Category Archives: adventure

Believe what you will but let me believe what I will

[pure off the cuff, spur of the moment fiction, by ~burning woman~ ]

“No, no!” I said. “Stop beating me up with it, I thought we had agreed we were not going to discuss this. I know what you believe and it doesn’t bother me, it’s your choice. By the same token, you know what I believe and it’s my choice.”

We were sitting at the table in the dining nook, me at the window facing west, he across from me. I had a glass of white wine, he his strong, dark beer. It was already late, of a Summer Sunday evening, and I just wanted to enjoy the darkening skies and the fading colour from the clouds hovering near the horizon.

This is how it started:

“I am going to watch for meteors,” I said. “Make a wish, you know?”

“That’s pure superstition,” he replied, looking up from his book and taking another sip of beer, “when are you going to give up that childish nonsense? It’s embarrassing.” He looked at me with his mouth turned down, making it obvious how displeased he was with me at that moment.

Only he wasn’t talking about my wishing upon a shooting star, he was talking about my belief in the spirit world and particularly in my insistence that I was fully aware of past and future lives.

We had agreed, before we decided to live together that our differences in those areas we would accept from each other and only broach the subject philosophically, in a “what if” sort of way. It wasn’t supposed to become another patriarchal relationship in which he, the man, decided the correct way we, meaning me, the woman, should believe, or think for that matter.

When it came to beliefs, as far as I was concerned, there never had been and never would be a “we” in the equation. I didn’t care what he believed or believed in. He was (still is!) handsome, kind in his own way, supportive most of the time, great in the sex department, an important aspect of the relationship to me, and I must admit that I loved him, well, sort of. Is it love when there is no passion in it, just an easy comfort?

But does that mean I have to give him my mind so he can fill it with his own ideas while excluding mine? Not on your life. I’m not made to take things that way; to be taken for granted, or thought of as the little trophy woman who bats her eyelashes and exclaims, ‘Oh, but you’re always so right, dear!’ No, he’s not right, not when his “right” needs to supersede, or cancel my “right” as it does when I express myself in what he calls a superstitious way.

This isn’t about who’s right, who’s not. This is about who is free, who is not. I didn’t sign up to have my ideas replaced by someone else’s. Not that I signed anything to get into this relationship mind, but you know what I mean.

So I countered: “When you buy a lotto ticket, what do you call that feeling it gives you? You don’t buy a ticket without some hope that you could win, even win the jackpot. What do you call that hope, if not a form of superstition? Logically it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to buy a lottery ticket because the odds are so against you. So in that moment you override your logical thinking and allow yourself a wild moment of magical thinking. You allow yourself to be pulled into that shameful realm of illogic.”

“It’s not the same thing,” he replies. “I don’t believe in the lottery as if it was some spirit force, some divine being, an angel or the Great Pumpkin. It’s just a game.” He did enjoy mocking me with that reference to the Charlie Brown cartoon super being of Linus’ he called the Great Pumpkin.

“But it’s a game of chance!”

“So?”

“It’s a game of luck!”

“And?”

I could feel myself becoming frustrated and upset. “It’s superstition, honey. The other morning, when you came storming back in the apartment and said, ‘God, I went and locked my keys in the truck last night,’ were you subconsciously praying to some superbeing you say you do not believe in because you were in a tight spot, in a hurry and didn’t remember where you kept you spare set of keys? Instead of invoking some deity neither of us believes in you could have said, ‘Karin, do you know where my spare set of keys is?’ and I would have told you. I told you anyways but you didn’t ask me. You addressed the problem through a kind of superstition of your own which you justify with excuses and that hurts. Do you think I’m so stupid I don’t notice these things?

“It’s late, I’m going to bed and I’m sleeping in the spare room. We’re both working tomorrow, I’ve got a pile of reports to check over before my first class so I’ll be off early. I’ll eat on the way, you make your own breakfast, or not. Tomorrow evening I want you to apologize to me and reaffirm our agreement to enjoy each other and leave our beliefs as sacred and private to each other. If you cannot do that, and do it sincerely, I’ll be leaving by next weekend.”

“Where will you go?”

“That’s a really stupid question. Since we’ve been together I’ve been propositioned at least a dozen times, the last one was just a week ago. I travel light as you know and there are a lot of lonely beds out there whose sheets will eagerly part to let me slip in. Don’t self-blind Rico or think I need you because no one else will have me!”

I was getting angry and hated the feeling.

“You’ll miss me.”

“Of course I’ll miss you, you don’t have to state the obvious. But that too shall pass because I choose intellectual integrity over a great fuck.”

“Is that all I am to you, a great fuck?”

“That doesn’t please you?”

“Well, yeah, but isn’t there more for you?”

“Of course there is, or there could be but not when you try to emasculate my choices. My feelings for you cool very fast then.”

“So I’m wrong then?”

“I’m tired and I’m not going around this mulberry bush with you Rico. Good night.”

