Thursday, August 30, 2007

Today’s 5 Good Things

This is an idea I borrowed from Jon’s charming blog, Writing in a Vacuum, which I very much enjoy reading. Although I could never possibly keep up with his humour and good mood, due to my mainly melancholic nature, I thought I should attempt this at least this time. My oldest daughter has started school today - she’s a second form pupil now - so there’s an excitement in the air, both for her and for me.

So, here we are, five good things about starting school:

1. The discovery of two brand-new playgrounds in the school yard. Brightly coloured slides of all shapes and sizes, swings, climbing nets, etc. etc. Sand, of course, plenty of it. Empty in the morning, whole bunches of kiddies hanging onto them in the afternoon.

2. A school bag full of pristine stationery, just waiting for the little hands to dig into it.

3. Meeting again friends, all partially toothless, all reshuffled into new classes, with a new teacher, but nevertheless the same friends.

4. My feelings of awe and the slightests of trepidations, as if I were the child, in school again, waiting for the mighty teacher to call my name.

5. Leaving early from work, even though it means I have to wake up earlier in the morning. But I get to zoom on the fluid motorway to my heart’s desire…

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Words

Your arms are made of this dark ink,
flowing recklessly
on this crisp white paper.
My daring words
gave them flesh and blood,
built these biceps
whose strength I seek now,
covered them in your torrid skin,
so smooth to my touch,
so desired.
Here you are, my lover...
Your pulse beats inside me,
maddening drum
in the jungle of my soul.
Your lips speak from the involutes and evolutes
of my nimble scrawl,
words, how sweet, how outrageous.
Your smile resonates deep,
in the maelstroms of my blood.
I revel in it, my eyes half-closed,
holding onto my instruments of writing,
still hoping
for their illusory protection
against this sweet vertigo.
All is lost when your breath comes upon me,
my pen falters,
my heart misses a beat,
but still,
I write,
I write.
Your mouth of hasty letters would not relent.
How fiercely we drink each other,
how tenderly you tear me apart.
No matter, my love,
Bring it on,
I only cling to you tighter,
I dive in your eyes,
as you resolutely surround me,
as we both surrender
to this whirl,
to this rush,
to this bliss,
to the infinite power
of the mind.

From the dream of a late summer afternoon,
only this pen,
this notebook,
this emptiness,
only my words

Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So This Is (A Part I’ve Seen of) Cuba

How odd it seemed to be sitting again in front of a computer after two weeks; the screen looked strange, the keyboard felt weird, my fingers were typing the most unexpected combinations of letters, quite far from the words I intended to form. I was only transcribing the notes I had scribbled down on a piece of paper during these two weeks – there is not much continuity, these are random thoughts and impressions (plus some pictures that might or might not have anything to do with the text)– not an essay.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A sea, from the darkest indigo at the horizon to the lightest green where the waves break on the white sand, passing through the brightest turquoise. Watched from the shade of a beautiful tree with thick round leaves, the size of two hands put together, with clusters of grape looking green fruit, possibly edible.

On the far shore to my left, I can see some of the tiny white houses of the Cubans; no windowpanes, just wood shutters. (Later we found out that those little houses were in fact a summer camp for kids. One day we saw those kids, a long line of them taking a trip on the beach, visiting the marsh (a protected ecological area) that separated the hotel and the beach – they were good looking, well dressed, very nice kids.)

The heat is heavy, but not oppressing. I like to think I can absorb it through all my pores and store it somehow as a shelter against the winter that is soon to come, home, in the north.

The people are poor, but I think they’re proud and relatively happy. They’re blessed with a nature of a marvellous richness.

(On the bus trip to the hotel, I saw a man mowing his short dry lawn, in the little yard of his little house with no glass window panes; decrepit apartment buildings, in dire need of painting, with tiny apartments, with minuscule balconies, and little windows, all with air conditioning units.)

It’s difficult to say what is or would have been better, especially as an outsider. The communists or the Americans? I believe that ordinary people would have been exploited the same and most likely more by capitalists, with access to education and healthcare more precarious. Right now, education (from preschool to university, and beyond) and healthcare are free for all. I’m sure things would have been just as bad as in Haiti or other countries in the Central or South America. (A co-worker, who has relatives in Venezuela and who’s also been several times to Cuba, told me they’re much worse in Venezuela than they are in Cuba.)

