CARS! WOMEN! HISTORY! ⎟ voicing my opinions

Dear Reader,

Yes, I’ve used clickbait, possibly. I’d actually identify it as the general gist of this post, or the tl:dr: CARS! WOMEN! HISTORY! But, you know, you could stick around for the whole post to see just what I have to say on the matter.

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I don’t watch much film. I don’t have the patience for it. Perhaps, my brain has been ruined by technology. Nope. That’s not true. I’ve never really enjoyed just watching television or film. I get annoyed really easily. I can read for hours, yessir, but put me in front of the television and it had better be The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter for me to sit put, and, even then, I get antsy. I just find it really difficult to pay attention, I usually multi-task when I watch films. I’ll bake, or I’ll do my nails, or do a face mask. Once, I popped blisters from a really bad sun burn I had whilst watching a Bollywood film. I needed the longest film Netflix would offer, so I could happily distracted from the pain that I got when I couldn’t stop reading. Also, I tend to find Bollywood films more engaging, if only for the music. I love music, but it has to be just right. Music affects my mood, quite easily. Oh, I’m going off topic.

The point is, if you were to ask me what my favourite film of all time is, unfortunately, I could not point to a well-developed vocabulary of filmic experience and repertoire. I’m sorry, it’s not my forte. But, I’ve recently altered my stance on this. I think after suffering from anxiety that probably has a lot to do with too much caffeine consumption, I started looking for media that soothed me rather than aggravated me. And, I found it, without realizing I had. The Lady in the Van, I proudly identify as, if not my favourite film, one of the best films I’ve seen. I don’t identify it as a favourite because it doesn’t have the same emotional response from me, like my five-year-old self clutching a handful of cantaloupe and screaming to the fruit gods about how this is my FAVOURITE FRUIT! But, I do, don’t get me wrong, love this film.

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When I first saw it, I didn’t need much convincing that it was worth my time. Dame Maggie Smith plays Miss Shepherd, Margaret, or was that Mary, Shepherd. The film is a lightly fictionalized account with elements of magical realism of the author’s, that is, Alan Bennett’s, relationship with Miss Shepherd. If you don’t know the story, look it up. The film was based on a play of the same name, but I do recommend the film, too. The film contains two manifestations of Alan, the author’s ego and the man-in-the-world: the author is the more snippy and curt of the two, the man-in-the-world is proudly, Britishly timid. He moves into Camden Town, in London, after the success of his writing and plays. The street upon which he lives has a lady in a van. Every so often she moves from house to house. That is, until new zoning laws require that she move the van. Miss Shepherd hints that a driveway, such as the one Alan has, would be the perfect solution. Alan offers Miss Shepherd the space, and she accepts suggesting that it won’t inconvenience her too much, possibly.

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So, for fifteen years, she lives in his drive. She loves to paint all of her vehicles bright yellow with a pot-cleaner. She may be homeless, but she has a wealthy patron who gifts her cars. She receives a new van at one point, quickly painted ‘custard’ yellow, and the three-wheeler that joins the canary colour scheme. And, although our narrator is Alan, the story is about Miss Shepherd. We learn from one of the neighbours that she was a nun and during the war she was an ambulance driver during the blackouts. She knows London very well. She cannot stand music. We learn that she was a very gifted pianist, that was told by nuns that playing was a temptation from the devil. So, through negative associations, she has put music behind her. But make no mistake, music is a big part of the film. She went to Paris as a young woman to study under a virtuoso pianist. She was an artist. She was a traveller. She spoke fluent French. She was a religious woman. She was a nun, twice over. She was forcibly made to leave because she was strong-willed. She feared, for over half of her life, that she killed a young man, who crashed into her van. The film leads us to the conclusion that her homelessness was a self-prescribed, earthly purgatory for this particular sin (a sin that did not belong to her, but she feared it did).

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Throughout the film, Alan denies that he is her carer. Rather, he identifies himself as her neighbour. He does her kindly acts, like offering her the drive, or encouraging her to walk more for energy, check in on her, ensure that she is left alone by ruffians or dubious police characters. But, in a rather political stance, he is not her carer. He does not behave as though her presence is a burden, aside from when her after-dinners are left in his path to trod on. But by not taking her on as a burden, she maintains her independence. She is not in the possession of a man, being carefully minded.

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The end of the film reveals a blue plaque being places on the side of Alan’s house to mark where she lived. His house becomes her house. It becomes, in a religious sort of way, a site of pilgrimage. His house loses meaning as the place where he lives, where his economic affluence and male privilege afforded him a right to live, and it takes on the meaning of recalling and reiterating her right to that space, too. This film is important because it writes Margaret Shepherd’s history, and it does so unapologetically.  Well, Miss Shepherd seems like the sort to be unapologetic about her right to space, and all women and marginalized peoples need that kind of role model. Of course, Maggie Smith brings her award-winning acting to the role.

Think about the importance of this film. The person about whom we are encouraged to wonder and care about, if not for, is an older woman. We are told that her life and its path is and was meaningful. She is not just an old lady in a van, she is a woman with a story and a role in history. Throughout history, women have been written out of existence. One wonders if there were women at some points? But, this film, although it starts to tell the story of Alan Bennett (and he does share some of the story time), the story is the story of a formidable woman.

