Archive for the ‘religion’ category

Iceland adventure

January 20, 2014

Reading Icelandic literature and history in preparation for this:

http://icelandwritersretreat.com

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The Clarity of Moments

December 31, 2012

IMG_4268Does it seem that the lessons get tougher even as the years, the accumulation of them as individual stretches of twelve-month periods, feel shorter?

I started this conversation then got horrendously distracted. Pre-menstrual and parent-weary. A bit anxious about getting any writing done while trying to get the house ready for a party tonight. But that’s not what I meant to say.

I meant to say how pleased I am with the piles of books we as a family collected this Christmas. I meant to discuss what I’m reading, Aritha van Herk, an author I identify with because of her daring female protagonists and especially their time spent in northern landscapes, their search for that place called Home.

I’m also reading Ted Solotaroff’s book of essays. He offers advice to writers just starting out that will give me a pep talk whenever I need it in the coming year. To keep going. Keep writing my way toward the goal of being a weaver of words into thought-provoking stories. My goal of clarity (also the goal of each individual moment), a burning desire that shines between the lines of well-chosen words. In fiction I can be a product of all that I am and all that I’ve come from and seen and done and felt. In fiction, I can take control of these things.

TS, in one of his essays, discusses how the novel can come across as self-conscious compared with the immediacy and honesty of the oral tradition. I worry about this in my own writing, of a self-consciousness rather than an authorial confidence. There was a writer I “met” online when I did my first NaNoWriMo. I adored the subject of her first novel, her characters and her story. But “self-conscious” was exactly how the writing felt to me. Like it had been over-edited, cut down to too few words because publishers will only print a limited number of pages for a first-time author. This writer, Sarah Dooley is her name, her blog has such an intimate and draw-you-in kind of a tone that seemed lacking in her first book. I’ve bought (for my daughter, but I might get to it first) Sarah’s next book, a YA novel titled Body of Water. I believe in her capacity to grow as a writer. To shed some of that self-consciousness, and let the more relaxed voice of her blog seep into her fiction. I can only hope to trip over my own feet a number of times, learn these tough lessons, and to keep trying until a piece of writing feels “right.” To Fail Better as Zadie Smith wrote.

I’m often anxious, like many of us, about where technology is taking us. But as I’ve seen with Sarah’s writing, perhaps blogging is the true continuation of an age-old tradition of oral storytelling that has otherwise been mostly lost in the world. I am terrified of the things we all know are heading for “lost” in the world, but maybe this is one instance where lost can actually be found.

Gifts for our children. This was what I really wanted to write about on this last day of 2012. I’ve thought a lot lately about the truest and best gifts I could possibly pass along to my children. Besides love, nutrition, discipline and shelter. As important as all of these, I think, is the gift of words. I’ve got three small heads in my household (and two larger ones) that bow to books several times a day. As well, all five of us have been getting our heads (and hearts, I hope) to church some Sundays this year, a place where this love of words is continued in the form of the oldest method of storytelling, that is, words passed along orally.

This gift of words is one I can see the affects of hour by hour, season by season. My children are capable of sitting quietly between outbursts of rowdy play. Sitting with a book is when they recharge their batteries. They can recite certain lines from books we’ve read together and stories we’ve heard at church, talk about them, laugh about them. From who sitting my chair? our two-year-old growls at Goldilocks, and the historical facts our five-year-old is learning about in a children’s chapter book about Christopher Columbus, to What is synchronicity? our eight-year-old daughter is exploring in the chapter books she devours at a pace of one every other day. The fact that words can lead to discussions we share together, this is the tie that binds all the other important gifts, from love to shelter. Words. Most important, every day of the year.

One of the things I am most proud of at the end of 2012, and what I will take into the new year as my central focus? The fact I can’t count the number of times each day I hear, “Read this, mummy! Read this!”

What basic human rights mean to me

January 25, 2012

I love the dark, grey clouds covering St. John’s where I can hide and write my heart out. I don’t miss the sun, the obligation to bask in its brilliance, it only hurts my eyes. My fingers move across the keys more freely with the rain pounding on the windows, or when the snow piles up and locks us inside for yet another snow day.

The world I now live in, the place I’m at, now, is contentment with how far we got with decorating our newest home, the last colours we chose were red, and grey, I hated them at first, thought I’d made the biggest mistake, thought I couldn’t live with one more shade of darkness. But too much light only reflects off my screen, obscures my words, the fuel that keeps me going.

Under my clouds, sitting in front of my computer, I watch the world unfold. I’m seeing this world where there’s a God who exists that would take away the very basic right of choice. Some news, these days, not of wars or blatant disrespect for human rights in countries where we already know that is happening, but some news out of the States terrifies me, the news of potential leaders claiming women have no right to choice. These statements attempt to mask their controlling dictatorship in a religion that’s supposed to be all about love. Is the US for real? Does a significant percentage of their population actually support those who say a woman should live with even the consequences of rape? And here I thought we were all fighting for basic human rights.

