I’d say please (please). I’m your man.

When we were young, my parents would take us on long winter road trips to Red Mountain and Silver Star. We didn’t do much as a family, but we skied.

The five of us would cram into our Toyota Turcel, packed to the hilt with equipment, clothes, blankets, pillows, and enough mandarin oranges to stave off scurvy for one hundred years. These trips also marked the yearly détente in my parents’ hard-lined approach to all things junk food, and over the course of the drive, my sisters and I would patiently await our gifts: a big bag of plain Ms. Vicky’s potato chips, Turtles chocolates, and homemade gingerbread cookies.

If heaven could be defined.

Other than the lingering smell of sea salt and a constantly queasy tummy (as the middle child I was forced to endure the middle seat), the thing I remember most about these trips is the music.

The wonderful music.

My family I would listen to tapes and tapes and tapes of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and The Beatles. The Rankin Family and Stan Rogers. Boney M and Enya. Our tastes were eclectic as they were magic.

Because with so little to define us, they did just that.

I campaigned constantly for The Commitments Soundtrack, but my musical candidate was a consummate loser to Leonard Cohen. And every time I lost, I would beg the powers that were to “please.”

Please stop playing Leonard Cohen.

Unfortunately, they didn’t, and I suffered in silence.

I hated how his songs were too much. Couldn’t stand the way they made me feel. Drained of all emotion, and yet somehow still full to bursting. Slightly sweaty. Squirmy and shirty. Filled with a restlessness. An energy that was only exacerbated by the car’s hot and cramped quarters.

It was music that made me want to run away.

The only song that I could stand was “I’m Your Man.” I liked the synthy keyboards and the other moody instruments that, try as I might, I could never place. How it was more spoken word than song. The slow raspy voice. I liked how it had an immediate and sobering effect on my fellow passengers, forcing us all to pause.

To stop our frenzied fights. Breath life into our suffocating silences.

It made me feel warm. Cozy. I imagined dancing, slowly, as a grown-up.

But after grade seven we stopped going on ski trips.

After grade ten my parents divorced.

And I don’t know when I stopped listening to Leonard Cohen. I didn’t even think about him until after I started dating Marc.

We were up at his own parents’ cabin on the Sunshine Coast and we were looking through their record collection. We were trying to decide what to play next. We were slightly drunk and eating peanut butter sandwiches.

“We need something that we can dance too,” I said.

He pulled out Songs of Love and Hate.

“Not Leonard Cohen,” I heard myself say. I didn’t even stop looking through the other albums. “I hate him.”

Marc looked at me dumbfounded. “No one hates Leonard Cohen.”

“I do,” I said. “We used to listen to him all of the time on road trips. He’s depressing.”

Marc looked me in my eyes. Long and hard. And then he put the album away. “Okay,” he said. “We can play something else.”

And we did.

For years and years, we always played something else.

The Faces. Cat Stevens. Bob Dylan.

In the spring of 2010, I defended my thesis and bid adieu to graduate school. Marc and I celebrated on the Coast. Driving along the highway, I closed my eyes to the late afternoon sunfall. It felt like, for the first time in my entire life, I was no longer worried about school.

The next morning, I crawled out of bed and, alone, slid into the quiet of the house.

I tiptoed to the record player. Paused. Took out Songs of Love and Hate.

I held the cover lightly in my hands. Stared at the cover. Turned it over. Took out the record and placed it over the spindle. Set the needle.

And listened.

If I had a wish I’d wish for more of this

Do you remember that moment when you realized music was more than just music?

Can you pinpoint that infinitesimal, and yet life-changing moment, when art was no longer just a picture on a wall?

When you understood that stories make worlds, and break worlds?

That second when they first made your heart, and then ripped it in two?

When did you last love someone?

When did you last feel most alive?

This weekend I came second in a 10k race held at Shubie Park over in Dartmouth. I was sixth overall to finish in a time of 41:56. Although this was considerably slower than my last race, I can chalk it up to three things: the thick web of phlegm in my lungs; the hilly course; and the wind.