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The camera does not shy away from focusing on Maggie Smith’s face, without conventional make up. She is not glamourized. She is very filthy. She is a person with personhood. She is the subject of the film, not the object of the straight-male gaze. Our star is not young, and this is important, because the camera is teaching us that women are valuable socially. Human beings, as they age, do not become useless or valueless. Their lined faces, their incontinence, their will to live are all important and deserving of space in media and our lives. I have an older dog, and she looks and acts like a puppy, at times. She does have health issues that take a lot of work and often disrupt my sleep. But, in spending time with her, I realize that if humans aged the same way dogs do, without the perception of showing how age marks their physical bodies, we would find them more valuable. We wouldn’t want to put them away in homes and deem them less worthy of life or our time. We wouldn’t be afraid of the mortality they represent. We would see them as alive. We would treat them better. In our society, women don’t have to age much to be regarded as less worthy. Whilst men are valuable silver foxes: the world is their oyster, their adventures are yet to begin at 62; women, at 25, have become dusty on the shelf.

This film contravenes a narrative of shelving women (in binders or not) because their social value has been deemed less than. Indeed, Alan, who narrates the story, only has a story because of this woman. His voice is diminished, is non-existent, without Margaret Shepherd. The film reaffirms the hope I have for the future. The happiness I will feel at being an older woman who has no filter. I hope that by that time I’m held accountable for my filterless nature, and it’s not written off as being an addled old lady. I’ll just smile and say, hey! I’ve been dropping that mike before Yeezy publicly smiled. Ahahahaha. 🙂

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A few other things that I love about the film include how happy Margaret is represented at times, in spite of her earthly purgatory. There is a scene where she travels to the seaside, and she eats chips and rides a carousel, where young children are also enjoying themselves. Her enjoyment is echoed and emphasized by the children that go round and round just as she does. I think a clear point is that adults lose some of their child-like joy when they grow up, but when you hit a certain age you wonder why you stopped shoving your face with sweets or cantaloupe, whilst jumping up and down, fists full of fruit, and the fountain of youth dribbling from your mouth.

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Alan is gay. This inclusion and representation in the film is also really important. It is coded when he tries to ask an actor to help him decorate his flat, but the actor has a girlfriend. It is clearer when he has young men that leave his flat at night. If you can’t pick up on it, you are triply mocked by Margaret who knowingly *taps nose* says the young men are clearly communists, possibly; by the unknowing housewife who, at a dinner gathering of neighbours, asks aloud when they are going to find Alan a girl–the other neighbours laugh awkwardly; and by the snobbish neighbours that explain to the audience, or each other, that his plays are about him not coming clean (about being gay). But, the social climate doesn’t allow an outright speech act from Alan, that is, until the end of the film, when he has a partner that encourages him to stop arguing with the author-ego and talk to him.

The film ends beautifully, like Raphael’s Transfiguration of Christ, Margaret Shepherd ascends into God’s willing arms. All I can do is smile, because the magical realism complements the stark realities of Margaret’s hard life.

Heaps of love,

WordPlay Xx

Shhhh, don’t say that ⎟ voicing my opinion

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I used to find navigating how much is posting too much on social media very difficult. In a lot of ways, it is tied to performances of femininity and gender. Ladies hide their emotions behind their fans; they do not overshare. And, I wouldn’t say that I am an over-sharer because there is a lot about me that a lot of people don’t know. But, I do like to speak. I like to have words crawl out of my mouth, dragging their weightiness behind them. I love words. Sometimes, or a lot of the time, I may say things I might not necessarily mean, but I am trying to work my way through ideas or friendships or concepts or relationships. If you can give voice or expression or audience to what you feel or feel you mean, it can help to clarify things up.

For instance, you might be really angry with someone and call them a total wanker. But then, maybe in a day or two, because you’ve vented that anger you start to piece together what made you feel the way you did and parse it from the actions of that person. Yes, they might be a total wanker, still, or you might be the total wanker, but at least you can gave those emotions their time and their place, and you can begin to understand and grow from that situation.

In terms of social media, there are times when I don’t really have anything to say to a general audience. Sometimes, I totally forget about my phone and twitter. And there are other times when I need to share things that have happened. When I have really vivid dreams, I want to tell them to people. At times, they’re super scary and you need to connect because you don’t want to feel alone. Loneliness is real–reach out to people, and, most importantly, allow people to reach out to you and recognize them. That is vital. Other times, my dreams are absolutely, off-the-walls, bonkers, hilarious, cute, problematic, romantic, sweet, endearing, stunning, or a bit odd. I don’t know what it is about my over-active subconscious, but perhaps because it is *in* my brain, I have to give in to a speech act to evidence my internalized experiences. Externalizing my introspection like a boss bitch. (I usually really hate that word, but I quite like the alliteration.)

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I used to think that it was not dainty to share the things I thought. I didn’t have 10 people liking or engaging with what I had to say, and that seemed to mean that what I had to say was not worthwhile. It actually just made me realize that it is more likely they weren’t my audience. As a human being, I don’t get to demand that people pay attention to me. What is this, reality tv?? I do not want to dismiss the fact that I do have amazing friends and family to engage with my thoughts, and I love them and appreciate them. I feel like our brains connect for a moment, as we move through this chaotic reality. That is worth everything. However, I do think that I can’t not express myself because I am afraid that people might know too much about me, or they might judge me (I don’t care what you think, unless you’re thinking about ways to make having three shitzus affordable whilst saving up to go back to school, coz I bloody-well love dogs), or that my noted presence might come off as all of the diminishing adjectives you can use to describe women. I’m not going to give them space here because they are wrong, and it is not necessary to tell you what sexist or misogynist things are already in your mind.

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I was once asked to stop using my Facebook as a platform to spread politicized posts. I responded with: I have an extraordinary amount of privilege to have a Facebook as a platform to communicate with a number (even if its finite) of friends, colleagues, and or, acquaintances–of course I am going to put other people’s voices forward in my space of privilege. That is what being an ally is about. You have to shush your own space, to make sure that people who might not be heard have their voice(s) heard!

