Time Made Tangible

My days are filled with the ephemera of spreadsheets, memos, emails, phone calls and presentations, all so easily lost and forgotten with the flick of a switch. All transitory. With evening comes balance and recovery. Most evenings after all my work and teaching and chores are done and the kids are in bed, I sit down on the couch, put my feet up, and choose a knitting project to work on. Knitting transforms spare time into a tangible, useful object, solidifying the ideas and effort expended. There are several on the go; a quick dishcloth, a shawl, a sweater. Small, medium, large; easy, intermediate, advanced. Which one wins depends on my mood and how much time is left before bed. The texture and colours matter. Maybe a bright pick-me-up, or a soothing neutral shimmer, or minimalist monochrome. Instant gratification of quick completion usually wins. After that, the satisfaction of finishing touches.

Meanwhile, on go my headphones with the latest audiobook, (this week it is Fierce Conversations by Susan Craig Scott M.D.), or the classical playlist of the month from Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill. Perhaps some moody piano by Chilly Gonzales or a sacred mass from the Renaissance, or a guided meditation. Washing away the arguments and egos of the day. Recovering a sense of capability and accomplishment.

A winter labyrinth walk

A winter labyrinth walk

There is a lovely lady in Castlegar who is a spiritual director. She is the reason we have a stone labryinth on Zuckerberg Island. Thank you Joan!

I come here to walk in the peace and quiet of the island as often as I can. Located at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers, the sounds of the rushing river are all around.

Today I brought my two daughters along with me for the walk. They’re both so full of fun and silliness that it wasn’t exactly a contemplative experience, but that is fine. I wasn’t expecting that with them. We had so much fun, like we always do on our girls’ days.

What a lovely addition to the centre of the labryrinth!

Other labyrinth walkers have decorated the whole area with Christmas and inspirational decorations. It’s a magical place.

A yew tree – one of many on the island

A fairy seat in another yew grove.

When we got home, it was time for coffee and snacks, and crafts. The girls worked on art projects, and I did a meditation using the Calm app and then made a Himmelsbrief protection blessing for our home.

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According to Arin Murphy-Hiscock in her book Protection Spells: Clear Negative Energy, Banish Unhealthy Influences, and Embrace Your Power, a Himmelsbrief is a written letter of prayer for protection. It may be hung in the home, built into a wall, or even carried on your person. Here is the prayer I used, which is adapted from the book and also incorporates some of the prayers in the Hearth Keeper’s Way published by ADF:

By the power of the three kindreds around me,

The sky above me,

 The earth below me,

Let no ill will or distress breach these walls.

Let this house be a place of safety and comfort,

In the names of the gods, the nature spirits, and my ancestors,

Awen.

Peckham’s Lake and Old Ugly

Peckham’s Lake and Old Ugly

A brief memoir of my childhood in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

family at peckhams

All of us with Dad at Peckham’s Lake, around 1986 or 1987. Photo by Mom. This must have been taken in early spring, judging from the snow pants and K-Ways.

 

When I think about my early childhood I remember the long, sunny days spent adventuring with my dad in Old Ugly, his 1965 Mercury pickup lovingly restored and painted two-tone green with a matching canopy. Red accents. Restored by dad, who was always tinkering with something mechanical. Motorbikes, the moonstone-painted Duster that he repainted in Mr. McConnachie’s garage, a black Camaro with a blower sticking out of its hood and Bondo holding it together, the Oldsmobile Delta 88 that he put a diesel engine into to replace the V8 gas engine. Painted deep sparkle purple with a beige Naugahyde roof. Old Ugly was our favourite though, with its big old-fashioned steering wheel, analogue gauges, and single cab. We all had to pile in, with the dog on the floor. Mom refused to go with us. She might follow us in the red K-Car, or just come out later.

Old Ugly was a 1965 Mercury restored by my Dad

Basil, our fat beagle, travelled on the floor, farting and getting in the way of our feet. Once he laid down on the gas pedal, causing alarm as dad approached a 50-km/hr sharp corner at full speed. When Basil lay down it took a crane to move him, unless you were panicking at the thought of a crash. His full name was Sir Basil Bigfoot, a purebred beagle, ruined by life with an average family that never set foot at a dog show. Mom chose his name and we all loved it. She also made a lot of our clothes. She was a good seamstress.

