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.

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.


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.