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!
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.
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.
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!
February 26 is National Tell a Fairy Tale day. If you aren’t prepared to tell a story, then read a fairy tale to anyone who will listen—your kids, your mom, your dog. Or just curl up with a copy of Hans Andersen or the Brothers Grimm and get lost in the magic. There’s no better way to keep the frigid weather at bay.
If you want something more adult, check out my apocalyptic version of “Hansel and Gretel,” published in July, 2018, in Feast Journal. My story is called, “Hansel and Greta.”
If you want something to listen to, check out this 2014 recording from the TALES Festival, Daughters of Destiny. I was telling stories in the beautiful St Michael’s Church in Ft. Edmonton Park. Enjoy!
A thank you this week to Adam Farrer and the people at The Real Story, a journal published out of Manchester, for publishing “Running Blind.” The Real Story is a journal dedicated to promoting the nonfiction form in the UK. You can read the piece here.
“Running Blind is memoir, and one of several pieces I’ve had published in the last couple of years. When I write memoir, I don’t think about why I’m writing it or where it will go. However, if I have a piece accepted, I immediately begin to have doubts. Why did I write it? What was I trying to say? And who do I think is going to benefit by reading something that has meaning only for me?
Part of me thinks that writing memoir is a selfish activity. On the other hand, I put the same amount of care and craft into producing a piece of memoir as I do a short story. And memoir is, after all, story. But whatever I think, once a piece is published, then it’s out there in the world, and I no longer have any control over it.
For me, at the heart of writing memoir lies the same impulse that makes me write fiction, or anything else, for that matter: the need to give something a voice that it wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s about finding a voice for those experiences, impressions, sensations, and other sundry scraps and floating fragments of myself that never found an expression elsewhere. I’m certainly not alone in feeling this way. I meet people everywhere who feel the need to give their experience a voice—in writing, or just in conversation. I also meet people who don’t have the need for that kind of expression. They let their experience stand for itself, and they will share that experience, if you’re willing to listen. Oddly enough, I meet such people most often on the street—these people are sometimes homeless, grateful for any spare change, and always willing to share something of themselves.
So, writing memoir necessarily seems to come with a certain privilege. The means and the opportunity to give voice relies on having the lifestyle to support it. I always try to keep this in mind. But more important, if reading memoir, mine or anyone else’s, inspires someone to finally listen to that voice that lies forgotten in the vaults of memory and let it into the world, then everyone is the better for it.
Today marks the centenary of the armistice that ended World War I. Here are two posts from the blog archive to commemorate those women and men who lost their lives because of war, as well as those forever marked by such conflicts.
November 11, 2016
November 11, 2014