Monthly Archives: October 2009

poetry and other scary things

Today is Halloween. I am re-posting what I wrote last year. Because I like it. This is what my sister, Booko, does to pumpkins this time of year:

come dance with me
Yes, she carved each and every one of them. Amazingly talented, is my sister.

UPDATE: Ooooh, she just emailed me this year’s efforts:


Being much less adept with a knife, I think of Halloween as the annoyingly predictable day when the neighborhood kids come to ring my doorbell, sending The Wonder Dog into frenzied fits of insanity and the cat into traumatized seclusion, interrupting my solitude with their insincere and unconvincing cries of “trick or treat!” Of course, there are the practical souls who stand there silently, petulant, stubbornly holding out their buckets and pillowcases, recipients of a largesse earned by mere entitlement rather than effort or threat of force, their young faces costumed in ghoulish aspects of expectant greed.

No, this is not my favourite holiday. How could you tell?

But today is also Samhain, the dark twin of Beltane, sometimes known as All Hallow’s Eve — a night when it is said that the veil between the worlds of the living and of the dead is at its thinnest. Some say it is a night of unimaginable power. A night cloaked in mystery and pagan ritual, shrouded by superstition and fear. A night when the spirits of the dead roam freely among us, causing mischief and harm, unappeased by meager offerings and reined in only by the approach of dawn. Tales are told of incautious souls unwary enough to be lured by curiosity to the other side, and of those unfortunate few who do not make it back before night gives way to light.

As an antidote to the crass commercialism of the modern holiday, and just generally to cheer myself up, I tried to find a poem I could post here that would convey the dark eerie spookiness of the old pagan beliefs — that the threshold between the living and the dead is easily crossed on this night — but couldn’t find any that quite fit the right mood. So I wrote my own. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write. May your Hallow E’en be a night of safe travels, one disturbed only by visitations of benign spirits.

come dance with me

they come in the darkest of night
to be
afoot in the absence of light
and see
the souls who have given the right
to me
to waltz upon their graves

they come now to witness the dance
and see
how fortune has done more than glance
at me
and evil has won the last chance
to be
the footprints on the graves

and oh how they quiver with fear
of me
and how their own lives they hold dear
and flee
though fate never has been more clear
to see
’tis written on the graves

the game has already been won
you see
and night will give way to the sun
and be
the lament of words left unsung
to me
the keeper of the graves

they say ’tis sheer madness this night
to be
awash in the absence of light
and see
them link hands this unhallowed night
with me
and dance upon their graves




Filed under just for fun

How much time is enough?

Today is the last day of my “forced solitude” — staying home on doctor’s orders so I don’t collect any more germs and come down with something worse than pneumonia. It has been an interesting five days. By interesting, I mean frustrating and boring as hell. I was told to stay home and do nothing, and that’s exactly what I did. Nothing. 

Part of the reason is that I truly have been quite sick and haven’t felt like doing anything, other than sleep and read a bit. I’m convinced I got sick because I’d worn myself out to the point of exhaustion and my body decided enough was enough. Figured a little helping of pneumonia with a side of pleurisy [har] would get my attention and slow me down. Wow, did it ever. I haven’t even had the energy to write. Does that sound silly? Really, how demanding could it be to just sit there and write? Believe me, it takes a huge amount of mental energy to write. And I had none left. 


But I did have long stretches of quiet time to just think. One of the things I pondered, obviously, is what it would be like if I didn’t have to go to a day job five days a week. What would I do if I didn’t “have to” do anything? I’m not sure I like the answer. Because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do anything. I think my so-called productivity — whether with regard to writing or housekeeping or anything else — would plummet to near zero. Yes, I am proof of the theory that a body at rest never leaves the house at all. 

And then I read a fascinating article about the two brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who several years ago came up with the idea for Google Maps and who have now created something called Google Wave. I’m undecided in what I think about Wave, not because I’m skeptical so much as I don’t really understand it. Sounds like the kind of thing you’d have to see and use before you “got it.” Not sure I like the idea of a recipient being able to watch live as I type each letter in a message, but I’d love a chance to play around with it. 

What fascinated me is the conviction the brothers held about why they were successful and innovative. It had to do with the fact that they were unemployed and almost penniless and their very survival depended on coming up with something big (Maps). The risk they faced at the time was huge. They so strongly believed this was critical to their creative process, they tried to create a similar situation of high risk while they were developing Wave. Really, read the article. 

