"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Angel


I spin out of the revolving door into an uppercut by a cold April wind. I take it, still dazed from an earlier battle; a day with a judgemental, condescending harpy in full-blown ego who sends my very soul to the wall. 

                    "Use your words," 

she says when I choke on part of a conversation. Subtle. Mean. Sums me up with,
 
         "Hmm. A Quaker raised on a farm!" 

in a throw-away, arrogant tune. It took all of my strength not to explode out of my chair and pin her by the throat against a shattered window...explain through clenched teeth that there is no scale from 1-to-10 for this rage that I have, and it didn't come from the Quakers. It came from Beefeater, darkness, unbearable heartbreak, and two cartridges from a shotgun. 

But I don't. I endure and behave. Now, hours later, I'm out on the street weighed down with my bags strapped over my shoulders, committed to continuing this fraud of contentment, of competence, taking random hits from wind and spatters of rain doled out like difficult blessings from a crazed priest. I walk up University. I can not bear the subway right now. I am constantly pushing my hair up out of my face and imagine that if I sat on a corner with a cup, nobody would think it strange. 

Outside of the hospital on my route, I notice a middle-aged man bent over near the curb fussing with a bundle of bags or maybe a bike. He is wearing old hospital scrub pants and a navy-blue bomber ski jacket with hood. He has a bandana around his greying, wild hair and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. His face is seasoned like a creased leather bus seat. I am ten feet away from him, trying to figure his story, when he turns to take a cursory look at me. He stops what he is doing and looks again, rests his hands on his thighs and in a voice betraying the scrape and grit of a hard life, says, 

            "You are so fucking beautiful." 

He stands and takes the cigarette out of his mouth, pivoting as I pass.
 
"You are...you are so fucking beautiful. You've got it. You've got everything...fucking beautiful..."

I keep moving but turn and smile at him. I make it clear that I am grateful, acknowledging him, pulling my hair out of my face again and walking backwards away from him. He is still talking but the wind scuttles his words. I wave and turn back towards my route. Something about him; his sincerity cloaked in whatever unknowable lunacy or struggle, timing as if sent. It wasn't like I was wearing a cocktail dress and heals. I had cowboy boots, jeans and a trench coat. 

So I take it. Keep walking. Slowly unclench my fists.






Friday, 14 April 2017

Cycling Clothes are Ridiculous


After my ride, a seat by the pond: cat tails blown on paper stalks, soon to lean out of the way for new green. Bird chatter. Pairs running sorties for nests:

"Honey I got that twig you wanted."

Wind sidling through the trees, dropping down to test the water and send new ripples across the surface.  Behind me, naked maples catching the sun's heat make a point of ignoring me.

"Eyes closed everyone. She'll go away. They all do...and what the hell is she wearing?"

I can hear the frenetic scurrying of squirrels:

"Hey. Someone took my fucking twig!"

"Relax. Would you relax? Have a nut."

Subtle shifting along the forest floor. Everyone knows what to do. 





Monday, 27 March 2017

Wrapped


I'm sitting in the audience waiting for an afternoon concert to get underway. There is a choir, and two dear friends are playing in the accompanying string chamber orchestra. The venue is a big old church, brimming with old church smell and the whispers of human endurance through historical political change. Then there's me: I've been angry lately; waking up and wanting to put my fist through a wall. Here, I'm sitting, constantly scanning my body, unclenching fists, relaxing shoulders, letting my jaw go so nobody notices. Everything seems like such an effort. 

                          The music starts. 

The one requirement of classical music is that you open yourself to it, let yourself be vulnerable. This music doesn't work if you use only your ears. Your heart's the thing. Otherwise it's like looking at a painting with your eyes closed. Open yourself up, the notes sift through your soul like the fire or caress of whatever story is being told.

                                  Like life.

So, I'm open and notes from Beethoven's Mass in C find their way in and settle me down. 

It feels good. For a moment, I am aware of where I am in space and time. I grab onto a note and wrap myself around it instead of letting it disappear up into the ether. I want it for myself. I want to use it as a weapon against this anger. Use it to pry open these fucking knots forcing me to ruminate over the unchangeable, the dealt hand. I'm trying to shake loose offhanded, arrogant comments that have made the last chunk of time like trying to travel on stilts while someone swings at them with a bat. Powerful. I am amazed at how powerful. 

                                  Words.


Why am I so damn angry? Why the desire to spit fire now?


 I feel empty. I feel like a sucker, like my tiny victories happen in the wrong arena after the crowd has left, but somehow this is supposed to be good enough. I should just run along now. No idea how long this scenario is going to last. It seems different than the others.  Deeper. Get the knots undone and use the freed rope to climb down to terra firma.



I'm holding onto this note for now. Its nuance makes the rest of the world seem ridiculous but without it I feel no grounding. I can't be the only one, but it sure as hell feels that way.