Twice, a stronger wave washed on the sand silver fishies, not an inch long, from the schools swimming right at the shore. We hurried to scoop them, with the sand they were lying on, and throw them back in the water. I’m gladly reporting that many of them swam away. They probably got a bit smarter, at least temporarily, and swam in deeper water, because it didn’t happen again the same day.

There is a permanent guard at the entrance from the beach onto the hotel grounds. One night when we returned from watching the sunset, he gave my daughters two grasshoppers he’d made from palm tree leaves and grass.

The Cubans have beautiful names. Some have Spanish names: Julio, Carlos, Pedro, Rosa-Maria, Alejandro. Some have Russian names, like Yuri or Ludmila – how weird it seems to see such names here, so far geographically and ethnically from Russia, yet in a place with its destiny so closely linked to it. (The guide on the bus taking us from the airport to the hotel mentioned how badly the Cuban economy has fared after the fall of the communist regimes in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries. It was opening the country to tourism, he said, that helped immensely the recovery of this economy. Most tourists are Canadians, Brits, and Italians, with some Germans, Spaniards, and Scandinavians.) Finally, others have beautiful strange names like Amauris or Mileydis, Raydel, Naybi, Arianny or Luzmila.

On Saturdays and Sundays, local people literally invade the beach.
They are beautiful people. They come in all shades, from the two boys I’ve seen on the beach, black like coals, to the dancer in the nightly show, white-skinned and fair-haired, a perfect copy of Nicole Kidman’s.
At ten in the morning, I saw them standing in the water, chest deep, in groups, men and women, with a bottle of rum, passing it among them. I saw them coming out, drunk, holding hands, some not able to stand straight on two feet, the empty bottles dangling from their hands.

An old man who gives out the chairs at the beach works thirty days for 284 pesos, which means about 11 CUC (convertible pesos) (1 CUC ≈ 1 USD). Every day, he comes to work, 5 kilometres, from his village, on his bicycle, which costs 125 CUC.
We gave him one convertible peso everyday. He is thin, and has bright blue eyes. He is very proud, masking under a slight grumpiness the unease of having to accept such tips from strangers. The Old Man and the Beach… (Few people were tipping, though. We gave wholeheartedly, everywhere we could, aching for not being able in fact to do much more.)
One morning, a couple of days before we left, he came with a big sea shell, ten inches long, maybe eight wide, and asked my husband if he wanted to take it home with him, to Canada. It’s a beautiful shell, rough on the outside, unpolished, inside a superb glossy pink, the pink of new skin that has grown over a healed wound. The ocean is inside it. It is a very beautiful, very precious gift.

The last day at the beach, this year. “Invasion” of locals again. At eleven in the morning, they’re playing volleyball in the water and their bottles of rum are already three quarters empty. I’m feeling very good humoured as I’m sipping my second ron y coca-cola or Cubata as they call it here (cola, dark rum and a dash of lemon juice). This drink always makes me think of Julio Iglesias’s song, I don’t know it’s title but it says something like this: ron y coca-cola/dame un beso Lola/ven conmigo a bailar/no quiero que estas tan sola.

Like a surreal image, I watched an old woman, extremely thin, her emaciated face deeply wrinkled, walking briskly through the water, her flared jeans wet to the knee, wearing a flowery voile tunic, a white turban on her head, and a huge cigar in her mouth. She was amazing! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera out, and, by the time I had it, she was gone. Too bad.

That’s it. The hour-long bus trip back to the airport is an opportunity to revel again in the beauty of this land, to oscillate between admiration and pity, to read all the slogans written on the walls of buildings or on immense placards: Sí, se puede, Siempre adelante, ¡Volveran!, Socialismo o muerte.

La Havana (and Ernest Hemingway’s places) is for another time, when the children will be older (not us, of course!) and more interested in sightseeing than in playing in the water and making sand castles on the beach. Same goes for the cigars – I don’t want to set a bad example… (We bought a box of Cohiba, though.) Below is the second item in my collection of Che Guevarra t-shirts!

So, another summer’s gone. Till next year…

Monday, August 20, 2007

On Blogging

Blogging is good. Blogging is bad.