That morning the entire city was battered by a cruel and vengeful Aeolus.

I felt blown about. Like a whisper, half heard in the fall air.

But it didn’t matter.

For a while now, running has been the only that has made me feel truly alive.

Sometimes, I fear that I’ve become a shadow – a poor replica, forever lost in a back-lit cave.

But when I run, I am a shadow with a shadow.

I am real.

I am alive and I am okay.

Running reminds me that it’s not just a matter of being alive and being okay; it’s about taking every single thing that makes you alive and okay – the things that make your fingers itch and your heart ache and your knees weak and your arms shake – and saying: I see.

I see and I know and I love.

It reminds me of the stories and art and music that build my word.

That build my love.

And it reminds me that I can build worlds.

That I can build love, too.

 

 

Stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you

Let’s write a story. Together.

Let’s start with the idea of an environment and a technology.

Something unimaginably old that people use every day, but aren’t too concerned about it when they do.

Hmmm.

What else is tied to our perception of reality?

Politics, perhaps – but could our fascination with bureaucratization be enough to facilitate a lapse in our technology? Or at least enough to sustain our plot?

Perhaps a decline is not what we’re looking for. Instead: stagnation.

Apathy.

Contentment.

What would make our culture reach a point where it would say: “Enough. This is good enough.”

(I’m sometimes afraid we’ve already reached this point.)

It would have to be a world where making technology no longer was a priority because it no longer made money. In order for it to no longer be fiscally feasible, it would have to be ubiquitous – or nearly so.

So it would have to be homemade, as well as an incentive for people to make it themselves, rather than just having someone else make it for them.

And maybe we personalize it.

SO. What are we thinking here? We’re thinking of an extremely easy level of technology, right up there with, say, cooking.

This suggests something that is organic – because too many people are unskilled to create something mechanical.

Organic is easy.

Okay. So where does that leave us? Recap: An organic technology that has been spread throughout all cultures, has superseded all other forms of technology that garner the most money, and has brought an unprecedented equality (or perceived equality) across the boundaries of human experience, reducing social stratification and nationalistic feeling.

Holy crap. Let’s do this thing!

Onwards.

This organic technology would have to be something that allowed people to connect to other people. It would also have to be capable of communicating pain and pleasure equally – because pain is the incentive for people to like things, right?

Or is that the absence of pain?

Depends on the person I suppose.

Now what else?

Does it have to be one thing, or can it be a number of things? And what about conflict? Are we looking at the need to encounter another species?

Hold the phone. ARE WE TALKING GALACTIC WAR? Because that idea is old, and already perfected in Ender’s Game.

So.

So how to make it new again?

Could this technology take people somewhere else? Because if the only place they can go is into their own minds, that was done in The Matrix. If it takes us into another plane, which abandons earth, that might make it less relevant again – for both our readers and our characters.

And then people would be clamouring for galactic war.

And this is not Starship Troopers. (And Starship Troopers is already the best there is.)

This has to be a story about us, not somewhere else.

That is what will make it relevant.

That is what will make it ours.

Think back to when

Tonight, I am electric to the touch. A wriggling, giggling eel. A lamplighter in the dark.

A wicked wick.

Today, I wrote. My lower back, a crooked crick. My bum, an indent. Bad posture, and too much tea.

Today, I ran with legs a fire.

Tonight, I walked. My cheeks, poppy flesh.

My lips, stung from a kiss.

That no matter how hard I try, I cannot forget.

Sometimes when I walk, I dance, and sometimes when I dance, I dance to this:

When I was eighteen, I walked to a photography studio on Quinpool Avenue to have my headshots taken.

When I was eighteen, I quit my job at Safeway and got a job as a server.

When I was eighteen, I read Crime and Punishment and learned to spell patronymic.

When I was eighteen, I dyed my hair red from box.

When I was eighteen, I didn’t like beer.