Dad drove too fast all the way past Fort Steele, turned at the gas station then along the back road out to Peckham’s Lake, our favourite picnic spot. Taking out a bottle of beer as we got close, getting me to pop off the top, and then telling me to hold the wheel along a straight stretch while he hung out his window and waved with both arms to Mom in the car behind us. Knowing it would cause her to have a fit. She usually stayed home for this reason.

Now they call it “Norbury Lake Provincial Park”, but we still call it Peckham’s. The water was like ice, straight from the glacier back behind in the Steeples Rocky Mountains looming above us. No chance of leeches in that cold water. We hated leeches.

There was a big farmer’s field at Peckham’s Lake, stretching for ages, golden and dry in the late summer. Green and brown in late spring. Basil would immediately run away into the field, following his nose, coming back much later covered in the cow pies he so loved to roll in. Dad would throw him into the lake, cursing. Damn stinking dog, you can ride in the back. We arrived early to get the best spot, staked our claim around the picnic table in the sun with the bit of lawn for our towels. Swim for hours, not noticing the cold, then sleeping in the sun, no sunscreen, no hats, until we were baked and had to jump back in the lake to cool off again.

fat basil

Sir Basil Bigfoot

The field was the best place to launch our model rockets, by far. No-one came out there in spring or fall, no-one to interfere or say we shouldn’t be doing that. The rockets blasted higher than we could see, their B- and C-engines flaming, pieces falling off as they flew. Sometimes the parachutes didn’t work and the remaining rocket crumpled back to earth. Sometimes they did but the wind caught them and they sailed into the trees at the far end of the field. Dad always had more, more pieces, more parts, let’s build a few more. It’s a miracle our rockets didn’t cause a grass fire or loss of an eye.

Dad told stories of his own childhood, of making gunpowder with saltpetre and fertilizer from the hardware store, pouring a line of it across the road in Cranbrook, waiting for a car to come, then lighting it. Terrifying the driver, mumbled something about a shit-swearing from his dad. My dad’s pranks are probably one of the reasons for all the warnings and restrictions that ruin childhood today. Back then it was all fun and games until someone lost an eye – literally. Firecrackers, gunpowder, bonfires, racing cars, wrecking things. Those were the days, he said, when things didn’t come with warning labels, and you had to use your brain to survive.

35 years later, dad restores Kawasaki motorcycles and turns wooden bowls in his workshop, with his two small dogs for company. His new wife keeps all in order. They are happy, living life.

Recently, I drove my daughters and my sister along the same route during summer, past Fort Steele, to the Kootenay Trout Hatchery for a tour and to feed the giant rainbow trout, back to Peckham’s Lake for a chilly swim. How could we ever stand the cold? My sister and I laugh, escaping from the water. We’ve become soft and spoiled. Seat belts mandatory, no bottles of beer, no rockets, but many memories and much laughter.

Dad in Old Ugly

Dad in Old Ugly

 

A trip around the wheel, week one

Thursday, December 26th, 2019
Blueberry Creek, BC
Week One – the Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year
Well, here I am! Walking the Dedicant’s Path of Druidry. Those who know me might be surprised because I have always rejected the superstitious and non-scientific. However, those who truly know me also know that I deeply value spiritual practice in the form of contemplation, tradition, and silent awareness and meditation. Also, that I have come to realize I am innately deeply superstitious, or to put it another way, deeply connected to the world around me through silence and solitary contemplation.

There is only so much I can absorb at any one time, so I will pace myself with this Druidry thing. A little immersion at first. Then, consistency and routine. In exploring the ADF Dedicant training section of the website, I found the book The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year, by Rev. Michael J. Dangler. Perfect! It has broken the path into weekly manageable chunks.

My homework this week is to answer these questions.

Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?

I’ve chosen to do this because it is a structured and meaningful way to learn and practice a personal religion and develop a spiritual practice, which I believe should be an integral part of everyday life.
Is this a step on your path, or will this become the path itself?

