Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Comforter

At the foot of a small hill, at the edge of a smaller village, stands a tiny house with only one room. The woman who lives there is kindly and dear and nearly as old as the rock that surrounds her. She sits on a stool and sits at a table both carved from the same fallen tree, and at her feet you'll find baskets overflowing with the tail ends of a tale, with scraps of thought and bits of string, various patches and fragmented phrases, and bobbles and buttons and conjunctions by pairs -- the woman was a Comforter, after all -- and nothing was to be wasted.

Early each morning a girl-child from the village would walk the cobbled path to her home and knock at the door. She would come, slowly, and greet the young lass with a smile and a nod and a mirror. She perched on her stool while the child ran nimble fingers through long white hair, weaving each beautiful strand into one perfect braid that fell over her shoulder and down almost to the floor. For her pains the girl-child received a tender kiss on the top of her head, and one precious word to carry with her for the day. When the task was complete the girl would go home and leave the old woman to sit, and to wait, and to sew. She was never alone very long.

As the story goes, a young businessman with a clean, handsome suit came to the village about two hundred years ago. His name was Edward Clark, and he worked with the famous Mr. Singer making machines designed to hasten the production of needlework. When the young Edward Clark heard stories of a woman who was able to quilt with words, he decided to seek her out. He put the heavy metal machine in a large wooden crate. Then he slid a narrow, burgundy box off a high shelf in his workroom. It was so slight you would never have seen it, and so covered in dust that it must have been there a long time. He put that box in the pocket of his greatcoat, and the crate on the wagon behind his horse. Two boxes, two riding companions, two weeks of travel over all variety of terrain, and a hundred untamable questions that evaporated as the door to the small cottage at the edge of the smaller village opened, and his eyes met hers.

She stood quite still, with one long braid of pure white hair draped over her shoulder. She was wearing the softest smile he had ever seen. He felt instantly welcome, inexplicably at peace. She asked him in and he filled a chair. Then he uncovered his gift and explained its purpose.

"This is a marvel," she smiled. "I have never seen a thing like it in all of my days, and my days have been many and my experience vast. What can I give to you in exchange for such a treasure?" He gently plied the box from his pocket and held it out across the palm of his hand, but she shook her head. "Read to me."

Like so many before, Edward Clark nervously opened the box and removed a folded pack of papers, yellow with age. He smoothed the creases open with trembling hands and quietly began to speak the words aloud. In his agitation he did not notice the old woman reach into the air and catch the first word, like a child might chase after a butterfly. She twirled the letters around in her fingers, pulling them gently and spreading them thin. Soon enough she had worked it into a fine thread, as crimson and bright as the blush as stealing over his face. The delicate threads were warm agains her skin. This will go North one day, she thought. 

His story was about a woman, of course. She was beautiful, he was kind. Their romance was full and fresh and wonderful and the old woman smiled as she used his unraveled tale to lace together patches of fire-coloured cloth. Phrase by phrase it came together, stitch by pause and breath by spool. When he came to the very end of the very last page, Edward Clark looked up. 

He wasn't the first to gasp in wonder at what he saw. Nearly everyone does. The woman looked like she was sitting in a sunset. She looked like an angel, or a fairy of magical days long past. The comforter that she had crafted while he shared his heart was radiating light and heat, melting away fear and loneliness just by the sight of it. She stood to her feet and wrapped the blanket around his body. It was the heat of a summer, the embrace of a lover and the smell of a wood-burning stove; it was strong tea on a cool morning and the country melody of crickets and fireflies. He sighed. 

"What will you do with it?" he asked. 

"I will send it away, to a place far off where moments like this rarely come. In that place it will rekindle lost loves and spark to new ideas. In that place it will bring hope and joy. It will bring comfort." 

"Thank you," he said.

"Thank you," she said.

