I’m writing a scene in my current novel and basing it on my favorite lake, a spot I’ve been missing desperately this cold, wet summer. (I’ve only been out there three times this year! Unheard of for me!) Anyway, revisiting it in fiction reminded me of a column that I loved from my old Terrace Standard writing days and I thought I’d re-share it here. If you, like me, are missing your favorite summer haunt this year, perhaps this will help ease your longing. 💕
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Not “my” lake, but another very beautiful one.
I haven’t gone to the lake much this summer and my impatience for heat and cloudless skies is consuming me. Lakelse Lake Picnic Site has always been a big part of my summer. It’s true that it’s beautiful and worthy of visiting in any season, any weather, but I long for the heat that makes going to the lake seem the only sensible thing to do.
I moved to Terrace in 1979. Driving into town that first time, I was horrified. Had we moved back to Kamloops? The lawns had the same parched, burnt to beige color. Every strip of dirt was hard baked clay. My legs stuck to the ivory vinyl seats of the station wagon and my hair was wet on my neck and glued by sweat to my forehead. It was HOT.
My brother and I unpacked our rooms and tried to explore, but it was too warm. For days we lived in our sprinkler and wading pool. Then water restrictions ruled; no sprinkler all day. We could fill the pool once daily, but a whole day of three kids playing in one small pool quickly creates a grass and dead bug infested mess. It lost its appeal. One day, our mother, driven to desperation by the heat and our constant whining, announced we were going to the lake.
A lake? Finally something that sounded interesting. We packed up chips, green grapes, and sand toys and off we went. Our legs still stuck to the vinyl seats but now it didn’t seem as complaint worthy. Plus, though they stung if you lifted them too quickly, they made farting noises if you lifted them slowly. Endlessly amusing.
“We’ll never get there,” we moaned eventually. Then suddenly we were at the top of a hill, and what could we see shimmering blue between the trees and mountains in the distance? Could it be?
“Look guys, there’s the lake,” my mom confirmed.
“HOORAY,” we yelled. (It would become our tradition to repeat those exact words, with feverish glee, every time we spotted the lake in the future.)
Walking the paved path to the graveled picnic area and coming upon the incredible, huge fairy story trees and the glimmering expanse of water that looked golden in the afternoon sun made me, for the first time, think that maybe, just maybe, this living in Terrace idea could be okay.
We visited the lake almost every day for the rest of the summer. We’d work all morning (my mom could bribe us to do almost anything with promise of a lake trip), and by afternoon it would be so hot that even she wouldn’t feel like working. Thus started a habit I’ve kept for over thirty years: hit the lake as soon and as often as possible.
Now when I sit on the rough bark of a natural tree bench that I’ve visited for years, squishing sand through my toes, my mind and my body remember my childhood.
In the water I am forever eight. My feet delight in the soft-as-silk rippled sand under the water. I still alligator walk and do dolphin dives and continuous back rolls; I can’t help myself. I still know the disgusting but hilarious feeling of a handful of lake bottom on my back or head. A weed grabbing my ankle still makes me shriek, and the underwater whine of boat engines still creeps me out. I daydream about mermaids.
Staring up at the sky, I realize that visiting this spot is the most consistent thing in my life. The water has seen every bathing suit I’ve owned. Every person I’ve tried to be or thought I was has walked the beach. I was a child here and a dream-filled teen. This site has known my friends, boyfriends, and husband. I’ve been pregnant on its sands and nursed my newborns in its huge trees’ shade. My children played here—and now I come to its shores and splash in the waves with my adult son and my daughter and her husband.
The drive is shorter to me now that I’m an adult, my car has cloth seats that I don’t stick to, and often I’m alone. But when I get to that certain place on the hill, I still announce, “There’s the lake!” and my whole body feels it: HOORAY. Yeah, this living in Terrace idea is a pretty good one after all.
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“Lake Days” originally ran in the Terrace Standard in July 2001, but in light of the beautiful weather we’ve enjoyed this year I thought it was a lovely one to share once more, edited slightly to adjust for the passage of even more years–and my editors agreed. Thus it was reprinted in the Standard August 25th, 2015. I hope it triggers fond memories of your own childhood. Enjoy these last long days of summer, everyone—and get thee to the lake! ~ Ev
August 8, 2020 update: As you know, I just shared this piece again on my blog today. What can I say? It is still my favorite of favorite places, only made more special by how little it changes over time, while everything else morphs at a crazy pace. Case in point, and beyond special, I now share my timeless beach with two little grandsons who seem well on their way to adoring it as much as I do.
