This Week

Had an interesting connection with another blogger this week regarding my short story Pocket Watch. MerileeWein.com Doublegeneologytheadoptionwitness found my story and communicated to me that the man I wrote about, Robert McArthur, the owner of the pocketwatch, was her great-grand father. She knew only a little about the 1918 Protection Island mining accident and was happy to have a narrative to flesh out the incident. She told me Robert’s son, her grand father became Chief Mining Inspector for B.C. Obviously he had been deeply motivated after losing his father in such a tragic way. And though I made an attempt to personalize the men in the incident, to make Robert McArthur and the others real and not just names and statistics, that they had lives, and families, and worries, to hear from Merilee further made Robert flesh and blood, with a lineage; I don’t know, I was really moved when she notified me.

I’ve been working over another short story to get it ready for submission to the CBC Non-Fiction Competition. I should say a different story because I had originally began with a story about a sailing trip I crewed on but decided it wasn’t really right for this submission. The story I’m going with now is titled Sue, taken from an event from my childhood that may, or more likely my not, be interesting as an entry or as worthy material; but this isn’t the point. Having a deadline, in this case the end of February, and putting stuff out there is the point. To submit. And I found when I resuscitated the story- I had written the rough draft last year- I heard a “voice” in the narrative that I hadn’t heard initially that I want to expand on. I want to see if I can carry that through, as an exercise.

I still have all my pottery to underglaze over the next couple of days. And I haven’t yet made a mark in my Sketchbook Project. My resolve to “art” every day feels like Dis-solve lately. But all is well, spirit is high and life is good, and we had snow for a few days, so that was fun! (I’m serious, I LOVE when it snows here)

My evening walk, Protection Island, February 2021

Cheers~

Short Story

Here is my second story from the Protection Island Short Story Book. It is fiction and was inspired from a Times Colonist competition many years ago. The Colonist had put up a challenge to write a two hundred and fifty word short story that had to include the five words: newspaper, cosmos, whale, spiderweb and impress. I didn’t win, but got good feedback. Since then I expanded the story and changed Cosmos (which in my original story I appointed as the cosmos flower) to Forget-me-nots to better suit the ending.

               Seafarer

They met in Ucluelet at a B-B-Q get together of a mutual friend, on a sunny Saturday in early July after a month of rain. He stood across from her at the patio table loaded with assorted salads and condiments. He paused over the potato salad when he noticed her putting her burger together.

She looked up when she felt his eyes watching and caught his stare, stopping her action in mid motion. 

“Sorry,” he said, and smiled down at his still naked burger laying on the half bun, “most people put potato chips on the side.” 

 She continued to add chips on top of her open burger and then squeezed mayonnaise over the chips. She reached towards him to pick up a long slice of pickle and placed it gingerly on the chips, glanced at him as she placed the top bun on, and pressed lightly with a crackling sound then picked up her burger and took a bite. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of her. 

 “I dip french fries in my milkshake too,” she said and walked away to sit with her girlfriend. 

She owned a small sailboat, built by a local shipwright. A 28 foot wooden sloop named Island Girl and moored in Campbell River where she lived. She had sailed her first big voyage last summer, circumnavigating Vancouver Island, with two friends as crew.

In September he accepted her invitation for a weekend sail to Cortez Island. Out in the choppy waters of the Straits he hid his seasickness, and then fought to hide his terror when a short, intense squall hit them before they reached Mansons Landing. After reaching their destination he watched impressed as she set the anchor. He tried to pay attention as she explained to him what it meant to fall off when sailing upwind. He tried to pay attention when she described to him how to plot a course as they sat in the cockpit with red wine and chips. But his attention was caught up in her brown hair that had curled in the moist salt air, and then his thoughts pulled him ahead to how the evening would be, curled in the bunk, he inside her, floating embraced in this wooden half-shell on the still dark water. 

They found a place together that winter on Protection, a tiny island near the city of Nanaimo. Island Girl was tucked safely on her mooring in the waters between Protection and Newcastle Island. 