That was a year ago, probably why I remembered it today. He didn’t apologize, he said he couldn’t see that there was anything to apologize for so I left him that weekend, I could tell he was going to try to talk his way around the problem but I was having none of it. I’ve seen him a couple of times since; he bought me a drink the last time. How are you doing? Fine, you? Oh, OK, I’ve got a girlfriend, Nina, she’s Italian. Good for you. Our team lost again. Yeah, too bad. I had her change the drapes in the bedroom; they reminded me too much of us. Good idea, no point dwelling on the past. That was about it. I suppose it never was what you’d call a deep relationship, more of a convenience.

It’s not the way I prefer them but it’s the only way to keep my options open. I’m sort of living with a guy too but I saw no point in mentioning that, he’d already assume I was or he’d already know that through his male gossip circle. I know the pub where the circle meets and what is talked about there.

You know what? I need to find another direction for my life, I feel I’m on treadmill if not on a dead-end street. I don’t like myself much these days and I used to feel so sure and so proud of what I’d accomplished for myself. I feel that the more I insist on my independence, or perhaps the way I go about it, it’s making me increasingly self-centered and selfish. That never used to be me and I’m certainly not blaming the men in my life for this quandary of mine. If this was another girl’s story I’d end it with: “Get a life, woman!”

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We have Played this Game

[experiences – by ~burning woman~]

It is time. I walk to the edge of the River’s bank, take a deep breath then slowly step down into the water. The water is fast, the current noisy, hissing with the effort of carrying sand to some unchartered destination.

 

The water eddies around my legs and thighs. The current is very fast here, that’s what makes it so exciting and challenging. The water is cold but not numbing as a month ago, repelling and inviting all at once, I feel a desire arising in my heart, like wanting to abandon yourself to make love to a stranger you don’t really trust and who is much too old for you.

I tell myself I don’t mind the cold. I feel the sand eroding off the bank under my feet and suddenly I slide down into the water, slipping as much as three feet, down beyond my standing depth and thrust outward from shore. My heart skips a beat, maybe two, as I find myself facing the rushing, swirling surface of the murky water. I’m committed now, no turning back: my body is pulled away into the spinning whirls of colder waters. There is no swimming back to shore here. All I can do is follow along as the water spins me in an ever-widening circle, then sweeps me downstream.

I am alone here, it was always my choice. No one to throw a rope, or shoot out in a kayak to help me back. I swim slowly, carefully avoiding panic. After all, did I not seek this? Dream of it? I am in the River; I am one of her children, whether she acknowledges me or not. I acknowledge her and I’ve always loved her, even if I’ve never trusted her. She has her life, so much more awesome than mine, so much more significant. She flows off and down, to lose herself in he arms of her lover, the sea. All I am is a bit of flotsam, that’s all. Alive or dead, she will carry me until an eddy throws me upon a gravel bar, or into a pile of driftwood stuck in the trunk of a giant fallen cottonwood.

I have a life too, however. I have dreams and purpose. I have drive. I chose this encounter, not to challenge the power of the River, but my own silly kind of courage. I spin around, still filled with fear that the whirlpool will suck me under but I’m just far enough away from its center to drift, arms out, legs kicking slowly, trying to find traction. And I do. Suddenly I find myself moving in a chosen direction. I decide to aim for a spur of gravel far downstream where the current assumes a more predictable flow. I roll, front to back, one look at the serene blue of the sky and I know, once again, I am going to live.

We have played this game, the River and I, for a very long time. It’s not a competition, just a game. It is also a played-out allegory of one life lived outside the communal box. No “life jacket”; no safety net; no buddy system. Alone to face myself and grasp a fleeting taste of some vague remembrance of a primordial relationship with nature as a purely natural being unencumbered by societal mores, taboos, complications.

Seabird Point, a short story

[short story by Sha’Tara]

Introduction: I ask myself so often, why do I writ these emotionally charged stories that tell stories that rarely, if at all, see real life emulate? Then I realize that what I cannot have; what man’s “real world” will not give me, I need to prove to myself that it can be regardless. Man’s “real life” is the fake news. This simple little story and how it concludes is “my” real life. I choose to believe that what you will read here could be the normal world you wake up to in the morning. Dream on? Sure, why not, I’ve spent much of my life dreaming until I made those dreams a reality I could not only live with, but actually love being a part of. So, have a look at an alternate world, and thank you for reading.
____________________________

Jeffrey Lewis is a rich man, at least by the standards of the ten or so thousand population of Seabird Point. He may not be well liked by the residents of his chosen locale, but they are deferential to him nevertheless since his pleasure craft factory employs most of them.

Seabird Point is a promontory that looks upon the open Atlantic and boasts a well-advertised seasonal tourist industry and between that and the Lewis Yacht Manufacturing Inc., the three mandatory schools – elementary, Middle and High; a lawyer’s office, real estate, the bank and a doctors’ clinic with part-time satellite medical drop in, not much else. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the Presbyterian church that serves for every kind of Christian and bake sale and craft event locals can dream up.

