Friday, February 29, 2008

Duma Key

Some time ago, I likened good horror to good sex. Which means that in the past two weeks while I've been reading Stephen King's latest book Duma Key, I've been having the shag of my life.

Edgar Freemantle is a wounded man, both physically and emotionally. A horrific jobsite accident has left him one armed, with a busted hip and a busted memory. The complications of life following the accident and his long, difficult recovery causes the disintegration of his marriage and after the divorce, he rents a house on Duma Key in Florida to recover and to see if he wants to continue living. Here he meets his landlady, Elizabeth Eastlake, who’s descending into the dark mists of Alzheimers and Jerome Wireman, her factotum, caretaker and friend. On Duma, Edgar begins to draw, then paint and he's good. Really good. So good that he paints the truth, even when his paintings are surreal, which most of them are. The more he paints, the better he gets and the better he gets, the weirder things get. I'm not going to ruin the plot in any way, because just like with sex, if you know too much about what's going to happen, it isn't as much fun.

King's later books - Bag of Bones, Lisey's Story and now Duma Key - are the books I call "adult horror". There is nothing wrong with classic King or with his recent more straightforward horror (like Cell) - they're well written, scare the bejeesus out of you and are a thoroughly enjoyable read. However, these three books are something different. They are about something more, explore grown-up issues, don't get to the horror aspect until the third act or so and are closer to what I would call literature. I'll admit to not being able to remember much of Bag of Bones right now, although I plan to reread it sometime this year, but both Lisey’s Story and Duma Key delve into very deep things. King has called Lisey’s Story his book of a marriage and this new one his book of a divorce and that is true. They are also musings on pain, grief, being wounded and living wounded, on recovery and how you get there - inspired, I expect, from the aftermath of his own horrific accident. It resonates deeply with my own experience and there’ve been moments where I think I've learned something about living with pain from his writing.

What is also true is that both books have another theme - creativity. Where does it come from, how does it drive you and then they dip into that place where sometimes, rarely, when you are expressing yourself creatively - be it through painting, writing or whatever floats your boat - there are moments where you go somewhere else. Where you're not exactly sure where things come from, it feels like something else, something unconnected to you, takes control and although it is an incredibly neat feeling when it happens, it's also sort of scary because if you're honest with yourself, you can see the touch of madness. It is beautiful madness, but when it takes over, you're aware of the knife's edge between the beauty and the dark kind of madness. Stephen King being Stephen King, he then twists the knife, plunging you in to the dark place and makes it even scarier. And what I love about these "new" books of his is how he blends the supernatural horror with a more human one and how although it is the former that makes you decide not to read the book too late at night, it is the latter that frightens you more.

The book that compelled me to compare horror to sex was The Ruins - a book that everyone in North America (including King) appeared to think was the cat's pajamas, but which I hated for its clunky, overly descriptive language. It was lifeless and completely non-scary. What I've since come to realize is that I think part of the reason I hated it so much was because I read the audiobook, not the regular kind of book, because reading aloud shows better than anything else whether something is working or not. The Ruins was akin to reading many, many hours of an instruction manual, whereas reading Duma Key is 21 hours of sheer poetry. Listening to it has been a strange experience in dualities - on one hand, I'm completely swept up in the story, on the other, I am noticing King’s technique. He is a master storyteller with an unbelievably sure grasp of language, of rhythm, of pulling you into a story, of making his characters three-dimensional, real people, in a few strokes telling you everything you need to know. And then he builds on it, slowly, pulling you into a place where you can't wait to see what happens next, while at the same time you're terribly afraid. I would love nothing better than to spend a few hours talking to the man about writing. A master class over a cup of coffee or a beer. It would be amazing.

A review of Duma Key is not complete without a review of the narrator, John Slattery. Initially, I hated him. Felt like he was going for world weariness and instead ended up with petulance and I was beyond disappointed, because I couldn't see how I could continue reading the book. And then I realized that I should have had faith in my uncle Stevie and the quality that follows him, because it was not the narrator that was petulant, it was the main character. Slattery narrates with a deft touch for cadence, the music of language, how our emotions are expressed vocally when we speak and how a sentence of seven words can contain as many emotions. Listening to John Slattery reading Stephen King’s words was like watching Baryshnikov dance and doing so on my iPod, being surrounded by the story, made it all the more real and all the more deliciously scary. The best narrated books I have ever read are the Amelia Peabody mysteries read by Barbara Rosenblat. Duma Key shares that number one spot of being the perfect storm of brilliant storytelling and equally brilliant narration. Do yourself a favour - run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore and get this book. And when you do, consider buying the audiobook. It’s a perfect introduction to the medium.