So, it makes me wonder why I then give into that feeling that tells me I shouldn’t say this or I shouldn’t say that. I can’t post photos of myself because that’s so vain (even though I don’t think that about other people’s photos, I love them!); I have to post photos of my glasses, or the edge of a book lest you think I’m trying to be too smart, my tenth cup of delicious coffee, or mushrooms. I actually love mushrooms. If I could be, I would be one: coz I’d be a fungi. Yes, it’s an old joke, but I’m hilairrrr.

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I guess I’ve decided to make my public self and my introspective self a little more hand-in-hand. I don’t think I’ve been lying to other people, but I’ve been lying to myself about how I’m allowed to perform my being. We are always performing, and that is okay; it’s good! Perform your hearts out. As much as one might want to, one cannot live a vocal life when you’re afraid of having your own voice heard because you’re so busy whispering as silently as possible that people just think you’re farting at them, or something like that. When you say one word, it gets a lot easier to keep saying more and more. If someone doesn’t want to hear what you have to say, then they can tune out: block, unfriend, click the x, mute, unsubscribe. I don’t want you to feel you have to leave, but I want to speak–to sing to the heavens and drink deep into the caverns of existence.

Please feel free to join me in the caverns; I also like coffee and Twinings’ earl grey tea (with coconut-almond mylk and one sugar).

 

Heaps of Love,

WordPlay: one that is going to feel more free to speak out loud.

Why it annoys me when people tell me not to swear.

Dear Reader,

Please cover your ears, there are about to be a lot of expletives. Or, rather, maybe none at all.

When I was in secondary school, we read The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway, who is a Cree author. We had to do an assignment in relation to the play that examined whether or not we should swear because there was quite a bit of it in the play. Does swearing add value to our lives? Is it disruptive? Is it something that we should look down upon? At the time, I didn’t have a clue. I don’t think I referenced the play once. I basically made the argument that there are SOOOOO—emphasize that SOOOOOO, feel the O’s bouncing off your tongue, feel like the snake you sometimes are as you Sssssssssound it out-OOOO many words in the English language that you did not need to swear. Although, at the end, I went for a plot twist and said: fuck it.

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My problem with the “there are so many other words” thesis is many-fold. I am mad at myself for making that claim and that I did not reference the play, at the time. Swearing became about me and my context. I negated that swearing can be a release, particularly for a colonized and marginalized peoples. A peoples whose land I and other Canadians occupy daily. I did not think about what swearing meant in the play. It showed anger that erupts in the daily lives of women, of marginalized communities, of forgotten communities, of persons of colour. Swearing bluntly locates the play as one that deals with inherited and ever present systematic oppressions. The inheritance of this anger, from generation to generation, is highlighted as one of the characters is unable to have children. Swearing is a device in this play. It dictates class, as defined by white, western society. It expresses exasperation and the fact that sometimes there are no words to even begin to describe what colonialism means. There is a divide between those who have faced oppression and those who oppress and/or hold privilege. The privileged cannot fully grasp that experience, and swearing operates along a common language with which we can all empathize and understand.

So, I guess if I could go back to being fifteen, that is the answer I hope I could give.

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When I think about swearing and how people react to me swearing, I often think about that assignment. I always want to walk up to the person who judges me, and I want to explain, as I hold their hands in mine, really up close and personal, that you perceive swearing to be a marker of someone lesser, that is, holding lesser societal value. I do not. I’m not saying I always like to hear swearing, but I’m saying that your or my discomfort is not enough to tell people they cannot express what they feel.

Swearing is identified as lower class, in particular if its done by a woman–even more so if it is a woman of colour. Swearing is understood as something rich men can do but they might choose not to. Swearing is also understood as something that poor people and people of colour cannot but do. It is a constructed signifier for all of these classist, racist, and sexist societal trappings.

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Older generations make fun of younger generations for using text speak in spoken conversation such as YOLO and lawl. But, we also acknowledge that language changes. It is so important that we recognize that language is not immutable; it is varying and ever-changing. Comedians use YOLO to garner laughter, employing the older generation’s disdain for how younger people talk and communicate. But self-expression is meaningful, even if it seems stupid to unintended audiences.

 

If you’re angry or you’re scared, your fight or flight kicks in, and you react viscerally. Sometimes, people swear. Sometimes, you hear a story that someone tells you, and it is so gut-wrenching that all you can utter is a long, quiet: “ffffuuuuuuuucccckkkk….” Other times, you’ve explained something to someone many times, they begin to ask you again, and you say, “for fuck’s sakeeeeee.” Maybe someone uses their privileges, without even realizing they have those privileges, to silence you….so, you swear as you think or talk about that silencing experience. Employing a wide variety of language is so important. And, at the same time, we shouldn’t be restricting language like some ideological police from 1984. Swearing can be raw emotion. Sometimes, it’s funny AF! Sometimes, it’s shocking AF! But employing a wide variety and ‘language’ is the privilege of colonization and education. That does not mean that those who swear are uneducated, but if your argument against swearing is that there are so many other words that can be used, you don’t realize the privilege you hold.

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Additionally, swearing is seen as something that women cannot do; it seemingly defies constructs of domestic femininity and elegance. But that’s just it,”Woman” is also a social construct. The negative meaning we give to swearing is a historical process. I remember being young, and one could not swear because it tainted one’s innocence. Innocence is such a terrible construct. Let’s stop with that, too. Go read some Foucault.