My children are growing, changing before my eyes, filling my heart to overflowing more and more each day, and I am grateful for the fact of where I live, that my early years with them have been supported in so many ways. The one year maternity leave I had with my first child, because I was working at the time, paying into that pool that allowed me a paycheque for the first twelve months of my daughter’s life, it wasn’t much, but the promise of it, the offer, the fact of the existence of “maternity leave” was like a nod to my new life as a mother. A nod of respect. From my country. A country I’m so proud to call home.

I know some of my fellow countrymen and women would say our own PM is against abortion. But the last statement I’ve read him uttering on that topic was that he was not going to open the abortion debate. Abortion is legal in Canada. What he didn’t say, I believe, is more powerful that what he did say. That is, that we have the right, in this country, to the basic human right of choice. I know there’s many people in my own country still fighting that fight. But us parents, we make decisions on behalf of our children every single day. I know it’s a brutally touchy subject. But we as adults have to have the right to make those choices. No one ever said they were easy. But if we can’t have that very basic right, the right of choice, call it God-given Free Will if you aren’t an atheist, we might as well call these the dark ages. Maybe we never ever did leave those days behind.

I don’t want to offend another person’s beliefs. But I don’t understand why anyone, in the name of a religion that desperately needs to be modernized, taken not so literally, why anyone feels they have an obligation to take away another person’s right to choice. Or to claim “family values,” and the upholding of the “traditional family” as the only acceptable place to raise a child. I also don’t understand those who shoot down even gay rights — why can’t everyone see that there’s many ways to love in this world, to offer love, to cherish it and to share it?

I used to love the sun. I still do, occasionally. But sometimes, the things it illuminates are terrifying. Sometimes, I’d rather hide under my dark clouds, wrap my own definition of love, human rights, happiness, around me as a shield against the parts of the world that I can’t understand or relate to.

Extra Time and what one can do with it….

May 20, 2010

I started reading a new book this week that I’ve been meaning to get to for years: A History of God, by Karen Armstrong. I was actually down on myself yesterday, in a weird, paradoxical way, for having the time and headspace at this point in my life to embark on this heavy reading. You see, since we moved here last summer, I have lamented that I had to give up my last job (which I was quite enjoying). I had decided not to look for work here in our new home, and might have changed my mind on that point except that I am now four months pregnant….not an ideal time to start a job search!

So back to my reading…. I’m only three chapters in, so I won’t go ahead and start recommending it, but I am especially fascinated by all the research that has gone into this work. And last night, as I began the chapter outlining the beginnings of Christianity, I had a strange experience that reflects where I come from and a lot about my background.

I felt shocked – even hurt! – to read that Jesus was just a man. Just a man! What, not immaculately conceived, part of the patriarchal trinity I learned about in Sunday school and during my once or twice a year visits to church? Okay, I wasn’t really that naive, or devout to begin with. And I know, this is one book, one more of the thousands of interpretations of the story of Jesus that has come down to us throughout the generations. But still, I realize I’ve been “brainwashed” enough to have believed, in some part of my being, the Christmas story that is so central to my life (it is the occasion by which all family visits – and feuds and reconciliations – and school vacations and gift exchanges take place). I also realize, that story is another example of how the story of the religion so central to the society into which I was born, has evolved throughout history…Christmas isn’t, any longer, about Jesus being born to save us from ourselves. It’s about capitalism, and a jolly man, a newer myth in our society, known as St. Nick.

Okay, it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.

Still, I don’t know why I worried about my shock for even a moment. I’ve said for years now, that, although I was baptized in the Anglican church, that if I do have a religion, it’s the religion of nature (whatever that means…I guess just that I believe in nature, the changing of the seasons, the nature that brings us into the world, the nature of…nature!). I wouldn’t even say I follow paganism, because I’ve never been inclined to chant or practice incantations or experiment with odd herbs (unless I’m making soup!). But I’ve also never called myself an atheist, and I do, on occasion, whisper a quick prayer if I’m feeling hopeless or lost.

So Extra Time, and my solo musings on this particular book. This sort of book should be discussed in a group setting, there’s too much in it for me to babble on about here in my blog. But it’s on my mind, it’s keeping me from my fiction writing, it’s something I’m doing with my cursed gift of Extra Time here in the chilly north where it’s coming up on the May long weekend, and just barely above zero degrees (I might add, though, that it was warm enough last weekend that I got excited and bought up a couple of trays of plants during the first day of our local Canadian Tire’s plant sale).

One more thought for the day, to try to bring myself back to why I started this blog in the first place…. I’ve lived here, in my newest home now, for almost 10 months. And I’m feeling SETTLED. Six months was a shocker and a bummer, and I’m happy to say, I got over the hump and have survived to start enjoying my Time here. Extra Time. It all comes, as Winnie the Pooh would say, of having a schedule and sticking to it (like only watching TV once or twice a week, not every night, which frees up a lot of time!). Extra Time is a  rare gift in this day and age, when most articles you read are about how to Save Time. Not for me, not now. Stretch it out. My life is only going to get more chaotic in, oh, about five more months, when baby number three makes its debut. For now, bring on these moments I can fill with reading, writing…babbling…..