Just don’t read it too close to bedtime.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Random February

I've changed my method of night time illumination - i.e., bedside lamp - as my arm currently refuses to make the movement required to turn on my usual lamp. Got myself a book light (something like this) and it works fine. In fact, it's added some new entertainment, as when positioned right on my chest, it illuminates the wall next to my bed and the ceiling, perfect for making shadow forms. I have discovered that I can make my hand look like a camel, even at masticating camel, a dog of the Rottweiler-ish persuasion or a toothless T-Rex. And you know how sharing your house with a cat can alternately convince you that they are as smart as people or, in the very next moment, be reminded that they have a brain the size of a walnut? Our new night time ritual of Mojo trying to catch the shadows on the wall is a premium example of the latter.

I haven't been exceptionally fond of the latest trend of big handbags. Not just because it's a little unnerving being at a seated height and having to look out for women throwing the bags about in an attempt to make it easier on their bodies - and because they are so big and heavy, there is a fair amount of force in these throws - and when they do so, it being just around face height for me, but seriously, shouldn't there be some sort of limit to what you're willing to cart about in the name of fashion? For instance, when your handbag becomes so big that they contain not only an average-sized toddler, but also all the paraphernalia that comes with a child that age, have we not reached the apogee of the trend? Please?

Back in my pre-asthma life, I used to use Herbal Essences shampoo - it gives you the best smelling hair ever and has pretty good commercials. The brand has a new shampoo for coloured hair and it every time I see the commercial, I have a little bit of advertising whiplash. First, the woman looks normal - impossible pretty and smooth, but normal - then in the last frame the camera zooms in on someone who appears to have been retroactively airbrushed to look exactly like a Barbie doll. I am not kidding. Freeze the video. Then scream.

When I was 10 and 11, I had a big honking crush on Donny Osmond and to be honest, for many years, I kept this a bit of a secret. Mostly because people tended to laugh at me when I admitted it. However, the man is reinventing himself as someone kind of cool or maybe he was always cool, but nobody could see it. He's a very funny man and, equally important, can make fun of himself. I saw this video a long time ago and couldn't remember where I found it, but then Em posted it a while ago and I've been back every now and again (okay, at least once a week) and laugh my ass off.

For the Losties out there, Sawyer’s nickname generator. If I were around Sawyer (and I am often disappointed that I am not), my name would be Ferdinand. I am unsure whether this is in reference to the Grand Duke or the bull, although I prefer the bull, what with the pacifism and the flowers. What's your nickname?

Errata.

We had a vigorous debate a few weeks ago regarding female sexual identity as it applies to women with disabilities. I used two pictures of Aimee Mullins to illustrate the point. Last week, someone left a comment containing a correction regarding the first picture - it did not originate with Sports Illustrated, but in a book of photography by Howard Schatz, in which all the athletes used as models were clothed similarly - a black Speedo for men, black sports bra and swim bottoms for women (and I cannot tell you how old I felt when I realized that's what bikini bottoms look like nowadays). An excellent reminder that it's always a good idea to hunt down the original source of the material you use when debating. I stand (sit) corrected.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Smattering of Reality Shows

A little while ago, Allyson left a comment inquiring about when I was not going to post about reality shows. Well, ask and ye shall receive!

One of the reasons I've waited this long with this type of post is that I'm not watching a lot of TV these days, including reality shows. After the trainwreck (and not in an enjoyable way) that was last season of American Idol, I promised myself I wouldn't allow my life to be sucked into the black hole that is the Idol machine again and am so far sticking to it. However, on Allyson’s recommendation, I tuned in to Rock of Love last night. It sounds horrendous, yet compelling.

Survivor. It's Fans vs. Favorites and although I enjoy seeing some of the previous contestants back (Ozzy, Yauman, Jonathan and Cirie, in particular), in a situation like this, I tend to root for the people who haven't done this before. Except the tribe consisting of fans are a bunch of idiots. How many times must we say this: while you are still playing for immunity as a tribe, not individuals, do not get rid of the young, physically agile contestants (Mary or Chet? Not rocket science, this one - you're supposed to be fans! Have you even watched the show before?)! This early in the game, do not look to who might be a threat to you towards the end of the game, concentrate on getting past the merge. So being forced to pick my potential winner among the favorites, I'm hoping for a final three of Ozzy, Yauman and Cirie, and would be happy with any of them winning at this point. It's not going to happen (especially considering who got voted out last night – I’ll miss you, Yau), but it would’ve been cool.

