A Poem On Summer Solstice

DSC04644In honour of Summer Solstice (a wet, delicious smelling day!) I’d like to share a poem I wrote a few years back. Special thanks to Noreen Spence, a beyond amazing artist and a truly kind, creative soul, who is so good at reminding me that I . . . write poems. I was flattered she remembered it and appreciated her gently prodding me to share it.

I hope you have your own grey and green world to revel in!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My World is Grey and Green

Soft grey light
Diffused through smoke-like clouds
Around me,
The colour green abounds
leaves – trees – grasses – bush and shrub
Green inadequately describes –

verdure stretching up through dirt
prickly, punishing conifers
the amber cushion; moss
greyish shade of dew soaked clover
antiqued metal
the filigree of tubercles on birch bark –

We use colour to describe things
red bench – blue bike – brown house – orange kite

We use things to describe green
leaf green – grass green – olive green – apple green –
emerald green – sea green – bottle green – pea green

The screen of sky behind my green is flat
motionless, homogeneous –
As if a giant carefully clipped and pasted
my world onto grey construction paper:

3-D green on grey

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“My World is Grey and Green” Copyright Ev Bishop

Cracked Open

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.

Good For What Ails Me

"Spring Always Arrives" - Photo by Ev Bishop

“Spring Always Arrives” – Photo by Ev 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!).

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? 😉