Sorry, I forgot another main aspect of Seabird Point, La Bella Roma Ristorante. How could I forget that? Apart from the yacht plant and government establishment, it’s the largest employer in town in the summer. It is also Jeffrey Lewis’ favourite eating place. Even at the height of the tourist season when every nook and cranny of Seabird Point has been rented out or filled in by unsuspecting south bound migratory tourists with more money than brains, Mr. Lewis can bring himself and his entourage to the Ristorante and get a table.

Today is such a day. It’s eighteen hundred hours; the sun is low but bright over the sparkling chop and not a cloud in the sky. A steady breeze stirs the magnolias restless. Voices of people can be heard through the smoke and aromas of barbecues behind scented flowery hedges. Well, what do you expect? This is, after all, Seabird Point. Are there problems here? At the height of tourist season? Certainly not outside the camouflage.

Jeffrey Lewis’ chauffeur driven limousine flashes its grey paint down the main avenue. He’s hungry and eager to find his comfortable place at the table overlooking the break water past the yacht club with its sea of waving masts and brightly reflecting hulls. The parking lot is full but that doesn’t matter. The imported British chauffeur stops the car by the steps leading to an open set of double doors. He briskly steps out and opens Mr. Lewis’ door. Jeffrey nods, puts his white yachting cap and jacket on and steps up. He is greeted by a young and very attractive hostess in a short black décolleté, past the usual Friday evening line-up of hopefuls for the lobster feast, to sit alone at his large empty table. The sea is beautiful this time of day he thinks as he receives his drink and the waiter makes a pretense of listing the menu specials. Jeffrey absentmindedly waves the card away to have his usual, specially prepared and served piping and spicy hot.

He waits. There’s a commotion at the entrance. He turns to observe, partially interested. A family of tourists, he expects, is getting antsy waiting for a table? He sees a wheelchair being pushed forward by a small woman, and pushed back by the hostess. Two waiters attend the scene. Interesting. No altercations are permitted on Seabird Point at the height of the tourist season. It’s just not in the program. Who is re-writing the lines? Everyone in town knows how to behave to pluck the most amount of money from the migration.

For some time now Jeffrey had begun thinking over his life. It had been exciting once but now that he owned the fastest racing yacht along the coast, where was the challenge to win a race, or the pleasure in receiving the expected award? The plant was doing well, certainly, but it was a boring enterprise over all. Mostly small orders for cheap fiberglass fishing boats. It smelled also, even in the office on the fourth floor of the Lewis Building three blocks from the factory. His wife had left him for a skipper and his two daughters were safely out of his reach, one in New York married to a law firm (or was it a lawyer?) and the other in San Francisco pretending to be an artist on his money. He’d had several affairs, but they were much like his contracts for small pleasure craft – they wouldn’t take a long voyage in deep waters. And Jeffrey had once loved deep waters.

He heard the woman pushing the wheel chair cry out. That’s it, he thought, I’m intervening in this. I can’t have this in my town. He gets up and walks tall and very white in his uniform, to the entrance. The woman holding the wheelchair is short, as he’d thought, but feisty. She wasn’t going to be pushed out so easily.

“Ah, excuse me please.” Everyone in Seabird Point knows Mr. Lewis’ voice.

Silence now, except for the woman who looks him in the eye and says: “Look, I don’t know who you be sir, but I know this. There’s a large table over there where you was sittin’ and I just asked if I could push my son’s wheelchair in and we could sit there. Me ‘n the three kids,” she points to a young girl of about fifteen years much taller than her mother and a younger boy about twelve, “been on our feet most of the day. Sir, my son in this here chair is dyin’ see? Some cancer thing they got more names fer ‘n Carter’s got pills is the cause.

“So I took my savin’s to bring him to this place as I was told of from my friend Cathy who does the Internet thing. Nice place she says, and beautiful view of the ocean. Took all I got but I reserved a bed and breakfast that would take my little Jeff in and we come by train yesterday. Today I made a reservation for dinner here so he could see the ocean while I fed him but they stuck us in the back along a windowless wall. That wasn’t the deal, sir. Jeff wanted to sit and watch the gulls soar, the yachts move on the water and the sun set on the open ocean. We be from Kentucky sir. There ain’t no ocean to see or smell. It was gonna be this one time for us all. Janie, will you wipe his mouth girl? Sorry sir, he can’t quite manage no more… and sometimes I think I won’t either, but each day comes and we manage it, all of us together.”

Customers and staff alike, everybody is struck dumb. The woman’s story hangs like a pall over their self-centered lives. But Jeffrey Lewis has a vision. A beatific vision. He is transported to some kind of heaven while listening to the woman’s dream. Such simplicity, such beauty. Hell, such power. In his mind he compares her to his prize yacht and realizes she is much more, by far. This is it, he thinks, this is what I’ve been waiting for, hell no, what I’ve been setting myself up for, all those years as seas just billowing past my bows as if I was nothing at all, just another piece of driftwood from an expensive wreck.