During their first winter together he was coerced out of their warm house for short day sails with her in the cold rain and wind, stuffed into thick cruiser suits, toques and gloves. He never let on his discomfort, his tensing, queasing stomach whenever a gust pushed Island Girl’s shoulder deep down into a tossing beam reached sea. It’s ok, she’d yell to him over the wind, she’s a good boat, she’s loving this.

They would come home chilled through and climb into the hot tub, each with a tumbler of whiskey, and he would listen in amused admiration while she talked of new expeditions, her desire for further shores, bigger oceans, maybe a bigger boat. In the evenings he would practice his guitar while she studied for her captains license. 

The summer that followed she took him sailing in the Straits of Georgia at any opportunity, exploring the gulf islands north and south, threading through the long inlets along the Sunshine coast. She noted on those trips, and then said that he isa fair weather sailor. When he said he supposed that’s true and how could she tell,she said because his arm isn’t locked around the winch, and he smiles more.

He sees now he missed taking her seriously when she would talk to him about crossing oceans. Sail here, what’s wrong with the waters around here, he said to her.

 It was all leading to this day, at the marina, with both of them facing each other on the ramp that led down to the 58 foot sailboat that waited to take her away. The opportunity to crew across the Pacific to New Zealand meant the time had come. 

She stood before him holding out a clutch of small purple flowers cinched up in newspaper. She waited while he turned away and distractingly looked back up the ramp at nothing in particular. Waited as he took a breath; watching his chest fill then collapse. 

He turned back to her and took the flowers, then dropped his arm to let them hang from his side. He couldn’t look into her face, his eyes searched for somewhere to anchor, where he could hold for a moment; rally a semblance of composure. He found it in a graffiti of three words in blue felt pen on the aluminum rail near her left elbow, Impress with kindness. His lips pursed at this whisper from the ether that told him to open his heart, just for this moment. Enough, he thought, to let her feel that it’s not lost on him; that he is capable of understanding she had anticipated this, wanted this long before they became involved, since before Ucluelet, since before him.

She was asking him to wait for her. She searched in his eyes for a blessing, or a release. She had said to him earlier; to not jump at this chance was like trying to hold a whale in a spider’s web.

 He was thinking of that image now, and it pulled his lips into a nearly imperceptible smile. He didn’t want a smile to come, he pushed it down, he wanted her to know his heart was breaking.

But she caught it and her face brightened. She knew he’d be fine, knew it then. They would hold fast. Anything more will just have to wait. There will be enough time for that.

A crew mate called to her from the sailboat, she turned and waved back to signal that she was coming, then turned back to him, opened her arms and shrugged a smile. 

He took her in and pressed her tight for a long moment before he pulled back and kissed her mouth. Then defying everything in him let her go and said, “Sail back home, sail back to me.” 

He watched her walk down the dock, and then was seized with a sudden need, before she stepped into the cockpit, before the ocean separated them, to call out to her, anything to make her turn and look at him one more time.

“Hey, what kind of flowers are these anyway?” He held them up tight in his hand. 

She smiled and shook her head, and shouted, “I don’t know,” then she laughed and said, “forget-me-nots,” and brought her hand to her lips and released a kiss to him as the dock lines slipped to free her.  

Our Auklet’s mainsail, taken one summer while out for a day sail in the Georgia Strait.

     

Short Story

Here is the story that was recently included in our island’s publication. Its subject is about our historical Protection Island event. It’s just over 2000 words so a bit of a commitment for a blog read and I thank you in advance if you read it through. The piece is a creative non-fiction; based on a real event that took place in a real location and with names of the real people involved.

Pocket Watch

The dawn of September 10,1918 began like many within the home of Nanaimo coal miner Robert McArthur. A golden light filled one window of his small home as his wife carried out a well practiced routine of lighting the stove, preparing some breakfast, and assembling some food to pack into her husband’s metal lunch pail. The two sat together for a brief time at the table, speaking to each other in hushed voices to not wake their children still sleeping deep in their beds. Then he got up and left for work gently closing the door behind him, and stepped out into the soft breeze of a clear twilight warm with the remains of summers’ end. 

