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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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Nonfiction as Autopsy: In Defense of Self-Interest

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Jacob Littlezz Yellowstone

I have several friends from various parts of the literary world who joke (with varying degrees of sincerity) about how nonfiction writers are “narcissists” or “navel-gazers” or even “cheaters” (announcing before you tell a story that it is true ratchets up the emotional investment and is a good way to disguise weak material or poor craft—or so a friend once told me). Aside from the numerous problems with these assertions, the charge of “self-involved” seems particularly hard to shake. How to explain a twenty-page story with oneself as the main character? Or even worse(!), a full-length book? (A beloved former poetry professor used to call them ME-moirs)

The obvious counter is to point out the hypocrisy of the assertion. What short story, novel, or poem has ever been anything other than the author exploring their own obsessions? The material may be different, but the…

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TToT: Raining Lumos and Dobby #DisabledAndCute #IAmAPreexistingCondition #10Thankful

Lord, when you send the rain

Think about it, please, a little?

Do not get carried away

by the sound of falling water,

the marvellous light

on the falling water.

I am beneath that water.

It falls with great force

and the light

Blinds

me to the light.

—James Baldwin, “Untitled”

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The magnolia blooms for a short time only. True beauty doesn’t often last. It comes and it goes.

The rain kept coming, across parts of Ontario and Quebec, for most of the week.

Raining cats and dogs: Lumos and Dobby are mine.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for delicate things in nature.

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We found this cracked robin’s egg on the driveway and I thought it a sweet discovery. My mom improves on the nature and this sign of spring.

I wondered then, where the inhabitant of the egg went. How did the egg land and not crack into even more pieces? I wondered things.

I’m thankful for leftover wine.

My sister had a wedding shower for a friend and there were leftovers. She was kind to share them with me.

I’m thankful for a writing group built around a hand sculpted wand.

One of our members of “The Elsewhere Region” brought in a birthday gift she’d received. It’s like the Harry Potter wand I bought, even the box, but made specifically for her, with love from a friend who knows her well.

The Celtic Tree Calendar

The stories we all came up with were interesting. Mine was about a teacher of the blind who started a braille club in her class and her wand accidentally fell out of her desk drawer. She almost had to reveal to all her students that she was magic, until her visually impaired student saved her.

The others used their very interesting imaginations and came up with wild tales of magic and I was once more blown away by their storytelling abilities.

I am thankful I could help spread hash tags about the disabilities many of us were, in some cases, born with.

The hash tag “I Am A Preexisting Condition” is making the rounds on Twitter since the shocking revelation that the GOP and the House voted in their horrid healthcare plan, which is making many people I know with chronic illnesses and conditions afraid for what will happen.

I felt helpless and wanted to do something. I couldn’t think of what that could be. It’s just so outlandish.

I am thankful for my nephew’s creativity, imagination, and the ideas that are all his own.

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He drew an X on a piece of paper and tacked it up on the door. We saw it there when we arrived the other day and I was smiling when I heard what it’s for.

He put it up to keep the spiders out.

NO SPIDERS

I am thankful I could give my niece her bottle and put her to sleep.

My nephew was staying with his grandparents overnight and he was a bit sad as bedtime approached. My mom comforted him and I fed Mya her bottle. That girl loves to eat.

Then she fell asleep over my shoulder.

I’m thankful for echoes of a memory with a lullaby.

My mom started to sing an old lullaby that her mother, my grandmother, used to sing. This seemed to bring back memories for me, something so vague, about my grandma singing to me.

“Go to bed my little darling. Close your big blue eyes. Soon you’ll hear the sandman calling, far beyond the skies.”

It’s funny that you can sense a memory from the past, so long gone, and even start to wonder if it really happened. I remember being sung to like that, but I don’t know when or how old I might have been. I seem to remember being held, but can any of us remember back that far into our pasts?

Well, I held Mya and the entire time I tapped that song out on her back, gently, over and over again, trying to sharpen my own memories. It didn’t work, but the song is a beautiful one.

I am thankful that France did not make the same mistake the US made.

France is a totally different country than the US of course and I knew they would make the right choice with Emmanuel Macron.

Just a few weeks ago, Canada gave a giant sigh of relief, when our own (he was being called Canada’s Donald Trump) and he was running for the Conservative Party of Canada, dropped out.

Kevin O’Leary is a businessman, like 45, known for his role in Shark Tank, but he didn’t feel quite as outrageous. Maybe that was just my wishful thinking there, but he decided on his own that he couldn’t stay in the race.

