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Making Room for Both the Reflective and the Narrative Essay

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz lynette bentonBy Lynette Benton

I often get excited about a call for submissions, especially if I have an essay in my files waiting, I feel, for just that opportunity—until I notice that only narrative personal essays will be accepted. It seems an increasing number of the personal essays published lately are narrative in form; some publications actually specify personal narratives, rather than simply personal essays.

What are we talking about when we describe a personal essay as narrative? It’s a first person essay that’s also a true story. Like a fictional story, a narrative personal essay can “recount a string of events,” as essayist and editor Joseph Epstein writes in his Forward to The Best American Essays2014. As in a fictional story, a narrative personal essay includes an inciting incident (or catalyst), conflict, obstacles placed in the path of the main character (or, in the case of a…

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TToT: Managing The Mischief of Life – Zipping Along #WildPlayNiagara #HarryPotter20 #10Thankful

It’s over and done with. As the month of June comes to a close, so does my month long celebration of twenty years since my kidney transplant.

It’s like I’ve reached some invisible, yet important marker: Now what?

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Why not a photo of what is wild and free? (Wild Horses) This makes me think of the expression: “Wild horses could not drag me away from you.” Wow. Just Wow is all I have to say.

Well, there is another event that would shape my life going forward, that took place in 1997, though I had no idea of it occurring.

Read ahead for more on the 20th anniversary of magic as I now know it.

Before I continue, I am including this ink here, rather than trying to add two posts to the linkup.

A Bold Sea of Red – Hiraeth

Check it out if you want to see a few more photos. I had trouble posting because of a few of them causing trouble. The program wouldn’t accept them and I missed the TToT deadline for last week.

I thought about making this a entirely HarryPotter20 thankful post, but I have so many more things to be thankful for this week.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for summer solstice.

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I got to be in the Yukon just before summer was quite official and it opened my eyes to the differences of the latitude I may be at, all in my own country, and how the sun affects us all.

I’m thankful for a most unexpected gift of a writing deadline extension.

I am writing a short story, one I want to hopefully help move forward our ideas of diverse characters and stories.

Then things got away from me in this chaotic month and the deadline for this was coming up fast.

Suddenly, as I was about to give up because my story wasn’t complete in time, I read about an extension the contest decided on.

I now have until the end of the week and the pressure is mounting once again. I know I can meet that challenge, thanks to something I know I won’t always be able to count on magically appearing when I’m feeling I won’t make the deadline set.

I am thankful for Niagara Falls.

I may have included this before, but once again it surprises and delights me.

I got to experience it from a entirely new vantage point, going along it on a zip line.

It constantly takes my breath away.

I’m thankful for my brother who captures everything I now miss, with his love for photos, that makes me want to cry every time I think about it.

Don’t misunderstand. I am grateful for him, but I feel everything I can not see is the beauty he expertly and lovingly captures with his camera.

I do appreciate the attention he put into documenting our zip lining day in pictures. He will work on them, to make them the best they can be in his eyes, and I will write about what June 24th, 2017 meant to me, as soon as I get through a few other pressing deadlines in these next few weeks.

I am thankful for everyone who took the time out to come with me, to help me celebrate.

They overcame any reservations they may have had and they went zipping down that wire with me.

They even put up with a sudden downpour/hailstorm with me on our way back.

I am thankful said weather event decided to make an appearance right after we completed our mission.

We were all separated, into groups from our bigger group of fifteen, kids in strollers included.

Some of us took shelter inside arcades and some were caught out in it. I was under an awning, with my father and brother-in-law and the two kids, and we just barely stayed dry, but were already soaked anyway.

Dark clouds are a part of life. If you’ve never been soaked and caught in a rainstorm, you’ve not experienced the magic of nature in its entirety.

I am thankful for my mother and my niece and nephew’s other grandma for staying down on the ground to watch the kids.

I know they had their hands full, more than one bathroom visit included.

I am thankful for the last twenty years.

In that time: I got my kidney and Harry Potter was written.

What more than that could I want/need?

I am thankful for what Harry Potter has brought into my life.

20 years later, Harry Potter’s power is still strong (Toronto Star)

It all comes down to the magic. I can venture through adulthood without sacrificing my childlike view of the world, the one I wish was and work for.

J.K. Rowling has had amazing success with the books ever since. That must be a difficult load to carry, the pressure that goes along with success like Harry Potter has brought. On the other hand, it has brought her many great things as a result.

https://wearelumos.org

I sometimes want to keep Harry Potter to myself and then I want to hear how it has touched other reader’s lives like it has mine.

We can share in it. Magic is ageless and timeless and this story gives me hope and brings me a kind of faith, I suppose as a religion in a way. This may sound strange to those who never did read Harry Potter, but it feels as real as anything, though it stands as the most successful of fictional worlds.

I realize it means considerably less to some and to some nothing at all, only a book, not representing everyone. I am glad books are constantly being written that could bring people the kind of joy this one has brought me.

Thankful to my friend Kerra for directing me
here
as I explore diversity in my own and other stories.

