others, or at least make a meaningful story. Second, I’m down to the nugget now, have stripped away all the blather my characters were using to conceal their motives from me. It’s going to look better.
All because of a conversation with a surprisingly kindred spirit and excellent mentor. And several strange synchronicities that out both of us in the same place mentally at the same

Oh, Roberta Flack….