His home was within the large land parcel of Harewood Estates, purchased by Samuel Robbins, the Superintendent for the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company. Samuel had cleared acres of forest between the Nanaimo waterfront and the foot of Mount Benson to sell or lease affordable five acre sections to miner families to farm. It meant Robert could have a large vegetable garden and keep some livestock to tide his family over during lean employment periods, or if another mine strike should occur. Samuel was well respected and liked in town, known as the People’s Friend, and some called him the Godfather of Nanaimo. He treated the miners with humanity, dignity, and fairness; a stark contrast to the coal barons of the Dunsmuir family and their brutal labour abuses.

Robert made his way down to the harbour front and then waited with the other miners for the tug and scow that would take them one kilometre across the bay to the mining worksite on  Douglas Island, a small reef of land one and a half kilometres in length and half that in width. The tall Head Frame of the mine’s main shaft towered over the island’s south end and could easily be seen from town.

Once across the men disembarked and trudged past Gallows Point that earned its name after two native men were hanged in 1853 for the murder of Peter Brown, a Hudson Bay Company Shepard. The men passed the tiny Lamp House on the left, and then gathered around the Head Frame to wait their turn to descend below ground. Occasionally a chuckle was heard above the din and hum of cables and machinery but a somber atmosphere prevailed as the men prepared for their shift.

The elevator cage appeared up out of the blackness. Its metal gate shuttered open and released a surge of sixteen tired men, looking like charcoal drawings come to life. The whites of their eyes flickered, and blinked into the bright new day, the pores on their faces plugged with black coal dust and sweat.  All of them wearing the relief of being done their night shift and eager to go to their homes and beds.

As soon as the cage emptied, a fresh exchange of men filled it again. Shoulder to shoulder, their clean scrubbed faces looked forward through the bars of the gate as it closed them in. With a quick jolt and hum the thick wire cable lowered the men down. Those standing above could glimpse the yellow glow of  headlamps being flicked on one by one, the only visible trace left of them as the shaft swallowed the men down the hole of its dark throat seven hundred and fifty feet into a black web of tunnels that extended out under the sea bed. 

Working deep below the ocean floor they could feel the rumble of CP ships plying the waters above, regular enough to set a watch by.

The waiting men appeared bone tired from the endless repetition of stooping, hard work. Some stood silent, still groggy from sleep, or lack of it. Robert’s gaze was transfixed on the sun crowning the bluffs of Gabriola and lifted his face to the glow that would soon be replaced by the inferior, dim halo of his headlamp lighting the long hours of hewing and clawing at the black seams; for the hope and promise of a better life, a future.

The cage came up again and as it unloaded Robert remembered he hadn’t wound his watch that morning and fished it out of his pocket. The gold plated time piece was a gift from his wife and children on his fortieth birthday, scrapping together what money they could, and he laughed to himself thinking of his daughter Emma at age six being so proud to have contributed ten cents earned from picking beans for Mrs Crenshaw. Now she’s grown and married. As he stood turning the winder till it was tight he thought of that morning’s conversation with his wife about their son Billy and he being anxious about starting his first class at High School that day. His wife said, he’ll do fine, he’s bright and can navigate his way through any challenge that comes his way, and then when she smiled Robert saw Billy’s face in hers and he said, thank goodness he takes after you. 

He held the firm hope that his boys would be saved from a future of the back breaking, dangerous labour of a miner. He was fifty-five and felt worn and ancient.

 Men skirted around Robert as someone called out to him in jest that he’s fallen asleep standing up like a horse, then the gate shut and the cage descended without him on its sixth drop of the morning. Robert, and fifteen others got the next one. He jockeyed his body into a tight space between Caleb and Angelo, two men, like many of the miners there, who left their homelands behind. Some brought their families with them to the new country, others married after settling in Nanaimo. Robert knew that fourteen of these men with him were married with children. He had the biggest brood with seven, another was a struggling widower with five children to tend to. Robert often saw a look of worry in that man’s eyes. He couldn’t imagine losing his wife, he’d be lost.

The cage gate jarred shut with a clash. Two men behind Robert continued their conversation about the war and boasted over the new British tanks used against the Germans. Someone else interjected and said, they should’ve let the flu settle the conflict and spared the artillery. Robert tensed with worry. The conscription act that was enforced two years ago took his two oldest boys; he and his wife prayed daily for their safe return. Another said, this is a time a man needs a stiff shot of whiskey, and lamented over the prohibition in Nanaimo.

