The Trees Were Tall (a poem)

The trees were tall
But I was taller
Standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California.
The air was crisp with a slight bite
Like mustard greens landing on my taste buds.
The sky was clear blue with nary a cloud to be seen
It was sometime in mid-October.
I don’t remember the date or the day of the week
But it shouldn’t matter to the story
If it even actually happened.
If that matters.
Does it matter?
Reality is subjective anyway.
If we imagine or make up a detail here and there
Is the story any less true?
Our minds like to fill in the gaps when constructive a narrative.
Do any of us really know whether anything happened the way we remember it?
It is impossible to know especially for a story re-told and re-told by others
Some of whom may not even have been there
But the story is so ingrained in their psyche
That they remember it as if it were.
Memory is a lie, a sham, a hoax
Usually to perpetuate the regurgitation of family tales and folk lore.
Of course my 5 feet, 1 inch frame was not taller
Than the trees on a steep mountain slope in northern California.
Perhaps the mountain wasn’t even steep.
Perhaps it was more of a grassy hill
Or maybe just a slight incline.
I’ve never even been on a mountain slope in northern California.
I’ve never even been in northern California.
But that day, I reached the peak of the summit which felt as momentous as if
I climbed a steep mountain slope in northern California.
It is my feelings of pride and joy and achievement that frame the scene.
The height of the actual trees make no difference.
For me, on that day in mid-October, with the crisp air and the clear blue sky,
I felt like I won the world championship.
Because I walked four blocks.
Yes, you read correctly.
Four blocks.
In the weeks and months leading up to that day
And in many of the weeks and months that followed
I was barely able to walk down the hall without burning aches in my legs.
Unable to walk my dog and many plans and obligations cancelled or rescheduled
Standing long enough to prepare food and/or wash dishes was a challenge
Meals constructed in chunks, over hours, as I need to sit and rest every few minutes.
So on that mid-October day with the crisp air and the clear blue sky
I chose to focus on what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t
I chose to revel in this moment of time
This exact moment which will not and cannot ever be repeated
I turned my attention to my breath and my blood flowing through my veins
The warmth spreading through my limbs
Wrapping around my back and belly like a hearty delicious hug.
The warmth was just that – warm and pleasant
Not hot and painful burning.
My body in that sweet spot
between idleness and exertion
between not enough and too much.
I was the metaphorical Goldilocks who found the porridge and the chair and the bed
That was just right.
In that moment,
On that mid-October day,
With the blue sky
And the crisp air
I stood tall and settled in.
How wild it was, to let it be.

With thanks to Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the first and last lines in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and to Hello Writer for the prompt. 

Meet Peggy & Ted

Update: Peggy and Ted will now be read in the January 6, 2020 show!

Peggy and Ted were born in a Firefly Creative Writing class called Tiny Worlds: A Workshop on Writing Short Fiction. Now I wasn’t particularly interested in writing short stories per se, but I did want to spend some time dabbling in the world of fiction, so off I went to this eight week class.

I struggled a fair bit at the beginning. Fiction was a real stretch for me, and more times than I would like to admit, I was staring at a blank piece of paper while the clock ticked. And then one day, a person came to my mind, and slowly aspects of her personality came into focus, like a photograph being developed. To this day, I still don’t have a clear image of what the characters look like as I tend to envision people by their inner selves rather than their exteriors but that is a discussion for another time.

Peggy is the heart of the story. She was then joined by Ted, and then Moira and Monica. Not to mention a brief cameo by a pink-haired 20-something server who works at the diner. It’s not finished yet, so I don’t really know who else will be joining.

Interestingly, when the characters and the scenes came to me, they were on the stage, and I knew right away that I wanted to see them come to life at Sing For Your Supper. With that goal in mind, and a deadline (which is always effective at getting me to write), scenes kept coming to me, and I jotted them down faithfully.

At the last class of Tiny Worlds, we had a showcase of the pieces we worked on. Borrowing the idea from a classmate, instead of reading the whole excerpt myself, I assigned roles to individuals and read the narrator’s part. It was such a treat to hear it come to life and reinforced my desire to see it on stage.

So on the day of the deadline (of course), I submitted my script for consideration to Sing For Your Supper. Happily, it was accepted.

When: December 2, 2019 at 7pm (for readers); 8pm show

Where: Tarragon Theatre

Why: Because it is a super fun way to spend your evening!

 

True Stories Told Live

Well over a year ago, I attended a True Stories Told Live storytelling event and was blown away by the stories and the way the storytellers forged a connection with the audience . Me being me, I wanted in.

So I signed up to tell a story at a future show and was slotted in for November 2019. Back then, it seemed so very far away.

November has been challenging for me on the health front with a chronic illness. I already had to pass on performing in a different show last week and I’ve missed several weeks of my choir rehearsals. So my storytelling debut has been postponed to March 24, 2020 and will be part of the Toronto Storytelling Festival. I’m very much looking forward to it.

If you want to check out the upcoming show, head to the Garrison on November 26, 2019. Doors 6:45pm, Storytelling begins sharply at 7:30pm.

Sing for Your Supper

On the first Monday of most months, actors and writers get together to test run new scripts at Sing For Your Supper.

As an actor, it’s a wonderful opportunity to play a variety of roles, as the parts are cast by the SFYS hosts. There is only enough time to read it through once or twice so the bar is low, though the performances are generally quite good. As someone who struggles with my short term memory, it is such a pleasure to be able to perform script in hand and focus on my performance instead of reaching for the right words.

As a writer, I have learned a lot about writing dialogue and setting a scene. In fact, I was inspired to write a script of my own last Spring for the first time, and it was a sheer delight seeing my words come to life. I’m now working on another script, that I hope I have ready to submit to the November or December SFYS.

The cherry on top is the community building that happens, by everyone having the opportunity to plug any upcoming shows (both at the show and on the Facebook page), and also organically in the conversations that happen before the show and during the break. While new people are always welcome, it is nice to see familiar faces.

The next one is scheduled for December 2, 2019 at the Tarragon Theatre. Hope to see you there!

The Human Library

Today I was a “book” at the Bi Arts Festival’s Human Library. The title of my book was, “Being the Elephant in the Room: My Life as a Fat Woman”. Having never done this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The experience was unbelievable and will stay with me for a long time.

Three different people signed me out. Each was genuine in their desire to broaden their world view. One person wanted some insight to improve his relationship with a friend. One person queried about the similarities between aging and being fat in our society. One person was recovering from an eating disorder. Each conversation was honest, heartfelt and transformative – both for the participant and for me. I felt like I was present and available for each conversation in a way that I haven’t felt since I was a psychotherapist in training.

One participant asked if my title was the title of a book. “It will be”, I responded, realising in that moment that my book now had a name. I explained that I have been working on a memoir with this exact thread. Her face lit up with the type of excitement that can only come when coming across someone who really gets me. That look is what will carry me through all the times that I wonder if anyone really gives a shit about my life and my stories.

I’ll also have this to remind me that my book belongs in a library (merch on the right purchased at the Bi Arts Festival Art & Craft Fair: