The Long Read…

Once, many years ago, I learned to read. Like most children of North America, I learned at school. I recall my Gr.1 teacher painstakingly pulling a classroom of reluctant emergent readers through various tales of “Mr. Mugs” like it was slew-water, each child dreading their turn to read aloud before all the other dreading emergents. 

Reading became a sport. Skill & desire to participate were closely linked & some of us, tho perhaps not pre-school readers, had extensive home libraries where we had poured over books on long lazy afternoons. Our home library had been carefully stocked by my mother. We were nearly banned from consuming tv and so, books were our thing. Everything from picture books, large illustrated collections of fairy tales, bible based books for children & adults, comics—some my dad’s in German, some classic Disney & such—one memorable one was an illustrated version of The Hobbit, but we also had encyclopedias & science & nature books on so many subjects I simply could not get bored. “Reading” to me in preschool life had been a slow, leisurely consumption of information & imagination. 

Then, “Mr. Mugs” wrecked it all. Reading became, as stated, a sport. Competitive relays & speed & written reports & never a quest for genuine adventure. It was forced upon us all. 

I believe I retained some of my early joy of reading, finding treasure in Beverly Cleary & a plethora of horse novellas in the mid elementary grades. I discovered I preferred adventurous animal fictions & discovered Richard Adams, at my mother’s suggestion, and then moved in to Tad Williams, & that genre carried me into high school. High school became the ultimate attempt to turn love of literature to hate. Tho I loved most novels we were assigned, historical fiction beginning to really emerge as the perfect marrying of adventure & history education to spark my interest, for the most part, they take the driest, most detestable forms of reading, throw it at you, impose a deadline & report upon you, & expect you to enjoy it. Few if any do. 

Most develop a keen & awkward hate for Shakespeare & for poetry, for short story & certainly for writing about literature. School takes the pure adventure out of reading, stripping it down to the bones & leaving it unsalted. 

After high school, I began the classic adult life of the uneducated. Life gets hard quick & reading usually gets set to the side. Between 3am feedings & laundry, brains just don’t function so well, let alone eyes for words on a page. Over the years my reading consumption has been mostly spiritual in nature with the odd splurge on something fictional. 

I say splurge because it has been. I pick up a book, and in three days it must be done, at the cost to nearly everything in my life—the house is a mess, the suppers are barely made, kids are left to veg on tv—all while I binge on a book, or heaven help me, sometimes a trilogy. This has been how I’ve consumed literature for years—a guilty pleasure squeezed into a life overflowing. I’ve not had the leisure of slowly consuming a book. If it gets put down, that’s it. Game over. The book hits the shelf & isn’t likely to be picked up again. Life gets too busy & frankly, I lose interest. 

The first book I recall meandering through, perhaps ever, was The First Men in the Moon, H.G. Wells, just a few years ago. I slowly read it, pondering his writing, his skill at taking what little he must have known of the moon, and braiding this beautiful sci-fi from that knowledge. The characters were lovely & the adventure was so very real. It was a classic & instead of rushing it, I savoured it. 

Now, I’m working on book 3 in an eight book series, the writing having spanned from the early nineties until just three years ago. It is historical fiction with just enough sex I don’t care to recommend it—to each their own. But it is the long read. It changes times from the 1700’s to the 1900’s, the details can be cumbersome, quite unlike popular fiction these days which tends to be more like you’re watching a movie than reading a book, so it takes some amount of digestion & processing. I think I’ve gotten lazy. I’m more used to the easier reads now. But, because of the length of the novels, plus the amount of them, I find myself unhurried & able to set it down, days at a time, and return to continue the journey of these characters. 

It just dawned on me, that perhaps after a life time of school-taught reading style of binge consumption & hurriedness, this is how reading is meant to be. How nice. To just take your time, & read. 

The Harder Days…

So among the thing seldom spoken of among pet owners are the days when you’re kind of just waiting for the inevitable. 


We’ve had Nysa (Nee-sa) for over a decade. She’s such a lovely dispositioned dog. We got her from a rescue society & to my surprise she has been the best dog I’ve had. She’s been my companion everyday, guardian to my kids, and a faithful watch in the night. 

