Category Archives: Essays or Columns by Ev Bishop

Treasure!

Treasure!I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of hidden treasure, be it flecks of gold in a fast-running creek, antiques tucked away in attics or basements, notes sealed in bottles, or—even better—jewels, old coins and the like shoved under loose floorboards, holed up in caves, buried on beaches, or resting in rusting hulks of ancient shipwrecks.

You don’t want to know how many imaginary treasure maps I created as a kid, but a lot. To this day there are few words as exciting to me as “X marks the spot,” and it’s a lifelong regret that I haven’t learned to scuba dive so that I can explore crooks and crannies under the sea myself. (But my years aren’t done yet!)

Just recently, no scuba needed, I chanced upon a real-life, genuine treasure.

I was trekking along a rough, winding path. Wind screamed through the trees, and showered me with broken branches and sharp twigs. Freezing rain beat down, soaking me through and setting my bones to aching. In the gathering evening gloom, it felt as if I’d taken a wrong turn—no, no, wait, sorry, bit of exaggeration there. But I did go to my mailbox recently. And it was probably rainy. I do live near trees. And I did discover treasure.

As I turned the key, opened the metal door, and spotted the parcel’s sender’s address, my stomach flipped. I knew the gem it contained before I even opened it.

A while back, I’d bought my grandma a journal called, “Grandma, Tell Me Your Story,” by Susan Branch. I hoped, of course, she’d enjoy meandering down memory lane and ruminating on the various questions, but I was quick to admit that really the “gift” was for me. My grandma Ruby Forsyth, née Gilgan, has always been one my heroes and inspirations—on motherhood, on coping when life is hard, on delighting in the beauty and wonder of simple, perfect things. I have never met anyone as patient as her. Ever.

I’m fortunate because I still have her in my life to talk to and visit, but I wanted a written record, notes about her life growing up and as a young wife and mother, pioneering with my grandfather.

She graciously obliged—the proof of which now sat in my mailbox.

As I slit the end of the package and saw the journal’s telltale pink and white edge, I couldn’t have been more thrilled had I found an old wooden chest with a pirate’s sword sticking out of it!

To have pages and pages written in her own hand? Well, “treasure” doesn’t suffice to describe it, actually. When I read her anecdotes, I hear her voice and see the twinkle in her eye. And the fact that much of her story is also the story of me—and of my children—and how we came to be—isn’t lost on me either.

I’d share some of her great tidbits, except they’re mine, all mine! Just kidding—but I am out of space. I’ll have to be content to leave you with one line.

Under “What is your best advice about life?” my grandma writes: Living a kind and considerate life is better than being obsessed with becoming rich.

The advice is all the more meaningful because I saw how she lived and lives. She embodies kindness and consideration. But, sheesh, her words do make me wonder if she knows about my predilection for treasure and meant to warn me. In case anyone’s worried, don’t be. My obsession with treasure has never been a lust for wealth. It’s always adventure I covet. In her journal, I have both.

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“Treasure!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 25, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Storm the Beach!

Photo by Mackenzie Black that reminds me of my childhood.

Photo by Mackenzie Black that reminds me of my childhood.

I was zipping along in my little white car the other day, the sun was shining, the grass along the gravel shoulder was greening, and a warm, springy breeze danced through the open window. All of a sudden I was kissed, clear as anything, with the memory of a feeling that occasionally overwhelmed me when I was a kid playing outside on my grandma’s farm: a fantastic, totally-free, move alive-than-alive, rampaging, powerful, crazy, silly feeling. It was pure happy, the sense of extreme possibility and promise, and the conviction the world was full of good things and future adventure all rolled into one.

More often than not, when the feeling hit, I’d lift whatever stick I was carrying over my head (I was almost always carrying a “staff”) and charge down the nearby hill or into the field’s waist high grass, yelling a mixed roar-cheer: “Arrrrrrrrr!”

When I think back on those bouts of intense delight, a combination of recollections gather, so maybe the feeling was birthed by mingling factors: the smell of sunshine on dirt, the scent of sap from budding trees, the chitter-chat of squirrels, the chirping of birds, the give and take of the ground beneath my bare, calloused feet—and the joy of being enmeshed in whatever epic story I was living out as I trekked around. And something else was a huge contributor, too.