I don’t know what will happen with the EU and I hope no more terrorist attacks occur in France or anywhere else, but I am sure we aren’t done with all that, sadly.

I am thankful for the sun to make its reappearance.

Even I grew weary of all that dreary weather, day after day after day. The sun does shine again, but unfortunately, some are dealing with major damage to their homes and their lives. Rain has power to mess with us. The sun revives.

And this last photo isn’t the most pleasant sight. I begin with a beautiful flowering bush and I cap off this TToT with the scene we came across in my back yard.

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I have squirrels living in the top of my garage and this one came to a sad end, landing in a tree and hanging there until we noticed it. Poor thing.

Loss and endings. I just hope those affected by the flooding, in Quebec mostly, can salvage something of their homes.

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They Started It #Persist #SongLyricSunday

Protests are happening. The fight is on. Problem is, I am a lover and not a fighter. Doesn’t mean I don’t get angry.

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For freedom of speech and expression and the press. For science. For transparency. For women’s rights. Rights for all peoples.

People are fed up. They are angry. A healthy dose of anger can be a good thing. We must be careful, however, that things don’t get out of hand. In that case, we’d lose our right to be heard.

Sometimes it feels like protests look good, but do not change a thing in the end. Still, the anger persists.

***

*Some strong language*

If you feel so empty
So used up, so let down
If you feel so angry
So ripped off so stepped on
You’re not the only one
Refusing to back down
You’re not the only one
So get up
Let’s start a riot, a riot
Let’s start a riot
Let’s start a riot, a riot
Let’s start a riot
If you feel so filthy
So dirty so fucked up
If you feel so walked on
So painful so pissed off
You’re not the only one
Refusing to go down
You’re not the only one
So get up
Let’s start a riot, a riot
Let’s start a riot
Let’s start a riot, a riot
Let’s start a riot
If you feel so empty
So used up, so let down
If you feel so angry
Just get up
Let’s start a riot, a riot
Let’s start a riot
Let’s start a riot, a riot
Let’s start a riot

*Line repeats*

LYRICS

***

There are consequences for all of us, for our behaviours. We can’t afford to be careless.

Song Lyric Sunday

All of us have good reasons to feel the way we do in today’s world. It’s how we handle ourselves that counts.

I don’t want my anger and my frustration with the things I see going on to make me bitter or to cause me to act badly, as an excuse.

This leaves me wondering just how to proceed.

In the meantime, music helps calm the anger that often threatens to bubble up inside of me.

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Driven To It #Yoga #AtoZChallenge

It’s the thing to do these days. I avoided doing it as long as I could.

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So then why am I attempting to do it now?

The A to Z Challenge – Y is for Yoga

I need to stop reading about what’s going on in a country that is not mine. Forget all the 100 days mark stories. It’s the never-ending debate about U.S. healthcare that I get riled up about.

I don’t know why it gets to me so much. I know I would be trapped under endless debt, or worse, if I had my medical issues living there.

I keep wanting to write a piece from my Canadian citizen’s perspective, but where would that get me? Who wants to hear my furious opinions on it all anyway? I don’t have to worry, so why do I then?

Boy, this is why I need yoga.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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When The Time Is Right #AtoZChallenge

Ah, and here we are. This is precisely why I’ve refused to take part in A to Z up until now.

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I like a good challenge, same as the next guy, but this one feels ridiculous and I don’t know if I want to play anymore.

Wait! I just thought of one!

At the end of many messages I see, “XX” and I wonder why the kiss (X of X and O) is so commonly used nowadays.

I guess it’s like the “LOL” of today, so commonly used in texts because we need to show we’re laughing, even if we’re not truly laughing out loud.

I used to love playing the X’s and O’s game when I was a kid. We had a wooden game, but I never thought much about the kiss meaning of the letter.

Now a kiss isn’t the kind of thing I give freely. I could easily use the X in a written post, but I do not. I rarely kiss anyone in real life, let alone online.

When I do decide to kiss someone, I do it right. I take my kissing seriously, preferring to do it in person, as I believe there is a right time and place for everything.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Travel, Travel Tuesday, TravelWriting

The Colours of Kenya #Blindness #Travel #TravelTuesday

In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.

I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.

Then I read this.

I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.

I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.

Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.

***

The Colours of Kenya

I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!

Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.

The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.

Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.

We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.

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‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]

In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.

After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.

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‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]

The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.

The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.

I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.

Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!

The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.

I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.

***

And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.

I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.

Eyes For East Africa – Online Shop

A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.

I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.

I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings

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