Tall and imposing, he looks down at the owner of La Bella Roma Ristorante, Mr. Arturo Bellini who, upon being advised of the commotion, had waddled his portly self to the scene still wearing his chef’s hat.

“Signore?” One word that leads to the predictable answer:

The servile tone is almost overbearing, “Ah, yes Mr. Lewis. We will escort her out immediately. I’ve called the police. There will be no more outburst, I promise you.”

“You don’t understand, Art.” Jeffrey intones in an exaggerated soft southern drawl, “Throw her out and I buy this place and shut it down. No, I burn it down myself and sit out there on the stone wall to watch until the wind blows away every speck of dust and rust of it. You will bring this woman and her family to my table now.”

He turns and walks back to his table, taking his drink to another seat, leaving the view side open for the wheelchair. He punches his cell phone and calls off the local constabulary. Then he makes two more phone calls, one to his pilot. The other to a private clinic in New York.

It’s a truly magnificent evening as the breeze dies down and the chop eases off. A small flock of rock doves lands among the terrace tables and the iridescent birds peck intently for fallen crumbs as the sun drops from a pink sky to a much deserved rest below the phosphorescent sea.

Dancing in Paris

[a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

I’m dancing, really dancing
only I don’t quite dare know
who this girl is, dancing so freely,
with such uninhibited abandon.

Behind her looms that steely landmark,
the Eiffel tower.
She spins and laughs, closes her eyes,
it appears, disappears
now covered in lights,
now wreathed in fog:
the clouds seem to frown
and she shivers and trembles
thinking, “Such daring!” Is this me?

It’s her happiness, you see.
The mighty Olympians are confused.
Perhaps even angry
for they’d swore she would never
taste happiness in this life.
The man in whose arms she swims:
who is he? She can’t remember–
Is she dreaming again, lost again?

She doesn’t know what time this is.
How long has the Eiffel being?
This must be a recent time,
a modern time, so says her dress.
This time, this one time
it has to be real,
not just some pointless vision:
one more of countless.
This time she beat the odds–
she-did-it. I-did-it… me!

I’ve dreamed to be here,
to possess this experience.

But it was always just a dream,
one after the other:
dreams, I have survived on.
From dream to dream weaving
the plain web of my simple life
in my very own make-believe tower,
a prisoner of fate and of fear
until the day I die
to enter that final dream.

But here I am,
dancing in Paris.

No other city looks like this;
no other feels like this.
The world is my home town
but Paris, ah, Paris
is the front door to my heart
and it lies wide open!

Be angry, Olympians, hate me if you will,
it matters to me no longer:
your lying mirror lies on the floor
in a thousand shattered pieces!
If I die now, then I die.
You were powerless to deny me

this one moment when the taste of happiness
touched my lips.  I am laughing!

Redemption

(a short story, by Sha’Tara – part 3 and last)

Morning came, and the noise of a truck backing out of the driveway woke me up.  It was clear and cold, I could tell.   I dressed as warm as I could in my sweats, my coat and wool hat and after wishing Pete a good morning as he busied himself with a couple of shopping bags dropped by the door, walked outside to stretch.  Everything was frozen, grey white, sparkling like fairy land.  The first thing I did was slip off the steps and land painfully on my butt.  But the beauty and freshness of the morning made me quickly forget my bruises.  My car was covered in ice but I realized the sun would soon melt it off – seeing it’s a dark blue and would attract the heat.  The dog was nowhere to be seen so I assumed (I know, bad idea) she was in the old van in some warm nest she’d made.  The food was all gone but something made me look closer at the ground and I saw small animal tracks.  So it had been taken by wild animals and I wondered what made such small tracks, and would not be afraid of the smell of a watch dog?  Did they have raccoons up here?

I walked around the cement foundations, now half covered in drifted silt and weeds.  How many years had it been since that dream had shattered?  I did something unusual then: I reckoned it from my own age.  I am thirty-two years old.  Those foundations must be thirty-three years old, maybe thirty-four.  According to the orphanage records I was born in 1975.  So these foundations were laid by Pete and Sally in 1973.  And that’s another thing that hit them: the Hippie era when young people suddenly left everything in search of something better than what they’d known, even if they had known the best life anyone had ever had on this world since history began.  They were an unhappy lot, and moved as such a lot, as cattle perhaps, or lemmings, following some path, some will o’ the wisp, with no real purpose to look forward to.  So they created a myth of peace and brotherhood, a mantra, a ‘mission statement’ and proceeded to screw it all up with drugs, irresponsibility and wanton lust.  Then they woke up one day, the lot of them except those too far gone to wake up, or those few who still believed, and went back to Big Daddy and his Big Machine.  Now they run the world and what a place they’ve made of it.

