The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

18 April 2017

Pushy reversals

On the highway this morning was a very large, very long transport truck. On the rear panel, in a font large enough I could read it from 15 cars back, was this: DO NOT PUSH
I should have a sign like that following me around like a cartoon thought bubble.

In the parking lot, I watched the maneuverings of a woman parking her SUV. She was reversing into her chosen space, carefully inching backwards, correcting left and right until she had her vehicle tucked in just so.  The funny thing is, it was a drive-through parking spot.

People are endlessly entertaining.

12 April 2017

12 short stories, the third

Title: New Life
Genre: Speculative fiction
Word count: 1000

She hurt. She hurt all over. Even her eyelashes felt bruised. She braced herself, preparing for the deep pain sure to come and opened her eyes.

With a grimace, eyes wide, she gingerly turned her head and saw what appeared to be a tunnel. It was dark green in colour, nearly absent of light. It looked to stretch on to nowhere and - with a careful turn of her head - came from no real where either.

It was a struggle, but she managed to sit up. Her head was clearer and she could see that the dark green was actually foliage, dense to the point of resembling a woven fabric. She did not recognize this place. She did not know where she was or how she came to be there, but she did know she didn’t belong there. She knew she wanted out of there.

Taking stock, she determined that, despite the all-encompassing ache, she should be able to get to her feet and move. That’s when she noticed her appearance. It looked like she had been through a battle: dirt coated her clothes, palms raw with scrapes, mud clinging to her boots, and most frighteningly, a vine curled snugly around one ankle. She tugged at it, then tugged harder, with little effect aside from rising panic. She managed to clamber upright and took a step forward with the other foot thinking to forcefully pull the trapped one free of the vine. To her surprise, the heavy rope of vegetation dropped away. She took quick, anxious steps forward to get away from the thing, then stopped with the realization she didn’t know where to go: there was no clear path to follow, there were no landmarks to guide her, and she could see no horizon from which to get her bearings.

She would just have to move forward, then; forward being the direction she began with. But she was immediately pulled up short by, she saw with horror, yet another vine twined around her ankle. Panic mounted higher, exacerbated by the heavy thickness of the air she had to struggle to take in. Her mind began a refrain: “Get me out; get me out; get me out…” How was this happening to her?

Again, it was the simple act of walking forward that loosened her from the snare of the vine. And so it went for what felt like hours. As long as she kept in motion, maintaining forward momentum, she was able to forge a way through the dark tunnel, but as soon as she stopped she would become entangled once more.

Reaching a state of exhaustion to the point of struggling to move her limbs or keep her eyes open, she realized she couldn’t go on any further without taking some rest. Giving the matter some thought, she began searching out rocks and stout branches with which to construct a sort of barricade behind which to refuge for a few hours at least. As she found suitable specimens she filled her pockets, then used the bottom of her shirt as a basket of sorts, clutching the ends of fabric until the weight became too much.What she had at that point would just have to be enough.

Without being too clever about construction methods, she arranged her building material in a rough oval shape, just large enough for her to curl up inside of. She took care that every part of her body and clothing was within the perimeter, then, despite how rough and uncomfortable the ground, she fell swiftly to sleep.

Untold hours slipped through the dense forest tunnel as she slept without dreaming. There was no rising sun to awaken her, or early birdsong to disturb her slumber. When she opened her eyes it was to a world that looked much as it had when she’d closed them. Struggling to bring her protesting body upright, she was relieved to see that her barricade had done its job: she was free of clinging greenery. With equal relief she noticed that on the larger leaves in arm’s reach of her fortress were drops of heavy dew, and that by bringing the tip of a leaf to her mouth she could drink of the water.

Thirst slaked, she stood inside the protective circle and took stock of her situation. She could see no food so she would have to remain hungry for now.  With no clearer idea of direction or destination she would carry on as yesterday, one foot in front of the other in a steady march.

