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.”


Good For What Ails Me

I’ve been experiencing lovely, productive-feeling days this month. (I say “productive-feeling” because I think most days my output is the same, just sometimes it feels like “more” somehow than other days!) Maybe if you’re feeling less than prolific, inspired, or motivated, today’s Déjà vu Thursday, originally published here Feb. 18, 2013, will cheer you.
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Photo copyright (c) Marriah Bishop

Photo copyright (c) Marriah Bishop

Sometimes I romanticize the writing life. (Well, pretty much every aspect of life actually, but I’ll just focus on the writing aspects for now.) And while normally I feel this is a lovely quality, it has a downside. It can make me feel, when writing sessions are more tedious than magical, that maybe it’s because of some inherent flaw in me. Maybe I’m an impostor. A fraud.

I want “perfect” writing days:

Sessions where every penned nuance and detail is rife with significance.

Times with the texture and quality of embossed leather or whiskey soaked velvet (though if I think about it, I’m not really sure how either of those would describe a day at all).

Sprees filled with rambling, writerly chats, obscure poems found wedged between the floor boards in a bedroom of a long vacant house (again, a detail that seems sort of impossible to randomly happen upon when my butt is planted in my office chair, but don’t over think things: this is a perfect day, people!), and wine drank from pewter goblets.

Weather that’s all sunrise, sunset, or storm. Lavender-grey sky. Charcoal-soot clouds. Pounding rain that bends the trees and echoes my heart.

Hours when time pauses and my prose falls effortlessly upon the page, as moving and powerful as a wind that shakes leaves, bends boughs, and changes the season.

I want to be the poet in the turret, the crazy longhaired maiden-crone in the attic (but one whose family doesn’t disown her!).

So, although I often find that the reality of being a writer is pretty great, by comparison to the stuff of my daydream writer life, it’s sometimes a little disappointing. Or a lot, depending on the day. I’m continually surprised that writing is actually work—sometimes really hard work. It’s something I have to schedule in. It rarely just happens. And often it’s painful, like I’m a surgeon charged with the task of removing my own organs without anaesthetic and spreading them around for the world to see. But worse than the pain is the fear.

The fear that I actually have nothing to say. That perhaps the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” was written with me in mind (“Aren’t they beautiful?” “Isn’t what beautiful? There’s nothing there.”) Fear that I am mediocre at best. Fear that people will see me naked and laugh, or worse, avert their eyes, turn away—ashamed, unable to relate, embarrassed for me. And even more fear: that I will never be read or connected with at all. I will send parts of myself into the void and be met with . . . silence.

How silly I am to worry about such things hit me afresh yesterday.

I’d fled my computer for a break to work in the yard. The air had a quality that, I don’t know, just made me want to laugh. Sweet and fresh, yet here and there, tinged with the earthy scent of dead plants, no longer frozen, freed to rot. The fecund smell of approaching spring is so ancient and independent of human involvement that it always seems almost otherworldly to me—yet also somehow makes me feel like every dream is possible.

The sun was trying to warm the winter-cold earth, and a brisk breeze carried an invigorating lesson: New life erupts from death. Growth springs forth from decay and rot and . . . well, shit.

Creation can be painful—just listen to my chickens. Yet, day in and day out, they each lay an egg—and though they complain bitterly during the process, they squawk equally proudly about the results of their labour. And as inglorious and common as laying an egg every day may be to some, each speckled brown oval is its own miracle too.

Does the chicken question whether it can lay an egg, or if it can, will it be a good enough egg, or if its worthy of even attempting to lay an egg in the first place? I’m not a chicken whisperer, but I don’t think so. Hens definitely seem to have more of an “I’m a chicken, dammit. Of course I lay eggs. Get over yourself and get cracking” attitude. Can I do any less or be any less pleased with my output?

And the chickens lay regardless of the day, temperature, or individual mood—mild and balmy, or bitter and hideous. And likewise, my hedge puts out buds when it’s supposed to, despite the wind, the danger of frost. . . . It seems to like it when I fuss, but it does its thing whether I’m there or not.

I have perfect dreamy writing days occasionally, and they’re amazing. I mean who doesn’t love to feel their work is going well, that they’ve connected with something deep within themselves, and enjoyed the process? Who doesn’t revel in a bit of romance?

