One Touch

They stand on the rough, broken shale of the shoreline, a hand’s-breadth between them; a hand’s-breadth which tells a story. He moves as if to reach out to her and her body flinches, locks rigid at the sign. The effort is rebuked, only a flicker of motion to signal its transient existence.

The fog is thick coming in off the water in a great deck of low stratus, completely obfuscating the sun, scattering and diffracting the light till it seems to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once, the waves of the ocean, a persistent lapping at their feet. A shuffle step and he turns towards her. She looks to meet his gaze through a veil of dark bangs. They exchange no words, there is no need for words and nothing left to say, not once everything has been put to voice, every angle and possibility exhausted, every avenue of argument trodden.

Gazes locked they see with eyes of the past. All the memories rushing forth, beckoned up from those forgotten wells under lock and key kept deep within our minds. Those wells we fill with pain and emotion, our dark repositories, filled with the great betrayals of emotion, the things which had once been shining stars, now corrupted and twisted bringers of pain.

The lines were once clear, but now have blurred beyond recognition; nothing is so simple that we cannot complicate it, but he knows what he wants, what he needs.

His hand reaches tentatively out towards hers, bridging that impossible gap. She makes her choice unconsciously, no matter the cost she cannot stop that tide he evokes within her. Mistakes of the past or no. Her hand snakes out from within the sleeve of her sky blue raincoat and she brushes her fingertips against his rough, calloused hands. There is no spark. Life doesn’t work like that, but it matters not.

Tears mix with the subtle kiss of fog on their cheeks, anticipation, hope, vulnerability. The past, a blocking of the ways no longer.. Their hands entwine and the lines are clear from past through the transitory present and off into the unknown dreamscape stretching beyond the horizon of the near future. The flow resumes with that simple gesture, that one touch, and their world is brighter for it.

Turning up the beach they head towards the bluffs, hand in hand,

Reunited.

My New Fiction

“It’s not that I want to give up writing… it’s just that when I try to write, I can’t. I sit down at my desk and nothing comes – no ideas, no words, no scenes. Zip. Not too long ago I had a million things to write about…”

-Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart, p. 62

I can’t help but sympathize with this character, Sumire. I used to write to level myself, to bring catharsis, and to explore my own self and imagination. Now however, rare are the days I can even bring myself to set pen to paper. My head isn’t in it anymore, and neither is my heart for that matter. And it’s not as though I don’t want to write anymore, I do. There are rare moments few and far between where I can actually find the time and effort to plunk myself down and just write, but it seems that the spark I once had for it has sputtered out, or at the very least is lying dormant in the ashes, the ashes of my last life.

It truly does feel like an entirely different life, this one I’m living out here in Manitoba. All of my old friends have been left behind, my old dungeon of a basement suite, my old school, my old city, even my way of life is different here; though I must admit, certain things definitely carry forward, without a doubt.

“I think right now it’s like you’re positioning yourself in a new fictional framework. You’re preoccupied with that, so there’s no need to put your feelings into writing. Besides, you’re too busy to.

“The biggest problem right now is that you don’t know what sort of fiction you’re dealing with. You don’t know the plot; the style’s still not set. The only thing you do know is the main character’s name. Nevertheless, this new fiction is reinventing who you are. Give it time, it’ll take you under its wing, and you may very well catch a glimpse of a band-new world. But you’re not there yet. Which leaves you in a precarious position.”

-Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart, p. 62-3

This is all beginning to very sound pedagogical, with references (no matter how shoddily done) and the PEE chain and so forth, but I feel that, to use a tired old analogy, it really hits the nail on the head. This is still a very new place in life for me and I’m doing something very different to what has come before. I don’t know where I will end up. My life is littered with uncertainties; I mean to say more than it ever has in the past. Whether or not I make it through this course and if so, where I get posted to afterwards, these all have great repercussions for the years to come both geographically and otherwise. It will surely be a turbulent time in the coming years.

So where does that leave me? I don’t think I’d ever want a life in which the sediment is left to settle, that sort of a life isn’t the sort I’ve been striving for, mayhap once I’m older and my wanderlust has dwindled. Nevertheless, I cannot simply fall back on turbulence as an excuse for my difficulty with writing. So I will keep plugging away whenever I get the inkling and trying my best to keep this blog, and with it my writing, alive and kicking.

