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TToT: Just Passing Through – Relative Pitch, #FirstDayOfSpring #10Thankful

Spring has sprung!

What’s up everyone?

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for a spot on my local television channel.

What’s Up Oxford – Rogers TV

I’m still nervous to be on camera, saying “um” a lot, but I was happy overall.

I’m thankful my local newspaper gave my story a chance.

Woodstock resident hopes to help blind people enjoy the movies with better descriptive audio – Woodstock Sentinel Review

I made the front page. The Ontario premier was on the second page.

It’s frustrating that my own local theatre didn’t even respond to interview requests, either because they were busy or avoiding the whole thing, but I don’t intend to let them stay silent on this issue for much longer.

I’m thankful for a few recent opportunities from my irregular appearances on Twitter.

I hesitate to get into these really, yet, and what they actually are or might become, but I am feeling pretty good about it. At least, with this whole recent set of realities about the risks of Facebook, at least Twitter is a totally risk free platform, right?

Yeah, right. Sure. Still, I know the risks and they must be weighed rationally.

I’m thankful for modern medicine here in Canada.

I take all the modern hospital facilities and equipment for granted, as I’ve always had it available to me. Here in a country such as Canada we have so much. In 2018 I have no reason to believe my loved one won’t be safe and taken care of.

I’m thankful for universal healthcare…not free like some people like to say/think it is.

Like the great and powerful gun debate, the one over what universal healthcare system Canada has vs what the US has and how both countries compare to many others, this rages on and on and on.

Nothing’s perfect. Certainly Canada is not. Yet, I am glad I was born here and have no tough insurance choices to make, no mega medical bills or debts hanging over my head and neither do my loved ones.

I’m thankful my brother is doing better, that it wasn’t something more serious.

He had stomach pains, but it wasn’t on the side where his five-year-old transplanted kidney sits. That brought me relief when I heard, even though I wanted someone to find out why he was having pain otherwise.

They thought it was his appendix, but no sign that that is the case. Frustrating, the mystery of the whole thing. For now, he’s doing better, and I hope it will stay that way.

I’m thankful for a gathering of strong voices.

I do worry for all the pressure put on those who are still young, fighting and speaking for safety and an end to gun violence, but they are strong in spite of it all. I hope they can survive it, but I am glad the adults aren’t silencing the younger generation.

I’m thankful for an Easter egg hunt, with the kids, in the yard.

The sun was out, but it was still a bitterly cold wind blowing as they searched. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to bother them much.

I’m thankful for spring.

Even though I don’t agree with most about how horrid winter can be, I do admit when it’s a lovely feeling to sense the start of a new season in the air.

I love the birds and even the rain.

ZhZaTKE.jpg

Speaking of Easter and spring…this one plastic egg got discovered by a wild creature, instead of a child; child proof and critter proof too.

I’m thankful for nature. (More to come on that as April draws nearer.)

What animal, would you guess, tried to make its way in for what treats were hiding inside?

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Humbug: Review of “The Man Who Invented Christmas” #Humbug #AChristmasCarol #Review #SoCS

A little
yuletide and humbug for you
on Christmas Eve Eve, or however one might say that.

And now, here we are, and you’ll forgive me if it’s now officially Christmas Eve. I am about to watch A Christmas Carol with my father, a Christmas Eve tradition.

Please enjoy this brief summary/review of the tale of the man who came up with the story in the first place.

Light in places, nearing the absurd, but it took me back to the times, those days.

The year was 1843 and Charles Dickens was under pressure to come up with his next big hit. He’d toured the United States of America and the crowds there loved him, but Christmas was coming and he wanted a seasonal story for the ages.

He swore he could come up with one in a matter of months/weeks.

His home was filled with beautiful new things, purchased from his previous book’s success, and a family full of life. The more he pressed himself to come up with a Christmas tale, the more consumed by it he became.

His household employed a young Irish woman who loved to tell the children old Irish ghost stories. What a thing to share at Christmas I say.

Ghosts at Christmas…well I never!

Charles overheard her telling on of these tales and ran with it and a story of an old miser being visited by three spirits came to life in his head and soon onto the page.

Literally, it came to life, as soon I was confused, as a viewer without sight or an audio track to explain.

Scrooge was there and Dickens was talking out loud. Soon, his room was spread out with papers and his characters, talking to him.

Tiny Tim was apparently inspired by a real life nephew who was ill and whose progress was uncertain when the family came to visit the Dickens’ home.

How did A Christmas Carol come to be? – BBC

Charles deals with a father who was the root of many of his son’s issues, growing up poor and with debts owed. Charles fears the fame drying up and his own future debt, making his own family suffer the way he did as a boy.

His memories of going to a poorhouse and having to work in a factory, being teased by other boys, and all this with deadlines for what was shaping up to become A Christmas Carol.

So, we all know the book does get written, obviously. No mystery there. He did it when he was younger than I am now. Times were different then, or not so much as we’d think. This story still applies.