It’s good because it allows you to connect to people with similar interests, who could become wonderful blogfriends. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone, that other people have caught this bug of writing, and go through, more or less, the same worries, the same doubts, the same tribulations. And, who knows, among them there might lurk the much sought after publisher, who, captivated by your talent and wit, might offer you the book deal of your dreams. Just dreaming…

It’s good also because – supposing and hoping that other people are reading it – you can get immediate critique of your work.

It’s bad because it is consuming. It voraciously consumes the very precious time, energy, and grey cells you should dedicate to the “real” writing, your short story, your novella, your novel. It is a perfect excuse for procrastinators of all kind.

It’s good because, if well used, it could be a constant exercise in writing. But the question you should answer here is: do you blog to write or do you write to blog? There is a big difference here, and I noticed it when I suddenly realised that I was searching for my words, and – worse – censoring them, in a self-conscious way, in a manner highly dictated by the idea that other people might read them. In other words, I was writing to blog. It was bad. I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t do that in my own files. So, why here?

A writer with inhibitions cannot be a good writer. You can’t write fearing what your best friend or your mother would think while reading your story. For that reason, a blog could be a great tool to fight your own inhibitions. I certainly have a lot to fight – what a mental struggle there is to post even the most remotely personal fact, even under the cover of anonymity. I would almost hope that no one ever would read it, although at the same time I would, of course, be terribly disappointed if that would happen. If you force yourself to be open and use the right words, not the safe words, in your stories, then certainly your writing skills have only to gain from here.

Good. Bad. It is what it is. The show shall go on.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday in Montreal

It's been a beautiful day (partly cloudly!) - summer's still here but there is a crispness in the air and in the colours that sings of the autumn that's almost upon us. This is downtown Montreal, and the St. Lawrence river, as seen from the belvedere on Mount Royal.

We had a lot of fun feeding peanuts to the very friendly chipmunks and squirrels.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hide and Seek

This is my entry for the "Halo" contest at The Clarity of Night, a text inspired by the image below. It was a wonderful experience, just trying to concentrate a whole story into 250 words... Thank you, Jason!

I’m hiding.

I burrowed in the warm moss, covered myself with drying leaves and branches. No barking yet, only the quiet hum of the forest. The castle’s in a far-off world.

Mother’s visiting again, with all her pomp, her smells of vervain and lavender, her syrupy voice.

I had to flee, even knowing that Nanny would chastise me if they brought me back. Better the whipping, than the ordeal of Mother’s false concern. I cringe at the memory of her silky fingers, lifting my chin to examine my crooked face; of cold tears rolling on her rosy cheeks – perfect crystals on exquisite porcelain; of her disgusting pity, suffocating, menacing.

Last time she visited, she and Nanny shared again those dreadful whispers about the asylum.

I’m older now and won’t be fooled by the contorted dolls they gave me anymore, by the hunchback servants, playing a tragicomedy for the hideous dwarf that I am. I know what that place is. I’d rather run away than let them lock me there.

Only Sara knows about this glade. She has to get my message. I can subsist several days here, hoping they’ll give up in the end. That, annoyed, she’ll return to her perfect world. That I’ll depart.

My secret friend, the circus girl, will come to take me to her mates as we’ve agreed, and if she’s late, no matter; the earth is warm, the sunshine filtering through the soft leaves, soothing. I’ll sleep the wait away, dream with the trees.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Wonderfully Thoughtful Award

Thank you, Wanderlust Scarlett and Canterbury Soul, for so graciously giving me this award. I feel extremely honoured. It was a beautiful surprise at the return from my holiday.

Hmmm… but what to do now?

If I may, I would like to pass it on to other thoughtful people. Your thoughts touch my mind, each differently, in many wonderful ways. So, if you read this, please pick up your award:

Alex at Basement Light
Amy at Mediterranean Views
Mr. Grocer at Famous For All Kinds of Wickedness
Taffiny at To Taste a Peach

I think YOU, all the other people on my blogroll, already have it from (at least) wonderful Wanderlust Scarlett. Oh, I’m too late!!! But I believe that each one of you deserves it fully, as your words – mirrors of your souls in this world of electrons - are so inspiring, amusing, intriguing, entertaining, etc., etc., etc., and always a pleasure to read… For all it’s worth, I’m also giving it to YOU.

P.S. Obviously, I’m back. I’m tanned. I’m a bit tired. I’m preparing some pictures from my holiday.