awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice

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Restless Kate

In the bathroom with the exhaust fan on she could almost stop hearing the beating; regular, rhythmic, almost like it was living. The constant loud breath of the fan created a deafness, sometimes ringing in her ears, so that she did not know when the sounds began to blend together and form a screen of silence. She would not know when the beating stopped. Today she had to close herself away from the sound because restlessness was teasing her; it created an edge she had to retreat from. She was constantly moving, pacing, picking things up and putting them down. Futility ruled until some constructive inspiration spontaneously, gracefully, interrupted. She hoped it would be something he would appreciate, inspiration for a new recipe or a new painting, maybe she would find a great book in the boxes still stacked ceiling high in the spare room. If she could finish it before he came home, appear accomplished, like it took the whole day, it could erase this morning of restlessness.

The restlessness could not be explained, it was not a tragedy like unfaithfulness, or even perversely curious like searching the internet or shopping for frivolous objects. Restlessness was a mind trap and it was spinning around and around, the way she felt after drinking too strong coffee. The bread, when the beating stopped and the yeast rose and it was finally done gasping and screaching, that would be a small obligation met, but not enough. She knew that kneading the dough herself could be therapeutic, but instead she let the bread machine do it, even if she had to escape the sounds of its work.

Serially staring into different directions she focused her laser beams on the freckle sized age spots on her hands, kneeled to clean a line of dust from behind the door and conjured images of dancing dust bunnies and their more lethargic friend sloth. Rather more enjoying the image of the bunnies her mind leapt awake. Still frivolous but a gift, she could paint something for her nephew. She turned off the fan, left the bathroom and sat before her paints and paper. The beating had stopped. Over the next two hours as the enticing smell of warm yeast rose from the kitchen she built something, snow fell, cats yawned and restlessness was vanquished by the edges of a ½ inch filbert brush, scarlet red paint sprinkles and imaginary chocolate.

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Daily Prompt: Trembling in her due diligence

Daily Prompt: It’s 2AM and your phone has just buzzed you awake, filling the room in white-blue LED light. You have a message. It’s a photo. No words, no explanation. Just a photo. Tell us all about it. And what happens next.

Kate is trembling in her due diligence. Reviewing every broker known to humanity she is near a jittery collapse. She just spent the past 5 hours searching in the blinding over bright white screens and boldface Arial fonts, slick black backgrounds and neon highlighted type which lead her into the need to find out what all those acronyms mean. Then she went down those paths to find out why she would want ETFs or a USD RRSP and why would she bother with a VB for a simple TFSA. Gosh, who does that! Then when she checked the reviews she was compelled to investigate the reviewers, so many seem biased. So is QT ‘on the QT’ with the G&M? That would knock the foundation out from underneath their analysis, and much of hers as well. Before it got any more complicated maybe she should just ask some questions. Ahh, that involves passwords and id logins and more stenography than a grand jury case. They learn more about her from the security questions than the actual securities brokers ever will. Who is alive out there? At this hour? It could be days before anyone responded, if they even found her question interesting enough to respond at all. What does it take? 247 reads and no replies since last week? What kind of place is this?

She picks at the dry skin on her heels, tears off almost too much. Decades ago she read that dust is mostly dry skin. She believes it now, tearing at smaller pieces, scrubbing and scratching them unconsciously with her short fingernails. It was about to break into a riot, completely overwhelming her. Her phone rings. It’s a real telephone ring, “BRRRRRNG BRRRRRNG BRRRRRRNG”. She loves that with all the silent or single toned IMing, vibrational numbing and even Skype’s comforting “Shhhhhhrrrm bop” she can still find someone in virtual reality who felt that a real telephone ring was worth resurrecting into a sound file. Kate picks up the phone. It’s a picture file, no message. She puts the phone down, goes to the washroom, washes her face and her feet in warm water then gets into bed and goes to sleep. His smile always has that power over her. He will be another day late. It can wait.

Note: Canadians will understand my acronyms, maybe.