Big brother. Big bother, to be frank. I have gleefully given over my summers to it for 8 years, dreamed about it, been completely obsessed to the point of spending too much time on the Internet reading about the "hamsters", and chased down people that I could talk to about it. Although I was a little leery of the winter version (normally, I need the nine to 10 months between seasons to recover), I was game, tuning in to the first episode, willing to suspend logic, taste and expectations of socially redeemable value. And I'm having trouble. You expect a certain level of dimwittedness and narcissism in a big brother contestant, but this season's contestants take the cake. They are vicious, stupid and possess no charm at all. Watching them flail about, making complete fools of themselves is not enjoyable, but excruciating and I don't think I'm going to last. There has been no strategizing that made any sort of sense, the couple that was supposed to be a secret spilled the beans within days, the woman partnered with the boyfriend of the couple is trying to get his girlfriend and her partner evicted, at apparently not realizing that there was a built-in alliance there (and I have no idea what the producers were smoking when they came out with that boneheaded idea about matching everyone into couples.). Coming off three increasingly compelling seasons, is a hard act to follow, I realize that. But this is the worst cast ever. Whiter, shinier and more empty brained that I've ever seen, watching them makes me feel like I need a shower.

To make me feel better, the new lineup for dancing with the stars just been announced - shall we have a moment of silence, mourning Maks' absence this season. And that this season not does not include Donny Osmond, who at the close of last year's season looked like he might sign up. He would have been fun.

Are you burning to discuss a reality show? Now’s your chance. Hold forth in the comments!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thoughts of Pain & What Comes with It

I’ve been thinking about pain lately. Because I can’t do much (still) and there it is, handily settled into my right arm, offering itself up for introspection. Or to be more accurate, I’ve been thinking about pain and stupidity, because there’s been quite a bit of that, too.

Pain ripples. It starts out localized in your right elbow (say), you start using your body differently to ease the strain and quickly, the rest of your body starts bitching about it. It took my left elbow 24 hours to start registering complaints and three days for my right shoulder to get loud. By this time, the original injury wasn't too bad anymore, provided I was careful and that's when the stupidity happened. Because that's when I started living my life again. For which I have since experienced a fairly constant punishment, because after reining myself back in a little bit and get better, I then start the whole process over again. Hence the stupidity.

Chronic pain teaches you that pain isn't the worst thing that can happen. Not living your life is the worst thing that can happen. And so, you develop filters that mask the pain, block your perception of it and get on with your life. I once tested this - convinced that making a cup of tea in my microwave didn't hurt, I decided to pay attention and discovered that it indeed did hurt, but on the days where I have adequate pain control, isn't loud enough to make it through the filter. One of my favourite barriers to pain is the fun filter – you’re out, with friends, dancing, talking or whatever floats your boat and you are fine. Absolutely fine. You're so fine that you may stay out having fun for longer than you should, but you ignore this, because the music is playing or you are about an hours worth of debate away from solving the world's problems. It is not until you come home and close the front door behind you that the fun filter abruptly falls away and in a nanosecond, you go from an entirely manageable level of pain to wanting to curl up in a fetal position, whimpering in a corner. It usually takes days to recover from something like that, but what you quickly learn is that it’s worth it.

Chronic pain makes you arrogant. First you learn pain isn't the worst thing that can happen and then you learn that even when you have an injury or maybe a little too much fun, with rest and massive amounts of the good drugs, you heal in a few days or maybe a week or three, but the point is that you heal. And when you've done that dance often enough, armed with the knowledge that pain is not the worst thing in the world and that injury or activity-related pain tends to be temporary, you stop listening to the polite requests from your body that maybe it would be a good idea if you sat still. Because not living your life is the worst thing that can happen and if you're busy or engrossed in an enjoyable activity, you don't stop, because you know that even if you give yourself an injury, it'll heal eventually.

