I’m going to be on Smithers community radio today, CICK 93.9, around 2pm to talk about the Peel Project and how artists draw inspiration from their environment. You can livestream from the website, or I’ll be able to share it as a podcast later on if you miss it!
So let’s take a minute to remember that I sometimes write good stuff. Like this poem. I really love this poem. It’s from a summer I spent working with bees, sociopaths and felons. A terrifying experience that will provide me with excellent material for years to come! Still waiting for the right moment to use the image of me, huddled in a wasp-filled outhouse at forty degrees, hiding from a meth’d up ex-Hell’s Angel co-worker who had called in sick but still rode a stolen bicycle to work to see if I wanted to buy it. How thoughtful.
This poem is actually about my other co-worker. Yep. There were two of them.
Thanks, impulsive decisions!
Me and Jug
together in the honey
house on Coldwater road.
I bottle and package,
he works the DECAPPER.
CAPS chunks of thick
comb, so you can get
the honey out.
Frame after frame
on the conveyor,
little chains rip
the caps off the cells
with the honey
and the bees
who won’t leave their quarry
even though he tried to smoke
‘em out. Little chains rip
the bees limb from limb, pieces
of bodies on the floor,
thorax and leg, with
splintered wood and wax. The noise
that thing makes
Christ, the noise.
That’s not the whole poem. Read more at the Incongruous Quarterly.
Hot on the heels of the lesson in how to express yourself when you’re unhappy comes the lesson of how little most people care. And then, what’s the next lesson?
This is not a cry for help post. But I am asking, because I think I’m missing the point of why I’m supposed to give voice to my unhappiness and anxieties. I thought the result would be understanding and help. But now I’m a little embarrassed I was that naive.
Here’s a conversation I had recently with a guy I play D&D with, re-capped.
me- Hey, I’m having this slight personality conflict with someone in the group, and it’s interfering with my learning process, so I’m suggesting this easy, non-invasive solution.
guy- No. You need to change yourself to accommodate him.
me- Oh, okay, well, that probably would solve the problem, but since that might not happen any time soon, how about we try my easy fix, that only involves two people changing seats so this guy can’t breathe down my neck while I play, dictating my moves.
guy- No. You need to understand that’s just how he is.
me- Yeah, I’d kind of figured that out. But since I’m a little bit tentative when I’m learning something, and he’s kind of pushy, I’d like the opportunity to make some space between the two of us so I can make my own decisions. This will help me learn.
guy- That’s just who he is. He has good intentions. He knows the game better than any of us.
me- Good for him. I applaud his superior intelligence, and his mighty moral code. Now listen to me as I tell you who I am, in the hopes you will afford me even a fraction of the empathy and acceptance you’ve awarded this fellow. When I was married, I spent many years under the thumb of a highly intelligent person. I allowed myself to be controlled, my moves decided by someone with the best of intentions. I allowed it to happen! After several years, I doubted myself so much, I started to go a little nuts. I didn’t leave the house. I mistrusted people deeply. I had addiction problems. And now, although standing on my own and finding my own voice is really, really hard for me, I’m hell bent on doing it. I just need to give myself a little bit of space when I bump up against people like my ex, until my confidence is up to speed. Otherwise I fall back into old habits, allowing this guy in the group to suggest the spells I should cast and how I should level up. I need to make my own decisions about how to level up.
**At this point I feel very proud of myself for my honesty and allowing myself to be vulnerable and my clever little levelling up metaphor.**
guy- (ultra condescending) This guy is not your ex.
me- Seriously? That’s your fucking take away from what I just said. Well, thanks. Not being a fucking idiot, I had already figured out that this guy isn’t my ex. But thanks anyway. And now let me abandon any attempt to provide you with personal context, since that was obviously a shitty idea, and just ask you, again, to please consider my simple, non-invasive suggestion for helping me out.
guy- No. You need to change yourself.
Amazingly, stupidly, I persisted for nearly ten minutes in this vein. And then, because I was so impossibly frustrated by this wall of indifference, I started to cry and flushed all my power down the shitter. Did I have any power in the first place? Maybe not. But then it was game over, for sure.