Something Just Like This

Now,onto big decisions for my future. There was a discussion about making some changes. I want to share photos here, for my sighted viewers, but recently was having some trouble with that. Also, it was discussed whether me publishing my pictures here makes them property of WP and if I should move all my writing to a site all my own. I am thankful I have a friend who knows what he’s talking about, even a bit, when it comes to all that.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

—Albus Dumbledore, “Harry Potter)

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Weather Report #WildPlayNiagara #SoCS

I’ve been checking the weather reports for more than a week, though I know their accuracy is low, the earlier you look. It rained a lot lately. It rained all morning yesterday. I read tomorrow is a chance of rain, but today looks clear. What chance, percentage I mean, is the question that must be asked. I don’t know what would happen if it rained when we showed up to go zip lining, but doing that in a light sprinkling might not be too bad.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS

I won’t think about all the things that boggle my mind as I zip down that line later. I won’t think about how long 45 could possibly reign over the U.S. After all, he thinks he’s king of the land, thus the word “reign” is appropriate.

I will take each rein, the handles, or whatever those things on the zip line are called, and I will just go.

Niagara Falls never looked so beautiful.

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TToT: A Bold Sea of Red – Hiraeth, #10Thankful

The Yukon is still very much on my mind.

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I sit in the bright pink alpine flower, fireweed. My mom didn’t tell me about all the bees until after this photo was taken.

I didn’t go for any gold.

The memories are worth their weight in it though.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for the local bookstores of far away places.

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I wanted to search for a local bookstore on the trip. This one is named after the flowers I’m sitting with in the first photo of this post.

I bought a book to remember the trip.

Robert W. Service

Robert was not born in Canada, but he came to the Yukon and came to love it, writing wonderful poetry about the place. He is well known and thought of all around that area of north west Canada.

I’m thankful for outstandingly good food and restaurant discoveries in a city on my travels.

Doesn’t eating at a restaurant with burnt toast in the name sound appetizing?

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Well, it was; so much so that I desperately wanted to bring it back with me to Ontario. I am not normally what is called a “foody” when traveling, preferring to focus on travel for the history or the culture, but I am prepared to make a change in cases such as this one was.

This place has the best salmon I’ve ever tasted, and I didn’t even think I liked salmon all that much, if at all.

I’m thankful for wild animals.

The Yukon has more animals than people, including wild horses.

I’m thankful I got to see my brother graduate.

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He received flowers, not from us (his own family), but from a mysterious source.

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So proud. His accidental fall almost put a halt to all his hard work, but he used school as therapy and he fought back to finish.

I’m thankful I could have a lovely morning with my neighbour on my deck.

It was so hot that morning, even before noon, and the best chunk of shade was on my deck. Hers was too much in the sun.

I told my neighbour about my trip and gave her the little jar of fire weed jelly to thank her for keeping an eye on things here while I was gone.

I’m thankful peas are back.

I miss fresh peas all the rest of the year. I hope to enjoy them for a few more weeks yet. A good lesson for how to enjoy something when it comes along, as it won’t last, but it very well will return again.

I’m thankful for my father on Father’s Day and every day.

Hiraeth

I’m thankful to have my sister to make things clearer.

She is good with certain things that I am not. She is a lot more grown, in many ways, in just two years.

I’m thankful the weather is cooling off the last few days.

No air conditioning needed. I will take the comfort. It’s no Yukon, as we have the humidity they do not, but I enjoy it while I can get it.

Pace yourself Ontario weather. Summer’s only just beginning.

I’m thankful for a day to learn more about my niece and nephew.

My mom and I went to the playground with my niece. My niece wanted to take my dog for a walk on the leash. Soon she had a group of girls following her all around. She is a natural leader, but I hope that doesn’t make growing up hard on her. Girls can be mean and girlhood can be rough sometimes.

For now she is like any other six-year-old who fights with their little brother and she is a strong force of nature, even at this young age.

My nephew starts school this fall and loves dinosaurs, just like his cousin does. It’s often a boy thing, in our family’s case a favourite of both boys.

Dedicated to my favourite little dinosaur.

The Yukon and specifically Whitehorse has some pretty cheeky signs. This one made me think of my nieces and nephews and it made me smile.

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Oh, yeah. I must end with this.

RIP Adam #guest appearance on The Simpsons)

On to my next adventure, coming up fast.

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MBARI’s new ear on the sounds of the ocean

A job working listening to marine animal sounds would have been cool. There’s nothing else quite like it.

Conservation & Science

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have learned a lot about Monterey Bay using robotic submersibles to look deep below the bay’s surface. Now they can listen to the bay as well, using an ultra-sensitive underwater microphone. Sounds recorded by this hydrophone have already provided surprising information, including evidence that beaked whales, though rarely seen, are common in the outer bay.

MBARI placed a deep-sea hydrophone on the seafloor using a remotely operated vehicle. The green cable carries power to the hydrophone and data back to shore. Photo courtesy MBARI MBARI placed a deep-sea hydrophone on the seafloor using a remotely operated vehicle. The green cable carries power to the hydrophone and data back to shore. Photo courtesy MBARI

In July 2015, MBARI researchers installed a broadband hydrophone on Smooth Ridge, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from shore and 900 meters (3,000 feet) below the sea surface. Since that time, signals from the hydrophone have been relayed back to shore in real time, 24 hours a day, using MBARI’s cabled ocean observatory, the Monterey Accelerated Research…

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TToT: Short and Sweet, Here and Gone #10Thankful

I never get these in on Friday. Never. Despite my best intentions, it just never happens, until now that is.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful I can go for ice cream with my family.