And that was two hundred years ago. In the time between the Comforter has listened to thousands of stories, each producing a uniquely powerful quilt. Ice-cold blue and white covers fashioned from ghost stories, dangerous adventures and Christmas in foreign lands, sent off to Chilean and Peruvian villages; green blankets as soft as moss and as fresh as an early spring breeze, sent to the desert nations of Yemen and Egypt; beautiful comforters designed to inspire thoughts beyond the self, to cool the sun-beaten and warm the sun-starved. Though she lives a quiet and isolated life, her gifts have been carried by faithful hands to homes in remote mountain caverns and frostbitten plains. "Read to me," she says. Speak and your story will be heard. Open your heart so that another can share in your joys and sorrows, pleasures and fears. 

You never know what neighbouring soul may be sorely in need of a comforter.

Monday, 7 October 2013

First Cup of the Day

Sometimes I wake up in the morning ready to do nothing more than crawl back under the covers like a jostled black bear in January. Simply and stubbornly unwilling to stumble around my apartment in search of clothing and toothpaste and contacts and a drink, I do, on occasion, give in to the desire for rest over responsibility. On those days when slumber caused either by true fatigue or laziness drags me slowly back to bed, my imagination stays up, cooing and coddling my mind.

Stories are born in those moments. 

Fragmented phrases and ideas in slivers, a frayed conversation and a weather-beaten setting for adventure or romance or danger and death. Characters woven out of cobwebs in my mind, laced up with a concept, bones built of plot and conclusion.

All of this happens before the tea, of course.

I have a mug, over there on the shelf. The teabag is up in a box behind me. I started the kettle when I started this post, and all three will call my senses back to a lucid reality in just a few more minutes. I do need it, the logic, but I so enjoy this fantastic, hazy fog my mind is in right now. Mornings -- even rainy mornings -- are my most creative time. But I have a very long and critical survey to fill out, so I will steep my tea. 

First cup of the day.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A New Post!

Anna Leigh was five years old. She had long brown hair which her mother sometimes made to curl, and she wore the same pink shoes every day whether there was school to go to or not. On days there was school, Anna Leigh would wake up quite early, swing her legs over the edge of her bed and poke her little toes into her favourite pink shoes. They had elastic-band laces instead of the tie-up kind and took little more than a hop to put them on. After her feet were snug in her sneakers she would quickly bother about the rest of her outfit and run downstairs for breakfast before skipping out the door and down the street to class. 

The school where Anna Leigh went to kindergarten was exactly seven-hundred-nineteen steps from her house. She had counted many times and knew by certain markings in the pavement or by the shadow of particular trees how many steps she still had in front of her; at five-hundred-eighty-nine steps, for example, she had stuck one of her brother's silver marbles in the dirt between two slabs of the sidewalk where a tuft of grass was growing; at three-hundred-eleven steps she stopped briefly to wave at Mr. Stewart who was a bit of a neighbourhood grandfather; and, when it was still warm enough, at just ninety-three steps she always spit a mouthful of water from her water bottle onto a little rosebush that had grown up at the edge of the school parking lot. Almost the whole of this daily journey she walked with her fingers rap-rap-rapping along the long white picket fence that surrounded Mr. Stewart’s home. The posts were clean and freshly painted twice a year, the wood was smooth and the sound was both wonderful and soothing in the little girl’s ears. The only interruption in the white wooden wall was the gate opening to the path that led to Mr. Stewart’s front door.

On days when there was no school, Anna Leigh did exactly the same thing: up out of bed, down into her shoes, up out the door, down the street and into the world. It was on one of these mornings that she found herself suddenly stuck in her tracks at only six-hundred-forty-one steps to go.

“What is this!” she exclaimed aloud (for there are a great many children who narrate their lives in this verbal fashion). “What are you doing here!”

The little girl took three deliberate steps backwards and turned her whole body to face the pointed piece of wood that her fingers had just skimmed. She stared at it. It stared back, in the manner of its kind. She blinked. It did not. “You’re blue!” she said. It did not reply, exactly, but it made no apologies for the truth of this statement, and made no effort to alter its hue. “You’re BLUE!” with more emphasis this time, ensuring that the post could not possibly have misunderstood her meaning. She double blinked at it quite hard and then hustled down the street to Mr. Stewart’s gate.