Friday, 24 March 2017

Energy Vampire



This past week I found myself having to spend time with two energy vampires. Fuck me. I'm still tired. Thinking of it a year from now will probably still make me tired.

                                  Jesus. 

I'm sure you've all experienced being preyed on by the energy vampire though the term may be new to you. I don't want to get all flakey here. I'm not secretly rounding up memberships for Ed's Chakra Shack. Talking about personal energy is a risk. Not everyone is keen on it but if you've been around one of these vampires you will know what I'm talking about. You feel yourself being deflated, sucked dry of any spark you had. 

It was awful:


  "What the hell is going on?" I asked myself. 

One minute I'm laughing, sharing stories, jokes with a bunch of guys over here, and the next, I'm standing talking to someone else in a hallway feeling like my insides are trying to roll themselves up and go home without me. My self-esteem, confidence and creativity have all called a cab. The person in the hallway? Energy vampire. Damn it. 

There is nothing they say that is terrible. They seem, initially, to be good people. There is nothing about them that overtly suggests that they might be dickheads. I don't think they even realize their vampirousness. I did notice, in both interactions this week (second one happened elsewhere) that neither vampire was comfortable in silence. I like silence; gobs of it. I am a fan of breathing, pondering and, I know it's crazy, but even pausing between sentences. These fuckers both mistook my silence as an invitation for them to talk. I found it necessary to fight the urge for me to scream and pull my lip over my head. It's hard to read the train schedule with your lip over your head so I endured.

It is unlikely I will ever meet these specific vampires again, but it could happen. Plus, in this sea of humanity, there is a good chance that I will run into another one, a new one, in an elevator, on a plane, running from armed republicans, you know, wherever life leads.

                          What do I do? 

How do I prevent them from draining me? Do I cover myself with gravy? Curl into a ball and roll into a corner? Punch a wall and then act like nothing happened? I'm not sure that there is a defence. Energy vampires are sneaky, subtle. Hard to pick one out of a crowd. Other than saying, "Excuse me, I have to leave because you suck," I think I have to consider them part of the landscape of humanity; annoying like highway construction, but not worth becoming a hermit. 

If you do have any ideas, let me know. I want to know, but right now I need a nap.



  



Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Weekend in Port Stanley



In all of this floundering, an opportunity to get a breath; a weekend in an old villa with ten people in mid-March: Painters, writers, photographers, two pilots, a communications expert, and two lovely young students.  The gathering, suggested and convened by Liz Kuzinski, a talented landscape and portrait artist. We are all tripping over ourselves to get there, packing, car pooling, navigating through capricious curtains of weather; sun one minute, then snow the next; the asshole wind shoving the van like a bully at recess.

We arrive and peel off our Zeitgeist armour at the door. The villa is comfortable, huge, and inviting like a favourite sweater. Knowing Liz, I am confident that I will be fond of her other invitees  and I am right. There is nobody I am hesitant to sit next to. The conversations throughout the weekend cover the wavering strengths and weaknesses of humanity, interspersed by long, therapeutic courses of laughter. One painter, Robin Grindley, has only to tilt his head and the rest of us are on the floor. On Saturday, we head out like a cartoon cloud with numerous feet sticking out the bottom. We explore the town, lacing our way through the shops despite the cold, arrogant wind coming off of Lake Erie. We run to watch as the lift-bridge raises and lets an ice-covered fishing boat through into the safe harbour.  Back to the house and an evening that fills with more people coming for dinner. I run into old friends of my family, a couple who had started an organic farm(Orchard Hill Farm) decades before it was the in-thing. This blows my mind.

The evening empties out into morning. We rouse, have breakfast, and linger, nobody keen to vacate. Time, the dictator, finally wins. We pack, load our van and leave the villa, but don't head straight home. One of the pilots is a volunteer with the Museum of Naval History in Port Burwell and has promised us a tour of the HMCS Ojibwa. How often do you get such an offer? Carl, our pilot, talks us through the sub, detailing the mechanism, the world scenario when the sub was in use, and the finesse required to live and work in such a rig. Me, I could not get over how little space there was. Hardly enough room to change your mind. I was floored at the engineering that went into this beast; a remarkable display of the ingenuity of man. I was also tremendously sad that all of this effort was sweated in order to fight a war against other humans. 

It should be noted that Carl, well over six feet, hit his head six times during the hour.

The weekend was over. I found it powerful, wonderfully unique in that the winter light and the vastness of the lake out the south window made it seem like the villa did not exist in real time or space. To be in a strange house, meeting people, running into old acquaintances, and then having a tour of a submarine, well, you'd think I was telling you about a dream I had.

Whatever it was, I was grateful for the break. 



