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Metamorphosis

Published May 24, 2015 by megdedwards

meg writing

I wrote poems when I was a child. I remember one that was pretty straight forward. It was about my life plan. I wanted children and then I wanted to write. At least that was the gist.

When I mentioned this at breakfast the other day my husband said, ‘Be careful what you wish for, they say, because you just might get it’, but then he smiled because he must have wished for a sexy wife and a happy home with delightful children.

Then I had an epiphany. I had to stop and think; place my index finger on my lips and frown. All the whirring sounds of breakfast, a child asking where her brush was, a cheap dishwasher taking off like a jet engine, faded away and my mind focused on one point: had I been pursuing this plan all along? Was I living out a lifeline that I had set up when I was ten years old? I had to shake my head. I had to smile.

What really took me by surprise was that I have spent much of my life quietly thinking that I had failed; that I had not lived my dream life. I was critical of myself for not having ‘become a writer”. What I didn’t realize was that I was a writer, and always had been. My own child self had given me plenty of time to find a good man and create beautiful children and write and think all along the way.

I have always been writing, thinking about writing, reading, and writing some more. I wrote for myself, I wrote for academics, I wrote for the free ranging feminist community. I wrote on film, art, theater, computer technology, medical topics and local politics and events. I wrote about everything and anything as a freelance journalist. I wrote cover stories on everything from chocolate to female impersonators.

I have never stopped writing and one of the classic photos my kids took of me is of the back of my head, my hair casually clipped up, typing away at the computer. I had a Mom just like that – typing, frowning, placing her finger in her upper lip while she was thinking. We were trained to wait til she had finished her thought before interrupting.

And like all writers I also wrote poetry and stories. Files, folders and black journals full of emotions and ideas formed into words. It does not matter if anyone noticed. I have been following that plan like a blueprint. I do have the happy home that I imagined. It is becoming more possible to do more writing as they grow older.

Later that same day while I was wandering aimlessly around Facebook I saw the image of a donkey tied to a plastic chair and under it was written, ‘Sometimes the obstacles you imagine are not as big as you thought’. I think I heard a chorus of hallelujah in my brain. Second level to the epiphany!

The next day I stared writing a novel. I jumped in with no plan and no particular structure. I wrote and I wrote and at about 10,000 words (thank you Nanowrimo for getting me going) I re- thought the main character and introduced another character and kept going. At about 30,000 words I knew who I was writing about, why I was writing and how it was going to end.

I have long dreamed of this moment. I am ecstatically happy and not in a temporary way in which you expect that sad drop of disappointment later. I can’t be disappointed about results or expectations because I am entirely happy about recognizing who I am and acting on it. I have acknowledged my childhood plan.

Characters and scenes from short stories that I wrote long ago are queuing up. Some of them want to be in this novel, some of them want their own novel. I am enjoying the big canvas; I am taking my time building characters and scenes. I am having fun doing it and I know someone else will have fun reading it.

I am confident about my created world. It reminds me of the process of my rug hooking, a hobby I began last winter when I was homeschooling my youngest. I enjoy the process; the visual concept, the gathering of the wool, the painting in colors and textures. While I am pulling strips of hand cut wool up through the holes of the burlap my mind relaxes and indulges in day dreaming. I listen to music and I think about things. Halfway through one rug I have an idea for the next one.

And this is how I feel about my stories now. Working in an entirely different medium helped bring about this commitment to the novel. Just as I always finished every rug I began, even when I had thought of an even better idea for the next one, I know I have to finish this story before I begin the next one.

It is incredibly satisfying to recognize that all my earlier writing is not wasted. It had its place in the forming of my characters and visions. I don’t need those dusty files anymore because the characters have burst out of their tight little short story forms and lunged forth into characters who want more space to develop. Poems, images, and dreams are becoming living thoughts in my fictional characters.

When I was a child I wrote because I loved to and that spirit is returning. Writing is my friend. I am writing because I want to. Sometimes it does take discipline to sit down and write but it is work I was meant to do.

