So many things have been happening lately that it is hard to stop and get my bearings. Our move to Halifax has been approved and will happen in the spring in late April or May. The sheer amount of things to do before then is …
There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can defeat it.
Tyrion Lannister, Season 8, Game of Thrones
I am usually fascinated by other people’s stories. I feel pretty humbled about my own story, but also figure it might be as interesting as someone else’s. I think this is true of most writers. We like to share stories–ours, the world’s, or imaginary ones. Not only do we write, but we live our stories. The older I get, the more I feel more solidified in my own thing. I am a wife, mother, daughter, cousin, sister, aunt, friend. I write fiction. I live somewhere beautiful: coastal British Columbia. I’ve experienced a lot of exploration in my life–with people, travel, and interesting situations (learning to surf, trailrunning, paddling down a river in northern BC to watch for grizzlies, volunteering for river non-profits and dissecting dead salmon to show children the anatomy of fish, etc.). My early story consists of memories I still clutch on to, for they molded the adult me. I miss my dad every single day. I miss our life before his sickness and feel very fortunate to have had that growing up. I’ve written so much about those times in my blog. My marriage is perfect. I don’t know if most people would or could say that, but it is. I think it’s karma for several previous abusive relationships. My kids are growing into people with the same values as me–their favorite past-times are being outdoors: biking, hiking, spending time at a mountainous lake. My early dreams led to this story becoming real, but it was a rough road getting here and not without major strife, especially during my earlier adult years. These riches I have are not related to money or power, rather are made possible because of rewarding relationships.
I’ve tried reading stories on Twitter. Having spent years now on various social media, I tire of it sometimes, and I’m cynical about abbreviated tidbits pretending to be stories. In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, in the future world where Talents takes place, Butler created a news source where a bulleted note about war and a comment about Christmas lights might carry the same weight in 25 words or less. It’s the quick speed of Twitter, which shows our short attention spans and lack of retention and the imbalanced weight of matter vs. meaning that I find an odd sensation in our society. The quick information is beneficial for movements, but as for storytelling lacks completely, because if there is a story, it’s behind a link–a separate medium.
I’m fond of the quote by Edward R. Murrow: Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.
We could tweet the same thing as someone else who is a mild celebrity, and would receive no reaction. We could say something about war–more meaningful than Christmas lights–and the lights might draw way more attention. I’m cynical about this indifference and imbalance. I think Facebook has a slightly more standing power, way more engagement, and doesn’t move so fast. This is why I’m posting less on, and reading less of, Twitter. So if you follow me at all, you might consider switching over to my Facebook literary page, Ecology in Literature and the Arts or the one for Dragonfly Publishing (see the social media links top-left). I generally will continue trying to update eco-fiction works and announcements on Twitter, however. It’s really the blog that is my preferred medium, not for its reach but for its more meaningful way to present content.
So, I was thinking of interesting stories, regardless of who writes them. I like telling mine from time to time. It has been about a month or so since I last blogged–but I just like to write and know that some people follow my blog, as I follow theirs as well. Between term start and gaming (Classic Wow has arrived!), most of my time–outside of my fiction writing and family time–is nonexistent.
I’m starting to come up for air now, and I’m happy it’s Friday. We’ve had a very warm week for September, but this weekend it’s supposed to cool down and rain. Hints of fall are here, and yes I am an absolute sucker for pumpkin spice, falling leaves, the golden light of autumn, cooler temperatures, frost on pumpkins, getting ready for two Thanksgivings (Canadian–actually we’ll be in Nevada that weekend and American, where I do a big thing). We’re also doing an Octoberfest party on the 5th, and on the 8th I will be doing two ecofiction presentations at the 2019 Ecocity Summit in Vancouver. So I’m really excited to go through this season. Rather than rushing through, however, to me it’s all about the calm, the holding onto each sunlit or rainy hour as it happens. I believe in living for the moment, not the future. I’m looking forward to things, for sure, but now is also full of planning, thinking, dreaming. The story gains focus to specific moments, not just who I am on a large scale.
Work has been busy, but I’m getting a new office that’s more private and has lots of windows, so I’m excited by that because I often work one on one with students. There’s also currently a lot of construction around campus. While I could continue to park near the building, I’ve decided to avoid the construction congestion and park in the back 40, over by my old running trails, through the woods and along the creek. It brings me great joy to do a little hike each morning, especially this time of year. The rowan trees have bright orange berries. A slight chill surrounds my walks each morning, a perfect breath of coming winter sneaking through the air before the afternoon sun heats everything up. Dried leaves are blowing off trees; some of this is because autumn is coming. But also, due to hotter, dryer summers, our trees get more stressed and drop their leaves, even in summer.
