Poetry and Perception

My poems reflect my continuing interest in perception and how we try to capture fleeting moments with language. I think the art that comes closest to what I’m trying to do in poetry is photography—the exploration of things in the world (and in ourselves) from various angles. The attempt to penetrate surfaces by using the very surfaces themselves.

James Hillman, in Revisioning Psychology, has helped me to understand my process. He says, “By soul I mean, first of all a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing in itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment—and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground”

The middle ground is what intrigues me when I’m writing poetry. I’m trying to get into my poems the way we actually perceive the world, inner and outer, from the soul’s perspective, how the two collide and collude in the brain, the poem a reflection of that activity. Charles Olson and Denise Levertov were after the shape of the inner voice—they tried to capture how that sounded on the page. Others try to recreate the external world in traditional lyrics, or narratives, or some combination of the two.

I want the dimension in-between, where both come together; it’s a more accurate rendering of how we perceive. It seems only art and dreams can begin to duplicate that world for us.

A Writer’s Sanctuary

From inside my study, one wall book-lined, the other holding a large mirror that makes the room appear bigger, I sit on the loveseat, listening to Strauss and the waterfall powered by a tiny electric pump. When I’m home, I turn it on, the sound of water like a heart beat in this house, a tangible reminder of what usually is invisible, at least to waking life—water for me representing the unconscious and all that lives there.

I come to this sanctuary at the center of the house, separated from the master bedroom by French doors, to be alone, as much as one can be alone in a shared space. Images that trigger happy memories or just please me fill the walls and shelves: a canal in Venice, that watery city I love; a blackened white porcelain female figure holding a dove aloft that my sister had given me (it survived my house fire of many years ago); a print of an Emily Carr painting, the night and forest appearing eerie and alive; twisted pieces of driftwood; a small rock from the Acropolis; and a picture of my sister and me taken a few years back outside the remains of our barn on the Langdon farm.

My husband jokingly accuses me of conducting secret rites in my study after he goes to sleep, lighting candles, doing “witchy” things. To him, a Freudian analyst and an English professor, I’m sure that much of what I do with dreams and in Jungian analysis appears esoteric. Strange. Mystifying.

For me this room acts as a conduit to my deeper self. My laptop is in here where I record my dreams, store my journals, and write. I also have a table set up with watercolors and other art materials, ready to collect colors and shapes from the unconscious that choose to surface in this way.

Do others have this kind of sanctuary in their homes? It seems essential in order to tolerate the craziness of the external world.

 

Writing’s dialogue with myself and my life

I’m interested in an interview I read in Border Crossings with Canadian artist Betty Goodwin: She says, “A work is a deeply personal mixture of your earlier experiences and also your life at the present in this world. But I can’t shred it and say it’s absolutely this or that. It’s based in something you don’t even realize yourself until it gives you back information. It’s like you’re pulling and pulling and trying to get something. And then there’s that magic time when it begins to pull you. If that doesn’t happen, you can’t push it any more and it dies.”

This quote captures my feelings about how my writing connects with my on-going life, that somehow it’s shaping me as I shape it, just as dreams do. What do I mean here? Dreams speak to us from the depths of the unconscious. There is not past, present, or future in the psyche. Often, then, they not only dredge up moments from our past but also reach their tentacles into the future. Poetry and fiction seem to have a similar dynamic. The poems that interest me the most are ones that don’t follow a traditional narrative movement. They seem to take elements from multiple places, including memories as well as outer and inner experiences. In fiction, I feel I’m expressing aspects of myself as well that I become familiar with as I write. Emotions, ideas, images surface that enlarge my understanding of myself and the world.

It’s essential for my well being to have this dialogue with the work and my life.

 

 

 

Dreaming into 2015

On this first day of a new year, I recorded my dreams as usual, wondering if they would preview what I’d be dealing with during 2015. Now dead family members—my uncle Jack, Grandpa, Mum—paid me visits, so I’m left thinking about how they’ll influence me in the coming days.

Each morning I walk into my dreams, an invisible membrane I wear throughout the day.  The characters and moods and colors of the dreams interact with the world, enlivening and deepening it, as I discover parallels with inner dramas. Gradually, some of the meaning from these nightly narratives seems into daytime consciousness.

The authority in a dream that is trying to intimidate me matches a similar instance in my current life. Or I’m left pondering the image of adding something to a milk bottle that curdled the top layer, though the rest was okay after I poured out the curdled part. I think of the milk bottle top being similar to our head and how things we take in can sour because they aren’t accurate or relevant, so we need to get rid of them.

Dreams function much as the large mirror does in my study, giving depth, creating another dimension. They’re the water that recirculates through me constantly, renewing and refreshing.