Lost scarf with gold thread

Published September 9, 2014 by megdedwards

Sunset-Vernon_BC-2014_08_11

I  had a beautiful scarf that I bought myself when I was out shopping with my precious first daughter. It was a warm gold and orange and turquoise, just vibrant and fiery and calming all at once.

I was wearing it on the day that I looked into my car’s rear view mirror and saw my friend looking in panic at something on her driveway. The snow was piled high and blocked my view. I thought she saw a dead cat.

But it was her husband. I left my little daughter in her car seat in the parked car and ran over.

When I was alone with my friend’s dead husband I could not leave his head on the ice. My friend had run into the house to get a phone. He did not seem to be alive but I was not sure.  He looked dead. I put my hand on his chest and  I turned him on to his side. When I moved him he involuntarily sighed. It did sound exactly like a man sighing but I also knew that the weight of his body had probably pushed the last bit of air from his chest.

I was alone with him for a minute or two.  It was intimate except that I did not know him and he was already dead.  He did not move.  I knew he was dead but when my friend ran back I pumped on his chest as she took instructions. As we waited for the ambulance I took off my beautiful scarf and put it under his head. It seemed so horribly cold to lie with your bare head on the icy driveway.

My little girl was waiting in the car. I dropped her at her preschool later so that I could have tea with my friend who had lost her husband that very afternoon. My little daughter saw nothing.  She was facing the other direction when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the look of horror on my friend’s face. There was a big pile of snow so I could not see the body of her husband yet, I just saw her look and run.

That is one death. And one scarf. I have lost that scarf now and I have lost a lot of favorite things. I remember thinking, will I still want to wear this scarf later? And I did take it home, once his body had been moved to the truck and we were all inside having tea. I had my scarf. But I lost it later. I keep hoping I will find it in a bag of winter things.

When I went home I was all alone, the kids were in school. I crawled into my bed with all my clothes on. I called my Dad’s wife who was dying of heart break and I said, ‘I did not know who to call but I knew that if I called you I would not be able to make you more unhappy than you already are”.  I knew she was miserable after the death of her beloved, my Dad. She never recovered. She helped me on that afternoon though. It was good to talk to someone.

Later when I took my little girl and her brother to visit my step mom on my deceased Dad’s birthday, so she would not be alone, she was a walking ghost.

Her face was grey, she was thin and under nourished although she made herself soups and took herself off to yoga and listened to audio tapes that tried to tell her to remain present. We cheered her and distracted her but I wish we had taken her home with us to our chaotic, loving home.

She died of a sudden heart attack on her bathroom floor, her sweet little nightgown covering her carefully tended body.  Alone on the floor for days before anyone knew that she had not gone to her yoga retreat. When I heard I was frantic with panic. I thought I had killed her.

Had I left her a phone message that upset her and broke her heart?  Had my phone message about the sexual abuse of my cherubic soft haired baby girl been the final blow? What did I say? I could not remember. Did I leave a message, did I call and ask her to call me back, was I weeping?

But thank god for my big sister, who always wants to solve the pain in the world. She threw in a hook, deep into the ocean and pulled out some words of salvation,  She told me that if my step mother had heard I was in pain she would have called me back. She would have been there for me.

I felt great relief when I realized that my sister was right. I knew that was true. While my pain was almost killing me it would not have killed her. She would have called me and offered her help and love.

My message rang out in an empty house. She was already lying dead on the floor, oblivious to my pain or the curse of a storm cloud that was resting on ‘my happy little family’.

I cannot find that scarf. I have other things. I have my Dad’s wild staring eyes as I tell him I am going home because my kids needed me. I will see you in the spring, Dad.

I have the love of my step mother stamped in my heart. She told me she loved me when we sat by Dad’s hospital bed. She was a proper lady, very similar to my friend who invited the local volunteer firemen in for tea when her husband was carefully stowed away in the truck.

“What do I do now?” she asked me? And I said, “Let’s make some tea”.