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Finding Expression


I think there are people who take pictures because of the beauty of light, for excellence, to document history or to fancy themselves artistic or clever, to protest, to shock, for a slap in the face, a gritty statement or simply to delight. Then there are those that take pictures to see through life, as if the molecular level or truth itself could be revealed if we get it just right, suspend the breath and slowly breathe out, click. There are those that take pictures to touch the familiar through reflecting mirrors, a waltz with memory that is escaping our tendons and vessels and might hang on when grasped by a tiny aperture. Like a dancer’s hands on a man’s shoulders, bending every joint of hand and finger so tightly a million lines are engraved in them. If the lines are just right, from that tense alignment she can slice a thin sheet like lace or cloud and it forms a picture, a slide of memory that can be inserted between the neurons and disperse like ether in the mind.

The sculptor and the painter too make choices about how hard to press into the mold, stretch the resin, or to allow globs of paint to form miniature mountains of emotion or fan it out to shallow rivers, moss, or translucent skin. Even an athlete is finding expression in outbursts of electricity or meditating on repetitive motions. Writers, we have to work with the enunciation of vowels, curving consonants obscured in ink and paper or worse, their facsimiles flattened on screens. We can employ the cacophony of k’s, and ch’s and staccato st’s like birds in late spring trees flitting here and there, the raucous and the sweet all a crash. We can swoon and exhale loudly on commas, bend question marks, pursue with semi-colons and ellipsis. A writer can call upon ancestors, archaic definitions and make glamorous or ridiculous new creations with amalgamations, innovations, detonating bombs or precipitatations.

What tools we use, where we direct the mirrors, this is the play. What tiny portion of a world cracked open, seeping, bleeding, or sweetening honey drips from ink on paper? I write and photograph to remember, to discover, to reveal, most of all to see, to turn the mirror in every direction. I cannot capture the beauty and allure of twilight in a photograph, but if I can hold the letters in my hands, fingertips brushing on sounds and forms like it was a new language, then maybe I can not only find expression, but carry you, the reader, on my gentle river of words.

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If we live the question now, someday we may live into the answer.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

I think writing is a process of becoming conscious of the questions. We spend most of our lives running from or trying to answer questions, but sitting with the questions themselves in awareness, hardly. We either tiptoe out of the room looking for something else to distract us or set a laser beam on the more obvious but perhaps least sincere resolution. Meditation is a process of defining the questions, waiting, listening, observing the mind until gracefully the question becomes clear. Or if we have great longing we surrender to our tremendous smallness and we merge with the questions like the low tide exchanging sand and water, water and sand, at once, moving together.

Writing is a meditation on the question, refining it, circling around it if we are clumsy, touching it tenderly if we are calm or frightened, breaking it open if we are bold. What are my questions?

Lately I am facing the question of place, where do we belong?

This is something we have been patient with, waiting for an answer; we have been living with the question. I deal out different answers, sure, but only because social conventions oblige us. We have been diving through the question for more than a year, a clock ticking beside us on the wall and still underwater. Mostly we feel stillness there observing the fish, the rocks, the lake weeds, is there a warm swirl of water there where the sun comes through illuminating the mica in the stones, rose colored quartz and golden sunfish swimming? I admit, sometimes I panicked and kicked upwards to breathe the air and called it all absurd, but I didn’t throw myself back onto the shore. I waited and the question itself became a part of me and I could again feel the peaceful observance. We want to know the answer, of course, but this question will only be answered through small gifts of listening shells, maybe something will wash up on the shore, catch our eye while swimming and the collection will speak the answer with its weight. I think it unlikely that we will find a sunken treasure, but a few rare jewels may suffice.