I only read it (the novel that is), for the first time, a few years ago. To me, the title of this film is apt, as Charles Dickens, in many ways, was the inventor of Christmas, to me, a lot more recent than two thousand years.

My father has been watching that old version of the classic story, the film, since my childhood. When once I couldn’t quite grasp the whole story, finding it boring in parts, I now treasure it for its lessons on compassion and humanity.

I can think of a few souls, in need of a lesson on mistakes of the past that cannot be undone, realities of the present in other places and in the lives of other people, and the chances still available in the future to make things better.

This film told a behind-the-scenes story that made for a pleasant and sometimes gritty glimpse into poverty and one’s life work, in this case being writing. Such a career and success can dry up as fast as from whence it came.

I am inspired, as a writer myself, by a story created, as Charles did, in those stories that span the test of time, from England to North America and around the world.

I’d add this one to any list of movies to view around the Christmas season, for sure.

Humbug and Scrooge to view, for you.

“And God bless us, everyone!”

The Real Reason Charles Dickens Wrote A Christmas Carol – Time

I once mistook the author’s main character for the author himself. Charles Dickens was no humbug!

You’ll forgive me, Mr. Dickens sir, won’t you?

Yule tidings to you all.

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TToT: Memory Use and the Overall System Footprint – Call and Response, #InternationalDayOfPeace #Graceland #10Thankful

It was a slow day And the sun was beating On the soldiers by the side of the road There was a bright light A shattering of shop windows The bomb in the baby carriage Was wired to the radio

These are the days of miracle and wonder This is the long distance call The way the camera follows us in slo-mo The way we look to us all

The way we look to a distant constellation That’s dying in a corner of the sky These are the days of miracle and wonder And don’t cry baby, don’t cry Don’t cry

It was a dry wind And it swept across the desert And it curled into the circle of birth And the dead sand Falling on the children The mothers and the fathers And the automatic earth

“The Boy in the Bubble” discusses starvation and terrorism, but mixes this with wit and optimism. Simon concurred with this assessment: “Hope and dread – that’s right. That’s the way I see the world, a balance between the two, but coming down on the side of hope.”

Hope and dread. Hope and dread. Hope and dread. These things run through my head…my head…my head.

My nephew is learning so many new things at school, even already after his first few weeks.

How do I know this?

The other night at dinner he started asking about carrots and how they grow, in the earth, from seeds. Such a basic concept of a lovely natural process.

Seeds planted. Something growing, sprouting up, from once there was only dirt under foot.

I am thankful for all the time I got to spend with my aunt.

Her life is a mystery to me. I get stuck on trying to imagine it. I only knew her for the last few decades of her life.

She was my father’s half sister. She was born in Europe during World War II. She came here to Canada, all by herself. I will forever wonder about all that.

The last time I saw her, as herself, she had made the trip to her mother’s funeral. We didn’t think she would come, for several reasons, but she came and I was nervous to give my tribute to my oma, whose relationship with her daughter was different from ours.

I hugged my aunt, after a day at the graveside, and an evening reminiscing about the life Oma lived, all of us sitting on the deck, around a table. I hugged her and left.

The next time she would have faced tumour treatments, her brain badly effected. She clung to me, our last real moment of contact, and one more familial thread is lost..

Without my parents making a decision to introduce us, I would never have known her mighty spirit.

I am thankful for the light chatter of young voices on a hard day of reality confronted.

On the night we received the news, I heard a one-year-old playing lovingly with her doll (all thanks to WhatsApp) and I interrupted a family in the middle of their beloved spaghetti dinner.

I needed to hear these little people, to remember that there are beginnings as well as those endings we wish would never come.

Na na na na na na na na Max Man!

🙂

Thanks to speaker phone, we discussed colours, what we want to be when we grow up, and what our favourite foods are.

I sat back, listening to my niece describe all manner of shades of many many colours. I needed that just then.

I am thankful for a world attempting to live more peacefully.

Justin Trudeau spoke about what “Canada has gotten right, not perfect.” That we believe diversity brings us strength to fight hatred and violence.

With all the meetings of UN in New York through the week, I listened to several speeches, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau in particular. All still so complicated. Peace exists in pockets. I just happen to live in one of those at the moment. No guarantee it will always be that way.

I am thankful for another educational Ken Burns PBS documentary.

I was unaware of the story of this couple.

I am thankful for a room full of writers

I had a question about writing, about the writing journey we’re all on, and I thought who better to bring it to than that select group of people. They are just learning as they go along, just like me, and I wanted their take on a particular situation I’ve gotten myself into.

Their input did not totally squelch my concerns, but we did have a lively discussion about writing contests and when a scam is a scam. I did not want to bring down the other writer in the group to have received good news like myself. He may choose to go a different way with it, but I am still undecided. We all want our writing to have a chance out there in the wider world.