The cage jerked once and then began its steady descent into the darkness, and conversation hushed. Robert reached up to turn on his headlamp. The cold, moist air pressed in around him smelling of salt water and mineral. The shadowed faces of the men surrounding him were held in routine repose as the minutes of their long descent passed, and then, Robert startled when his feet lifted off the cage floor as gravity released its hold.  

A free fall rush of wind became filled with the screams of sixteen weightless souls, and then after the first of several timber beams were breached the only sound that filled the long dark chasm was splintering wood and crashing, bending metal. 

Men standing above ground watched in horror when the cable broke. Powerless in their shock, reaching out but nothing to hold, nothing to be done except to listen and not wanting to hear the crashing, clattering sound. Distant hollers rose up from the hole in the ground as if it were the very tunnels wailing.

The working miners below had scattered out of the way thinking the mine was collapsing, barely making it clear of the plummeting remains of the cage, and the sixteen men, as it struck ground. The shouts and cries from those in the mine who ran to help realized there was no one there to help. They saw only a horror that would cause them to wake abruptly from sleep for many, many nights after. 

It took until late that night to recover the bodies of  Robert McArthur and the other fifteen men. It took longer to accurately identify them, having to rely on pieces of clothing and any personal items that could be found and returned to their family members.

Upon investigation it was noted that the corrosive salt air was to blame for compromising the integrity of the three year old cable. Perhaps an inferior, cheaper cable had been purchased to cut costs, perhaps inspections had lapsed.

The town of Nanaimo mourned the men, and poured condolences over their widows. They shook sad faces for the forty-two fatherless children. When Robert’s wife came forward several days later to claim her husband’s pocket watch she was told gently by a supervisor that it was the only item that came from the wreckage intact. 

She looked down at the watch in her hand and read out the time on its face: seven-ten, and then clasped it tight to keep from shaking.

Today, one hundred and two years after that September morning, Douglas Island, renamed Protection Island in 1960, is my neighbourhood and where I’ve lived for thirty years. I walk down Colvilleton Trail that leads towards Gallows Point, and the old mine site that ran here from 1890 to 1938, to the place where Robert and the fifteen men with him fell to their death. There is little sign of the toil, hardship and sorrow that had once been here. The mining scars are masked by the thick growth of grand fir, arbutus, Garry oak, cedar, and blackberry. Large manicured homes and gardens now line the still unpaved road, muting the island’s tragic history. Protection Island has over the years become a tight knit community of serenity and charm with over two hundred and fifty residents. 

Visibly what remains from the mine site is the lamp house, the date of 1911 still visible on the front of the small concrete building and has since been transformed into a private home. There is the shore line around Gallows Point that is made of small, sharp cinder rock, like lava rock, and what I think might be from the old Mine’s boilers. There are still large amounts of coal  strewn on the beach, and the odd length of track rail pokes out from under massive logs that many years ago had been placed along the beach to stop the shore’s erosion. Then there are the pieces of thick, rusted, broken cable breaching the cinder shore like subterranean snakes, as if resurfacing at last from those old black tunnels and that once violent wreckage. 

There is a large mural at the residence next door to the lamp house that commemorates the Douglas Island mine. Artist commissioned, it’s painted on the wall of a small secondary building that now sits on top of the original capped main shaft. Copied from an archival black and white photograph, it depicts the image of the towering Head Frame that once stood there. Near the road way the property owner has placed a coal cart, filled with flowers.

I regard this place with some reverence, remembering that sixteen men died right here all at once, under this ground I walk upon daily. I think about the two native men hanged at Gallows Point, a short distance away from the lamp house, and it seems all these men met death at the end of a line, be it cable or rope. And I wonder that I can hear the hollow cries, echoing the grieving wails of their widows, their children. So much suffering within this small plot of ground. 

