Happy New Year!

Photo by Ev Bishop

Photo by Ev Bishop

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

. . . Is the above a slightly corny quote or a warm, inspiring one? The latter, I think, for me. 🙂

Anyway I hope this day—the second day of the year 2013!—finds you more than well: finds you content.

My plans for the evening involve homemade soup, curling up on the couch with a blanket and a book (and probably sneaking in some “Heartland,” too–I’m addicted to the series!), and some daydreaming about plans and hopes for the upcoming months. Plus tea. Probably a lot of it as I feel a bit sniffily.

So yes, all in all, it’s looking like a night filled with some of my favourite things. Yay!

I wish you a year full of similar small, yet wonderful things and lots of fun discoveries and inspiring moments.

And thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate it very much.

🙂 Ev

A Quiet Christmas?

Cozy Ginger Bread HomeWhen I was a little kid, Christmas was busy, like, I think, Christmas tends to be for many people. I had a huge extended family that lived nearby—or nearby enough that we could go visit, but not so close that it was a no prep necessary jaunt.

We’d load up whatever vehicle my dad was smitten with at the time with boxes of food to contribute to the feasting, wrapped presents and snow clothes—and changes of clothes—and head down the highway, a fairytale drive of frozen white and blue, to Hazelton and Smithers.

Both sets of grandparents lived on big, out of the way farms, and I can’t remember green Christmases in either place, ever. We’d drive up, inevitably once night had fallen, and at either property, the effect was the same: magic. The long winding road that for the trip had seemed a snowy fantasy-realm—was suddenly transformed by warm yellow lights glowing in the darkness, brightening the snow, beckoning us in cheerily.

And when I was little, Christmas was loud.

From the moment we were out of the truck and the door of the house was thrown open and a din of voices greeted us, the noise never ceased ‘til we left.

And I adored it. I come from a long lineage of arguers, game players, big eaters, big talkers and big jokers. Our gatherings were, at least to me, the epitome of festive. Us kids would, literally, scream ourselves hoarse playing games like Pit and Risk.

I remember the year it changed—or perhaps “changed” is too strong; “developed” is better. My idea of an ideal Christmas developed a quieter side.

I was eleven or twelve and my Grandma Higginson, who owned a floral shop for many years, sent me a pre-Christmas present—a miniature Christmas tree that stood about 2 feet tall and was factory strung with tiny bright multi-coloured lights that twinkled.

I was entering an era (er . . . or, short-lived phase) where I kept my bedroom immaculately tidy, and I don’t think I can adequately convey the pleasure I derived from decorating my room with that little tree. I placed it on an antique wooden desk I used for writing letters and the like (I really haven’t changed that much in 28 years!), and bought little gifts with my babysitting money, which I wrapped and placed beneath the tree. I purchased my first Christmas album (Amy Grant’s cleverly titled “A Christmas Album”—still one of my all-time favourite carol collections).

Thus started my own small tradition. Playing games, eating, laughing and massacring carols were still some of my favourite ways to ring in Christmas—but I decided I should spend time in quiet contemplation, too. I’d hide out in my room after everyone else had gone to bed or was eating yet again, with eggnog and a journal, planning out my new year in advance.

And it’s a tradition I’ve kept. My family is still loud—though not nearly so big as it used to be—and we all love to eat, argue, and play games into the wee hours, but I still sneak away—or stay up for a bit after the others have gone to bed—to dream by the tree and jot down thoughts and plans by the soft twinkling glow of the sparkling Christmas tree.

I’d thought I wasn’t feeling into Christmas this year, and who knows, maybe a noisy one won’t have much appeal, but I am looking forward to the quiet—Ah, who am I kidding? I’ve already told one of my brothers to bring his Just Dance games for the Wii and that him and me, plus siblings, spouses, nieces and nephews will have a dance off party.

So . . . it will be loud and crazy and my family and I will miss the people we miss and celebrate the ones we’re with—but I’ll seek out my quiet corner eventually, to think and pray and just to be. I hope you find a peaceful spot to be this holiday, too.

Merry Christmas!

