Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writers Galore


       When I was a girl, yesterday, I had this tendency for great expectations. Greater, higher, loftier than humanly possible expectations about birthdays, holidays, and Sunday School picnics.
There would be magic on my birthday. Fairies must fly in, gifts wrapped in gold-leaf and music from a pan flute as I danced with the young birches over the lawn. Holidays would be perfect - restful, fun, with merry-go-rounds, endless marshmallow campfires, and family laughter.
The Sunday School picnic would be just like Anne of Green Gables, with flowers, ice cream, a best friend, and beating boys at the three-legged race. I really believed all this.

 Now, having explored my aged personality, I know all about the boring facts related to Idealism and the Limits of Reality. I've also learned small lessons regarding mosquitos, the stationary nature of trees, and long rainy road trips with young siblings. As time went on I discovered the colour leaching out of all the glorious expectations, and learned that fantasy, though fantastic, is fantasy. I looked in the Wardrobe. I felt all the way back - reached for tree branches and the shock of snow - always, always the flat wall. Not even when I closed my eyes. Perhaps my parents wondered why their clothes were often askew on the hangers, or they simply rolled their eyes at each other's apparent carelessness. They didn't remember about Wardrobes, at least not in the cold light of day.

Growing up some, I settled in, realizing that presents were simply things bought at stores and that holidays and picnics were best anticipated. New experiences, however, were still surrounded in wonder and softly falling glitter. My cynicism surely could not extend to boyfriends, first dates, new jobs, college. Alas, the glitter showed itself to be simple dust, turning slowly in the glare of street lamps. It wasn't that life was so awful, it was that the expectations were so HIGH. And so, disappointment. Disappointment multiplied can lead to a generally cynical attitude toward everything. The protective callus forms over the raw flesh, does it not?

This past weekend was an exception. I went, finally and with trepidations and anticipations, to a Christian writer's conference in Edmonton. Oh, there were the usual realizations that workshop speakers are, in fact, mere mortals. And that not everyone who is a good writer is an effective teacher. And it was crowded; we were sitting mostly in each other's laps and if you happened to leave your purse sticking out under your arm there was likely a human domino situation. Yes, we were tired and yawning, brains stuffed and overflowing.  Ah, but we were learning about writing! And there were BOOKS! Stacks, plethoras, mounds even of books, written by the mere mortals that paced the conference halls and rode in elevators with me, ME, of all people! And there was food! And the food was good! And free coffee!

Picture the crowning moment. I'm alone, sprawled over one of two queen beds in a clean white hotel room, surrounded by pens and notebooks and new books, pillows behind me, reading and writing and revelling. I was just inspired by a day of listening to seasoned writers pour out their hearts. I've been encouraged and cheered on by spiritual advisors I respect and admire. Of course, they don't actually know if I can write a note on a napkin, but I know I can.
Alas and alack, it was glorious. Expectations firmly grounded in reality, this time, anticipation was free to soar. I soaked it all in like a kid on the last sunny day at the beach. I listened, talked to interesting people from all over Canada, I took notes, I laughed. I may have insulted a Rider's fan from Saskatchewan. I had breakfast with a perfect stranger. I re-warmed ideas that had been left to congeal far too long on the back burner.
Life at the moment is hectic and I may never have that perfect time to write. I may never be published, and honestly that is alright. I have been to the top of the lookout and I saw the ships in the harbour, white sails unfurled.

As I walked away from the hotel, across the parking lot to my car and thence home, I didn't have to turn around to know there was glitter, real and sparkling, in the air.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

It Was the Best of Times...

"...It was the worst of times."  A Tale of Two Cities. And the only line I (or anyone else for that matter) can recall - that first, great, quotable line before the entire class of high school English students nods off.
But it does sum things up.
It's been a great time, moving. Exciting, inspiring, fresh, mind-boggling by turns.
It's been a horrid time, moving. Exhausting, lonely, sad, and overwhelming by turns.

Due to sparking synapses I've been simply jotting down thoughts as they drift by these last weeks. Like catching butterflies. Snagged, netted, and pinned on a board. None too pretty, but necessary for cataloguing.

Living in Town
This is so odd. I can see my neighbours out on their driveways, doing Saturday things. They are so close. I could holler a greeting, but some instinct warns me this is not how Town operates. I lower my head and pull a few weeds from the lawn edges. I am thoughtful. Everyone is working hard to keep their spot looking nice. Earlier this summer I was cutting a lawn that would encompass at least 6 or 7 of these neighbouring yards. I mowed around 20 plus lilac trees, 12 ash trees, and large evergreens, two mayday trees, two apple trees, and a small cherry.  And playground equipment. Do I miss it? Who wouldn't? 