I was always by myself when the feeling hit. I didn’t have any adults, well meaning or otherwise, telling me to “keep it down,” to “be appropriate” or to “not get carried away.” No one asked pointed questions about what I was so happy about anyway, or helpfully outlined the reasons I was wrong or naïve to be feeling wildly joyful and optimistic. There were no kindly suggestions that I manage my expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed. . . .

I’ve definitely, thankfully, experienced lovely pure-happy as an adult too—but as with a lot of adult emotions, it’s usually more convoluted and layered, a bit shorter lived. I tend to diminish it by analyzing it.

And I’m trying not to do that anymore. I don’t want to squash my growing glee or kill it before it fully blooms. I want to revel in. Enjoy it. Laugh out loud and shake my head and shout with it. Spin down a dirt road with my arms out to my sides ‘til I’m dizzy.

I want to live life. Really live it. I don’t want to put off things I really want to do in the wait for some perceived magic age or stage where I think I’ll have more time, more funds, more clarity, more whatever. . . .

Maybe you need to heed my advice too? If you’re unhappy where you’re at, make changes. If there’s something you really want to do, start doing it sooner rather than later. Will it be difficult? Maybe. Maybe not. In hindsight I always realize the time I’ve spent resisting change I know I need or want is more excruciating than the actual leap ever turns out to be . . . but either way, easy and smooth or a tough uphill climb, the effort is worth it.

A bunch of things came together for me last week. I know why I had the ocean epiphany I wrote about last month, why I’m being surprised by random fits of euphoria, and experiencing deep, peaceful, standout-noticeable moments of happiness these days. I’m being more vocal about what I want, what I believe, and what huge questions, fears, doubts, and insecurities I have. I’m sharing the things I’m excited about, even proud of. I’m making changes. In my thinking. In my doing. In my being.

I haven’t charged down a hill recently, shouting at the top of my lungs, brandishing a stick—but I make no promises about the near future.

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“Storm the Beach!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, April 30, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Have Passport, Will Travel

Sights to see, creatures to meet! Photo copyright Ev Bishop.

So many sights to see and creatures to meet! Photo copyright Ev Bishop.

I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate the past twelve months. Until October 2013, I’d only ever been out of Canada twice in my life (both times, pre-passport days). This year I’ve been to London, just returned from southern California, and have plans for a Hawaii or Mexico trip.

And I do love to holiday just for the sake of a holiday—a break, a specifically set apart time to rest, relax, and play. It’s not just the pure sloth I enjoy, however. I think seeing new landscapes and terrains, experiencing different climates and cultures, and meeting people who come from different places than you is valuable.

Having lived in a small town my whole life, the exposure to huge groups of people in one place is thought provoking, and I think it was beneficial for our young nieces who were with us, too. There are so many different types of jobs and opportunities in larger centres. It opens your eyes to possibilities for work, for art, for exploring. It’s a big world!

I’m an adventurous eater but even so, various regions have their types of food—stuff habitually eaten because it’s grown or produced there, or readily available because of the mixed backgrounds of people living in an area. Terrace offers high quality, quite diverse foods, but funnily enough, though California is West Coast too, it’s far enough South that some of the food was different than I’d ever had before. Yay!

And I could go on and on about the beauty, inspiration and wonder to be found in exploring a different geographical place. I was awed by the crazy abundance of flowering plants that grow as perennials—well, not even perennials. They don’t die down; they grow perpetually, like our trees do. People have cactus beds in California, the same way we plant flower ones . . . yet daffodils and “spring blooms” flourish there, too.

And the ocean, the ocean, the ocean! I adored the sun, sand and surf. Did you know that the Pacific can be warm and welcoming to swim in during March? It was wild fun, literally, to be playing in the waves and suddenly see dolphins not fifty feet away—or have a line of eight or so pelicans swoop along just beyond our heads.

Visiting other places also helps adjust any preconceived notions you might have. Stereotypes about “Americans” have long driven me crazy because the U.S. is so huge, with so many people, that it’s ridiculous to me that anyone would colour the whole, extremely diverse, country with one brush—but I won’t rail away long. Let me just say, with one exception, where we think my big, brawny husband might’ve scared the pants off a guy fishing off Newport Pier when he approached him after dusk, and asked jovially, “What are you fishing for?” everyone was incredibly nice, extremely polite, genuinely-it-seemed interested in chatting and getting to know us a bit—before and after they knew we were tourists.

