Farewell Dear Islands

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Dearest Islands, my heart beat sounds like you. The blood in my veins is intertwined with west coast raindrops, salty air and cedar bark. I have dug my roots deep into the earth and stretched my arms like pillars to the sky.

When I was falling, dearest Islands, you caught me. When I needed to run, you gave me a path. When I needed to rest, you gave me a seat, rough stone with the lushest of moss.

When I was broken, dearest Islands, you cradled me, a hundred feet up in the embrace of branches, feeling safer than ever. I pressed my lips to the rough tree bark and whispered my secrets. Somehow it felt like you were listening.

When I wanted to be a child, you have me a playground, giant boulders strewn through the forest like the overturned furniture of the gods. When I wanted to be an adult, you gave me silence, and a deep calm that sparks deep thoughts. When I wanted to lose myself, you took me by the hand and led me away.

Dearest Islands, you taste like blackberries. And apples that aren’t quite ripe yet, picked early by hopeful hands. You taste like fresh air and raindrops, chocolate chip cookies and tea. You taste like stinging nettle and hemlock needles, and plenty of farmstand produce. You taste like goat cheese, penny candy, and really good fruitsicles.

Dearest Islands, you smell like raindrops, salt, and wood smoke. Damp earth and ocean mud. You smell like tree sap and night air, summer sun and dying grass.

Dearest Islands, you sound like rain on a metal roof, like ocean waves pounding the shore and tree branches being tossed in a storm. You sound like bird call and raven’s wings, buskers at the farmers’ markets and flute song drifting on forest air.

Dearest Islands, you look like ocean views and soaring vistas, like farmstands and winding roads, tall trees and rocky beaches. You look like a billion stars and like velvet night time shadows, like rainbow prayer flags and overgrown gardens, open arms and open hearts. You look like home.

Dearest Islands, you feel like the Pacific, bitingly cold yet perfect. You feel like tree bark, rough as fir or else paper smooth and peeling like Arbutus. You feel like damp clothes. You feel like barefeet, mud sunk between toes. You feel like the breathless exhaustion that comes from laughing too hard or walking too far. You feel like sandstone beneath tired feet, maple leaves between fingers, silence in thoughtful ears. You feel like belonging.

Dearest Islands, you are a part of me. Through storm strewn nights, you held me. Across wave tossed waters, you bore me. In the deepest silent forests, you taught me to love. Around the most blazing fires, you taught me to laugh. Through all the seasons, you have guided me – the never-ending rains of winter, the soft blush of spring, the open arms of summer, the early evenings and drifting leaves of fall. To me, you are eternal.

I beg of you, forgive me for leaving. I would not go if I didn’t have to. But the silence has grown too heavy for my ears. I promise you, I am a boomerang. Many times I will depart upon adventures, and many times I will come home. And if at last I return no more in body, do not fear. For my soul will find its way, drifting through tree tops and setting the alder leaves to rustling. I will plunge into the salty ocean and set the bioluminescence alight. I will soar from goat-trodden ridges and circle with the eagles. I will dance to the tune of the buskers’ music.

I am leaving now, but I am taking the imprint of you with me, dearest Islands, safe within my soul.

You Are A River

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You are a river, dear one. You were born in the high places of the world, in the mountain peaks, and you flow to the sea. In your youth you leapt, gleeful and laughing, down from the snowfields and out through the meadows. As a young adult, you found your way with difficulty through the marshes and meres at the base of your birth mountain, twisting and threading between obstacles. As an adult, you gathered many waters about you and went rushing across the open plains and through the forests, carving your path in the landscape. Death is nothing but an estuary, dear one, a meeting of the salt and the fresh, where all of the waters you have gathered around you go separate ways in the vast infinity of the wide oceans.

Sometimes you will struggle through marshes – keep moving, dear river, and you will find your way. Other times, you will drift, in sweet surrender onwards under a canopy of trees. Sometimes you will rush, headlong, into the abyss of a canyon, with the roaring waters and white vapor casting you into oblivion. You will spiral in whirlpools at the base of a waterfall, perhaps feeling like you will never escape from the swirling trap. But then, moments later, you are free, rushing onwards.

The sun will sap you of strength, drawing parts of yourself away. The rains will come again, replenishing you. You will meet many other water ways, streams that you can draw about yourself and add to your flow. Sometimes, dear river, you will come to lakes and lose yourself in the immensity, but fear not – you’ll find yourself on the other side.

