Tag Archives: memory

Writing desk as home

mydeskThis is my desk.

A lot of famous writers or published authors have taken to showing where they work. I’m positive they clean it up and manipulate it. I didn’t even bother to dust.  I wanted to give you the authentic experience. Oh the glory!

Of course, I’m neither famous nor published (at least not in book form), but as a tip of my hat to all writers who spend hour upon hour alone with their thoughts, music or not playing on a DVD, and engrossed in a story they want to tell, I pay tribute to you, my friends. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re published or not. I have a small sense of what’s in your hearts and how much of yourselves go into what you’re creating out of nothing but your memories and your imaginations. You are the experience. The experience is you.

I have a relationship with this space that’s as every bit as real to me as those I have with people in the flesh. Even though in the past four years, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent way too much time here in this five foot rectangle. I’m not denying that being out in the world, interacting with people, seeing places near and far is a good way to live and explore. It’s the best! But there is a world so rich and so deep inside that Dr. Seuss got it right even when he didn’t mean for the expression to encompass what I’m talking about: Oh the places you’ll go! The people you’ll meet! Even inside your own head. ha ha.

Like most people, the things I’ve chosen to have around me hold meaning.

Clay mask

I have this weird mask that I bought in a small art gallery called Marigold Arts on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was made by Allan R. Bass. I spent more money on it than I’ve ever spent on a piece of art. The pamphlet that came with the piece says he “developed a style of firing that combines Raku and Pit-firing techniques to achieve an Ancient yet contemporary expression.” He lives in a Kiva-styled pit house in rural New Mexico. In other words, he’s my kind of guy! But I bought the mask because it was just so different than anything I’d seen.claymaskArbutus Tree

I took this photo of an Arbutus tree on Salt Spring, of course, on a visit in 2007 with my friend Lisa Wolfe. She was recovering from an operation and still chose to come camping with me. I was being interviewed for a job at the Driftwood which I didn’t get. Gotta love rugged women! I just loved the patterns and the green bark. This tree is in a special place in Ruckle Park that I go to where few people ever are, and it takes me back to so many times of happiness and peace. The first time I ever saw it was with Will Gerlach whom I am eternally grateful to for introducing me to Salt Spring.


Buddhist Temple

In 1987 or 1988, I went to San Francisco with a friend named Pam Melnyk. She was a quintessential hippy, a few years older than me. Pam had been to San Francisco many times and was the perfect person to travel with, especially for me a newbie to the city. We stayed at a hotel in Union Square. She took me through Haight Ashbury and because she was such a music buff, I got the whole history. At the end of a most memorable few days we got bumped from the plane and got paid to stay. We were so HAPPY you would have thought we’d won Lotto max. One more day! This Buddhist temple was at the end of a fantastic walking tour of China town and it was high up in a building that overlooked the financial district. I still recall the experience of lighting those incense sticks.sanfranbuddisttempleElephant

I have a little gold elephant in front of me bought by my dear friend Colleen Eaton on her trip to India. She has a fantastical story about getting on the back of a motorcycle to go back to this shop to have these little prints framed. I love elephants and elephants with trunks up are lucky. Did you know that? Never buy an elephant print if the trunk isn’t up!


Ruckle House

Below elephant is Ruckle house. This photo taken by a very dear friend Tom James while I lived on Salt Spring. I just love the reflection through the window and the photo of original Henry Ruckle with his wife and baby. I have peered into this window so many times, a ritual whenever I visit Ruckle farm, and it never changes. It hasn’t changed in 30 years. There aren’t many places or things you can say that about and that really appeals to me.


BC Women Artists

A poster I purchased at the Art Gallery of Victoria on a week-long trip to Victoria in 1986. I used to look at this poster and wonder about it, not really understanding the second to last shape. Now that I am that shape, I get it. Damn! I have always loved this poster. There is something profound in those five shapes representing the five phases of women which is its title. By the late Victoria artist Margaret Peterson.


Paper weight

A paperweight with raspberry’s inside. Takes me back to a simpler time, a time in the country. I imagine this lying on a half-finished quilt in a small house with a wood stove and I just love it. A Value Village find.


Hey, it can get lonely here. Sometimes as a distraction I press the nose of my little yellow Idog and he shakes his head and barks. Often he’ll be silent and then out of the blue he’ll let out some robotic yelp and scare the hell out of me. Bad dog! Unpredictable! He wants attention but he’s so much less fuss than a real dog, if not quite as unconditionally loving. idogPhotos

A picture of Colleen and I on a trip to Salt Spring way back in 2001 to visit her sister who owns a house there in Vesuvius Bay. A particularly nice weekend.