It made me wonder about creativity and pressure and whether the image of the struggling suffering artist is more a necessary condition than just a romantic icon. If a person is comfortable and satisfied, has all the time in the world and is free from stress, will they still be as creative? As productive? I suspect, in my case at least (if the past five days are any indication), the answer might be “no.” 


Now I’m not saying it’s necessary to drive oneself to the point of exhaustion and illness, and I’ll try not to do that again anytime soon. Pneumonia is just not as much fun as people are always making it out to be. But I’m going to stop complaining about the financial necessity of the day job, and having to get up early on the weekend to let The Wonder Dog out, and having to write in short chunks of time or having to write rather than sleep in the wee hours when it’s finally quiet. I’m going to learn to appreciate the demands on my time and welcome them as a driving force of creative productivity. Well, I’m going to try. 

I know it’s a contrary idea. Then again, I’m a rather contrary person and it might not hold true for others. But if I had more time in which to do it, I’m not sure I’d get anything done.


Filed under creativity, deep thoughts, health and well-being, writing

Falling back into bed…

Fun Fact 1: European Summer Time ends this coming weekend.

Fun Fact 2: US Daylight Saving Time ends a week later, on November 1.

No, I don’t know why they’re different. But I’m thinking I could really use that extra hour of sleep this weekend, because I’m sick (so far, just a fever and general aches).

Since I’m feeling grouchy and pathetic and can’t think of anything particularly lucid to say that doesn’t involve whining, here’s a helpful reminder along with a suggestion about what to do with all that extra time:


Filed under just for fun

Stand down? I can barely sit up.


I saw this picture on LOLCATS the other day and laughed. Who doesn’t remember nodding off while pulling an all-nighter studying for a big exam or finishing a term paper? That kind of studying is pretty much in the past for me, but that phrase “spontaneous napping” stuck in my head. Because I’ve been doing a LOT of that lately. And it’s a problem.

My usual morning routine consists of seeing to the needs of the cat and The Wonder Dog and then slowly regaining consciousness with a breakfast bar and mug of tea while I sit on the couch with my laptop and catch up on the news. No, I am not a morning person. And there’s usually something in the news that will kick start my adrenaline. But twice last week I was late for work because I dozed off for a half hour in the middle of a news story. And Saturday? I put the laptop aside to “rest my eyes” a bit and woke up TWO HOURS LATER. Yeah, I’ve been zoning out within an hour after waking up. I’ve even had a tough time keeping my eyes open at work. This is not normal.

No, there’s nothing physically wrong. Believe me, I’ve had more diagnostics done recently than a Formula One racecar. I’m the poster child of good health, if not clean living. I think I understand the problem. I’m just not sure about a solution.

For the past few years, and especially the last twelve months or so, life has been sheer hell. No two ways about it. It’s been crisis after trauma after crisis followed by insurmountable problems, without end. And I’ve had to be on constant high alert to deal with it all.

Seriously, I’ve felt like a captain whose ship is under siege — the mizzen mast is broken, the hold is taking on water, the crow’s nest is on fire and pirates are about to swarm over the sides. And the Death Star is hovering on the horizon. The Spanish Inquisition is (unexpectedly, of course) amassing on the other horizon. Along with storm clouds. There’s no land in sight and we’ve run out of limes. Fresh water is being rationed. Clean socks and underwear are a distant memory. There’s talk of mutiny among what’s left of the crew. And the gunpowder– um, never mind about that. You get the idea.

But now, all of a sudden, the waters have calmed. The sun has come out. There are no longer any pirates climbing my rigging, nor even dark clouds on the horizon. The Death Star has vaporized. The scouting party has returned with news of intelligent civilization willing to share chocolate. Birds are chirping. The crew is sprawled out in deck chairs, sipping drinks with little umbrellas stuck in them, wondering why I still have a pistol in my belt, a vigilant eye trained on the horizon and a knife clenched between my teeth.


My personal defenses have been operating at DEFCON 1 for so long, I’m not sure how to stand down. And yes, I do realize that the US military has never gone to DEFCON 1. Or so they say. But they’ve never had to deal with pirates AND Darth Vader AND the Spanish Inquisition all at the same time, now have they? So they say.