I will briefly indulge myself and speak to what has been keeping me so busy these past months. When last I wrote I spoke on my journey in the desert (which had actually happened months prior) and my feelings on the land here in the prairies. To give you an idea of the turbulence I am talking about, I also moved in December. It wasn’t a far move really, just off base from the shacks into row housing with some friends, mainly so that I could cook for myself again! It was in the end of January or early February that my girlfriend and I decided to take a wildly spontaneous trip to Hawaii. I had some leave that I needed to use up before my course began and before I knew it we were off for greener pastures.

Hawaii was an unreal experience and we got to see much of the countryside on Oahu, climbing various trails and hikes, swimming with sharks, and getting burned to a crisp like pasty white man I am. The climate and terrain reminded me greatly of the countryside of Taiwan, another place I would love to revisit. Upon returning it was right into course, I switched units on the same base and began training. It is almost like being back in university again, though at a much faster pace and of course the content is very different. I never had to learn to read the weather or adjust for wind and temperature with mental calculations.

We left Winnipeg for Portage la Prairie shortly into our course and flew on the G120A aircraft honing our skills at low level visual navigation. It was another wild experience unlike anything I had ever done before. We’re back in the classroom now for months upon months of ground school before we hop on the dash-8 Gonzo. I’m just crossing my fingers that my stomach remains strong. Flying facing sideways with no windows parked in front of a radar screen doesn’t tend to go easy on people.

This is where I leave you now, eight weeks into a course which can last as long as sixty. I pray that I will be able to find that spark once again and flex my creative muscles. Keep an eye out.

Regards,

Waiting for the Sun

I stood there for what seemed like an eternity – the cold, unforgiving wind piercing through my many layers, the frozen sand crunching underfoot, the morning sky all shot through with colours of blazing orange and dusky azure, heralding the dawn. I stood contemplating, my thoughts loosely held together, barely cohesive, slipping their feelers out into the unknown trying to understand the journey in its abstract, and my own journey that had brought me to that place. Wondering how I could reconcile myself with the things I’d given up and all the things I’d lost…

…There I stood, high upon that frigid dune overlooking the harsh desert in the morning chill. There I stood, waiting for the sun.

Sunrise over Spirit Sands Desert, MB

Sunrise over Spirit Sands Desert, MB

The first time I moved away from home I was excitement; I was going to a place with even more contrast, higher mountains, taller buildings, more people, and more water. This time when I moved I was moving away from all that natural beauty and intermingled man-made terrain, to the land of uniformity as I knew it, flat fields stretching off into the distance, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

This time around, I was not excitement, instead I embodied apprehension. On one hand I was moving away from this beautiful place where I had grown so much as a person and experienced so many ups and downs, but on the other hand, I needed to go for my career, and what is adventure if it never rains (admittedly a poor analogy if you know both rainy Vancouver and sunny Winnipeg).

I have lived here for eight months now, though when I originally set pen to paper writing this it was back in October. You can see how diligent I have been about continuing to write.. In any case, I spent my beginning months here in the gym, on the ice, and playing indoor soccer so the time really slipped by. The thing is, now that winter has arrived in full force (though meeker than would be expected) I find the apprehension dwindling. The tighter that winter crushes this place in its grasp, the more alive this place feels. The featureless landscape is transformed into some otherworldly, alien panorama: the driving snow, the blinding glare, and the hilly dunes, everything coated in a thick layer of ice.

The land here changes. There is a feeling in the air when the temperature drops below negative forty. Everything crystalizes. Breathing becomes difficult and painful, there is no moisture left in the air, the ground crunches and slides underfoot. It is harsh, it is unforgiving, but most of all it is pristine.

It makes me feel like Dr. Ransom walking the lands of a foreign planet and I realize that this place here isn’t as bad as I worried; it is simply and unquestionably very different however.

This revelation brought on by the freezing cold and landscape metamorphic has hardened a resolve within me:

This is the first step on my years-long journey, a journey away from the place and people I love; a place of preternatural beauty, but also a place of comfort. I know now that both here and indeed all along the path I walk on this journey I mustn’t blind myself to the beauty of this world in endless comparison, I mustn’t simply wait for the sun,

I must chase it.

