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Paddle Boarding

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I love trying new things. The Builder (my husband) and I borrowed two inflatable boards. The girl said, “If you lift weights for two weeks, you’ll be strong enough.” No problem. I can do that.

When we got to the lake, the wind was howling. No problem. The Builder said we should point the boards into the wind. (He was probably thinking about the time we took out wind-surfers and I got stuck in the middle of the lake. He’d towed me back to shore.) I decided to sit on the board. The Builder had to kneel. We paddled like mad to get from one end of the beach to the other. It was fabulous being out in the summer sun even with the brewing gale. The humid air coated my skin, and the fresh green fragrance from the surrounding forest filled my nose and mouth.

We stopped and chatted for a while, enjoying the waves, then decided to paddle back to our start point. Looking up, the wind had already pushed us almost all the way back.

The Builder stood, wobbled, and paddled, his form a perfect sail catching the wind. He rushed along the water.

No way. I wasn’t standing, but I hopped off the board and enjoyed a swim to shallow water, the board tethered to my ankle.

This photo is not us. Maybe next time?

When have you tried something new?

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Embodiment

I wrote this poem as an experiment in prose poetry during an advanced poetry course. (It has since been edited.)

I wrote it with my husband in mind.

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Embodiment

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Do not forget how it feels to immerse your hands in the sink full of suds leaning against your lover drying inhaling Sea Breeze and the sounds of concern to walk barefoot on sun-stained grass amidst the clatter of chastising moths their beating wings dusting you with metamorphosis as you fetch the ball to shouts eager awaiting your embodiment with hair follicles and perspiration

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Do not forget awkwardness sitting alone in the college cafeteria where students harass like ancient companions on this conquest for Great Conversation which you long to enter with your longing the moment you lock eyes with hers and suddenly the pang of loneliness transmutates into stilted sweaty-palm conversation and another and each time your palms sweat less and before long you recite metallurgy while she quotes Millay and your dreams collide in amniotic pheromones their manifestation intoxicating

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Do not forget the successive series recorded in your memory of his hand on the steering wheel how the skin felt from smooth to rough to spotty — the healed scar — how his hand has touched me in only the right ways and do not forget silence how we walked countless trails without speaking because we had memorized each others’ great conversations

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W.O. Mitchell

I enjoyed studying Who Has Seen the Wind in a Canadian Literature class. I first read the novel decades ago, a random pick at the bookstore. Apparently, the editors of some editions left out portions, likely for an American audience. The most recent edition includes all of the missing bits.

I went to the U of C to research W.O. Mitchell while writing a paper on the novel. At the archives, I was able to hold and read his uni papers, and correspondence with his family, other writers, editors, and the Governor General of Canada. It felt odd having that sort of view into the world of the acclaimed writer, but also very cool. While thought of as a Calgary-based writer, he lived and wrote significant works in High River, Alberta.

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W.O. Mitchell Came to Town

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I felt the wind when you came

like Santa Claus on a prairie night;

you rattled the windows

and stole down the chimney.

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The harvest moon howled

and even laughed a little

at your tall tales from Grandma

and Uncle, Sean;

stories about those thirt-ys dirt-y

farmers who

fought cougars and bears

like David,

and made their homes

where the sky touches the earth

all around our town.

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?You have another story in you

from the wind.

–I will listen.

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I held your manuscript today.

I could feel where you pulled

the pages from your typewriter

before you sent them to

the editor

who sent them all

far and wide

from the prairie to

everywhere.

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I saw where your professor had

corrected your grammar, syntax, and diction.

But not your ideas;

never your ideas.

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?What was your mark;

it was erased.

?Were you embarrassed.

They didn’t know who you’d be.

?Would they have marked you differently

if.

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You had questions about

the wind. You knew Digby couldn’t

explain.

Now you know

the wind– uncontainable

will go where it may.

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I read your mail today.

I was angry, too,

about the books I hadn’t known.

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Your letters are carefully kept

from Atwood, Mowat, the GG,

and your mom; they are

artfully, archivally preserved

behind glass doors and

a statuesque lady.

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You’ve done well, kindred spirit.

?Tell me your secrets.

You were good and faithful.

You built a bridge between.

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Rest wind; rest well W.O.

Enjoy your orchids.

And thank you

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the fly

the fly on the wall

cried when you

turned away

not even bothering

to swat

at her beautiful

iridescent torso

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she cried droplets

of blood

one by one

but they were trodden into

the library carpet as you

all strode by

an elated erudite cluster

the fly too round

too silent

too obtrusive

the only appropriate

treatment was to

put her on ignore

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the few small words

she scratched with

unevenly sharpened

eyebrow pencil

appeared to yell so

she smeared them

with the application of a

circus

filter

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no part of her was fit

for human consumption

this side of the grave

only posthumously

would she be given

a nod

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.