“Quiet Christmas” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, December 19, 2012 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

“Are you nobody too?” – Emily Dickinson

Prompted by the question, “If someone said they liked to read “vaguely romantic” poetry, whose work might that be?” posted in a writing forum I frequent, I started going through my head for poets I love/have loved and poems that have moved me.

The first names that popped to my mind were Sarah Teasdale, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Al Purdy–and one line, “A girl freezes in a telephone booth” (which comes from beautiful, if ripping, untitled poem by Andrei Voynesensky).

Then I turned to a hardcover journal that I got when I was sixteen or so. It holds favourite poems and quotes from my teen years, transposed from the various scraps of paper and spiral notebooks that the words had previously called home, along with passages and snippets that have resonated with me in later years. I’m slightly in awe of how much poetry I used to read–and by the poets I gravitated to, long before I knew they were “somebodies” in the literary world.

While I’m a fiction addict, there’s something about poetry that calls to me and speaks to me in a way that no other written form does. I wonder if it’s because poems are created with the words we find within ourselves when all other words fail us?

I don’t consider it a great work of art or anything, but I had fun with the following poem late last fall and feel satisfied that I captured, at least in part, the mood of that evening. It’s also nice now, in the heart of winter, to remember there are always aspects of deep weather that I enjoy.

Winter’s Eve

All is crinkly-crisp this night
Golden leaves are icy folds—wrinkled, whiskered
Street lamps glow and show
Grassy-green, silver-sheened
Underfoot, crushed mint
Overhead, elf-wine scent
Mountain ash berries ferment

Clear sky
Cold sky
Black with star eyes

Woodsmoke sighs
It won’t snow yet

                                    – Ev Bishop, copyright 2009

 I hope you’re digging into the words within you this week. And if you can’t find a story, seek out a poem.

To bed, to bed Miss Sleepyhead

Well, I just told a lie. Inadvertently. And now I’m fessing up. (If one fesses up almost immediately, does it still count as a lie?) I told a writing forum of friends of mine that although I should do something writerish before I head out to my day job, I was going back to bed instead (and you know what, despite this post saying that I didn’t actually do that, the verdict’s still not an entirely sure thing. I’m tempted even as I type this to hit “save draft” then hit the sack for another hour.

I’m so tired! And worse, SO LAZY feeling. The lovely stupor induced by Christmas holidays seems to have settled as a permanent fog into each crook and cranny of my brain. Though I’ve eaten no turkey this season, I’m as soporific as if I’d just indulged in a six course meal of the stuff. Though January 1st usually finds me so eager to get back to my pages, so zealous over new goals for a new year, that I’m hyper to the point of literally bouncing around, this year . . . Nada. It’s January 3rd already and I . . . well, like I said. I just want to go back to bed.

Unfortunately, some part of me that isn’t as lazy as the rest of me (my spleen, perhaps? Yes, my spleen) piped up just before I crashed again and said, “You’ll just be tired again tomorrow.”

Sigh. And as ever, Spleen was right. I don’t need more sleep. I’ve been averaging 8 – 10 hours a night (before you judge though, it’s really dark and cold where I live right now; everyone, not just me, needs more sleep). And with that cold hard fact faced, I had to look at what I really need. What’s different between this lackluster new year and my happy, excitement-filled heralding of fresh annums in the past?

I think it’s a lack of one tiny, yet apparently crucial thing. For a long time (since I was 11 or so), part of my New Year tradition has always been to curl up with a journal and a yummy drink in the wee hours when everyone else is finally asleep after celebrating, to do some private recalling, planning, and dreaming.

I’ve done a lot of other fun stuff the past two weeks. And some important stuff. But I’ve neglected . . . . my spleen, apparently.

That truth unveiled and confronted, I still want to go back to bed. But not quite as badly. And tonight or tomorrow night, I’m going to curl up by the Christmas tree, journal in hand, wine glass nearby, and do some thinking. I know I have plans and hopes (thus latent excitement) for 2012. I just have to clear the way for it to crawl (okay, pour!) forth.