What follows are some of my favourite photos from my little trip to the desert. And let me tell you, this was not a warm desert.

The sand was frozen on the top layer, it made hiking very tiresome. With all my gear I weighed 315 lbs and I was packing light.

The sand was frozen on the top layer, it made hiking very tiresome. With all my gear I weighed 315 lbs and I was packing light.

The sun setting over our favourite little dune in the desert.

The sun setting over our favourite little dune in the desert.

Looking back on our campsite as the sun rises.

Looking back on our campsite as the sun rises.

Something to Live for

I awoke last night from the grips of an especially vivid and painful dream and had to experience all of the grief and hurt once more, the intervening years have done little to dull the feelings I felt at that time. Looking it up when I arose for the morning I found that, sure enough, it had been two years to the day. The mind remembers.

I was surprised to see that a year ago I had thought myself close to being done with this clinging malaise, this depression. I had been certain that the key was simply maintaining a positive outlook on the world and everyday experiences. The question is, what happened? Did I lose my positive outlook, or maybe that simply isn’t enough anymore. Maybe the answer lies within the turmoil inherent in picking up my life and moving across the country, away from my friends and family, away from the nature and mountains of my childhood that I so adore. Perhaps it is as simple as the cessation of regular writing, something that certainly helped me in the past. More likely, it is a combination of many or all of these things. The truth is, I am not doing well, but the real question is: what am I going to do about it.

It’s not much of a life, living day in and day out without much thought for ambition or the future. I spend many hours each week in the gym or on the ice beating back the inexorable advance of the darkness which encroaches daily. It’s mainly a reactive method however and doesn’t seem to help treat the real problem. It also has some rather striking side effects, as I now weigh in at over 250 pounds in a six foot frame. People ask me how I stay so motivated in my training, and – I hesitate to joke – I would like to tell them to take depression for a spin. On a more serious note however, I feel that if I’m to one day get over this thing that plagues me, I have to work on it. I really don’t think I can just make do with getting by and waiting for time to do its work.

I have said it before months ago, for I knew the problem intimately, that I’m stuck in a reacting sort of survival mode. I am not forming the fond memories of a sort to look back upon and reminisce in, and yet it seems I have done little to remedy the problem. I think that in order to find happiness again I need to find out who I am, more pointedly, to find out who I am and what makes me happy independent of another person and independent of a particular location. I need a sort of happiness that I can take with me whenever I must pick up and move.

Perhaps I am going about this whole thing the wrong way, but I feel that it is high time I find out what truly makes me happy… Or maybe I just need to reread Slaughterhouse Five again, the Tralfamadorians always seem to help…

Time Keeps on Slippin’

Time has a funny way of slipping by once you’ve fully fallen into a daily routine. Scratch that, time moves faster and faster with each passing year. Where once summers seemed impossibly long, filled with adventures and escapades among friends throughout my little valley, they now slip by in a blur of experience and emotion. It seems like only yesterday that I was finishing up my last exam of my undergraduate degree and worrying about what would come next. Worrying with that special blend of anticipation for what’s to come, excitement for starting out into the unknown, and trepidation for your fear and anxiety of new trials and tribulations. And now here we are over four months later and I am once again back on the West coast, back home.

The adventures of summertime passed me by too quickly. I was out in the wilds of Manitoba, back to coastal British Columbia and around Vancouver Island. I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba and managed to remain unsettled for the rest of the summer until only recently. I travelled to Norway and Sweden and back to my new prairie residence once again. And then I thought, “That’s it. My summer of adventuring has come to a close.” But of course, I was mistaken.

The next adventures were of the more solemn kind. The failing health of my last surviving grandparent brought me back once more to the West. It was a feverish trip, applying for leave, booking flights, and departing all in the span of approximately two days. But I made it back home in time to visit my grandmother in the hospital. My presence and that of so many other loved ones seemed to give her strength and she was quickly on the mend. Those days were spent in visits to the hospital, feasting with all of the extended family who came from the far corners of the country on the same sort of sojourn that I had, and amongst it all, trying to squeeze in visits with my friends gathered over the years.