Colvilleton Road vanishes into the ocean at the place where the big wharf once stood and rumbled with coal carts that rolled down railway tracks to empty their loads into waiting boats. From here I can look out towards Nanaimo while deep beneath me the now flooded mine shafts still thread out under the harbour’s sea bed, still linking the old Douglas mine to the big Number One mine at Esplanade just over there in town, a kilometre across the water. A mine that had its own tragedy of 1887 as the second worst mine explosion in Canada.  But that is another story. So goes the legacy of coal. 

Protection Island Coal Mine with Mainframe.

Brighter Days Ahead. Hopefully.

Almost there. And wow has this month flown by. And even though our own family Solstice gathering was waylaid by our nemesis The Evil Vid (…um, Covid 19) I still spent copious hours in my kitchen baking stuff. Much of that has been sent to my son and his family, my daughter is a baker so she doesn’t need any goodies- she’s well stocked, and some I’d given as goody bags to neighbours. But I did get a little carried away. Biscottis anyone?

Almond Biscotti, one of many trays
Shortbread

And aside from the fact that I sent out all my Happy Solstice cards spelled with Happy Soltice, this isolated winter season went without a hitch. You would think I would’ve caught the mistake after the first card, but no half measures for me, all in or nothing. Apparently.

The book of short stories came out, ( ahem, thank heaven for spell check) the one with two of my submissions. It’s satisfying to see it in print, somehow feels validating. The neighbours that launched the project managed to raise about five hundred dollars so far towards our Beacon House renovations, not a bad start.

I will include both stories in my next two posts. As for any other writing – I haven’t done any. Nor have I set foot in my studio. Baking seems to have filled my creative needs rather well over these weeks. And my waist line. The biggest threat to my risk of expansion is the fudge I make each year. But I was clever this time, only making what I was sending away as gifts…no wait, there was the first test batch that, well, had to be checked for smooth, creamy texture. Can’t be gifting grainy fudge and a mis-spelled card.

The cards I sent were photos, mounted on card stock, that I had taken. Some from my poppy series; the year my otherwise dormant front veg garden sprung up in an amazing swell of vibrant flowers, and then also some I took while walking on Newcastle, a large provincial park island adjacent to our island.

Now I find myself in that Netherland between Solstice and New Year. That fuzzy zone where the day of the week is inconsequential. Do I eat, sleep, or learn a new language. It feels like a holding pattern, waiting for the starting gun, my feet against the running block…tick, tick, tick. But when the ball drops at the stroke of 2021 (2021! Can you believe it?) what am I expecting? And why put too much expectations on that stroke of midnight; which I don’t normally, but somehow this year’s end feels deserving of a fresh start in every sense of the meaning. Here’s to brighter days ahead ~

October, already, can you believe it? (blurted by every news host across the land)

Yes, incredible as it seems, seasons do come and go in a repeated annual cycle; we know this, why are we always so surprised? It’s fall y’all.

It means for me that I had let some lengthy time lapse over the summer since I visited my blog. The truth is, my summer hasn’t been all too productive in the way of pottery- a little bit, painting/drawing- nil, or music- months ago I wrote two songs, since then; well, I had to wipe the layer of dust off of my guitar yesterday. I can’t blame my slackness on the VID- 19. What, stay home, away from people and keep busy ? Those instructions are an artist’s/writers dream scenario.

But I did do some writing. A neighbour, new to the little island community I live in, had heard there were many artists living here and thought it would be fun to call upon those of us who are inclined to write, to contribute a short story, up to 2500 words of fiction or non, for a book to be titled Protection Island Writes. The finished book would then be sold to raise money for the continuing renovations on our community hall, which now needs a kitchen makeover. The caveat: the story must mention or relate to Protection Island in some way.

So I got busy putting some edits in one fiction piece I had previously written titled Seafarer, a story about a girl setting sail to New Zealand and the lover who has to let her go, and then I set to work on another creative non fiction piece about the Coal Mine that once worked here on Protection Island in 1918. The story takes place on the day the elevator cage cable snapped and sent 16 miners 550 feet to their death. A horrific accident for this little island. I built the story around a pocket watch; the only item that came from the wreckage intact, and the miner who owned it, Robert McArthur. The watch remains, frozen at the time of the accident of 7:10, in our local museum.