I am thankful for light in the depths.

Edith Widder: the weird, wonderful world of bioluminescence – TED

This sort of thing is not visible to me anymore as such, but just hearing this scientist’s enthusiasm made me believe in the hope of all that magic to be found, especially in the ocean.

I am thankful for the perfect autumn weather.

Thursday was nearly thirty degrees. It was humid but yet there was a coolish breeze, enough to make a meal out on a patio still rather lovely. Yep, there was at least one bee this time, but not on me. Not that I knew of anyway.

I wasn’t having a great week. I was feeling unwell and having more computer troubles. I wanted the first day of fall to feel like fall.

By Friday the temperature had dropped ten degrees or more. I was in Heaven. Fall had arrived.

I am thankful for speedy and readily available medical care for myself and for those I love.

I felt lousy, but I needed blood taken and tested. I got it. Results available online now and oh how far we’ve come, to be able to check our own blood levels, without having to ask any doctor.

Then my family needs treatment for chronic medical conditions, tests run to check out symptoms, diabetes, and diet changes are called for. Hopefully those I love can remain healthy and live for a long time still.

I am thankful for a lovely day on the go.

It began at a secondhand store. Not exactly my kind of place, as I have a strange aversion to old, used things. I am also drawn to their stories. My sister was shopping for maternity clothes, not as easy as it sounds.

We kept my nephew occupied in the halloween decorations section, specifically interested in a doorbell with an eye that opened and and a voice that cackled.

We had lunch at a “pizza store” as my four-year-old nephew refers to it. All you can eat, but still we ate thin crust pizza, to stick, as close as we possibly can, to our diets and health restrictions.

Then I had my violin lesson. Brahms’ lullaby, played for me on piano and violin, so hopefully I can master the entire song by next March.

I went, with my brother and a few people, to attend a bit of speaking about video game production and radio.

A Journal Of Musical Things

This guy, the one with the website, he has been on a Toronto radio station for years. My brother listened to his radio programs. We heard he was visiting and we decided to go and listen to what he had to say.

Finally, we walked downtown, a Beatles festival happening, and capped off the day with a relaxing glass of wine and delicious dessert on a patio and then a cup of coffee, latte, before I felt a sore throat coming on dampen my mood. Nothing could truly dampen my first Saturday of fall.

I am thankful for an album, which becomes an experience in itself.

This album was brought back to my attention, but this week it has great value, in its overall feeling of hope and peace.

It is a magical record, full of the voice of Paul Simon, but yet with a distinctly African tone. Anyone who has never heard it has been missing out.

These days albums in their entirety are all but extinct. Songs that stand alone are what gets the public’s attention. This album, named for a tourist attraction, a musical and cultural icon of a place, a spiritual experience for some, that is what this album is for me.

It’s a collection of songs, taking me on travels, experiences of sorts, to a place called Africa, where my young self couldn’t imagine. This album was playing in our house, thanks to my father, and this can clearly be heard on an old home movie when I was three.

There was the almost mystical affection and strange familiarity I felt when I first heard South African music. Later, there was the visceral thrill of collaborating with South African musicians onstage. Add to this potent mix the new friendships I made with my band mates, and the experience becomes one of the most vital in my life. block quote level 1block quote level 1

Graceland – Album By Paul Simon (1986)

I did not want to visit Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, so much as I wanted to learn about South Africa, about the troubles and the ruining of lives Apartheid caused, when I was too young to realize, when the concept of black and white wasn’t something I thought anything about. Now I think about it often. No superiority. No ranking of human life.

What was unusual about Graceland is that it was on the surface apolitical, but what it represented was the essence of the antiapartheid in that it was a collaboration between blacks and whites to make music that people everywhere enjoyed. It was completely the opposite from what the apartheid regime said, which is that one group of people were inferior. Here, there were no inferiors or superiors, just an acknowledgement of everybody’s work as a musician. It was a powerful statement. block quote level 1block quote level 1

Graceland transcended racial and cultural barriers. ” Graceland was never just a collection of songs, after all; it was a bridge between cultures, genres and continents, not to mention a global launching pad for the musicians whose popularity been suppressed under South Africa’s white-run apartheid rule,” said Andrew Leahey of
American Song Writer.

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TToT: Once, Twice In A Blue Lobster – Long Tones, #10Thankful #BlindNewWorld

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten …”

—James Russell Lowell

Welcome June!

Paperback Writer – The Beatles

The above song, by the Beatles, turns fifty years old. I loved it because it reminds me of my dad, and his love for that band which goes way back, but also because it is about a paperback writer, something I wanted desperately to be, myself.

So guess what was discovered off the coast of Canada last month?

Two Blue Lobsters Found In Canada

Something so rare and beautiful; sometimes, the rarest of the rare ends up being most precious of all.

Some things aren’t meant to be, no matter how much we wish they were. That is a hard reality to face. One of those weeks, with some stress and anxiety, many ups and downs, but I am thankful overall.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

For lobsters of all colours.