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for the author of State of Fragility

(clue to having a fun life: pay attention to the quiet people around you. include them in your games or quiet activities.)

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Playing

In considering “playing with Words,” I have to consider what play means.

When described in concrete terms, play looks different to different people.

For example, one child likes to put on a cape and belt, and stuff a wooden sword and a plastic vile with an imaginary potion into her belt. She next jumps about, swinging her sword and running up and down the stairs. When asked what she is doing, she may say, “I’m fighting orcs!”

Another child enjoys sitting quietly with a massive sheet of blank paper. It is butcher paper–a light brown shade, and it unfurls from a roll. At his elbows are markers, crayons, chalk, and sticks of charcoal. The girl thinks he is utterly boring and she knocks against the table as she rushes past, upsetting the supplies onto the floor.

The artist quietly picks them up, fetches a cup to corral the supplies. He also fetches tape and attaches his paper to the wall, then welcomes her to “play,” too. The girl is interested because she can move around while she adds to the creation. They are “playing” together, or at least at the same time using the same piece of paper. He has found a way to include her. She has found a way to participate. If the creation is never sold or displayed in a gallery, they will still have played and enjoyed it

In flipping through a textbook recently, I came to this definition: “Play is characterized by the absence of fear. We can describe play as pleasant or fun and as boring or a waste of time.” (1)

I love the idea that play is devoid of fear. Different sorts of play will appeal to different sorts of people which is why it may be enjoyable and fun to one, but seem to be “boring or a waste of time” to someone else.

As a writer, when I play with words, I write primarily to please myself. When I write as play, it is fun and satisfying even if the result is never displayed publicly or published, and it can never be boring or a waste of time. At least not to me. I do not fear correction from a professor who has their own ideas about what I should be writing, and I do not fear rejection from an editor of a publishing house or publication. I am not asking for their approval. This is playing.

Write without fear– write as play.

IDEAS

Install a chalkboard, whiteboard, blackboard, or a framed sign for magnetic letters or words. Play around with words.

I have blue and white magnetic words on our black fridge. My family creates short poems or silly sayings. If nothing else, it brings a smile. My daughter has a small light-box which came with letters. We occasionally change what is says. (2)

Would the above sentence work if it said “Stay close to people who feel like a cloudy day”? What about “Stay close to people who smell like toffee”? What about “Look for frogs who smell like liquorice”?

However you play with words, try unlikely combinations and enjoy the result.

  1. Priest, Simon, PhD. and Gass, Michael, PhD. Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming. University of New Hampshire press. 2005.
  2. Images – Unsplash.
P.S. - You may find errors on my blog posts since I do this for fun, not grades. 🙂
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Write about your pet!

Our dog O’Malley is so friendly, especially with female dogs, that he doesn’t differentiate between tame family pets and a wild fox. A vixen lives in the tall grass behind our place, and she often prances around looking for mice.

O’Malley sees her and does his own little dance along the fence, wanting to go and play.

I wrote a little sonnet about them, calling it Fox and Hound Sonnet even though he isn’t a hound; he’s a Sheltie.

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Fox and Hound Sonnet

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Her coat is silver in the midnight luminescence.

She hunts for mice scurrying hole to hidden hole;

her midriff tells the tale of soon becoming mother,

for kits to come when spring should bring mild weather.

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The fox patrols along the waving grasses and the shrubs.

She stands motionless intent on securing food for all,

when eventually a mouse or vole appears, she pounces,

death’s bite given to ease the rodent’s journey.

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My hound prances at the fence completely enthralled.

He’s in love, how can he resist her beautiful paws!

Her tail bushes large as her body, her eyes like acorns,

she tempts this sire to devote his life to adoration.

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An old tale, fox and hound, star-crossed lovers;

the fox continues to hunt, while my hound comes in for dinner.

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O’Malley, our puppy.

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Try your own poem or short story about your pet!

If you can’t remember how a sonnet works, check this POST about sonnets.

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Three Girls in a Cherry Tree

As teenagers, my sisters and I picked fruit for summer work near Fruitland, Ontario. We foolishly wore shorts and the backs of our legs burned bright red. Normally, cherries are pulled straight off the stems, but no one told us what to do; they assumed we knew. As a result, we picked basketfuls of cherries with the stems on and the farmer had to sell our harvest at his roadside fruit-stand rather than including the fruit in his shipment to E.D. Smith’s jam factory. We were embarrassed. This poem is written in lower diction as we were young teens.