I want to use language; I want to feel the letters fall off my tongue, resonate in my nasal cavity, and boil from my belly. That doesn’t mean we have to be rude to one another; it just means that we should stop coding swearing coz, m8, it’s all made up fluff, anyhow.

 

Heaps of love,

WordPlay Xx

Knotted ⎟ Short Story

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Once upon a time, in a pleasure-dome of opulent origins, I beheld visions of grandeur. The earth crumbled to reveal fragrant, golden soil, like that from fairy-lore, beneath my swollen feet. I tried to wipe it with my hands, but, like rich, milled clay, it clung to me. My shoes were swallowed; my toes swam in fertile earth. I inhaled deeply. The cool air took away the nausea. In, I breathed. Out, I became, in a pleasure-dome of opulent origins.

My feet were planted by fairies, who came to tend me. Upon my wooden hands, they dropped dew collected from pansy petals. In my empty mind, they sang sweet preludes of their wonder-filled adventures. Unto my cheeks, they gave millions of kisses. Into my heart, they brought warmth and desire. My feet seemed to plunge further into the earth, but my height remained the same. No, I grew taller. I stretched my arms sky-ward, sending my fullness to the clouds. Clouds dipped to tip their hats, occasionally tipping hats full of delicious, mountain water. The cool water steamed, when it reached my warm body.

Birds chirruped as they cautiously dipped in flight to ensure my arms were safe for their young—no cat lurked beneath in disguise. They landed with hearts beating quicker and quicker, slowing to a calm flutter. They wiped their beaks, one side and the next, on my arms, shoulders, nose, and head. It was an ancient dance they learned long ago. When their caution was abated, their babies came to squawk, open-mouthed, as they hoped for food. Bird moms and bird dads dove earthbound to find succour, hoping to quieten the babes before birds of prey or pesky cats heard their hungry, youthful cries. For food there would be, but not of the kind one hoped if they remained too loud. I rocked my limbs gently, easing their hunger pains. Alas, their chirps mellowed and they impishly ruffled their down. They chattered quietly to one another and kept sharp eyes on their parents, to whom they chirruped loudly at regular intervals. Whether it was to hasten their meal or let mom and dad know they were safe, if not sound, I will never quite know.

Playfully, my leaves tickled the air, or the air tickled my leaves. Many wise men believed Wind whistles, but Wind dances and sings. Her favourite music is the latest hip-hop beats, so sometimes you heard her rhythmically repeat ‘Versace!’ at top speed, rivalled only by “Shots!” I tried to ask her, once, if she thought it encouraged capitalism and bacchanalia in the forest, but she was too busy singing and dancing to respond to such an impudent question. Her big brother, Gust, charged through with a Valkyrian-like spirit, but he staunchly rejected the Wagnerian operas for political reasons belonging to another time and place. Gust and I had a brief affair, and when he passed through, I willingly gave into his strong caresses. I happily relaxed into his atmospheric forces. It was how I learned to let go of the pain of the past, whilst supported and encouraged to grow.

Indeed, in springtime, I wore fragrant flowers in my hair. Passersby inspected my blooms. Some willingly clipped them for their crowns, and others thought that someone over there had much nicer blossoms. Little did they know, each petal was crafted late at night and bloomed each day with sweet kisses blown from Wind, bees, butterflies, fairies, and, most of all, me. Often, humans forget how precious creation is. Humans do not need to create life itself or even replicate idealized beauty; they must, however, create. For, one must prepare for the nihilism that comes biting with winter’s frost. Do not be fooled by the sea of white that promises new beginnings. Baptism does not come from the void. Salvation resents whitewashing penitence and yearns for character, sins, lust, love, desire, hope, consternation, and purpose.

As it happened, there was a man who, daily, walked the gardens of the pleasure-dome. In spring and summer, he sang lullabies to the trees. He sang such beautiful songs about places on land and sea. To the flowers, he whispered sweet, sweet serenity. There was a hidden longing in his voice that rivalled my heart’s ache. I yearned to be understood, but I was muted by nature. So I began carving words into my skin, tattooing myself so he might unearth my soul. The first chill breeze of the coming autumn sent shivers of anticipation through me; it was about to begin. Like sheets of paper, my leaves fell to the ground with existential grief and hope engraved. He collected all of me and disappeared into the night of the autumnal equinox.

As the morning fog cleared, I saw him. He had returned, he who picked up one leaf at a time and read my will to be. Upon his arrival, a fairy surreptitiously dusted his somnolent, brown eyes with the same preternatural, fragrant earth in which my antipodean-searching roots were deeply buried. His eyes raced over me, as he unknowingly looked in the windows to my soul. His bark-coloured hand traced the scars of growth that age left on my body, as his other hand clutched my history in leaves. Firmly and piercingly, his hand pressed, and he felt my pulse. He gasped, as did I. He ran around my circumference, trying to understand this enchantment. I wished he were ivy, so we could entwine. He knew not how to access my soul, just yet. I dropped more leaves; hear my soul, I begged. He picked them up. He sat down at my roots, nestled in the spot that faultlessly framed his spine, and he read, again and again. Then his song rose to me, redolent of smoke from a well-loved pipe. Wind spiritedly sang and danced, carelessly; she tried to make the leaves dance with her. He cried aloud for her to stop. He will not lose my words to the folly of the wind! The air fell still. Angrily, Gust jealously threatened to unleash the gods of Walhalla onto the man who silenced Wind and captured my heart.