One in two million. What are the chances?

Yay Canada!

I love colour, the colour blue. I love lobsters. This story made my day, my week, and more.

If these odds can be beaten, anything could happen.

😉

For the help that came from far away.

South African firefighters dance as they arrive in Canada to help battle wildfires

This happened across the country from me. I didn’t experience these horrible wildfires up close. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for the residents of Alberta who did experience the wrath of nature.

This story about the firefighters from South Africa who came to offer their assistance to the people of Fort McMurray made my day, when so much injustice and anger exists, but then these guys came all this way, to do what they could to help.

For a dramatic return to my writing group this week.

Okay, so we usually talk a little, casually, before we get down to the actual writing. This time, things got a tad intense for my liking, but it got me thinking.

It started with nobody remembering to bring in a mystery object for us to base our stories around. I just happened to have my keys and the beaded, handmade pink cross from my grandma. I keep it because it reminds me of her, helps me feel close to her, but on this occasion it seemed to spark a whole religious thing that I never would have expected.

The one member of the group spoke up and held up his new found religion, his bible. This launched us into a discussion where he swore the earth is flat.

By the time the debate had gone on and I should have just got the ball rolling for the purpose of us all being there, meaning I should have just started to write, but I broke down and had to challenge some of his statements.

“So, can you heal me? Can you cure my blindness?” I asked. This may have been a mistake.

I have a lot of feelings on this, possibly better suited for a story because I don’t begrudge anybody their beliefs or the faith they’ve found. I just can’t spend my life hoping to be cured.

It got my brain working, anyway. Thankful I can think these matters over in my own head, as well as discussing them with people I’ve grown to love spending two evenings a month with.

For progress seen by my violin teacher, if not entirely noticeable by me.

There is this thing called long tones. I am loving all this violin lingo.

Doesn’t “long tones” sound so smooth and lovely?

🙂

Well, it’s like practicing scales. You just go from one string, back and forth with the bow, and then onto the next.

I need to keep my shoulder down and move through the note with my elbow, and less with my shoulder or wrist.

Well, my teacher said she noticed somewhat of a breakthrough, a milestone I’ve arrived at. I don’t feel it the same as she sees it, but that’s okay. I’m getting there and it feels really good.

For the cooler weather this week.

I love having my AC there when I need it, but it’s nice not to need it too.

While the end of May grew to be quite humid, June is starting out with cooler temps and even rain. I don’t mind.

For a beautiful song for me to try writing more lyrics to.

My brother has recorded a full version of “Decade Adrift” and now I will spend the coming week writing the lyrics.

They will be based around the theme of feeling lost for an entire decade, but I plan to use being swept out into the ocean as the metaphor for the feeling.

For care of loved ones when I felt like crap.

I regretfully had to miss out on a family day, due to one of my more nasty headaches. I was sorely disappointed, but it wouldn’t have been any fun if I had attempted it.

So, my parents felt bad and knew I would too. They told my sister and her husband to check up on me and they did.

I was feeling nauseous and couldn’t eat much. The fruit smoothie they brought by was greatly appreciated.

For a thunderstorm overhead.

I enjoyed the cool air that ushered in a storm this weekend. I enjoyed staying indoors, upstairs, with my nephew watching the rain through an open window.

I still wasn’t feeling my best. Whether or not he was just pretending is debatable, but every time there was even the slightest rumble of thunder in the distance, he would run whimpering over to me and would hide his face beneath a sheet.

Then he cuddled up against me and we sat there, not moving, for a time. It was the best.

For nineteen years and counting.

I put out a request for suggestions on Facebook earlier, but sadly I got no responses.

😦

I am looking for something HUGE to do next year, on the 20th anniversary of my kidney transplant from my father: any ideas?

For those doing their part to bring awareness.

Blind New World

I hope more of the world comes to see blindness, not as something to be frightened of at all costs, but as something many people deal with, successfully, on a daily basis.

I hope the stigma is worn clean away. I hope…I hope…I hope.

I do know I am grateful to be here, even with all the downs, because I eagerly anticipate the ups that follow.

Alive – Edwin

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes, and the flowers are content.”

Waltzing With Helen Keller

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Fiction Friday, Memoir and Reflections, TGIF, Writing

My Mystery Object Speaks

It was a circular, silver jewelry tin I’d received, from my oma, on my twentieth birthday. She handed it to me, in her kitchen, at our combined birthday celebrations. Hers was three days before mine. When I was turning twenty she was turning eighty-three. Inside the tin I discovered twenty loonies, Canadian dollar coins, one for every year of my life.

Why hadn’t I thought of that for her? Would have needed a bigger tin.

🙂

Fast-forward more than eleven years and I placed the silver tin, faded from sitting on a dresser in my bedroom, on a conference table – my contribution to my new writer’s group and the game called: Mystery Object.

