Sous la chaleur timide d’un matin d’Octobre, le sol s’étire et expire une couche de brume comme un soupir. S’élevant vers le ciel qui les appelle, les gouttelettes se prennent aux aux herbes longes que le contre-jour couronne de lumière. L’horizon se dilue comme une aquarelle au passage de l’eau que le ciel rappelle à lui. La nature retient les nuages entre ciel et terre.
In his book Writing Better Lyrics, songwriter Pat Pattison recommends the practice of “object writing” as a way to improve our writing technique. Strong writing skills liberate us to express our unique creative ideas, not only in songwriting but in every form of creative expression. Creation is a deep dive into our senses and memories to retrieve gems buried in the sediments lying at the bottom. The deeper the dive, the better our senses, memories and experiences have mixed and integrated each other. Object writing is a diving technique by which we focus our senses on a object and describe it using all our senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch, adding to it the organic feel of the whole and the kinesthetic sense, the sense of relation of the object with the world around us.
I took up the practice of object writing last year when I started reading Pat Pattison’s book and I got stalled at chapter 1. Today I added a new “Poetry & Photography” category to my blog to catalogue the writing exercises suggested in Writing Better Lyrics. The first-level end goal is, of course, to write lyrics I am not mortified to share, leading to the second-level end goal of finding a musician willing to put them to music. Writing Better Lyrics has helped me improve my creative writing in general and it’s my hope that more regular practice will help me speed up the process of putting ideas to paper.
Every once in a while I get invited to give a talk, sit on a panel or chair a board of directors and a request for a headshot inevitably follows. It always feels something less than professional to send my latest selfie but all the other pictures of me were taken my children and involve either my less flattering appendages, booze, or both.
A nagging little voice kept telling me that I should pay for professional headshots but an even less pleasant little voice always answered “It’s not like you’re paid for these gigs, right?” Why should I fork real money to be reminded how old and doughy I’m getting? When there are guitars to buy and live shows to attend?
And so the little voices stood at a standstill on my shoulder until I had to apply for a job using LinkedIn, making my profile selfie my first chance to make a good impression. Chastised, I booked an appointment with a fellow mom and local photographer and started planning my 5 minutes of glamour.
First, I would get a new outfit. Simple but classy, I had it all figured out: new skinny jeans, a loose-fitting linen tunic with some new jewelry and a new pair of sneakers. Then I would book the few hours before my headshots for a haircut and getting my nails done. My bangs are almost nose-length, it was necessary anyway, and my hair person could style it for me, a skill I was not blessed with at birth. It would be a headshot session doubling as a day of beautification and pampering, the perfect antidote to a sagging spirit. Monday would be clothes shopping day. Tuesday would be eyebrow threading and leg waxing. Wednesday was hair and pictures. Everything blissfully booked while my children were at school.
It all came crashing in a thundering mess on the Sunday evening when I got the photographer’s email reminder. “We’re looking forward to see you tomorrow, Monday June 12th for your session” … I had it all planned out on the WRONG DAY! Right date, wrong day. I had nothing to wear, an overgrown haircut and bushy eyebrows.
In a panic, I hit my oldest daughter’s closet for a dress, any dress. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter, while statuesque, doesn’t have the right curves at the right place. One does not simply carry 9 children to term and expect to fit in a dress from Sirens, even in a size 10. I grabbed some XL shape wear with the desperate energy of the moribund and almost died trying to get it off. Relieved that the jaws of life were not necessary to get me out it, I reluctantly accepted that I was too shapely for shapewear. I grabbed a simple black and white dress from Walmart that made me look as grumpy and unkempt as the Walmart in my small town but at least it covered the right parts and I could take it off without calling the fire department.
The little voice of insanity kept whispering in my ear that Monday morning would not be too late to go dress-shopping. Like a Home Depot ad suggesting “You can do it, we can help.” Like the Scotiabank’s “You’re richer than you think” So many reminders that stupidity could pay off, if only, NO STOP IT!!