We all sat around her table and talked about her husband. She cried a little and reached out involuntarily for his cap when she saw it on the back of the chair.  A repressed gasp, just audible.

I can’t find that scarf anywhere and I was determined that its brush with death would not stop me from wearing it.

I have my happy family; my little girl has healed from her assaults but carries that wound forever inside. She is growing into a preteen ripe with womanly power.  I smother her with love and attention.

I have no Mom anymore. She died the next year, singing and joking and lifting her eyebrows and squinting her eyes to continue contact with her children until the last moment. In my spirit world my dead are wrapped in my beautiful scarf.

There is always time to dream, write and paint

Published October 2, 2012 by megdedwards

My sister and I home schooled our kids, hardcore. We did not hesitate to leave behind the current public school curriculum and grade testing.

We taught our kids to read, think, play and explore without anyone telling us how to do it.

Although our Mom never home schooled I think that our confidence in taking over the education of our kids came from her.  I bet our Mom would have home schooled if she thought she had a choice.

She was a very active and busy mother always teaching us details about plants or trees or about art, literature or politics as she cooked and cleaned.  She taught us how to be brave and explore new experiences and places.

My sister and I came from the same home, in a sense. Although she had the young mother who gave dinner parties for her CBC producer husband and sometimes drank martinis with the neighbours and I had the divorcee who rented rooms and smoked pot with her lover, we had the same creative and energetic woman running our lives.

She was not one of those moms that dreaded summer and the return of the children from school.  In the summers we lived in a cabin in the woods by a lake where there was no running water or electricity. We ran in the woods and played in the water and let our imaginations guide our play.

She read aloud and got out paints and games when it rained. She herself was always creating: painting cool designs on our rowboat, illustrating little stories, or sketching our portraits as we played. And when we all left for school in the fall, she actually missed us.

We had a bit of a bohemian mother, but she was competitive too, and not one to be left out of society.  She would put on her best skirt and jacket, a Vogue pattern she sewed herself, when she had parent teacher meetings.  We had porridge every morning and pulled on our sensible boots over our sensible shoes and walked to school on our own. We went to school every day and we were expected to do well.

I did not like school, and as far as I can tell, my sister did not like it either. But in those days one just went to school. The first few years of school were just plain torture, but I toughened up and my shyness was conquered mostly by grade three. It may have been good for me, I don’t know. But when my first child said she did not want to go I accepted her opinion.

As a parent I liked being free from the arbitrary rules of an institution and I loved leaving her little brain to develop without grading or peer- pressure.  She dreamed, decided what she wanted to learn, pursued her own projects and charged forward. It was a beautiful sight.

It is true that some kids fair better on structured schedules than others. Some kids like the constant socializing of school, and some kids really enjoy structured school learning.  Not all children thrive in home schooling. But my overview is that children benefit from free play and unhindered exploration especially between the ages of four to twelve years.

Presently I have two kids enjoying school (mostly) and my sister has an empty nest. In the last eight years or so we have both being pursuing education for its own sake, just for fun and because we like to keep engaged. I finished a long distance certificate in Library Studies and she is a few essays short of a MA.

What we have discovered about ourselves is that we tend to be very good at working for grades and the approval of our teachers. And what we find irritating is that we cannot seem to apply that same discipline and energy to projects of our own choice.

We need someone to say, ‘do this thing, and then hand it in and I will tell you how good it is’.  And frankly, we are embarrassed by this characteristic that seems so deeply ingrained by our parents and the school system.

We are shocked and disgusted by our Pavlovian response to approval. Right now, as our dynamic and powerful Mom is gracefully traveling to the other worlds, with cryptic comments and magical hallucinations, we are left examining who we are and what we should do with ourselves that best expresses her lessons and her rich teachings.

As we step into the world without our mother, I think we want to fulfill some of the artistic gifts that Mom and Dad have given us.  Our mother was a good painter and filmmaker, our father was a good actor and playwright.  When they were young they may have had dreams.  But they did not pass on those dreams. When we dreamed of being a writer or artist, we were quickly brought to earth.