Then, it was our turn to become cognizant; the man began to softly sing. He was called Aalam, he said. Through tears of sorrow, joy, and hope he told his tale. First, in hushed whispers, carried to us by Wind’s shadow; then, a crescendo of excitement and triumph, squalled by Gust; finally, a denouement of sorrow, pain, and forgiveness sung from my lips. All of us turned our gaze onto him, enchanted by his sublime humanity. Driven by lust-filled desire, my trunk began to twist and entwine Aalam within me. He placed my fallen leaves between us. Our story, he said. His feet firmly rooted into the fairies’ clay, he wrapped himself enthusiastically around my curves. Our souls imprinted evermore on the branches, bark, and leaves of our limbs. He grew tall and strong, much better than ivy. His tears dried as our warmth combined. Kissing trees; loving bodies; sweetest dreams. Coiled like snakes around trees of life and knowledge; love is the only truth ye living need know, beauty follows.

From then on, I knew resplendent remembrances of honeyed embraces. Fairies brought us news of the stars from afar. They built their home in our warm hearth. In a time yet to come, their children will find our love story and read, on bated breath, the miracle of our communion. They will take deep gulps of cool air to soothe their youthful, restless, yearning hearts. Fairies, who have vast emotional complexities, will ask us to ease their own unrequited, love-filled marrow. I will drop leaves for them to read, and Aalam will sing to them of visions of grandeur, in a pleasure-dome of opulent origins.

In the meantime, the flowers we, he and I, wear in our perennial hair are our crowning delight. We whisper stories to each other and sing sweet lullabies to the fruits of our love, whilst fairies pirouette, folic, and prance to the beat of our hearts.

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Notes:

☞  This is a short story that I wrote last year. I thought I lost it on the computer I doused with tea. Fortunately, I had sent to to a friend and recovered it that way.

☞ Please don’t read too much authorial intent into it; I’m much happier letting you drive the course, now.

 ☞ I have two Great Expectations posts coming up. I’m pretty excited about both, but one of them has me in absolute glee.

☞ Connect with me elsewhere (links throughout the site)

☞ Let me know how you’re doing in the comments. I’m thinking of doing a yoga journal every so often, but I’m not sure if that would make this blog a little too eclectic. Thoughts?

Heaps of love,
WordPlay Xx

The antics of Misha ⎟ The Yuppy Puppy

Dear Reader,

I wrote a post yesterday about how indecisive I was about which book I wanted to read after A Room with a View. For some reason or other, my internet crapped out, my dad wanted dinner, and my dog, Misha, spent the next four-plus hours being really needy (so the post disappeared into the ether). Don’t get me wrong, I get a serious sense of validation when she is being needy…she is quite independent.

My dad had chicken, and Misha operates under the law that chicken is her food. We make her food, rather I (or my mom) make her food. It’s homemade–chicken, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, and carrots. We are going to rejig it a bit because they shouldn’t have too many sweet potatoes. She also eats bananas, strawberries, low-sodium cheese, yoghurt, and sneaks the occasional cookie from me. She really likes Italian cookies, like Lady Fingers. Those were my favourite when I was growing up. In fact, I loved them so much, I used to say, when I’m older I hope I have lady fingers, as in my  hands. I have quite long fingers, so I owe that to the youth-fueled diet and wish fulfillment. In any case, the smell of chicken or sweet potatoes are scents that Misha associates with being hers. So, she was being really naughty about my dad eating chicken. I took her pee, fed her bananas and yoghurt with her medication (for her heart). I tried to take her upstairs so I could do some work. However, that was not in Misha’s schedule.

Instead, Misha flew off my bed and began to sniff every corner of my room. This actually drives me nuts. SNIIIIIIIIIFFFF. SNIFFSNIFFSNIFFSNIFF. SNIIIIIIIIIFFF. Don’t forget, she shouldn’t be doing that because it can make her choke. So, I gave up and brought her back downstairs. No one was eating anything. But Misha was convinced that they were. I got myself a glass of water, and Misha came and said, ‘I WANT THAT, NOW’! She was overheating and it had ice, so I put it on the ground for her and she drank it. I had to take the rest of it to water plants, but what is soap and dishwashing for?

I took her for another walk, a forty-five minute walk–she was choking a lot from her heart, and the exercise helps to stabilise her heart. I had to carry her home because Misha only walks in one direction. Honestly, you need to say that with a soft French accent. ‘Only in zeee one direction, if you please. Misha’s magnetic poles are seriously disturbed if she is required to turn around to walk chez moi’.

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Misha, ze aristocrat française

Then, as she was hot, I took her to the front door and held her up, with it open, so she could get some nice cool air. She was breathing deeply and relaxing. I put her down, and she remembered that my mom comes home from work about then, but she had the day off. She started crying at the door and running between the front door and the garage door. She had just gone out; it was unlikely she’d have to go out again. So, I picked her up and brought her to my mom and said, ‘Misha, look, mummah is here’. Misha hopped off and went back to crying. Then my mom goes, ‘She wants to go in the car, doesn’t she’? Did I forget to mention that? Misha bloody loves cars. We do a lot of standing about as she watches cars drive by, on her walks.

It turns out, Misha considers the car to be another entity. My mom doesn’t leave for work. My mom and the car mutually leave for work. An equality between human and machine. How very Heideggerian of my dog. So, finally, my mom and I gave in and decided that we might as well take Misha in the car, and I could run into the shop to grab some odds and ends that we needed. Misha sat on my lap, on a pillow, staring out of the window. She was so happy to be in the car, going for a ride, you would think that she had won a lottery. Perhaps, a lottery wherein her humans would take her for a car ride in the evening. Haha. So, Misha got to go into the car and be pampered the ways the little princess knows best.