Except, sometimes it doesn't. Oh sure, the worst of it might dissipate a little, you may find the point where as long as you rearrange your life, adapt yourself to your new limitations, it becomes part of the background noise that is your condition or disability. The one that provides a constant muttering soundtrack to your life and plots secretly to erode more of your ability and because you learn about filters and good pain meds, you tend to ignore the war of attrition as long as it doesn't bloom into an open attempt at a coup d'├ętat. And then you injure yourself and it's right in front of you again. But you've been there before, you've driven it back before and so, you don't take it seriously, not really.

And with that arrogance comes stupidity. The stupidity of having an injury, of finally listening to you body and sitting still, because stillness, detaching from living your life is the only thing that the opponents can't fight effectively and when they are pushed back, just past the wall, far enough away that you can smack a filter on them and ignore them again, you go back to your life too soon and before you know it, you've been in a protracted battle for weeks, your sense of humour is gone and you see only the darkening world. It is usually at this point that you start berating yourself, because you should know better. You have been here a thousand times before, you know how this one goes and you know that to be impatient, to start living again too soon makes it worse. Might in fact take it from temporary to permanent and yet, in your arrogance, you believe that this time, it won't, because you have won so many times before.

Chronic pain makes you believe that you are superwoman. Because when you've done this dance often enough, you know that as long as the filters and the meds keep the soundtrack of pain below a certain level, you can ignore it, get on with your life. And you know that when the soundtrack gets loud, you have ways of silencing it, even if it takes a few days, a week or three or maybe more, but the point is, you have won so many times before that you believe, absolutely believe, that you can win again. Because once you have dealt with the tip of the iceberg, the rest of it involves a fair degree of willpower, of willing the filter in place to shut up the pain enough that you can move on with your day and over time, this can lead to the certain belief that solving your problem, suppressing the disease, is within your powers, requiring merely that you find the right 'button' and once you have, apply a little willpower to it.

And so, although other people should remember that pain is a sign that something is wrong and they should act accordingly and rest, this doesn't apply to you, because if you did that every time it hurt, you'd never do anything but sit still. And who has time for that?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Flight


Snow yesterday: 20cm
Snow total in February '08:
80 85cm*
Average snowfall in the entire month of February: 28cm.
Snow to date this winter:
148 160cm* (to compare: I am 155cm/5'1". Much shorter when sitting down)
Sob.

* corrected based on this

Monday, February 11, 2008

Make My Day

In my almost 3 years of blogging (wow, has it really been three years?), I've never been meme'd. Until now, when both Carrie and Helen told me that I Made Their Day and now it's my turn. Naturally, being me, I have been twisting myself into a pretzel about having to choose only 10 blogs that make my day, because what about the others? Won't their feelings be hurt if they are not on the list? Because all the blogs I read repeatedly making my day. It's why I read them. So choosing only 10 has been rather agonizing for me and yes, I know that it is quite likely that I'm taking this way too seriously...

Anyway. Before I lose my mind entirely, let's get the show on the road. And p.s. I have no idera why I can't fix the font so everything looks the way it's supposed to, but I've decided to move on with my day.

Just Noodlin’. This is a no-brainer - it's my brother-in-law's blog and regularly gives me what I need: pictures and stories about my lovies. The only way it could get better was if dude posted more. He claims vapid excuses like "full-time job", "childcare", "snow shovelling". I think he's just torturing me.

The QC Report. Quinn makes me think and laugh, tells me about horse rescue and offers up the kind of writing that makes me feel unworthy of penning a personal cheque.

The Gimp Parade. Kay is my connection to what's going on in the disability field and regularly makes me think so much that my brain hurts.

The Daily Coyote. I found this recently - it's written by a woman who did what I sometimes dream about: settling in a small cabin in the wilderness. And if that wasn't exciting enough, she's also raising a coyote. Recent posts document Charlie's harrowing case of parvovirus and I'm relieved that he's okay.

Krafty Kuka. Leading up to the holidays, Kuka posted recipes of Danish treats that made me drool into my keyboard. Ken used one of them for the brunkager he brought this Christmas. They tasted like my childhood Christmases and it may be proof that after years of exposure, he’s become half-Danish. I rationed them severely, savouring only half at a time, wanting to make them last as long as possible. I still have one left and can barely bring myself to eat it. Have thought of bronzing it, actually.

Rhymes with Fuchsia. For promising S*X, yet withholding for weeks, posting photos that give me nightmares of rabid ducks and giving me a balancing view from the other side of the coin when I fly into a rage.