People are people wherever you go, and we all have more in common than we usually think. And that’s a wonderful lesson to have reinforced from time to time.

I’m not pretending that my holidays thus far—or those hopefully in the future—were taken with any loftier goal than to have some fun, but for me, the best fun occurs when I feel I learned something too. And even if the take-aways are simple things like I really enjoy authentic Mexican food, it’s weird that plane seats are smaller and less safe feeling than the seats on Disneyland rides, the population of the state of California is greater than the population of the whole country of Canada, or that Grey whales go down to Mexico to have their babies, and then make their way up the coast (yup, they pass us too) to Alaska . . . well, those are great observations to experience first hand.

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“Have Passport, Will Travel” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, March 26, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Fluff and Jumble

Photo by betterpharm on Flickr

Photo by betterpharm on Flickr

Early winter was remarkably calm and mild this year, but February? It’s been anything but mellow—bouts of bitter cold, severe wind, surprise flurries and big snowfalls simultaneously awed and daunted me. (The snow is spectacularly pretty, but sometimes I just want my days to be easy, no jacket or boots required!). And my brain this month is similarly filled with heaps of stuff to wade through, shovel, and scrape. Some of it is work intensive and slightly tiresome, but other bits are beautiful.

I’m on the cusp of another big life change. (Wow, new phases just keep coming, don’t they? I’m starting to think that from our toddler years on, life is nothing but a constant flux of developmental stages!) And the trigger of this one? My daughter is getting married.

If you remember some of my earliest columns, like the one about a road trip to Vancouver with her and baby brother, or the one about her obsession with salsa cones (Yes, ice-cream cones filled with salsa. Yum, hey?), you know she was very, very young when I published my first column and now she is getting married. Bizarre!

Her fiancé, my son-in-law to be (How weird is that?) is wonderful and I already love him, but I’m still shocked and kind of terrified. Is she, is he, ready for marriage? But the worry—the question itself—makes me roll my eyes. Are any of us ever ready for it? No matter how fortunate you are in who you commit to for life, or how much you love him or her, marriage is constant adjustment, isn’t it?

I cannot not worry, of course, because I’m her mom and because I’m me, a worrier extraordinaire, but I’m also really excited about all the happy potential for her, for them, to experience so much joy, laughter, comfort, and companionship.

Another thing on my mind these days is the move of an old, close friend back to town. After graduation we were supposed to head for the city together, but I ended up falling in love and staying here instead. She adventured off alone. And now, after twenty-three years, she’s back. It’s as surreal as my daughter getting married, albeit it in an opposite way. The impending nuptials make me feel like two decades have zipped by, while my friend’s return makes me feel no years have passed at all. In my head we’re still eighteen, with all our lives before us. In reality we’ve said hello to forty-one, but something great’s still true: the rest of our lives lay before us!

I’m also very busy right now, as I’m sure you can relate. There’s a lot going on at work. I have some exciting, but also scary, writing plans that require strenuous effort and time. I’m trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. I also want to spend more time with some specific friends and family members.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, the following quote shared on Facebook was a huge encouragement: You are going to want to give up. Don’t. I don’t know if the line resonates with you, but it was encouragement I really needed. I’m going to scribble the words somewhere to keep as a reminder for myself, or to share if anyone else needs them.

I realize this wasn’t my most organized “Just a Thought,” but sometimes that’s how thoughts are, cluttered and jumbled, or, like the February snow—plentiful, piling up, just waiting to be trekked through.
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“Fluff and Jumble” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 26, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Today is my day … I’m off and away!

It feels a bit weird to post this copy of my October 2013 column because I’ve been on my marvelous trip and am back already, but as this blog is the best way for me to archive my Terrace Standard column, and because some of you may be curious about what I got up to in London, sharing this still seems the thing to do. Enjoy!

