China, On Writing, Travel, Writing Life

Writing Through a Crisis of Happiness

The following was originally published in the WCDR Wordweaver in the spring of 2014.
WRITING THROUGH A CRISIS OF HAPPINESS
It’s been ages since I’ve had a daily writing regime. I was fanatical about my sacred hour of writing before the rooster crowed. Then life changed. Drastically. I came down with a debilitating Crisis of Happiness™.
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A Lazy Trip through the Canals of Suzhou, the Venice of the East.
          I write from darkness. I’m a writer because of my misery-laden psyche. From darkness comes creativity. Remove darkness, and the urgency to write evaporates. Happiness equals a dry well.
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An Evening Stroll in Wuxi Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China.
          While on my recent vacation to China and Hong Kong, I planned to re-institute my early-morning writing hour. I thought it’d be easier to get back into my regime while vacationing. But Beijing was breathtakingly beautiful. This made for great writing fodder, but also ramped up my Crisis of Happiness™.
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A Day of Shopping in Shanghai.
          We travelled almost every day. We went from Beijing to Shanghai to Suzhou to Hangzhou to Wuxi to Shanghai to Hong Kong. Most mornings I awoke in a different hotel room than the morning before. With 14 days to re-establish my habit, I persevered.
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Boating in Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China
          Writing is a discipline. We must take it seriously in order for it to have importance in our lives. I had been using it as a crutch to prop up the rest of my life. One early morning in Shanghai, I considered a change of perspective. Write from a place of joy. Such an easy concept. If I could write from a wounded psyche, I could also write from joy. I embraced the pre-dawn vista of Shanghai spread out before me like a frenetic wonderland and I picked up my pen. I wrote. I was back.
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Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China (Selfie-Capital of the World!)
          I can’t, however, write about the place I’m in. Amid the unsurpassed beauty of Suzhou—Venice of the East—I wrote about how, atop the Eiffel Tower, the blinding Paris sunsets distort the views of the beautiful city below. Having spent the previous day boating through Suzhou’s beautiful canals, I happily wrote about
Paris sunsets.
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A Tipsy Night in the streets of Hong Kong.
          This morning, I awoke with a vivid memory of a tipsy evening in a restaurant atop the peak overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. I wrote about being down in the harbour earlier that day, and how water lapped at the hulls of the ancient heritage boats precisely the same way it lapped at new boats. The ancient ones were festooned with Chinese lanterns and decorous accoutrements, but their seaworthiness seemed questionable. The powerful
new motorboats were sleek, sexy, and clearly capable of seafaring adventures.
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I see a ship in the harbour…and boats, too.
          I wrote about how perspective changes a person. I used to be one of those rickety old boats swaying in the wake of the newer models, always fearing that today is the day I sink. Oh, how I tried to write my way out of sinking. But I realized one need not be the shiny new boat to stay afloat. One need only move the pen across the page.
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Write. Bear Witness.
          Writers are witnesses not only on the days we’re miserable and tired. We must also be witnesses on the days we’re overcome with joie de vivre. We must bear witness every day.
          It’s 5:00 a.m. Can I get a witness…
Writing Life

Did You Have a Good World? Recollecting Beauty…

“Is everybody in? Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin. The entertainment for this evening is not new. You’ve seen this entertainment through and through. You have seen your birth, your life, your death….you may recall all the rest. Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?” ~ Jim Morrison, American Prayer

I think about these words by Jim Morrison probably more than I should. To me, they remind me to live in the now…in the light of the day. They prompt me to ask if I’m missing anything. If I’m doing everything I can be doing. For myself. For others.

I leave you with this year's most precious new arrival...
A gratuitous Charlie pic…

I am having a sappy day again. A day of pondering… I think about missed opportunities. I think about crushing others and how not to. Walk softly and you will not scatter the dreams of those in your wake. Do unto others. Skip the light fantastic…fandango. Let’s think about life for a while. Every once in a while something comes up that illuminates things for me. Makes me aware. Makes me appreciative. Makes me question my intentions and hope that I’m doing enough. Makes me wonder and wander.