The last few months she’s really slowed. She’s begun to seem disoriented and often, I will wonder if she’s dead on her dog bed as she stares at nothing, barely moving. This week I’ve begun to find blood on the floor, assuming it’s from her mouth, and she’s been throwing up water. Otherwise, she seems okay, tho she sometimes opts to be let out the door rather than going through the dog door. 

This morning, she’s super not herself. She’s been like this before, but not with fresh blood on the floor. She’s bleeding from somewhere tho I can’t find where & it isn’t obvious now. I would guess cancer. She’s lathargic & I’m feeling quite weepy about the whole thing because tho I’ve grumped about her hair overload, I know it’s getting time to take her in.

Funny how tragic these things feel. I kind of feel broken hearted because I know I have to make the call, probably in the very near future, unless she just passes away in her sleep. Which is what I want. No one wants to make that call. 


Her & Spitfire have always had the most special of relationships. Probably because Spitfire is her baby. Until these two, I’d never experienced how a dog can just love a child. X & Roxy have this same closeness.  Dogs & their children, so sweet. 

She mothered a litter of abandoned kittens & certainly mothered Roxy. 

These last days are just so hard to watch. I’m sad to know our days left with such a lovely creature are almost done. 

Sculptor 

So, among the things as a mother I have grown to love, are these little treasures my children make me. My youngest & only son is now in his first year at school & has begun bringing home sculpted treasures for me. I hate to say it because all my children are very artistic, but he is my favourite sculptor. His are the most colourful & the most divergent from the plan they are given. 


His dinosaur, even his sister had to admit, kicked the butt of the one she did in Kindergarten. 

That all being said, these precious momentos of my kids when they are/were little grow more precious as they get older. I’m sure parents the world over have things the little hands of the children made that they treasure, and look back on in fondness. I am no different. These all sit, proudly displayed to remind me, this is the best job I could ever have been privileged with. These kids are my everything. 

Rückenfigur

It is, from behind I approach

The crumbled walls of the silent Abbey—

Do you see it’s coming death?
The crosses & graves strewn about, gaping raw & emptied of their clutch-treasured bones

I hear the heaving oaks, creaking with abandon, disintegrating, where once, the mourning masses stumbled in their tears, in their agonies, praying to their silent gods & idols, mumbling little prayers while the Devil looked on, lighting candles, the flickering flames of every soul he’s savoured. 

I look from behind the moment when silence grips the Abbey, the echo of the forest smooth like water over the rocks & I’m not lonely—there the heavens lay, a wide wide sky, the clouds roiling, the sun lilting, everything capsizing & burbling up, history to future, future to eternity, where all the birds & souls belong, like orchestral notes making a whole. 

This, the crumbled Rückenfigur, of what once was the darkness of time & gods, unseen & black as agony. 

***   
(The much adored, Casper David Friedrich’s The Abbey in the Oakwood, probably best known for The Wanderer Above the Sea Fog, but really all his work appeals to the Romantics as we wonder what the story of his painting is.) 


Gradient Shifts

i feel the tonal greys, the gradient shifts
the cool of how snow falls
& misinterprets the rocks
into staggered abstract masterpieces
how blood can slow, running veins
with a slither more than
a rage
how the trees hold tight
the buds of spring awaiting
a grey that bubbles up into
a slatey blue, that bursts
open into indigos & fine wines
a sunrise that tips open
cycling in phases of green
ripping the buds from the clutch
of the greedy grey
& suddenly we’re all flying
& suddenly we’re all dreaming
& i’m just broken
& i’m just fine
& i’m just hovering in the warm
& i’m just a bird
& i’ve just got this sky
& i’m just enraptured with a sunset
& that is just
the smallest, most whispered
of gradient shifts
& night falls & falls

Feels Like An Artsy Day Out

A.J. Casson (1898-1992)

October, North Shore, 1929

I feel like the North shore, beaten & wind-worn, the slim edges faded into moldy tones of oblique. My skin is like the crusted lichen, painted with drear of Winter & a little too dry, crumbling at the touch of even a small bug. 