I suspect my November column may share reflections on my trip. Oh, wait, no! Now I’ve gone and spoiled the surprise. I guess I should’ve said: Spoiler alert: in November’s column I’ll share reflections on my trip. ;)

And now, without further ado, I present “Today is my day … I’m off and away!” by me, Ev Bishop, originally published in the Terrace Standard, October 30, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

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Photo by Erik Daniel Drost, Flickr

Photo by Erik Daniel Drost, Flickr

I’ve long-loved Dr Seuss’s book Oh, the places you’ll go! For being silly and hilarious, it’s oddly inspiring, and whenever I read it, I’d want to travel and wonder when, when, when?

I love almost everything about Terrace, but I’ve always been fascinated by other places and hoped to travel physically, not just through the words of a story or pictures in books (though I wouldn’t trade those journeys and adventures!).

And I’ve gone on some very fun gallivants—lots of road trips and camping excursions, annual conferences, and beach seeking. But I’ve always, always, always—since I was barely able to read—wanted to go to England, particularly London.

And guess what? The day has arrived. Literally. I leave tomorrow (or, rather, since you’re reading this in the paper—I left last week!).

London is definitely romanticized in my mind, and I don’t know if my trip can possibly live up to my expectations (except even as I write that a little voice is yelling, “Of course it will. It totally will. You are going to love, love, LOVE it!).

I can hardly read over my itinerary without squealing—oh, who am I kidding? I don’t even try not to squeal. I’m staying with one of my best friends and a favourite fellow writer, so it’s really a holiday dream trip.

Here’s our rough plan (please forgive the copious exclamation marks. I can’t help myself):

Day 1 – I arrive, YAY! Most likely very jet-lagged—or so everybody warns. I suspect I’ll be too freakishly excited to be tired! A drive about tour, then dinner in London. Then, supposedly, wine and chatting at my friend’s flat, but I suspect the first sip will put me to sleep.

Day 2 – Weather permitting we will tour Highgate Cemetery, and visit Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, China Town, and the Covent Garden area. My friend also wants us to “pop into” the Natural Portrait Gallery just to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Her words, “Just for a minute because it’s free and near the door, so it won’t take long.”—mind boggling!)

Day 3 – Church of some kind, somewhere. Visiting and walkabout. Harrods for tea!

Day 4 – The Natural History Museum and Westminster Abbey. Also Big Ben, dinner in Soho (at my friend’s favourite fish restaurant, Randall and Aubin), then sightseeing and exploring the area.

Day 5 – Off to Lancashire on the train to visit family I’ve never yet met, and seeing cool rural things full of my roots (am hoping for a cemetery, along with the old family halls and farms).

Day 6 – Day in Lancashire, evening train back to London. I’m so freakishly excited about the train! I’m first class on the way down, and last class (ha ha) on the way back. If only I had Harry Potter-esque robes for the journey.

Day 7 – The Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Day 8 – Hyde Park and explore Notting Hill area.

Day 9 – Our chauffeur (a.k.a. my friend’s hubby) will deliver us to Stonehenge, and then we’ll head to Oxford for exploring and dinner/drinks in the Eagle and Child—the pub, established in 1644, that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and the Inklings had their weekly writers’ meetings!

Day 10 – Stratford Upon Avon!!!!! I will see Shakespeare’s grave!!!! Eeieieieieieieieeieieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Day 11 – Up in the air . . . again, literally. I don’t fly out until afternoon, so I may sneak in a little something else.

I have a brand new sketchbook journal in honour of my trip, along with a package of gorgeous drawing pens as I have delusions of doodling things I see and trying to jot down interesting bits I spy and hear and experience. I suspect, however, the journal will be neglected as I ogle my surroundings eyes wide, mouth agape. I can’t wait!

And on that note . . . I should pack. Hold the fort until I’m back.


Lessons From Bubble Pop

I have an embarrassing confession. I have an addiction. To Facebook games—specifically Tetris Battle and silly, bright-coloured, manically cheerful Bubble Pop Battle. I live in two states: on the wagon and off the wagon.
 
When I’m on the wagon, I accomplish things, meet deadlines, get work done in the yard, and even, occasionally, clean my house. When I’m off the wagon (have broken its wheels and driven it over a cliff!), I stay up way too late to play just one more round, lament how I never have time to write, explain to my family that we might move permanently to fend-for-yourself meals for dinner—and that will probably only work if Dad goes grocery shopping.
 
