Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

The Spark of Passion Smells like Death

As a glamour-puss in training, I was using my vacation day to vacuum my home and contemplate life when a series of thoughts about recent writing, shelved writing, teenage writing, books that fascinate me, what I want to do with my blog, my future, and my life culminated in a realization: I am dedicatedly fascinated by death. In particular, how people process the deaths of loved ones, stars, arch enemies, and world villains.

My teen writing was filled with death, but I thought that was an age-related affliction. In those days, I just loved to read fictional tales of teens with cancer or kids who lost parents. Later Stephen King gripped me for a good couple of years before I turned my eye to more literary sources.  My new favourites became books where well-developed characters deal with a death or the dark aspects of their relationship with someone now dead.

On the other hand, adding to the list of things I’ve always attributed to “being Portuguese”, I grew up in a home where death was perhaps the most normal of conversations, perfectly child appropriate and fun for the whole family. There was talk of who died, why they died, the extent to which that person’s death was a tristiza (sad event) or a desgraça (tragedy) or não foi uma surpresa (not a surprise). Likewise, talking about somebody’s illness, diminishing health, or imminent demise was never seen as disrespectful or downright offensive. Like taboo-free gossip. But there’s an up side. I adapted well to the notion that my parents would die, my friends would die, and that I would probably die, too, maybe even sooner than one would assume. AND, I can talk pretty comfortably about death.

Finally, I have never had a particularly dramatic response to a death – one that lasted a culturally appropriate amount of time and is followed by normalcy. For me, initial shock has been followed only by moments of missing someone, or noting their absence. These moments rise and fall as everything else in our life does. My lack of reaction has, in some ways, been of some concern to me. Is my otherwise sensitive heart cold to death? Do I see death as good? Do I just not care enough about those that have died? Sure, there’s no normal grief, but there is healthy grief.

And now my mind is awash with ways I can attack death or show death some love. It’s a marketer’s dream!

August 2, 2012 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Death, Portuguese-ness?, Self-reflection, Writing | , , | 6 Comments

7 Ways to Leave Your Lover Wondering What You’ve Been Doing with Your Time

Way back in 2011, just as the days could get no shorter and the music at the mall could get no more annoying in my corner of the world, Dana from zona pellucida found enough light in her day to nominate me for the Seven Links Blog Award. While it is inevitable to be occasionally slapped with blog love of some kind or another, this particular honour excites me because, aside from the fact that I think Dana is awesome and her reading my blog still blows my mind occasionally, it motivates me to really look back at my blog and my best posts.

I have a whopping 80 something blog posts to my name and yet this task of mine is stunningly difficult. What posts do I want to highlight? Which of my mangled moments are my favourite? How can I possibly find controversy and helpfulness in such a quiet blog? But I’m working on doing things despite being unable to -also why you’ll find way more than seven links- so here I go:

1. Most Beautiful

A most beautiful post? Yikes. I don’t generally go for beautiful, nor am I mega-comfortable calling what I do beautiful. But if I must, *batting eyelashes*, my Thanksgiving weekend post Meandering through life keeping fed and watered, about higher education and reuniting with Calgary after 7 years takes the prize. Woman Recovers in Vegas from Assault by Arizona Desert, about my near-death experience,  and Not quite speechless, about finishing school, come in a close second.

2. Most Popular

I’ve written about this before. My post, Words (and other things resembling words) that warm my cockles: #6, about anemones – really the word anemone – is far and away my most popular. This kills me since the post is not exactly a piece of brilliance. It has almost no personal significance. However, it also serves as a reminder that what sells most isn’t always what’s best. Sometimes, people are just confused about sea creatures. Happy to help.

My second and third most popular posts, are Grad School: Deep and Delicious and A Considerate Person’s Guide to Riding the Bus, or Don’t be an Ass, respectively. The first I would find just as perplexing except that consumer products seem to win the google hunt every time and the second makes sense because it had the one-two-three punch of humour, lists, and being the only post I’ve ever put up on Facebook.

3. Most Controversial

While statements I’ve made against James Bond and Malcolm Gladwell could be seen as controversial if anyone had cared/commented I hazard a guess that my most controversial post may be the one in which I question our western, self-affirming, just believe and you will have everything you’ve ever wanted perspective. In Anything I set my mind to – Part 1 I wrote about whether we can get there just because our mommy or mentor said that we could.