When I was eighteen, I wrote a part of a story to my boyfriend Marc:

Now, abandoned by his companion and in a nightclub which owed a lot to the whole early 90’s Goth/Vamp movement, Kevin wandered silently. His mind wrote great fantasies of blood, violence, and justice and he strode, unheeding, between the stares and the gropes of the dissolute dancers. He flexed the powerful muscles of his back, his unfolding wings eclipsing the strobes and casting great shadows over the denizens of this room.

His body shuddered as he inhaled the acrid sweat of the hallucinogenic, hormoned populous, hopped up on substances comprised of equal parts narcotics, equal parts expectation. Kevin’s mind began to elongate and expand – he felt a growth from within; his vanity extinguished, his interest peaked. Could these chosen adolescents, fueled by social malaise and suburban boredom be the reason he was brought back to life? What did he have to offer, to enhance their drab days of big bucks and fast cars? 

Although quite weak, Kevin noted in some form or other, a disgust and distrust of the environment he freely strode through. Banking on his good looks, flashy clothes and nine foot angel wings to distance himself on any would-be bloodsucker, he monitored the group.  

But he did not dance.

I cannot wait to do this again

Today was a very good day.

I woke at 6 AM to the easy strains of my cellphone’s alarm and the cool darkness of an early east coast autumn.

Rufus and Simon – my mum’s two ragdoll cats – skittered into my room, eager to investigate my pre-dawn activities. Simon jumped on the bed and looked at me, his amber eyes still. Rufus mewled, rubbing his head against my leg.

I had laid out my race gear the night before – shirt, shorts, socks, bra, all stacked neatly on the chair in my bedroom.  As I crept downstairs, I was careful to avoid the creakiest stair. I made it to the spare bathroom on tiptoe, where I brushed my teeth and washed my face. The last thing I wanted to do was wake my mum as I prepared for the day.

I am particular about my pre-race routine.

Clothing, face, hair, coffee, food, water.

It doesn’t matter how far or important the race – I find great comfort in this ritual.

Together with my cousin David – who was also running the race – I ate a bagel with peanut butter and watched as the rising sun softly kissed our backyard trees, leaving their leaves aglow in a golden green.

When mum woke she joined us, and we sat and joked about all-natural nut butters.

Before we left, she took this great photo of Dave and I:

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As we drove out to the Musquodoboit Trailway, we listened to the CBC and shared with each other our favourite programs and hosts. We’re both big fans of As It Happens, This Is That, The Current and Day Six.

When we arrived, we picked up Dave’s race bib at the registration desk. Although the start line was splashed with sunshine, a tricky wind immediately cut through any lingering warmth we had carried with us from Dave’s truck.

For half an hour we joked and laughed and sipped water and used the porta-potties for the last time.

When the starting gun sounded, my feet were halfway numb.

I am always afraid of going out to fast. Time and again my need for speed has proven to be my Achilles’ heel, but today I decided to go for it.

And I’m glad that I did.

I ran a personal best of 41:03. I was the first woman and sixth overall.

I love running.

I love running purely and truly, and have written at length about this love.

But I also love to see others learn to love to run.

I love to see someone cross the finish line for the first time. See them marvel at their strength. Their resilience.

Revel in the depth of their heart.

In a brief moment, they are unrivaled amazement and awe.

Today was Dave’s first race, and he was extraordinary. When he first signed up he made a goal of finishing in less than one hour. He smashed that, completing the course in 58:18.

He told me prior to the start that he didn’t intend on doing any more races. This was pure bucket-list.

Less than one hour later?

I believe his words were something along the lines of, “I cannot wait to do that again.”

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Before heading home to Halifax, we stopped at Martinique Beach.

Today, this stretch of the eastern shore seemed to burn extra bright.

A horizon of the sweetest blue, speckled with fat clouds. The brilliant sun.

White sand. Dunes that danced.

A fall air that burned our lungs and stung our cheeks.

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And in that moment, I forgot everything: I forgot uncertainty and fear. I forgot that life can be unfairly underpinned by sickness and a suffocating sense of helplessness.

I forgot distance and longing.

I felt the sun.

And I thought: I cannot wait to do this again.