How about you? How’s 2012 so far? Are you already happily enmeshed in your writing and stories, or are you more like me, fighting not to go back to bed? 😉

To heck with silent night; it’s more more like silent morn!

Photo copyright Ev BishopWow, when I wrote my column for The Terrace Standard this year, I knew my Christmas would be different this year, but I had NO IDEA that I’d be the first one awake for a very long time (Well, except for the cat who is being exceedingly weird. It’s like she knows there’s a large can of Turkey giblet mess for her own festive feast purposes later!).

Anyway, the tree is brightly lit, the coffee is brewed (ahhhh) and while visions of sugar plums dance in my son and hubby’s head, I am amusing myself online (Yay, the luxury of Christmas Day Internet browsing!) and trying to restrain myself (All I wanna do is break into my ho-ho sack, a.k.a stocking!).

If you’ve managed to sneak some merry Christmas computer time, I’d love for you to peruse some of my recent Christmas thoughts: “What We Give” published by The Terrace Standard, December 23, 2011 and/or “Deck The Halls With Memories” which was just reprinted in The Cloverdale Reporter‘s Old-Fashioned Christmas Magazine.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope your day is special in every way and that you enjoy the blessing of family and fun and food and peace in whatever order they come!

Annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!

I just learned about this new “annual” day and I’m stoked! As my own kids are getting to the age where they’re often busy (though my daughter at least would never say no to a trip to the bookstore with me), I’m using it as a great excuse to hang out with my two of my sweet little nieces. We’ll each buy a book, then go for a coffee shop treat—and after that, I think we’re heading to my sister’s to make Christmas cards all afternoon. They’re almost as excited as I am!

How about you? Had you heard of this day before and are you planning to celebrate it? I’m definitely planning to make it an annual tradition (because I don’t go to bookstores enough, lol) because it’s fun, yes, to have a special day, but also because bookstores are important and I don’t want them to disappear from our towns and cities. Buying books online is great, but you tend to shop already knowing what you’re looking for. Browsing bookstores (and libraries), you discover stories and authors absolutely brand new to you. If going to bookstores isn’t something our kids do now, it’s not something they’ll do as adults—and the chances that they’ll only read what’s “popular” will be all the greater. And did I say it was fun?! 😉

Find out more about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day at http://www.takeyourchildtoabookstore.org/

Quiet Daze

I wish I had some great graphic to post: a sprawling barren desert—its emptiness broken only by the odd three-armed prickly cactus here and there and errant ball of tumbleweed bumbling through every so often. (Add a whistling, lonesome soundtrack too.)

Or perhaps, more in keeping with a landscape I’m familiar with, perhaps I should insert a deep dark night with no recognizable landmarks, everything swathed in thick white snow—the only movement, the only sound, the occasional tree branch failing under its load, bending or breaking in a wet, heavy swoosh.

In both those scenes, the viewer would feel nothing was going on—and in both those scenes, the viewer would be wrong. Somewhere deep below the apparent nothingness, life would be stirring or going on full tilt—or, at the very least, hibernating, waiting for the exact right combination of natural elements to spring it forth. (Insert two new images here, please: the legendary bloom of desert flowers that occur after rare, precious rains and whatever greening, blossoming spring photo you have handy.)

That’s the case with my writing life these days too—outwardly things are pretty quiet, without a lot of news or action or ideas to go on about. Yet inwardly, I feel like I’m on the cusp. Any day now, new energy will flood through me, refreshing me and bursting my current projects to completion. Any week, new ideas—mere murky presences, buried deep in the compost of my mind for now—are going to sprout, and going into 2012 I’ll be overcome with plans and enthusiasm and questions about what’s to come.

But for now (Turn up the volume on that whistling, lonely gunfight showdown tune again.) I’ll just have to wait in eager (if quiet) anticipation.

Thanksgiving 2011

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.

And one of my oldest and dearest friends is up visiting from The House in Spruce Grove, Alberta—and another of my most kindred spirits is arriving from across the pond later this week.

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.

Happy reading, writing, thinking—eating.

🙂 Ev