Today, there is no sun shining. But that’s a matter of perspective. It’s always there. It doesn’t go away. If we need a little light in our lives, it’s sometimes up to us to put it there. We can’t wait around for the clouds to dissipate. I tend to lean towards music as therapy for the dark days. I’m pretty sure I mentioned that here before. Nothing brings out the sun better than the right beat. And beautiful lyrics to accompany it.

Like Stevie Wonder says in Sir Duke, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand. With an equal opportunity for all to sing, dance and clap their hands…” It truly is a transformative art-form.

Sometimes, it’s not only happy songs that lift me. Sometimes maudlin or thought-provoking does the same thing.

THE THE – Perfect… Oh, what a perfect day To think about my silly world My feet are firmly screwed to the floor What is there to fear from such a regular world? Passing by a cemetery I think of all the little hopes and dreams That lie lifeless and unfilled beneath the soil I see an old man fingering his perishing flesh He tells himself he was a good man and did good things Amused and confused by life’s little ironies He swallows his bottle of distilled damnation

I believe we have one chance to dance this globe. Regrets can eat up a lot of that time. Lord knows I know that truth. But I don’t want to be hopes and dreams lying lifeless and unfulfilled beneath the soil. I want to go to that big sleep having done everything I ever wanted to do. Fearless and tired and ready for the nap… Another THE THE song that I love…

This Is The Day

Well you didn’t wake up this morning ’cause you didn’t go to bed You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red The calendar on your wall is ticking the days off You’ve been reading some old letters You smile and think how much you’ve changed All the money in the world couldn’t buy back those days

I find their lyrics to be so nostalgia inducing. Not just now, so many years later…but even when I first heard them back in the 80s. I feel like I’m taking a walk in the sunshine, pondering life, when I listen to THE THE.
You pull back the curtains, and the sun burns into your eyes You watch a plane flying across a clear blue sky This is the day your life will surely change This is the day when things fall into place
I’ve always been waiting for that day. But the truth is EVERY DAY CAN BE THAT DAY. Every heartbeat you take is an opportunity. Things can fall into place just as easily on a cloudy day as on a sunny one.
You could’ve done anything, if you’d wanted And all your friends and family think that you’re lucky But the side of you they’ll never see Is when you’re left alone with the memories That hold your life together like glue
We are all members of a collective and simultaneously islands unto ourselves. It’s how we interact that matters. And how we use the time when we are well and truly alone that matters. The last lines above are another example of how perspective is everything. To others, we can appear to contain the sun in our eyes and in our every step. To ourselves, we can be slothing around in a mire of glue…living and reliving bad moments from our past. Or vise-versa. The trick is to find that magical place where we live on the outside as we live on the inside.
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong...
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong…
To everything, there is a season. Absolutely, there is a time to wallow. Wallowing is therapeutic. But not overly helpful in the grand scheme of things. This life is so precious. We string days together one after the other until we get to the end of the line. And in the end, we don’t want to think, ‘I wish I could have…’ ‘I wanted to…’ ‘I thought I would have been able to…’ etc, etc, etc. We want to have had a good world when we die.
Daisy photobomb!
Daisy photobomb!
We want the end to be a recollection of the beauty we have amassed. A soft last kiss to send us ever forward into the next adventure. In the end, there is only beauty. The beauty of emotions, the beauty of memories, the beauty of love and light and laughter. The rest? Like the clouds that cover our darker days, it’ll all dissipate. Clouds don’t have the strength to be eternal. Not like light. Not like love.
A snapshot of Tai O, Hong Kong...a little fishing village I visited last week while I was Asia.
A snapshot of Tai O, Hong Kong…a little fishing village I visited last week while I was in Asia.

This is the day, your life will surely change…

Life, Writing Life

A Year in the Life – Things to Come and This Too Shall Pass…

“Another year older, and a new one just begun…” ~ So sang John Lennon in Happy Christmas (War is Over)

2015 hasn’t begun yet, but it’s just a sneeze away. With another year under our belts, we sometimes can’t help but reflect. All the New Year cliches come out of the woodwork. We either stay away from, or join, the nearest gym. We think about all the things we accomplished in the year that is ending, and all the things we failed to do. We think about all the things we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year, all the things we know we will miss out on.