Ironically, it was often pointed out that good art was produced by people who worked hard.  My Dad told me when I was a twelve year old poet that good writing was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I wondered why he told me that and concluded that he must have thought I was not hard working enough.

Now with so much of my life behind me, and so many dreams buried by hesitant living, I think that the best thing you can say to a child is that they do in fact have the talent to do whatever they want. Hard work is the easy part. Believing that you can produce something of value is much harder.

It is possible that the best part of home schooling is being free of the crushing judgment of others. And now that we are older women, my sister and I need to home school ourselves. We need to be the parents we wanted, so we have formed a bond of unconditional support.

If we can ask our children to believe in themselves, the best thing we could do is be a good example.  Our parents did not pursue their artistic dreams, and may have crushed ours by their attitude.  My sister and I have inadvertently been following the same path and need to remember that what we really want is to play without judgment and to explore without fear.

There is always time to dream, write and paint.

Mom and the Old Bitch Above

Published June 23, 2012 by megdedwards

There was a time in my youth when I wished my Mom was dead.

As soon as I wished it I realized that it was a terrible solution. I knew that my Mom drove me crazy in various ways but it was certainly not fair to request her death in order to set me free from my reactions to her.

I knew that she enjoyed living and I did not begrudge her that.  I did not actually wish harm to her.  She did not need to die, I knew that. I just needed to separate myself from her.

Mom was always there for me but sometimes her love or maternal attention felt destructive. I would inevitably regret reaching out for help. Whether it was emotional or financial, her help was like the well intentioned rock walls that people put up to save their sea shores, the effect of her attention sometimes caused more erosion than protection.

There was something about my relationship with my mom that was claustrophobic and dangerous.  She had a way of watching and commenting on my life that was suffocating. And while she could be maternal and caring, even almost doting at times, she could also be cool and dismissive.

If there was a battle of the wills then she had to win, and she would use whatever tools necessary, mockery, sarcasm or even physical power in order to rule supreme.  She was competitive and fiery.

If I was in pain she assumed I was exaggerating and would imply that I was weak. If I was in love she would question my judgment. If I wanted anything at all she would suggest I was greedy.

Maybe I made our relationship more painful by wishing she was something that she was not. She could only be who she was. When I read about Martin Amis talking about his relationship with his father, Kingsley Amis, I saw that what I had with my mother was not unlike this relationship.  It was more competitive than maternal; it had a manly air about it. She nurtured and then she fought. She prepared us to fight.

I kept wishing for a soft mom with soft arms who was a refuge against the world, but I did not have that. And in fact my Mom did not have that either, with her steely blue eyed librarian mother with the feminist leanings.  As I age, my sense of certainty that I have managed to avoid the same pitfalls and personality faults of my mother fades into a more sympathetic notion that maybe my Mom did not fail.

Maybe mothering is not about constant nurturing and altruistic sacrifice at all times. Part of what we do in weaning our children is push then away from our breasts, even when they cry. If they don’t learn to survive without us then we will have failed.

We may sometimes push our children away in order to set them free. That might be true. But we also make stupid mistakes and have moods. No one’s fault, no one deserves it, it just happened. Not only do I not know what I have done already that has hurt my children, I don’t know what I will do in the future. I will try very hard to be a good mom, but at times I will fail, quite by accident.

As the grains of sand drop one by one into the hourglass, the witch watches us and laughs. This image, from the family favorite, The Wizard of Oz, is definitive of my mother’s effect on us. My Mom was not the bad witch, she was kind hearted and fairly powerless, but she conjured witches.

Mom created a feckless and humorous God-like character, the Old Bitch Above; this mythical creature had a looming presence over our lives. OBA, as she was known in our home, would punish those who became too confident. OBA may give you a bad hair day just when you thought you were pretty, or make you trip when you were proud of your shoes. She had that kind of power. She brought you down off your high horse. Like a Greek God, or even the emotional Hebrew God, OBA had moods and emotions and you never knew what she would throw at you next.