Accustomed to walking through the green darkness, she was able to pay attention to her thoughts, which, she realized, were actually quite busy. She had vague impressions of herself before waking up here. There had been light, certainly, and laughter, but also noise and fear and emptiness. Was she trying to get back to that, or had an attempt to escape it brought her here? She had to get out of this place, but felt her connection to anything from before first waking here was fading.

Now knowing the trick to escaping the green snares, she regularly took time to rest. As time passed she realized she had made a sort of peace with her circumstances and acceptance resulted in relative calm. One step then another was all she could do, so that is what she would do. When hunger became unbearable, she would figure out what she could eat. When she became too tired to continue, she would again construct a barricade and sleep until she woke once more.

Finally, her mind took notice of what her feet had been telling her for some time: the lush vegetation had become considerably thinner. There was more light and the air was no longer heavy. Each step was easier than the one before. Moving more quickly, she soon found herself standing under the last tree at the edge of a vast meadow. A gentle rain fell, and the bright sun kissed her face.

06 April 2017

This is dedicated to the one I love

There are perks of being a cataloguer. Best of all is being able to see the new books and things as they are unpacked.  It need not be said - and yet I shall write it anyway - that my wish list resulting from all this seeing of new books is several pages long, and on my work desk is a perilous stack of books I think of bringing home if only there, the shelf, two chairs, night table, and floor space I have given over to books I intend to read in the next few days weren't already filled to capacity.

One of my favourite things to do is read the author dedications. Some are sweet, some are clever, some are silly, and some obscure. Some are about libraries and librarians - always a winner. All of them are fodder for imaginative suppositions of who the dedicatee may be, and I always wonder if the author told the recipient of the honour thus bestowed upon them, or if they merely hoped that special person would one day come across it and recognize the message was meant for them.

I don't write all of them down, of course, but what follows is a brief assortment of some I have collected in my notebook over the past few months:

~For Tess. Mi vuoi sposare?  (A most original and perfect proposal!)

~Thanks, Mom and Dad, for raising a reader.

~This book is dedicated to all librarians everywhere - for they are the true keepers of the secret flame and not to be trifled with.

~For Mum. Thank you for everything, especially the library books.

~For every girl who wants to write her own story.

~Dedicated to the Mount Vernon City library, where I first found the ladder.

~For Catharine, first and favourite raisin girl.

~For my husband, kidlet, and family. (This is seemingly ordinary and unremarkable until I tell you it was the dedication of a book of dom/sub erotica)

~Dad, I wrote a book.

~For Paula Pea.

~This book is for Olive who gave me a new life.

~Quite simply this book is for my readers.

~For Nap, with gratitude for a life of love + laughter.

~To Sadie, beloved niece since 22:22, 02/02/02 - Sadie Sue, this one's for you. (Very sweet until you realize the book is a story about a teen murder victim)

~If you, dear reader, have not this very day observed at least three instances of the magical, the mysterious, or the miraculous, do set this book down right away. Find a story more to your disposition. Perhaps something about chalk.

Writing a book requires a great deal of work and imagination. Could you go one step more and come up with a really good dedication?

03 April 2017

Playing by the numbers

Today is opening day of baseball season. On the drive in to work this morning, Canada's Broadcaster interviewed a woman who wrote a book about baseball. I know! I was totally surprised, too, but apparently there is enough to say about baseball to fill a book. Anyway. She said that one of the wonderful things about the game is that it can take a long time to end. I mean, a loooonnng time. 27 innings constitutes a substantial portion of the day (insert tongue-sticking-out-emoji)

Alright, alright, so 27 innings would be unusual but honest to Pete, the game does evolve slowly, does it not? And after all of that three up-and-three downing, you are not guaranteed high scoring results.