It was, I’d recently discovered, an excellent writing exercise. I was pleased I was getting the chance to bring the object for this week’s festivities.

The rules are: someone brings an object, an air of mystery to it, and the remaining time is spent with everyone, after having passed the object around the room, writing a story where the object plays a part, no matter how big or small.

Past mystery objects have included:

— A painted model of a dragon

And

— A ticket stub from a visit to the Eiffel Tower.

I guess I cheated because I didn’t just bring the silver tin, but inside, instead of twenty Canadian dollars, there now rests a necklace, a blue pendant on a chain.

Two for one I guess, but nobody seemed to complain. I’d taken the necklace as the object, originally; however, as I’d needed a case to carry it, in the moment I grabbed the tin and placed the necklace inside.

This gave us all more options. We could write a story about the tin, the necklace, or any combination of the two, more or less.

They even wanted to know the history of the mystery.

🙂

The mystery object meaning the necklace, which a few of the women around the table murmured comments of interest over. The guy with, what I’m guessing is a British accent, he was supportive when I told the group a little bit of history about the blue gem on the chain.

“It was originally a Christmas present for a friend who never came back to claim it. A bit of a falling out with that friend, the end of a friendship,” I told them vaguely, leaving plenty of room for creative licence and imagination.

“‘Looks like you came out on top,” someone said. I appreciated this person trying to make me feel better about the situation myself and my necklace had been through in the past. I appreciated that, as new as I was to the writing group, any one of them would say that, as my relationship to these people is still just beginning to develop, for whatever that might mean.

My first attempt at the mystery object exercise resulted in a narrative, made up of two people in an antique shop. This is one of my favourite settings for a story, since my senses were set off strong upon entering an old building, converted into an antique shop in my town, on a dreary October day a few years ago.

I have had a dislike for old things ever since childhood, but now I see their stories in the feelings they bring forth in me and in others.

This mystery object exercise is brilliant. I love to see what the other people bring and, in this case, I couldn’t wait to find out where their minds would go when attempting to write about the object I’d chosen to bring.

I know what the silver tin and the blue necklace mean to me, the history they played in my own life, but the trick would be letting all that leave my mind for an hour, allowing me to write fictionally about them. Then I was waiting to hear what they would come out with.

I’ve considered publishing all the pieces I come out with during these bimonthly writing groups, posting them here afterward. I have had the feeling of not being naturally good at writing fiction, as I have been told and felt myself that maybe I do better with nonfiction and memoir especially, but that is why I like this group. I can write like they write, and I get so much from that interaction already, and I’ve only gone three times so far.

This latest time I wrote about a jewelry store burglary and the mystery of why the thief took only that necklace, leaving the rest of the jewelry behind.

I did not finish the story and have no idea what was so special about that necklace. Time was up for the evening, the library closing and the cleaning crew anxious to start their work to prepare the building for the following day’s borrowings.

I purposefully did not volunteer to read my jewelry store tale, preferring to hear the other stories, on the off chance that we would run out of time, which is exactly what ended up happening.

I’d preferred my previous Wednesday night’s fiction writing exercise attempt, starring the Eiffel Tower ticket, dropped from above and onto the Paris sidewalk.

Some of the stories written about the tin/necklace included:

— One rooted in hints of the wardrobe leading to Narnia and a reference to the famous sketching scene in the movie Titanic. (This movie came up, somehow, in our chatter at the beginning of the evening’s meeting.)

— One about a love sick young man and the jewelry he purchased and later returned, bought for the object of his affection.

— One beginning with a wonderful scene of a little girl dying to arrive at her grandmother’s house and ending with that little girl finding a beautiful blue necklace in said grandmother’s spare room, unaware of the history it has.

— One about a spur-of-the-moment dropping of a necklace in a coat pocket and the chase others take to get it back.

I love to listen to the other writers read their stories, how different each one is, but the theme of the past of a piece of jewelry (real or fantastic) was a thrill to me, the person who really does own it.

People feel different about reading their work, depending on the day and what they come up with in the group, but not one person said they weren’t able to write something using my contribution to Mystery Object Wednesday. I was happy about that part. I was pleased to have spurred their imaginations, even if I couldn’t quite let go of what I know about the necklace in my own reality and past.

The true story of the friendship which ended with that necklace, indirectly, is best left for another time, but I just wanted to mark this occasion, as was pointed out to me the other night by one of my new writing friends: if that friend had stayed and taken the necklace, events wouldn’t have been able to lead up to the experience of my mystery object contribution with those who bravely took a stab at coming up with alternative storylines for a blue necklace on a chain.

For next group we’ve all been given a small slip of paper, containing a scenario and we are supposed to use it to demonstrate the concept of a favourite writing rule: show don’t tell.

This is the sort of homework I am more than happy to complete, I think. I will keep posted on what I manage to come up with for that one.