If you read my column “Lessons From Bubble Pop,” I know what you’re thinking: What, she’s writing about another computer game? She has a problem.
While it’s kind of cruel of you to be so judgmental, I can’t argue with you. I really am a game addict and Tetris has topped the list of my weaknesses since approximately 1988.
At various times in my life I’ve been on the wagon, the longest break being the years I no longer frequented Gus’s Arcade. Online Tetris versions were lame compared to the arcade game—or were until I joined Facebook and discovered—Oh, the joy, oh, the agony, oh, the huge time suckage but wonderful stress reliever—Tetris Battle.
(You said there was a lesson in this blather, I hear you mutter—and right you are. Patience, patience. All the little blocks will fall into place soon and you’ll soon see what I’m putting down. Heh heh. A Tetris joke. Get it?)
ANYWAY, I’ve been playing like a mad woman again because after a six-month hiatus, I logged in and discovered I’d lost my rank and had to restart from scratch. (I know. It’s an outrage.)
It’s been a rough month. February weather is hard on my spirits in general (although the respite provided by the crazy, glorious snowstorm was lovely!), plus some things in my personal life have been tough—and professionally I’ve been fraught with indecision and insecurity about the path I’ve chosen and the direction I’m going. . . . Sounds familiar, right? Yes, I think it’s called life, sometimes. . . .
But I’ve been kicking butt in Tetris at least.
The lesson I want to share comes—as so many lessons do—from a mistake I made. For an instant, while battling a User-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I broke with my proven strategy and looked to see how my opponent was doing.
Gah! I recognized my error immediately. He was doing great. Had even dropped more lines than I had. (The horror, the horror!) Flustered, I made a rookie error, landed a Z shape at an awkward angle, leaving a gap exposed—then compounded the problem by dropping a square too close, so I couldn’t snug another piece under the jutting edge.
Even worse, I darted a sideways glance again to see how badly my screw-up had hurt my game. Bleeeep—KO’D. Even as the buzzer sounded, my brain screamed, “What were you doing? Don’t look. Don’t look!”
Wham! Crossover wisdom hit me and fleshed itself out. Don’t look at your neighbor or friend or peer. Keep focused on your plan, your goal, what works for you.
To win in Tetris, you can’t let yourself get distracted by someone else’s progress, concentrate too heavily on the way they play, or compare their results to your own. Doing so will immobilize you, fill you with doubt, and crush your game.
The same is true for other parts of life. I’m usually content with my home, relationships, accomplishments, work——until I fall into the comparison trap. I sometimes need to remind myself: Don’t look! Zeroing in on how someone else is doing doesn’t change my situation, skills, talents, or assets—but it does take my focus off what it should be on: what I do have, what I can do, what I should do.
Flipping that (because there’s always flipping in Tetris), all of life is not like the game. Sometimes contemplating what other people are doing encourages, challenges and spurs you on. . . .
The trick, I guess, is to know which to do and when. Thankfully, the answer’s fairly clear. If looking at others makes you dissatisfied or diminishes your ability to maneuver the pieces of your life with joy and ease, stop looking. If studying someone else fills you with a sense of possibility or lends you a strategy you hadn’t yet considered, gawk away.
And now I’m off to level up. 🙂
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“Don’t Look! A Tetris Battle lesson” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 25, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
I’m learning to knit. (Emphasis on the learning—though my very patient, good-humored instructor/friend may laughingly, kindly—but mockingly nonetheless—question if I’m actually learning anything. I might have to post a picture to Facebook to prove that I have mastered, er . . . managed, the knit stitch and the purl stitch now.)
When I told her, pre-first lesson, that I was a complete beginner I don’t think she realized that meant I had never knitted a stitch in my life. People downplay their abilities all the time. Not me. It took me a full hour to grasp how to make the slipknot needed in order to cast on. I even had to be shown how to hold the needles, for crying out loud—but I digress.
“You’re overthinking it,” she said. I couldn’t argue. Overthinking is what I do. In fact, I’ve made it an art, not merely a way to procrastinate. Over the next few weeks I thought a lot about my overthinking while I knit row after row after row—only to take out every stitch and restart from scratch multiple times.
I really like knitting. It’s incredibly soothing to sit, mug of tea close at hand, repeating the same stitch again and again, watching as a lovely (in my current project) swath of deep purples, plums, and blues—like a night sky over the ocean—grows in a gentle swell beside me. I haven’t quite reached the phase where I can knit without looking (though I can glance up, hold a conversation, etc.), but I can let my mind roam—or my mind insists on roaming all on its own. And with my hands busy, whatever topics I dwell on, even not-so-nice stuff and “hard” things, seem more manageable somehow.