We have a favourite place here and I thought about what it means to be able to enjoy such a simple pleasure and summer pastime, without fearing for our lives.

In Kabul this week that was not the case. How could someone plant a bomb at such a place, where families with their children gathered? How?

I’m thankful for a new friend who has a big heart and loves to help other writers, specifically women, to work to be our true selves.

Rebirth the Heroine

I recently liked the quote about being the heroine of my own story and this fits perfectly with the message in this video. I could use her peaceful voice and reassurances right now, in the midst of what is a pretty important month for me. (More on that next week.)

I am thankful the zip lining adventure has been officially booked.

We are ten or more. That means we get the discount. Wooooo! Five dollars off each ticket is five dollars. Better than nothing.

I just need to find out if they will allow my brother to photograph anything close to where the zip lining is. I hope to write a piece and use his photos in the newsletter for The Kidney Foundation of Canada. They may want you to buy their pricy souvenir photos though. I can do that too.

Maybe if I tell WildPlay Niagara I am a writer and doing a piece to be published and my brother is a professional photographer.

Cross your fingers.

I’m thankful for a doctor who has a family member with headaches.

Well, allow me to rephrase…I am not glad about the headache thing.

I mean that she seems to understand pain, as she lives with and loves someone who deals with it. This may be why she is as compassionate and empathetic as she is.

She is trying me on a new med because this one hasn’t helped one bit. I have high hopes for the next one.

I’m thankful for an invite to a lovely dinner as a guest of
The Writers’ Union of Canada
by the local members.

I was the youngest one there, but that’s okay. They were all so friendly and I feel I could learn a lot from them.

I probably can’t go back, as the rules are pretty strict and you must be a member, but I am not sure I qualify yet.

Either way, I was happy to be a guest that one time and I had some great conversations, ate some delicious food, and maybe I even made a few future connections. We’ll see.

I’m thankful for a friend who is speaking her mind for the causes important to her and which deserve more attention.

Sweatpants & Equality – Activism Is A Movement & A Practice — Not A Moment By Kerra Bolton

Feeling helpless gets old real fast. Some people find a way to act. Kerra is one of those people. She is strong and determined and I am happy we met. I look forward to reading her words in Sweatpants & Coffee in the future. Give this one a read though.

I am thankful Canada is vowing to move ahead with our promise devoted to the environment.

I don’t understand people and I will never understand 45 and the things he does. I don’t know when enough will be enough.

I don’t pretend to understand everything about the goals set out in the Accord, but I trust in what it stands for and am honoured to be one of almost all countries of the world working to protect the planet together.

I am thankful for another chat with my neighbour.

We could sit on her deck this time.

I love her vow to find peace in her life. She did something about her unhappiness and made a change. I admire her for that. I am glad she did and we can be neighbours.

She even said she will let my dog be leashed and hang out on her deck this summer. Whenever I go away I have to lock him in my entranceway and he barks a lot. She will have a key and can bring him out with her those days, so he won’t have to be alone and she won’t have to listen to him making all that racket.

I am thankful I am off to somewhere I’ve never been.

That is why I am getting this post in early. I will be back in a week’s time and I will have a TToT post in me, all about my trip to share.

I am thankful for some time with my nephew and niece.

With the brutal attacks, more this week, bombings in Baghdad and Kabul, I was feeling anxious and sad.

I sat with my almost five-year-old nephew, in the back of their new van like we used to do as kids in ours, with the hatch wide open to the driveway, where my dad (Grandpa) swept. Reed and I talked about colours, he got a juice box for both of us, and I relaxed for the first time in days.

Then I had a peaceful moment with Mya in my lap, as she stopped crying for her mom for a minute as I called to find out if she was coming to pick her up soon. She stopped crying, suddenly, and we just sat there together.

I kept thinking about Louis Armstrong and his famous song:

What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

“I hear babies cry. I watch them grow. They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

—Louis Armstrong

I am now off to experience that world, the part that makes it as wonderful as Armstrong sings about that is.

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Of Writing, Biscuits, and Gratitude

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Lynn G. Carlson

The resident dog at my vet’s office is named Beulah and she is clearly senile. Her black-lab muzzle is grizzled and her eyes are opaque gray.

She stands in the center of the waiting area on unsteady legs and makes eye contact with me, then moves her eyes to a blue ceramic jar on the counter marked Biscuits. Then she looks back at me.

When I look over at the jar, and back at Beulah, it sets her tail to wagging so hard she almost falls over.

Beulah looks at the jar, then at me. Over and over. Nothing breaks the trajectory of her gaze, not even when a german shepherd happens by on his way to the examining room and jams his nose into Beulah’s butt. A tabby-cat yowl coming from a crate not five inches away from her doesn’t even seem to register.

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