Mystery objects are exciting things, fiction that bursts forth from each and every one. They mean different things to different people and tell a story worth hearing. They are helping me get to know my fellow writers, one story at a time.

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Fiction Friday, TGIF, Writing

Words With Friends

I have no idea what I’m walking into, but I stride forward, into my favourite place: the library.

Of course it would be my favourite place. It is a building full of books. I would live there if I could, but I don’t think those in charge would really appreciate that.

I don’t know what took me this long. Why did I take this long to check this out? There had to be others around me who loved to write and I wanted to gather with them. And so I have.

I am always apprehensive going into a new situation, but this is stacked with a whole new set of expectations. This time, I’m supposed to share my writing, to open up that part of me.

Oh, of course I do it all the time here, now, and I don’t know what took me so long to do that either, but here I am.

This, however, is something entirely different. This time, I am not hiding behind a computer, waiting for the comments or likes to trickle in. This time, I am face-to-face with those who also love to write, or else they wouldn’t be here. This time I can’t hide.

I approach the checkout desk where people are taking out library books and I ask for directions to the room where the writer’s group meets.

I have been in this building many times before, for years and ever since the library from the old church of my childhood became the new location. This, though, is new to me. I was not aware of this room, just off the main area.

I find it with little problem, even with signs and people in my path. The room is to the left and they are inside, waiting for me, or new members like me.

I made sure to come on time, but I like the room almost immediately.

Someone shows me to a chair. I can’t remember who it was now. It’s all a blur of frazzled nerves. I’m doing this and I hope it is everything I’ve ever imagined a writing group would be. How unfair to put oh so many expectations on these poor fellow lovers of the written word.

There is someone across the table and people sitting over to my right. They appear to be engaged in some casual conversations when I appear on the scene, but they welcome me warmly. I can be one of them if I put my best foot forward.

My best foot is my coming-out-of-my-shyness-shell foot. I will put it out alright. If not here, where?

This is the time to drop that silly shyness and give it my all. They seem to agree.

There is someone on the other side of the room, bustling around and making tea. The guy to my right speaks with an English accent, which I can make out through a cracked voice, the ends of a sore throat. He still talks enthusiastically and seems to be one of the first members of the group. He is friendly and has a sense of humour, which I notice right then and there.

I hear my name. Someone recognizes me. She works at the library and runs the group, but she does not stay for the whole thing, instead overseeing it and taking hot drink orders. She speaks with a soft voice, the perfect library voice I suppose. She has met me through my sister, my brother-in-law, and I strain to remember when, although I knew she worked here.

The guy sitting across the way appears to be a new comer like I am. This makes me relate to him then and there. He has come from out of town.

I am still taking time to get an idea of who is here. I wasn’t sure what the cross section of people at a writer’s group could be. Age. Male or female ratio. From different backgrounds.

As people take their seats and we push tables together, I try not to shuffle and fidget more than is necessary, but in new situations I tend to do both to excess. I try to focus on the cues I can get from the people now sitting around me.

National Novel Writing month is discussed. I think I should speak up and say that I did it once, but not this year. I was sure showing up here for the first time in the month of November would mean NaNoWriMo would be a common topic of discussion, but I had no idea if everyone else would be doing it, as a writer’s group would be the place to bring it up.

I have come equipped with my laptop and earphones. Oh, how I wish I could go the old fashion route and write with a pencil or pen and a notebook. I would have picked out a special notebook for the occasion. It would have been red and the pages would have smelled like books, like paper smells.

I wonder how this is all going to work. I can’t write by hand and so how will I join in and share my writing at the end?

Do we even share?

Do we just bring in writing we do at home, for it to be shared and commented on?

So…many…questions.

Something is happening. I am talking and speaking up and out. Finally, it’s a whole room and its full of those who only want to talk about the writing they love, like I do. There is nothing else I’d rather talk about.

There is tea for the one with the lost voice and ginger cookies from a local bakery being passed around the table.

I decline, hopefully in a polite manner, a cup of anything hot. I even offer up the story of my disgrace from last spring and the ensuing events leading up to me, using a generously provided laptop in a pinch. I am new here and the nerves still could cause a problem. I wouldn’t want to knock my cup over, in a move to open my laptop, as I hear the guy sitting beside me has a laptop too and I seem to have the worst luck. I would hate for that to “spill” over to anybody else.

He asks me if I spend a lot of time in Waterloo. I hesitate and ask for confirmation that he is, indeed, speaking to me and not someone else. I am bad for that because I have gotten it wrong before and I hate that sensation of embarrassment, even though the feeling of discomfort is one I still end up feeling either way.

I tell him he must be thinking of someone else, but it is a strange, deja vu sort of moment. I liked that it happened here. I seem to get mistaken for someone else, in the most interesting moments and in the strangest situations. I wonder who that other girl is that I keep getting mistaken for. Could make a cool story sometime.

Next there’s talk of a mystery object. This, I hadn’t expected, but I like where this is going.