So Sally became a sort of Hippie.  Probably experimented with drugs, perhaps even when she was pregnant, drank too much, lost her sense of personal value, dumped her own kid and disappeared.  Was she still alive?  Physically, maybe, but spiritually, mentally?  Seems like whatever was done to her as a child had turned her into something a little less than human.  Some would call it karma.  I just call it sad, terribly sad.  If such a person ever wanted to, could she redeem herself?  How do you redeem yourself?  I can’t answer that.  Only if I get there and I have to make such a choice can I truthfully say, “I know.”

My shoes must be wrong for this world.  Not only do I find it almost impossible to stand, my feet are now freezing, although I have an extra pair of socks on.  I had to force my feet into these boots with those socks.  Why am I cold?  I’ve got more clothes on than I remember ever wearing at any one time.  I walk towards the sunrise and stand at the abrupt edge of a deep ravine, or as Pete calls them, a coulee.  I can’t hear any water running and it seems to me very strange that such deep clefts would not have rivers of water in them.   A pungent smell comes from some bushes I disturbed in passing as the sun is just beginning to melt the ice from their branches.  I see what I recognize as stinging nettles and foolishly avoid them thinking they would sting me.  Frozen, and through all these clothes?  Ah well, much to learn, and much that will never be learned due to more pressing matters.  I must conclude my interview with Pete today and start back.  I don’t like this weather and I’m suddenly afraid of this land and the strange dirt roads my car was never designed to drive on.  Edward was right.  I should have rented a real prairie dirt road vehicle in Prince Albert.  Stubborn.  But I like my car, it’s personal, private, an extension of me, especially when I’m far from my own home.

I smell cooking and I realize I’m past hungry.  I return to the house, being careful to stand relaxed on the icy steps.  My boots slip but I manage to stay upright, grab the door handle and walk in.  I hear eggs frying.  And bacon.  A steaming pot sits on the side of the stove and there’s a percolator chugging away on one of the burners, or covers or whatever.  A real percolator!  I lift the lid on the steaming pot and it’s porridge.  I’ve never eaten porridge.

Pete is busy tending the eggs in a large cast iron frying pan.  He seems to have dropped twenty years from his face since yesterday.  ‘What’s the occasion, kind sir?’  I ask him, smiling my widest and most natural, unfeigned smile.

“You,” he replies, smiling in turn.  He has a beautiful smile, a perceptibly familiar smile.  Where have I seen that smile before?  Somebody I know, know real well, but whom?  Not Edward, not even close.  That priest who “advised” me when I left the orphanage and got me my first job as a copy editor and helped me find an apartment?  No, not him.  Ah well, never mind.  I’m starving.

“Can I help Pete?”

“We’ll need plates for the porridge and the bacon and eggs.  We’ll need to slice some bread and toast it.  There’s a couple of loaves in the fridge and a bread knife in the drawer to the right of the sink.”

I slice the bread and look for the toaster, feeling foolish.  Probably some too obvious contraption I should know about.  I see nothing, and no plugs above the counter either.  “Sorry, where’s the toaster?”

For the first time he breaks out laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Your question.   I’m currently using the toaster, but in a few seconds, as I move this frying pan over, you can have it.”

“The burners?  You want me to just lay the slices of bread on the top of the stove?”

“Sure.  I’ll tell you when to flip them.”

So we had a wonderful breakfast.  I began to think that maybe that’s what he ate at every meal, or that maybe he only ate breakfast.  No matter.  I felt great after, drinking the strangest tasting, but hot and strong coffee from the percolator.

“Where’d this food come from, Pete?”

“I should have told you, I have an old CB radio here.  I called Webster’s and they brought some supplies.  It’s been a very long time since I had company, Reed.  I spent the night wondering how I could express my gratitude for listening to my story, and for staying over last night, so as not to cause me worry.”

“Oh!”  I exclaimed, suddenly feeling very young, very childlike.  “Well, thank you.  I’m glad I stayed, I can’t imagine driving through this stuff.”

“The roads will be fine during the day except for the bottom of the coulees where the sun doesn’t shine in winter.  If you’re careful to drive from side to side of the road and not on the icy tracks, you wouldn’t have any problems.  Of course most people with those  modern 4×4’s don’t know how to use ’em properly and frequently end up in the ditch.  Too much power to the wheels at the wrong time, in the wrong places.  You have to feel the road, let it talk to you, tell you what you’re doing wrong.  And you have to feel your car or truck as well.  An empath should know that, hm?”  He winked at me and I laughed.  Then, in between mouthfuls and sips of scalding coffee, I began the questions again.

“So, you never ever thought to look up Sally’s child, not even out of curiosity?”

“Oh yes, many times.  But what stopped me after my initial bout of anger was that she’d remind me of Sally every day.  I’d be raising a part of her, but would never have her.  I looked at my life, what it had become and after a few years I convinced myself that the girl was much better off in the city, among people she knew, surrounded by opportunities completely unavailable here.  If I went to get her I’d just cause more harm and grief.”