When I’m in this hand-cramped, escalating-theme-music-wormed state (the later, in case you don’t know, is when a song lodges in your head and won’t go away), I justify my lack of self-control with soothing rationalizations: “It’s good stress release,” or “These types of games help improve spatial skills,” or . . . “I don’t have a lot of other vices.”
 
Then something amazing happened. I actually learned a legitimately important lesson, or rather, had something I know but sometimes forget, reinforced in a silly, bright-coloured, manically cheerful way!
 
Like so many lessons, the Bubble Pop epiphany was triggered by crisis.
 
I logged into Facebook to play, I promise, just five rounds of Bubble Pop (and at a minute a round, that’s not too, too bad an indulgence, right?). Before I could hit “play,” however, a little box popped up announcing that after September 30, Bubble Pop was done. Would no longer be available. THE TRAUMA!!!!!!
 
The creators then, remembering their commitment to manic cheeriness and good will, added, “As a token of our appreciation, we have credited your account with tons of coins.”
 
Whoaaaa . . . Sounds like a dream, right? I certainly thought so. The coins are actually limitless, which means every bubble-bursting weapon (and life protection aid) was at my disposal. I could play forever. I could never die. Muauahahahhahahahahahahaha! A monster was almost born, except—
 
Except it turns out that in Bubble Pop, as in life, things that come too easily, without work or effort or some sort of cost (time, resources, etc.), lose their value and interest for me. Become boring. Unsatisfying. Blah.
 
I do, on occasion, like most of us I suppose, think things like:
 
If only I’d win the lottery, so I wouldn’t have to work anymore—life would be perfect!
 
If only all my relationships were completely effortless, nothing but an unending stream of Hallmark movie worthy moments forever—
 
If only I didn’t have to do chores, and the house and yard and laundry and dishes took care of themselves . . . I’d have limitless free time to explore things I really care about.
 
If only I didn’t have to struggle to learn new techniques, programs, or material . . . my work and creative life would be ideal.

 
No. Wrong. False. Thoughts like that are based on the erroneous notion that ease brings contentment. I find the reverse is true. Periods of rest, relaxation and “having a good time” are lovely (and necessary), but too much holidaying makes me restless. Irritable.  
 
Pushing myself. Digging deeper. Not knowing if I have the resources or ability to tackle a new task or pull off a new endeavour . . . exhilarating! Challenge keeps life interesting, makes work meaningful, and helps relationships continue to grow and deepen and be satisfying.
 
Bubble Pop can’t truly get full credit for reminding me of all this, but (sadly, embarrassingly!) it did trigger thought . . . and for now, until some other captivating Internet game snags me, I’m back on the wagon, working on things much more interesting and time-worthy than popping yellow, purple, red and blue bubbles with my oh-so-cute cannon . . . trying to ignore the part of me that misses the pop-pop-pop.

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“Lessons From Bubble Pop” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, September 25, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
 


Circles

So, after fourteen years or so where we are now, we’re moving. The house we bought used to be my dad’s—well, actually, my whole family’s. And they say you can’t go home again!

My new office is my old bedroom. Bizarre. And as I pulled out its carpet and built-in closet, then proceeded to paint the room a deep golden yellow called Bengalese Cream, I thought about circles—ones I want to continue and bring back to full strength (the gardens and flowerbeds, the yard!), and ones I want to break entirely, once and for all (for example, a genetic propensity for . . . collecting).

Memories crouch in every corner and sit on every shelf in my new-old house, and as in any life, some are wonderful . . . others not so much.

My little nephew visited one day while I was emptying out the kitchen, and found a smiley-faced toy carrot on a coffee table in the living room. “Hey, I remember this!” he exclaimed with delight—then his tone grew suspicious. “Wait, you’re not throwing it away are you?”

I assured him that no, I wasn’t throwing it away. It was a keeper. And it is. I think, literally, every child and grandchild of Simon and Susanne Higginson has chewed on that rubbery, squeaking toy. It’s practically an institution.

But I am recycling, gifting, selling, or scrap-yarding almost everything else. I have my own stuff, literally and metaphorically, to put into the house now.

At first I felt bad clearing things out, but time moves on and life constantly changes, regardless of the physical items we cling on to, trying to pretend nothing’s different. The task then is to carefully choose a few things that have special significance and pass on everything else to people who can use it better than you. Or that’s my aim anyway.