It seems my body is compensating by taking measures into its own hands and shutting down into sleep mode every time I sit quietly for more than a few minutes. Spontaneous napping. If only I were a laptop, there’d be a setting I could adjust.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I reassure myself that things are Just Fine now. Apparently, this state of super readiness is impervious to reason. I’m still on high alert. “Employing maximum readiness for imminent or ongoing attack.” As they say. And it’s exhausting. I’ve tried, but my mind can’t seem to let go of the notion that all hell will break loose if I dare to so much as blink.

I know, that’s so wrong. I just don’t know what to do about it.

I want to lounge in that shady spot on deck, feel the warm breeze play through my hair and listen to the gentle lap of waves against the hull while sipping a stupid umbrella drink. Any suggestions as to how I can get this damned knife out from between my teeth?


Filed under health and well-being

To what are you entitled?

I am a creative and talented person. I have great respect for the talent and creativity of others. In fact, I have yet to meet a person who in my opinion does not possess some degree of talent or creativity. It is a thing to be nurtured and celebrated. So it offends me deeply, no, it enrages me when people who have committed a crime assert that the particular type or magnitude of their creative talent entitles them to special consideration or lesser charges or immunity from prosecution — or to anything other than the right to be creative and talented.

It doesn’t.

If you have a talent for chasing down the wind or scoring touchdowns or hitting homeruns and causing crowds to gasp and cheer, you are entitled to do those things. If your talent is for turning words or images into stories that touch the emotions and imagination of others, you’re entitled to do so. If your talent is forming stone or metal or paint or music into great works of art that inspire reverence and awe, you are entitled to do that as well. Whatever your particular talent may be — managing money or governing people or communicating ideas or solving problems or inventing machinery or baking bread — you are entitled to engage in those creative pursuits.

By the same token, if you possess creative talents and choose not to develop and use them to the best of your ability, you will not be forced to do so — neither for your own good nor for the good of the state.

You can give attribution to God or your parents or your fifth grade teacher or to plain old hard work and determination, but in this society you are free to engage in and indulge your creative talent.

And because ours is a society that places a commercial value on art, you are also entitled to receive all the monetary benefit others choose to pay for your efforts. You are entitled to reap and enjoy all the acclaim and approbation and awards others see fit to bestow on you.

Do you understand why are you entitled to any of that? It sure as hell is not by virtue of the fact that you are creative and talented. It’s because you live in a society that values freedom of expression. A society that appreciates creative endeavour, one that has enacted laws to protect you and your creativity. A society that will not imprison you or burn you at the stake or condemn you as insane for hearing voices or seeing visions or having a song in your heart — or for taking that creative inspiration and turning it into art. Or touchdowns. Or bread.

Here’s the part too many people don’t seem to understand: Your talent and creativity do not give you carte blanche to enjoy the protection of certain laws while ignoring at will the laws you find “inconvenient,” the laws that protect others in society.

Your talent and creativity do not entitle you to cheat on your spouse or beat your children or threaten your maid. You are not entitled to torture and kill helpless animals. You are not entitled to use illegal drugs to gain an advantage over other talented people. You are not entitled to accept bribes or steal the property of others or cause the collapse of an economy. Your talent does not give you the right to get drunk or stoned and get behind the wheel of a car. Your talent does not give you the right to drug and then rape and sodomize a young girl. You are not entitled to misconstrue the law or disregard the constitution.  You are not entitled to curtail the rights of others, to take the life or break the spirit of other people in the name of your talent. Your talent is not an extenuating circumstance.

Your creative talent, regardless of how impressive it may be and irrespective of how much fame and fortune it has accorded you, has no mitigating effect on society’s right to expect civilized and lawful behaviour from you. Your talent does not entitle you to undue sympathy or a different consequence for crimes committed, nor does it guarantee forgiveness.

If you choose to break the laws of this society, what you are entitled to is judgment and punishment under those laws. You are not entitled to expect Lady Justice will lift up a corner of her blindfold, recognize your creativity and talent, and deem you exempt.

The apologists and defenders of those who are criminals yet also happen to be paragons of creativity and talent need to cease and desist. Stop making bullshit excuses for yourself and for others. Stop using talent as a justification for overlooking poor judgment and bad decisions and criminal depravity. In doing so, you diminish and disgrace not only your own talent but also my talent and that of every other person in this society.

And while you’re contemplating the reality that you are not entitled to unequal dispensation of justice, keep in mind that neither is the very freedom to express creativity and talent something to which you are entitled. It is a hard won privilege dependent entirely upon society’s willingness to allow it. You would do well to treat it as such.


Filed under deep thoughts