The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

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?

07 March 2017

February short story

Second '12 short stories in 12 months' challenge. The prompt was 'Conversations with my spouse', target 1,200 words.
This is a return to the world of Madeline and her Lighthouse Keeper.

Excerpt of letter from Dorothy Saunders to Madeline Smith
...storms have been fierce this year. They say more ships have been lost this year than in any other. As you can imagine, it is keeping Peter quite busy. (I tell you this in case you’re wondering why you haven’t been hearing from him.) (ARE you hearing from him?) Nevertheless, he stopped by today, for no particular reason at all, or so he’d have me believe. But I could see he wanted to ask after you and was working hard to keep his words between his teeth.
You know your own mind, Madeline, and I love you dearly, but you are more stubborn than an ornery mule when you catch hold of an idea. I truly do hope you know what you’re about, this time.
Kate says to tell ‘Aunt’ Madeline she won Edward’s marbles. (Here I thought he’d lost them long ago.)
Your forever friend,

Part of a letter from Madeline to Mrs. Calember
...I’m sorry to hear the raccoon got at your pies again. Do you think you ought to leave them to cool out on the porch like that? I’ve often been tempted to swipe one myself so I find myself quite in sympathy with your masked bandit!
Thank you for telling me about Peter - I’m glad to know he’s getting his meals regular at Miss Stella’s. Things haven’t changed in town one bit, for I swear every time he sets foot in that restaurant someone is in a hurry to tell me he isn’t wasting away from hunger. I appreciate your wanting to help, but That Man will have to come to his senses in his own time.
Now, fill me in on what’s been happening with the Lady’s Auxiliary. Dot’s last letter was sadly lacking in gory details…

From a letter from Jane Sissons to Madeline
… grumpy as a goat. Jonathan says he’s worse than before you came to town, and I have to say, Maddy, I agree with him. You know it must be plain as day, for my husband doesn’t notice a thing he hasn’t pulled up in a fishing net.
Dorothy and I are keeping an eye on him between us. Last week we overheard him asking Jasper about flower beds and garden seeds. Could have knocked us over with a feather we were so amazed, for if Peter LaRoche knew or cared about the difference between a flower or a weed he’s never showed it before.
We’re all pleased as can be for your sister but couldn’t she hurry the baby along so you can come back to Rose Passage?

From Madeline to Jasper Kittering
I wouldn’t go so far afield as Tolstoy, Jasper. I’m delighted you’re willing to venture away from the Farmer’s Almanac, but you needn’t go all the way to Russia on your first foray into the World of Literature! Rose Passage Library has a respectable selection of the works of Mr Dickens. Ask Mrs Calember to show you where they are; she’ll know how to help you. I think you would enjoy Oliver Twist very much. It is my experience that men of a quiet nature do well with Dickens.

A letter from Jasper Kittering to Madeline
I had to put down on paper my thanks to you, Miss Madeline, for leading me to the fine writing of Mr Charles Dickens. He sure is able to make a terrible and tangled life something we can find humour in. I’ve been reading scraps of it out to the fellows in the store of a quiet morning and they sure are enjoying it. I notice your man hanging around in the back of the gang some mornings but he usually slides out quiet like before I can talk to him. I reckon he’s another quiet one you told about Mr Dickens, for I saw him smile when he overheard me tell Jonathan Sissons how I came to be reading such a book. Mrs Calember is going to help me decide on the next book, soon’s I’m done with poor Oliver Twist, but we truly do miss you behind the desk of our library.
Come to think of it, your Peter was buying a fair lot of lumber and nails. Might be he’s fixing to build that trellis you’ve been talking about, come Spring time.
Your friend,
Jasper L. Kittering

From Mrs. Calember to Madeline
Peter paid his usual visit to the library on Tuesday, and I tucked the book on rose horticulture into the stack he borrowed as you’d asked.  I noticed Great Expectations among the books he returned. I don’t think he meant anything by the Miss Havisham reference though, dear.

Excerpt of letter from Madeline to Dorothy
I meant to patch the elbow of his grey sweater before I left for the train that day, but I was so cross I just didn’t care if he went all over town with his elbows hanging out of his clothes. Is he wearing that new coat from Christmas? It’s been so cold of late. Oh, Dot, why are things never so simple as you imagine they will be when you imagine your grownup self as a child?

Do tell my borrowed niece and nephew that there isn’t as much snow here as at home, but we did get enough to construct a wonderful fort…

From a letter from Madeline to Jane
I marvel and you and Jonathan being married for so long and still civil to one another. Peter is a good man and I know it, but he lived alone in that lighthouse for a long time. I think it cleared any natural ability to share a home right out of him!

Excerpt of reply from Jane
Oh, dearest Madeline, men are never very good at understanding a woman’s heart at the beginning - we have to teach it to them. But my dear, the same can be said of a wife needing to learn her husband’s heart.
I saw Peter in the mercantile yesterday looking at a bolt of yellow cotton (with polka dots, my dear!) I teased him about new shirts made of yellow cotton, and he turned red, poor man, then he mumbled something about curtains and left without buying a thing. You wouldn’t know what that was about, would you? Could it be that he is wanting to pretty up that house for when you return?

Part of a letter from Dorothy to Madeline
I did as you asked, Maddy, and bought the whole bolt of yellow cloth from Jasper. You should have seen Peter’s face as he watched me pull it up the walk in Edward’s little wagon, and then told him it was from you. (I thought you might be having a laugh at me - payback for that time I let you go the whole day with your sweater on inside out.) (I promise you nobody else noticed!) However foolish I felt delivering that heap of fabric, I don’t think a man has ever been so happy to be given yellow polka dots as he was.
Madeline to Dorothy
Bless you, my friend!

Telegram from Peter LaRoche to Madeline
Please come home.