Ah, 2017. Who needs it? It was the year of the orange man, the year of constant threats to democracy all over the globe, the year of broken promises and climate change and bad government (here in NS, too- Stephen MacNeil plus all opponents) (Trudeau plus all his opponents). I thank the gods for Elizabeth May and her courage in holding everyone to account. I swear she must never sleep.
Gawshens, Auntie Em, sometimes Munchkin land, witches and all, seems more predictable than reality. At least there, the yellow brick road doesn’t lead to ripping off everyone but the top 1%…but then again… Emerald City???
I rant. And for me, in the trenches as Dorothy, it’s been a year full of unexpected delights and challenges, treats and slaps upside the head, a brief romance or two, and travels beyond my wildest dreams.
It started with a disappointment – I had promised myself I’d finish and send in some writing before I went, but I jetted off to the Iceland Writers Retreat with nothing, feeling like a fraud. Ideas weren’t even percolating – it’s like my writerly mind had shut down. But then there was Iceland, a truly magical place, a group of kind and inspiring writers, and a mad cookbook writer (David Lebowitz) who managed to make me feel like I could write, and something useful, too. I left there completely enchanted, in love with the mists and steams and lava and people of Iceland. I vowed to return. The conference (which I highly recommend) was like a shimmering lagoon, filled with ideas swimming around in the warm water, cozy and enwrapping.
Of course, coming home to wintry Nova Scotia and my credit card balance sobered me up a bit. Yes, I said. I’ll go back. Maybe in 2020, when I’ve recovered. IF and only IF I actually get some things published again. It’s been a long time.
A summer in the heat and awash in MS misery shut me down flat. Heat and MS are not friends. My then apartment had little air exchange, and I was sick sick sick all summer, too sick to truly enjoy the wonderful tall ships as they sailed right by my street corner, too sick to go out, too sick to stay in. Standing up became a question. My cat even grew bored with my company.
Usually, my MS and I have a working agreement. I leave it alone, it leaves me alone. But the problem with being ill with MS is that you don’t want to do anything. So you sit around. Which then deconditions you and you feel worse, etc etc. As with all chronic diseases, a little exercise goes a long way. I wasn’t doing anything in the heat except for brief walks to a local bar with cool cool beer.
So no writing. Brain sparking only occasionally. Had a couple of badly planned romances around that time. The frontal cortex is involved in my MS – my judgment centres were not fully operational. Ah well, live and learn. At least I knew enough to step back and not get myself into even more trouble.
But all this gawping like a beached carp meant that I didn’t have much time to create my felted animals for various shows, so once I mentally awoke as fall rolled in, I was nailed to the chair in my den, forcing creativity. Never a good plan. Still, managed some good things here and there, and dug into some volunteer things and in general, returned to normal-ish.
And then things started to happen fast and furiously. I was sitting at my computer mourning the loss of my brain as I struggled with transferring a five-digit number from one window to another when my phone rang. It was my lovely gallery owner, Adriana, telling me something unbelievable.
We had an invitation to go to Greenland in November to talk about building cooperatives, and for me to demonstrate making woolen animals! Who could believe that?
But it was true, and I have to say I do love Greenland even more than Iceland. Part of it was that we had a fabulous guide who handled everything for us, so we could just glide from one thing to another, looking at incredible scenery, meeting wonderful, inspiring people, and just giggling madly at everything. It was completely unbelievable. Even the flights were timed just right – we got a good soak in at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, rested between stops, and mysteriously had our bags make it from a tiny airport in the midst of nowhere to Halifax. I think Salik, our guide, has magical powers.
Unlike Iceland, the new volcanic land, Greenland is made of old old rock from way below the sea. The Ice Shelf is magnificent, huge beyond imagining. The fjords made my heart sing. Rocks poke up everywhere, the land slopes upward from the sea and presents vistas wherever you look. It’s quiet and clean, and the air and water are magnificent. And the people? Lovely, warm, glad to see we odd Canadians bearing polar bears and treats and ideas.
I loved everything about Greenland. It reminded me a bit of the time I visited Hawaii and very nearly stayed…very tempting to just miss the plane and hang out a bit longer…until I saw the prices of things. Whew. I fled, holding my credit card close so it would stop crying. But I still want to go back. There’s a peace there that doesn’t exist in busy Iceland.
Before I went to Greenland, though, I had to move to an airier apartment – across the street! It is my forever home, I think, thank heavens, as my son told me in no uncertain terms I was never to move again. (he helped me after we had to fire the movers at the last minute). Long story, but I felt strong lifting boxes and jumping in and out of the truck until I suddenly wasn’t anymore.
When I came back from Greenland, I still had to unpack, but once again MS stomach punched me, taught me not to take it for granted. The disease has progressed, tests show, and I have lost some things that were nice to have. They may come back. It’s been several months since they went, though, so I fear that they, like sensation on most of my body, will be lost to me forever.
Toujours Gai, as Mehitabel the cat would say. I am warm and dry and can see the sea, and though writing is a challenge, I can still work on that book, maybe hire someone to see my little things to publication. I’m gradually getting organized in my apartment.
I’m alive and we haven’t been planted in a nuclear war scenario, I’ve been to see lands that claimed my heart two times in a single year, I have a loving family, and a clan of women friends (and a few guys, too) that sustain me. I am missing one of my dear friends who had a stroke and remains in recovery – I only hope to hear his voice again…
I’m so unbelievably grateful.
Now onwards into 2018!
Summer humidity in the Ottawa Valley saps my energy and will to live. I also think my cats get bored with me. Even with your health challenges, you managed to create art, travel, make new friends, move to a new place – and write about it all.
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