 I miss the freedom. I used to sing the same songs over and over at the top of my lungs and laugh out loud about funny stuff going through my brain, pausing to yell at the dog or the kids to pick up odd hidden things I was about to run over.
Cinder would obediently pick up sticks in front of the ride-on to my cry of, "Cinder! Stick! Stick!!!" and then drop them back in front of me the next round. She acted the innocent but I'm quite sure she thought it was hilarious.

"What? (bark) Oh, you didn't want that there? (bark) I thought...(bark) never mind, I'll get it, ha (bark) ha!"

 There are no enormous ant hills to run over and then watch the ants go crazy. Yes, there are these things that I miss. And I realize, turning my back on the neighbours and trudging back into my new digs, that I can't shout across the street because it all only makes sense if we continue the illusion of our own spaces. There are no convenient (inconvenient?) barbed wire fences marking the property lines. Reminds me of Robert Frost's Mending Wall. "He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'".

Joy of Unpacking

      It's the oddest feeling, unpacking boxes in the new place. You remember just what you were feeling and thinking, the slant of sun through the window, maybe some music that was on, while you packed that same box in the old place. Unwrapping the plates from their newspaper, you feel yourself in the old kitchen. You can smell the cupboards, see the paint on the walls. In some ways it's lovely unpacking. All the bits of home wafting out, like leftover ribbons from last year's party. 

Sermon Notes

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."  Jonah 2:8

I read this in church, during the sermon (that actually was on the book of Jonah, though I admit to reading randomly during sermons at times when I simply can't focus anymore, after about 10 minutes ...) I love this verse. I cling to worthless things. Idols, like iPhones and my best furniture and the length of my resume. "Forfeit" is a word that coaches use when the other team doesn't show up. They forfeit the game - they could have played, they could have won perhaps, but now they'll never know. When I cling to my idols I am too busy with them to show up to the game. The incredible grace that was for me, that I could have called mine is no longer there, not because God doesn't have rich stores of grace, not because he's given up on me, but because I was busy holding on to my worthless idols and I didn't even get to the game.

Jobless in Three Hills
 "I am the only member of the family who doesn't have a day plan, who doesn't know what she's supposed to be doing. I'm cooking, cleaning, organizing, shopping, paying bills and setting things up for school etc, so my days are busy. Unfocused though. It's rather unsettling, because how am I supposed to get a job and still keep everything running ...seems like it would be the monkey wrench thrown in the clock...nothing but springs and screws flying everywhere and not a clue as to time! Still, a job must be had. I suppose writing poetry all day, sighing blissfully and chugging mugs of coffee won't pay the bills. If only."

Spiritually Speaking

          The thing about packing up your family and going off to Bible college is that people expect you to have a higher sort of spirituality. I've had acquaintances approach me on the street asking if I could bless their baby, or pray for their cat to live through it's vet checkup. (No, I haven't had this. But I did walk down the street in some trepidation for awhile after letting people know of our decision. See, now I can't even lie.)

         It's true, the plans to go to Bible college have been the result of much prayer. We believe in God, we have seen his hand in our lives, and we have come to this point because of a strong desire to make our lives count for God's purposes in the world. He is leading and we are following. It's not crystal clear and at times we can't see the next stone to step on, or we lose each other in the mist. But still we know the path is there.

       So in this sense we need to be close to God, and stay close. We need help and direction and strength - all these God has in abundance. I know it is sink or swim time, rubber-meets-the-road time, and I can't do this on my own. That's the whole point really!
I couldn't do it on my own before either, but now there is no pretending I am.
And I'm glad of this

      On the other hand, I'm still the same quirky, faulty person, who swears a little too much and who wakes up in cold sweats imagining what my kids will be saying to their psychologists in years to come. I am not any more spiritual than I was before. However, I'm hoping I will be more faithful, more real, more sold out than ever before. And that my life and words and blog ramblings will reflect that. 

There is no faking it with God. I'm not going to pretend I have it all figured out, and I'm not going to pretend I'm not growing in my walk with Him.  It's tougher to mime walking on water when you're actually out of the boat.

*      *      *

There is more.
Other flighty thoughts I have netted include:
New Friends, The Noisy Disappointing Dryer, Fear of Shopping, and My-Husband-Is-Often-Home-What-On-Earth!!
These and other stories we can discuss over coffee if the mood strikes.

Thanks for reading and listening to my thoughts. If you want me I will probably be at the Macs down the block, getting brain freeze from a Slurpee. Feel free to holler; it makes me feel right at home.