It’s just that time of year.

2014 was my year of travel. I will probably never travel as much in one year as I did in 2014. I did British Columbia, Spain, Paris, New York, Quebec City and Orlando, Florida. Capped it all off with a swing-by of Stratford, Ontario this past weekend. (-:

The Vast Camino is filled with Places of Wonder!
The Vast Camino is filled with Places of Wonder!

I made many new friends and experienced too many phenomenal things to list here. I grew through walking across Spain on the trail to Camino De Santiago. I walked up mountains and down mountains and through mountains.

"Captain, My Captain!" ~ Sue Kenney, Pilgrim Guide to The Camino
“Captain, My Captain!” ~ Sue Kenney, Pilgrim Guide to The Camino

I stopped to smell the flowers, to laugh, to cry, to make amends. I stumbled barefoot through mud and rocks and grass. I had a picnic like never a picnic was ever had before, or ever will be had again…at the apex of a beautiful hill, in tall grass with friends–fellow peregrinos.

To the Top of the World! Somewhere in Spain, on the Camino...
To the Top of the World! Somewhere in Spain, on the Camino…
A Picnic in Paradise - May, 2014. Spain
A Picnic in Paradise – May, 2014. Spain

I met a man I hardly shared words with, but who made me weep like a baby, a pilgrim from France who had found more than he had ever bargained for on the Camino…the love of a million pilgrims and one. He was that special.

A Peregrino from France Who Changed the Lives of All He Touched on The Camino...
A Peregrino from France Who Changed the Lives of All He Touched on The Camino…

I shouted into the rain and walked through snow. And at the end of the long journey, I walked into a city more beautiful than any emerald one could ever be. And, by some stroke of magic, I saw all those I had met along the way. I stood on the roof of THE Cathedral and viewed that beautiful city in 360 degree splendor from that holiest of lofty places.

The View NOT of the Cathedral of Camino de Santiago, but FROM Atop it!
The View NOT of the Cathedral of Camino de Santiago, but FROM Atop it!

I walked the quiet morning back-roads of Galiano Island with the wild wind at my back and the Pacific Ocean at my side.

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Morning Stroll on Galiano…
In British Columbia, the Sun Explodes Both IN and OUT of the Day...
In British Columbia, the Sun Explodes Both IN and OUT of the Day…

I saw Canadian flags wave greetings from boats in a tiny harbour there, while the Canadian Rockies in the background swallowed up anything else in my view.

The Galiano Inn - Home to the Annual Galiano Literary Festival
The Galiano Inn – Home to the Annual Galiano Literary Festival

I stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower and scanned a city heretofore a mere dream to me…a fantasyland where Fitzgerald and Hemingway wined and dined and wrote and sang and lived. Never did Paris mean more to me than that, until I was there. It opens anew to each visitor, presents a unique place in the heart of each guest. I stomped up the Champs-Élysées with my new friend, Nina, and together we took on the endless spiral staircase inside the Arc de Triomphe and we stood at the top exhausted and filled with light and love and we smiled on the fair city that stretched out in fingers away from the tower.

Me and my new friend NINA, fellow LBWR registrant, atop the Arc de Triomphe!
Me and my new friend NINA, fellow LBWR registrant, atop the Arc de Triomphe!

Together we walked the Tuileries, and sat for mayhaps a little too long sipping red wine while the sun went down and the rats in the bushes beside us scurried.

20140620_225917-MOTIONWe drank absinthe at a lovely little outdoor cafe, where we admired shoes and broke glasses and laughed until we were sore…nay, until we soared! With our group, THE LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT, we wandered museums, we took the Metro, we walked Montmartre, we wrote in Le Jardin de Luxembourg, we entered the great WORD CATHEDRAL—SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY. We entered Shakespeare & Company! After decades of imagining it.

Shakespeare & Company - Where words breathe
Shakespeare & Company – Where words breathe

I don’t care that I am running on and on, for with each word comes another remembrance. My year. My year!

CHARLIE. And CHARLIE. AND CHARLIE. CHARLIE! In the midst of it all was born a beautiful boy. Little Charlie Bucket, who will one day know what that means.

