Wednesday, 30 March 2011
This week's IndieInk Challenge comes to me from Jason Avant.
You dream in three colo(u)rs. Name them. And tell your reader why.
I've done a lot of thinking about this prompt and then I realised I didn't need to think at all. I've had some very vivid dreams in my life, recently and long ago. Here are three that each connect to a colour for me. Hope they do the explanation on their own.
I'm all alone and on the coast somewhere. I'm a small child though I feel big and brave. I know, without a doubt, that pirates have stolen my blankie and I'm going to get it back if it kills me! I'm armed with...well...not much, but I have my Nickelodeon shoes on so I can run superfast if I have to. I'm at the entrance to a dusty dark cave and I crawl in, being very quiet so the pirates don't hear me. After scraping my knees and hands on the sharp rocks and finally getting to the deepest parts of the cave, I see a strange blueish light up ahead. Where the cave widens out a bit, I see it! My blankie! And there it is, arranged in a heap at the back of the cave, glowing bright blue with its pattern of sky all across it, the pale white stars and a rainbow. And I see it. And I want it more than anything I've ever wanted to reach in my life. But between me and the blanket are rows and rows and rows of skulls and long human bones. The skulls smile up and me and say to me How are you gonna get your blankie when we're guarding it?
I'm on a boat. Just me and whoever is piloting the boat. And I know I'm headed out to sea for some type of voyage. I'm alone and I can feel it. And the rain starts to drizzle down and I go out on deck and sit under some shelter and watch the horizon. At a soft noise, I turn and see her. My best friend from childhood, my first love. She's walking towards me in a red red dress, a dress so red it's like fresh blood but it's like valentines and strawberries too. She walks to me and we don't speak. The only sound is the slow lapping of waves as the boat moves onward out to sea. I reach up, touch the sleeve of her red dress. And the breeze blows one long strand of her black curly hair across her face. I reach out and touch it, then tuck it behind her ear.
I need to buy a car. For some reason there are no cars for sale in the UK so I go to Afghanistan to buy one. There I meet some surly looking men in tatty turbans, carrying machine guns. They motion to me with their arms, point me in the direction I need to go. After walking across some very brown, sandy terrain, I see a small Ford Fiesta up ahead. It looks like my old car, but worse off: rusted out a bit, missing tyres, window broken, door hanging off. How much for the car? I somehow ask this question without speaking, just gesturing with my arms. One of the men steps forward and gestures back. I reach into my bag and pull out two heavy rocks, rough-edged, the colour of coffee grounds. I heave each one onto the sandy ground between us. 2 rocks, I motion to them. One more, we want one more for the car, they gesture back to me. In my pack I find one more stone, but this one is pure white and I don't want to trade it for the car so I walk away, aware of their machine guns, though they don't point them at me. Aware of the car and that I need a car to get around, however bad of shape it's in.
Here's what I'm groovin to today, a little Noah and the Whale
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
I'm on Week 3 of the IndieInk Writing Challenge and this week's challenge comes from Anastasia McDonnell. It's one helluva challenge for me:
Tell us about the scariest moment in your life and what you did to get through it.
I've been thinking about this for the past few days and even dreaming about some of the things in my life that have been scary (thanks Anastasia!). So gonna start off by compiling a Top Ten scariest moments...
1. A very bad incident on a flight from the U.S. to the U.K. in Feb 2000
2. Waiting to see if my mom was going to be diagnosed with cancer last year
3. Getting across a terrifying rope bridge while ziplining
4. Realising I was stuck in a job from hell a few years ago (and knowing I couldn't leave yet)
5. Falling down a flight of stairs
6. Waiting for my sister to come out of surgery after she broke her jaw
7. Being in the car when my friend hit a deer
8. A lightning storm in Florida
9. Falling in love
10. Trying out for a dance competition when I was 17
Wow! So, which of these demons do I want to write about? I admit I'm choosing one that won't then haunt me again for days to come after I dredge up the nitty gritty on it.
cue duelling banjos
On New Year's Eve my sister, brother-in-law, boyfriend (a.k.a Mr T) and I decided to go ziplining. My sister and bro were experienced zippers, having been on many much more challenging courses than the one we chose. And the one we chose was famed for being in the woods where Deliverance was filmed...
I was nervous, yes, but not terrified. I've always wanted to try ziplining and I was actually really stoked. So we began and the first few zips were just completely exhilarating. Each zip we went higher into the trees...
About half way through the course our guides mentioned that there was an optional advanced ropes section we could do if we wanted and he pointed out three bridges ahead. I'm definitely doing those, I said to the others, not seeing any reason to avoid some extra adventure.
Finally we got to the rope bridges, and from where I stood, at the beginning of the first one, they looked fun and...I didn't want to say to the others...quite easy. I was last in the queue to begin, guides at top and tail of the group. The first bridge was a cool zig-zag of ropes and boards and wobbled lots but was fun to cross. The second was a bog-standard bridge like you see in films, usually the type that someone has to cross when a whole tribe of bandits are chasing the hero and he has to run for it. Mid-way along that second bridge I stopped smiling up into the trees and dancing around like an eejit, and I looked ahead, noticing the queue had slowed down at the entrance to THE THIRD BRIDGE.
Are you kidding me? I shouted. There was no way I was going to get across Bridge 3: there were more gaps than pieces of wood to step on, and the only thing to grip for balance these short ropes dangling above each gap. At this point I should mention, we were only 40-50 feet in the air. And I am not afraid of heights, but I have a serious fear of falling. (At least 4 things from the scary list involve falling). So although I'd love to be up really high, I wouldn't, for example, ever ever ever no matter how much you paid me, bungee jump.