I mentioned Classic Wow before in this blog, another part of my real story. I am playing a druid whose character name is a reference to Jenny of Oldstones. When I first began playing last week, to get in the mood of my character, I listened to “Jenny’s Song,” from one of my favorite Game of Thrones Season 8 episodes–where they’re sitting around the fire, drinking wine, and when Brienne gets knighted by Jaimie. It’s also where Podrick sings “Jenny’s Song,” a song before the big battle of the Night King. The song is an allusion to the Witch (or Ghost) of High Heart demanding travelers to sing that song in turn for telling them prophecies. Theories say that she was possibly an older version of Jenny or that she came from the Children of the Forest. To Tom of Sevenstreams, who sang the ghost (witch) “Jenny’s Song” in payment to the witch, she told several prophecies. Jenny of Oldstones was a commoner who was considered strange. She wore flowers in her hair. Locals considered her half-mad, a peasant, and even a witch. Her self-claimed heritage was of the First Men, and the castle she lived was Oldstones, which lay in ruins in the modern story. Her ghost was said to have danced there, in reminiscence of life and romance from when she was alive. Duncan Targaryen, the Prince of Dragonstone (or Dragonflies), met and fell in love with Jenny (circa 239 AC). He married her, going behind his father’s wishes, who had betrothed him to the daughter of Lyonel Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. I don’t role-play in game, but my character was created with Jenny of Oldstones in mind. Why? Because I was fascinated by the story of her. The entire Ice and Fire series, and its television adaption, is possibly my favorite stories of all times. We take from stories and include them in our own if we relate to them. I was healing in a dungeon a couple nights ago, and a rogue said “Jenny of Oldstones!” and I was happy someone got it. I use an abbreviation in game since the name itself is too long for what the game allows. Jenny’s story is not the loudest story from the books or show, but it reflects me in some ways: a commoner. Some might consider weird!
The majority of people in my guild are much higher level than me. I guess they do not work or something. I like the game. It allows me to come home and sit down after a long, active day, and do something almost mindless in activity but also somewhat challenging in the sense it’s a game and you can die in it, etc. But it feeds my imagination in some ways., especially in that it takes place in a Tolkien-esque world before modern industry, where although there were the beginnings of modern civilization (forging and smelting, deforestation, magics corrupting the world), many areas are of a more pristine world alive with wind, rain, snow, animals, and mythical monsters. I look forward to hitting max level. We’ll raid two evenings a week and I’m sure I’ll play other times, but really, by sometime in October I figure I’ll hit that max level and have more time for finishing Up the River, another story I’m telling, not one of me but a fictional story of a fossil fuel catastrophe in the Appalachians, a crucial place from my childhood. By the way, the new anthology Mountains Piled Upon Mountains, edited by Jessica Cory, is absolutely full of beautiful Appalachian stories–creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. I am in love with this book and highly recommend it.
Speaking of Appalachia, tonight I will talk with my mother for probably hours–with a few glasses of red wine, sitting on the back deck, watching the autumn foliage drift around me. It’s important to me to keep close contact with my mother, who is aging and having some issues. I already lost my dad. I cannot contemplate losing her too, though it is inevitable some day.
That’s it for the story of me currently, the stories I’m writing, living, and reading now, etc.
However, there is a dream my husband and I are exploring, and maybe it will become a new story some day. We’re considering selling most of our possessions and moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It depends on his job here and whether their office in Halifax has any openings similar to what my husband does now. If so, we could actually afford to buy a house there. And they have a lot of rural property with some of the ideal things we dream of, like enough land to grow a real garden, land to run in, etc. You know, like those older houses with wood-burning fireplaces, original hardwood flooring, big front porches where you can sit out during the summer and drink sweet tea. The kind of houses of my childhood but perhaps retrofitted with solar panels. And the area is near the wild Atlantic ocean below, with rocky cliffs and a sort of older mood to it than Vancouver, which is really just a rich person’s playground. It seems very similar to parts of Ireland, and is like a dream to me. That’s a story for another day.
Light in August is a 1932 novel by William Faulkner, which took place in Mississippi and examined issues that arose in conflict between those alienated in society and the Puritanical white society. According to Hugh Ruppersburg’s Reading Faulkner: Light in August, Faulkner said of the …
With a bum foot and lack of running this year, along with a lot of writing, editing, and reading, I am really looking forward to getting outside and staying there for a while. Last Friday night I spent hours mesmerized by my own back yard while sitting outside until past dark, warming myself eventually by the fire pit after the sun went down. The cherry tree had blossomed, but by now has lost its blooms, like normal, and is growing nicely. There are northern flickers and robins and songbirds and insects and squirrels and who knows what else that comes into the yard when I’m not there.
Truth be told, I’ve been completely immersed into stories and in a lot of my free time I’ve spent time writing and reading and watching–missing the outdoors. Tonight we watched season 8’s episode 2’s Game of Thrones, for instance, and I continue to be completely mesmerized. I’m reading two different books at the moment and have some exciting interviews lined up.