I leave you with this year's most precious new arrival...
CHARLIE THOMAS – Boy Wonder! Little Brother to EDWARD JACOB, the Wonder who came before him!

What it’s like to step inside Notre Dame Cathedral when it’s empty at eight in the morning (mark that down! At ten, the lines are so long you could die before entering!) is something that will stay with me for ever. It is a simultaneous feeling of being infinite and of being nothing at all. And to think, I stayed only a couple of minutes up the road from that most famous of cathedrals…the centre point of the old universe itself.

Notre Dame Cathedral in the Morning!
Notre Dame Cathedral in the Morning!

Later, I stood atop Rockefeller and looked down at the most famous park in the world and wondered at its vastness and its nothingness. A green thick and wild and in the centre of one of the world’s most thriving and populated meccas.

I recall Central Park in fall...How you tore your dress, what a mess...
I recall Central Park in fall…How you tore your dress, what a mess…

And the lady of the harbour, I saw her too.

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And to walk the streets of Old Quebec City after wandering the streets of Paris is to know the connection. plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Quebec City Streets - A Whisper of Paris
Quebec City Streets – A Whisper of Paris

An ocean between the two places, and a hint of the struggle that came with building the second in the shadow of the first.

New and Old meet - Quebec City...the Wall
New and Old meet – Quebec City…the Wall

Each beautiful, each unique. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Everyone is a Child in the Magic Kingdom! DISNEY ORLANDO...a MUST!
Everyone is a Child in the Magic Kingdom! DISNEY ORLANDO…a MUST!

OOH! Disney and Universal in Orlando. Something MAGIC this way comes!

Old Friends from Long Ago...
Old Friends from Long Ago…
Dr. Seuss is the reason I write. I had to meet The Cat in the Hat while at Universal in Orlando! (-:
Dr. Seuss is the reason I write. I had to meet The Cat in the Hat while at Universal in Orlando! (-:

I’m another year older, yes. But I’m also so much younger. I have learned a great deal in 2014. I am grateful for every new soul in my life. Each and every one of you!

I thought I would write a few words about my year and move on to Things to Come. Sorry…that just came out of its own accord.

So on with THINGS TO COME. What will 2015 have in store for me.

On January 19th, my 5th novel will be released! HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN won the Muskoka Novel Marathon‘s BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD! Now, it’s going to be available to all to read. It’s actually already available for pre-order at Amazon:

51OeS9ITAHL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_And don’t look for me come mid-March, for I will be in CHINA & HONG KONG…until April. (-:

What of THIS TOO SHALL PASS, you ask? This was something I always promised myself of all the bad things. And now it is something I realize happens also with all the good. So—grab onto every single moment you have. Every single one. Hold on for dear life and enjoy the ride. Whether it is good or bad, it is fleeting. This too shall pass…

Music, Writing

Inspiration Station – Kaleidoscope Eyes are Everything You’ll Ever Need…

I often sing, “the girl with colitis goes by”. Much the same way as I often sing, “hold me closer, Tony Danza“. Just because.  What does this have to do with anything? Nothing. I just thought of this after I wrote the title of this post. Naturally, whenever anybody anywhere hears a line from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds they immediately burst into song…singing the entire song from front to back and back to front. It’s just, as humans, what we do. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is so ingrained it is part of our DNA. Right? I’m not the only one who thinks this, am I?

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly;
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

So inspiring, right!? It tickles…I can practically feel the mind-mapping of creativity when I hear these lines. They SPARK!

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,
Waiting to take you away.
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,
And you’re gone.

So, about the title of the blog. I’m sure ALL of your calendars are showing APRIL as highlighted for NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, right?

Now I KNOW nobody just thought, ‘What? What’s he talking about?!’ I know you all marked off the entire month the minute you opened your crisp new calendars back in January. If you didn’t–and I know you all did, so this is just a hypothetical–I will give you a moment to do so now. Don’t worry. I’ll wait here. Please…go forth and mark your month of April as POETRY MONTH. Highlight it as you see fit. I’ll be here when you get back.

Done? Okay. Shall we continue.

Inspiration.