“Don’t you think that maybe that was selfish thinking on your part?  That this girl needed a father of sorts in her life, especially knowing she had been abandoned by her own mother?  How do you think that affects a child?”

“I don’t know Reed.  I’m no psychologist.  I’m a farmer with a grade nine education.  I don’t know much about people.  And in the state I’ve been in, I couldn’t even help myself.”

“Well there’s another point.  This girl, maybe, being of Sally, she could have given you the love you never got from the mother.  This girl could have been the necessary filler your heart needed.  Don’t tell me you’ve never read of such things happening.”

“I don’t read much, but I have.  I just don’t believe it.  Just stories, Reed.  Feel good stuff.  Happy endings.  Not for us, just for writers and those who for a moment believe their inventive trash.”

“I’m a writer, Pete.  I’m going to write a story about our encounter and my trip here.  Will you read my ‘inventive trash’?”

“Oh, so sorry… so sorry Reed.  Please forgive me.  My bitterness is quite used to have me for itself anytime, anywhere.  I’ve never practiced the discipline of hiding my pain from others.  Probably why there are no ‘others’ in my life anymore.  I prefer to be alone so that I can give vent to my feelings without having to worry about the effect I’m having on others.”

“That’s all right.  I’m a journalist, a reporter.  I’ve got tough skin.  I too was raised in difficult circumstances and I’m a survivor and over-comer.  I could tell you some stories about my own upbringing in an orphanage.  It was a priest who helped me get out of that life and find a job and a place to live.  I suppose, depending on how you look at it, I got lucky.  And have been ever since, if you discount the sleepless nights working on a computer and the loneliness.

“But lately I’ve been questioning that.  I want something better than that animalistic instinct to survive and beat my competitor to the prey.  I’ve been seriously thinking it’s time I became a different, a better, person.  It will definitely hurt my career, maybe end it, but what’s left of my life I want to dedicate to me.  To myself.  I have a dream, a vision, of what I want to become.  It frightens me, Pete.  It frightens me because I’d be so alone in doing this.  No one can really share in it.  I see a great similarity between us.  You changed after Sally left you.  You dedicated yourself to nurturing your grief, to never let it ease or heal.  You became your grief and it grew to control you and in turn, it became you.  In it you have been intensely and utterly alone.  You could not share that with anyone without hurting them.  So you detached from all of them and kept only the suffering you.  And wasted over thirty years of your life to date.

“I want the opposite, but just as intensely as you pursued your own dream of living in heart-mind agony and grief because you lost something that was never yours to start with.”

“Oh yeah?  Hmmm.”  Long pause.  His voice lowers a bit:  “You’ve thought about this a great deal I sense.  How will you accomplish this dream of becoming better than yourself, of becoming a better person in your own eyes, assuming you intend to be extremely tough on yourself in this?”

“Yes I’ve thought about it a great deal.  I’ve looked at the world from my journalist perspective.  We’re taught and encouraged to dig deep into the human psyche, to look for reasons, causes and to make value-judgments about everything.  We are supposed to be experts at uncovering what makes people do what they do.   So that’s the method I used to look at myself; at my motives for everything I think, say and do.  Who is the person behind it all?  And I’ve decided that perhaps that person needed to be what she was for a time, but no more.  She is past all that now.  She’s too young to give up the idea of positive change and too old to play the games people play, of seduction, money and popularity.  She’s at a crossroads that comes but a very few times in one lifetime.  Choice.  So she chooses change through self-empowerment.  That means the tough reporter bitch makes herself vulnerable, exposes her soft underbelly to those who would beat her.  She chooses the path of compassion.  And hopes she is strong enough to accept the inevitable.”

“Doesn’t that make you a sort of fatalist?  That doesn’t suit you, somehow.”

“I prefer to think of it as being pragmatic.  I’ve seen some of the world, perhaps using my life as a microcosm of the macrocosm.  I’m basically middle aged.  I have enough past to be able to surmise, or hypothesize my future at least.  I don’t want to live in the world I’ve come to know.  So if I can’t just leave it for greener pastures provided by someone else, then I’ve got to create change right here.  And there’s nothing else I can change but myself.  That’s what the people who chase after leaders do not realize: that nothing changes until they, themselves, become that change.  The change I propose to put myself through is going to cost me much.  I have no problem accepting the fact of those costs, but can I pay my debts?  Can I ‘take it’ to use the vernacular?”

He sighs deeply and stares straight into my eyes.  “You’re goading me, aren’t you.  You don’t mean any of this, you just want me to react, defend myself, or admit I’m a total failure and tell you I’m not sorry; that I choose to be where I am and I’m staying here, then to prove you are right, to ask you to leave and not write any story about me, but forget you were ever here.  You are pushing me into some kind of admission.”

I stand up and pace across the small kitchen, careful to avoid several empty cardboard boxes and a stack of firewood partially blocking one side of the table.  I’m feeling anger coming and I need to let it out carefully.  I don’t want to use that sort of energy in an interview.