“Mr. Stewart!” she panted three-hundred-thirty rapid steps later. “A new post! There’s a new post!”

“Oh?” came Mr. Stewart’s voice from the other side of a big newspaper. “Do you mean I have a letter?”

“No, no! Not that sort of post, Sir! The wood kind! Quick! Come look!” The little girl scrambled up the path and took the old man by his hand. He smiled and allowed himself to be dragged along behind the excited child. Before long they were standing side by side, facing the blue board.

“Well, well,” chuckled Mr. Stewart, “would you have a look at that! Blue. Who would have thought.” Then he made a quick blink with only one eye that Anna Leigh mimicked to her mother that afternoon at the end of telling her the whole story. Her mother told her it was a wink, and that she thought it might mean more mysteries on their way.

After a few days had past Anna Leigh hovered at the blue post for only a moment before rap-rap-rapping along on her way again. She waved to Mr. Stewart at his gate and was already preparing to water the roses when she halted abruptly at one-hundred-sixty-nine steps to go. Packed in the middle of hundreds of white posts was one that stuck out like a bright orange flare. She ran back to the gate and called out to her elderly friend. “Mr. Stewart!” she called to the old man as she clambered up to his porch, “There’s another post! Another new post! Come on, come on, come on!”

“Another post?” mused Mr. Stewart. “They sent me to India once, you know. Something like that, my girl?”

“No, no! Not that sort of post, Sir! The wood kind! This one is orange! Come quick!”

They stood together side by side, facing the orange post. “It is a bit orange, isn’t it?” he smiled. She nodded rather expectantly. “Orange,” he said. “Who would have thought.”

This exchange went for just over two years. Every few days another post would be painted overnight and sure enough, the following morning the little girl would come and take the old man by the hand, help him to the sidewalk and point it out. There were purple and red ones, pink, green and yellow ones, some with polka dots or stripes, and some that faded from one colour to another. Anna Leigh was fascinated, her mother was encouraged, and Mr. Stewart was beaming… and sick.

One morning when Anna Leigh was just about eight she hopped up the stairs in a pair of new pink shoes. Mr. Stewart gave her an approving once-over. “Well, well,” smiled Mr. Stewart. “Your mother told me that you were growing up but I just couldn’t believe it. New shoes, would you look at that. No denying it now… things really are changing.”

“For your fence, too! I found one more, I think. It looks like a sunset, or a lion’s fur or something. Do you want to come and see it today?”

“Actually,” said Mr. Stewart, “I have something to show you, if you’d like.”

Anna Leigh helped the old man to his feet and followed him inside the house. She had never been inside the little white home in all the years that they had been neighbours but had always been curious. When the door opened, she gasped. There was art everywhere! Floors, ceilings and every inch of every wall were covered in beautiful murals that seemed to move about when you looked at them. She was speechless. He led her through the house, talking about the different scenes and colour palettes, influences and genres. Most of what he said didn’t make much sense to her, but the art spoke to her with a clarity that words could never touch.

“My wife was an artist,” he said in the kitchen as they sat down at the table to rest. “She painted all of this while we were together here, while we were raising our family. Now, though…” He paused to clear his throat a little. “Now I have to go.”

“Where are you going?” she asked quietly.

“Not so very far, just a little ways across town. It’s a nice place, with very nice people. I put in my name last month, and now I have a room that faces the street, so that I can people watch like I do here.”

Slowly Mr. Stewart walked over the door of his large kitchen pantry and opened the double doors wide. Every shelf was filled with tiny pots of paint in full spectrum. Old tins and mason jars, the type that once held baby food and re-purposed containers of jelly and jam. While she was taking it all in, Mr. Stewart pressed something into Anna Leigh’s hand. Paintbrushes.

“They belonged to my wife,” he said. “It was in honour of her that I began painting our fence. It was because of her that I learned to stop trying to look so normal in the eyes of our neighbours. It was my beautiful bride that made me so brave… even brave enough to leave her legacy here. With you.”