Because APRIL is looming I have been doing a lot of thinking about INSPIRATION. In my mind poetic inspiration comes from a very different place than does fictional inspiration. I don’t know if it SHOULD, but it DOES. It’s actually songs like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds that push me to be poetical. There’s something extremely delightful in the nonsensical. Lucy has it, as does anything by Dr. Seuss. And even good ole Gord Downie in a way. But I think his version of nonsensical is more refined…he is a man who absolutely unequivocally reveres the English language. He doesn’t write lyrics, he sculpts them. Songs like BOBCAYGEON make me want to use my laptop as a TV tray. Because I know I will never find more beautiful words hitting its keys than the words composed in that song. I just made that sound like it stilts me rather than inspires me, I know, but it’s the kind of beauty of words found in Bobcaygeon that devastates me into trying. When I am completely humbled by gorgeous word combinations that take my breath away, it triggers something inside. It makes me want to discover language in ways I have heretofore not accomplished. So these songs tear my heart out and leave me a quivering mass of ruined flesh twitching on the floor in a near-death frenzy of apocalyptic jealousy and rage. But in a good way. I set up my idols–contrary to that silly little biblical threat about said idols–and I worship at their feet. If Gord Downie can have a weather vane Jesus, I can have a popsicle stick Gord Downie.

I have gotten so far away from where I was going with this post that I no longer remember what I was going to say. But Gord Downie!

So, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. As I search for poetic inspiration that will help me get into that place I need to be in for National Poetry Month (henceforth NPM), I listen to the songs that will put me there. Whatever it is that inspires you poetically, now is a good time to start immersing yourself in it. One of the challenges of NPM is to WRITE ONE POEM A DAY EVERY DAY FOR THE WHOLE MONTH OF APRIL. In order to do that, I need to be kept constantly inspired. In order to do that, I need to have several things working in conjunction with one another. The biggest is a great soundtrack that has both beautiful and quirky songs in it. I look for the songs that have over-the-top silly lyrics and the songs that have those beautiful unattainably gorgeous lyrics that make my head explode. It’s kind of a pleasure/pain thing that inspires me. Let’s have a look at a couple lines from Tragically Hip songs, shall we?

Sundown in the Paris of the prairies
Wheat kings have all treasures buried
And all you hear are the rusty breezes
Pushing around the weathervane Jesus

Those are the intro lines to WHEAT KINGS. And more from that song…

There’s a dream he dreams where the high school’s dead and stark
It’s a museum and we’re all locked up in it after dark
Where the walls are lined all yellow, grey and sinister
Hung with pictures of our parents’ prime ministers

I don’t know what it is…I hear lyrics like these and I just want to curl fetus-like and bawl. There’s nothing particularly stunning, visually, but the words are beautiful…they conjure ennui and nostalgia. They leave me wrecked. Bobcaygeon has the same effect…

I thought of maybe quitting
I thought of leaving it behind
I went back to bed this morning
And as I’m pulling down the blind
Yeah, the sky was dull, and hypothetical
And falling one cloud at a time

Not to mention FIDDLER’S GREEN. That song hollows me to the ground. One of my brothers performs in local bars and when he does Fiddler’s Green, it destroys me. It’s probably one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked to good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves her boy through Fiddler’s Green

We are ALL different, aren’t we. Others may hear the songs that inspire me and think nothing of them. The trick is to never stop hunting for the things that make that little switch in our hearts flick to on. For me, it’s great lyrics. They just make me want to write. I’m playing all the songs that inspire me…I need to grease up the cogs that make my brain move poetically. So if you’re nearby, you may hear me singing these songs in the next couple of weeks…and for that I truly apologize. I’m sure a skinned cat’s screams would be more audibly appealing than my vocal stylings.

So, prepare yourself for APRIL. Make it a goal to write ONE POEM a day. JUST ONE. If preparing, for you, is listening to music, then do so. If it’s crocheting, then crochet. If you find inspiration by licking pavement…I urge you to get down on the ground and lick away. If reading Dr. Seuss is the crank that moves you, then do so! Ignite the spark that will see you through the entire month. On April first, don’t go in for the cheesy old April Fool’s Day nonsense. Dance poetica…