4. Most Helpful

It occurs to me that the most helpful post on my blog should be one that gives others something: information, inspiration, perspiration… something. Unfortunately, such posts are few and far between. Vindication for Foot Sufferers Everywhere may prove helpful to those with evil, evil feet and Just Overshoot Me, which tries to explore and explain the issue of ecological overshoot, may provide solace to those who feel alone in a world where we’re constantly striving to use bigger, better, more.

5. Most Surprisingly Successful

As I’ve said, I remain astonished by my top post. But looking a little further along the list, I am most pleasantly surprised that I Prefer My “Maiden” Name and You Can Too (or Not) has achieved relative success in views and comments. It is exactly the sort of post of mine that doesn’t usually receive much attention. It was very fun to write and I’m still excited about the name change. I must admit that I’m pleased this one struck a chord.

6.Most Underrated

Underrated posts are often “underrated” for reasons that have nothing to do with the  posts themselves. It’s a holiday weekend. You published it at two in the morning. Everyone and their dog posted in that period and people are simply fatigued. But sometimes, the post just isn’t that great, or just doesn’t evoke any particular interest are reaction at the time its published. Either way, the flops can be frustrating. Especially the flops you like the most. My first flop, It’s Not Me, It’s Him, was also my very first post, so no big surprise there. It was about a (purely fictional – ha) loss of a developing friendship. This loss may have occurred for any number of reasons but I’ve decided to blame hypothetical people. The second flop I’ve chosen to highlight is my rant about language and generalizations, Warning! Lecture Zone: Generalize at your own risk. I am persnickety about language at the best of times but when it’s hurtful I really get going. I didn’t manage to get many others going with this post.

7. Most Worthy of Pride

Finally, as proof that things really can come full circle, my proudest post is a response my first blog award, also from Dana, where she gave me the once in a lifetime chance to reject an award: Who me? Well if you insist. No, thanks. That post was incredibly fun to write. The fact that it occurred to Dana to fulfill my dream was absolutely priceless!

Once again, this post has meant much more to me than it could to someone else. But I’m grateful for this time down memory lane and the wonderful bloggers that have encouraged and inspired me. For some of my favourite bloggers, cruise my very limited blog roll. [Hi, blog world. I’m trying to keep myself under control. It’s tough. Forgive me.]

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Community, Hypotheticals, Self-reflection, Waste, Writing | , , , | 6 Comments

Trespassing Prey – Part 2

 An adoring fan (I kid) inadvertently encouraged me to put up more of this story I wrote a number of years ago. You can find the introduction here, if you’re so inclined. In the interest of avoiding a 12-post series, this section is lengthy. It’s also from a less succinct period of my life. I seek forgiveness.

As always, the first kilometre was tough, finding a rhythm and warming our muscles up to the idea of a good deal of work ahead.  We breathed the air in deeply, enjoyed the scent, shared our excitement, and thought about cougars.  For a while, we used a good deal of energy avoiding baby frogs that were making the journey from their nesting place to their new marshy home. They lightly hopped across the trail.  We enjoyed their energetic movements and cracked up about being easily distracted, lacking diligence in our attention to potential cougars.

After a brief break at the three-kilometre mark, we hiked on.  Here, the real work began, the climb became much steeper, which I hate, and covered with small fallen trees, which drove us crazy.  Every fallen tree required a strategy.  Most were a metre or more off of the trail – too high for either of us to straddle, very difficult to go under with a full backpack. We were further delayed because we had to stand around and complain before and after, again and again.  Luckily, a cougar did not choose such an opportune time – with one of us caught under a tree – to come sniffing.

Along the way, we fantasized semi-seriously that if a cougar were to attack us we could slay it with ease using the knife provided by Beth’s dad.Beth would keep the head as a trophy.  In a stroke of serendipity, the cougar would be female and lactating, to ensure that I could have some milk afterwards, for my stomach. Especially in the absence of my stomach medication – yes, that’s right, in my late night stupor the stomach pills had not made it into the backpack. Sigh.  This tidy cougar-hunting scenario amused us for quite some time as we hiked, satisfied with our plans.

After another 5km or so consisting of fallen trees, steep terrain, the inconvenient realization that I’d also forgotten my cell phone and our ride wouldn’t know when to pick us up, the trail levelled off and we came to a clearing with a cabin, thus concluding the lower portion of the hike.  We intended to drop off our wares, do the second leg of the trail and come back down to the cabin to sleep.  Our plans were foiled somewhat. The cabin itself did not have hospitality written on it – anywhere.  It was dank and dark, and seemed to host many visiting/nesting/pillaging creatures. Our tent was far more appealing and we set up camp in a nearby clearing.