Go Fug Yourself. Written by two incredibly talented women one of the things I love most about this blog (other then the laughing it induces), is that they make fun of the clothes and the behaviour, but rarely of the person.

Naked Blog. I've read Peter's blog for several years now and thoroughly enjoy his take on life in Leith - the man has a way with words. Following his journey from avowed couch potato to master hill climber has been a privilege and the pictures from these climbs are astonishing. Go lose yourself on his Flickr page.

Willowtree. Trivia enabler, Photoshop aficionado, goofball, pet video/picture poster par excellence. Recently left blogging and much of the world was sad. But I'm happy to report that he appears to be sticking his toe back in the water.

SpinDyeKnit. Alison is included on this list for two reasons. She reminds me to pay attention, usually several times a week. And the second reason as that not too long ago, she made my day in a very personal and more tangible way, when something arrived in my mailbox.



Shawl modelled by my mother and despite her being stuck in the nursinghome, I didn’t let her keep it because, as my niece Morgan is fond of saying, it’s “mine, mine, mine!”. It is lovely worn, but I have to admit that most of the time, I just hold it in my lap - when it's puddled like that, it looks like a tiny bit of the ocean has decided to come visit. And by the way? It not only looks like the sea, letting it run through your hands feels like it, too.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dear Winter

Dear Winter,

We need to talk. I realize you're busy with the snow production, as well as the freezing rain and blustery winds, but if you wouldn't mind taking a break for a moment? Thanks much.

You and I have always had a somewhat testy relationship, but I'd like to believe that I've learned to roll with most of what you throw at me. I can cope with getting wet. The cold doesn't bother me so much anymore, but I appreciate that you try to keep it above -20, which makes things a lot easier for me. Remembering to stay closer to the street than the buildings to avoid falling ice took awhile to set in, but I think I've got it now. I've learned to add at least 10 minutes to any outing so I can sit in the lobby and melt the snow off my tires before I go upstairs to my apartment and the fact that you consistently make it snow just around the day I have my housekeeping and ruin my clean floors even makes me laugh. Sometimes. I even like the blizzards, especially those with thunder and lightning - sitting inside a looking out on a world in turmoil is one of my favorite things to do. I know that last year, much to Rachel H’s disgust, I complained about there not being enough winter in our winter, if you will and I suspect you’re trying to make up for that. And to be honest, up to this week, I’ve sort of enjoyed it.



However, there're a few things that bugs the snot out of me. For instance, the kind of cold that dips below -25 is a bit much – yes, I know you’re sorry about that time you gave me frostbite in my ear, but when it still gets sensitive on cold days a decade later, I believe I am justified in harbouring a bit of resentment. Suck it up, sweetheart. Anyway, what I want to talk to you about today is excessive amounts of snow.

December, with its deep freeze cold and record-breaking snowfall was wonderful. January, with much of the same was also enjoyable, especially when it you threw in that five or so days of Chinook-like weather before you walloped us with yet another blizzard. Most of the time, I managed to be forewarned and get my grocery shopping done before things hit, so even the 30 cm you threw at us last Friday was terrific. I gave myself a snow day in which I did nothing but putter about and write and to be honest, I really enjoyed it. Then there were the masses of rain on Monday night, but we won't talk about that, because aside from being wet, it didn't interrupt my life. And yesterday, when they told us that there was going to be another 5-10 cm falling, I said 'again?' and laughed, because 10 cm is nothing. Apparently you saw that as a challenge, because when all was said and done, we got significantly more, for a total of 60 cm in six days, which, in case you've forgotten, means that in the last six days, I've been housebound for four and I'm sorry to say, it's getting to be a bit much. Yes, I know it's not your fault that when the humans attempt to remove the snow, it piles up in front of the curb cuts, rendering them impassable, but after several days of walking up and down the sidewalk, being able to see the Market where the food is, yet not able to get there and seeing only at barrier of white (except, by now it's grungy), it's hard to remember to blame something other then the snow. Which means, I'm sorry to say, blaming you.



It should be said that I very much appreciate that almost all the snow you've supplied us with this winter has been the kind that plumps up every branch and twig, creating a display of beauty so dazzling it takes my breath away. Wandering my neighbourhood and finding that thanks to your efforts, the middle of downtown looks like Narnia is a magical experience, even when my fingers are red and raw with cold. Giving me the opportunity to practice my winter photography is a favour that I have been very thankful for, but I'm pretty sure I'm done now. I realize that we have only reached the halfway point of winter and there's more to come, but please… would you mind familiarizing yourself with the concept of moderation?


