Why is patience always working so hard for my time? Why is stillness trying to find me? They, in their gentle manner, keep showing up, I see them follow me, waiting for a turn to speak. Do they not know I am busy, I am running? Do they not know I need to swallow the whole world even if it will make me blind?
Take me down to the water, softly, softly,
That I may be humbled by the sea
And reminded of the shore from which I came
Sweet salt sinking gently into my cheeks, into my skin.
Take me down to the water, softly, softly,
That I may find stillness in the tossing waves
And reminded that all we have cast out is on its way
There too is a tide inside of me, drawing me out, pulling me closer.
I'm in the middle of my first real university grind (as I mentioned a few days ago), and it has been raising up a lot of weird feelings all over the place. These last few months of surrendering to the school system has challenged so much in me; I am in this weird paradox of being incredibly bored, and incredibly busy, simultaneously. There are so many feelings coming alive, weird whispers in my spirit, that are battling for attention over these boring assignments that I know (or at least have faith) will be foundational to bettering my writing in the long run (grammar. literary terms. painstaking over-editing. critiquing. the like). Daily, I am being challenged to find the time in the middle of the grind to find room for art and writing. The artist in me is being challenged. The heart song is being challenged. If nothing else, I am learning how many hours there truly are in a day for us to use. If nothing else, I am remembering the hunger for creating. The need to create. The need to find words for things and to make pretty things for other people to enjoy. Because we don't have all the time in the world. If it's not school it's going to be an entry-level job, or a deadline, or (maybe in thirty years), hungry babies that will need to be fed and entertained and doted on. It's 3pm and I didn't do my laundry. I didn't go to yoga. I didn't finish the essay draft I should have done. I slept in, made two pots of coffee, and sat still. And then my mom called. I haven't showered and I have to be at work in an hour and a half. Today my body said no to it all. My brain has shut down in protest. I have days like this every once in a while, where my whole self just can't sprint like our world has demanded us to. Especially as artists, we are not meant to work our world into a hazy whirlwind. We are not machines, we are this funny breed of organic plant that needs constant bouts of encouragement, inspiration, and tea. We are supposed to slow down, and stop. And watch. And observe. Take in the characteristics of what it's like to be human, and all of the messy complications and all of the beautiful things about that. Inconveniently, my artist heart stepped in today and is feeling swollen and needs some tending to, and I can barely tend to it. But this is the lesson, isn't it? Isn't this living? To find the things that we can't ignore, and clear the room for them to grow and thrive and exist organically.
Those sweet words by Rilke are pulsing in every space, today, this week, this season, and I know the words like I know my favorite song:
"Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it mean sot live as an artist: in understanding as in creating. In this there is no measuring of time, a year doesn't matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything."
In the busyness of September I completely missed the fact that I've been writing The Word Project for over a year! Here is the very first word, and here are some of my favorites: On Learning: revelation, observe, brink, summary, stubborn, exploration, vow, resolution On My Favorite People: abyss, hereditary, ally On Love and Muses: near, boundless, contagious, feel, radical, composition, sweep, potential, fused, initial, cozy On Travel: fragmented, pattern, antidote
This has been such a delight to create and has been the best outlet; I feel like by writing almost every day my writing has improved heaps, and I would suggest starting a daily project to anyone who has been dealing with writer's block, or wants to document the development in their skills . I'm thrilled to share it with you, and so, so, so appreciative of your comments, encouragements and feedback; it all makes me a better writer.
I'd love to hear if you have a favorite "word", and what you'd like to see more of in the year to come.
Looking for a great read for your last summer weeks? Here's what I've been reading the last couple of months:"The Sisters Brothers" By Patrick DeWitt. A rolling Western filled with warrants, brawls and the quest for riches, this book felt like it was being read to me by a oldtimer in a rocking chair on a creaky porch of a tired saloon.