But I also miss being outside a bit more. It has been rather gloomy here lately, mostly rainy, with peaks of sunshine now and then. I took advantage Friday night before another onslaught of rain, and mowed the front and back yard. Last night we had decent weather for an Earth Day reading, which I’ll talk about more later (it was awesome!).
But this is the time of year we are planning some tent camp trips, which I’m sure will bring me back to where I belong. Our first one is at the end of May, near our anniversary. We’ll see if the electric car can make it to Golden Ears Provincial Park and back. Then in August we have reserved, with family and friends, a three night tent camp on Salt Spring Island. In October we’re camping near Lake Mead in Nevada. I am looking forward to these times, because my best memories in life are in the outdoors and this will continue to be the case until I’m 80 or 100.
I had a full day with my husband: traveling to Burnaby for an appointment, going on a three-mile hike at the Barnet Marine Park, eating a very late lunch, grocery shopping, visiting the newest used bookstore in the area and finding a good read, coming home to clean and bbq, calling family to say hello, and then it was suddenly almost dark. I worked for a while on my new global eco-literature series–mainly on an interactive map, which I thought would be kind of fun to do and might be visually appealing. The lady at the bookstore knows me now and is always trying to help me stumble across international fiction that might work with my series. I really love that place (Western Sky Books). Anyway, I’m super happy with my next two parts in the series because later this month I get to go back virtually to Ireland with the author of The Story Collector, Evie Gaughan (who I mentioned in a previous blog), and in August I get to go back to a book I adored from afar in 2014–we’ll be going to the Philippines via that book (Agam).
I stayed up late tonight in the upstairs office, listening to night sounds, twigs crackling, and little wildlife noises from our yard. The neighbors are generally pretty quiet, so all night I have been feeling the great cool air coming in from the window while wondering how many of those noises are a bear, a coyote, a cougar, or perhaps the cute skunk living below our deck. It never bothers us–I often think it defends us as very occasionally we smell its scent at night warding off other wildlife, or cats.
My last feature on authors who explore climate change was about authors against big oil. Other than a spotlight that was dedicated to a team of writers, artists, musicians, and podcasters telling a story, this one really was a huge issue featuring multiple authors and books. Usually I just cover one author, and I’m going back to that this month! At the end of the last feature, however, I was thinking–this is too long compared to my other pieces, but I could have gone on a lot more. I said in that spotlight that if one wanted to follow more of my thoughts on the issue, they could visit my more personal blog. After that, I had several occasions where I would be heading to work and paralleling the Burrard Inlet, and I always wanted to take a quick detour down to the marine park. But I would miss the turn. On one occasion I turned down the wrong road and ended up near some industry that, as it turns out, we could almost walk all the way there from the marine park. The beach trail ended, and there were of course fences and signs keeping people out. It’s between the park and the Suncor terminal there. Let me tell you, the marine park is beautiful, and has a lot of history, but it’s surrounded by a lot of industry–tankers and oil and sulphur piles. We hiked about 3 miles all told and found some crazy things like old cement bases from a previous logging company, a train track that went parallel to the park, and a bamboo tree in the middle of the rainforest, obviously planted there. We walked around the park but also did Drummond’s Walk. You can see on the map that it ends at the one industry that I mentioned, but it’s not listed on the map. I know from accidentally previously turning down Bayview (what do I know? I thought it was a view of the bay) that I had to turn around because that was one of Kinder Morgan’s (Suncor’s) terminal, and I think the plant between the marine park and the terminal was related. The one day I accidentally turned down Bayview, thinking I could do a little walk along the inlet, there were a couple guards out there and a separate group of protesters.
Today’s walk was kind of nostalgic. I often think that the world we made, the world we live in, is full of too much loss. I am pretty good at dealing with loss and change, but sometimes I get sentimental. I remember other parts of my life that I could do a trail without seeing industry using our natural rivers and waterways (this section of the Burrard Inlet is still salt-water I think), and I know that there are much wilder trails, but the marine park was like looking at a microcosm of any city’s history. A failed logging industry and its ruins (unlike the beautiful ruins in Ireland, these were just old cement foundations that were never torn down), surrounded us. The distant Admiral’s Point, and heavy copses of rainforest trees with no or few houses, and the wild blue waters and mountains beyond–these things we want and need–were beautiful, yet up close were the ravages of our world: oil tankers, fences, polluting industries.
Tonight after working on the map and on a couple upcoming pieces for dragonfly.eco, I felt strangely not tired, awake but quiet, wondering about the future. I thought about the heron we saw and all the goose poop and geese and the way the misty clouds in the distance hovered in the other sunlit gaze over the mountains. Often, maybe too often, I feel very introspective like this. Getting out on the trail is one way to get me dreaming and hoping. Here are some photos of the day.