Soon enough I was back off to Winnipeg and back to the routine I had hammered out there, but of course, that didn’t last. Within a few weeks I received word of my Grandmother’s passing. It’s a tough thing to lose any grandparent or loved one; it is even tougher when that grandparent is your last. It instills a sobering sense that, yes, time is marching steadily onwards and one day, our parents will be the grandparents and we will have to cope with their passing. I was glad that I had gotten the opportunity to come back and spend time with her before the end however, and she was overjoyed to be able to speak with all of her many children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren before her time came.

The seasons have turned, the leaves fall, and crows once again gather in the fields. Autumn has arrived in the Fraser Valley and here I am once again, halfway across the country from my new home, spending time with my family and ready to attend the massive celebration of life for a woman, my grandmother, the matriarch of our vast family, who had touched so many lives during her time here.

I’ll miss you Grandma.

The Death of Creation

Though many of you likely weren’t readers when it came out, this post is loosely based on an older one dealing with similar themes. It can be found here.

~~~~~~~~~~

The silence over the misty jungle is broken only by the scraping, lurching tread of the giant mechanical colossus known as Creativity. Its steps thunder down the long valley with a slow and pained gait, the sound reflected off the mountainous cliffs, echoing into the distance. No birds grace the sky, no other creatures are heard or seen, the only motion comes from Creativity as he lumbers throughout his domain. Despite his hunched and haggard appearance he still towers a hundred feet and more above the jungle canopy.

The jungle seems to reflect the ragged appearance of its champion. The sun is a dark red in a sky filled with haze. The leaves of the trees sag and show spots of brown abound in their wilting. There are no cries of living beings reaching up through the canopy, no signs of life at all.

Slipping beneath the canopy the decay is much more obvious, the weak, blood-red sun barely penetrates the dying foliage, casting the lower boughs and jungle floor into a sort of apocalyptic twilight. Here too there are but few signs of life. A group of sickened primates cling meekly to the branches, their skin bespeckled with oozing pustules, their gazes distant in bloodshot eyes. They seem to have resigned themselves to their fate and sit motionless.

Smaller movements can also be picked out amongst the trees, the movement of insects. There are, however, no signs of bright and colourful critters, no cicadas calling. Instead there are but creatures of rot and decay, long crawling things of muted browns silently slithering around the debris, detritus, and the corpses of fallen animals caught up in the canopy. They make their way towards these pockets of rot, drawn by the thick, sickly-sweet scent of death.

The jungle floor itself seems to writhe and heave like waves on the sea. Great swells of maggots, larvae, and slugs, cresting waves of centipedes, darting splashes of cockroaches, and amongst it all, the ocean spray of flies and other winged insects. Together they form an ocean of decay as they sweep across the uneven ground in search of the newly fallen dead and dying.

And above this scene of decay and rot towers Creativity, he rests on his haunches surveying what remains of his domain. Rust cakes the gears and seams of his joints, his panels are dull and tarnished, showing none of their former lustre. Even his eyes appear foggy, their green light dim and weak. He surveys his realm and knows within himself that he is defeated.

The colossus feels weak, weak and meagre in the face of the titan Rot who came to assault his realm. He has fought tooth and nail, but how does one fight something so amorphous, so insidious? It never was a simple battle; it was a war of attrition from the start. Rot took his lands, he poisoned them, turning them into a valley of death and decay. Rot took the sun from him, blotting it from the sky and casting his world into a crimson hazed nightmare. And lastly, Rot took his body, infecting him with the rust and degeneration of his namesake.

Creativity could think of only one last thing he could do to defeat Rot, he had to outlast him. Kingdoms, domains, these things could be rebuilt and reforged, but Creativity himself must not be allowed to die. With laboured breaths he makes his way to the cliffs hedging the valley, rotting trees cracking and disintegrating under his tread. He rips and scrapes at the land at the base of the cliffs, tearing great furrows into the loamy soil. He hits hard rock and clay, but still he digs.

Time has little meaning for the great forces, but the red sun rises and sets over the dying valley many times before Creativity slows his labours. He hauls himself out of the hole he has dug, a great chasm in the earth running alongside the cliff face, and he surveys his domain one final time. It is the land he created, cultivated with his attention and love, his paradise in a once barren corner of the world.

He lets out a sigh, a deep grinding thing which reverberates down the length of the valley, “I’m sorry. I have failed you.”