Then it occurred to me... hang on a minute!  These are complaints often leveled against the Beautiful Game of football (soccer, if you must). North American men claim a sport needs non-stop action and astronomic scores in order to be entertaining. This doesn't explain televised golf or fishing shows. Or bowling. The theory disregards the endless, unendurable time outs, consultations, and team changes of the National Football League. It ignores the fact that in both oval-ball football and basketball, the final score is inflated by 'seven points for this' and 'three points for that' rather than reflecting one point earned for each successful attempt at a goal or basket.

To end a post that had far too many numbers in it, I have only this to say: There's no accounting for taste.

A question

If no one is looking at you, are you invisible?  Are you present in the world only when you are seen?
Do we seek out relationship with others in order to have someone bear witness to our life?

I send this question into the void, imagining it drifting through vast and dark spaces, buffeted by lonely winds, seeking an answer on which to settle.

22 March 2017

Black crows on the corner

At the halfway point between parking lot and work place is a street corner with cobbled pedestrian zone and the walking man light with helpful countdown timer.

A David Attenborough of the human animal would find this a very interesting location from which to observe their subject in its natural habitat. Among the interesting specimens: the dressed in black office worker.

One morning I noticed that all five of the women waiting at the corner for their turn to cross (of which I was one), as well as the two who were crossing the other way, were clothed in head-to-toe black. We resembled a tiny unkindness of ravens. Each of us, in black winter coat over black trousers ending in black boots, with black bag slung over shoulders, with only minor differences for taste and style, were birds of a feather.

At the changing of the light we performed our dance en masse: a glance left then right, a cautious step off the curb, followed by quick steps across the cobblestones, black boots tapping, black bags bobbing... after which we parted, some darting left, some striding right, chins tucked down into our black coats, each of us moving at our own tempo to our own destination.

These particular birds, the dressed in black office worker, can be spotted at various watering holes in urban environments, where they clutch caffeinated beverages, yeasty baked things, or green salads in clear plastic boxes. They stride along sidewalks, heads turned toward the windows they pass, watching either their own reflection or the pretty items on display behind the glass.

Once safe in their own environments, with black coats removed, the David Attenborough of the human animal will discover that the unkindness of ravens was actually a collection of sparrows and starlings, doves and robins, cardinals and chickadees undercover in black feathers.

20 March 2017

The enthusiastic convert and the desert island

I've recently discovered the world of the podcast, and like all new converts, I tend to be rather enthusiastic when the opportunity to talk about them presents itself, whether with friend, family, or perfect stranger. (Actually I haven't been a scary podcast apologist with outright strangers just yet, but definitely so with people who are barely acquaintances.)

One of the shows I'm thoroughly enjoying is Desert Island Discs, from the BBC (known as the Beeb, or was, until the other Beeb happened.)  I like it because it combines interviews of interesting people with interesting music. And, I must be honest here, because of the accents. DID has been going strong for 75 years now, and I may have heard an episode here and there while still living at home, but I'm very glad to have discovered it at last. Technology has its wonderfulness!

The premise is: the guest of the week is the 'castaway', awash on a desert island.  The host with the marvelous accent leads the castaway through the story of his/her life, and interspersed therein the castaway offers eight musical selections that have some personal significance. Offerings I've heard so far include allsorts from Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, to Metallica and The Supremes. Then, the castaway is allowed to choose one book (aside from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, which are helpfully on the island), and one luxury item. At the end, the host asks which of the eight musical selections the castaway would want to save, supposing all the others were being washed away by the waves. Cruel question, no?

It's a fun game to play, and one I'm sure we've all partaken of at one time or another.  I've given some thought to what my answers would be if I were ever interviewed on the show (it could happen, as I am a very interesting sort of person) (stop laughing).  Here is what I have concluded: Narrowing the musical scope of an entire life (thus far) to a mere eight pieces of music is way too difficult, and also, the list looks very different if the question is 'name eight pieces of music that encapsulate your life' or if it is 'name eight pieces of music you would want to listen to over and over again while stranded on a deserted island'.