Looking back, I see that my Mom was the physical form of OBA. She was unpredictable; you had to watch your step. Sometimes she was nurturing and sometimes she was harsh.  And she never said sorry. I learned to keep my dreams or opinions to myself because if I turned to her for comfort it would come back at me like a boomerang at another time, with a sudden attacking reference to that private conversation.

Even now, while we embrace in love and forgiveness as her energy drains out of her body, she can still throw a knife.  While I was telling her about a business idea that I had (once again forgetting what this admission would lead to) I said, “If it is any success at all…” and she said without thinking, “Well, that’s not likely”.

I laughed in my head, back on the same ground, aware now that the constant negativity that had accompanied me all my life was just under the surface.  She was aware that she had done it again, but, true to fashion, would not take it back. We let it go. But sometimes I see my life, and those of my siblings, as plants struggling for light, twisting and contorting to find the nourishment that we need to thrive.

As I accompany my Mom around the track, on her last lap, our faults are forgotten and our desire is to show love and acceptance. She says wonderful things about my writing; we talk about philosophy, writing and ideas. In fact, even in our hardest times we have always been able to talk about ideas. That has always been our connection.

Sometimes her  past rises up to torture her, she feels ashamed and irritated with herself, acknowledging that her strong pride and stubborn nature may have been unnecessary or harmful  to herself  or others during her life.

But I have no argument or anger anymore. Life is like one of those mysterious Irish folktales that show life as a meaningless struggle punctuated by madness and magic. My Mom likes to quote from some tale that she studied, lost now, “A man longs and longs and nothing comes of it”. She likes this line; it satisfies her on some deep level.

Chaos and Order – Life and Music

Published June 5, 2012 by megdedwards

I drove to Dorchester the other weekend to go to a village organized garage sale extravaganza. Maud and I found a few things but one of the most wonderful things was the music I found.

I was looking through a box of things and found some hand labeled CD’s and cassette tapes. What drew me to the tapes was the hand writing, which looked like my Dad’s.

I picked out a few CD’s and tapes, Beethoven and Vivaldi. Now I know I love to hear the piano in almost any kind of music, but I have also grown very fond of strings that vibrate into your heart.  When I play the Vivaldi 6 Concertos I am transfixed.  I keep turning it up, and tuning out what is around me.  I want to lie down and just listen. It is beautiful story telling music, with echoes and refrains and the soul crying out to celebrate life.  The 6 Concertos pulse and surge, my heart fills, my mind is completely drawn into the conversation of instruments.  My Dad and I listen together.

Maybe I appreciate the violin now more since I have tried to learn how to play it. I was just getting somewhere with my lessons when I cut the tendon in my finger in a bizarre and unexpected accident with homemade granola. The lesson to learn from that is that you may in fact have a limited time to learn  something new so don’t put it off for 40 years like I did.

But I am really good at going with the flow. So I have moved on. Now I listen to the violin and in my head I am playing it. Sometimes I do desire that my children will try everything with no hesitation, and try to be good at it too. There can be no harm in achievement of any kind in any art or discipline.

But music means a lot to me, and dance. And I never really recognized how much it did. Even now I let music enter my life randomly, and I don’t indulge it as much as I could with concerts or a good sound system. My car is littered with CD’s though because as a rural Mom I spend a lot of time in the car: pop, classical, salsa, Arabic music. CD’s like autumn leaves, unsheathed and chaotic. I am the one who sweeps my hands this way or that and makes things happen in my chaotic life.

I chose tap dancing when I was a young shy girl and my Mom told me I could take any class I wanted from our local community center. That must have surprised my Mom. And my brother chose cooking and has been a chef all his life! Then later I played in the all boy brass band in high school because I had been given the trombone in Grade 9 when I had requested the flute.  In my thirties I found belly dancing and loved it. Recently I have been taking West African Drumming with Kadijah and really enjoying it.

I don’t know if I am a self- authenticated person. I am not even sure I know what that means but I suspect it means you know who you are and you act on it.