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Three Girls in a Cherry Tree

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We three sisters rode in a truck

To orchards humming honey

In July’s dawn

Three girls

Three ladders

Three baskets full

We sweet fruit savoured

Till our cheeks stained suit

Fingers pulled stems

All day long

Cold drinks from water pails

Tin ladle song

Red fingers

Red lips

Red legs

Red faces

Farmer sold cherries

At roadside station

*Inspired by Theodore Roethke’s writings about his childhood

Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

Have fun playing around with words, words from your childhood experiences!

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Two Types of Story

One of the things I learned while studying the Humanities is that there really are only two types of stories.

CAUTION: this post is only partially true and is most definitely over-simplified. BEWARE!

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

It sounds way too simple to be true! Wouldn’t writing be so incredibly easy if it were?

The two types are…

Can you imagine a story you’ve read where the characters seem silly, thick-minded, or at least at some sort of disadvantage? Characters like this can’t seem to look ahead far enough to predict the outcome of their actions. As a result, they land in complicated, difficult, and often humorous (humourous) situations.

This type of story is a comedy. The reader is smarter than the protagonist, and despite bumbles and danger, there is a happy ending. A couple of examples are Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and The Rosie Project. Graeme Simsion’s protagonist, Don Tillman, is a professor who bumbles through the story, comedically over-self-aware, yet somewhat heroic as he becomes embroiled in a plan to find a wife for himself and a father for Rosie. Simsion’s story subverts the genre because he wrote a “smart comedy” as the characters are all educated and interesting, unlike the first comedies invented in Ancient Greece, where comedies were peopled with fools and bawdy antics and far too much drink during their festivals to worship their gods. All you have to do to find out this is true of comedy is try to find one on a movie channel that isn’t populated by fools. (They do exists, but they are tricky to find!)

The other type of story is a tragedy. In this type of story, the characters are usually relatable, or even in the higher stations of society like the kings in Shakespeare’s political plays. They fall into one of the Deadly Sins, or make some sort of tragic mistake which leads to their demise. At the end, they are “sadder but wiser, (Aristotle/Coleridge).

Aristotle is the one who first wrote about the two basic types of stories in his book, The Poetics. His two types of stories seem to ring true.

A recent example of a tragedy is The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. While there are amusing parts, the overall trajectory leads through difficult circumstances and seemingly the tragic decision of the son to separate from his family. By the end, he has become wiser.

Can you think of any stories that don’t fit his idea?

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writing to show change

Sometimes writers and writing are way too serious!

I just don’t want to write if it isn’t going to be fun. I like to think about what I enjoy, and write about it.

I also think about what I’d like to read, and what kids would like to read.

While I imagine mostly happy endings, getting there for my characters isn’t easy. In fact, everything goes wonky. That’s what makes a good tale.

The simplest story is:

Someone WANTS something / someone can’t get that thing = conflict

They find TROUBLE when they go on a journey to find what they want, or

trouble comes to town.

Another simple plot is about CHANGE:

This is the way life is here and now. Go into great detail about very specific things in that life. Then suddenly, life changes because of forces outside the person, or the person does something to change their life.

This type of story is mainly about showing change and how the character deals with it.

Words are cool; words are fun.

Have fun writing! Play around with different kinds of stories.

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Naming Characters & Plot in Summer North Coming

There are several books which I have read a gazillion times to my children that did not have named characters. A few examples are: Goodnight Moon, Jamberry, and several Dr. Suess books, like Go Dog Go.

Naming in most stories is important. Names hold meaning as far as origin of name, connotations of name, and social understanding of a name. A whole character may be summed up with their name, such as The Grinch.

In Summer North Coming, Winter North Coming, I chose not to name the characters. In a story without named characters, the story becomes universal and any child may relate to the story.

Without names, the story is about the location, the movement, activity, the seasons, the experience, the overall tone and mood of the story.

What about plot?

The plot in this book is not typical. It doesn’t have a stated story problem, or a definitive conclusion. However, the story has the unstated problem of bored children, not knowing what to do. So, the answer is to get outside and do something fun in nature! Or, have some family and friends over for a special occasion. Rather than a sharp ending, the story is cyclical just like the seasons and years in life. The conclusion states off-camera that we will continue to have fun and thrive, no matter what the circumstances in life.

With a poetic story like Summer North Coming, lyricism is at the forefront. The story can almost be sung. Additionally, the story sets-up the expectation that when summer comes, these are the things we will do. In the second half of the book, Winter North Coming enfolds the same style, rhyme scheme, and lyricism, which sets up the reader to anticipate all the fun things to experience during the winter.

In this story, the focus is not on the naming of people, but on pulling the reader outside of self to experience the brilliance of nature, the joy of gatherings, and the beauty of language in poetic form. That is a satisfying conclusion in what can be an uncertain world.

photo credit: Eugene Golovesov