A model of a dragon is being passed around, painted by the one with barely a voice, when he was a teenager.

People compliment him on the painting he did of the creature and it is passed to me.

I take it in hand, ever so cautiously, and I feel the wings and the head. I ask for a physical description of it, mostly its colour. It is small and intricately detailed. I try hard to detect every bump and groove with my fingertips.

The maker or someone else mentions Lord of the Rings. He painted models, or meant to, from LOTR, the sort of thing you might expect a teen boy to do after school.

I like to be developing a picture of everyone here, even if it’s bits at a time. We could give rambling explanations of ourselves, going around the table, but instead we simply state our names.

It is hard it first, taking me a while to learn which name belongs to each and every one of these lovers of words, but I will get there.

NAme tags are made, the spelling of my name is wrongly guessed at, but this isn’t uncommon. I like to have this discussion. How long will people require a glance at another’s tag, before the name to the face will come right to mind?

This is a group of barely ten. I like this number. It’s not such a large group that I feel lost in a crowd, but not so small as I imagined, making a writing group less a group and more a few people.

So I guess we are writing now, or after much of the conversation dwindles. Our group leader brings up dialogue and character development in a story. I announce, perhaps over confidently that I have specifically been complimented on my dialogue, by a trusted friend whom I gave my NaNo project to when I’d finished the month. This speaking up thing I seem to be doing feels good, although still rather foreign to me.

Now the pressure is mounting. The talk grows quieter and less frequent and it’s time to write, right?

So I need to write about a dragon?

Okay. Here goes nothing.

I like the noise of the guy’s fingers: click click click. He is writing, then pausing to think, I suppose. I do the same.

I try not to fear him being able to glance over and read the few words I’ve managed to write. I guess I have some self absorption that writers are prone to. We are all hoping to produce something we can share when time’s up. We all likely think about sharing of ideas vs stealing them.

I take in the smell of ginger and the sound of keyboard keys clicking and I just write.

It slowly dawns on me again. Oh yeah, dragon, dragon, dragon. Don’t forget to write about the dragon.

I don’t write fantasy. I can’t write like Tolkien. That’s not my thing. Or is it?

I pick a locale and two characters and I write a scene for them. The dragon is coming up.

Time is up. The silence is broken by people’s uncertainty at what they’ve just put down, on paper or on screen. Will it be good enough?

Well, that’s what I am thinking, but maybe they aren’t. But wait…how will I participate?

I volunteer to just let my VoiceOver speak my story to the room, as a joke. I don’t want to be different, and I’m glad I didn’t not bring my laptop, or I would have been sitting there and twiddling my thumbs while everyone else wrote, but now how do I read what I’ve written for comments and reactions?

Others read their stories. They are all fantasy themed. They all involve real live dragons, but I did not go that direction. Maybe I should have, but instead I enjoy their little tales of discovery, intrigue, and adventure.

I listen to their reading styles and the inflections they place in the words. I try again not to move around, if possible, as this is a sign of boredom. I want to respect all these people who share, as I want to learn from them and to earn their attention when it’s my turn to share.

When it comes to me I don’t want to miss out entirely, so I go ahead and describe what I wrote. I receive a few comments and nods of approval at my subject matter, as I’d chosen to write more modern and contemporary, about an antique shop, one of my favourite settings for a story.

I talk about my one character not knowing what he’s exactly looking for, when his girlfriend asks, but his declaring that he’ll know it when he sees it.

This part seems to get people’s attention. I am happy they believe that I wrote what I’m saying I wrote and that my relaying of that writing is coherent.

Now that I know what actually goes on during one of these things, I must revise my plan and go with my braille display, as long as there is a plug nearby and I can bring a cord long enough to reach. I can write my stories in there and be able to read them back in the moment, along with the rest. My first idea to bring what I’d written from last time falls flat in my own estimation because I don’t want to be always behind a week. I want to be in the moment with this room and these people.

The guy beside me informs me there is an available spot to plug in my device and that he too may require it at some point. My laptop has held up this time, but I know its battery life is limited.

My laptop’s voice was an interesting bit of discussion this time. It has resulted in talk of a Gilbert Gottfried reading of Fifty Shades of Grey somewhere out there online. I had never before compared VoiceOver to Gilbert, but it makes sense.

I wonder what they will think when I walk in next time, with my Braille Sense over my shoulder, like a purse. I’m already looking forward to next time. I love this. I’ve found my tribe. I did not want to get my hopes up about this whole thing, but the real thing did actually surpass my expectations, in unexpected and interesting ways, some of which I’ve mentioned here.

I feared they wouldn’t like me, that I would feel out of place, as I do in a lot of places, but here I have this one thing in common with these people.

I don’t play Words With Friends, but I like the name of the game.

I don’t know what might come of being a member of a writer’s group, whether we become friends or not, but I like to hold back on any expectations I may harbour and just be in the moment, in that room, with those who love words as much as I do.