Lots of us struggle with knowing and acting. It does seem to take me a long time to take myself seriously. I don’t pursue achievements, I don’t believe in myself too strongly. What I do know about myself is that I enjoy my own company and I can flow with the stream of life, watching and thinking.

It is probably a fairly good achievement to be a content person so maybe I am self -authenticated after all.  I have always had modest dreams and within my own expectations I have done well. I really wanted children, and from a very young age I knew that. As I matured I knew that I wanted to be the kind of mother who gives her whole being to her children and allows them to outshine her. And I am doing that as planned.

My writing was not so much of a career choice but a part of me, I have always had journal of insights, observations and occasional poetry.  I have made money from my writing, which is good I suppose, but I don’t suspect it is ever going to be a big money maker for me.

This blog allows me to open up and add my voice to the chorus of voices. I can hear my voice, and that is nice. Others can hear me, and that is pretty good for a recovered shy person. I dance at my local hall with my friends because we like to dance but I find I am too shy to perform with any real enthusiasm. I just like to dance for my own pleasure.

If I did have a ‘bucket wish’, it would be to play an instrument again, and especially to play or ding with others, in choir or in a band.

It is so satisfying to play with others. I rediscovered this when I was drumming in my last West African drumming workshop.  Kadijah had me on the big low drum and I had to hold the beat together for the rest of us newbie drum players during our last song and the culmination of all that we had learnt that day.

I was concentrating really hard, my brain tying me to my hands, my feet wide apart and my stomach hanging out and breathing deeply.  Nothing brings your heart, mind and body together more than music.

Your body and mind must work in unison. You cannot be distracted or self -conscious or you will lose the beat. Your mind must stay focused and the only thing you will hear is your own beat, and how it is working in chorus with the other drummers.

It is hard work and it makes you a whole person engaged in the moment. It is satisfying and revealing; discovering the power of singing or drumming  allows the body to remember what it felt like to learn how to walk or talk. Like infants we smile broadly, proud of ourselves and amazed at the sound of our own voices.

Magical thinking, magical writing

Published April 6, 2012 by megdedwards

My Mom and I were talking about memory and writing; recollection. She said it is too bad she cannot write down all the things that she is thinking and remembering, recollecting and sorting.

And  and I said, does it matter, after all? Do we need to record the details of our lives, does it matter?

Mom has been an artist and an archivist when it comes to her personal life, with illustrated journals and photo albums documenting every stage of her life. And we love that about her, and treasure the products of her creativity.

But I was talking about the bigger picture and she joined me there. If everything we drew or wrote burnt up in a fire, would we have lived less, felt less, had less of a place on earth? It cannot be that our lives are less important when not examined, documented,  given symbolic value.

It is a convergence of chance and timing that we know about certain people of the past, and not others.  We don’t know what writers we will read 100 years from now, nor what films we will remember, and it does not matter. But every day we continue to document our thoughts and our actions in attempt to clarify them to ourselves, to see ourselves, and to place ourselves in reflected light.

Our own dreams do that every night, building symbolism and metaphors into our thoughts and actions, taking anecdotal experiences and merging them with poetic writing. Why are we driven to create poetry and art where pure life stands before us?  Consciously, unconsciously, we cannot help building symbolism and trying to find patterns in the maze of life that is unmapped, uncontrollable and unpredictable.

Mom says that she has recently picked up the pleasurable habit of traveling in her mind. She settles down comfortably, or as comfortably as she can, her aging body crying out against time, and allows her mind to travel to a place in her memory. If she focuses on that pace in time she can go deep into it and see details of the scene as if she was living in it right at the moment.

It is like daydreaming, a fantastic pursuit, but backwards.  When people sit and stare and their minds are elsewhere, they should be left alone to dream. I remember a writer; I think it was Alice Walker, thanking her mother at the front of one of her books for mopping around her when she sat on the kitchen floor in a dream world.

As my Mom sits and thinks and prepares for death, something she dreads and fears, she has certain memories and stories that keep appearing. Some of them I have heard before, like when a crow came and pecked a t her brass buttons on her coat when she was a little child left outside on the back porch, and no one believed her that it happened.