I wonder though—perhaps ironically—if my writing is better on the days it feels like organ-extraction? Or if maybe the revolutions between between angst and toil and ecstasy and pleasure are all necessary? Maybe writing is like the rest of life, a continual shift of seasons. Some more enjoyable than others, perhaps, but all crucial, all inevitable. And maybe it’s just something I shouldn’t think about too much—just enjoy and accept (with a little squawking occasionally!).


Cracked Open

Try Grammarly’s plagiarism checker free of charge because imitation and/or copying someone’s work is not a sincere form of flattery!
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Ahhh, Ocean! Photo Copyright Ev Bishop.

Ahhh, Ocean! Photo Copyright Ev Bishop.

I’ve just returned from a very restful, inspiring, sun-drenched, sand-filled, saltwater-soaked vacation in Newport Beach, California.

I loved playing in the white sand that was hot under my feet. I adored wearing flip-flops as I tripped along the boardwalk, knowing friends and co-workers back home were in their winter gear, suffering fresh snow and below freezing temperatures. (Sorry guys!) And it was very special to spend do-nothing-but-have-fun family time with my husband, nieces, sister, stepmom, and daughter. The biggest impact of the trip, however, came from the ocean.

I was amazed by her. Awed.

Obviously, living where I do, I’m already familiar with the Pacific—but let me tell you: her waters are very different up in northern British Columbia than they are in southern California.

I spent a lot of time playing in the surf, being knocked down and getting up again, being dragged back into deeper water as the ocean readied to send another wave, and, most fun of all, swimming out over my head, beyond the crash line, where even the hugest waves were just starting as rolling swells. Above me, the sky was so blue and just . . . huge. And all around me, as far as my eye could see, was water. Since it’s California’s “winter” too, there weren’t a lot of locals in the water. Sometimes, for hours, I was the only one.

And maybe it was the salt pulling things out of me, the same way soaking in Epsom salts releases toxins. Or maybe it was because it was the first time in far, far too long where I didn’t have anywhere to go specifically or anyone I had to see, and my mind was deliciously free and uncluttered. Or perhaps it was the sounds of the ocean working to bring the tide in or out, the sea birds calling and swooping about, blotting out any noise in my head . . . But whatever the reason or combination of reasons, something deep inside me cracked open, and I had one of those strange epiphanies, where you can see so clearly where you’ve come from, where you are, and where you want to go next.

Sometimes it’s easy to lie to ourselves, to make excuses for why we’re standing still instead of moving forward, to justify our reasons for sticking with things that are no longer a good fit.

I found that out there, salt-crusted, saturated and awed by the unmitigated power, depth and magnitude of the ocean, it was impossible to be false with myself. I might as well have tried to keep the surf from crashing, or the sand from pulling away beneath my feet in the after effects of the waves. But it wasn’t a negative or self-condemning sort of feeling. I didn’t beat myself up for work not done or goals not accomplished. And it wasn’t merely a giddy, momentary flash of newfound enthusiasm (though I did feel those lovely bursts too). The feeling was a deep sense of readiness, of quiet resolution and surety. A sense that change is coming, and instead of fighting it or being afraid of it, I was going to welcome it and move with it.

I kept waking up my first couple of nights home because I missed the sound of the surf—and I’d only been away eight days. I’ve carried the decision I arrived at in the waves with me, however, and while my suntan’s receding, my resolve hasn’t waned.

I’ll be making some exciting announcements the next two months or so. In the meantime, if you can somehow sneak away to a beach—ocean, river or lakeside—to do some thinking and dreaming, I highly recommend it.


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.”


What You Need

But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this  . . . ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014


“But the sun’s been quite kind . . .” ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014

January can be pretty low for me—low energy, low funds, low light, low . . . And this year, a series of tough situations conspired to bring me lower—the rotten kind of events, where people I care about are being kicked in the face by life in ways I’m powerfulness to help in any practical, lasting way. You relate, perhaps?
 
Waging war with the gloom, however, I also experienced some intensely lovely moments this month—things that reminded me of all the good in life, and in people, that coexists with the . . . not so good.  
 
The incident with the most impact came totally out of the blue, and occurred, of all places, in the post office.
 
I had just received hard news and treated myself to a London Fog, while I wrote a note to my sister as a pick me up. Afterwards, I went to the post office to mail it, then checked out the lobby’s bulletin board. A unique poster grabbed my eye right away.
 