It’s too early to tell at this point. I hope it will become the path itself; however, as I learn more my path may change, and I accept this. I do not wish to be rigid and inflexible, for those are traits that cause suffering in my experience. For many years I rigidly clung to the Christian church, ignoring the harm and hurt caused by the church in the world and on a very personal level. Now in my forties, I finally feel ready to move away from those harmful and stifling aspects of the Christian religion and focus on cultivating a spiritual practise that nourishes my soul and spirit so that I may become a more complete person. In this way, I can focus on nurturing my family and keeping the hearth as a welcoming and loving place.

What do you expect to learn?

I expect to learn more about the hidden magical world surrounding us and how to align myself with it, and about meaningful ways to honour Nature and the Earth. I expect to learn ways to involve my family in celebrations and rituals that make sense to our lifestyle and values. I also expect to deepen my understanding of the historical context and mythologies that led to where we are in the present.

What would you like to get out of this journey?

I would like to emerge after 52 weeks of study as an improved person who has a refined sense of purpose and dedication to a defined spiritual path. I’d also like to document my experience in this journal in a multi-media fashion, including photography, poetry, writing, and art. I’d like to meet other like-minded people who treasure the earth and feel the magical presence of the spirits in the silence of the forest.

Do you know where this path will take you?

No! I have no idea. That’s part of the excitement and wonder – I am embarking on a journey, an adventure of the spirit.

 
Why have you chosen to work on this immediately?

It’s true I have just joined ADF. However, I have been reading and researching the Pagan ways over the past year, and writing a fictional story involving the spirits. After satisfying myself that ADF was not some crackpot organization and that it is inclusive in its membership, I recently decided to formalize my commitment to the Druid lifestyle by joining ADF, and also by joining the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. (Why both? I will explore that question in future journal entries.) Part of my decision to follow this is simply that it’s in my nature to study and ponder – I have no wish to join something without understanding it. Curiosity is in my nature. I love to learn. That is part of what drew me to Druidry in the first place. It is a spirituality that values scholarship – a rarity in our age of superficial materialism. The second reason is to seek community with other Druids who may be on the same path. I am a Solitary with no local Grove for support. So, here on this blog, I am reaching out to others.
Does it look hard or easy? Which requirements appear to be difficult for you now, and which appear to be easy?

Honestly, both: easy because I’m deeply interested and drawn to this path, and hard, because I know it will take consistent, sustained work and practice to learn and absorb the rituals and un-learn the prejudices and blockages ingrained in me by my Christian upbringing.

It will be hard to attend High Day celebrations with other Druids because at present I don’t know of any others near me. Travel is a bit difficult because of my work and family responsibilities, and geographic isolation.

I love to read and write, so I think it will be easy to complete the book reviews, essays, and weekly journaling.

Meditations will be easy because I am by nature a quiet person who seeks solitude and meditation space.

Performing rituals will be difficult because I’m not accustomed to praying out loud or to “taking up space” in this way in my home. I am a bit shy. My husband is supportive but I wonder what he will think. I’ve already constructed a home shrine for our hearth as well, and a personal shrine in my music & writing room.
Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns you need to ask about?

I have so many questions! I will be reading as much as possible during these first weeks, orienting myself to the program, and to Druidry as a whole. In the future, I’d like to have a mentor and possibly a buddy to see me through the program, because while spirituality and religion are personal, they take on a deeper meaning when shared with others.

I’m also looking forward to receiving my first gwersi (a Welsh word for lessons) in audio format from OBOD, and plan to compare and contrast the programs. ADF being a reconstructionist method, and OBOD being revivalist, I am aware they are not the same and will at times contradict each other. This is part of my curiosity – I simply want to learn more and to connect with these fascinating people.

I look forward with anticipation to the year ahead. Leave me a comment if you are following this path or would like to connect.

Blessed be,

Gwen

Planning a Writing Year, 2018

Updated May 16, 2018…

Lifelong learning is one of my core values. Every year, I budget for courses, conferences, and books on subjects I’m passionate about: writing, knitting & crochet, and music. Then I map out my year. Lately, I’ve been burning out, working a lot of overtime, and neglecting myself. Today it was time to re-visit my goals and work on my plan.