But other stories are emerging that I have never heard before.  She told me that she used to scribble long pages of nonsensical ‘fake’ writing, as my first child did very diligently as well, and she told me that if she took that paper to her Mom she would read the story to her, making it up as she went.

I was taken with this story for a few reasons. I too had a very creative child who did fake writing, and in some ways I feel like I may be a bit like my Mom’s mother, who I never met. I have tried to picture her through my Mom’s stories but her stories are naturally colored by her complicated emotional feelings of being a daughter.

I have always had the impression of Mom’s Mother being a bit cold, an intellectual who later in life was given to stress headaches. A librarian and a reader, a feminist and a quiet activist, but I could not picture her being frivolous in any way. When I picture her reading aloud from her little daughter’s scribbles, putting words where there were none and creating a story out of her mind on the spot, it gives me a different view.  She was a full blooded creative mother scrambling from task to task like me.  She wrote poetry in her mind, words flowed and created stories even if she did not write them down.

My Mom has called that memory, ‘magical writing’. It has a title and a place in her mind, as if it is the first chapter in her autobiography. The next memory that keeps emerging could be entitled ‘magical thinking’; I have given it that name as I am writing this for Mom as if I am her official biographer.

As she tells it she was being put to bed in an odd room, possibly the attic, where the bed had a frill with a colorful red and green tulip pattern.  I think she was being put to sleep in the young live-in maid’s room but I may be making that up. It was clear, at least, that she was in a different bed and could not sleep.

The young girl taught her how to relax and go to sleep by imagining something fun like designing clothes. That day  Mom discovered that in her imagination she could design clothes any way she liked, and not be limited by what she could afford or sew.  It was a break through moment in which she came to recognize the power of her mind.

The young babysitter had only suggested that she design paper doll in her mind in order to calm her and distract her.  Being born and brought up in the depression, Mom knew how to cut out paper dolls and create clothes for them, and she wanted to get up and do it, but the babysitter told her to lie still and just imagine the clothes and build them in her head.  From then on little Natalie knew how to use her mind to create, distract and placate.

Now suffering from every sort of indignity of old age Mom goes into her mind to relax. She can conjure up beautiful detailed memories replete with the scents and sights. Much of her mind travel is pleasant but not all of it. Her vivid imagination has only given legs to the hallucinations and delusions that accompany her Parkinson’s medicine.

She creates such detailed people in her mind that she finds that she must try to engage them in conversation if she wants to discover if they are real. She has discovered that her hallucinations never respond and avoid looking her in the eye. I compared it to the dreams I have that I am writing, but that I cannot read my writing as I dream it. She said it was like that.

She sees people in such detail that she can describe very detail of their outfits, and then her active mind makes up a  story for why they are there. She has a film crew in her house who are forever moving things, boxing things and making her world seem to be in a state of flux. When she mentions this crew of workers I ask, ‘did you create these people”? And she sighs, “Well, that could be, but they do seem very real”.

The brain is our best mystery; we cannot really analyze the workings of our brains while we are using that very brain for our analysis. It is somewhat like trying to look into the eyes of our own hallucinations.

Thinking is our best action. We can do very little harm by thinking, contemplating and recollecting. Our brains can connect with the larger energy, flowing along a river of cyclical and symbolic imagery, creating something beautiful for no reason at all.

This is the first line of a poem that my Mom is writing,

“Along the sides of the river Illyses, scents of roses, scent of lilies…”

Stay Calm, Be Brave and wait for the Signs

Published March 10, 2012 by megdedwards

I have been spending much of my time thinking and writing in my wonderful philosophy class that I am taking long distance from Memorial University in Newfoundland.

Prof Craig Cramm offers a gem of a course for students looking for an elective, and the class has more engineering students than philosophy students.

This is my last class towards a Library Studies Certificate. This class was not a mandatory feature of the program, but I made it so.  In fact, the university had a required course called Business 2000 that was mandatory except that they no longer offered it. The long distance department didn’t seem to have any control over whether the business department would ever offer it again, and I was not willing to take the university up on their alternatives: apply to a separate institution that offered the same course for more money or take a first year English course.