You're killing me.


Love,
Lene

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pluck

The other day, as I was doing preliminary research for how I was going to spend my two allotted monthly credits at Audible, I came across a new release called Strong at the Broken Places, which looks pretty interesting. I haven't fully made up my mind yet, but it's on my wish list and I suspect it’ll be making its way into my library in the near future. However, today is not about that book. Today is about the description of the book (which I swear I found on Amazon.com, but now only appears on Amazon.ca. Strange). And I quote from the Book Descriptions.

"In 2003 Cohen published Blindsided, a bestselling memoir of illness. The outpouring of support revealed to him that not only does the public want to hear from people who overcome the challenges of illness, but that in the isolated world of illness, there are people who want their voices to be heard. Strong at the Broken Places was born of the desire of many to share their stories in the hope that the sick and those who love them will see that they are not alone each” (emphasis mine). And I got a little stroppy.

It's a difficult line to walk, this sharing of your life when you have a serious and/or chronic condition. Because on one hand, that snippet from Amazon is right: I think a lot of us do it to shine a light on the darkness, to create a community between people who historically have been very isolated and emotionally feel alone in this state of non-health, a state that is rarely publicized because, well, let's face it - it's sort of icky, innit? And we do it not just for each other, but for the rest of you, the able-bodied, because it creates a larger community, one in which we are integrated as just another expression of the norm, instead of being different, being The Other.

Which brings me to the reason for the stroppy: that line about the overcoming (which isn’t written by the author, so I’m not dissing him). I looked it up and to overcome: to defeat, to prevail over, to surmount, to conquer. And that's the tricky bit, because traditionally, yes, the public only wants to hear from people who "overcome" the challenges of illness. They don't want to hear about the daily struggle unless it culminates in an achievement, unless you're the plucky kind, preferably pretty enough to qualify for poster child status, the one who can smile through the hardship, remind the great unwashed of how lucky they are to be healthy. And you know what? There is no overcoming of disability. Because a chronic condition doesn't improve, you cannot conquer it, you cannot defeat it. Arthritis doesn't go away. Neither does MS, ALS, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, many types of blindness and deafness. There is only living with it, coexisting - sometimes uneasily, sometimes not. Having a disability is part of what you are, what you do. Sometimes it's a small part and sometimes, it overwhelms the rest. But what remains is this: you live your life anyway. And to the aforementioned great unwashed, this apparently looks like plucky overcoming and I'm not quite sure what they expect - that people with disabilities should curl up in a fetal position and a whimper the rest of our days? Continually bemoan our wretched state? Off ourselves as living without walking is a fate worse than death (an act which many able-bodied people have told me would be their response to disability)?

Maybe it is the long history of segregation and institutionalization that renders our experience so alien and horrifying. When a segment of the population has been hidden away (which was our culture's equivalent to being exposed on a rock to die), perhaps it is no wonder that a horrified reaction still lingers. Being taken away from society, from your family, isolated and kept apart can be a fate worse than death, can't it? Loss of freedom is after all the punishment we inflict on criminals, it is the worst thing we can imagine, so it's no wonder that disability becomes lumped in with things that are worse than death. And maybe I ought to be patient, to remember that deinstitutionalization only happened in the 1970s, to remember that social change takes time and that a mere 40 years is not long enough to cleanse away the stench of being hidden. That racism still exists despite slavery being abolished 150 years ago. That sexism is still alive and well despite women being granted personhood 79 years ago. But I have to admit, I'm tired of being patient. Mostly, I just want to smack the condescending idiots who get lost in the overcoming while screeching 'snap out of it!', but alas, that's not a terribly effective way of hurrying change along and besides, it would probably hurt my arm.

And I think that's part of the reason why we blog and write: to remove the patina of Other. To document how, within our different experience, we are not different. And most of all, to take the language back from being filtered through the able-bodied perception of disability and illness and ensure that the voices that tell our stories belong to us.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Thomas Traherne

I’d almost forgotten about the Bloggers’ Silent Poetry Reading that has happened for three years now on the Feast of St. Brigid, but I think I can get in under the wire. This year, I'm going to be posting part of a poem by Thomas Traherne, who entered my life in a completely sneaky and innocuous way when I read Wine of Angels a little while back. Traherne (1637-1674) was a minister and is called the last of the metaphysical poets. Much of his poetry expresses an almost delirious love of nature and based on what I heard in line of Angels, I need to get my hands on a collection called The Poems of Felicity, as well as his Meditations. Or anything, really. His writing positively sings.