As a culture, we’ve benefited a lot from automation and the invention of a bazillion machines and tools to replace work previously done by hand, free time being our biggest gain. Yet in losing those types of chores, I find myself wondering if we also haven’t lost something important—an age-old way our brains used to cope with worry, stress or sadness.
When doing productive work that engages my brain just enough to keep me attentive to my surroundings, but not so much that I can’t think about separate things, solutions to everyday problems seem to arrive out of nowhere. It’s like moving through the rows of a project causes my thoughts to move forward too. I can’t stay stuck on one track or dwell too obsessively.
And unlike so many other parts of life where there are no easy answers, perfect solutions, or quick fixes, there’s something very satisfying and rewarding about this type of tangible-results task: I worked for this long; I accomplished this.
North American culture, one of the wealthiest and most pleasure-orientated of any society, ancient or modern, is also one of the most unsettled and discontent. We’re bombarded by noise, images, and information constantly—at work, at school, and, ever-increasingly, at home too—and all too often we have no outlet, no avenue to deal with the sensory overload.
Enter knitting—or some other wooly-brained pursuit. I don’t think the majority of us will ever make all our own clothing, blankets and bedding again, but we can all benefit from reclaiming some of those old skills. Learn to knit, even just to make your own dishcloths. Darn socks and sweaters (and teach your kids). Bring back the mending basket—where shirts or pants with torn seams sit, then get repaired on a wet afternoon, instead of being thrown out. It’s healthy for the pocketbook, environmentally responsible—and good for our heads.
I suspect I have many, many scarves in my future, and that’s, well, perfect. I like scarves. And so does my brain. Never felt a minute’s stress or mental overload? Lucky jerk, ha ha—knit anyway. It’s also just plain fun.
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“Wooly Thoughts” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, November 26, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
In my late teens/early twenties, I decided that was it. I was done writing. I would never pen again. I quit. (I could bore you with stories of my insecurity, of neuroses and perfectionism, of worries about what people might—gasp—think of me and the horrors that come from my brain, but as I now think all those “blocks” are common stuff that all artists struggle to work through—that might even be a necessary part of the process—I will spare you. Or I’ll spare you for now. I may write about young Ev someday!)
For many reasons I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, listen to the deep inner-whisper that never let up, Write, write, write, write, you need to write, it’s you to write, you love to write, write, write . . .
Then one day I was at a friend’s cabin on Lakelse Lake (Mark Anson—I am forever grateful to you!), and I came across The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I asked Mark about it, and he raved about how good it was, then added, “Actually, I pulled it out because I was thinking you need to read it.”
It sounds cheesy to say the book revolutionized my life. But that’s what happened. I “did” the book. (It’s laid out as a 12-week artist recovery program. But don’t laugh. That’s exactly what I needed.) I answered all the prying questions. Took the assignments seriously. Adopted a habit of morning pages. Started taking artist dates . . .
And by the end, though I realized I’d no doubt be plagued by insecurity again off and on (and that’s definitely been the case!), I had the tools to overcome the negative voices that would see me stifled and sure I couldn’t create—and more importantly: I was infused with joy and excitement and a huge AHA! I was a writer. A storyteller. Maybe even a poet. Not crazy. (Or at least, not all the time.) Not depressed. (Ha—again, at least not all the time!) Just angst-ridden because I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do. What was essential to making me me.
Does it all sound more than a little self-helpey? I guess so. But did it help me? Absolutely.
To this day, whenever I feel my courage regarding my writing start to wane, whenever I begin to second guess the time and effort I put into something so “selfish,” whenever I doubt that I’m working in the direction I need to be, I return to the steps in The Artist’s Way. I take up morning pages again. (I probably should never stop them to begin with, but that’s another topic.) I strive to “fill the well,” which basically just means intentionally doing things that nourish your soul, like going on artist dates (a.k.a. visiting inspiring places), taking classes or workshops directly related (or not!) to fostering/developing creativity, treating yourself to a little craft-related splurge, etc.
This month I found myself needing a little encouragement, a little more play in my work (and a lot less obligation), so I decided to bring back artist’s dates. Yay! (What’s not to love about taking time out to do things that you know will inspire or refresh you?)
