On the Fourth Day . . .

she arises from the wine stupor and ascends into blogdom . . .

Had a good weekend. Friday morning I awoke with the somewhat sudden and horrific realisation that Beth Powning was going to come to my house on Saturday, the same week my place was officially declared a war-zone disaster area. Not good. Cleaning rose to the top of my list. Much laundry, sweeping, scrubbing, vacuuming, dish washing, and dusting ensued. I was still doing dishes mid-afternoon when Joe turned up — just in time for Midnight Madness. There were more people around the streets of Sackville than during the Fall Fair. A little bit crazy. Got out to my restaurant that I love so much, but surprisingly did not feel like the Hungarian meatballs I’ve been lusting over for weeks, had some chicken and rice instead, pretty good. Too stuffed for the amazing desserts.

Quick Aside: The Disco Pigs Special Edition dvd (mentioned months ago when I pre-ordered) arrived in my mailbox on Friday! Watched a little, but not all, yet.

While Joe interviewed Beth for his radio show in my living room Saturday, I went to the library to check out the workshop space and get it ready. Turns out there really wasn’t anything to do, buy some water and snacky sugar treats (left-overs in my freezer), tables were already set up. I came back and tried to keep quiet downstairs while the interview continued. If you’ve never been to one of her readings you should go, she’s really good. She’s very passionate about language and words and stories. This, with her theatre background makes for excellent performance skill. So at one point I’m sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee, making a list, when the dryer next door stops and her voice drifts downstairs and she’s reading from her latest book. It was a little surreal. Was it only last fall I heard her with Ann-Marie MacDonald? Now, a reading in my living room. Sometimes it still seems utterly bizarre to the Barnettville bartender me that I’m anywhere near any of these people who write books.

The workshop came off quite well I think. She took us through her process. Her latest book is a memoir, so the workshop was on writing memory. The first part of the exercise was to think of a place and make a list — what does it smell like? what do you hear? see? what time of day is it? where is the light coming from? what’s the temperature? what do you feel underneath your fingertips? who’s there with you? Heading into this exercise I was a little frazzled, being the organiser, being late to the venue, with sinusitis from hell. I seriously doubted whether I could get my head around any writing exercises. I didn’t know why, but the place I went to was the hammock at the camp, aged late 12 or early 13, probably one of the last times I would ever be there. By the time I was 14 I started staying home alone all summer. It seemed odd to pick this place but with no other ideas coming forward I went with it and made what felt like a terribly undescriptive and stereotypical list — fishy, roaring brook, water’s high maybe, ducks quack, children crying and whining and fighting with siblings, country western radio, bacon cooking, morning grey, cool in shade, sun up but not over the trees yet, breeze on cheeks, ropes cutting into back, green fish netting, solid yet soft, swallowing me, alone, invisible.

Seemed rather unremarkable. The next step was to take your list and add clues, what do these things tell you about yourself? I was like, huh? I wrote, Even as a child I was the loner. Scratched it out. Listed: observing but not participating, distance from family, cool attitude, dark thoughts, hiding, wanting to be invisible, or maybe feeling invisible but wanting to be seen or heard. This didn’t feel like what she meant for us to do. I wrote, What the hell am I doing here?

The next step was to talk to yourself with your pen or pencil — What is the essence of this moment? I wrote, “Lying in the hammock outside the trailer at the camp that summer I was becoming a woman, afraid on some level, yet insistent on another. I could have lingered with my family, so many did. But I demanded release, demanded my freedom, and took it. I’m alone on the hammock, existing but not interacting, observing but not participating. It’s as if I knew on some level that everything was about to change forever so I took a memory snapshot, freeze-framed the moment.” This also didn’t feel like I was doing the exercise properly. I know there’s no wrong way, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anything useful. Why would I go here when there’s so many other places I could have gone? More interesting places, bigger moments.

Next we were to make a bunch of really simple sentences from our original lists — The air is light and earthy, smelling of fish mingled with bacon and eggs breakfast. The hammock is made of a green net for catching salmon. Having grown a few inches and just lost her baby fat, the girl is gangly like a newborn colt. Blech! How utterly ordinary and cliche. But why the third person?

The final step, the point of the exercise, was to put it all together, infuse the essence of the moment into the sentence. I couldn’t do it. I’ve done it before in other things, but I just couldn’t do it here. I wrote, Lying in the home-made fish net hammock, a colt of a girl — Scratched it out. Wrote, In the hammock made of green salmon net strung between two 2×4 boards, the girl swings as her family wake up around her in the grey dawn. Crossed it out. Wrote, AHHHH! This is crap, Kel! Why have you picked this moment? This place? And why such distance?

Hours later when we’re talking about the workshop I realise it’s the week of the anniversary of Grandad’s death and no doubt this is why the camp is on my mind. But why I’m so reluctant to think of it, so reluctant to allow myself to be there again in my head? . . . there was a vulnerability in that girl. I could feel it and I didn’t like it. I think it might be painful to take it out and hold it close. And I don’t know that it’s at all necessary right now. Does this realisation make the exercise a success? Perhaps.

Mood: slightly foggy
Drinking: coffee sans alcohol infusion
Listening To: Aerosmith, Amazing
Hair: hanging in crazy ringlets

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