So, 40-50 feet up and Bridge 3 was swaying in the wind, swaying from the movement of my sister who was attempting to cross. At just over 5 feet tall, she has legs about as short as mine and was struggling to leap (yes leap) from wooden plank to wooden plank, over the e n o r m o u s gap of air / space / room to plummet to earth. Even the men were struggling to move across it and they were all over 6 feet tall.
Then it was my turn. I was sweating and my tummy churned threateningly. There was nothing to hold and I couldn't quite grab onto the ropes in each gap as they were swaying with the wind too. Finally I had to step out. It was either start the bridge or turn back. I had too much pride to turn back! Each step I had to leap the gap and each time the fear was so heavy in me I almost weed my pants! Each time was a leap into the unknown with the serious possibility of falling (yes I had safety ropes attached to my back but I still would've fallen before being jerked to a halt). At the final leap I charged over thin air, flinging myself straight into the waiting arms of guide 1. While I trembled and shook and nearly collapsed, the guide looked me over and said--Way to challenge yourself out there, great job!
Something I'd probably say to my students if they tried a tricky rhyme scheme in a poem or something. But hey, I survived. And only once in that crossing did I look down.
(The guy on the bridge here is well over 6 feet tall and notice his hesitation!)
Monday, 14 March 2011
After reading my friend Mandy's latest blog post I felt inspired to blog about exercise. Secret Confession: I have always envied people who love exercise, you know the ones, they come back glowing from the gym or the pool. They have ease in their stride and a smile on their face. They don't feel as guilty for eating a snickers during the day...
I've always had a fluctuating relationship with exercise. From the 5 evenings a week dance practices of high school to summertime stints at the Y. And this year, like many years before, I made my new year's resolution: Aerobic exercise 4 times per week. I admit that I've made exercise resolutions almost every year for the past 14 years and usually I get very enthusiastic for about 6 months and then end up where I started, sitting on the sofa eating popcorn and reading a book, or tucking into a rerun of Battlestar Galactica or Dexter.
But oh no, this year was destined to be different. I did what all the advice specifies--make your resolution clearer and more defined (and they argue, easier to follow). I took a long hard look at my exercise pattern, which was, quite frankly, abysmal! It ranged from enthusiastic swimming multiple times per week, to regular jogging, to every-so-often lifting weights at the gym, to...absolutely nothing. And when I actually got off my backside to exercise could be influenced entirely by the weather, or whether my lucky maroon sweater was in the wash, or what time of day I had my shower, or if the cat was out in the garden, or, or, or. You get the point. Pure procrastination. This year, after the heaps of exercise I got while in the U.S. with my family (power walks, 10 mile hikes, treks around the flea market) I was determined to get into better shape. I was tired of being tired and I was tired of feeling lazy.
So I made the resolution and now, 2 and a half months into 2011, I've been doing pretty well. Not brilliant gold star level, but pat-myself-on-the-back good. And a wee chat with a friend lately is what helped me focus even more. She advised a pair of sunglasses when going out for a run (makes you less recognisable, naturally, or in my view, makes it easier to pretend you don't see someone you know). She also told me how great she was feeling after regular exercise and I thought, yes, I want to feel great too! I really don't need that much encouragement sometimes.
Most days now, I do it when I first get up, or self-sabotage sets in (the weather, the sweater...etc...) I head out of my house into the gorgeous countryside I am so fortunate to live near (see above photo) and just walk or run until my breath deepens and my stride lengthens and I can feel the laziness and the couch-potato-me fall away. Now if I can keep this going for the whole year, perhaps it will have become part of my morning routine and I can stop envying all those exercise fiends and be one of them myself, in better shape, getting fresh air every day, a guilt-free snickers in the cupboard at home waiting, in case I want one.
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Next up on the IndieInk Writing Challenge is a prompt from the fantastically hilarious blogger Lil. She set me this task: Write a "scene" from a former relationship...from the voice of the other person.
It took me a bit of deep thought before I remembered what I wanted to write about, so here goes....
I hadn't meant to be there when she returned. 2 weeks, that had been the deal: she'd go away and by the time she got back, I'd be gone--furniture, clothing, every trace of me. I heard the key in the door before I finished my evening cup of tea. I'd reason with her. I just needed a few more days. She wouldn't understand, but I'd have to make her see. The breakup was hard for me too.
She was humming snatches of a song I recognised but it took me a moment to place it. Gypsy. Our song. I moved towards the doorway, but she was through the hall and in the room before I took more than a few steps.
'What are you doing here?'
'I need more time,' I said, trying to stay calm.
'Liar,' she snapped, spit forming at the corners of her mouth, hands gesturing.
'But I...look...,' I said, '...it's not just you who's hurt. I'm pissed off at you, you know. You should've given me more--'
'More what? More what?' She stepped closer and I could see her eyes, huge and dark and behind her anger, tears. 'Answer me,' she hissed. 'What else could I possibly have given you?'
I moved to push past her, to put my mug in the sink and leave, but she blocked the door.
'You're not leaving without your stuff. I'm tired of looking at it.'
Something inside of me uncurled and rose to the surface, a dragon of rage, rage, rage at her.
'I'm fed up with your demands. You sort it,' I shouted, turning and chucking the cold tea at her, slamming the mug down. 'I'm leaving now, I'll get my stuff later.'
She launched herself over the chair and grabbed the pint glass of water on the coffee table. 'Get the fuck out,' she screamed, hurling the water and the glass at my feet. 'Go stay with your new woman and leave me alone.'
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Advice To Writers by Billy Collins
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.