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Let’s not forget, I found a book I am going to read next. They finally came out with AMAZING copies of Stephen King’s It. GOOD JOB SCRIBNER. I’ve been absolutely distraught at the rather ugly covers of olde. I think I’m going to read that alongside another Forster novel, and add it into upcoming podcasts. We’ll see how that goes because I normally dislike reading multiple books at once, but I think I’ll try to do a book-as-buddy-read. And, I think the anachronistic comparison of novels of manners and horror should be a fun task.

 

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Season of the Witch

Dear Reader,

A couple of posts ago, I said that I would be uploading regularly in February. I will; I promise. These first two weeks will be a little busy for me because I am still in the middle of PhD applications. I will likely only post once per week in these two weeks. But, to begin, I thought I’d just keep in touch. Oooh, a mysterious paper just fell across the room. I am not sure what days I’ll be uploading, but I will do 1-2x per week in the future.

Let’s then, have a story:

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The other day, I was eating an early dinner with my mom; I had just walked and fed the dog. We needed forks to feed ourselves, and our bossy-boots of a shitzu was complaining that we were not sharing. If royalty were a dog, it would be a shitzu. Except, I love my Misha a lot more than I do Prince Harry. In any case, Misha was begging at the table and I was trying to get a fork so I could stab my way into delicious ecstasy via roasted peppers and homemade burgers. As I was grabbing the forks, I kept slapping my hand on the open microwave door. You should also know, I am a serial door-open leaver. I am tall, and I have the most to lose from this, but I always leave cupboards/doors/drawers open. Soz. Although, I am the one who is always cleaning and putting things away, so it’s not like I’m oblivious. So, the microwave door was slapping my hand down, and I dropped two forks on the floor. I went to go eat, and then we needed another fork. My mom asked me to get her one, when I was up at the fridge. As I was turning to walk back, the fork flew out of my hand, landing across the kitchen. At that point, I was at a loss. My mom chimes in:

‘Who’s coming to visit you?’
‘What?’ I asked.
‘When you drop a fork, and you’ve dropped three, it means someone is coming to visit you.’
‘No one that I can think of.’ I said, certain.

We finished eating, and I looked at my phone. To my surprise I see:

Harsha 1

My best friend has done this once before. But it’s a rare occasion because I moved home recently, and he moved home from Detroit just a little while ago. He was doing his MSc (forgive me if that’s incorrect). A lot of our friends are dispersed internationally. Another best friend is in the UK doing Medicine and another in Ottawa studying maths and French. So, I don’t usually expect visitors without advance warning.

Harsha 2

ps He was stopped when he sent the messages. 🙂

And so, it appears that I am magical. My best friend and I went to get coffee, and I now have a reputation for the magics. I will be going to Hogwarts soon, friends. I also have really big-hearted friends; that’s quite magical in itself. I’m pretty sure that was the whole message behind JKR’s books–enduring friendship.

Prepare yourself for this:

Also, how great is it that Starbucks brought out coconut milk for their coffees? I can’t afford daily cappuccinos or even regular coffee out, but as a treat. I’m glad that they didn’t use Almond milk. I think coconut milk or a combination of the two tastes much better in teas and coffees than Almond milk alone, which is good in cereals or made to taste like chocolate. Alas, dear world, I am happy that I live in an age with dairy alternatives (a lot of privilege there). I have a tummy ache, atm. #dairyfreebynecessity

Keep being kind, dearest reader.

~~Updates, it’s update time!~~

Best coffee: Lavazza (the red one). It smells like childhood.
Reading updates: I’ve read academic things and some articles online. If you guys don’t know what’s going on in Flint, MI, read up about it. I plan to get back into Dumas a little later in the month.
Yoga Updates: Yoga will commence next week or the following; 2-3x per week. I’m excited for the warming weather because I’ll be able to do it outside. But because of the mild weather, I can guarantee the bug population will be quite high this year. Yoga to the scent of citronella, yum.
PhD Application updates: I’m getting there 🙂
Other updates: I get random tummy aches because my digestive system can’t handle dairy or soy or undercooked eggs.

Let me know how you’re doing in the comments!

 

Hope you’ve been so well. Xx

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New Year’s Resolutions

Dear Reader,

I think I’m about ten to eleven days late to proclaim my resolutions, but what will throw you even more is that I do not plan to start some of them until February. Here is the thing. I am applying for PhDs. This is my dream. This is my being. This is my fibre. Yummy. I want this as the breath leaves and enters my body to sustain and produce life. I am also a little afraid. Because Misha has been so much my responsibility, I have a tendency to put my dream a little on the back burner. That bums me out a lot. So, I’ve given myself January to finish everything and let it into the ether. The ether of life and purpose. Happy vibes towards this. Misha will want her big sister to be happy. (P.S Misha is my 12-and-one-half-year-old shihtzu, who has heart troubles of the literal kind).

So, my resolutions are, as follows.

  1. Read even when the pain makes you want to stop. (My Goodreads goal is set at 48; this is a little conservative because I also want to be uploading quality content based on what I am reading).  [Begins February]
  2. Upload 2 blogposts per week. One will be about literature or the books I am reading. The other will be about Misha, poetry, or a life update. [Begins February]
  3. Practice yoga 2-3x per week. [Begins February]
  4. Practice mindfulness. I am going to be more conscientious of not swallowing the burdens that others lay at my feet. That could be someone being shitty. Or, it could be my own fears and  apprehensions. I’m going to advocate for zen in my own heart. [Begins now.]
  5. Submit PhD Applications [Due by end of January]
  6. Journal More.
  7. Step away from the screen and live in the moment.
  8. Read outside in the sun. Sunlight is meant to prevent myopia; perhaps, it can also reduce the myopia I currently have.
  9. Create — write (poetry, stories, blogs); sing; make videos; play instruments.
  10. Be open to happiness, protect my skin, wake up earlier, & drink water.