It was photocopied in black and white, but no less beautiful for the lack of colour. Funky block letters on a collaged-background made a strange but nice request: “Take what you need.”
 
Beneath the words and the artwork were tear-away tabs, but they didn’t hold contact numbers. They carried things the creator thought you might need:
 
Hope. Courage. Forgiveness. Love. Laughter. Peace of mind. Faith. Tenderness. Beauty. Strength. Rest. Passion.
 
Half the tabs were already missing. (In fact, I only know what each one said because tiny font on the poster’s edge gave copyright to Kelly Rae Roberts and I googled her name along with “Take what you need” until I found a copy of the same poster, intact.) I don’t know what I found more encouraging: that someone randomly posted it for no obvious reason other than to put some kindness and inspiration into the world—or that people were moved, like I was, to take something away with them.
 
I chose faith—something I’m in want of in multiple areas of my life right now. Which would you have taken? What do you particularly need?
 
I left the post office feeling a little lighter, a little stronger, a little more resilient.
 
And as so often happens, one positive moment opened my eyes to an abundance of other encouraging, buoying things.
 
I had wonderful coffee visits with friends who simultaneously challenged me and affirmed some of the ideas percolating in my head.  
 
An old acquaintance from the past reconnected via e-mail, triggering good memories and excitement about new inspirations.
 
A complete stranger offered, uninitiated by me, to advertise the launch of the first novel in a series I’m going to publish and to help with any questions I have along the way.
 
Someone gave us a beautiful new chicken—her “nicest, kindest” one—because she’d heard our solitary hen was lonely. Funny, but it really moved me.  
 
In a coffee shop, a young woman out for coffee by herself, slipped out to the washroom, leaving her bag and laptop on the counter where she’d been sitting. Some people might say it was stupid or asking for trouble, but I thought it was a good lesson. Sometimes we have to stop thinking of—almost expecting—worst case scenarios. We need to remember that a lot of people are decent. Are trustworthy. Are kind.
 
If you’re a little—or a lot—low these days, or going through things you have no idea how to resolve, I pray you experience some high notes this week—that you, like me, get what you need and find encouragement in some small, unexpected way.  

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“What You Need” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 29, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Home again, home again, jiggety jig

This post was originally published in the Terrace Standard, November 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” At the time of writing, I’d been home from my London trip a mere two weeks . . . now it’s been close to a month. The sentiments remain true, however. Enjoy!
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Me in London town, the Shard, and the Thames!

Me in London town, the Shard, and the Thames!

I can’t believe it’s only been sixteen days since I returned from London. Already my memories feel more like dreams. Crazy! I didn’t think I was going to regale you with tales from across the pond, but enough kind people asked me to write a follow up, that what can I do but spill some of the fun, fading-too-quickly, details?
 
The first surprise came before I left Canadian airspace. I used to think I didn’t like flying. It turns out I only dislike flying in small, cramped, bumpy, cold, loud planes. I adore lounging in huge, lush planes, with movies and blankets and flight attendants who bring wine. I’ve since been informed that it’s not usual, at all, to get three seats to yourself on an overseas flight, and I admit close seatmates wouldn’t have been cool, but hey, I didn’t have seatmates, so there!
 
Heathrow is a huge airport—and I was a little shocked by how serious the customs guy took my entry into the country. Maybe I was a little too wide-eyed and smiley, thus suspicious.
 
In no particular order, some of my first impressions: the train station, all those platforms, like something directly out of Harry Potter, and the tube! And people! So many, many, many people. Everywhere! The incredible age of buildings and homes. All the beautiful brick (house after house after house is brick): so lovely. A touch of disappointment at the accents—softer, less pronounced than I expected. (Later, when I travelled to Lancashire, I got my fix—some wonderful voices and words there! And speaking of accents, I apparently have a strong one and was frequently asked to repeat myself. Ha, who knew?) 
 
My friend and I (so much thanks to her for all the fun we had) visited every place on my itinerary, except for Stratford-upon-Avon, due to car issues (who knew cars in the UK can be just as temperamental as their Canadian cousins?), and I can’t pick favourites.
 
I was incredibly moved by Westminster Abbey (People have been worshipping and seeking God there for nearly 1000 years!), and equally as much by St Paul’s Cathedral.
 