But first, we had to find the trail to the peak of Mt. Cartier, which would apparently make the arduous hike entirely worth it.  Everyone had told us that after the cabin, the trail continues, but try as we might, we found nothing. We could go no further without a severe fight with some devil’s club.  After a number of attempts, we despairingly gave up on reaching the peak and glimpsing the fantastic view of the entire valley. No cabin, no peak, no view.

We didn’t pout for long before we quickly set to work making our home.  The sun shone, I started building a fire, and Beth, wielding the cougar knife, began preparing our tent site.  Each of us was quite happy to do our work. We pitched our tent, enjoyed the view and our dinner in the sun and chatted about nothing particular. Though it was most certainly on my mind, we still had not talked about the date. We were holding a stubbornness contest and neither of us wanted to be the first to bring it up.

After dinner I took it upon myself to figure out how to get our food and toiletries up a tree so that no bear would make us into a grocery store.  I threw everything in a garbage bag, tied a rope around it and looked fruitlessly for THE TREE.  Very few of the trees had unobstructed branches that I could manage to get the rope around. But oh how I tried. People always made this sound so easy when giving “bear aware” instructions, how hard could it be?  Very, apparently.

Eventually I picked a target, setting my sights on a branch approximately 5 metres above my head.  I wished myself luck, cocked my arm back, and threw the rope as hard as I could.  In a moment lacking triumph of any kind, the rope peaked a metre below the branch and fell limply to the ground at my feet.  Not to be deterred, I tried again, with a similar result.  I had no more success the third time.  Or the fourth.  I quickly became frustrated; my patience for my own failures is quite limited. I had no hope in hell of getting that garbage bag up to somewhere that a bear could not reach.  The fallen trees that we had been cursing along the hike now seemed very appealing – at least I could stand on one.

So I settled for an even lower branch, perhaps two metres above my head.  Pathetic.  I threw the rope, angry at my failure, hit the branch and almost knocked myself in the head with the rope as it came back down.  We were sure to be robbed tonight.  But refusing to sink further into patheticness, I threw the rope again and thankfully (for my self esteem), it came down on the other side of the branch.  So I pulled the rope, heaving the garbage bag mightily into the air before relishing in my heroic moment. I had Amazon woman strength.  Proud, I lowered my gaze from the glorious branch and looked straight ahead.  Sigh.  My heart sank.  The bottom of the garbage bag hung directly in front of my eyes.  Any heroism left in my feeble body was swiftly deflated.  How lame!  A two-month-old squirrel could have used the bag as a piñata.  I might as well have left a stick beside it to make things easy.  Alas, I assumed that this was better than having the bag in our tent and gave up, shamed and perplexed.

Exhausted and fearful of getting attacked (by mosquitoes as much as by cougars) we crawled into our tent to start one of those classic too early to sleep sleepover-type discussions. Beth’s mind, like mine, is over-active at night and we both struggled to find even a fitful rest.  I had silly dreams about dates and frogs and cougars and woke up every ten minutes changing positions. Every time Beth’s foot kicked the corner of the tent, the opposite corner, at my head, would pucker and scare me, waking me up frightened and sleepily alert. Beth got even less sleep than I did, disturbed by my kicks and tossing and turning at every sound and silence.

In the morning, we woke to a warm tent.  The daylight brought with it, as it always seems to, a sense of relief and safety.  We were alive.  Not even our toes had been gnawed off, and though uncomfortable and tired, we woke in good spirits, pleased with our adventure. This air of reassurance unfortunately was soon challenged by my physical condition.  The warm tent, the excitement, the lack of my usual milk remedy and stomach medication was starting to take its toll.  In search of some soothing protein, I found and delved into some peanuts.  I’m not sure where the peanuts came from because the food was supposed to be hung, but they were there and I ate them desperately.

Regardless, I was soon rushing to unzip the tent – the date’s tent, conveniently.  I mostly managed to direct the pathetic contents of my stomach away from the tent but to my horror was not completely successful. Is it a bad omen to throw up on the tent of the person you went out with 36 hours previous? Between “moments” I managed to get dressed and go sit by the fire pit to spare Beth any more of my scent.  I did my best to feel better, eating and throwing up alternately, while she packed up our entire camp without complaint.

… Stay tuned for trespassing, paranoia AND police.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Wild Animals, Writing | , , , , | 4 Comments

Strategic Plotting

I’m fairly convinced that I’m bad at chess and war games for the same reason that I’m bad at plot development. I cannot think ahead in that way, considering different contingencies, adjusting my plans in advance. I’m bad at debates for the same reason, unless it’s a topic in which I am confident – like the best route to ride to school. Some people, like people who are wicked at puzzles and the like, can slap down a strategy like a $2 mortgage payment. Me, it’s like trying to fork over a lung while still breathing. Because of this ineptitude, I need your help to prevent anybody whispering checkmate in my unsuspecting ear.

