I moved to Alberta several decades ago. There, I soon became friends with several Indigenous people in high school. In addition, a family member married an Indigenous person; I have Indigenous relatives.
A good friend of mine gave me her bannock recipe. It is much like the baking soda biscuits I knew as a child. However, my friend’s recipe includes a little sugar and is baked in a baking sheet with sides which produces biscuits like squares.
BIRCH BARK BASKETS
A dear friend of mine loves to create practical and art objects with components of nature. She lives in the Fort Chipewyan area. She makes birch bark baskets.
I had a pair of mukluks. I loved them, but I could only wear them when…
I love trying new things. The Builder (my husband) and I borrowed two inflatable boards. The girl said, “If you do yoga 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 and straddle it while paddling. The Builder, who doesn’t do yoga, 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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Priest, Simon, PhD. and Gass, Michael, PhD. Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming. University of New Hampshire press. 2005.
Images – Unsplash.
P.S. - You may find errors on my blog posts since I do this for fun, not grades. 🙂
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.
Fox and Hound Sonnet
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.
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.
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.
An old tale, fox and hound, star-crossed lovers;
the fox continues to hunt, while my hound comes in for dinner.
O’Malley, our puppy.
Try your own poem or short story about your pet!
If you can’t remember how a sonnet works, check this POST about sonnets.
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.
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?
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.