Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Growing in the Dark

Now that my days of formal schooling are over, I find I continue to learn from the natural world. Even houseplants.

Take my cala lily, for instance. This dark, leafy plant arrived at my mother's funeral from an absent relative three years ago. The plant would have been tossed out, so I brought it home. With its delicate white blossoms, it seemed to symbolize the sacredness of spirit passing into the light.

This summer only one flower sprouts, straight and tall, from its center. I prune the plant, trimming and discarding all the dead foliage. To my surprise I see three tiny blossoms nestled beneath, gathering their strength before they emerge.

They remind me of our hidden talents and abilities - the potential that many of us never get to realize. Like plants require soil and sunlight before they can flower, our gifts need to be nurtured. Our society does not encourage us to develop talents with no guarantee of monetary gain; we are told not to waste our time.

Yet by not doing what we love - whether it is singing opera, acting in a play or stringing words together - part of our spirit shrivels and dies. Like the new blossoms on the cala lily, our talents want to grow.

Storytelling has always fascinated me and brought me joy. I devour romantic films and novels. To date I sold 35 of my short stories to magazines and I am still mastering the novel in all its complexity. When I give myself over to the writing, I feel I am living two lives - my own and that of my story world which is often far more exciting.

I cannot control what happens to my creations in the marketplace; I can only do my best and hope they emerge fully into the world. I don't want to die regretting what I did not dare.

I hope you will honour whatever is calling you and nurture it for its own sake. It's the gift you give yourself now and maybe one day will be your gift to humanity.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Running in the Rain

It’s late as I walk with my friend through the downtown streets of Montreal after enjoying outdoor events in the Old Port. We come upon a plaza in the center of Place Ville Marie. I recall coming here for years when it was only concrete. Now I see trees, large expanses of grass and flowering hedges. A fountain splashes around the graceful sculpture of a woman. We settle ourselves at the edge to enjoy the sound of rushing water.

As it’s a warm night, we both kick off our sandals and dangle our feet in the slightly chlorinated pool at the base. The coolness refreshes me.

From our vantage spot, we look up McGill College Avenue to see all the restaurants and street lamps, then beyond to Mount Royal (mountain in the center of the city) and the lighted cross at the top. Sitting here feels magical.

I mention how I miss swimming and wish I could immerse my whole body in water right now. As though the heavens heard me, the skies open and a few drops of rain quickly turn into a torrent.

We need to head for the subway but it continues to pour, bouncing water off the pavement. So we walk and run along Ste Catherine Street, getting thoroughly drenched. I see the water drip through my friend’s hair and down his face and feel it sliding over mine. Everything I have on is wet but it no longer seems to matter.

I remember running barefoot in the rain as a child, holding my hands up to the sky. Now, as then, I feel exhilarated.

A Celebration of Canada

On Canada Day, July 1st, I join the throngs at the Old Port of Montreal to celebrate our heritage.

A huge white cruise ship is docked alongside yachts and power boats at the harbour and people spill over the concrete walkways and fill the park to overflowing. A stage has been erected for the free performances. I find the most lively and engaging is the Freddie James Project, delivering popular hits including “I Got a Feeling.” The crowds sway and clap, drawn into the pulsating energy of the music and the joy of this celebration.

Surrounding me is a sea of faces – from the very old to the very young – that represents the cultural mix that is Canada. Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Lebanese, Russian: most of us come from different countries or have parents or grandparents who did…but tonight we unite to show how glad we are to be here.

This is a country where personal freedom is respected, where financial institutions with their more stringent regulations help to keep our resources safe, and healthcare as well as social programs are offered to the masses. We are also considered a tolerant society but will never condone violence and aggression.

Tonight I feel the spirit of the people as hundreds of thousands of miniature maple leaf flags wave in the breeze. Although free concerts take place on Canada Day all over Montreal, this is the biggest party by far. We must be close to a million people.

Interestingly, there is no mention of these events by the media the next day. Happy crowds and a growing national pride do not make news.

What happened on July 1st, though, will forever live on in our memories. And I, like so many others, will continue to celebrate this day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Starting Over

Spring has arrived a month late in Montreal. A soft greening extends as far as the eye can see as leaves unfurl on trees and bushes and stretch towards the sun. During this time I find myself in the midst of home renovations which solidify as well as beautify the place where I live.

It’s been weeks since I immersed myself in storylines, letting characters speak through me of their wants and tribulations. I miss the magic of creating worlds.

My only consolation is knowing that this, too, shall pass and I will once again be free to focus on my work.

The publishing industry is going through changes of its own as bookstores stock fewer and fewer books or shut down altogether while hand-held devices and electronic books become more and more popular. I don’t know how this will affect author earnings and rights. All I can do is write what I care about and offer an entertaining read.

As a cycle of growth and renewal takes over the land, I hear the calling of birds and the rustling of my own novelist wings, eager to start again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Tragedy Strikes

Japan just suffered a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a giant tsunami, which together unexpectedly took over 10,000 lives and displaced many more. As if that isn’t horrific enough, damaged nuclear reactors are exploding and releasing radiation.

Is there anyone on the planet who does not feel the impact of the devastation?

Like so many others, I watch the news in shock and feel that my contribution to foreign aid or prayers for victims and their families cannot begin to make a difference. Yet I know that our collective concern for the plight of the Japanese is what can turn things around. We cannot un-do the damage but we can unite in spirit and give our support.

Because the truth is, none of us is immune to tragedy, whether on a personal or global level. And knowing that others care can help us to make the effort to pull through.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let the Silence Speak

Early January can be dreary – it starts to get dark almost as soon as we’re up, the wind howls past our windows and snow piles up outside, making travel hazardous.

Not that I can complain this winter. Once more, Montreal is being spared. Another storm raging in NY State (south of here) shifts eastwards to the Maritimes and leaves us alone.

Still, the holidays are behind us and spring nowhere in sight. It’s a quiet time, a period when creatures hibernate and even party goers lose their steam.

Needing a diversion, I head downtown. For months, a mammoth Christmas tree filled the center of an indoor mall at Place Montreal Trust. All the decorations have now been stripped away. I hoped that the giant fountain beneath the artificial tree would again be visible and it is.

Bone dry.

I can almost hear the rush of water as it gushes twenty feet into the air only to cascade down like the musical notes on a harp. Is that the echo of children's laughter as they splash coins into the fountain? Soon the water will flow once more and these ghostly sounds will be real.

Right now, a pool of silence fills my inner landscape. It’s the perfect time for me as a writer to let new characters populate my mind and fill it with their voices. In the stillness I can become inspired.

The world of imagination never sleeps; all I have to do is tune in.