“You’re wrong Pete.  Sure, I came here for a story, that’s what I do, write stories, do documentaries and spout off on talk shows.  But primarily I am using this trip to find myself.  You can help me.  I see many similarities between us, our lives.  We had it tough, both of us.  But here’s the interesting difference.  I chose to overcome my problems and rise above them.  You chose to use yours as an excuse to cop out of life.  Now, I don’t know.  You show me courtesy and treat me as your guest.  You order special groceries and cook for me.  You let me sleep in your shrine, knowing that no matter how careful I am, my presence in it will forever desecrate a part of it and it will never be the same to you.  You are taking chances with me, exposing vulnerable parts of yourself to me.  Showing me the Pete who wished he could have a chance at life again.  Why?”

“Good question Reed.  I don’t know.  You’re making me think back over things I’d stopped thinking about long ago.  You’re making me look at my miserable life… and maybe, just maybe, to question my place in it.  You’re making me think that maybe I can make the pain stop and I can change.  You’re a witch, Reed.  A very powerful witch.  I’ve always been scared of witches, you know.  They are unpredictable.  Sally was a witch, that’s why she attracted men who abused her and grew bored with me because I let her be, happy to just love her, or as near to love as I knew how to give.  I think witches have a death wish but have so much of life’s power they get stuck in places they grow to think of as prisons.  A witch must have her broom, Reed, always ready to fly off to some place where no man can go to.

“Tell me about your priest.”

I have a sudden vision of my own mother riding on a big black broom, holding me in her arms until she finds a suitable place and dropping me to fall through black clouds, then down towards a city and into my own prison.  I imagine she just wanted me to find my broom, learn to fly on my own, and leave my prison as she had done.  Which I did, to a point.  His question startles me.  “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Your priest who helped you leave the orphanage life and found you a job.  What was in it for him?”

“Pete, that was the Nineties already!  We were lovers!  We met in the confessional.  I’d been baptized Catholic and had to follow through on the rituals, or else.  I had so much anger and hate then, I can’t believe it myself now.  So I confessed stories I made up of erotic and terrible sins.  I think my confessions turned him on.”

“So this priest seduced a young virgin from an orphanage, is that it?”

“You’d sooner find a virgin in a whorehouse than in that orphanage!  Shit man, we were regularly ‘farmed out’ to certain people for ‘domestic labour training’ if you get my drift.  But that came after the in-house fondling and other stuff.  Women and men used us: we were nobody’s property, so we may as well be theirs.  Father Logan, Bertrand Logan, was my out from that life.  If it hadn’t been for him, I’m pretty sure I would have been sold to some pimp, oh, excuse me, an employer who had a very legitimate job for me.  I’ve met some of my former mates on the streets, even did stories about them, but I never saw the point of taking it to the law, that’s not my thing.  Probably some day, when it’s too late to do anybody any good-as if this sort of thing ever does-someone will spill the beans and a battery of lawyers will make a killing, as will the Media sharks and the courts.  The orphanage will have to shell out some insurance money, maybe close down and re-open somewhere else as a new and improved institution.  Some old man or woman who worked there will be dragged out of obscure retirement, put on display for the public to vent its outrage upon and die in jail.  That’s it.  Nothing will change for the victims of these systems, not until the systems themselves are destroyed.

I could see the white knuckles as he clenched his fists tightly.  Was he upset because of what happened to me, or was he thinking that maybe the same thing had happened to Sally’s daughter and he could have prevented it?

“But you asked about Bertrand?  We met in my apartment on a regular basis for a while.  Then he had second thoughts.  He chose his vows over me.  I’m no fool and I wasn’t surprised-angry, oh yes, but not surprised.  He may have been a Catholic priest but he’s a man.  There’d be other, younger girls to choose from if he kept his profession.  Sure wish I’d a known I was a ‘powerful witch’ at the time.  I’d have revved up that broom to the max and rammed it up his ass.  I certainly was angry and very confused then.  What was I, Pete?  What purpose did I serve?  Everybody else seemed to have it so together, from my point of view.  I thought I couldn’t do anything right.  But then I found out, through my job as a copy editor, that I could write, and I could listen to people and remember, maybe selectively, but remember, what they said.  The rest, as they say, is history.  My history.”

“I’m sorry, Reed.”

“Why?”  Now I knew I was deliberately goading him.

“Because of Sally’s daughter; that girl who should have been ours, to be raised in a loving environment by us.  Because I realize now I was so wrong not to go and get her and get us a new life.”

Suddenly he was old again and his head dropped in his hands.  And just as suddenly I went to stand behind him and I hugged him.  And when I bent my face down to rub against his, noting he had shaved and smelled better, I felt that electric shock go through me again.  And I knew, without a doubt, as if I was seeing it happening in a docu-drama; as if someone else was explaining it to me.  I knew because my name is Redemption.  But more than that: I knew because I recognized the connection.  This was not just some man who had been married to my mother.  This was my father.  She was dumped by the surveyor when he found out she had been pregnant by her husband before she left with him… and she had known it.