A tearful week went by on the street. Anna Leigh and her mother held a small going-away party and many of the neighbourhood people stopped by to wish him well. The girl went over every other day to help him pack and clean, and pry off a few painted floorboards out of the closet floor in his bedroom to take with him. Friday morning his sons came up to help him move, and then Mr. Stewart was gone.

It took another two weeks for Anna to find the fastest route. It took three-thousand-two-hundred-ninety-five steps from her door to the new fence. It only took another three days for Mr. Stewart to notice the change as he stared out his window towards the street. “Well, well,” he murmured as his eyes filled up with tears and memories, “would you have a look at that! Blue. Who would have thought.”

Friday, 5 July 2013

Oh, My Heart

Mini-Yo-We is flooded again, but not like it was in April. This time the tide has brought in a rather boisterous collection of cabin leaders, canoeing instructors, craft makers, carpenters (I'm sure we have a few of those kicking around), cooks, cleaning crews and some of those loud ones that I'm not sure what they are doing, but I can hear them from the other end of the property... in a basement... with a fan and printer running. Welcome to Camp.

I've been pretty isolated from the online world for the last few months, so for those of you who have announced a change in relationship status by merely posting it on Facebook, I'm likely out of the loop.

And speaking of status changes, let's jump to the most important bit of news in my life, and the reason that I thought it might be nice to open up and share a little something with you, whomever you are, as I print off another seventy-nine curriculum maps for Sunday morning. I am in love, and quite happy to brag.

Ben Ankenmann. I love him.

I am so proud to be this man's girl. Let me go a little stream-of-consciousness on you and try to explain some of why he is so incredible. Ben is an Old Testament style, Boaz impersonating worthy man; he is driven and hardworking, dependable, trustworthy, inclusive, attentive and cool; he is simultaneously bold and gentle, creative and steady, a source of wonder and of security; he is extremely respectful; he is affectionate; he is brilliant and smart and intelligent and clever and quick-witted, none of which are the same no matter what the thesaurus might tell you; he is generous and wise; he is mine. I admire him deeply, and dream openly about a life-long (and rather intimate) friendship with him. He is my favourite... and the crazy thing is, I'm his.

You will hear more about him in the stories to come, but for now I have a lot of photocopying in my future, and would like to have at least a few hours of sleep before I stand and stare at the old xerox machine for hours on end.

Good night, world.

Good night, Ben.

Sweet dreams.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Adulthood, Here I Come

There is something about living at home again after many years away that has a time-warping, potentially stunting affect on forward motion. When the reality of another year under under my parents' roof and in their generous/gracious care started to settle in, I set about to guard against the strange gravity of my high school self by making an important list. Feels like a good time to share.

Five Ways to Be an Adult

1 • Listen to CBC Radio. It all began with my authorial hero, Stuart McLean and his brilliant and heart-warming stories about Dave and Morley and Sam and Stephanie... but now, as an avid listener of "Q" (with Jian Ghomeshi), "The Debaters," "The Irrelevant Show," the news and an occasional program or interview in French, I feel more connected to the world around me. I have learned a great deal about Canadian politics, the oil industry's plan for new pipelines and how a city in Texas is adding sugar to their water at the source. Okay, so the last one was a joke that I got sucked into believing. For the record, everyone, "This Is [Not] That." Check.

2 • Drink a lot of tea. Without conducting any formal study (no unsolicited surveys were forced upon anyone during the drawing of this conclusion), it has become rather clear that the majority of adults do not drink hot chocolate on a daily basis. On a cold, wintery evening all curled up inside after a long day playing in the snow? I don't think anyone would sniff with derision at a steaming cup of cocoa... but as a matter of routine, most lean towards something steeped or brewed. Having already definitively proven that coffee is disgusting, tea became my beverage of choice. Green tea, no milk, no sugar, piping hot or ice-cold. Check.