An antique doughboy in the entrance way will take its place in the living room once more. How can it not? Every time I see it, my sister’s a laughing toddler again, magazines strewn about her, waving, wildly proud, from the compartment she’s standing in.

A wardrobe from the 1800s reminds me of times spent in antique shops and second-hand stores with my mom.

A child-sized workbench, handmade by my dad, will remain in the garage. I can’t wait to outfit it with new tools (The labels for what should hang where are still there!) and restock it with miscellaneous lengths of wood for visiting kids to create with.

I’ve found a number of things we’d all thought lost forever, most notably a whole collection of pictures of one of my brothers. They’d been carefully pilfered out of the collection and mounted on poster board for his wedding. We all just forgot. It was profoundly sweet to look at this lifetime of childhood photos, chosen and arranged by my mom’s hand. You can feel the love—and the fun—she had in putting it together.

Other discoveries are as surprising and painful as a slip of a knife. A card from my husband’s mom (now deceased) to my mom when she was dying. Old letters from my parents to each other when they were fighting. Syringes, long outdated prescriptions, and other paraphernalia related to disease.

I wonder sometimes if I’m up to the task of taking on my family home, with all that concept entails—and while the verdict’s not in (It’s sort of a multi-year project), so far I’m pleasantly surprised and get a little more excited, a little more confident, about our decision every day.

The work is cathartic. I feel my parents smile at me occasionally. My mom shakes her head. “You’re not really going to keep that old thing are you, Ev?” My dad’s voice booms as I heft junk down the stairs: “Yep, you’ve always been a big strong girl.” (You can just imagine how I loved hearing that as a teen!) And in the kitchen, memories of my stepmom’s meals and baked treats inspire daydreams about future family events at the home I’ve circled back to . . .

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“Circles” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 26, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Driving Thoughts

"Driving Thoughts" Photo by Ev Bishop

“Driving Thoughts” Photo by Ev Bishop

I was driving along today, thinking on this and that, but mostly just enjoying the familiar jaunt from the airport into town, soaking in the sunshine, admiring the gorgeous light and the crazy, brilliant—numerous!— varying shades of green that epitomize spring time in Terrace.

A vehicle behind me approached too fast, started tailgating me on the hill. I hate that feeling—of being pressured on the road (and I was doing the speed limit, maybe even riding a km or two over). A specific thought jumped into my head: Just keep your eyes on where you want to go.

I can sometimes be a bit of a nervous driver. I’m a good driver, and I love to drive—but I never feel invincible anymore. My sense of mortality kicked in about the same time I had children. I became aware (God forbid, please) that they could die young—and so could I. But I digress. As I said, I love to drive. I just, sometimes, am too aware of how many pounds my car weighs as it hurtles itself along the highway. And I’m too conscious of other drivers who are not as conscious of their responsibility and the fact that they too are propelling thousands of pounds of steel in other people’s direction.

I’m also, at times, overly cognisant of the surface of the road—worn ridges that shouldn’t be there. Pits and grooves—sink holes. Worse: angles that aren’t conducive to hugging you to the curve.

Someone once told me that the airport hill is such a road—that its angle is wrong and you’re slightly more prone to going off the road there because of it. I’m occasionally plagued by that fact—or fiction—especially when there’s an idiot behind me.

When my nerves shift into overdrive, however, I recall the sage line I mentioned above—I think it was given by my husband, but don’t tell him I credited him with it. Keep your eyes on where you want to go. Don’t panic.

It’s good advice for nervous drivers, novice drivers, and for people learning to ride bikes. You will over correct and zig and zag on the road until you learn to focus ahead of you, not on the nose of your car. And you’ll wibble and wobble, won’t be able to balance, will fall off your bike if you don’t learn to look ahead at where you want to go instead of staring down at where you are. (How I wish I’d had my husband around when I was eight or so and learning to ride a bike!)

Keep your eyes on where you want to go. Calming, practical advice for drivers and wannabe bicyclists, yes—but also good advice for life.

I’m a bit of a nervous liver (as in one who lives, not the organ responsible for aiding digestion, making proteins, and getting rid of toxins!). Not always, but sometimes, I get hung up in the details of where I am in the moment, the crisis of the instance, the busyness of the immediate.