And yet other times, you will disappear completely, sucked into cracks in the rocks, following deep pathways under the earth, not quite sure if you exist at all. Keep going, dear river, for the sky is above you somewhere.

In all of this chaos, change is the only constant. Keep moving, dear river. Keep flowing. If you stop, you will become trapped in quagmires or deep lakes, awaiting the day when the sun will take your last strength. Change your course, dear river, for if you remain the same for too long you will carve a deep rut in the earth, so that the sky is only visible as a blue ribbon high above you.

Be brave, dear river. Sometimes it’s best to jump into the waterfall rather than waiting for gravity’s irresistible tug.

Be pure, dear river, for society will try to fill you with muck and filth.

Be strong, dear river, for the world is wide and you are one of its lifelines.

You were born in the mountains, and you flow to the sea. Your lifeline is stretched between, and it gives hope to the world, and greeness to the trees, water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, and a pathway for the free.

You are a river, dear one. Your lifeline is the universe’s, and the universe’s lifeline is yours. So make the most of your waters before they reach the sea.

Random Harry Potter Thoughts (Spoiler Alerts)

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  • Everyone keeps wondering why Harry didn’t recognize Snape’s handwriting in the Half Blood Prince’s book when he always sees it on the board, but… Snape’s writing in the book is handwritten, but when adult Snape ‘writes’ instructions on the board, he does it with a wave of his wand. I imagine this would be rather like a muggle typing. The words wouldn’t necessarily look the same as the printed hand.
  • It was kind of dumb of Voldemort to brand all of his supporters… I mean, how do you get your supporters to go under cover if they’ve all got tattoos on their arms?
  • That being said – the people in charge of Hogwarts security in the sixth book aren’t too bright. They should have been asking everyone entering the building to show their arms, just to make doubly sure no deatheater was managing to get in.
  • Oh, so this one time Snape get’s super pissed off when Harry doesn’t practice Occlumency, and he gains access to Harry’s mind… and Snape goes really pale. But I just realized that the true reason isn’t that he’s furious with Harry not for practicing, it’s that he’s just seen one of Harry’s memories of the Mirror of Erised, and Lily is smiling out of the mirror. And it all comes rushing back to him.
  • Okay, but why do parents not use the Hogwart’s fireplaces like skype? Rather than having to wait for letters, they could book time in the fireplace and then pop their heads into the flames and have a chat with their kids.
  • Muggles are portrayed as ignorant, a little dim, and childish in the Harry Potter books. But nowadays, many of us muggles would, upon getting over the shock that wizards exist, laugh ourselves silly at them. “You’re honestly still using candles? Do you have any idea how dumb that is? Like I want hot wax dripping onto my head all the time. And what’s with your refusal to use phones? You could contact someone in a second rather than relying on an owl. I mean for god’s sake, owls have to be less reliable than muggle post. And it’s cruel as hell to make them carry heavy packages halfway across the world.” And of course: “What do you mean you have no internet? All the time you spend pouring over spell books searching for hours for a single spell you can’t locate wouldn’t be necessary if you established your own internet. It’s completely idiotic.”
  • The founders all had a pet project while building Hogwarts: Slytherin spent a lot of his time constructing his hidden chamber in which his giant murderous pet basilisk could live; Gryffindor built all of the secret passageways out of the castle, believing that if a student was brave enough to explore the nooks and crannies of the castle, he deserved the adventure of being able to get out; Ravenclaw put considerable thought and effort into creating the Room of Requirement so that those clever enough to discover it could use it to their will; and Hufflepuff spent her time tracking down, buying or else painting herself, all of the Hogwart’s paintings.

Bioluminescence Swimming

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It’s like swimming in the night sky. The movement of my hands through the water causes galaxies to bloom and die, perennial fireworks sparking in the deeps. My kicking feet set fireflies scurrying, fluttering lights swirling in invisible currents. The salt water stings in the cuts the barnacles gave my bare feet. The cold of the Pacific caresses my face. The dark, star-speckled sky above me mirrors the dancing lights that glint in the water.

I’m not sure how anything this beautiful can exist without hundreds swarming to see it, and yet the waters are quiet and still but for the splashing of ripples caused by my movement. The bioluminescene seems to be a little known secret of the west coast. For what crazy person would brave the cold ocean at night, even in the warmth of late spring, summer and early fall, when the fairy lights in the water come out to play?

