Tuesday, January 29, 2013

afloat on the sea......

when i think of it now, i should have been a fisherman. but when i was young, such things were not heard of. i'm sure somewhere in the world there were lady sea captains but new ideas were not common in a place where you heard only 63 other voices. in my village it was unlucky for women to even be aboard the boat. women apparently made the winds and sea confused. but as a child i was forever on a boat of some kind. my father died when i was very young and so my uncles and the other fishermen became stand-ins. i sure talking to a fatherless girl is hard for crusty seafarers but taking her fishing, well that was one way to be together without the worry of words or emotions. and so i went to sea. i fished with my uncles on their boats. they pulled their herring and mackerel nets and i found my first place in the world.

as i got older i went out on the bigger boats. we would be fishing on grounds over two days from land. i felt so at home. i never worried about the weather or the boat going down. i was too in love with the swells and the way the sun hit the waves. at night, down in the cuddy, i would lay in my bunk and  i would press my face against cold wood of the hull so that i could feel the sea next to my skin. i felt safe there, beneath the water line. i felt calm and at peace being rocked to sleep by the movement of the boat and the muted sounds of the my ocean heaven.

i have seen all manner of creatures from the sea - the porpoise, the whale, the shark and the curious and common fish.  whales are somewhat of a conundrum for me. when i see a whale two things simultaneously go through my mind - "what a beautiful site" and "god, that thing would feed a lot of people." when i was young and with my uncles, the whales were a nuisance. they swam around and under the boat. they could get tangled in the nets or eat the catch. we shot them with a  22 rifle. you can't kill a whale with such a small gun but i'm sure it must have stung. some whales we could identify by the bullet scars on their backs and heads. and yet they continued to come. i realize this is terrible, idealists will say the whales came to the boats because they wanted to communicate or make friends. maybe that's true. or maybe it felt good to be shot with a small calibre gun. human beings pierce and tattoo every part of their bodies and despite the discomfort,  many of them keep going back. whales may be the same. i will never know. all i know is that those whales were a pain in the ass. they did however, make out better than the seals who were shot on site. the 22 rifle could kill a seal. seals are like the rabbits of the sea. they eat and they eat and they breed and they breed.

i loved everything about being on the boat. i would catch the fish, gut them and fling their entrails to the screaming gulls. when i was young i would plead to be given a shark if one were caught. the sharks were worth no money and they were seen, like the seals, as a menace. but i, on the other hand could cut their teeth out and sell them to the americans. americans loved shark teeth. but first i would have to kill it. the raging shark would flop about the deck. he would hurl his open mouth at my sneakered feet. i would scream and jump. but, oh i was happy. my uncles would shake their heads as i dodged danger and moved to finish it off. i would stun it with an oar and then slit its throat with the bait knife. it sounds so primitive, so savage - like clubbing baby seals. but my life was not one of sidewalks and shopping malls. it was not a life removed from the messy bits. death, and stark reality were very close to me. there was no shelter built over my childhood. i stood exposed to the elements.

one winter the harbour froze completely over. a government ice breaker was dispatched to free our little outpost from the crush of the ice. the whole community stood on the wharf to watch the event. many of the men walked out on the ice to meet the ice breaker. i think everyone on the land held their collective breath. to see the our men, so small, walking atop the water without their boats was in short breathtaking. the great chunks of ice heaved and they cracked like rifles shots and yet the men walked on. the huge ship sat poised at the opening of the harbour ready to save us and deliver us back to the water. how i wish i could have walked on that ice. sometimes i think i can feel what it must have been like,  the floe groaning and moving beneath my feet. our beloved sea trying to breath and sing it's song.

 the sea was always there. coming towards me with the tide and carrying me on it's back across the miles. to lay on a boat, towards the bow, and see an impossibly high pillar of water heading for you. to look forward to that pillar and the next, to feel alive and oh so safe in the arms of the sea - the refuge of each wave washing away the fears and worries of the shore.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

the brief career of a clerical scholar.....

i have been known my entire life as a "prayer challenge". my aunt kept my name permanently inked in on her prayer list. the list was scotch-taped to the cupboard above the kitchen sink. as she stood and washed her dishes she would pray for the souls of the people on the list. i was the only child to make the list and i was the only one never removed from the rotation. i remember sitting on her kitchen counter, eating molasses cookies and asking her why i was on the list. "because," she would say "you're full of the devil". she always smiled when she said it and in her defense this was probably during my satan art - crayon series. life was a puzzle then, as it is now. but i did my best to find answers, wherever i could.........