 

Dreams and the Narrative of Our Lives

Since my late 20s, I’ve recorded my dreams every morning, curious about the wonderful dramas that unfold each night in the subterranean depths. During a recent trip to Osoyoos, B.C., I got a better understanding of dreams and the role they play in our lives when my husband and I stayed at the Observatory B&B.

The rental was located on one of the highest promontories in the town, and the observatory had a world-class telescope. Jack, the “amateur” astronomer, has published six books with Cambridge university press on his explorations. Each night and morning he takes his guests on a tour of the sky, exposing viewers to sights they otherwise would never experience. I was transported from Earth to constellations that I’d only read about, if that. It was a mind-blowing, life-altering experience.

Jack became interested in astronomy when he was ten on the Canadian prairies. He received a telescope for a gift, and that set him off. What was so intriguing about his presentations is how much is out there in the universe that we know so little about and aren’t aware of, a teeming life beyond our ordinary vision. And vision is something he’s very informed about. We see things in black and white that a camera picks up in color. That shocks me. How we’re trained to see. How much our eye picks up that our brains won’t allow in. He pointed out to my husband that there could be a ghost sitting next to him, but he wouldn’t see it for a variety of reasons, reinforcing the idea about parallel universes. Jack definitely believes there is life out there.

When I reflected on this experience later, I realized that viewing through the telescope was very similar to my involvement with dreams. Like the telescope, they also take me into territory I otherwise wouldn’t know about, offering views on myself and my interaction with family and friends. But, most important, they help me to understand there is a level in all of us that we’re normally unaware of. Dreams offer us ways to explore our psyche, a universe that most of us ignore. They create subtexts, not unlike what some fiction does as well, suggesting that there are unexplored levels that are informing the on-going narrative of our lives.

 

 

Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.

My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing.  I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all.  I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week.  We are so fortunate here at the Lake now.  The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript.  Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.

Here is a synopsis:

Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.

A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.

In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.

Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.

But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.


The Dream Thieves

For many years I’ve been recording my dreams each morning and trying to listen to the messages they bring me from the depths. I subscribe to Jung’s view that dreams are messengers from the unconscious, both personal and collective. To ignore them is like refusing to open and read letters from beloved friends that come in the mail. Not spam. Not advertisements. But serious, heartfelt missives.

What kind of messages do dreams bring? It depends. Sometimes they comment imagistically on our daily routines, pointing out, perhaps, areas in our relationships with others that might be lacking. Other times they bring news from afar, tossing onto the shore of our conscious minds images and narratives from a more primal level in our psyches. These dreams resemble ancient myths in the way they evoke universal themes that still play out in the modern mind. To ignore them is similar to turning away a wise uncle or grandparent, someone who has lived through it all and has a valuable perspective on things.

In simpler times, dreams held the place of honor in our morning conversations with each other (and still do in some more “primitive” societies), giving dreamers guidance and a starting point for interaction with each other. They’ve been replaced by our preoccupation with a variety of digital gadgets. We are so involved with iPhones, iPads, iPods, computers, video games, and all the variations, we have little time not only for face-to-face relationships with others but also with in-depth conversations with ourselves. These toys collude to distract us from anything but the more superficial, mechanical elements in our daily lives: the hours some people spend on social networks like Facebook that gives the illusion of “friending” when it really does the opposite. It provides a soapbox for one-way monologues, the kind of behavior that can kill an actual relationship. It reminds me of sitting through a meal with someone whose only interest is in him/herself and the words coming out of his/her mouth. There are no eyes to look into—mirrors of the soul. There are no souls!

Of course, just by keeping a blog I’m engaging in the kind of action I’m criticizing, climbing up on my soapbox to vent into the stratosphere. But anything that subverts the imagination and impoverishes it concerns me. Perhaps by reflecting on this situation here I can be more careful in the future, limiting the times I spend digitizing rather than dreaming.

 

Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.

My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing.  I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all.  I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week.  We are so fortunate here at the Lake now.  The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript.  Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.

Here is a synopsis:

Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.

A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.

In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.

Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.

But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.


Poetry & Perception

Many of my poems reflect a continuing interest in perception and how we try to capture fleeting moments with language. The art that comes closest to what I’m trying to do in poetry is photography, the exploration of things in the world (and in ourselves) from various angles. The attempt to penetrate surfaces by using the very surfaces themselves.

I just re-read a piece in an old issue of Round Table Review that has helped me to understand what I’m after in poetry. In an article entitled “This Talk of ‘Soul’: What Does It Mean?,” Mary Stamper quotes James Hillman from his work Revisioning Psychology: “By soul I mean, first of all a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing in itself.  This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens.  Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment—and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground….  (qtd. in Round Table Review, Jan/Feb 1995, 7)

I’m trying to get into my poems the way we actually perceive the world, inner and outer, from the soul’s perspective, how the two collide and collude in the brain, the poem a reflection of that activity.  Charles Olson and Denise Levertov were after the shape of the inner voice—they tried to capture how that sounded on the page.  Others try to recreate the external world in traditional lyrics, or narratives, or some combination of the two.