Because of that difference, I have given myself some leeway, and expanded the list to ten, and even then I have a few 'either or' selections. They are thus:

1. Everything counts - Depeche Mode
It has been documented here at the Lighthouse that I am, and have been, a dedicated and devoted fan of DM. The journey began for me when I saw the concert documentary '101' on Much Music - in particular the scene of the band performing this song. Dave, the lead singer is silhouetted against the massive crowd at the Rose Bowl and the fans carry on singing the refrain long after the instruments fade away. I wanted to know more about them, and I began collecting every bit of their music I could get my hands on. I am as devoted today, and rare is the mood that cannot be supported by my beloved boys in leather and chains.

2. Adagio - Albinoni
The first piece of classical music I claimed as my own from among my parents' vast collection. The aching emotions it stirred up worked their way into scraps of writing and to this day it never fails to move me.

3.Colourful - The Vervepipe
This would definitely make it onto the soundtrack of my life. It probably would be worked into "Tess's Theme" in some way. It's a good song, to be sure, but lyrically, it makes sense to me. Somewhere out there, is a man who gets it.

4. The Boxer - Simon and Garfunkle
High school English. Studying the great Canadian author Hugh MacLennan's 'Each man's son'. I fell in love with his writing in that class, thanks largely to a wonderful teacher who played us this song to help bring the story alive.

5. Girlfriend is better / or Once in a lifetime - Talking Heads
After highschool, which musically had been fairly mainstream, a new neighbour, German by birth, introduced me to a whole new world: Joy Division  Kraftwerk, and Talking Heads. David Byrne and his big white suit shook me up and put me back together different. It was like discovering grownup poetry when you'd only had nursery rhymes 'till then.

6. That was yesterday - Foreigner
Much earlier in chronology, but in terms of impact, I think it belongs here. I still love listening to Foreigner and believe, wholeheartedly, that Lou Gramm has one of the best voices in rock. Ever. And I speak as a huge fan of Chris Cornell. Jukebox hero was probably the first song of theirs I knew... taping it off the radio so I could play it over and over again to memorize the lyrics, but That was yesterday is a song I still listen to over and over again. The emotion Gramm delivers is achingly palpable.

7. Ishmael and Maggie - The Trews / or Penny more by Skydiggers
The Trews are so perfectly Canadian and I love love love Ismael and Maggie... but The Skydiggers are a band I used to go with my other music-loving friends to see in a little hole-in-the-wall club whenever they came to Ottawa.

8. Brothers in arms - Dire Straights
I'm an army brat. I've gone to Remembrance Day ceremonies all my life and believe we need to keep the stories of war alive, with the hope that we will - eventually - learn the lessons we shouldn't have taken so long to learn.

9. Show must go on - Queen
There is no more powerful, emotional, gut-wrenching song of the modern era, I believe, than this powerhouse performance from Freddie Mercury. I'd dabbled in the Queen discography since I was a kid, but bought myself the Innuendo album as an adult (I loved I'm going slightly mad) and The Show must go on broke me apart the first time I heard it. It's almost too much to really pay attention to it when it's playing...  you almost have to ignore it and let it slide into your consciousness sideways. I would play it in my car while driving home in the dark, playing it so loud my ears nearly bled, tears falling every time for the pain Freddie must have been feeling when he recorded it.

10. 7th symphony, Allegretto - Beethoven.
This is a recent favourite. Mom has always loved and played Beethoven, so I know for sure I must have heard this piece at least a million times in my life, but only recently has it taken over a corner in my mind as its own. It's like poetry in that it speaks directly to my soul, bypassing the need to unpack words for meaning.

Those are my ten.  If I had to save only one... man. I think my answer would be different depending on the day and circumstances, but I'm tempted to say the Albinoni.

The book I would like to have with me would probably be Jane Eyre. Unless it was the complete works of John Donne. My luxury item would definitely, without question, be a supply of pen and paper. All is well if I can write.

Would you be able to answer these questions?  What would your necessities be, should you be able to plan a little for being castaway on a desert island?