At issue for me today is a different kind of plotting, thankfully not my garden or my grave (which reminds me, I wrote my epitaph when I was 13: Rose’s toes over there and her nose this way goes). I mentioned in my last post that I intend to work in some time over the holidays to interview my mom and aunt for a writing project. My priority would be to talk to my aunt and get as much of that done as possible – she has seniority since she’s 81.

My aunt, Tia I’ll call her since that’s what I call her, is awesome and energetic and some sort of biological enigma. She’s also got great stories that weave into other stories and include unnecessary details about temperature, carpet colour, time of day, sale price. I feel relatively well equipped to handle her meanderings. She deals well with interruption. I think questions and other prompts will help. What I’m not so sure about is getting her to sign onto the project in the first place.

Don’t go thinking I’m about to go manipulating a senior into some sketchy exposé about how much she pays for garbage pick up. I don’t plan on getting her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. I don’t think Tia would be against this idea at all in principle. In fact, I think she’d be interested and pleased, and also recognize that it gives me an opportunity to learn more about my dad, her brother, too. But she’s a bit funny. She’s anxious by nature and this hasn’t improved in recent years. Further, it’ll be the Christmas season and she’s likely to be in Tia mode, with family arriving unannounced for a week or whisking her away or expecting to be fed or building her a new wall unit. Also, my mom suspects that if I give her any notice, she’s likely to obsessively stress and get herself into quite a tizzy. On the other hand, without notice, it seems a little presumptuous to show up at her house with a sleeping bag and the modern day equivalent of a tape recorder, make a pot of tea and say, “OK, Tia. I’m writing a book about your life. Now, you were born March of 1930, right?”

You may be wondering why I don’t just go with the flow and see how she reacts. I’d love to be all, “Universe, show me the way” about this. But my panic is as follows: at the risk of being dramatic, it’s hard to foresee a time in the next few years where I will be able to dedicate another week to this sort of thing. Tia lives 9 hours away, so occasional mini-sessions are not really an option. The phone I think would be a little bit atrocious, under the circumstances. I don’t want to take it for granted that Tia will be around for another gazillion years.

My mom, being the devious little monkey that she is, is tasked with telling Tia I’m planning to interview my mom and seeing how she reacts. I’m eagerly awaiting the report. In the meantime, I’m still trying to strategize, which is a little like paddling a kayak with one arm.

So I’m asking you dear savvy and sensitive readers, how do I approach this? And, seriously what is the modern equivalent to a tape recorder? I actually need to know.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Cycling, Portuguese-ness?, Writing | , , , | 13 Comments

How Did I Get Here?

All in a day. There’s something to be said for breaking routine. There’s something to be said for keeping it.

Listening, absorbing radicality from people who make time worthwhile. Sensing. Finding warmth. Can I?

Family moment, cat on chest. Unwilling to budge. Warming. Being warmed. Comfortable.

How did I get here?

Cold. Stranger holding dirty cukes in a windy vessel house. Drug busts and politics. Friend nowhere to be found. Where am I?

Too early. Waiting. Me and a bouncer. Fast friends. Working to not disturb the other’s silence. Look away. No friend in sight. Be warm, be warm. Who am I?

Inside a hallway bar. 1 of 6 tables along the wall. Just me. Sesame St. t-shirt. 5 other people. No friend in sight. This is new. It’s not me. It’s fun. It’s fine. Who am I? Bartender brings me a water. What service!

How did I get here?

The payphone search reqires a multi-lateral meeting. Friend arrives before talks break down. Vans, banks, chats, and chance encounters. Speechless.

Dancing                             Dancing                          Dancing

Parked in a dark driveway. Back at the vessel. Trespassing? Friend disappears a moment. Things bad movies are made of. Unsafe? Unusual. Un-me. Uneventful.

Cold onion rings out of tupperware. Scribbling away in bed. Nausea. Onion rings? Another late night? Drinking water does not warrant the onion rings.

How did I get here?

Blessings and oddities. Oddities that may be blessings.

November 3, 2011 Posted by | Community, Self-reflection, Travel and intrigue | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Anything I set my mind to – Part 2

Silly me. My last post, Anything I set my mind to – Part 1, was so titled because I had a clear, sequel type idea that I wanted to explore in a follow up post aptly entitled Part 2. In a twist of “see, I told you I was a scatterbrain,” I have absolutely no idea what that brilliant thought (aren’t all forgotten thoughts brilliant?) was.