3 • Write everything in cursive. When I was in the eighth grade, my French teacher (Mme Norris, I believe) explained to my class that once we made it to high school, no respectable authority would accept a hand-printed essay. She insisted that cursive writing was the universal professional rule. But you know what the rule was in high school? Times New Roman, 12 size font, double spaced. I gave up on joined-up letters until part way through university when I took a good, long look at a letter my mother had mailed me. In a whimsical mood, I spent a few days attempting to mimic her smooth, womanly hand. It was illegible. And embarrassing. Over the last four years I have found the best pens ever (RSVPs, ultra-thin ink flow, amazing) and after much tedious practice, I have a ribbony font all my own. Check.

4 • Go to sleep on the same day I wake up. There are a few days a month that I break it (mostly when I'm trying to talk to Australia), but more often than not I have learned my lesson on this one. Sleep is healthy, and mornings are nice - especially now that the sun is rising so early! There's an encouraging rhyme that I remember from when I was little: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise." I have no idea if this will ever prove true, or even if it works for women, but it sure sounds good, right? Yes it does. Check.

5 • Befriend my elders. Probably the most important lesson I've learned this year. Old people are awesome. And smart. And funny. And generous with storytelling. They are encouraging of big dreams and minor accomplishments and the learning of all sorts of things. They have experienced things I will never be able to, and hearing about their lives reminds me that, while I am becoming an adult I am still young. I have so much ahead of me, Lord willing. Things to do, people to meet, places to see, moments to capture. As I build true friendships with these living antiques I am absorbing so much love. They are teaching me, and they are letting me teach them.

Maybe one day I will write a blog called, "Senior's Discount, Here I Come." When I get to that stage in my life, I hope that I will look like the ladies in my weekly study who carry around hundred-year-old Bibles, talk about the weather report, drink their tea, go to bed at eight and sign their names with flawless penmanship. I hope I find myself a man who, when he too has yellowed and wrinkled with age, will take my hand in his as we clamber into the elevator because we're both too rickety to take the stairs. I pray for the endurance of affection that I see in my wise old friends every week.

But, in the meantime, I'm going to go down the stairs with the leaping abandon of youth, two at a time, and make myself a tea. Growing up by baby-steps. Check.

Friday, 1 March 2013


Prina had been sent to her room with four minutes to change for dinner. Her teeth were brushed, her face was washed and her fingernails shone with a bright new layer of bright pink polish, but her shorts and t-shirt combination was not the nice-company outfit her mother had in mind.

Guests were on their way from out of town, and everyone in Prina’s family was supposed to get dressed in their very best clothing and hurry back to the kitchen to help set up.

Prina walked over to her closet and slid open the door. One lone garment, pale blue and without pattern hung on a hanger in the middle of the rack. Careful not to let the dress slip off its hook, she carried it over to the bed and spread it out smooth. She frowned a little as she noticed the soft spots near her knees where the fabric was wearing thin. A patch of green covered up a rip on one sleeve where a pair of scissors had once snipped a hole instead of a loose thread, and the lace around the collar was so old that it looked grey and dull, instead of sharp and clean and pretty.

“Well, you have seen better days,” said Prina in the way her mother often did, “and I have worn you many times before. Maybe tonight something else might be better… like… my astronaut’s suit!” 

Prina turned around and faced her closet again. Hanging right in the middle was a puffy white NASA uniform, complete with space boots, an oxygen tank and a large round helmet with a shiny golden face shield. She had to reach way up on her tiptoes to get everything off the shelves but eventually it was all spread out on the bed, ready for her examination. “You are indeed a wonderful outfit to wear,” she observed, thoughtfully tapping one finger against her chin. “But I think the helmet might make conversation a little tricky. And what if gravity suddenly switched off like it does in outer space?! Then the food would go everywhere! We’d have to eat on the ceiling! No, no. That won’t work. Maybe the mermaid costume.”

Turning back to the closet, Prina retrieved the lovely long green tail and the silver sequined tank top. She found two seashell earrings that clip on and added them to the pile beside the astronaut’s suit and her old dress. “Well,” she smiled, “It sure would be a fun to show up for dinner as a mermaid! But it would be difficult to greet our guests at the door without legs to walk there. And I don’t think Daddy would let me flood the floor so I could swim. It might be easier if I keep my legs. Perhaps a circus performer.” 