Monday, 27 February 2017

Scenes



As frustrated as I am with life right now, I still take joy in the little scenes that happen when I am out in the world. Today I rose from a fitful, almost combative sleep in time to catch an early train into the city. I was grumpy and chewed my coffee with a certain disdain during the drive to the station. I waited on the platform with Trump amount of people; seemed like a million, might have been fifty, all sleepy, many screen-hobbled. All of us wondering what we were doing at the train when we should be down at the harbour where our ship would come in. The train is full. No seat for many of us. I didn't complain. I'm an adult.

I pretended to be lost in time and space, standing there with my gear on the floor at my feet and my hand on the closest steadying pole. I tried to get fascinated with the safety warnings running along the tops of the windows. I crouched to look out at the lake as we passed. I pretended not to notice the totally ridiculous photos that this one woman, seated near me, was looking at. You would not believe... We arrived at Union and detrained, me frustrated because I was still grumpy. It was as if I hadn't really taken a full breath yet and didn't exist completely. This was all a movie. Then finally...

You can call it fake joy and you can take that to town and wail, but the servers at the Starbucks this morning triggered in me the feeling of a good pulse. Vibrant, attentive, Off-Broadway flamboyant, they teamed up to take my money and give me coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and the trade-marked and, yes I know, fictional feeling of being part of something hip. Play along with me. I felt better. I chose a seat one space away from a slightly older woman. I sat and before I had finished my chow, a gangly kid in a hoody, patinaed in a sorry attempt at rough demeanour, asked me for spare change. Remember, I was feeling better. I was included in hipness. I gave him a buck. The kid thanked me and moaned his plea to the lady. Without hesitation, she summoned the voice of some vile character from perhaps a Stephen King novel and spitted,              


                    "Whadda YOU think?"


 

I assumed she had the breakfast-vitriol sandwich. I did not make eye contact but feel sure that I caught a glimpse of her head rotating. Our boy made fast steps away.

I finished eating, walked towards the main entrance and stopped to do up my coat. There were three important-looking construction workers wearing white helmets, standing, arms folded, low talking in short sentences out in the middle of the hallway. They seemed to be trying to solve something. I looked down and happened to see an allen key on the floor behind the seat next to the wall. I grabbed it and walked toward them holding the shiny "L" for them to see. 

"Looking for this?"
"What is it?"
"Allen key. You guys looked like you were missing something."

They stood and blinked for one beat, two beats. 

"It was supposed to be a joke. I figured you could finish the whole project now that you had this."

They relaxed, glad that I wasn't a lunatic. They laughed. I laughed. We laughed. There was much laughing. Fella on the end leaned over, 

"You can keep it!" 

"Excellent." I pocketed the key. "The day is mine!"

Three little scenes, all in the space of thirty minutes. Three little connections made, except for angry Marge, that helped me ground and balance.  I realize that I am grateful for this more and more lately. Plus, I'm one allen key richer.





Saturday, 25 February 2017

Your Truth



I don't like the word, journey. I know that it's popular when describing life, but it gives me the impression of moving along at a sensible pace with a steamer ticket and a packed lunch. It makes me assume that proper plans were made and that naps were taken, hats worn. Path is too idyllic. I think of grassy hillocks and sheep. Trajectory is close but involves too smooth a curve; careful calculation right from the beginning to avoid wobble. And there's lots of wobble. It dawned on me that the words I was considering were all physical descriptors when what I want is  something to describe internal growth. What I am looking for is a word to describe the Dawning Of the Comprehension Of Self As Crucible For Your Unique and Sacred Truth:

                 DOCOSACFYUST for short.

Yes, I suppose I could use, inner growth, but that makes me picture a middle-aged man wearing a thick woollen turtleneck sitting in a therapist's office. Yawn.

The process is varied for everyone. You are born, and you hit the ground charged with carrying forward the DNA of your ancestors. The environment may, or may not be nurturing. You may, or may not experience the mirroring or attachment that triggers a ravenous appetite for involvement and agency. You may look around one day in the family kitchen and wonder who the fuck these people are and why can't they see that you're doing a brilliant headstand while finishing a sandwich. You somehow thrive but more in spite of your environment. Gradually, in between taking care of everybody, you begin to comprehend your self. This might take twenty years, or it might take forty and you find yourself running to try to catch up to where you feel you should be. This is when someone says to you that,

 God never gives you more than you can handle

and you wonder how long your jail term would be if you reached over and throttled them. Because you want to throttle them. Vigorously. There is something in your DNA that is moving you forward but still forcing you to chew knots. Then, after five decades of bullshit you finally feel that you're close to being a real person when Trump happens. Now as you are, and with this DOCOSACFYUST, you find the hate unleashed by Trump traumatic but you can't look away. There is something in your DNA that is forcing you to engage, to poke the badger. 

Nothing is certain: life, politics, fantastic parking spaces. You wonder what the point of it all is. What is this truth? You're exhausted. You haven't had olympic-level sex in too long. But something keeps you moving ahead towards the next knot: DOCOSACFYUST, or whatever the proper word is, and a deep down desire, a craving for someone to simply acknowledge that you're standing on your fucking head.