“I’m your daughter, dad.  I’ve seen some of the records and it all fits.  My real name is Redemption.  I’ve come home.  Let me in, please?”

Update: Words by which to make a World

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~     Sha’Tara]

The particular phase of our volunteer rebuilding project came to an early end today. How this came about was through great cooperation and coordination of volunteers and home owners. More importantly perhaps, was the dedication along with supportive words and kindness expressed by all to all. The owners’ children, between home schooling and chores, brought us coffee and home baked “goodies” and always, without fail, with broad smiles on their faces. Elizabeth, the oldest child still residing at home, commented on how beautiful their future home looked after we had completed the “Hardie” type siding work. It was wonderful to see her face light up when I emphasized that the house was to be her home. “Yes! Yes, my home, yes!” She kept staring at it as she backed away to take in more of the scene. I think at that moment I came closer to understand what it would mean to have your home burned to the ground knowing that all the work that had gone into building the original was irretrievably gone. In these remote areas there is no fire insurance available.

More, longer term volunteer service is being planned or in the works in and around this area as last years’ wild fires swept over hundred of miles of forests, farms, homesteads, homes and villages in that central part of B.C., Canada. I’ve already put my offer in to be on one of the rebuilding crews.

On the way home my partner and I stopped at a road side hotel and restaurant in Cache Creek. On the walls above us many signs were hanging, carved or painted. While some of their messages did not interest me nor could I have afforded any of the signs based on their price tags, one said: “Always remember to be humble and kind.”

Coming from one entire week of such experience, I couldn’t help but ask myself, ‘Indeed, why not? Why not? Why can we not all be humble and kind as the most natural expression of our claimed humanity? Why not?

Consider the following quotes, no author given (nor needed!) in keeping with words and acts by which we make a world.

 

~~^j^~~

“Being rude is easy.
It does not take any effort
and is a sign of weakness and insecurity.
Kindness shows great self-discipline and strong self-esteem.
Being kind is not always easy when dealing with rude people.
Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of personal work
and has come to a great self-understanding and wisdom.
Choose to be kind over being right
and you’ll be right every time
because kindness is a sign of strength.”

~~^j^~~

We don’t know
what someone is going through.
We don’t wear signs
that illustrate our personal struggles.
You don’t see
signs taped to people’s shirts that say
“Going through a divorce”
or
“Lost a child”
or
“Feeling depressed”
or
“Diagnosed with cancer.”

If we could read visually
what those around us are going through
we would definitely be nicer.
But we shouldn’t have to see signs
and have reasons to treat strangers with kindness.
We should do it anyway,
whether we know what is going on or not.
Whether they deserve it or not.
Let’s give everyone an extra dose
of patience, kindness and love.”

I find these sentiments appropriate and inspirational.

Greetings, from the Caribou Country

Update!

I’m off again on another volunteer stint in the Caribou country of British Columbia, Canada, with my ‘favourite’ bunch, the MDS (Mennonite Disaster Service) volunteer crew from my home town, Chilliwack. All that to say that I’m way too busy at this time to address much blogging except to read as many posts and comments as I can and respond to those I feel need immediate response and putting the rest in my “Hold” email file.

By the looks of my lively calendar and the requests piling up in my cell phone, it looks like this is going to be a very busy spring and summer for me, so much less time for blogging. I don’t mind, I was getting a bit antsy with little to do but sit in front of the computer or looking out a window to watch the rain, snow, rain, falling and somewhere in there and in-between, the wind blowing and howling.

Here in Lone Butte, just south of 100 Mile House and the highest elevation in the Caribou, the weather is as unsettled and unseasonable as in the rest of the province. It’s spring break-up time now and about half of winter’s accumulation of snow has melted as run off, leaving runnels and mud, mud, mud, everywhere not covered with layers of crush or gravel. Some of the country roads remain impassable due to flooding and… mud! Where the snow has melted and re-frozen there are piles of dirty ice trying their best to hold spring at bay.

Today was quite cold, with snow flurries, heavy rain squalls and hail taking their turn at trying to force us off our building to seek shelter inside. We didn’t, and thank goodness for the invention of modern “rain gear” that doesn’t leak putting finishing touches on a house, yet breathes. We remained comfortable despite “mother nature’s” best efforts to force us off the job. While we were busy working on the house (this is a homestead) a ewe gave birth to lambs this afternoon.

Since last year’s forest fires much has changed with the wildlife. Bears, cougars and lynx have grown bolder and approach homesteads and farms looking for prey. Apparently large lynx and cougars  are regularly seen on the homestead here but none have appeared since we’ve been here. The dogs patrol the property but the owners say they rely more on a pair of domestic geese as their predator warning system!

Sorry, I haven’t wanted to break the team work rhythm so no pictures as yet. Maybe before my time here is up, I’ll have some.  Maybe I’ll even have time to post them too!

All the best, from the Caribou!