The closet was growing, in the same way that a balloon expands as you blow it up: the doors were wider and taller than they had once been, and the drawers were stuffed with hats and scarves and shoes, all overflowing. A hundred hangers were stuffed in a row, displaying vibrantly colourful outfits three layers deep. A look of satisfaction spread across her face as she smoothed out the leotard and feathery bandana of a flying trapeze artist. Attached at the waist was a tiny pocket of crushed-up chalk. The powder would make holding on to the swinging bar safer, but it also sent a cloud of dust into the air every time she reapplied. Because the dust made it hard to breathe, she set aside the entire attire and dove back into her closet for more.

One choice after the next was turned down by the little girl: the firefighter uniform and the parka-mukluk combination were both abandoned due to their encouragement of extreme heat; she cast off the superhero disguise for fear of catching her cape under the leg of a chair; she repackaged the jungle-cat fur to save the sinuses of those with sensitive allergies, the mechanic’s overalls because of grease stains and the suit of armor for the risk of rust. She weighed the idea of wearing Christmas pajamas for a moment, but quickly decided to pass just incase it snowed and the plows couldn’t get out in time for their guests to arrive safely.  

“Dressing for dinner is harder than I thought,” said Prina glumly as she stared at the magnificent mountain of clothing options now spilling over the edges of her bed and pooling on her floor. She tossed her fashion model garments to one side along with the stilt-like high heels, the pirate patch and coat and wooden leg and real live parrot, the karate-man’s black belt, the medieval princesses’ long sleeves, the lifeguard’s red shirt and the sheriff’s gold badge. Her closet had become the size of a gigantic warehouse full of so many props and wardrobe options that it would make your head spin! And yet, absolutely nothing she tried on seemed to work.

Sitting on her bed atop the towering heap of costumes, Prina scrunched up her face to have a think. “I have nothing to wear!” she lamented. “Everything I own is too sparkly or too leathery, too pointy, too furry, too slippery, too glow-in-the-darky, too tight or too baggy, too stripey, too dotty, too matchy or not matchy enough! But there is one thing.” 

So Prina clambered down off her pile and started to dig; past the sheriff’s cowboy hat and the fashionista’s stilettos, past the superhero mask and the mermaid’s long tail. She shoved and pulled and dug her way down right to that very first dress… a gentle blue frock without the distraction of pattern, comfortable and soft with a personal touch of history. It was, after all, her very favourite one that she wore it for almost every important dinner, and tonight was certainly a special occasion. Carefully slipping the shoulders off of the hanger and up over her own head, Prina wriggled into her loveliest nice-company outfit, just as her mother called from the other room. “Coming!” she answered, closing her empty closet doors and twirling into the kitchen. “What do you think of this one, Mummy?”

Her mother smiled and kissed the top of her head. “A perfect choice.”

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Penny for Your...

Something happened to me tonight that stopped me right in my tracks. I was in the Wendy's drive-though (Health Nuts: please hold your critique until the end of the post. And don't judge too harshly. I was driving back to the house after picking up a double armload of fabric and a few groceries to make tomorrow's coffee cake, and sometimes you just get in the mood for cheap meat, sweet bread and a slice of tomato, okay!? This is not the point of my story. Stop getting me so distracted). I placed my order ("Just a Junior Cheeseburger, please.""Bacon Junior Cheeseburger?" "No, no bacon." "Oh...") and pulled up to the second window, as instructed. She asked me for one dollar and ninety-eight cents. I gave her five dollars. This is a scene I have played before.

Then she handed me my change.

I am the first to confess that I suck at numbers. I don't understand math well, and I have the grades to prove it... but I can make change. I've worked a till before. I know how this works... but there it was, in my hand: three dollars.

This is weird. This is weird. Why is this weird? Huh. She kept the two pennies. Fine, I usually leave them anyway, but it's a bit rude to assume that I don't want them. Jaleesa used to collect them, and I used to save them up for her. And maybe I wanted them just to drop into the little penny collector thing under the... HOLD A SECOND?!