Actually I was really annoyed and frustrated by the university’s disinterest in providing a solution and that made me question my years of dedication to acquiring the certificate. So after a series of terse emails that ascended eventually to the director of Lifelong Learning, I made it clear that not only was I not going to take another business course from a different institution in order to graduate, I wasn’t going to take a first year English course either.

I explained that most people in the library certificate course were sitting on a BA anyway and were trying to upgrade their hire- ability (not really a word except in places where people actually work).

I think they got tired of hearing from me and agreed with alacrity when I suggested that I take Philosophy of Technology instead, a second year philosophy course with no prerequisites. I argued that the course was in line  with the general theme of the library certificate that emphasized, repeatedly   in each and every course, how librarians must accept the modernization of the library and ‘get with it’.

Make the library more like a community center, create promotional material and book displays as if you are selling a product, start blogs and websites: technology savvy librarians need only apply, no ‘shushing’ allowed!

So this winter I took advanced technology, which taught me a lot and made me pretty darn comfortable with playing with technology and figuring out things like ‘deep linking’.  Then I moved into the philosophy of technology and it has provided a intellectual challenge and pulled everything together beautifully.

I am reading and thinking about technology, morality, ethics and action. It is fabulous.  It was just what I wanted, a real course with serious reading and thinking. I have written better essays for this course than I ever wrote when I was a young undergraduate.

The prof has asked us to make a leap with the last essay and write about how the ideas that we have discussed in the course apply to our own lives.  I am thinking about that with the intense mental application that this almost fifty year old woman seems to apply to everything she does.

Of course I could write about how in the last ten years of living in a fairly isolated community I have had regular work with a daily paper without ever meeting my editor face to face, and taken 12 courses from a university in a province that I have yet to visit. Technology has been a bonus for me. It has kept me engaged and even employed while living in an isolated hamlet on the side of the sea.

But my mind is thinking about something more slippery. While living in this area I have brought up my kids, home schooling some of the time, and volunteering and organizing much of my time, to the benefit of my family and the community.

If I needed or wanted a program for myself or my children I created it from library clubs, to toddler drop ins, to dance classes.  I did it for myself as much as for other people.  But I seem to be burned out now. Not only do I not want to create or plan any community event or activity, I don’t even want to go if someone else plans it.

I want to retreat, and be peaceful with myself. I want to write and think and be left alone.  I want to stop engaging with a community that gives back so little to me.

I am turning inward and reserving some time and space for me.  Acknowledging this fact has been cemented into place by a recent rejection. The school’s retired principal asked me to apply for a job in which I would teach GED (high school equivalency) to local adults. I thought about it and decided to apply although I realized it would be a huge commitment.

Of course I went through the letter writing and interview process just to be rejected. And this for a job that I did not know existed until someone asked me to apply. I felt like a big idiot and sucker. They hired a staid and putty faced woman of the community who is known for her religious fervor and judgmental glare.

I should not have applied at all. I should have known better.  It stung, slapped my ego, because it reminded me of all the times I have not got the job. It might be partly a generational thing where there were always too many of us with similar credentials and not enough jobs to go around. But I have always scrambled to create my own jobs.  The recent gig with the paper was great because it paid and gave me some respectability within this community.

So I am wondering how to put this in perspective. For me personally, I do not want to reach out to my community anymore. I want to offer something but from a different place. I do want to be part of the bigger picture, but I think I need to go back to my shy self contained self to do so. Something like writing literature for children, a place where you know you will have an effect albeit a quiet one. That is what I am thinking about.

So back to the blog, which like all the things in my life, is something I have created out of nothing.  It is an open journal and a map that shows you your path while you are still traveling.

And back to my general mantra, which came from a really cool and hilarious Canadian radio show that you can find on youtube called Dead Dog Café:

Stay Calm, Be Brave, and Wait for the Signs.

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