The two-hour paint fest was pure fun, but it also had practical carryover for my writing life—a reminder (with exuberant “practice”) to not over think, plan to death, obsess about each detail . . . just CREATE. Worry about craft and polish at some far off date when the created work is out there in full, where you can see its whole shape, wackiness, potential, nightmare spots, etc. At least that’s what I took from the workshop anyway. 🙂
I don’t know if you’re feeling a bit slumpish, or burned out, or burdened with lofty goals in whatever creative pursuit you hold dear . . . And don’t get me wrong. Goals are good. Plans are great. But artistic dreams shouldn’t feel like drudgery or chores. There will be agony and sweat and work, yes—but there should also be joy and euphoria—fun!If you’re experiencing lots of the former, not so much of the latter . . . Maybe you, like me, need to give your inner artist a play date or two. I highly recommend paint! ☺
Now I leave you with a quote Noreen gave us at the beginning of the workshop. It was exactly what I needed to hear, to remember, and to celebrate. 🙂
“Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There’s only make.” ~ Corita Kent
It’s been too long since I celebrated Déjà vu Thursday; consider this post me bringing the tradition back. I love to cook (and to eat) and today, while it’s cold and blowy out, the urge to fill the house with comforting smells and heat is stronger than ever. Enjoy!
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. . . writing is like cooking is like painting is like sculpture is like music is like gardening is like tying flies is like carving is like making bread is like making wine is like singing is like dancing is like cooking is like writing . . .
I’ve been thinking a lot about creative endeavours as a whole lately—thoughts sparked, I’m sure, by two gallery openings I got to attend (Noreen Spence’s took my breath away), but kindled into full flame by Laura Best’s great post on the same topic, my summer gallivants to the local farmer’s market and all the cooking I’ve been doing lately.
I love writing more than almost anything, playing with words, fighting with words, praying with words, crying and bleeding in words, loving through words, and yet—
When I cook, particularly when I’ve using fresh good ingredients, a feeling kindred to what I experience when I write wells up in me.
In concocting the perfect meal, there’s the same search for just the right bits and just the right balance of those bits—too much spice overpowers, diminishing/desensitizing the tastes buds, and flavour is actually lost, not enhanced. Too little seasoning and there’s no interest, no pizzazz.
And to cook well, you have to be brave, willing to experiment, not afraid to fail . . .
But you also have to build on prior knowledge—yours and others. Cooking is a pleasure and an art. It is also darn hard (and hot!) work sometimes. And there will always be those who don’t appreciate what you have to offer.
What you put into your work always counts. You can wreck quality ingredients, but it is hard to totally ruin them. On the other hand, however, if you start with crap—processed, chemically enhanced, super sugary, high fat junk—well, people might ingest it, might even think they like it, but for how long? That kind of meal does nothing for a person over the long term, has no lasting satisfaction and makes you feel empty sooner than later.
Good meals take time to prepare and they can be labour intensive, but the subtle flavours, complex layers and textures, the sensuous details—they give something to you that lasts far after you’ve finished the last bite. They become a part of your overall health and well-being. They create a feeling of abundance and community, and even if the taste was bittersweet, you’re better off for having experienced it.
Cooking and writing. I’ve yet to find better forms of nourishment. How about you? Is there something else that you do in life that echoes the joy and satisfaction that writing gives you?
Photo by bibliothekarin on flickr. Click picture to see more of his/her art.
So I’ve been sitting at my computer for over an hour this lovely Saturday morning, and are new words pouring forth? Or am I churning out pages of tightly edited prose?
Uh . . . In a word, no.
In more words: not even close, though I have played enough Tetris Battle on Facebook that I’m out of energy and can’t play anymore (which is a relief, because if I was waiting for willpower to get me off the stupid game, I’d be there ’til tonight). I keep getting stuck between Level 20 and 21–but I digress. Where was I? Oh, right . . . Out of energy.
So I opened my planner because rather than actually get started, I figured why end a perfectly good stretch of procrastination when I can continue it by industriously planning to to start . . .
And what’s the first thing I see? The inspirational quote for this weekend:
“Romance and procrastination do not go hand in hand.” ~ Chris Howden.
I have no idea what Chris meant by those words exactly, but seeing as my current WIP is a romance and I’ve been stalling most of week, writing only in fits and spurts, it felt like pretty pointed commentary. Disliking being pointed at, not feeling inspired, I decided to turn the planner’s page. Surely better, sager, less mean advice would be there to motivate me.
What meets me?
“I’m a huge fan of my iPad, but the question remains: is it an incredibly useful piece of technology or the ultimate portal for distraction?” Noel Hudson.
Okay, fine. I can take hints wielded as subtly as a baseball bat. I’m getting to work now.
