Present: words in brief

Walking barefoot over some distance is like discovering a sense long forgotten, a source of awareness both delicate and harsh. Earth, stone, pine needles, sand, grass, gravel, mud: I am flooded by texture, softness, pressure, pinpoints of pain, the disturbance and the comfort of it all. It’s the ordinary moments you miss most, I am told by those who are grieving. For years I was pulled away, scattered, diffused. There was something I was searching for that I couldn’t find, something always outside my grasp, something that I might have imagined was better than my life as it was. I’m not searching any more. I keep my eyes open for the ordinary. My heart navigates the world as if barefoot. Everything is louder than it once was, and I am more tender. It keeps me present, slow, cautious, treading gently, testing the ground with each step before committing my weight.

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


Aisle: words in brief

I walked down the aisle fully buffered by my parents and sisters. I objected to being “given away”, cringed at the thought of being on display, and twisted myself into knots to find feminist, non-commercial interpretations of everything laid out in the wedding script. I was twenty-three, both a hopeless romantic and fiercely anti-sentimental, experiencing a jarring dissonance between the opposing pulls of ritual and resistance. It was hard to articulate a creative vision that was more than defensive, but I was stubborn. I enlisted help in sewing my dress, asked a friend to take the photos casually, refused to pretend that I cared about flower arrangements or appetizers. Despite my qualms, it turned out to be an amazing party, joyful, exuberant, steeped in love; the first time I’d basked in the glow of being celebrated, the first time I felt at home in a crowd.

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


Durable: word in brief

I arrived with a rabbit fur coat, worth several month’s salary in a country where there was so little to buy that all consumption was conspicuous. The coat was all wrong, and my mother conceded to buying us Canadian snowsuits, likely wincing at the flimsiness of the fabric, running her hands over it appraisingly as her seamstress mother had done. Those snowsuits are long gone, but the long leather coat my mother brought with her still hangs in her closet, as does her father’s leather jacket and her mother’s fur. And the cotton sheets we brought in our suitcases, my childhood sheets, are still crisp and intact, while year after year the newer ones wear and tear and are discarded.

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

Share: words in brief

We share a driveway with the house to the south of us, lucky to have it in the city, although we have only briefly owned a car. Our fences are wire mesh and ugly, narrow backyards fully exposed. Our neighbour, who doesn’t speak much English, hands us pears, grapes, tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden every year, and this summer a glorious burst of roses spills from his yard into ours. One evening in April, I walk through my darkened dining room to the glare of emergency vehicles. Through the mostly screened window next door, I watch a huddle of young men near the floor, taking turns pumping, passing the beat rhythmically from one to another, until they gradually trail off, pack up, and drive away. My neighbour only tells me of his wife’s death a few weeks later. His words are halting, and I don’t admit to what I witnessed over our shared drive. For a few moments we stand close enough to touch, then he turns hastily and walks away.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: share. This one is well over 100 words.


Spider: words in brief

For a while I believed that community was a container, a basket dexterously woven with tools of connection, and that once inside, I would be held in the comfort and safety of belonging, ideally forever. Now I think of community as a web. Each of us stands at a spoke, a meeting point, holding onto the threads radiating outward from our particular position. We can maintain our threads or let them fray. A few tattered threads won’t break the web, but too many will tear apart our section of it, and the damage will perhaps cast us loose, by accident or by choice. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it has been a useful one when I find myself bitter that no-one is holding the basket I had imagined myself in. If there is a spider, an ultimate weaver, she stands at a distance, shaped out of different matter, on a wholly different plane, making repairs only when it suits her.

Or perhaps I need to learn to trust the spider… I can hold my own threads – usually – but the pattern is well beyond me. 

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


Literary: words in brief

I mourn the letter, especially the literary love letter, as a form of art as well as communication. Reading the correspondences of writers and artists of the past, I envy them, and regret the death of something beautiful. I wrote letters once – found the right paper, the right pen, the right words. In the early days of email, my university days, the old form of communication intersected with the new one. I still wrote letters then, long letters crammed full of drawings and song lyrics and messy handwriting and love. It ended suddenly when two letters I mailed didn’t reach their intended recipient. Mistrust burst out on both sides on what was already messy emotional terrain. The friendship ended. I stopped writing letters then. I took to the digital, and lost the intimate, tangible joy of holding something carefully crafted – one word at a time – by loving hands.

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