I waste away, watching the sky shift & tide like the vast oceans, but my fingers can’t quite touch the waves, I cannot hear the roar—a silent movie. 

I trip on down the stones, accepting the scratches like little kisses on my skin. 

Broken

So Spring Break was a little more broken than a break this year. 

Originally, my idea was to get out tons in the memorial invitation campaign, and then, Firecracker got scheduled for her surgery. 

Three years ago in a fitness class she had her kneecap dislocate. Since then it’s been a series of braces, physio, and several minor dislocations until, the worst one of all in in early January in which we had to call an ambulance. After consulting yet again with the Orthopedic Specialist the decision was made to just go ahead and try to resolve the issue permanently. Firecracker has the genetic perfect storm for issues with both knees it turns out, so the injury three years ago wasn’t expected to resolve without help, and it’s probably a matter of time before the other knee has the exact same issue. 

So the past couple months we’ve just hoped she wouldn’t dislocate it again and then they did the surgery. So they tack the ligament into the bone to (hopefully) prevent the kneecap from slipping out as easily. I’m not sure if they did the repair as well where they use a graft of your hamstring, but a week in, this is what her leg looks like. 

Before all this we’d had tickets for The Lumineers & Kaleo concert, and so thankfully she got to borrow a wheelchair from the venue & they put her and her friend in accessible seating which turned out to be better seats than she’d originally purchase. Despite the wheelchair, she was super swollen Saturday. Maybe she over did it. 

Any ways, last night she did manage her first steps without brace or crutches, so it does seem to be healing nicely. Her main worry besides missing work, was being able to look nice for the Special Convention in July. Originally we thought the surgery would be another couple months down the road, but it got scheduled so much earlier that I’m sure all there will be is a scar, but that bruising will be long gone. 

As for seeing the new arena & convention site for this year & the concert—first off, the concert was great, and I’m certainly a bigger fan of The Lumineers now. The venue is so much larger than the previous arena, and I am so looking forward to having our regional convention there! I think this will be the largest convention I’ve been to since the international at Montreal ’85. I can’t recall exactly how big the ones I attended in Ontario were when I was a kid tho. But the tie-ins across Canada are going to be so amazing to experience too. I think the whole of our brothers & sisters countrywide are really excited. If you include the attendance to all the conventions tied-in, of course it will be the largest attendance we’ve all ever been to. So exciting. 

Even before this special convention was announced both the older girls had set the summer as their goal for baptism. Kawaii is in the ministry Tuesdays & Thursdays every week & poor Firecracker who had intended to be focusing on finishing up school at home and the ministry this semester, has been off that leg so much so far this year, she hasn’t been able to do much service. Certainly not as much as she had planned. But, give it a few more weeks and she’ll be at it again. I can’t see why they wouldn’t qualify for baptism and, frankly, I’m so thankful they are older and coming to this decision. It’s been a long road through many difficulties to get them to the point where they are and I never wanted them to feel pushed or pressured into being a Witness just because I am. 

One of my most favourite things of late, was getting to see what they wrote in their Russian campaign letters. We all wrote separately, in our own spaces. We reviewed the information, the video, discussed it days before, and I encouraged the kids to pray about what they should write everyday, until we sat down to write our letters. When I read each of the older kids letters my heart nearly broke with love for their words. All three of the older kids had such amazing things to say. I loved that I got to read from their own thoughts & hearts their hopes for the freedoms of their spiritual family in Russia. It was really beautiful and honestly, surprising. I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. I can only imagine how Jehovah must feel at knowing what each of his servants feels regarding this matter. Logically, we all know it’s unlikely our letter will be picked out and read, because seriously, that’s a lot of letters, but, Jehovah uses the ‘unlettered & ordinary’ (see what I did there, Acts 4:13) to teach and reach hearts. The warm principled love is just a joy to express on behalf of those we’ve not even met. It was a unique way to serve in the ministry from young to old, and an honour. 