It’s a bit of misnomer, however, as words rarely fail me (more like I occasionally fail them!). I do, however, like to dabble in other forms of artistic expression and while I would never call myself an artist, more and more often these days, I find myself taking a black Sharpie (TM) to paper or playing with paint.
And seeing as I think this is going to be a regular part of my life, I decided to dedicate a page on my website to sharing some of my creations. There are only two pieces up right now (“Family Portrait” and “I am your mother!”), but I’ll add more as they come into being (and when I take digital images of existing ones).
How about you? Are you strictly a writer or do you create in other modes and mediums as well? If the latter, do you feel it adds to or detracts from your writing? How so? Inquiring minds want to know. 😉
In just a little while I’ll be heading out to a second day of Thanksgiving feasting and I’m hoping I can do the spread justice, as I’m still full from yesterday’s imbibing and merrymaking at my house.
My stomach isn’t the only thing that’s bursting, however. As corny as it is, my heart and mind are too.
My dad, though unfortunately not—and maybe not ever—out of the woods, is, however, home again after many months away. Having him back and looking well and feeling energetic and a bit angst-ridden because he’s chomping at the bit, wanting to do stuff is amazing. He has a great appetite and is more than up to visiting.
My little kids (actually not so little) are healthy and thriving. My husband and I are enjoying autumn and the crisp air, vivid colours, and food prep (Mmmmm, blackberry jam, smoked salmon, pickles and huge batches of homemade soups for the freezer) that come with it.
Writing inspiration has been more plentiful than ever lately (two new novel ideas, and schemes about a putting together a poetry chapbook), I’m almost finished the second draft of my latest work-in-progress, and I’m preparing to head off to SiWC 2012 in ten days—yay and yay!
There are always hard things in life and some seasons that are tougher than others. After a few particularly gruelling months, coming together with people I love and consciously focussing on and celebrating the good things—the blessed things—that co-exist with the hard ones is wonderful.
Whether it’s your Thanksgiving month or not, I hope little things happen this week that remind you of all the good in your life—particularly if you have some not-so-good stuff you’re dealing, too.
Radelet's Cherry Tree. Copyright Noreen Spence. Digital Image used with permission.
I was ecstatic to receive an e-mail the other day from one of my favourite artists (her trees, her trees!), Noreen Spence, announcing that she has her “fabulous new studio set up” and is back to painting large (as in huge canvases!).
AND she’s offering painting lessons–at said new, fabulous studio where you’ll be “ surrounded by the nurturing forest, where the generous light pours in through five enormous windows, and where there is room to move.”
In addition to be wildly talented, Noreen is a really caring, thoughtful, affirming person and whether your goals are just to try something new, to have fun, or even to yes, give yourself permssion to be or become an artist, I know her lessons will enhance your life and your craft.
She offers three different fee structures:
Individual 1 hr lessons, $30 per hour
Group lessons, 1.5 hrs, 3 people, $15 per session
Individual 2 hr lessons, $50 per session
To find out more or to register, give Noreen a call at (250) 635-6938.
I found it pretty amusing (actually giggled) when I popped in to my little cobweb-growing blog today and realized that the last thing I posted before disappearing into the offline hinterlands for over a month was basically an ode to the online writing world. I really wasn’t trying to be a big hypocrite, I promise.
And while I didn’t fall off my writing and editing pony, a bit of sacrifice was needed and that sacrifice was called Internet Time.
Now though, my holidays are but good memories of sunshine, sand, salt water, and visits with dear friends and family. The sky has opened up (yet again) and there are (still more) record rainfalls. My kids and husband have returned to school and regular work hours. The end of September is herding me, as it usually does, back here and to various other online haunts. Yep, I’m back on the horse again (even if I still feel slightly headless).
I like the renewed discipline and passion that always seems to strike at this time of year, along with a fresh sense of possibility and promise. I love that September beckons to October—who will come quickly and bring SiWC along with. I revel in a return to warm drinks perched close by and the soothing click-click of keyboard keys.
In the summer, I work hard to fit my writing in. In the fall and winter, the long evenings and nights remind me that I’ve been silly. What could there ever be to do that’s more important or more fun than getting my thoughts down and letting stories run from my brain to the page?
How about you, dear readers? Are you back, comfy in the saddle of your desk chair, or do you need to go off on a few more end-of-summer gallops before reining yourself in?
Either way, happy reading, writing and dreaming this autumn! I’ll say good night now, before I stretch my already thin metaphor to breaking point. 🙂