Whether it’s writing or other work related goals, relationship desires, financial plans, or personal improvement endeavours, I can get mired up in where I’ve been or where I seem to be stuck. It’s good to remember that by looking forward, we move forward—and often just by embracing that truth, anxiety eases.

It was a beautiful drive—vibrantly green, with air so fresh and sweet as it rushed in through the open window that I grinned like mad just because life is good. I drove, and I thought, and I kept my eyes on where I wanted to go.

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“Driving Thoughts” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, May 29, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


On Journaling

Photo by Puuikibeach

Photo by Puuikibeach

My daughter got me a snazzy new journal recently. Its designers cleverly titled it “My Dysfunctions,” and its funky yellow cover carries further explanation (less we be unable to figure out what it’s for!): “A journal for chronicling my immeasurably fascinating dysfunctions, neuroses, emotions, inner children, moments of shame and doubt, projection, self-loathing, misanthropy, and completely normal insanity, because the only difference between me and the rest of the population is that I acknowledge how crazy I am and they’re all in mind-numbing denial.” Hilarious and so apt!

While I’ve always wanted to create the kind of journals or diaries you can pass on to loved ones after you die (You know the kind I mean—leather bound beauties, filled with perfectly formed lines, a.k.a. legible ones, that share deep thoughts and entertaining tidbits that somehow manage to speak of the “human experience.”), one only has to flip one or two pages into my scrawls to realize my actual journals are the furthest thing from those daydream ones.

They’re completely random, messy, meandering things—half rant, half . . . boring.

Entries are inconsistent blurts of this and that. I do record small stories about my days, but more often I just vent—journaling to get things out of my system and process (deal with!) things that are going on around me-and/or in my head. And all that’s very valuable—just not something you want your family to stumble upon when you’re gone.

Or maybe it is.

I have a couple of my mom’s old notebooks. I was thrilled when my dad gifted them to me. But then I read them. And was . . . disappointed.

Only the beginning few pages in each were filled out. And there wasn’t a personal vignette to be found.

They were sermon notes. Now don’t get me wrong. I respect (and share) my mother’s faith. And I know the value of note taking—how it aids comprehension and retention. But there was nothing of her in the notes.

I poured over each page, hoping for a tiny visit—a whisper of her voice, her opinion, her humour, her angst, her . . . anything. I’d thought there might be snippets about my little toddler brother, tales about her and my dad, thoughts on parenting . . .

But these were not that type of journal.

What her journals aren’t, however, makes me think mine are okay. Maybe more than okay.

What if I’d read some never-before-guessed secret in my mom’s notebooks? I’d have been delighted, intrigued, curious, not incensed. What if I read her no holds barred inner response to a fight she and my dad—or she and I—had had? Would I be devastated? No. I’d grow from it, learn from it . . . And what if I read about unfulfilled dreams or came across scribblings about things she’d like to do in the future? The words might bring some pain, yes, but mostly they’d bring joy.

We often waste time hiding ourselves—or trying to, anyway. We try to disguise the darker sides of our nature, and strive to avoid what we perceive as “burdening” to others—the sharing of any sorrows, or questions, or doubts. Journaling should be an attempt to bust through that self-censor. A fight against the lonely notion that we can’t—or shouldn’t—say what we honestly feel and think, lest we offend, lest we unintentionally wound, lest people, really knowing us, cease to like us.

I’ve read extremely personal things taken from miscellaneous journals, and I’ve never thought less of the author—just the opposite usually. Uncensored details or observations about love, hate, confusion, beauty, ugliness, relationships—heck, about tea and simple pleasures, make me think, Ah, so that’s what it’s like to be him. To be her. And, perhaps ironically, help me understand myself better.

Someone famous once said something like, “I never worry about what someone might think of my diaries after I’m gone. I’ll be dead.”

Wise words. I wish I could fully embrace them—but the idea of someone reading all my journals makes me cringe. After all, I burnt all my childhood diaries when I was 13. I couldn’t bear the idea of someone perusing me. Sometimes I assure myself that’s what I can do with my spiral bound notebooks, too. But I don’t think I will.