Also topping the out of the ordinary on the spring break list, thankfully the kids were on spring break since someone was murdered at the schoolyard a week ago. Honestly, I’ve  become a little too calloused. I wasn’t even surprised. It’s only the second murder that I’ve known of in the nine years we’ve been in this neighbourhood, and I suppose some people live in neighbourhoods where there’s never been a murder, but, things continue to decline worldwide. I no longer feel shocked by so many things that even just a handful of years ago would have shook me. This, a murder by the school on a Saturday night, nope, didn’t seem to rattle me. 

We are all tainted by the needed numbing to survive. Once upon a time, I would have cried at this news even tho I didn’t know the young man. Today, I saw the flowers where he’d been shot down, and simply looked away and hoped that if there had been blood, the melting snow and wet rain has washed it from the grass so the kids won’t see. What a terrible world. How thankful I am for the hope of Jehovah restoring the earth to paradise conditions and this old disgusting way being expunged from my mind. It can be overwhelming if you let it in too deeply. It’s a fine balance to remain sensitive but not too sensitive. What a terrible and necessary thing, to intentionally stop-up the emotions just so as to not be torn apart by them. 

In Great Bleakness…

…in this great bleakness one must wonder what summer tastes like, how it feels to have wind on ones skin, sun touching down to the bones. I find I’m lonely for what doesn’t exist here— the soft flow of summer. 

Here, is a great bleakness. Sunrise with her feral light wandering over the thin edge of winter; not one flower does she touch. Not a blade of green or a faint whisper of lilac or apple or rose or even budding pine or juniper, only the faded smell of exhaust and stale snow, the mould zig-zagging hungrily along, mazing my mind. 

This lichenous hunger is screaming for a little sap, a little sweetness. 

Spring, in all its drear pushed its baldness from the deep apex of winter, tearing it apart. The shreds are so bleak—& nothing blooms & nothing dreams & nothing folds open & nothing, nothing, nothing. This is the north. We don’t do ‘Spring has Sprung’ here. We do Drear, the longest season of all. 

…the dirt rising as the sweepers move in. Even the boulevards are swept with great machines whirring & combing the six months of agony from them. All swept into great mounds of filth & debris… the sky becomes a storm of decay & refuse. I feel the contagion moving down into my chest—now I know why. 

 

CCTV

I sit inside the warmed haze of 

Quiet loom & motions ticking about

Cylindrical & roving
I’ve pushed out the cluttered heart

Plucked it apart, murmuring against

It’s deadfall beats…

Oh cautious thing, dead & ungrieved 

I’ve opened my jaws wide to consume

Whatever remains [a little whisper of

yesterday’s blood ] it’s a dried up thing now

Black & little perfuse in its foul odours of

Indignant & decayed effulgence

—A strange perfume
I grip the tattered thing, a tough sinew

A gagging in my throat, I don’t care anymore
I’m silent now. Silence is now 

My heartbeat. 

The Impact

A shot of my shelf because, today it looked so cute to my eye. I reorganized it a couple days back, and tho it’s mostly as it was, my poetry collection shelf makes me very happy. There are more, but the plan is to eventually swap out my most favourite non antique books with antique/older copies of my favourites, namely, Millay, Dickinson, Whitman, and Rumi. I don’t think you can get super d Frost as he’s not that old, but I’d take a good old Frost too if I can find him. 

I recently began Charlotte’s Web with lovelies 4&5, I don’t believe I’ve read them a fictional story with chapters before, so, these nights, before bed, hot homemade coco and some reading. We are half way now, so we may actually get through it. My older kids, I read the Tale of Despereaux to them, when I was home schooling them. We do other reading, but childhood classics, well five kids—if they each remember that one time mom read that to them,  I’ll be happy.  I have a lot to do, so taking the time to slow it down and do this feels important to me. They won’t remember the dishes and laundry and meals, but stories and cookies and coco… and if there’s one thing I know about kids, impact, is everything. They can believe, ‘oh we did that all the time’ ‘we went to Winnipeg every summer’ ‘we did that chore for years’ …good and bad both, impact makes a small thing seem eternal and constant in their minds. So, I’m implanting a memory—mom used to sit and read us classics before bed when we were little. I actually think I know what I’ll pick next. If I only have a few more moments with them while they’re  little, before those big years gobble them up and out of my arms, there’s a few more things I’ve got to get in with them.