Reunion: words in brief

I’ve always avoided reunions, the official kind, where I imagine people standing around awkwardly sipping drinks and listing accomplishments. I find my life hard to sum up in a line or two. I only want to talk to people who are truly listening, and who will tell me the truth about themselves in return. But I’ve been heartened lately to realize that most of my peers have passed the age of competition. This is the gift of middle age. None of us has quite the life we expected. We’ve lined up our mistakes and disappointments, grieved our losses, stripped away the superfluities, felt doors closing behind us. It grants us a certain clarity, a certain generousity, and curiousity in abundance.“What is your story?” we ask each other now. “I really want to know.”

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: reunion.

Mistake: words in brief

I’ve rarely knit a sweater all the way through without unraveling a sizeable section. This seems to be my process: I notice that the fit is off, something doesn’t add up, but I persist. “It will be fine,” I think, “It will work out. I can see it through.” A month of knitting later, I can’t ignore it any more: the sweater is too tight, too loose, awkwardly striped, not what I intended. I pull the needles out and unravel, either with resignation or with a strange glee. “Look at me practicing non-attachment. I can retrace my path. I can start again.” And I do.

I’ve completed many projects this way.  And yet… Why not value my time and labour?  Why not trust myself in the first place? Why not stop at the first suspicion, the first misgiving, the first hunch that something isn’t right?

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: mistake

Belt: words in brief

Orion’s Belt is one of the few constellations I recognize even in the overlit skies of the city. I am not scornful of this place. If anything, I am protective after years of defending my choice – or happenstance – of an urban home. Wilderness tugs at me also, but in truth I have some suspicions. Where are the people who for thousands of years lived daily in these wide spaces, now clear of human inhabitants, open to visitors who can afford the time and the gear? We all deeply need a connection to place, to earth and trees and sky and wildness. Can we find it where we live? Can we tend what is close, moving lightly on our feet, instead of filling our gas tanks once again to escape? I am not looking to judge. I have done – and will continue to do – both. I am looking only to understand how to live well in this crowded world around me, this harsh and beautiful world where both space and justice are so unevenly shared.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: belt.

Fencing: words in brief

I argue with the fencing every year, and every year it wins. Low wire-mesh edges our narrow backyard, the house facing off against the sturdy cement shed at the rear. In the summer, we eat dinners on the roughed-in patio, chatting with our neighbour to the north as he stands over his barbeque, steps away. Two doors north a small table is arrayed with bright cloth and long-stemmed glasses; from our back steps we compare rat-trapping tips. South, we are gifted pears and grapes and marvel at the roses. Further south, a surly watcher sits, appraising us, smoke drifting. I long for privacy, a shady outdoor room with tall cedar fences, instead of these crowded cubicles. But each spring the flowers bloom, and I sit back and leave it be.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: fencing.

Bruise: words in brief

I wonder if what sets the artist apart is a fascination with bruises, prodding at them to test their tenderness, obsessively studying the colours of impact blooming on sensitive skin. I once watched an interview with Louise Bourgeois in which she traces decades of fertile art practice to the pain of discovering her father’s infidelity as a small child. Again and again she re-creates the moment of revelation, the shattering of her world. There is not much of a story in letting go. Narrative survives through obsession, through ever fingering the same moments, the same questions, the same wounds, like beach-worn pebbles, made unnaturally beautiful by constant handling. Art is a forest of meaning grown from the smallest seed of experience. The skill is in the tending, in knowing how to be both gardener and garden, in knowing how and when and how much to share the yield.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: bruise.

Resistance: words in brief

Pushing back against dissatisfaction is a form of resistance. It’s a fine note to hit at times, gratitude that is clear and simple and recognizes everything that sustains us, from the primal four elements to the most complex modern systems. I don’t want your bucket lists, your weekly goals, your pushing of edges. I want to live my life as it is, day-by-day, in unhurried relationship, in deliberate practice, in defiant presence. I want my influence to ripple in the slowest way possible, fighting back in the ways that matter to me most.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: resistance.

Interrupt: words in brief

I love conversation that layers, bursting with possibility. Each of us casts our voice into the space between us, one line spilling over another, intuitively taking turns. I love knowing that my story won’t be lost. I will go back and pick up the thread I put down for a moment to listen to your dreams, laugh with you, follow your eyes towards the swoop of sparrows right above us, stand for a moment silent in the sun. This densely-woven tapestry doesn’t always suit, and so I also practice a more patient listening. I wait until my voice is asked for instead of jumping in, each piece of conversation laid down thick and rich, like a coat of paint that needs its time to dry.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: interrupt.

Baseball: words in brief

There is a strategic moment when I slip to the back of the line, trying to creep against the fence side when the teacher’s head is turned. Sometimes – maybe often – I get away with it for the full period, looping backwards again and again. Other times someone outs me, or the teacher’s head swivels like an owl’s, and I am caught. Then I am pushed forward and stand awkwardly, legs frozen, clutching the tapered wooden stick, thirty pairs of eyes boring into me, some in sympathy, some in scorn. I swing randomly, wildly – once, twice, three times – at the small projectile, seething with rage and shame. On the best days, I nab a spot on the field instead, as far out as possible, where I can watch the sky and dream.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: baseball.

Carrot: words in brief

I’m always embarrassingly moved by carrots – in photos or in person – that look like they are embracing, like two small root creatures finding comfort under the soil. I was taught as a child not to anthropomorphize the non-human world. Now I believe that children are in most ways right. All life is complicated, sentient, emotive, and requiring kindness; even as it may also be wild, strange and other, defying human understanding. Honouring all these truths is my survival strategy for empathetic relationships to the more-than-human. This is different from sentimentality: I will still eat the carrot, but with the cautious, fierce tenderness of one being reaching for another in the dark, in gratitude.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: carrot.

Hum: words in brief

I discovered white noise with my second baby, an interactive creature finely tuned to any commotion that signaled something interesting going on in the world. Curled up like a comma at my side, lulled by the soporific warmth of milk and love, he needed only the hum of the small fan to accept our primal slide from waking into sleep. Each night, his small heart drumming beside me, I dreamed the flow of running water, the patter of rain, wind tearing through the trees, the roaring heat of a fire keeping us alive. Many months later, but all too soon, he grew out of both milk and fan, sleeping unaided and deep. I claimed the fan for myself then, as if my own fitful sleep had all my life awaited for its womb-like comfort.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: hum.