when i was around 8, i told a story in sunday school that to my complete surprise, didn't go over well. I don't remember where i came across the marvelous information i was about to unveil but i remember being pretty excited to share it. before we go on, let's make it clear i thought i had come across yet to be released biblical insight. i was so sure my story was true but apparently fact checking was a yet to be acquired skill. i cannot remember the morning of my big announcement but i probably ran the half mile up the road to the church. my patent leather shoes slapping the pavement and my dress flying up  i am certain i was there early, sitting in the pew with my "oh my god, i've got a story" look on my face.. i remember i was fairly bursting to get back to the lesson rooms. i loved the warm up songs with all the funky hand movements but this week i was breaking news. once we were in the back and in our classroom, i was off. i cut off whatever lesson the teacher was about to begin - my story certainly had precedence over any loaves and fishes. "EXCUSE ME, did you know?" i started. "on the ark noah removed all the boy animals wankers because he didn't want any fooling around on the voyage." i can tell you,  the word wankers and the suggestion of sex on the ark had turned the crowd my way,,,,, but surprisingly this was not my "big news". i'm sure i had a dramatic pause just about then. hell, i probably stood up. "well", i continued , "when the ark landed noah gave everyone back their parts. except he mixed up the donkey and camel's wankers and that's why camels have such small ones and donkey's have such biggies.

waiting for my applause......

whatever i thought was going to happen at this point did not happen. i just remember being so frantic to get this new information out there. the sunday school teacher was not impressed. i was immediately escorted from the room and after a very long, damnation filled talk i was placed on church probation. i apparently posed a risk to the other children's salvation. i was devastated, not for being in trouble, not for getting my ass chewed out but because my story was not going to be written down by a scribe and included in future lessons. they thought i was being a blasphemous smart ass, telling dirty jokes in sunday school. i thought i was a  religious correspondent

this theme has repeated over and over again in my life. i am an incredibly slow learner. i love the "tell" - the big reveal. when i got older, i remember thinking, before letting loose, this probably isn't going to end well. but the urge to tell the tale is always too great. and besides personal satisfaction trumps consternation any day.

a historical footnote: my church probation stayed intact till around 11 when i discovered and shared some fascinating info on mary magdalene. i was turfed from sunday school and received a life-time ban from the "young christians" group.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

mom - live action shorts......

having a telephone conversation with my mother can be, on occasion, like gladiator tryouts. pitted against my mother,  i am at best, a mediocre warrior but knowing you're going to get your ass kicked is a piss, poor reason for not competing. the beginning of the bout is always fraught with posturing and posing.  each of us wanting to get a sense of where the other is in terms of readiness for the match. and really, if you haven't any sarcasm in your prelude, you haven't got game.........

mom: i told those fellows up at the hall that winter was over for us
me: really, why is winter over?
mom: because the skins on the onions are so thin
me: gotcha
mom: it called folklore
me: really, folklore, i've never heard of it
mom: well, i wouldn't expect you to know any folklore
me: thanks
mom: i never said you couldn't learn
me: gotcha

one of the best things about my mother is that her disdain is nearly universal.  sure, i have disappointed her but so, apparently, have lots of other people. so, while i feel for my fellow comrades i am also perfectly willing to sacrifice them. hell, i will safety-pin them to the altar........

which led to......
mom received some christmas presents she was not quite happy with - presents from friends and family alike. if i'm being completely forthcoming, my mother is unhappy with every present on some level. if it's a gift card, well there's the inconvenience of getting to the place, if it's something edible well it's stale or it interferes with her bowel movements. this particular disappointing present was a book.  not, as it turns out the book she was expecting to receive. so, during the conversation, when i found myself on the ropes  i referred back to this book because i needed a rest from getting my ass chewed off.

me: did you ever get the book you wanted
mom: no, did i tell you? mary gave me the wrong book!
me: yes mom, you told me already
mom: i let mary know that i was some disappointed
me: mother, that's not very nice
mom: well, she should know
me: of course
mom: she gave me some thomas kinkade book. the guy who paints
me: i'm sure its a nice book
mom: i don't know anything about that man and i'm sure its not going to entertain me, its probably christian
me: jesus mom, what's wrong with the christans
mom: i'm just saying, its probably not going to be funny.