It’s worth it to be numb, barnacle-cut and breathless just to see those lights swarm around me. They’re sparks of magic blazing with the ripples and the waves. The palest of yellow-white, they stand out from the dark of the water in glimmering droves. Just the swish of my hair behind me in the ocean will catch them into blazing, mystic fire. On the darkest of beaches even the sand will glow when disturbed, leaving glinting footprints behind anyone who journeys across it.

When visited in groups, the bioluminescene causes screams of mirth, breathless euphoria, loud shouts and exclamations of delight. The first time I went bioluminescene swimming, my group of friends was so loud in their joyful wonder that the cops were called on us. Apparently one should not disturb the quiet of night in a small retirement community with loud screams, even those of joy.

When visited alone, the bioluminescene instills a breathless wonder into the swimmer. A kind of awed peace settles over you that is hard to shake. The only noise you have any desire to make is laughter. It’s not that anything is funny – the waters are simply so gorgeous that laughter is the only tool given to humans that can fully express the beauty and delight of it.

I’ve gone bioluminescene swimming four times in my life. The first time my group of friends jumped from a dock into the water and were loud enough to have the cops called. The second time the beach was so dark we left glowing footprints behind us. My friends and I spent so long in the water that the adults had to drag us out, terrified we’d get hypothermia. The third time there was barely any bioluminescene at all, but we still went swimming. It was early April, it was pouring with rain, and it was around ten at night. It was cold.

The fourth time was a few days ago and I was alone. I walked down to the beach access near my house, the quiet of the night sending calm into the roots of my soul as it usually does. When I got there it was to find that the nearby marina was sending a blaze of golden light over the water at me. But even with his disturbance, the bioluminscene was incredible. I swam there for a long time, getting lost in unthinking awe and peace.

It’s times like these I am most going to miss about the gulf islands when I move to Vancouver.

Everything Changing

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Everything is changing again. The world is shifting in never-ending patterns, like memory swirling through a pensieve. I put the first of my belongings into boxes today, even with a week and a half until I move. My bookshelf now stares nakedly at me, reproachful of being relieved of its precious burdens. The books lie tucked away in their boxes, caught up in their own dreams.

Outside my window, the maple leaves are rustling in a faint breeze. My bathing suit hangs on the clothes line, still damp from my recent dip in the nearby Pacific. The birds are chattering away like kindergarten kids at recess. A week and a half until I move. A week and a half left living in this beautiful place, where the forest surrounds you and the ocean glints through gaps in the trees. And then it is on to the city to live for the first time, to the concert jungle and the towering buildings, the cry of sirens through dark streets and the bustle of commuters. Will anything ever be the same?

Then again, nothing is ever the same regardless. When I go to sleep, the world is a wholly different place than it was when I woke up. Every moment the universe settles and resettles itself, changing sometimes imperceptively and sometimes in ways that seem to hit you in the face like a bag full of bricks. And we change with it.

So to the city I go, my barefeet shoed, my wild hair tamed – at least a little bit. To the land of the people, where humans dominate the landscape and you can’t seem to spend a day alone. I bring with me the silence I learned from the trees, trailing broken pieces the solitude tore from me and hoping I’ll meet someone who will help me put them back together. What will that be like?

From work I go to school. From a place where I am expected to know everything and take control of all the chaos, to a place where I am expected to know nothing and be the chaos. People will expect me to be less than I am, rather than more. People excluding me, of course. I’m programmed to expect myself to be more than I am. It’s a constant. I know I’ll learn lots at college.

Into a new adventure, into a new story. One more page turning quietly in the library of life. Just another chapter end and another chapter beginning.

Character Creation

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I’m deep into character creation now, having put my normal writing on pause in order to develop my protagonists and antagonists. I’ve developed a way of creating my characters from the core to the outside, working through their lives and how the things they lived through changed them and added layers to their personalities. And it’s actually working. For once I’ve made the effort to go beyond vague lists of ‘flaws’, ‘strengths’ and ‘traits’ to actual methodical soul creation – lists of their multiple intelligences, research into physiology, detailed backstories, hang ups and strengths developed throughout the turmoil of hard lives… I can see the characters taking shape before me, can see how their pieces fit together, the complexities that make them who they are. It’s a highly enjoyable process.