I am going to use these as a general guidelines. I might add or change. I might forget or fumble. That’s life, I suppose.

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To all of my new followers; thank you so much for visiting me here. I will be more active on this site in February. I hope to create a lot of content based on reading and being jolly creative. Feel free to contact me, comment, or send me chipper brainwaves.

 

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Life Comes in Threes

They say that things happens in threes. I’ve not counted my life experiences yet, but I am wondering if I should start. I often tilt at the ledge of superstition, and I believe this has more to do with the family traditions that fell through the cracks of loss and destruction that came with WWII. My mom’s family, Polish, came to Canada in the late fifties. There weren’t many of them. My grandmother, her mother (my great-grandmother). My grandfather, his brother chose to go to the US to serve in the Army because he was so grateful for the American liberation. Well, when I grew up, I only had my babcha, great-grandmother, until I was about the age of three–she was ninety-six and lived in a world much different to mine–she lived through two world wars, economic depression, and cold winters that did not involve Canada Goose coats. My dziadek, grandfather, died three days after my birth.

So, although my family was quite religious, I did not inherit their need and love for it. Instead, I inherited their spirituality. My dziadek was a great man. I inherited the belief in his ever-lasting love for my mother and, also, for me. The belief in enduring love is something that defines my religion. So, enshrined in a sort of independent religiousness, I’ve been superstitious in weird ways. I knock on wood. I fear breaking mirrors. I believe that a Baba Yaga lives under our stairs–this is a belief I’ve held from childhood. I saw her there, in tattered rags, waiting to clutch at my feet as I ran from the dark basement to the light. Indeed, my ideas about the Baba Yaga were deeply informed by the children’s book, Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood.

Heckedy-Peg-witch

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood.

The Baba Yaga is a witch from slavic folklore. When I was younger, I was terrified of her. But, as I grew older, I came to change my feelings. Perhaps, because my ideas about women have changed since I was little. Usually old women, aka witches, are the ones we fear in fairy stories. Old and woman put together entangles a complicated web of ideas about age, the value of women, and their combined negative value as they age. I like to live near forests because I think the Baba Yaga is there to protect me now. I’ve learnt about the bad and scary things, and now it is time to be protected.

I suppose this is in a loose sense, because I have made my laptop unusable and now my phone has decided that holding a charge is not something it wishes to do. So, there are two not so good things. And, even though it is a massive inconvenience, I am clinging to this belief that there is something good in the world, just waiting to catch.

There are moments when I feel trapped, but I also recognize the deep, tangible goodness in my life. I think that when you can recognize the warmth and kindness of a person and pet, you feel like a small seed ready to grow, even when the Baba Yaga clutches at your pattering youthful feet. Run towards the light, dear friends, for you’ll meet the Baba Yaga there–she will still be old and decrepit, but she is full of a life you dismissed before out of fear. Nurture that. Nurture that, indeed.

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Life comes in threes, as Oedipus reminds us in his answer to the Sphinx’s question: “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?” Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a ‘walking’ stick”. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly and, having heard Oedipus’ answer, the Sphinx allowed him to carry on forward.

And, so we carry on forward.

 

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A Matter of Wills

I’ve recently been considering how we wield our willies. I mean WILLS! Ops. I don’t mean the legal kind, either. No. Or that British Prince. I mean our wants and desires, those things that so often come into conflict with other peoples’ wants and desires–or our paths to get them. But this post is not meant to be a pessimistic blog; I believe that we put our wills ahead of others because we are afraid. So, I’d like to share a lesson in sharing–sharing space and giving way from my will to another’s. And, to do this, we’re, you and I, going to become really good friends with my dog.

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My dog is Misha. She is a twelve-and-one-half -year-old shihtzu puppy. I say puppy because, despite having a heart problem that makes her choke or fight to breath sometimes, most of the time she is extremely playful, silly, and bratty in the way that makes your heart brim full of happiness. Since Misha was little, she has been sort of stubborn. I think shihtzus are rather well-known for this tendency. She’s definitely done the mischievous  look-over-the-shoulder-whilst-peeing-on-the-carpet, when she was being house-trained. Or, she, a 10-14lb dog, used to pull us by the cuff of our trousers when she was being walked. In fact, I doubt she believed she was being walked at all; she knew she was walking us. She also herds us where she wants to go. Like a sheep-dog pushing sheep into their pen, she runs behind you, pushing you towards the kitchen to make her food. Additionally, unlike most dogs, when you ask her if she needs to do a peepees or go outside, she will run away from you. CHASE ME, she laughs, as she runs around the house. She has, on numerous occasions, run back up the stairs to my bedroom.

 

Occasionally, I’ll, in a deeper voice, say, “MISHA…..what are you dooooing.” That’s usually when she is licking her foot. I sneak up, tap her on the shoulder. She looks up at me, moustache askew, with a look of innocence mixed with fierce wolf. And then I say, “ooooooohhhhh that’s so baaaaaaaaaad” She acknowledges she’s been caught being naughty, and runs away. Often times, she chokes, which is why I gently reprimand her. When she licks her paw, she pushes too much air down her throat and irritates her trachea, which already gets crushed by her enlarged heart. So, really, when I’m telling her not to do it, it’s not because I’m asserting my will, but I’m doing it to protect her.