I submitted both stories for the deadline of July 19th and then waited to hear if they would be selected among the other eighteen stories submitted, and be included in the book. All the stories were given over for consideration and critique to a long running reading group in another city. Toronto in fact. The neighbour I mentioned earlier who is putting this all together had moved from there to here, and so was calling upon her reading group to help out and make the final selections.

During this time I managed in June and July to visit my daughter and her family in Salmon Arm and coveted time with my granddaughters. And another few days spent in Vancouver with my son and his family, and more grand baby love. British Columbia’s “Curve” had sufficiently flattened, and travel restrictions had relaxed allowing us to roam our home provinces, but for how long? We couldn’t know when or if another clamp down would come again in the coming months. So I got those visits in while I had the chance!

By August I was notified that both of my stories were chosen. Better still, although I am happy to have either story accepted at all let alone two, both stories made the top ten list, and “Pocket watch” won first place out of the top ten. Sweet!

A zoom meeting was then organized for all the top ten authors to read an excerpt from their story, and the rest of the island community was invited to listen. So I did that. Uncomfortable with Zoom meetings. With “presenting” in general. Anyway, the book is said to be ready by Christmas. I think I get one for free, as a prize, – not sure. Kind of excited.

I still have a bunch of pottery that has been bisque fired ( some of the greenware pictured here) and needs to be finished with clear glaze and fired again. I will get that done in the next couple of days before another trip to salmon Arm to celebrate my granddaughters third birthday next week, and will also be the last visit of the season before the snow flies and… can you believe it, it will be winter!

Man, I just have to say, grandkids are one of the coolest parts of being old….er.

And then with November brings the writing marathon NaNoWriMo. (National November Writing Month ) The attempt (some would say a laughable attempt) is to write a novel in one month. It means 50 thousand words in 30 days, it means roughly 1.666 words per day. I’ve attempted twice in the past. Three times the charm?

I’ll be busy. But, ( index finger raised ) I have realized that complacency has been settling in on me over these months, and has slyly stymied my intentions of doing the exercise of creative artistic work each day; whether it’s writing, painting, drawing, music and lyric writing, photography or pottery. Doing a creative exercise/project daily, much like doing yoga daily, should set the intention to ingrain these practices, to make them second nature and habitual through repetitious action. To become a LIFESTYLE, a way of being.

I’ve decided to set up my own deadline to push me along, and keep me motivated and focused until it does become habitual. To help with this, I’m enlisting my blog as a tool and vow to myself, from this day forward, to post on my creative work and practice on a weekly basis, rather than a whenever I get around to it.

My blog will act as a kind of personal Sergeant Major, staring me down, impelling me to get to work in the studio, NOW!…. and then write a report on it and post it.

Hey, whatever works to start and keep the juices flowing.

Stay well, stay kind ~

Sunflower in my garden 2020

 

writing through the pandemic, and other calamities

Songwriting, I have been doing a bit of that. I, along with most of humanity one could correctly assume, feel tossed and battered in a hurricane of emotional turmoil at this time. I don’t know about you but some days I feel on the cusp of tears. With not only the pandemic, but now the violence and hate that is dominating over people’s efforts to do the right things. Specifically south of the border. So, I try to distill all that into brief lyrics.

RIP, George Floyd, if peace can even be found anymore, and the too many others who innocently fell under a needlessly aggressive, violent end.

 

Oh Mama

 

Oh mama, you picked a good time to go

You packed your things and floated out the door

We never saw this coming, what laid us down so low

Did I hear you say it’s the wicked seeds we sow

 

Oh mama seems the sky’s cracked open

Hearts are torn, there’s only darkness showing

The -light- has- left- our- eyes

Seems too late for redemption

But shouldn’t we try?

 

Can it ever be sweet again

Looking down from those high places

You’ve nothing left to defend

But I’ll take any love you send, down on me

 

Oh mama you don’t worry anymore

It’s not like this hasn’t happened before

Take the blows, bite back the pain

Mend the wounds, wipe the stain, do it all over again

 

Oh mama will you hold a place for me

When it comes the time my soul’s set free

By then I think I’ll have had enough

Of this crazy world that’s left me worn and scuffed

 

Will it ever be sweet again

Looking down from those high places

You’ve  nothing left to defend

But I’ll take any love you send, down on me

And it will be sweet again

When we’re looking down from those high places

We’ve nothing left to defend

There’s only love, there’s only to send

 

 

 

 

November blossom, Vancouver Island 2019

Spring Push

March is here and I’m happy about it! Time to start thinking about the veggie garden and other gardening activities, time for being out doors more than indoors, and soon time for swimming in the river and ocean.