By design, I live in a creatively fertile area, the West Kootenays of BC. There are all kinds of local events to take in. If you want to see spectacular mountain scenery and soak in some culture, this is the place to be. I’ve posted links to each event or resource for you.

Here is a partial map of my year:

January

Intensive knitting and crochet, exploring historical patterns and modern techniques. Writing for my blog, Blueberry Creek Crafts: https://blueberrycreekcrochet.com/

 

February

DIY MFA Book Club series: https://diymfa.com/

 

March

FREE, online creative journaling course, through my local library: https://castlegar.bc.libraries.coop/

-Update: I tried this course, but it was terrible, full of outdated information and with course notes that read like a collection of plagiarized websites. Not recommended.

April

Flash Memoir Writing, Selkirk College, Nelson BC, starting April 7th, 2018: http://selkirk.ca/ce/courses/arts-culture/writing

-Update: the course was cancelled. I was the only person registered! What a shame.

May

Vortext at Hedgebrook, May 4-6th, Washington, USA: http://www.hedgebrook.org/vortext/

(I really hope to attend Vortext, but may not be able to due to other events happening in May.)

-Update: I didn’t attend Vortext because I found a local conference sponsored by the Federation of BC Writers: the St. Eugene Writers Conference, May 10-13th. I participated in Keith Liggett’s “Find Your Voice” workshop and loved it! This week (May 16th) I’m working on some homework Keith assigned.

This month I’m also working on polishing a writing sample for my June event (Convergence). It’s due by the end of the week.

June

Convergence Writer’s Weekend: Keeping a Civil Tongue, June 15-16, 2018, Silverton, BC:  http://widespot.ca/event/convergence-writers-weekend-keeping-a-civil-tongue/

 

July

Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, July 12-15th, 2018, Nelson, BC: http://emlfestival.com/

 

August

Kaslo Jazz Festival, August 3-5, 2018: https://kaslojazzfest.com/the-festival/

 

September to December: yet to be mapped.

 

What are your plans this year?

Celebrate!

Today’s book club prompt is: Celebrate!

I am celebrating the kind rejection letter I received last Saturday from a literary journal. They didn’t find a place for my submission in their upcoming issue but they enjoyed reading my work, and encouraged me to submit again. Rejection letters signify that I wrote and submitted something! This burst of inspiration was the direct result of participating in the DIY MFA book club.

Other things I’m celebrating, because my writing joy spills over into my life and vice versa:

The optimism that comes with longer days and returning birdsong.

Progress in my family’s quest for health and happiness, and our successes so far.

All the writing I’ve been doing, online and off, using book club prompts and DIY MFA prompts, and also the other craft books in my collection.

A renewed sense of determination to complete my memoir, which is in its first draft.

A renewed desire to submit personal essays for publication – to put myself out there, in spite of the inevitable rejection.

All the opportunities and possibilities of life.

Zero Moment

My zero moment was caused by cabin fever in Fort McMurray, Alberta about 15 winters ago. I felt isolated from family and friends and was trapped inside by the cold. That’s when I started blogging, to find community. Now offline, my blog was called Frontier Follies.

We left McMurray a few years later, but the city left an indelible mark on my life. I continued to follow its growth and struggles, and plan to take my daughters there one day. I had hoped to show them our first house, but it’s no longer there. The house, in fact the entire neighborhood we lived in, burned down during the massive forest fire that destroyed much of the city in 2016.

One day I will go back. The city plays a role in multiple generations of my family. It’s the city my mother’s family moved to from England in the 1970’s. It’s the place my parents met, where my eldest daughter was born, and my first marriage began to fall apart.

 

 

Making Space for Writing

Making Space for Writing

Yesterday I blogged about my goal of creating an idea bank and an Oracle, and how my office is cluttered and needs work. After posting that entry, I spent the evening organizing and cleaning up my space.

My Idea Bank

I organized all of my favourite writing and inspirational books and personal journals in the side bookcases. The top two shelves are the idea bank. My daughters also use some of these books: you’ll notice two copies of the “Steal Like an Artist” journal. We actually own three, mine and one each for my daughters.