"Hey Nostradamus!" By Douglas Coupland. This book is a collection of narratives from four different people who are directly and indirectly affected by a highschool shooting. Chilling and insightful.
"Man Walks Into a Room" by Nicole Krauss. The story of a man who wakes up and remembers nothing. Krauss wrote my favorite novel of all time, "The History of Love", and this one doesn't disappoint. Written in her usual, stunning, poetic prose and captivating from start to finish.
"Bossypants" by Tina Fey. I bought this book in the airport bookstore, and it seamlessly got me through a long day of traveling, including a two-hour layover (yuck). Hilarious is all we'd expect from Fey, and it didn't disappoint. Perfect summer reading. Bonus: My friend got the audio version of this book for listening to by the pool (genius idea!) and Tina Fey does the audio. How great is that?
"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. I read this while I was in Spain a few months ago, and became really antisocial for the four days that it took me to finish it. It's about a boy who is raised a girl because of vague genitalia and a careless doctor, and tackles nature vs. nurture and gender identity with incredible eloquence and insight. Riveting, captivating. So good.
What books have you been reading this summer? Also, how to do you choose a novel? I have trouble choosing a new book and am always looking for good tricks to picking a good one (like a blog that you trust or a list to refer to).
Have you seen a round-up of classic opening lines? I just came across this one from Stylist Magazine, and after thumbing through a few of them, it's easy to see why this is a list of best sellers. I think you should be sold on a book after the first five pages; maybe that's a strict rule, but life is too short to read a mediocre novel! For instance, I fell in love with my favourite book of all time, The History of Love, after reading the very first page, which starts like this: "When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, Leo Gursky is survived by an apartment full of shit." And I was hooked. What's your favourite opening line of a novel?
And now for the unfortunate tale of the Time Collector: There was a man who was the best Time Collector there ever was. He walked briskly past any street musician, and he avoided the opera and the ballet. He never spent time in museums or on long lunches or on phone calls to his mother. To his family in the North who would invite him to dinners and weekends at their little cottage by the lake, he would easily turn them down, saying, "I have no time for that! If I spend my time up there, I will have saved no time for later!" To the lover inviting him to Spain and into her heart and soul and offering her whole future, he said, "No Lover, not now, there is too much time to catch up with. Later, when we have all the time in the world."
One day the man fell very ill. His back was stiff and his head was woozy and his throat was closing. His chest felt tight and heavy and his heart was ticking very slowly. "No fear," he told himself, "I will just spend the time I have saved up to buy myself more time. There is still so much to do!" He reached his wobbly arm toward the telephone, and in a strained voice, called the bank and requested a large withdrawal. The teller hesitated, and after a moment, said, "I'm sorry sir, but there is no extra time left. Only the days in front of you."
The man let the phone roll out of his hands. He called out his family by name, and the name of his love. He had banked so much of his time for later that he had no time left to spend. He thought of his family and he thought of his friends and all of the people who had taken the time to enjoy whatever each individual day held. It was right then and there at the end of his life that he came to see: no matter how much time you save, all that is left is the time that you've spent.
I hope to be simply these things: to indulge in the magic of a single moment and to not simply plough through to the next event; to soak up the riches I've already attained; to make the most of the gift that is another day; to be more kind, and a better friend; to be gentle to my own furious and busy mind when I am tired; and to find treasure even in these simple days that are building into so much, and so tall a tower.
It's New Year's Day and lovely outside, icy and cold with a bright blue sky and a white winter sun. All at once I'm back in Toronto and back at work and not at home with my lovely family, just like that. I got out of bed just before 2pm which I feel is an okay way to ring in the new year after putting in a long day at work helping other people celebrate and then unwinding at a dear friend's until 5:30. January first has been a good day. I am writing at Starbucks to make myself feel more accomplished for the afternoon, though I don't know if productivity needs to be an essential accomplishment of my day. Here are some great things that happened in December:
I spent the first weekend of the month with these lovely people, Brian and Trisha Donkers. We started out having yummy french toast and mimosas and chatting away, and when we were still sitting there with our breakfast plates at 3pm, I was invited to stay for dinner and help with Christmas baking, and I tried not to sound too over the moon excited about cookies when I accepted the invitation. These two are hard core baking fanatics and cranked out 6 different types of desserts in a very short period of time. It is good to have such welcoming and warm friends in the city.