Paperback Writer

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Day in the Museum: Part One, Four Senses

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I spent this past Sunday afternoon surrounded by a lot of old things and one incredibly old book. This week I will break up my afternoon at the Stratford Perth Museum into three separate blog posts: today, Wednesday, and Friday.

The Stratford Perth Museum sits on seven acres, its present location, in a big old brick house. It is out of the town of Stratford a ways now, for the first time, when it moved away from the Stratford Festival and the flurry of excitement, to a more peaceful spot. In 2008 they felt they needed more space and made the move and the transition.

I had never heard of this museum, but I suppose I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t spend as much time in museums as I wish I did. I think most people think of the town of Stratford for the Festival theatre, but there is a rich culture and history in the area. It felt like one however, on entering, but I tend to have my idiosyncrasies with these institutions.

I enter a world of previously owned or used things. I love the history and the mystery of these items I find myself surrounded by, but I am without the ability to appreciate these collections with my eyes. It is my other four senses (excluding taste because it really doesn’t apply here) that I’m left with.

Immediately I realize I probably won’t be able to touch these precious and often times delicate pieces. I assume, rightly from the start, that this Shakespeare folio will not be the exception. The woman who greets us confirms that for me, no doubt spotting the white cane in my hand.

I want to stress that I love history and to imagine where something has been and who may have owned or handled it in the past. I can’t explain my strange discomfort with old things, starting in my childhood and with my fear of pioneer villages on school trips.

I have been to Europe and I swore I wouldn’t miss out on anything truly memorable while there just because I was afraid of…I don’t know what (an experience for another day’s post.)

I do not see as I walk through the museum and these buildings are like libraries, in that there is a sense of hush on the place. That only leaves one more sense: smell.

Smell is such a strange thing to relay to others through words, but it fills me with so much sense memory.

Smell can be nostalgic and it can be distasteful. It can be a distraction for me, totally taking me out of the moment and away from what history and treasures I find myself surrounded by.

Our special exhibit priced tickets give us access to the entire museum and my sister locates things I could actually get a feel for by touching. I spent my time in the Shakespeare exhibit and, unable to feel anything, (I was left with a museum headache) trying to grasp in my mind and imagination, what others were seeing with their eyes.

Festival Treasures: Creating the Wild Kingdom

“The Stratford Perth Museum, in conjunction with the Stratford Festival, presents a special exhibition called Festival Treasures: Creating the Wild Kingdom, showcasing unique pieces from the festival archives.”

It’s here my sister tries to show me the props and masks for view. I feel the strange materials and plastics and she knows not to place my hand on anything made of fur. I have a reactionary reflex alive and well that takes control of my hand, but I tell myself silently to take it easy and not pull away so fast. I’m sure it still shows in my behaviour.

“This fun-filled safari explores inventive ways of bringing birds and beasts to the stage. It will feature costumes, props, design sketches, audiovisual material, documents and photographs to illustrate the process of creating pieces for festival productions of The Birds, Peter Pan, Alice Through the Looking Glass, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and many others.”

I am curious about how these items have all remained in such good conditions for so many decades, through countless performances and I speak to an Archiveist Assistant:

I work in the festival archives. I’ve worked for a long time in the festival but I only recently went to the archives, I was a stage manager before that. Stratford Festival has the largest theatrical archive in the world, devoted to one theatre.

I ask her about how these things have managed to survive for fifty or so years:

Purpose-built facility…climate-controlled atmosphere. Archival friendly tissue paper and acid-free boxes. It’s kept at the right humidity, that’s why it’s so cold in here.

How does this work with keeping all these items from past performances?

We have the advantage of having props and costumes. Most theatrical archives don’t have the room or the money.

We have all the asses heads from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the strawberry handkerchief from Othello, the casket from Merchant of Venice

We recently celebrated the sixty-second anniversary. Back in fifty-three we’re lucky there were people that were far-sighted enough to keep things, especially because they weren’t sure there was going to be a fifty-four season or a fifty-five season, let alone two-thousand-fourteen.
We started in a tent.

How much is kept?

We take two costumes and the main props from all the productions each year.

I ask her specifically about something from Shakespeare’s time period and how that survives:

Bugs, moisture, heat…those are your biggest problems.

For four hundred years it was okay in somebody’s house. In order for it to last that long…biggest thing is moisture and sunlight…just to keep things from fading. That’s why you keep the lights down. It’s quite extraordinary.

So what is one way costumes and props are preserved over the years, in the festival?

For things like sweat and body odour…the best thing is vodka. You spray the costumes with it.

All the blood, sweat, and tears that go into that…all those performances.

This museum was once someone’s home and is now an old house, storing old things. It now houses so much from a past long gone. In Shakespeare’s case, long long gone.

Next time I will write about the reason I went to the museum in the first place: Shakespeare’s First Folio.

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