My Oracle

I’ve dedicated one shelf as my shrine to creativity, my Oracle. There’s a family photo at our favourite place, a photo of my great-grandfather, a lace jar cover I designed, the Geez Magazine issue that my first “real” writing was published in (a tiny blurb), a fancy thermometer, an old metronome, a rose quartz skull, my NaNoWriMo 2017 pin, and two collections of index cards I’ve written ideas onto over the years. It needs more work, but here it is:

The rest of the shelves are not exciting – they hold reference books for my professional work.

My Home Office

I work from home a lot for my day job, which requires a dedicated, secure office space. That means I’m lucky enough to have an entire office room just to myself. It’s small but I love it. This is also my primary writing space during the school year.

I keep some inspirational items around my desk, like a beautiful file folder, a pottery mug for my pens, and a crocheted mug coaster. Above the desk is a shelf of artwork I love: a Matisse drawing, my kids’ creations, and photos. My degrees used to live on that shelf, but I moved them to the wall behind my chair this morning, because I would rather see something beautiful when I look up from my work.

The only problem is, our house is also small, and there’s never enough room for all our stuff. My office tends to become a storage room, with bins of yarn, an exercise bike, those damn old curtains, and even my husband’s crossbow. The exercise bike and curtains moved out this morning.

Here is the “corner of shame”, where all that stuff is piled, all the mystery electronics cords live, and the outdated textbooks went to die:

The corner of shame looks much better today. At least I’ve gotten the chaos down to a dull roar. It’s workable now. I spend many hours in this office, so cleaning it up was worth the effort.

My Summer Office and Outdoor Writing Space

Come summer, my family spends a lot of time at our lake place. That’s where my husband feels most at home, and my kids can spend most of their time outdoors instead of glued to a screen. At first it was off-grid (there are no power, cable, water, or gas services available), but my husband installed an independent power system, a cell phone antenna, and satellite tv, so now it’s only off-grid if the power kicks out. My husband is not a reader, and he loves his TV shows. Marriage is all about compromise…he’s a genius in so many other ways. I can live with a TV.

If the weather is nice, and it usually is, I write outside on the deck, overlooking the lake.

If I need to escape from the TV, I retreat to the “bridal suite”:

So that’s it – my writing spaces. They’ve evolved over the years from a lapdesk on the couch to actual, dedicated, beautiful spaces that I love. I can’t wait to see the photos from everyone else posted on the WordNerds Unite page!

DIY MFA Book Club #9: Try a new technique from the DIY MFA book

DIY MFA Book Club #9: Try a new technique from the DIY MFA book

The techniques I chose are the Idea Bank and the Oracle, in Chapter 6.

The Idea Bank

I already keep an electronic notebook where all the webpages, photos, files, and emails that inspire me are stashed. It’s in Microsoft OneNote. The only problem is, I can’t always access this notebook because it usually requires wifi. I need a physical idea bank that can’t die with the iPad battery. I have a few hard-copy books of writing prompts, and they are a start. I’ll organize them on the top shelf of my writing bookcase.

The Oracle

What a romantic idea, the Oracle. A shrine, filled with mementos, photos, and other inspirational items, it is meant to be an evolving collection. Mine will take up some room so it will need a whole shelf to itself. The first things to go in mine will be a photo of my Dad’s old green truck, the rose quartz skull sculpture from my stepmom, a trilobite fossil, a metronome, and my great-grandfather’s WW1 service photo (Private, Canadian army, 8th Battalion).

There’s a shelf in my office, full of outdated textbooks. I think this shelf would be the perfect location for my Oracle. The question is, what to do with the textbooks? No one will want them. It seems a shame to throw them away, but that leads me to my first task: cleaning house.

Cleaning House

My office space is clogged with stuff: binders upon binders full of seminar handouts and training manuals that I’ll never look at again, those outdated textbooks, a pile of stamping and paper crafting supplies that I don’t use any more, and some old curtains that my husband refuses to throw away. (Those are on top of a pile of yarn in a bin.) Why am I allowing all this old, useless stuff to take up valuable space and energy? It drains me just looking at it. Especially the binders, a zillion binders full of memories of boring corporate cubicles and toxic workplace cultures. It will feel amazing to purge it from my house and from my life. I’m sure I’ll find a few inspiring mementoes along the way, to keep, because there’s another bookshelf hidden behind all that junk.