With a final look he throws his great form down into the chasm and begins to thrash. The mountain cliffs shudder, throwing up a massive cloud of dust as cracks lace through the cliff side. With a thunderous roar the cliffs collapse down atop Creativity, filling the chasm, dust blotting out the meagre sun.

After the din there is only silence. Dust settles on a grim and twisted landscape. In the distance a dark mass pulls together, hordes of insects, rotting trees and corpses, great mounds of loam and moss, they form together into a gargantuan humanoid bulk, towering over the landscape.

The titan Rot surveys his domain.

 

Frozen Lakes and Swollen Rivers

So I have been notably absent this past month or so, and I don’t have any particularly good excuse. Nevertheless, I felt that I ought to let you know what I’ve been up to in the meantime, partially for my own desire to digress. I may have only just recently moved to Winnipeg, but that fact did little to temper my desire to get out and explore the wide world a bit more, even if it was to be a corner I am already rather intimate with. I moved into the shacks here on June 5th and headed out to Norway on June 19th.

Somewhere tucked away between Oslo and Bergen.

Somewhere tucked away between Oslo and Bergen.

In past years I have summered in Norway, living with friends, doing odd jobs here and there, and living the dream. This winter past when I saw that Iron Maiden would be visiting Norway and not Canada I hastily made my decision to return once again. The trip was amazing once again, though it was also surreal in a sort of way, I am used to living in Norway, this time it was much shorter and more of a vacation really.

I polished off a few of the last touristy kind of things in the vicinity of Oslo in eastern Norway before taking a train over the mountains with my good friend HL. The winter in these parts never really releases its grip on the land, and ice still choked the glacial lakes and mountaintops. The next time I return I think I must spend some time exploring these mountains. It was like nothing I have ever seen before.

The Iron Maiden concert was amazing as per usual and we had the next day to explore Bergen and go on a fjord tour. The last time I was in Bergen we headed out right after the concert and so it was nice to have a relaxing day in the city which reminded me so strongly of Vancouver. Before I knew it though, I was headed back to Winnipeg and back to work.

Somewhere tucked between Oslo and Bergen.

Somewhere tucked between Oslo and Bergen.

I only had a single day of regular work before the disaster breaking against Manitoba prompted the government to request more aid from the armed forces. So my regular work was shelved for the time being and I was carted off to Brandon, Manitoba in the wee hours of the morning to help with the flood relief in St. Francis Xavier. It was a long and exhausting day of baking sun, stifling humidity, and swarming mosquitoes. Honestly though, it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

As we worked through the day there were plenty of civilian volunteers who showed up by the busload to help us build the dikes, joining in chit-chat alongside us in the daisy chains. Not only did the volunteers help out building dikes, but they also brought out plenty of treats and snacks to munch on throughout the day. You have no idea how great a warm butter-tart tastes after chewing on deet flavoured boxed lunches all day. Unfortunately we aren’t allowed to accept gifts of alcohol, though there was plenty of that offered too 😛

I'm second from the left. Taken at the first house we sandbagged that day by CF Combat Camera.

I’m second from the left. Taken at the first house we sandbagged that day by CF Combat Camera.

I was thoroughly impressed with the sense of community and gratitude I witnessed that day. It most definitely helped to keep spirits high despite all the hard work and environmental pressures. My next day I was put on two-hour stand-by as the Assiniboine river pressed back against our fortifications, lucky for us and the homes near the river, the fortifications held strong. The following day we were once again carted out early in the morning, though this time to a sandbagging facility to help replenish the reserves we’d used up in our constructions. This day wasn’t nearly as rewarding as the first day, but you can’t win them all, and we did make somewhere in the vicinity of 11,000 sandbags that day. That Friday we were stood down as the worst of the surges passed by without further trouble and Op Lentus was brought to a close.

Since then I have been working each day and hitting the gym each night, there’s a sort of comfortable monotony in it. It’s not necessarily exciting work, but it’s still work and it gives me a little more time to explore my surroundings and get to know some more friends here. However, one thing that I have been neglecting since my days on flood duty, is writing. Normally I always have the itch to write scratching away in the back of my head and it just isn’t always ready to come out, but lately it has been almost entirely absent.

I will try to make a better effort to continue my practice of writing and telling stories in the near future. I can’t make any promises that I actually will write more, but I promise to try.
Until next time,
-R