Pennies no longer exist. 

If you didn't already click the link above, you should. It's exactly the sort of article I would have written, had I been more on-the-ball (and employed by a big fancy newspaper). This is a sad day, my friends... taking out the little guy. It'll be the nickels next, and soon everything will get rounded to the dollar for the sake of crappy convenience and change will disappear forever! Plastic money for everyone and no more coins at all. It's coming. Mark my words.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Novel Ideas, Round Two

Every once in a while, I get it into my head that a podcast would be a lot of fun. I've tried to set one up before with no success, and after fighting with a few tutorial sites and not-very-polite-and-helpful forums, I've come up with a second best scenario for those (and mostly I mean Missa) who might prefer having my stories read to them, over reading them themselves.

That makes sense.

So here's a link to my mock-pod (which I realize looks a lot like another blog). In case you missed it, there is a little tab above which will also swing you over to the new hosting place.

All of the stories I read will be ones I've already tacked up here, but with more of the verbal pep and pizzazz that I hear in my mind when I'm writing. Happy to take requests, if you can think of a story you'd like to hear!

(If I ever figure out how to get this thing on iTunes, I will certainly let you know. Triumphantly, I expect. Might throw around some ticker-tape... because I believe sometimes even minor accomplishments deserve a little parade.)

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


The grey sky stood over the city like an angry teacher assigned to detention. Thick arms of accumulating nimbus crossed themselves in front of me as I drove my car home. His voice purred, but it was the unpredictable, growling purr of a jaguar in the woods. The Grey was quietly asserting his power.

"I don't need to make you miserable," said the Grey. "I am satisfied with sullen weariness or numb solemnity. But if you provoke me - if you so much as smile - I will make you cry." As if to visually punctuate this thought, the Grey picked up a ruler and began to slap it against his open palm. Again. Again. The sound was distant thunder, to match the lightening  in his eyes.

I drove through town in silence.

Waiting at a red, I caught the eye of a girl in the next lane. She tipped her head to the ceiling, miming her subversive disapproval of the weather. I consented her opinion with the raising of one brow and the suggestion of the beginning of a comrade's grin.

I received my first warning in the form of a hailstone striking the windshield.
The chip was small, but noticeable in my field of vision.
I faced the front quickly.

The streets were a slurry of ice and sand and crumpled paper coffee cups. Traffic signals flicked green and yellow and red like the ticking of the classroom clock as it inches towards the end of day. I looked up from my dashboard in time to see an orange Volkswagen Beetle swimming through the slush in my direction. Without my permission, a memory flashed across my mind and jabbed at my sense of humour. At the last second I clamped my jaws around the laugh, cutting its potency from a burst of happiness to a pathetic sort of chortle, but the volume of mirth didn't matter much. The ruler came down hard against the roof of my car, commanding the vibrations to deafen my senses and abolish any amusement in my thoughts.

Then the rain came.
Strike two.

The trees wept and trembled as I passed them, like the kid in the front row who was refused a hall pass when he needed to pee. Grey stomped up and down the aisles called Centre and Main with billowing clouds like furrowing eyebrows and the ominous slap, snap, crack of thunder. Every tone of colour had fled the city streets, taking refuge from the storm in basement record studios and libraries and the country loft spaces where the artistic types tend to live. The whole world looked like it had been shaded over many times, with progressively darker and softer lead pencils.

The candle of hope in my head was struggling against the building wind; its little flame fought with every drop of water. "No fire in the classroom," said Grey as he quickly snuffed out what was left of my withering optimism.

Just as I thought the torrent was going to drown me out for good, as I watched Grey put down the ruler and pick up a yard stick, at the moment I thought, "Well, I'm done for! I'll be stuck in detention for the rest of my life!" and was about to let the tears fall right along with the rain, something happened.

There was a knock at the door.
Look to the east.

