Hot Milky Tea

21 02 2017

cup-milk-tea-20969682I’ve been feeling so unsettled lately. The horror of DT’s first month reminds me of those other DTs – not that I’ve had them, mind you, but I’ve seen people in the throes of delirium tremens and it isn’t pretty.

I’m kind hoping that some of the people who voted the way they did are feeling a bit of that now – having over drunk the wine of hatred, they are swiftly and agonizingly detoxing as they see what’s going on.

Though I rather suspect not.

1418268334632And the world writhes. Like my stomach.
Used to be that people would recommend hot sweet tea for shock. It solved everything from post-amputation pain to a sliver in your thumb. I’ve taken to drinking it in the morning now. Coffee is too much for my agitated stomach.
I don’t drink it sweet – but milky is almost as good for shock, I hear, and oh so soothing to my tum.

In the back of my mind, I hear, homeostasis, homeostasis. All of life tends toward balance. It also tends toward entropy, which is where I feel we are now – the population finally realizing that democracy is a participatory sport, trying to fit decades of “just lying back and thinking of England” in with brains now realizing they don’t like what is happening, that they prefer to be part of the choice to be fucked over.

images-12It’s both exciting and terrifying, a race to some end. Having lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and been told how to cower under my desk in event of an atomic attack, having lived in Germany during the Cold War and been given the pamphlet telling us how to survive in case of war – painting our windows white to repel the flash, storing 6 months of food and water, seeking out bomb shelters (which were marked everywhere in Germany and in Boston where I grew up), having sat through the test of the emergency broadcast system frequently on TV, I have a bit of remembered feelings of nuclear fear. They are here again, a niggling thought in the back of my mind. And in others’, too. Sales of bomb shelters are on the rise.

images-10Or maybe my fears are foolish and all this will result in a safer and more involved world, one that has looked into darkness and rebelled. Maybe this is the final impotent spurt of pale white men with big guts and empty souls, those worshippers of credit cards and such (read American Gods by Neil Gaiman).

The question that makes me agitated is, which will it be?

Thus the need for soothing tea. I’m not sure who to be more frightened of – DT, or the people behind him who are working double fast to remove all controls on business, or the appeaser countries, fearful of losing trade, so tossing self-respect in the wind and crawling cravenly to make peace
with a bully.

In any case, there’s little I can do about it, other than write to various representatives, protest where I can, make art, and drink my tea. And enjoy the chirping spring birds, the warmth of the sun, the icy snow, the taste of wine and cheese, the faces of my friends. We are living in blessed times in so many ways here in North America. They may be the last we have, whether through ecological change or rapid disaster.

Mind you, we’ve thought that before. Every age seems to think it is teetering on the edge of the abyss. Maybe this outing of our baser instincts, this example of how far our neglect has let us come, will cause the revolution we truly need to have happen.

Or maybe we’ll simply sink back into our couches, tired from all the protesting, and sip our milky sweet tea.

Let’s hope not. Cozy  and tummy-soothing though it is.

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Stardust

12 02 2017

There are times, frequently, when I wonder if the world really needs another book, especially one written by my clumsy creative heart. After all, there are so very many BAD books out there, killing trees by the thousands.

I really wonder about this, though, when I read something so marvellous, so heart-changing that I am left with nothing but awe. The kind of book or story that makes you weep when it is over, that makes you wish for the world it describes, that transports you so readily that you feel jarred when the day is over and you have to pull yourself out of the book and toss yourself into the comparative greyness of your dreams.

9405533_origNeil Gaiman routinely does this to me. I’ve just finished reading his lovely fantasy tale (or is it fantasy? I wonder…), Stardust. It is filled with witches and dread kings and lowly boys who dream big and fallen stars and even a unicorn. Characters can walk on clouds and even hail ships that sail on them.

And it is all utterly believable. I suspect Mr. Gaiman is a wizard ship_on_clouds_by_totialcott-d4iu6nahimself. Somehow he has seen into the world I dreamed of as a young girl and he has recreated it, filled with beautiful language and quotes from famous literature and derring do and the type of boy I’ve always looked for in my romantic heart of hearts, the boy I’d thought I’d found only to realize he was not, quite.