Half of the month of February was taken up by a minor injury that required five stitches and two weeks to heal. I was pushing down on a large bag of my recycling bag to make room for yet a little more, and a can sliced into the fleshy part at the base of my right hand thumb. A nice fillet of palm.

I buy hardly any canned products, but that little can of evaporated milk got me. I clean all my recycling, because I’m an obedient citizen (insert sarcasm ), but it was still a can, and a deep slice. Off to the walk-in clinic and stitches, and a tetanus shot for good measure.

A note about the young resident doctor at the clinic. I chatted with him about where and how long he has trained, etc. He says UBC and  eight years, then the residency. He put his rubber gloves on, got the tray of sewing gear ready, then he reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone- had a look, swiped it to read something, then slipped it back in his pocket. I said, “Would you mind changing your gloves.” (it wasn’t a question) which he promptly did; I think he realized his slip. I thought, Didn’t they teach you hygiene in med school? Cell phones are petri dishes!

The cut kept my right hand in limited use. I managed to get some more pottery under-glazed, but throwing on the wheel was out of the question, or hand building.

I got some writing done too, class work, but also concentrated on a non-fiction short story to submit for the CBC competition that ended yesterday, the 29th. I had changed my submission story three times. I started with a story from my childhood and a grade five bully. Wrote 2000 words on it, then thought who wants to read about an old woman’s little bullying  episode from 1967?

So I started another story based on the life of a good friend of mine, someone I am close to and love like a brother, and who has overcome real hardship. 2000 words. Then thought- is this my story to tell? Then I started the third -and last story, because I was running out of time! I chose an event from a 1997 sailing trip from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas I was crew on. Some interesting things had happened on that voyage, so with one week left till deadline I wrote another 2000 word story and got it in last night.

Writing non-fiction is harder than writing fiction. More fun to create a world. Writing fiction is far more entertaining than trying to unearth anything interesting from my own mundane middle-aged life to write about!

I’ve submitted to this competition three other times in the past. Spoiler alert- I’ve never won, or was ever short listed. Never expected either, and still don’t. Right now I’m just working at getting comfortable with submitting! Of course my writing is garbage, that’s ok. Maybe it’ll improve, it’s why I’m taking a writing class. Each time I polish something for submission it’s good practice, working with a deadline, all that.  I know I get better by increments. And that’s quite enough for the time being.

Happy March !

Imma Wrimo

I have been immersed this past month having jumped in, although nine days late, into the NaNoWriMo challenge. I had a particular story I had begun, oh, 1993 or so and felt taking the challenge would give a push to if not finish a first draft, at least be further ahead. The story had stayed with me all this time and I had over the years returned to it periodically adding on to it, then just ran out of motivation combined with just the ongoing daily life that needs to be tended to.

I will not finish with a 50,000 word count, and I’m ok with that, obviously because I’m blogging right now instead of upstairs at my desk getting in my 1500 words for the day. More accurately I need to get 30,000 words in two days to finish. Or maybe I’m blogging right now because I’m stalling.

Writing is a solitary occupation, and it is a juggle to be available to ones family, not neglecting friends, cooking meals, cleaning house, buying groceries; all the bits that living entails. The pleasant distractions that keep me from eschewing it all and closing myself away into my story world. It’s a work in progress.

The challenge has given me the incentive I needed though to continue on with daily writing until I reach my 50,000 WC none-the-less. I want this first draft completed! I was able to break through some fuzzy areas of the story and clarify many of the scenes. And doing this thing in a virtual group setting, knowing there are other writers out there grinding it out at the same time, supporting and cheering each other on to finish over the group FB page and sharing in their victories has been enriching.

All in all it has been a great experience. Can’t wait till next November.