The Tower of London was every bit as fascinating as I thought it would be, though much, much bigger, with many more towers and crooks and crannies than I was expecting. The graffiti etched into the stone, some of it dating back to the 1500s was, is . . . mind-blowing. Very sad some of it, and thought-provoking—and amazing that all those images and messages, pleas and testaments of beliefs and conviction, carved by hand, still survive today.
 
The dominant emotion of my trip? A sort of surreal joy, akin to surprise. I was constantly awed by the generations of stories attached to places, by the age and the ornate detail of the historic buildings, and by the juxtaposition of the ancient with the ultra modern. It’s one thing to know intellectually that something exists—and quite another to visit it yourself . . . to walk over the vaults of interred kings and queens and other folk . . . to see segments of roman walls . . . to view actual, original paintings by Monet . . . Mind blowing. 
 
As much fun as I had in London, it felt like a place to visit. I had no daydreams about living there—which was why a touch of wistfulness when I visited Oxford after touring Stonehenge (Stonehenge! Such a crazy, mysterious place!) startled me. I love the life my husband and kids and I have built and wouldn’t change it, but we all have those roads not taken in our past that sometimes, when thinking back, give us pause and make us wonder what if . . . I would have loved to read English at Oxford.
 
Another slightly strange moment of familiarity or kinship hit when I arrived in Adlington in Lancashire to meet extended family. I swear my grandpa chose to settle in Smithers, on Kidd Rd, because the landscape was so like that of his childhood’s—though with Cottonwood trees, not Beech. I had a bizarre sense of coming home. The Chorley/Rivington/Adlington area fit my imagination’s vision of “English countryside” perfectly—lovely, green and rolling, and covered with sheep!
 
It may sound cheesy, but it was a dream trip—though when I left, I was definitely ready to be home with my honey in our wildly beautiful, sparsely populated corner of the woods.
 
And do I already have future gallivants planned? Yes, I just might . . . 


E-reading + Ether Books + short stories by me!

On this cold, blustery, rain-swept night (my favourite fall kind!), I hope you’re home and snuggled on the couch with a blanket, a glass of wine and a good read . . .or, at least, that you will be soon. And in light of that wish, I present today’s Déjà vu Thursday, originally published here Dec. 28, 2010. May you find a short story or two to amuse you and/or make you think!

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evbishopetherbooks-1So how many of you found an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or some other e-reader wrapped in pretty packaging this year? I sort of did. My mother-in-law spoiled my hubby and me with a very generous gift and I decided to dedicate my half to my craft: an online writing class and an iPhone (Yay! I knew there was a reason I was still using my old flip-talk even though Bell has been telling me for almost five years that I’m “entitled” to a new phone). I’m completely excited, primarily because of the phone’s e-reading possibilities.

As a reader and a writer, I have always adored the short story form, but it’s become harder and harder to find short stories to read (and short story markets to submit to).

The boom of e-zines has been good for us short story lovers, however (especially the story-a-day sites like Every Day Fiction Magazine and Daily Science Fiction, but perhaps the saviour of the short story will be electronic readers, including the new generations of phones with their lovely do-everything-but-the-dishes apps and gorgeous screens. Perfect for packing lightly in your bag or pocket, you have a variety of reads available wherever you go. And what better read could a person have in transit or when waiting for a meeting than a short story?

Ether Books
, a UK publisher, agrees with me so much that its whole focus is publishing “the very best short stories and essays from today’s literary stars and up-and-coming writers directly to your own phone.”

And, I’m ecstatic to say, Ether Books has acquired three of my short stories–all speculative in some way or another–for your reading pleasure (er, well, I hope it’s pleasure!): “HVS,” “Red Bird,” and “Wishful.”

I’d love for you to read them and share the word with any one you know who likes a weird little story–and don’t stop with my works. Ether’s “shelves” are full with a great collection of short stories and essays in every genre you can imagine.

Ether Books’ app is available for free here or by searching for Ether Books with your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad.

You can find “HVS,” “Red Bird,” and “Wishful” by searching for my author name, Ev Bishop.

Just for fun, see if you can spot me in Ether Books’ “Our Writers” page. ;)

If you read my stories, please share them and/or review them! I’d love feedback.

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p.s. Updated note . . . Even since I wrote this, the e-reading world has changed dramatically. I think the majority of avid readers have an e-reader now, or at least some device that they can purchase electronic stories for . . . Do you agree? :)


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