Time in a Garden

There is so much more than you think there is in one armful of soil. So much more movement, so much more depth. I stared at a patch of soil today because I was asked to. When was the last time you did that? When was the last time someone asked you to?

We didn’t go outside enough in school. It’s a sad thing everyone talks about. I’m becoming a teacher, but in Vancouver. I can’t wait to ask students to put on their galoshes and stare at patches of wet, thriving soil.

I hope to start (or continue!) a school garden in the school where I work. I am this week getting my fingernails dirty in a practicum placement at UBC’s Orchard Garden. I’m realizing things like seeds are so small and salad mix is a real thing. I’m also learning things about time.


(from http://www.theorchardgarden.blogspot.ca)

My sister just had Anya. That is what I will say from now on because my sister didn’t have a baby, she had Anya, and Anya is now here. Anya is my niece. I can’t stop saying her name, letting it out under my breath like witchcraft. We stared at each other for a while the other day, Anya and I, and I can’t believe she will never remember it. I can’t believe there’s a time when you’re too young to realize anything about time.

She knows when it’s time for sleep, and she knows when it’s time to eat. She knows when it’s dark and when it’s light. I assume she knows a lot more than we think. But does she know about time?

Does she know that The Orchard Garden is being relocated for a construction site? Does she know that the polar ice caps are melting? Does she know that every day we age and every day we grow and every day there is someone new and someone gone? Does she know that her being born has marked a moment in time in our lives? There was once a time, and now there is a new one.

I think a lot about time but I stopped this week, when I was in the garden. Instead I thought about life, and how easy it is to forget that time is only there as a byproduct of our living. I only worry about it because I’m here, because I’m thinking. When really, thinking about time takes me away from life. Plants grow because they’re getting somewhere. They use all the energy they have to go for it. They grow and grow, unconscious of what might happen were they to stop. Then time, as seen by the plant itself, stops. Naturally.

Faith in a Sentence

To write well, I need to have faith in a sentence, faith that by the end of it I will know why it is I started it. It comes with some grasp (and passion for) English grammar. It comes with having written a lot of sentences that relied on little faith – boring, terse sentences that had a fully-formed plan behind them.

I hope that my passion for those sentences that come from nowhere (nowhere a synonym for faith) is not just pleasant surprise at having a sentence land before me. I hope there is something of quality about them that comes from the way they were created: from a sincerely creative place inside me.


(from hauntedparkersburg.blogspot.com)

Every place in me that is not creative seems like a wasted place. I resent the cautious places within me, those that steer me away from ideas. I fear the weak places within me, those that deter me from going further. I am so frustrated at those anxious places within me, those that use backspace, and worse – delete! – as a weapon.

There is so much that we do every day that relies on faith, so many decisions (and decisions to go out and make decisions at all), that writing becomes like a practice for life. I fear the next sentence – the quality of it, the meaning of it – but I am always better for it if I leap on it through faith than if I crawl through it with logic. I am always more moved, more taken, more encouraged to go on.

Two Things at Once, No More

I leave this as a permanent note to myself to remember that I can never be perfect, but I can stop being so imperfect: Two Things at Once, No More. I will never give any one thing my fullest attention, but I shouldn’t try and give my attention to everything. I right now have nine windows open and two real windows open. If I only left the real window and this one open, I would be able to focus: I am writing a blog post, and I am listening to the world.

I am not a multitasker, I am  a bi-tasker. Doing two things at once lets me battle the feeling of insecurity that comes from only doing one task: I am aware at all times that the task I am doing is not the only thing there is, that failure in one domain might just mean more success in another.


I like taking two roads through life, like one isn’t enough. I like the idea of alternate universes, or different threads in time , because these notions require you to imagine the choice you took as the most important of many. I like that today I went to not one but two restaurants for dinner; I liked that I met a writer and that I also didn’t meet him. Not having met him, not having eaten that, makes all the things that did happen so much more potent, important because of the way they emerged out of the possible.




(from houstondoorsandwindows.com)

I do two things at once because I like remembering I have the option. I like running toward every possibility, doors shutting on me as I slide one foot into each realm. I like writing when I shouldn’t be because it reminds me that writing is a choice I make every time I do it. Will this writing I’m doing affect the way I’m doing my other thing, the thing that is sometimes more important? I think it will, and I think that’s why I do it.


For all intents and purposes, let it be known that the other task I was doing while writing this blog post was not listening to the world outside my window. It was listening to The Bachelorette.

Being Cool Alone


I always thought it would be neat to be someone who is cool alone. It’s maybe why I write. It’s why I bought I neat glasses. I remember the first meal I ate out alone: it was at lunchtime at a Thai restaurant and I read a newspaper. It was not a big deal, but the start of a learning curve: what does it take to live alone?

It takes a lot of guts. It means going out your door even when you know you might find nothing. It means never telling anyone the full contents of your day. It means making a lot of decisions and then turning back on them. It means getting used to being lonely.

