Friday, August 29, 2014

carpal brain

I have been offered some pretty awesome writing projects lately. I am honoured, of course, as I take each new job as a validation of whatever writing skills I may possess. This is what I have been working toward for the last six years, after all. And unless circumstances make it impossible, I always say yes, of course. But I have to admit that I am biting off a tad more than I can chew these days. The cheeks are full.

Once I stop taking these 2,200 km round-trips to the lake place every two weeks, I will have an easier time staying on top of the wave of work. But for now I am putting my time management skills to the test. Thank goodness for these German micromanagement genes. 

Oh, and I am also planning CommuniQuatre, which will be held in Portland in a few weeks. Hello, hipster heaven!

I am going to ice my wrists and drain my brain with some renovation shows or something this evening, before diving into a week of writing writing writing, followed by a trip across the prairies. With cat.

Here are some recently published pieces that I managed to squeeze out before the carpal tunnel syndrome set in:
and a slightly shorter version, known as thing two

Friday, August 22, 2014

voice of the lake

As we have been settling into our cottage and have had more time to enjoy it (rather than just continuing to complete structural tasks), it's no longer enough that this is our place to get away to. It has become a place in need of an identity.

The lake place has been one of three cottages that I have visited over the past ten days, each one utterly different from the rest. My brother's place, a tiny one-room cottage in the centre of a busy tourist location, has the feel of a rest-stop. A place to spend a few hours away from the bustle of the shops and boardwalk. There's a community bathroom and cook shack and neighbours an arm's length away; you have to like being around lots of people. My sister's place has a real beach feel, with beadboard walls and wicker and a large treed lot in an established beach community. It's a place that lends itself to croquet and paperbacks and sandy flip-flops on deck steps.

And then there is us. Our lot, a former alfalfa field, is treed only in the riparian zone, to which it slopes substantially. There are only three dwellings on our side of the lake and nothing but fields and Manitoba parkland for miles and miles. The lake is a well-known fishing spot, but there is no beach. 

Whites and blues and creams do not fit into the decor here, which is just as well, considering we painted with greens and greys. As we move from subsistence living to becoming accustomed to touches of luxury (with a functioning water and septic system awaiting us when we arrived this time, a driveway put down while we were here, and a fridge and stove on their way next time), the real nature of our lake place is starting to make itself known. 

Although new, it's rustic, with a sturdy wooden deck and a daunting climb to get there. The wood stove that is at the heart of the big room and the little touches that we are adding each time we come out seem to be nudging the lake place toward a woodsy retreat feel. I think I surprised the Spousal Unit with my resounding yes! at his suggestion that we mount a head or antlers or a skull or something on the living room wall. 

I think we have found our lake voice. Now all we need are the trees.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I have been trying to get along with the Apidae family ever since they moved in, but clearly this is just not working out. 

I am the one making all the compromises: giving them plenty of room, staying out of their way, politely ignoring them as they buzz around. I even forgave them when one of them attacked me a couple of weeks ago, thinking perhaps I somehow brought the attack upon myself. So I gave them more room, tried to be an understanding neighbour.

But no more. Last night one of them attacked me again, inflicting two wounds upon my abdomen. So I killed him.

I really enjoy sitting on my front deck after dinner, reading the newspaper. It's the part of summer that I most look forward to all winter long. But since these red-belted bumble bees have nested under the deck, it's been considerably less fun. 

The entrance to their nest is a small gap between the deck and the wall of the house. There is no way for a non-professional to access it. I don't particularly want to kill these bees, but I don't want to keep getting stung either. It hurts like a mofo. 

I have hung up one of those fake wasp nests to establish my territory, which they completely ignored. I have moved the chairs and table well away from the nest entrance and made sure that their flight path to and from the nest is clear of any obstructions. That seemed to work for a while, until I brought a cup of chamomile tea out with me last night. Who knew bumbles bees became so enraged by chamomile tea?

I used to think that bumble bees were nice. Maybe these red-belted ones are just the assholes of the bumble bee world. Does anybody know Billy the Exterminator's number?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

found lives

Between the pages of a well-preserved copy of Alice Munro's Open Secrets, that I bought at a second-hand store a few weeks ago, I found a boarding pass. It was in pristine shape, for a slip of paper twenty years old, and it was dated on my birthday. I took this to be a good omen.

While my life was immersed in the minutiae of being a mother to a three-year-old, Ms. W. Takahashi was boarding a flight from Victoria to Smithers. It would have been Thanksgiving weekend, so perhaps Ms. W. Takahashi was returning home after visiting her elderly parents. They pressed her to stay, of course - they hadn't seen her since summer - but she had to be at work early the next morning. She had just started her job a month earlier, after all. She had yet to prove herself.

I was probably walking under a canopy of brilliantly lit maple leaves while she was heading to Gate 1 to board Central Mountain Air flight 993. No doubt I was carrying a handful of perfect red leaves that my three-year-old had insisted on collecting along the way. We would press them later, between wax, and fashion a wreath for the front door, a wreath that inexplicably survived a move halfway across the country three years later.

Perhaps it was the same Thanksgiving Day that will be forever etched in my memory as one of life's perfect moments, those moments when you are fully aware of just how lucky you are to be in that place at that instant, when you tell yourself always remember this. I do remember; I remember how the brilliant afternoon sun illuminated the one yellow tree among all the red ones along the street, I remember how I paused beneath its glowing canopy to feel the warmth, I remember how I savoured the crazy-making aroma of roasting turkey that wafted out from open windows all along the street.

I wonder what Ms. W. Takahashi, in her crisp white linen suit - pulling her neatly packed tiny suitcase along behind her - had for dinner that night. I wonder if her parents had pressed specially made family favourites upon her, insisting that she take them along for her solitary meal. She would have had to unzip her new rolling suitcase to find a spot for those delicacies among the neatly folded clothes.

Her mother's eyes had misted up as she took Ms. W. Takahashi's slender hands in her own gnarled ones. Her father had nodded stoically as she hugged him goodbye. It had been a good weekend, and she would be back for Christmas.