There are no glamorous princesses here (well, maybe one); there are dirty, muddy, and wet journeys; there is kindness and cruelty. It’s a real world, but with the magic I sometimes see the edge of in our world.

It reminded me of that magic at a time I really needed it, as we watch the world we loved dissolve in anger and frustration, peril and threat. It reminded me of the fact that we are both fact and fantasy, that by tilting our head to one side we still can see the beauty that surrounds us.

Thank you, Neil Gaiman. May you ever dwell in the joy you provide.

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

25 09 2014

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





Trust, that elusive animal, or Humber, week two

16 05 2014

It’s coming up to the point of no return. Today is the last day I can withdraw from Humber’s School for Writers with no fee penalty.

I have to admit it’s looming large in my head. Not that there’s anything wrong with the program, and I am lucky lucky to have a mentor who I love reading and who has, I believe, a similarly twisted sense of humour to mine.

But I’m afraid. I’m afraid of letting myself down, I’m afraid of failing again, I’m afraid of starting something that I might be going to fail.

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And I’m SO good at NOT writing. I find it very easy to doubt myself, my ability to stick to anything, to see a project to completion. My lifetime script has been that I am an initiator, not a finisher. But that’s not strictly true, I know, if I think back. But I still don’t trust myself. And on the other side, I hate when I don’t try something out of fear.

Not sure where my messed up self comes from, don’t have time to dig deep enough into my psyche to figure it out today, but I know it’s there, like a big rock in the middle of the stream.

It’s not just me I don’t trust. I could list the names of trustworthy types I feel I know on the fingers of both hands (on a bad day, just one). Like Nova Scotia weather, you can come to rely upon a sunny day only to find rain driving into your face. I’ve become a cynic, not totally by myself, but with some considerable help. And fog.

But, when you have trouble trusting others, and you can’t trust yourself, either, it gets pretty murky out there. I have to start somewhere.

Maybe I should take a page from Neil Gaiman, another favourite author.

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Writing emotions

20 06 2013

51wm-tvG3pL._SL500_AA300_Apparently there is an “Emotional Thesaurus” out there to help writers describe their character’s emotions.

I now quake with fear that writing shall degenerate into a series of emotions resembling those wordy yet uninformative phrases on your elementary school child’s report card: “Alice occasionally needs reminding that others are allowed to use classroom supplies”, to describe a crayon hoarding malevolent witch child who licks every Crayola while using it and then bites it into chunks and spits those chunks at unsuspecting classmates…
See, I worry.

It’s too too easy to slip into using the same phrases over and over again.

Just think of the omnipresent F word, used as a verb, a noun, and adjective, an adverb, and an expletive.

Or the charmingly odious heroine of the repellent “50 Shades of Grey” who, upon being flown to a foreign country, f-worded to an inch of her life, fed her first caviar, and being presented with her very own jet for shopping trips, responds with a sincere, “Holy Shit!”

Of course, she also uses this when a flower arrives for her, or she brushes her teeth with a new toothpaste, or perhaps discovers that computers exist.

Someone, somewhere, is feverishly underlining in yellow (or pink, always a favourite) choice words in this emotional thesaurus, priming them for use in the very next novel they write. It’s like those word a day calendars, where immediately people think they have to work words like intussusception into the most casual of conversations.

“Oh, Gladys, that stocking seems to be suffering from intussusception!”

I foresee acres of FEELINGS, per page 34.

It saddens me.

See, the writers I like to read, and aspire to write like, don’t, I think, look in a thesaurus for feelings. They sit at their keyboards and intussuscept themselves into their characters. They put themselves in their character’s situation and let the feelings wash over them.
They wallow a bit, chew over the bits that they can’t quite swallow (don’t you adore all these mixed metaphors?), gulp the tough ones back, and then (forgive me) regurgitate them onto the page.
They FEEL the feelings, even if they are damp and perhaps a bit smelly.

How else can you explain how people like Helen Humphreys or Neil Gaiman or Alice Munro or Denise Mina or countless others pull our souls along with them on their literary ride?

It’s not a recipe, folks, this writing thing. Otherwise there’d be a Kraft Dinner box with bright yellow and blue lettering with “just add some nutrition” on the back.

Nope.
I’d say it’s more like haggis.
At least, that’s how I feel.images-1








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