So then, with all this talk of the importance of having a voice, communicating your needs to people, letting those around you know when you’re having trouble, all of which have been argued passionately to me by friends and co-workers who know about my penchant for bottling emotions up and then imploding, I find myself at the next lesson, though I don’t know what it is yet. After you find that voice, and you realize you’re not being listened to anyway, what next?
Since those of you who know me know that I am single and hot, and I do play D&D, and that D&D in general is a TOTAL FUCKFEST, I feel the need to be clear that this is from a piece of fiction I’m working on. This is the writing I do before the magic happens. When I’m sorting things out.
Being single and being hot means you are a threat. A threat to women who aren’t secure. Women who suspect they are hot, but years in limbo have them wondering now. They look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves whether their legs really are okay. Weren’t these legs okay before that new girl started sniffing around? They seemed like pretty good legs. Sure, you can see those little veins just below the surface, NOT VARICOSE VEINS, GROSS. Spider veins they think. Equally gross. Spiders. God.
They do squats and lunges. Look into SPIDER VEIN removal, which involves shooting tiny lasers at the veins to KILL THEM FOREVER. They take a luffa to their legs and then rub coconut oil on them. It makes the skin slippery.
They suddenly want to give massages, so many massages to this man they’re kind of annoyed with. But they massage him anyway, after work, after a workout, before bed. They try to massage a confession out of this man, what do you really think of that hot single girl, the new addition to your D&D game? And some men, because they like massages and their girlfriend’s legs wrapped around them with that smooth slippery skin, may be a little evasive. They weren’t getting a lot of massages before this new girl came along. Their women work and knead and prod those muscles, and wonder just what the hell is going on at those Dungeons and Dragons games. The only thing their guys get together to do that they’re not invited to.
I’m the hot single girl in a Dungeons and Dragons group. We play second edition. I was asked to join because I’d played before, and because I like to play a healer. No self-respecting dude wants to play a healer. Nonono. They want to be the tank, sacrifice intelligence points for a high constitution so they can charge into battle, broadsword swinging, and bust some heads. They want to be the first responder, the hero that characters like me stand behind. And that’s where I am, right behind them, ready to cast innocuous but useful spells like Bless or Charm or Hold Monster. Or to heal them if their HP gets low. But they want to bust heads, they need to bust the heads.
Other guys want to be mages. They start off pretty puny: low constitution, high intelligence so they can learn more spells. Can’t use heavy armour because it interferes with their spell casting. But as they level up, the sacrifices pay off. Magic Missiles. Ray of Frost. If they could shoot lasers, they would, but let me tell you, SPIDER VEINS would be the furthest thing from their minds. They’re thinking about hydras and rust monsters and wraiths. About the fact that even though the tank fighters can get in there and make a mess, it’s the wizards with the truly terrifying power. The thought of the power they’ll be able to wield by level twelve of thirteen makes them shiver, makes them a little bit hard. They keep the healer in sight, me, because even though one day they’ll be taking down Astral Kraken with a single zap, right now they need my Barkskin and Cure Light Wounds. They need the help of this hot, single chick who is happy to play a supporting role in their glory. Happy to laugh at their jokes and flirt a little. At the end of the night, maybe they’ll get some gold, or a magic chest to open. Experience points will be divided, some will level up. Then they’ll take the spoils of victory home to a beautiful woman with great legs, and get a massage.
Got to start somewhere.
The Peel project Indiegogo fundraiser is live, and I hope you’ll have a look. Calder, Tony, Daniel, Callan, Katie, Aurora and I are getting ready to paddle from Whitehouse, YT to the Arctic Circle through the Peel River Watershed, which has recently been opened up to mining exploration.
Given The Peel’s tenuous state and uncertain future, this is a documentary of adventure, art, culture and Canadian identity. But most importantly, it is a documentary about people and landscape. This really will be a once in a lifetime trip for us, as mining development in the region will inevitably change the landscape forever.
Northerners are well aware of the threat to the Peel, and are taking action. But to the south, the Peel Watershed hasn’t received the same attention. With your help, we can use film, art and science to bring the issues that face the Peel to audiences across the country, and through this, contribute to a dialogue about Canada’s approach to natural resources.
Please share, and consider donating. Thanks very much!
Now I’ve done it, I’ve gone and depleted myself. Long work weeks, jamming party time into the cracks. Intensive workout schedule. Money worries. The subtle shift in thought from “work hard!” to “you’re not working hard enough!” It crept up on me over the last few weeks.