While I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to wade through my impossibly messy, navel-gazing cycle of snooze-inducing blah-blah-blah, my journals are part of me and I’ve made tenuous peace with them. And if someone does page through them when I’m long gone . . . Well, perhaps I should decorate each one with warning labels, similar to the one on my new yellow journal. . . .

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“On Journaling” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, April 24, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Ms. Bishop. In the Library. With the Coffee Mug.

Photo by Ev Bishop

Photo by Ev Bishop

I started to spring clean. I got as far as my library shelves and office cabinet.

I’m prone to flights of daydreaming and distraction at the best of times, but when I’m supposed to be tidying books? Heaven help me! All those ideas, all those adventures, all those life-changing worlds and words . . .

I’ve been known to box up books, only to go back and rescue select titles. I keep doubles of some novels—because they’re that good and because it is a truth universally acknowledged that if you loan books, you rarely get them back. (Of course that fact means I rarely lend in the first place, but I like doubles in case, you know, I start.)

Anyway, armed with fresh coffee, a multitude of multi-sized cardboard boxes, and a belly full of steely resolve, I headed to my miniature library.

I’d just gotten through my writing-related books (mostly keepers), when the biggest killer of productivity, house-cleaning wishes, and de-junking desires hit me: an interesting thought. My brother had been sorting my Dad’s books and commented that you can learn a lot about people from their bookcases.

I found his theory interesting. So interesting that I lost several hours to perusing titles with an eye to what secrets my books might tell about my psyche, obsessions, and beliefs, instead of focussing on whether or not I would ever actually read or refer to them again.

A deer skull (complete with lower jaw and teeth) sits atop one row of books (Christianity and other faith and religion texts). I’m not sure what that says.

A bottle of wine lounges on its side, coming of age in the lofty company of modern literary fiction greats like Joy Kogawa, Barbara Gowdy, Wally Lamb, and Eden Robinson. Why am I storing a bottle of wine there? To make the classic authors a shelf above and a shelf below jealous? Perhaps. Also, it looks kind of pretty.

I have a lot of science fiction—Orwell, Bradbury, H.G.Wells, Asimov and Silverman, Heinlein, Robert J Sawyer. . . .

A full shelf homes titles by authors who are also personal friends. And another carries autographed works. And I have a small (but growing!) section with books that carry stories by me.

I have gads of Stephen King, almost the full Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman (highly recommended, by the way), Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful genre-bending Outlander series, and a myriad of other scary or scintillating tales. They hulk in the shadows, balancing the sweetness and light of my Jan Karon and Maeve Binchy books.

As my children grew, I parted with any kids’ books that were lame—but as children and YA writers are top storytellers in my books (Ha ha, pun intended!), I still have one full five-shelf case of “must keeps.”

My collection is roughly 1/5 non-fiction (but within that, a full shelf is devoted to poetry), with a higher concentration of writing craft and religious texts—but lots of history, social sciences, and philosophy, too

What fascinated me most circles back to my original goal of pruning my collection. Weirdly, it’s not the best books I have the hardest time parting with. The story between the covers isn’t my only consideration—nor the information relayed, nor the style, humour, or power with which the author writes. Not even my firm “Will you ever read this again?” question actually determines whether I cull or not. No, what really hampers my ability to part with a book is the story within the story.

I bought this for Marriah and Christopher at that little bookstore when we were on holidays on the Island.

My aunt and I spotted this book at the same time. She let me have it, but I “owed” her.

This was the first book I read after my mom died.

Aw, this is the one Chris read to Christopher all the time!

Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse! My dad was obsessed with this forever.

And that—the notion that the story within a book is only part of the reason it keeps its spot when another, arguably far superior, might be pulled—was eye opening. I’ve long fought junk collecting because I know what a trap it can become. I had no idea that the psychology behind why I hold onto some books is similar to why some people can’t get rid of broken toys, old clothes, or boxes of knick-knacks they haven’t looked at in years.

I’m happy to say I did complete my library/office weed through. I now have space to justify new books.

The shoe closet and the kitchen cupboards are next. I’m a little scared. If you think I build sentimental, unrelated attachments to books easily, you should see what I can associate with old mixing bowls or a pair of satin slippers!

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“Ms. Bishop. In the Library. With the Coffee Mug” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, March 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


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