The looks she gives you are so emotive. For a long time, people have not recognized the emotional capacity that dogs have. It’s only after science has backed up these ’emotional’ claims, that people are willing to believe. We are often accused of reading human emotions into animals. But, if we empathize and greet them with compassion, how can this be wrong? We should consider animals as varied and nuanced as we should consider our neighbours, friends, and even those we strongly dislike.

Wills are different. When Misha is being bratty, it’s like a young child learning to assert their will. A child will say “No!” or stop doing what they’re being asked to do because they’re learning that they don’t have to like everything they’re being asked to do or not do. Now, just because I don’t like going to bed earlier doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go to bed earlier. But it’s how we all are. We all chose to do something or not do something.

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I see you’re eating. Don’t mind my food-stained chin. I’ve not eaten in eons.

Misha, on every walk, will likely be carried home. Sometimes, it’s because it is raining and Misha hates the rain. When it’s really hot out, I don’t let her walk on the pavement. Sometimes, it’s because she’s just woken up, so I take her to go pee (she goes 5x a day because of her heart medication), and she’s sleepy still. Sometimes, it’s because I allow her to walk forever in one direction and she gets tired. A lot of the time, it’s because she only wants to walk in one direction, and when I say she can’t go that way anymore (because we’ll be walking an age away from home), she does, what we call, a houdini, which is the classic, backing up, trying to shimmy out of one’s harness. When she was younger, she’d do this to actually escape and go where she wanted to go. This meant, I ran after an escapee a lot. Now, she does it to great effect in front of other people, cars, squirrels to make a point that she wants to go her way. Usually, this move is followed by a quick pee and a look that says “SEE! I HAD TO DO ANOTHER PEEPEES! YOU WERE GOING TO PREVENT THAT. SHAME ON YOU! FOOOOOORRRRRR SHAMMMMEEEEE!” haha. A lot of the time, I carry her home almost a kilometre. She always wants to stare at cars, too. If she was a human, she’d definitely be a formula 1 racer or some sort of car nerd. When I carry her home, she sits on my hip with her head over my shoulder, like a small child. Many times, she tries to drop her weight so she can look this way or that way. I don’t allow her to move because that’s the best position to keep pressure off of her heart. Many other times, she nestles into my neck and closes her eyes and does the silent shihtzu grumbly chatter.

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‘I like to be carried, but don’t think this means I like cuddles or whatever…don’t go getting ideasssssss.’ — Misha

But, I’ve learnt something from all of this. Sometimes, when we’re walking I’m really impatient or angry or upset from other things. Or, I’m cold or hot. Sometimes, I’d like nothing more than for her to do a quick pee and go home. Sometimes, I want her to not stop for so long because I’m impatient or cold. But, whenever I want rush her, I stop myself because even though she asserts her will in dawdling, making me carry her home because I didn’t let her sniff that rusty pole she knows she’s not allowed to sniff–it doesn’t hurt me or harm me to pick her up and carry her home. When she asserts her will, she’s not doing it to spite me. I’m sure she’s tired or she would rather be carried. I’ve learnt that asserting my will over hers does not make me happier. It just allows me to be selfish. I’ve learnt that carrying her home, back muscles being pulled, is so much better than anything else I know. I’ve learnt that we can share the assertion of the will, and that we don’t need to just be self-serving. In fact, doing things for others often does yourself more of a service than just asserting willy-nilly.

 

And then…you get a present as beautiful as this:

 

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A Rumi Kind of Day

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I have been meaning to post about Charles Dickens recently, but I’ve been a little busy reading about Hegel. I have also been distracted by Rumi. I love his poetry so infinitely much. I don’t own any Rumi collections, which makes me sad. I tend to go into bookstores with people, and I think buying Rumi is such an intimate act that I don’t want to share that with someone else. To me, it’s like sharing something so intrinsic. I find buying books to be very intimate; it speaks to the words you want to swim in your head, the voices you want to tell you things, and the stories you want to collate in your being.

Last year, I almost bought a Rumi collection, but I purchased a wicked copy of The Iliad instead. I mean, it’s not a bad choice! In a game of Would You Rather, I think that could, potentially, be a deal breaker. Do you chose Homer or Rumi? What DO you do? So, I chose Homer, and I can’t say I regret that decision because I knew that I needed Homer at that moment in my life. There was a battle raging in my mind, and Homer gave me the tools to watch how battles can be glorious and well-fought but that your hero will die. Well, that was the aesthetic of the time, the hero must die for it to be considered beautiful and tragic–a sublime melancholy. J.K Rowling showed us the hero just needs to love and “DO” out of love for our fellow humans, beings (of all creatures), and earth.

But, now, I think it is time for Rumi. To me, reading Rumi reminds me of sinking into the most luxurious, healing bath water. I should explain this metaphor a little further. I am a water person. When I was little, other kids would play with each other during fun-swims, but me, I would go to the deep-end and swim as deep as I could. I’d swim under all of the feet of the swimmers, like their feet were seaweed leaves swaying at the surface. And, in my own underwater world, I’d live. I swam with dolphins and mermaids; I solved mysteries of life; I was. That sense of being complete is what I feel when I’m in water. Two years ago, I swam in Lake Ontario. I have been in lake water before, but never in such a large, uncertain body of water. I used to always stare at the water, and I’d watch the ripples grate into each other, a perfect infinity. Being in the water epitomized the intellectualization of a vast infinity. When you look into infinity, you admire its presence. When you are within it, the forces of the other, alien forces, push you and desire you to become part of that system. Like being really tiny in an average-sized tub of jello, you are thrust back and forth, bouncing. But, it is not jello, and you are in the mechanism of infinity. That is how Rumi’s words make me feel.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
-Rumi

Infinite.

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