It is fascinating to spend the time really getting to know my characters. I feel like my writing is on the verge of a breakthrough now that I am making an effort to address my biggest flaw as a writer. I am looking forward to the challenge of trying to keep consistent with the people I am currently creating once I get back to writing my novel. It is going to be a fascinating challenge for me to write sides of my characters that I do not share with them. Having spent my life reading books, I’m pretty good at empathizing with people, but there are some aspects that are going to be delightful challenges for me.

Humour, for instance. My sense of humour is of a very dry, sarcastic, witty variety. Now I am faced with the prospect of writing a character with a loud, boisterous, slightly immature sense of humour, and another with a dark, twisted sense of humour. And how am I going to write the character of mine whose a bit of a flirt? I couldn’t recognize flirting if it (in Ron’s words) “danced in front of me wearing Dobby’s tea cozy”. But now I better find a way to fit myself into the mind of a smooth-talking flirt. The prospect of delving deeper into humanity’s complexities is thrilling.

I am also doing all of this character creation on paper, which is a refreshing change from computer typing. There’s something more permanent about it. It seems to mean more. Not to mention that I’m filling a gorgeous handmade leather notebook I bought at a street market in London. If I keep developing characters – and expand to world-building from there – it will give me excuses to buy more beautiful notebooks, which I absolutely love and covet. So this new adventure in writing is good all around.

Things That Make Me Want to Smash My Head on a Table When I’m Editing for the Paper

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I do a lot of editing for the newspaper I work at and there are a lot of things that make me feel like smashing my head into the nearest wall or on to the table. Our paper works in a different way then most. Locals send us articles, and we decide whether or not we want to publish them. I write some articles, sure, and there’s another journalist who is topnotch, but other than that we get our articles from amateur writers who don’t write for the sake of the beauty of words, but because they have some message or story that they want published. They don’t always know how to write. We do a heck of a lot of editing.

Hence the banging-head-on-table urge that I often get. Especially when I’m tired, as I was today. So I’ve decided to compile a list of things I cannot stand in newspaper writing. Most of these show up in our letters to the editor section.

  • Exclamation marks. Just stop it. Stop with the exclamation marks. It’s like laughing at your own joke. The worst is when some puts in two, or even three, exclamation marks. *shudders*
  • Capitals in random places. You may be trying to be politically correct or something, but I don’t want to see completely odd things capitalized.
  • All caplocks. There is absolutely no excuse to put anything in all capitals in an article, or even a letter to the editor. Come off it people. Get a grip on yourself and stop yelling at the reader.
  • Multiple question marks. It seems that when people really want to make their point, their solution is to add lots of exclamation points, all caps and multiple question marks. They don’t seem to understand that a reasoned argument and well-written article doesn’t need primary school anger to make its point.
  •  Multiple describing words. I’ve edited some people’s stories where they have lists of three or four adjectives before their subject. The white, crystal cold, foamy, beautiful waves. By the time you get to the ‘waves’ part, your head has forgotten what is going on.
  • Cheap shots and insults.I don’t care how angry you are at BC Ferries, or the government, or the people down the road who won’t stop burning their garbage. This is a newspaper, not the internet. We will not publish your insulting rants. We not publish your letter that accuses someone of being ‘bat shit loony’. It is not happening.
  • Double spaces. These are hard to see (we need to put the invisibles on) and unnecessary. They take time to remove and waste space in the paper. The offenders of this crime are mostly politicians. I don’t know why. I suppose they think it’s more proper.
  • Run-on sentences. This is the one that takes up hours of our time. We get articles that have run-on sentences that take a good ten minutes to untangle.
  • Putting all of your sponsors right up at the top in the first paragraph, so that people have to read through a bunch of meaningless names before they figure out what the article is even about. Those names should go at the bottom or possibly the middle. But not in the first paragraph.
  • Sending me an article, waiting an hour or two (the time it takes me to find your email and edit your story) and then sending me another email saying that you had to do a major rewrite and here’s the updated version. Chances are I just spent half an hour struggling through your article, massacring exclamation marks, capitals and double spaces, untangling run-on sentences and making you seem far more polite. And now you want me to start all over again on your rewritten version? Please. No.

Now, from all this you might assume that I don’t like editing. Quite the contrary. I love editing. Even when I feel like banging my head on the table, I’m enjoying myself. There’s a savage satisfaction to removing exclamation marks, to smoothing an article into perfection. You get the joyful feeling that comes with fixing something, with making the dirty clean. And my love of words makes the work even more enjoyable. The words hold me in a cocoon as I sort through them. Nah, even the bruises on my forehead are worth it.