On the morning of the photo shoot, I concluded that the only way to avoid a desperate attempt at dress shopping and hair cutting would be to go to the gym. I could shower and dress at the gym with only minutes to spare for make-up, which should discourage any delusions of grandeur but the most humble slapping of foundation and mascara. On my way out the door to drive the children to school I grabbed a curling iron, a flask of tinted moisturizer and my daughters’ mascara; threw the Walmart dress on top of my gym bag and attacked the day with a significant lump in my throat. The day of pampering and beautification had become just another fight with chaos.
After my workout and shower, my hair was kinked in its usual pony tail shape and I knew I couldn’t beat it so I might as well join it. I arranged my hair in a high pony tail and tried to curl some of it behind my back. I didn’t even know how to turn-on the contraption but maybe I could use it backwards with my arms extended on the wrong side of my head, the one without eyes. Once I found the “on” button, I let the device heat on a ziplock bag of bobby pins. I curled molten plastic into my hair repeatedly before cluing-in, combed it out over the next five days. So far so good.
Undeterred, I whipped my daughters’ new mascara out of my bag. My daughters, while genetically-related to me, have a gift for make-up. It’s a form of artistic expression. See for yourselves.
If your main consideration when choosing mascara is “can this brush maim me permanently?” you shouldn’t borrow it from my daughters: they’ve been using it without poking their eyes out since grade 1. This was my reflection as I beheld the sickle-shaped, black-paint laden, rigid object I was about to take dangerously close to my eyes.
I emerged from the gym’s change room with a “this is my normal face” attitude, hoping that no one had seen me wipe melted ziplock off my curling iron, and stepped into the car for a mad drive across town. I knocked on Sara’s door taking my first breath since breakfast and greeted her with an executive summary of my confusion and the effort exerted to get my butt into her studio. She laughed and said “On the other hand, this is exactly what you look like in real life. Sometimes I meet people at business events and I don’t recognize them from their headshots.”
She’s right isn’t she? I don’t wear make-up because it bugs me. I don’t have nice clothes because I hate shopping. I’d rather spend my time writing, playing music and answering emails about parenting struggles and victories. I’m not at an age and stage where I can look polished and be a decent human being at the same time. Every morning, I choose being present and un-rushed to being properly dressed and styled because being-both-level has not been unlocked yet. This is who I am.
Not a real rock star, of course. But he rocks more than the other husbands and that makes him a rock star. Photo credit to my two oldest (and apparently talented) children, who are not supposed to touch the D90 under pain of death. You are so busted.
12-ish years ago, we bought a canoe at Canadian Tire. We used it a couple of times to go camping. In fact, my last memory of using the canoe was at Silver Lake. I peed on a stick that morning and found out we were expecting Marie. My last memory of the canoe is therefore tinged with morning sickness. With 4 then 5 children, activities like camping took a sabbatical and the canoe sat — or rather lied — unused in three consecutive backyards. Until now.
When the children saw the pond behind our rental house they immediately thought of great canoeing adventures. When their dad asked where he should set-up the trampoline in the backyard, David’s answer was immediate:
On the island! This way it will be double the fun!
(it has not occurred to my little country bumpkin that the patch of grass behind our patio door is our only backyard. The pond belongs to the Crown according to the developer and the developer according to the City.)
Last weekend, my husband took the children for a turn in the canoe. The pond is a rainwater catchment area landscaped to serve as a recreational path and bird sanctuary. The children returned from their expedition with tales of seeing Aaron-the-Heron (and his partner-in-majestic-flight Erin-the-Heron) up real close and meeting a little water mammal in the cracks of the man-made retaining wall. My husband was proud to be fit enough to portage his vehicle to and from the pond. I never had any doubts.
Our teenage daughter and son ran around the pond taking pictures of the expedition laughing as they heard kids yelling from their backyards: “They have a CANOE!!” Meanwhile I could just imagine the exasperated look on their parents’ faces. “Two years doing just fine telling the kids we weren’t allowed on the pond, and they move with their 8 kids and A CANOE… There goes the neighbourhood!”
Since September we have not taken nearly enough time to pause and spend time doing something cool with the children. This little expedition around our suburban paradise reminded me just how simple building memories can be. In a large family, all too often the heroism is not in the endless march of chores but in being able to stop long enough to do something else.