“Meh. I need nice things today. The well is dry.
I need to fill it with sparkling wine.”
This is what I posted on Facebook this morning. Then I figured I better do something more than just whine. So I went for a walk!
Nice thing #1: The Queen E. Park rose gardens.
Once or twice a week when I don’t have enough energy to run, I walk through Queen Elizabeth Park as fast as I can. I blast past the rose garden under the guise of appreciating nature, but I’m really concentrating more on keeping my shoulders back, abs engaged, glutes working. I could be charging through a post-apocalyptic wasteland for all the good the scenery is doing me. Not today. Today I forced myself to literally stop and smell the roses. And woah. At one point on the trail, before you can actually see the rose garden, you can smell them. Thick. And then up and over the hill, and there they are. There’s all the elderly Chinese folks doing their morning exercises at the lawn bowling club. There’s the gardeners talking and laughing about how invasive Ivy is. My picture doesn’t do it justice, but I’d need smell-o-vision to really do it justice. One of the ways I know I’m in my body is though smell. I don’t notice smells much when I’m anxious. Sound gets turned up, light seems overwhelming, but smell disappears. So even though I’m feeling low, I know that I’m not too far gone, because I can smell roses. So cliche!
Something that usually happens when I slow the fuck down is that I get little memory gifts. My mind offers up things I haven’t thought about for a long time. And that happened today, when I was huffing rose fumes, rolling my eyes around in their tired sockets looking at the world as if for the first time. There was a tree branch on the ground, thick as my forearm, twisted and scraped of most of its bark. And up from the depths came my memory gift.
Shall I preface this by telling you I was a weird kid? I was a weird kid. I didn’t really care for dolls, but I did care for sticks. I wanted to make things with my dad’s tools, paint things and cut things with a saw. A significant part of my pre-school years was spent living in a trailer on a property while my parents built a house, so maybe that’s where I caught the bug. Dad was always working on stuff, and I was always watching. Even years after the house was built, I’d collect sticks and steal into my dad’s workshop and nail them into crosses using his hammer and the thickest, shortest nails I could find. And then I would… make them clothes. Off to mom’s sewing room to grab some scraps. Cut them into squares with a hole in the centre, like a poncho. Maybe some wool for hair. Oh, I had Barbies, I had tons of barbies, but these stick dolls were the bomb, because I had made them myself. There was some kind of pioneer, Little House on the Prairie appeal about homemade dolls.
Possibly even weirder was my plan for the forearm-thick tree branch I brought to my dad one day. I wanted to sand and stain it. The property we lived on was massive–five acres– and mostly forest, so there were a lot of quality sticks to choose from. This one was about half my height, and bent in such a way that it kind of looked like it was reclining. Mom and dad kidded me a little, as they usually did when I was being weird, but they let me go ahead. I sanded off all the bark, feeling like a master violin maker or something, and dad helped me stain it. I had to wait a couple of days for it to dry, and I’d go down and keep it company. I’d already decided this stick had some kind of living quality to it, in the way beloved teddy bears do. This stick was my buddy. When it was dry, mom asked me what I wanted to do with it. Put it on display? Was their daughter some kind of young artist? Nope. I wrapped it in a shawl, and carried it around– like a baby doll. I don’t remember if I said baby-appropriate things to it, cooed at it or whatever. My memory didn’t offer up any more detail.
Nice thing #2: What happens when you look at a waterfall.
Nothing happens when you look at a waterfall. As in NOTHING. Mental flatline. When I finally came to, I felt so happy. My arms and legs tingled.
Nice thing #3: A pigeon amongst the ducks.
Oh buddy, I can relate. Trust me. I know he was just waiting for me to throw some breadcrumbs or whatever, but I’d like to think we connected.
Nice thing #4: Writing letters.
This happened after I got home, though maybe I’ll take some paper with me next time I go to the park. I have a new project, it involves writing to an audience of one. Only needing to make yourself understood to one person, and that person isn’t trying to decide whether or not to publish what you’re saying. Soul salve.
Hopefully there will be more nice things today. Maybe I’ll document them, or maybe I’ll keep them to myself. Either way, I’m on my way back.