Walking

To walk abroad is, not with eyes,
But thoughts, the fields to see and prize;
Else may the silent feet,
Like logs of wood,
Move up and down, and see no good
Nor joy nor glory meet.

E
v'n carts and wheels their place do change,
But cannot see, though very strange
The glory that is by;
Dead puppets may
Move in the bright and glorious day,
Yet not behold the sky.

A
nd are not men than they more blind,
Who having eyes yet never find
The bliss in which they move;
Like statues dead
They up and down are carried
Yet never see nor love.
...

Observe those rich and glorious things,
The rivers, meadows, woods, and springs,
The fructifying sun;
To note from far
The rising of each twinkling star
For us his race to run.

A
little child these well perceives,
Who, tumbling in green grass and leaves,
May rich as kings be thought,
But there's a sight
Which perfect manhood may delight,
To which we shall be brought.

W
hile in those pleasant paths we talk,
'Tis that tow'rds which at last we walk;
For we may by degrees
Wisely proceed
Pleasures of love and praise to heed,
From viewing herbs and trees.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Selfcontrol

The Tech God came over last night to change the battery in my iPod and I am eternally grateful, because for every four hours of charge time, it gave me 2 1/2 hours of play and who can read books like that? So, after he's finished his dinner, he gets out the tools and starts taking it apart and it was at this time that I realized just how much this iPod has come to mean to me. It is not merely a tool for reading, a technological doodad, it is my baby and I love it with a fierce, unholy passion (am I the only person who thinks that Steve Jobs may be in league with the devil, what with the degree of devotion his products inspire?). It did not matter that it was Ken, a man I trust completely, who was applying screwdrivers to the wee silver body, removing the innards. No, despite it being Ken, the room started spinning a little for me and the anxiety levels went through the roof. So I did what I do when I'm anxious in a situation in which I have little control and attempted to regain some control by knowing exactly what was happening. It went something like this:

"What are you doing now? What's that? A spudger? Oh, that's such a cute name! What's it do? Why are you poking it in there? Is that the battery? The hard drive is so tiny! Why do you say 'well, now' in that tone of voice? Is something wrong? Is my baby okay? Is that screwdriver magnetized? Will the magnet hurt the tiny little hard drive? No, that's floppy disks, isn't it? Are you sure that's okay? Why is your right eye twitching?"

And it was that at this point that Ken in the kindest possible way reminded me that I want him to continue doing things like this for me, which I took to be a very diplomatic way of saying "Shut! Up!", so I did and it was one of the hardest things I've had to do in a while, as literally biting your tongue to keep from releasing a constant monologue of questions turns out to be a bit of a challenge for me.

And speaking of challenges, I need to talk about trivia. More specifically, Willowtree’s trivia contest. Which I won in November and exhibited behaviour that can only be called decidedly ungracious, further opening the floodgates of my competitive instincts. I won again in December and it was at this point that Carrie, who seems to share my love of trivia, as well as an equally unhealthy competitive urge, challenged me. In the conversation in which this challenge was issued, one of us used the phrase "let's make it interesting" and what had been that a friendly little game (oh, sure), became something more. Because we started with a bet that if she won, she'd get a photograph of her choice and if I won she'd knit me a pair of socks and I'm not sure exactly what happened, but the bet escalated to include a grovelling blog post, pronouncing oneself worthless and the other person the Empress of trivia. This month hasn't been pretty, at least on my end, because those competitive urges that I normally keep firmly tamped down, bloomed as if they were on steroids and my life has not been my own. So I decided that this would be my last month of playing. That I would stop playing, at least for while. Not just because winning decidedly, wiping the floor with my opponents (I try to be a gracious winner, I really do, but it is beyond me) three months in a row is enough, but because this level of competition is bad for me - not just physically, as I played even when I couldn't move my right arm, but psychically, vastly impeding my goal to be rid of desire and attachment.

And then I won (HA! Oops, sorry…). Carrie posted a brilliantly grovelling post and I was satisfied, it was enough. And then she ruined everything by that last line and now I'm not sure I can stick to my vow of staying away from Willowtree's trivia contest.

Self-control? What's that?