Brian and I performed in a Songwriter's circle at the beginning of the month with Rachael Kennedy and Glen Hornblast that was put on by Vox Toronto, and I think this was my favourite show of 2012. We sat in a row on stage (shown above) and played one song at a time and sharing stories about what inspired us to write. There was a special energy and electricity that happened on stage and a real support and respect.
I got my hair done. Twice. I know this is kind of a weird thing to highlight but bear with me: I am not a person to ruffle feathers and I hate feeling like I'm inconveniencing anyone in any way, so when I got my hair done and I went home and realized it was red/orange/blonde, my first reaction was to just suck it up and deal with having a weird tint to my hair. Heaven forbid I ask for it to be re-done! But I had a little internal check in, and realized that in the grand scheme of life, it's not bad - hell, it's even really important- to ask for what you want. All you can do is ask and the worst that can happen is someone says no to you! So I called and asked if my hair stylist could fix it, and of course she could, so I went back and got foiled up and frosted more beachy-ashy blonde (these are the descriptive words I use to describe my hair colour, for real, in real life, to real people, it's true). Lessons come in simple moments throughout our lives.
Obviously I went home to the west coast for the holidays. It was a different trip than I've had yet going home; instead of staying in suburbia BC where I grew up, we were mostly in Washington state the whole time. I feel really lucky and blessed to have a really sweet and hilarious family that I feel close to and loved by. My trip had a lot of quiet time and a lot of good, long chats and a LOT of driving all over from Seattle to White Rock.
I got a lot more visiting time during this trip with my grandma Rita (my mom's mom) than I usually do; when I was home in the summer we were crazy busy with Austin and Becca's wedding and Rita was too unwell at the time to attend, so I only got a short afternoon visit with her. We surprised her with moving all her belongings into a new retirement apartment last week, and because I was staying in Washington instead of BC, I was around her way more. She is a firecracker of a woman and she has spunk and pluck, and I think she gets more mischievous when I'm around- maybe I bring it out of her. She was sitting across from me at our Christmas dinner and she kept looking a the centrepiece which was a shallow bowl with sparkly Christmas balls, and she kept saying how she wanted to take one. Not thinking she would possibly follow through with it, I didn't think much of it until we were walking out of the restaurant and she said, "I just took a little one," revealing a mini ornament resting at the top of her bag! I told her, "I'm not going to tell anyone now, but I am NOT impressed," except secretly I was.
Christmas morning is always so special and steeped in so many traditions, and I wanted to show off the most thoughtful gift ever that my dad and brother-in-law put together for me: they made a compilation of this blog and printed it into a book for me! Isn't that the sweetest? I just thought it was so thoughtful and such a good token of this new adventure of writing that I'm pursuing and is such a special gift idea. Dad's already planning the next instalment for next year, making a second volume for pretty much every person in the family.
Another bonus about staying in Washington was that my best friends' family's house was just down the road, meaning lots of extra time with the infamous Atkins' girls (and also Sarah's new baby Hudson, who is the sweetest, squishiest, funniest baby in the whole world). These girls are my oldest, dearest friends, they are hilarious and full of colour and life and they just fill me to the rafters with laughter and joy and optimism. (You can see our pictures from our Janz/Atkins Christmas from last year here.)