To be more true to Rilke’s sentiments, by living the question, we may live the answer. In our waiting we have made discoveries, not of jewels but of our hearts own desires, of decisions made by not deciding. We don’t need to be near the door of a Gurdwara Sahib, we have lived this year without it and found enough faith in our four walls to sustain us.  We only found it by waiting. I know that living above the ground has kept me from touching it. I know I can’t live so far above the ground for much longer, I need that first floor door to propel me out where great joy awaits in dark soil and puddles and stemmed and rooted things. In our waiting for Spring, Spring itself will propel me, send me seeking soil. The mud will embed in my fingers and I will become a part of that place. The answers come in the living of it. The compass twitches with our own electromagnetic force.

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Looking for the Goldilocks Zone on Earth


I know Earth is in the Goldilocks Zone. The Goldilocks zone in astronomy refers to planets which rotate neither too far nor too near their sun or suns and have the potential to maintain liquid water. It is also known as a habitable zone, which serves my purpose here much better. I disagree with such limitations on the possibility for life, we have so many amazing creatures on Earth that live in very un-habitable zones that I prefer to think with a more open mind on matters of exo-biology. However, for my husband and myself we are looking for a much more narrowly defined ideal Goldilocks zone for us here on Earth. Sometimes it seems we could move anywhere, adapt to many, even some extreme, conditions. I think sub-zero temperatures rather fascinating and he has lived through monsoons, yet these were seasons and had beginnings and endings.  For me at least, even the delicate dance of light snow in February or the soft glow of San Diego 75-degree sun can turn into tyranny when they go uninterrupted for days or weeks at a time. To make matters more complicated, my husband and I enjoy different extremes. He is as wary of temperatures below 10 Celsius as I am of temperatures with humidity above 80 Fahrenheit. He does not share my love of snow and I am concerned about living in the cloud forests where the sun is a far away friend that doesn’t visit very often. Poetic as they are, I can’t imagine the burden of having clouds overhead all the time. I think I might start to develop a hunchback. Also, my green thumb wrinkles with consternation at the thought; “how could I grow sunflowers or tomatoes with 250 days of overcast skies?” My husband might argue, “How can you grow anything with only 8 weeks of summer?” “Well, cold frames and greenhouses and big sunny windows can help a lot,” I would contest. No winning that argument, it looks like Virginia and Vancouver, despite the fog and countless days of looming clouds are on our short list of habitable places. Maybe I could develop a romantic love for mist.

Place is not only about topography and temperature, but about work and housing compatibility too. We want to live near friends and or family. Unfortunately when we asked ourselves if our friends or families live anywhere we want to live, the answer was mostly… “Nah”. That combination of desirable living, limited commuting, low’ish’ cost of housing and well-paid working just doesn’t seem to align within reasonable distance to friends in too many places under this sun. Also, there are issues of ambiance, not only atmosphere to struggle with. I did research some years ago about signing on to work in the Antarctic for six months. I would have done it too, but I just thought the drinking or smoking and machismo of even 1 other staff person in such a small community might drive me crazy, far more crazy than the cold or the lack of sun or even lack of contact with friends and family. I have much greater fear of the constant presence of a jerk than of the occasional tornado, the regularity of  plummeting mercury or the silence of a lonely place. Also, last year we did some shopping in part of the sprawl that I will call Torontopolis. We went into a store where there was a minor holiday weekend sale and it looked more like planes had dumped clothes from a cargo bay than what was supposed to be a retail store. The shoppers were stepping on the clothes and I wondered if soon they would be stepping on each other in their blithe rejection of common courtesy. We are considering a move into that vicinity and I want to be far enough away from that mentality that I might forget the whole incident some day. Maybe if there are some hills in between us, I could hope for mountains but then it would get too cold for hubby. I do love mountains and at the very least need lots of trails and paths that are not blocked by short mazes of subdivisions, dead end industrial parking lots or impassable highway overpasses. It’s enough to create labyrinths in the mind.

So where is our Goldilocks zone on Earth? Somewhere not too cold, not too humid, not too conservative, not too much anarchy, not too close to a city, not too far from an organic grocer, not too monolingual that it lacks diversity, not so much individualism that it lacks community. And not too far from people we can call our good friends but far enough that we will need to make some high quality new ones.

Suggestions welcome.

Where is your Goldilocks zone?