Summer Solstice, 2019

This year in Edmonton, the summer solstice occurred on June 21, at 3:54 p.m. The rain and cloud have been heavy for a few days, but it’s still been possible to enjoy the long evenings.
Depending how far north you live, the evenings at the end of June seem to go on forever. Where I am, the sun is currently setting after 10:00, but if the evening is clear, then that evening extends passed 11:00. It’s lovely for walking.
Don’t be fooled by your calendar this time of year. Many will tell you that June 21 marks the beginning of summer. Since parts of Alberta can get snow until almost the end of June, that often makes sense. But the summer solstice is midsummer’s day. Remember Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? That’s the day we’re talking about.

Stone henge is a place where it’s believed people gathered on the summer and winter solstices for thousands of years. They still do. Check out these photos from The Guardian.However you choose to celebrate or spend your time this solstice weekend, take in the longer days. And to help you along, here’s a passage from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, describing the magic and mystery of a midsummer dawn.

“Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.”
(Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”)

Fiction and Mental Health

A couple of years ago, Jason Lee Norman was instrumental in getting a Short Edition Story Dispenser into the Edmonton International Airport. Short Edition has story dispensers world-wide, so this was a big deal.
At the time, Jason accepted a story from me, “Superhero of the Supermarket,” which went into the dispenser at the YEG airport. Subsequently, Short Edition let me know they wanted to make the story available world-wide. You can read the story here.
Mental health issues find their way into my fiction all the time. If you know my stories, you can often find a character suffering depression, or some other disorder, diagnosed or otherwise. One of my stories that deals with depression in a more extreme form is “Suicide Blues.” This story is about depression, but it’s also about the inability to cope. Superhero isn’t specifically about depression, but it is about a character living in a world he finds both threatening and unforgiving. Giving such characters a voice is my way of acknowledging those people I know and have encountered who suffer because of mental health issues, and who often never get the help they need.

Those Summer Renos

Summer is often a time for fixing up the house and yard. For me, such projects temporarily change the landscape of my life, while people fix and hammer and do those jobs that I can never manage on my own.
But renovating your home can cause stress, arguments, and endless conflict. Just check out this piece in the business Insider.
Here’s a piece I wrote after I had the main floor of my house repainted. It wasn’t a major renovation, but it left me feeling displaced and took away the main floor of my house for two weeks. Enjoy!

The Painters

They come every day, clanking through my front door and up the stairs. I retreat from room to room, from upstairs to down, staying just ahead of them as they sand and scrape, fill cracks and holes with glutinous muck, then sand again.
Carpets and floors are skinned in plastic; doorways are draped. A persistence of dust fills the air. It finds its way into corners. It powders flat surfaces, coating the few nick-knacks I cling to fiercely and sentimentally, and it exhales from the blankets rumpling my bed. It coats my tongue as I try to swallow.
If I could become something else, something small, something furtive, I could crawl into the space where the baseboard once met the floor, hiding from the dust and the noise and the endless tramping upon plastic spread over carpet; escaping the painters, who look with narrowed eyes at surfaces, at corners, at doorways, and without mercy on anything not a wall.

From the Blog Archive, Visiting the Rock

I was in a coffee shop on Vancouver Island in April. I was wearing a t-shirt I bought at Cape Spear. Two women came up to me and asked if I was from Newfoundland. I’m not, but they were, and they very quickly started telling me about their home on Newfoundland’s Avalon peninsula. These women spoke of their home with a warmth I don’t often hear.
One of the most memorable trips I took last year was to Newfoundland with my friend Tom Wharton. We flew to Halifax, then took the ferry from Sydney, Cape Breton, over to Newfoundland. You can read the post here. Then there was the North Atlantic off Cape Spear—something I won’t soon forget. I’m looking forward to a return visit to the Rock. If you want a book that captures this part of the world, check out Sweetland by Michael Crummey. It’s an awesome read.

A Blogging Reboot

Things have been quiet on the OfOtherWorlds blog for some time now. I’ve had to think hard about how I want to continue.
IN 2016, it was my intention to establish a presence with an author site in a better format. I managed to do that. I created a site with a variety of links and posted regularly. This past winter, I just ran out of steam, a state to which many bloggers can relate
So here we are, the beginning of June, and I think it’s time to start posting again. I will continue to post about writing and about books; I will post links to my own fiction and nonfiction; I will post about those things that interest me, that bother me, that continue to inspire me—in short, a curated collection of things that find their way into my world.
To get started, here’s something from the blog archive. I’ve actually written several stories about trees, but The Dream of the Tree holds a special place. It first appeared on this blog, and later I published it in Fractured and Other Fairy Tales, which I dedicated to my daughters. Enjoy!