December was filled with fuelling my little heart with a lot of soul searching and some hard decisions, but I am surrounded by a really beautiful city of people all over this earth and I am entering 2013 with so much hope and enthusiasm and the most gusto I've felt in years. I truly feel blessed beyond all measure. This year was filled with more shows than I've done in the last few years combined, it brought newfound inspiration and motivation to write, the rediscovery of songwriting, the milestone of finally getting a really (really really really!) beautiful guitar, the launch of the word project, and lots of wheels getting in motion for travelling AND school in the coming year.
Thanks too for following along and leaving your comments and "likes" here and there, for checking in and visiting me here on this little blog. This tiny blurb of a space brings a lot of joy to my world and I hope it brings joy to you too!
Sometimes my apartment is roasting hot and sometimes my apartment is frigid and icy. My window, though large, looks out onto the brick siding of my neighbour's house- more specifically, you'll see the favourite perch of the neighbourhood pigeons, who gossip about their daily adventures right around the time I sit down for an afternoon read. The floor is creakiest in the only notably free space of the apartment, the only space big enough to host a yoga mat for a [very occasional] sit-up routine. The hallways are musty and smell like forgotten work boots. The baseboards are crooked and were hastily caulked. Rent is never impossible to come up with but it can be a tricky balancing act to make all things come together, especially when time escapes me and two weeks pass before I even look at a calendar and realize it's nearing the end of the month. We huddle for beer and wine in dim bars with crooked pictures on the wall and wobbly tables. We talk about our shitty jobs and our glorious plans, we talk about boys, and what boys think of girls and what they look for in girls, we talk about disastrous dates and glorious kisses, we talk about shaving our legs and what weird haphazard meals we've managed to throw together from our half-size fridges (yogurt and crackers, tortilla chips with chopped up tomatoes, no salsa, rice with whatever else is in the fridge, spaghetti- just the noodles, and ice cream for breakfast). We swear we're going to be healthy, we proclaim vegetarianism, we pledge our souls to only vodka sodas and no carbs.
I am making peace with the softer curves of my body (though I wish when I was 17 I would've walked around in a bikini every day while I had the opportunity). I am making peace with the acne (though it's a lot more scarce in the last few years). I am making peace with God, stepping into a new vision and comprehension that He (It?) is so much bigger and further and wider than any kind of box I've tried to build in my younger years. I am making peace with the idea that I have time to try a lot of different things and also that time is of the essence, now is always the time to discover more and try harder and chase faster the things that ignite my heart.
These are the tender years, these are the growing pains, and it is just as glorious as it is dull, it is just as messy as it is a brilliant, fantastic masterpiece.
(photo from Visual Supply).
It seems that every time I return home, be it from the grocery store or just a quick jaunt to the coffee shop or a long, full day at work, it becomes of the littlest importance to place my keys in a logical spot - within view, or perhaps at least near the door, or in a similar spot each time. I would think I'd get better at avoiding the frantic dance when I'm trying to leave and the keys are squished between couch cushions or nuzzled throughout a pile of clothes, or thrown on top of the bookshelf, the dresser, the counter, the floor.
It's the end of a long work week and there is a sigh of relief. There was a phone call home to Mom and Dad as they were driving home from family Thanksgiving dinner. I miss those times, I love those times, the dearest faces in my world gathered around a perfectly decorated table with a massive bird and about forty side dishes including the jello salad that none of us really eat but all find immense comfort in just having it on the table. This week marks the 10th anniversary of my dad's grandma passing away, and today the dinner conversation was filled with stories and tales of Mary; she had the softest hands and it will always stick with me knowing that she and Grandpa pray[ed] for us all by name every single day. It's hard to be so far when moments like that are being shared, but even in the distance I am thankful that I have a table I wish I was at instead of being at a table and having a really frustrating time in the company of my family. I feel gratitude for the incredible city of people that surround me day in and out. I feel gratitude for the air in my lungs and the spring in my step, I feel gratitude for hope and peace and safety. I am thankful for all of the riches that come with being inspired and starry eyed, I feel gratitude that we have so many chances to always do it better.
Wishing all of you peace and a million things to fill your cup.