I don’t know why I think living in Paris alone would be easier. It would be so hard, surrounded by such beauty and energy but still feeling on the outskirts of it. I think it’s because I know that Parisians are so cool alone. Do you have to be cold, to be alone?

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

Being alone is a very careful place: the moment you fall into a circle of friends you are no longer doing it. Life becomes easy, swimmable. Being lonely is edgy. It’s being at the brink of having it all, but choosing to stay outside of it, looking in, being comfortable in your selfishness.

I am lonely when I travel; it’s the only real chance I have at trying to live alone. At home I have a family, I have friends. I could never really do it – I know I would always give up. This is the second time I have sent myself somewhere alone. Both times I have given myself fail-safes: a roommate, an aunt and uncle. But sleeping in a room alone in a new city is something. And though right now I’m in my same country, though I speak the language, it’s hard to penetrate, to not be alone.

A lot of the time that I’m with people I’m thinking of the next moment I will be alone: what will I read? What will I write? I don’t know why it drives me, these words flowing in and out, but somehow it’s a big part of what I live for. I fuel up with energy and life from my relationships with others so I can come back to myself and do this writing thing. So loneliness, it has its pay offs and its draw backs. I get to write, yes, I get to write a lot. But what am I writing about?


A Dorm Room


I always thought about university as a dorm room where I could study and have friends. I never thought of it as a small place where I would have to sleep at night. I never thought about the washrooms. The washrooms of a dorm room floor were not what I thought about when I thought about university.

So I never went to university, in the way I imagined it. I went to university in a bus and in a lecture hall but never in a dorm room.  I realize now, sitting in a dorm room built in 1951 (“mainly for boys”), that I didn’t miss out on university.

DormRoom_PercyHolmes_1904(from spfldcol.edu)

I love a confined space in which to write. I am not even someone who hates distractions and I like a confined space to write. But there are times where I don’t feel like writing (every few minutes) and what is a confined space then? Especially a confined space when you know there are 389 other rooms in the same building as yours (built in 1951, mainly for boys) and they are all milling about like ants and even if you step out to go pee wearing a cute outfit you might be seen by one of them! How scary a confined space when it is surrounded by other people in confined spaces. It’s the beauty of jail and of dollhouses.

Key to a good confined space is no window, though I am untraditional: I like a view with my confined space. This one has a view but I am on the first floor, so nearing sunset I have closed the blinds so people don’t peer in at me as I peer out at them, blinded by the sun. Now I have what I wished for: dark green curtains – basically a room with no window.

I hope that my time in this confined space is well spent: I hope I use the fearful moments to write a fearful scene and the moments in which I don’t feel like writing to write an awful scene. I hope I am brave enough in my cute outfit to venture past the washroom.

Really, secretly, I hope that in the next two weeks I get to experience university. I hope I learn something about what it’s like to be cool and sociable. I hope I get in trouble for having a loud party. I hope I am late for class and I hope I wear pyjamas everywhere. I hope I become really cheap and heavy and I hope that I take a lot of photos with my hand posed on my waist. Barring any of those things happening, (and I hope none of those things happen), I hope I get to write a little bit, and I hope I leave appreciating what my university experience was really like: good to me, a place where I thought and learned and a place from which I discovered that I was going to be a writer.








Take Me Out

I let books do partying for me. They teach me the ways of the young and the damned so I don’t have to get too close to real life. I love books for how they make me feel: wild, traumatised, lovely, like I just woke up and someone made me coffee. Words let me feel things that life doesn’t. I get something more from them, something sweeter and more personal. I let my books do my living for me.

When I think of all the books I haven’t read and want to read I begin to feel panicked but excited at the possibilities. I can imagine all the life I have yet to live in them. I focus on the books I have yet to read instead of the places I have yet to go or the people I have yet to meet. Books replace all the houses I won’t be able to afford and all the men I should have married but turned my back to. Books are easy – they can be put aside, bookmarked or given as a gift. Life doesn’t have a front and back cover.


(photo from adoptanegotiator.org)

Now I get this one specific feeling from books that rarely comes in real life. The times I have felt it have been first dates, summer nights driving with windows open, and after a first beer at a bar with friends. It’s a distinct feeling of possibility. It smells like something; it makes me smile a certain way.

If you’ve never tried writing, then you don’t know that you get this same feeling when the words are coming together. You get it even when they’re not. And I realized lately what this feeling is. It’s the feeling of making something.

Making something is what is so valuable about reading instead of viewing stories on TV or in movies. When you read, you need to invent. You need to fill things in so you can see. Writing is then just a more advanced invention. There you start with nothing and you make everything. With reading you start with some things and you make more things (you can never make everything). Reading and writing and driving with windows open on summer nights are all about putting things in motion. You feel it in the tips of fingers that things are happening.

I ask books to do my living for me so I can learn to better live. I can live better if I remember that everything I am doing is a product of me doing it. I make things happen by rolling down the windows and picking up the pen. There is nothing happening unless I fill things in so I can see. I am reading and I am writing everywhere everyday. If I’m standing alone at a party it’s not because I’d rather be reading, it’s because I’m taking it all in, trying to make something of it.