A saying

Whenever there is a problem repeat over and over. “All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe.” A gift from Colleen, probably at a time when I wasn’t feeling very good.


Another card, hidden behind the one above. A card from Catherine Bennington, a woman I shared a workspace with at UBC in the basement of the David Lam building when I worked at UBC Multimedia Studies between 1995 and 1999 and she worked for Teaching and Academic Growth. She still works there. We’re Facebook friends and I know she would probably be amazed that I still have this card. But it was perfection and she captured what really matters to me in this simple handmade card. Thank you Catherine.catherinecardThere’s also a photo of the house I grew up in on Hamilton Street at Canada Way across from Moody Park in New Westminster that was ripped down in 1980 to make way for condos after my parents sold and moved to Langley. mavorhouse

A photo taken by me inside the old barn at Burgoyne Bay.  I love the colours of the wood and the beautiful vines across the window. I used to go there on my own with my camera and the enjoyment I got from that old run down place is impossible to describe or perhaps even understand. The sound of the starlings. The aroma of the grass in summer. Those moments are embedded inside of me and this photo helps to remind me of how special my time on Salt Spring was; how much contentment. It almost makes me cry now thinking of it.DSC_0746

I could go on but this is already way too long. Suffice it to say that our things are special to us. And this tiny space, my desk, so easily dismantled, is also a reminder of how little is truly required to feel at home when the richness of life inside of us is equal to that all around in the world.

Maybe you’d like to tell me about your writing space. Or show me.

The Memories that Get Stuck

MekongfruitsmallHave you noticed how every summer has a mood all its own that brings flashes of memories? It’s as if you’re watching a movie of someone else’s life.

Summer like one of those chic flicks that packed the theaters back in the day. Fried Green Tomatoes. Dirty Dancing. The Summer of ’42.

Busy. Melancholic. Content. Delicious. Slow. Quiet. Depressed. Time slowing down, speeding up.

Sometimes it has to do with the colour of light or catching a glimpse of someone’s eyes underneath a hat when the sun streams through the weave of the brim and deposits checkered patterns on their freckles. At the beach, the smell of sunscreen on burnt skin. Too late. Nose crinkled at seaweed smells. Stones stuck  between toes in flip flops.

A new love. A kayak trip. Camping with those people you never see anymore. The largest evergreens. Shade. Fighting over something you can’t even now recall. The anger, white, fast.  Cycling in the Fraser Valley. Day trips to new places close to home that might as well be far away.

Waking up beside you in that small top-floor bachelor suite in that old house on Balaclava Street and always the way the light hits the wall above your curly head. Fruit stands and liquid honey in plastic bears. A late afternoon swim during a thunderstorm. Was that wise? Necking on the rocks in that ocean-side park. The way a chair felt against my back when I heard that my sister had died.  Granville Island and my friend, the blonde, you know the one, we all had one.  The scenery as cars whizzed by and wanting to stop, to disappear and stand beside a river, skip stones and never come back to my real life.

Often, for reasons I can’t explain, when the heat is nudging breath early on a brilliant summer day like this morning’s, catch a memory from year’s back and ride it like a wave.

Sunday morning. I was eating cereal at the kitchen table of the house I grew up in. I was alone at the table, which, at that time, would have been unusual. Where was everyone?  Was I getting ready to go to my part-time job at that paint store? I was just a year out of high school.

It was one of those August days (was it August?) when by 8:30 am the heat in the kitchen had to be blocked by a pull- down blind. Outside, on the street that passed our house, I couldn’t see them but I could hear them. Guys, walking by. Mostly guys it seemed. Occasionally, the click of cleats on the pavement. A hardball tournament that day. Tennis across the street. Stuff, lots of it, needing carting. Voices, back and forth. Busy.

And, then, back to me in the kitchen. Day dreaming. Newly awake. Still waking.

No warning. BOOM. One strong, loud blast. Far away. Confusing.

Turns out it wasn’t summer after all when just now, I look up the date. May 1980. Really? How could it have been May? Memory so untrustworthy.  So positive that it was August.

I stopped eating, got up from the table and walked out to the back deck. I feel the smoothness of it under my bare feet. Everything seemed fine. Shrug. Turn to go back inside. Wondering.

The morning that Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.

If you lived in the Lower Mainland then, do you remember hearing it? Do you remember what you were doing and where you were?

Do you wonder why some memories, not just the big ones, like that one, but ones that everyone else would have left behind, sometimes get stuck and replay all the time for reasons you can’t even explain?