later in the conversation - a brief moment of victory......
in mom's chrismas stocking was a little set of upcycled scrabble tiles with magnets on the back that spelled "grandma."

mom: could you tell me what those letters are supposed to be.
me: you put them on your fridge and they spell a word.
mom: well, i'll tell you one thing, they don't spell my name. i can't make them spell my name
me: that's because they don't spell your name
mom: your uncle couldn't figure it out, he thought it might be a game but there's not very many pieces.
me: the letters spell grandma
mom: grandma! are you sure?
me: yes, i'm sure
mom: hang on,
(i hear hush puppies tap, tap tapping across the floor. a long pause ensues)
mom: they do spell grandma
me: i told you
mom: well you know you're not always right
me: gotcha

but alas it did not end well for me

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

an eye for the peculiar.........

i come from a place where people's crazy is just below the surface, not buried deep but visible to even the most untrained eye. this is neither here nor there in terms of correctness but you must learn early, how to tread water. you must never come right out and point out the obvious.  instead you must watch and wait. the man with the wheelbarrow, the hermit with over 100 cats, the woman with the shrine to rex humbard. they were everywhere,  you couldn't swing a dead codfish and not have one pop out of hiding. i wasn't one to shy away. bring on your crazy. i'll take a look. my mother recognized early on that i could be counted on when the situation called for an audience. "let beverly go", she'd say, "she doesn't mind that sort of thing". and strangely, i didn't. i could pet imaginary cats and listen to ranting all the live long day - well the promise of a bit of lunch was always appreciated. you learned that crazy was dangerously close to the path, one misstep and you be living an entirely different life. this kind of early training has served me well. normal has became an wide expanse. sanity as odd as the alternate but in the mean time you must maneuver your way through both worlds and you must learn to live with the envy. because believe me there is a crazy so inviting, so liberating that even as a child you watched it in awe.

i had an great aunt that inhabited that kind of wonderland. i was too young to appreciate the tragedy that sent her there. i could only revel in the place she had came to rest. there was tea and mustard sandwiches. the table was always set to include Queen Elizabeth, my aunt's sister, and a long dead prime minister who had become her priest. the absent people were represented with framed photos and my aunt spoke to them. i never heard the photos speak, i never saw elizabeth drink the tea or the priest make the blessing but my aunt did. and this was enough for me.  the sheer contentment i felt would sometimes take my breath away. after the refreshments we all went to the parlor and elizabeth and the priest would watch while aunt and i did the highland jig. the same scenes were played out for nearly every visit. it was for me how happy felt.

another wondrous woman i visited was the wife of let's say, my eye doctor. this was a case of my mother volunteering me for a bit of psychiatric nurse training. my being under the age of 10 didn't seem to bother anyone.  "just sit with her for a while," they said,  "give the caretaker a break." i loved it. i was at times a wee bit scared because this gal was wildly unpredictable. she wore flowered caftans and her hair was piled high on her head in curls we called bubbles. she smoked and things sometimes caught fire. as soon as we were alone she always asked if i wanted a boiled egg and i always i did. she would put an egg in a pot, sans water and turn up the heat. smoke and or fire usually was the finale of all our visits. i would always catch hell from the returnees about not stopping her. stopping her never occurred to me. the fear i felt was tempered greatly by the anticipation of what would happen next. what would i possibly miss if i ran screaming from the room. so i happily sat next to a smouldering pillow or listened to conspiracy theories because personal danger cannot compete with entertainment. the highlight of most visits involved a tray of rings. the kind of ring you get for a successful doctor's visit. well mrs had her own large tray. we would sit like two young debutantes and try on rings. picking our favorites from each row. we discussed what situation would be best for each style. when we had exhausted our imaginations the rings were returned to the tray and she would light a cigarette and i wondered how a person could get their hands on such a large tray of rings. i always left with the idea that this was the type of life i wanted to lead.

i have always suspected i might be crazy and in my life i have attracted some pretty freaky peoplev- to be honest i've been known to campaign for them. but, i have also been very fortunate to also have attracted some really sensible people. the sort of folks who hold the balloon strings that keep me from floating off to god knows where. because sometimes i like to inhabit that place where reason is often pushed aside for something more entertaining.

and as an added value - here is my favorite poem.

first fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

i feel this way approximately ALL the time. it runs through my head at least once a day. a mantra if you will

so light her up