A thin shaft of light caught the sky by surprise. Where the sunbeam fell on the buildings, colours rushed back to their proper places. Rust-red brick, evergreen shutters, canary-yellow welcome mats, shimmering chrome towers of industry, the rich coffee-coloured small business signs, the royal blue of a school uniform: a sensational palate of texture and hue that blossomed with life as the classroom door was forced open wider and wider!

"Time's up," said this new bright spot of sky. "The bell is about to ring. Gather your stray thoughts and stack those negative emotions back on the shelf. Misery for another day. Detention is over. You're free."

The patch of glowing, streaming light exploded into a thousand rays of uncatchable brilliance. The Grey was dispelled and Light assumed authority's throne. I smiled broadly to the sun, picked up my attitude and drove down the highway in peace.

It was the end of day.
And the rainbow wins again.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Crash, Bang

Let's start with an honest acknowledgement of stupidity and recklessness, before we go any further. There are driving rules; rules that are written as imperative commands, not flexible guidelines like the Pirate Code. Put simply, persons in the active charge of moving vehicles have the responsibility to obey the laws imposed upon them in order that they, their passengers and everyone else on the road remain safe.

Knowing that - having had the message of "drive carefully" called over the noise of a revving engine every time I have ever left the house - did not stop the foolish invincibility that I felt when I pulled onto Highway 60 without my seatbelt fastened. I was leaving the kennels after a long day, with Jess by my side, just chatting. I was going slowly, driving to the weather conditions, but I still slipped a bit in the intersection. To avoid a dangerous turn, I decided to move forward and catch the off ramp instead, when the coast was clear. FYI, that particular move is called an illegal U-turn, as stated on my fancy ticket. We both looked, both believed that the way was safe, and were both wrong.

Very suddenly, I couldn't hear anything. I saw, but could not understand. I remember Jess screaming something, but all I could scream back is that I couldn't hear her. Then I couldn't see.

I remember Jess jumping out to yell at the other driver. I remember them trying to yank open the door. Black truck. Strange voices. I remember wiggling my toes, somebody called the police, Jess telling me to turn off the car, and then I saw my Mum's sunglasses in what used to be the dash. The lenses were shattered. Something had happened. Not good. Jess sassing everyone, just like she would. Chris and Shayna appeared instantly. A ski patroller held my neck straight. Someone found me a blanket to cover my trembling body. Glass in my teeth. Questions. A familiar face in uniform brought the first of my tears. Blood on my face transferred to my hands. The doors came off, they lifted me out, and I was in the ambulance. Five minutes, they said. Turn off the lights, they said. You can call your Mom at the hospital, they said. But God bless Chris for jumping that call and getting my family there long before I would have been handed a phone. They told me I was out there for 40 minutes. It felt like ten.

Everything comes in flashes until I see my first nurse - Karen Stark - from church. I ask her to pray with me, and she does. Needles and drugs, then x-rays and stitches. The Lord cushioned my night with Christians I knew and trusted. Thank God for Dan Moore and his strength, and thank God for Esther Jennings and her patient care. Thank God for Matt and his coffees for my waiting family, and for anyone else who contributed what they could, whether or not I ever know. Thank God I'm Canadian and didn't have to pay for anything - not even parking.

I left the kennels just before six, and got myself into bed by three in the morning - on my own - no broken bones.

I will need to keep relatively still for a while, but I'm feeling miraculously well. Based on the car, I should be in a wheel chair... or a coffin. But instead I am here, whole. A few years ago someone told me this: "My life is immortal until my work for the Lord is complete." I have claimed it before, and I claim it now. Jesus still has work for me in this world. I still have a job to do - and as long as that is true, I'm not going anywhere.

If you're a friend on Facebook you'll soon be able to ogle my eye. If not, rest in the knowledge that five stitches and a shiner are the worst of my visual injuries. Truth be told, I have more bruises from the last three weeks of dogsledding than from getting t-boned two days ago. My arms are weak and my shoulders and upper back are in pain, so please resist the urge to hug me better or shake my hand. We've resorted to gentle, affectionate patting on the head at home, or kisses on the cheek. I won't be creeped out if you join in.

So... buckle up. Take a deep breath. Count your blessings, and praise the Lord.