I do know this. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I wanted to do other things too, some that involved writing, but I always wanted to be a “writer”. And to me that meant something relatively specific. I wanted to write a novel, and sell it, and people would read it, and at least a few people I’d never met would like it. Ideally that would happen more than once. A repeat cycle. The problem? Never really thought I could do it. Never willing to take the risk. Always wanted someone else to discover me, like some model standing in line at the grocery store. I also didn’t want anyone to be right about how dreams and artsy fartsiness don’t pay the bills.

It’s funny. Instead, I did what I thought at the time was the practical variation of writer: Communication Studies. To an awful lot of people that would be pretty darn hillarious. I’m all for the liberal arts degree, and verbally smack people who talk about it as a go-nowhere, employment killer. But it’s not nursing; it doesn’t set you down in some obvious “practical” positions. Socrates and Marshall McLuhan (the medium is the message guy) do not a clear path make.

Aspiring writers are not a vanishing breed in the blogosphere so I don’t want to dwell on this self-imposed barrier. I consider myself relatively aware of my weaknesses and very practical. These two traits can be healthy but are difficult to reconcile. I truly believe that we all have things to contribute. But there are so many good stories out there, vast experiences and important memories. Isn’t it a little self-indulgent to think that I could make a contribution to that discourse? I’ve met me.

Thankfully, never doesn’t last forever. But I can see how never really believing – the art of the possible or whatever – can definitely slow these things down.

I’m maxed out on self-indulgence for now. Saying goodbye to my brilliant thought.

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Doing it the hard way, Self-reflection | , , | 4 Comments

Trespassing Prey – a teaser

I wrote this story years ago, and thought it would be fun to post its intro.

My first and only [not anymore] overnight hiking trip was a collection of mishaps to be sure. Never have I felt so unprepared nor so much like entertainment for an unsympathetic but laughing supreme being.  I went with my close friend, Beth.  We didn’t run out of food or water, we didn’t encounter any real wildlife – besides some small frogs and mosquitoes, but we did get ever-so-barely lost. In time we learned that a little lost could go a long way towards trouble.

We’d been researching the hike, Mt. Cartier, just south of Revelstoke, for a number of days. Hikers assured us that we wouldn’t have a problem following the trail. This didn’t end up being entirely true, but the messenger wasn’t the problem, we were.

Beth packed the tent, the food and camping equipment.  I was to bring my cell phone (to call our ride home) and my stomach medication (so that I didn’t get sick). While packing up at Beth’s house, her dad bustled around nervously, shouting out concerns as he went.  One such comment, “It’s a bad year for cougars,” started things off on tense footing. I can’t remember the conversation exactly but it went more or less as one would expect. To her father’s mentioning cougars Beth replied, “We know,” still patient enough to keep most of the annoyance out of her voice.

-“Yeah, well what are you going to do?” he shouted with a voice full of stress, like frying bacon popping incessantly, as he went into the basement.

-“We’ll be fine, dad” Beth warned.

-He jogged back up anxious and agitated, “Take this; you need this.”

-Beth backed away, as a person is likely to do when presented with a weapon, “A knife? What will we do with this?”  Then she looked at her father’s face, where tension was visibly billowing out. “Okay dad.”

-“Keep it outside your bag so you can get to it,” he said in an authoritative tone.

-“We’ll slay that cougar in a minute flat,” I replied, trying feebly to lighten the mood.

-Unimpressed her dad eyed me seriously, “Rose, you be careful.”

-Repentant, I nod, “Okay, we will be. Don’t worry.”

-He walked around for a moment as if caged, a cougar himself, “The cougars are supposed to be bad now – I don’t know if you two should go on your own.”

-“DAAAAD!  You wouldn’t care if your son was going with one of his friends.”

-“Be-eth.  You always do what you want.  Just be careful.”

In all this, we managed to get ready, and get more paranoid about cougars.  I said goodbye to Beth and left on a first date – a story of its own. I got home late and was too excited to sleep much. In the morning, I woke up tired but very excited. I had my breakfast and was out the door to meet Beth. My friend Katie, the only person that I know willing to get up and give us a ride at 8am on a Saturday morning without incentive, picked us up.  The quick drive out there was full of chatter.

On arrival at the trailhead we bid Katie goodbye, put our names and the date on a whiteboard in case that cougar got the better of us, and set off.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Wild Animals, Writing | | 1 Comment