I want the dimension in-between, where both come together; it’s a more accurate rendering of how we perceive. It seems only art and dreams can begin to duplicate that world for us. This idea connects to what Stamper says: “This means death of the notion that things appear to the soul in the same way that they appear in everyday contexts, that soul understands things in the same way that our egos do” (Round Table Review, Jan/Feb 1995, 8).

I also see a relationship between impressionist and some kinds of abstract paintings and the poetry I want to write—of just suggesting something. Giving only enough information/detail to set the imagination working. I don’t want everything spelled out. I want mystery in my poems, new worlds. Or as Mark Rothko responded when he was visiting Greece and someone there commented on Rothko’s striped paintings: “‘Why don’t you paint our temples.’ Rothko replied, ‘Everything I paint is a temple.'”

I’d like to think that everything I write is one. There seems some evidence for the idea that we are changed by the things we create—actually shaped by them. Ralph Ellison shares this idea. He says the novels we write create us as much as we create them. And Joseph Brodsky believes language has a life outside of us and uses the writer.

Language is absolutely mysterious in its relationship to humans and the things it touches.

 

Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.

My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing.  I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all.  I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week.  We are so fortunate here at the Lake now.  The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript.  Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.

Here is a synopsis:

Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.

A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.

In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.

Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.

But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.


Living with Dying

I’ve been reviewing The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I picked up several years ago, intrigued with a section on meditation that seems important to me just now:  “The art of dying begins with preparation for death.  As for any journey, there are innumerable preparations one can make.  The Book of Natural Liberation suggests at least five main types of preparation while still living:  informational, imaginational, ethical, meditational, and intellectual” (52).

My interest in taking up a more focused spiritual practice again is to experience some of these things listed as preparations for death.  The wisdom texts can help with that need.  I don’t want to be like the ostrich with its head in the sand; I believe in preparing for life’s various stages, being knowledgeable, ready.

That’s why meditation as an active practice attracts me again. I did it daily for many years before Michael and I met, when I was living alone.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead has a good section that gives an overview of the various meditations one can do, from the basic calming meditation of one-pointed attention, to using ordinary daily activities as opportunities for contemplation:

“This involves using sleep as a time for practice.  You can convert the process of falling asleep into a rehearsal of the death dissolutions, imagining yourself as sinking away from ordinary waking consciousness down through the eight stages into deep-sleep clear-light transparency.  And you can convert the dream state into a practice of the between-state, priming yourself to recognize yourself as dreaming when in the dream…. It is very important, for if you can become self-aware in the dream state by the practice of lucid dreaming, you have a much better chance of recognizing your situation in the between after death” (57).

I’ve had numerous lucid dreams over the years, but I hadn’t thought of them as vehicles for preparing for death!  But I’ve had fewer since I stopped practicing meditation regularly.

OM MANI PADME HUM works for me as a meditation, especially when I awaken in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. I found it in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and I like the idea that it evokes a universal good in all things, which can prevail even in times of misfortune.  Of course, you need to believe that there is a universal good in all things for this mantra to be effective; I guess I believe that. Or I would like to.

 

Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.

My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing.  I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all.  I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week.  We are so fortunate here at the Lake now.  The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript.  Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.

Here is a synopsis:

Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.

A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.

In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.

Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.

But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.


 

On Not Being Perfect

I have spent considerable time in the past 30 years in therapy, analysis, and self-reflection, examining dreams, my relationships with people in the external world and with the “little people of the psyche.”  I’ve also practiced meditation, participated in worship at churches and synagogues, and had an active interest in the spiritual life.  In short, I’ve tried to become more aware, hoping that in the process I might become a better, more “whole” person.

Of course better already presents difficulties for it suggests that my original self, if there is such a thing, was flawed:  it needed improvement.  It’s a moral judgment. I’m comparing myself to some ideal, thinking I should be able to handle conflicts more maturely, not be disturbed by the minutiae of daily life.  I can’t help thinking of the measurements some Christians use that show a person’s spiritual evolvement based on evidence of the holy spirit’s presence:  patience, tolerance, wisdom, etc.  I fail.

I fail because I’m not ideal, I’m human, and to be human is to be flawed.  It seems. I don’t trust people who appear to be unruffled by the things that bother me, who are able to help others and extend themselves endlessly. Or so it seems.

To expect we will transcend the pressures of daily life (in my case, all of the rewards and problems that come with being a mother and step-parent) seems not only unrealistic, it’s unhealthy.    Better to sizzle and fume, to let others know what we’re feeling, than to play the saintly role. It isn’t human.