High Point

Another short story, I’m going to try to keep this under 1000 words so we’ll call it flash fiction. This one is again entirely based on the title, spur of the moment, and rough drafted for your pleasure. Also, if you’re wondering why I am saying another, and again check… here. (Hindsight: this went somewhere I never imagined, perhaps a little cheesy though.)

 

Sweat rolled down Gloria’s neck, but she didn’t dare move to wipe it away even if she could without falling over. Her ankles ached and she could feel a crack in her toenail. Honestly, it was insane to stay on point this long. Nobody should be able to feel a crack in their toenail–toenails aren’t meant to be felt. Her arches screamed louder still, but it was the toenail that bothered her.

She tried to remain effortless, reminding herself to smile. She reminded herself that she had the strength to defy gravity, her former teacher had always used the phrase, “Like helium in your finger tips prevents your heels touching the ground.” Kotchkoff had been masterful in his day, he had floated across stages to the sound of orchestras. Fourteen years studying under Kotchkoff had driven into Gloria’s very spine the same steel that inhabited his sixty-nine year old frame. When she was chosen to dance before diplomats at only twenty he had beamed with pride calling her, “My little steel magnolia.”

Her knees tremors slightly but she steadied. Her lips silently caressing the words of praise, steel magnolia.

Gloria let her mind turn back to her early childhood, to the moments between her rigorous hours of training. Hours had been spent in mountain meadows on hot summer weekends or racing down snowy winter slopes on disc shaped sleds, her mother, Adeline, had always insisted both Gloria and her sister spend as much time outdoors as possible. Though her trainers had objected, Adeline had forced the issue of family weekends, which meant two days where Gloria would train only two hours, independently and then spend the rest of the day on family outings.

Adeline had a particular desire for the family to feel a certain way amongst each other: She described it as hygge, which was a Norwegian word that was never really fully explained to Gloria other than by experience. The family would often settle into a good discussion or sit in their favourite chairs each with their cuppa or simply read in the same room as one another or do some quiet comfortable thing and after some time Adeline would sigh and smile. She would look around at each person and declare the moment, “So hygge my loves.”

Gloria’s lips shaped this second phrase–Hygge my loves.

She listened to the fullness of the present silence, it was the moment before the packed audience would burst into applause, and imagined the hot lights as the sun of the mountainside. She shifted on her toe ever so slightly–holding herself far past the final fading of the last note of a song. She imagined her father, Broderick, reading a book and suddenly looking up and asking, “How would you dance the dichotomy of war and peace?” She imagined, rising to point and forcing tension into her body, walking on a tightrope of diplomacy.

It was hard to tell how long she had spent with her thoughts when the tapping sound disrupted the quiet, rhythmically chipping away at Gloria’s concentration. Now steam rose off her sweat soaked body and nothing could stop her ankles from trembling, her abdominal muscles fluttered and her smile faltered, her arms fell from their framing position above her head. Her arches collapsed and the crack in her toenail opened into a chasm. She fell straight forward, catching herself at the last instant, her wrists protested mightily and a tear tracked down her chin where it wobbled like it was threatening to jump.

A boot connected with her ribcage.

“Up, little ballerina. Do you have something to say or shall we string you into position?” The interrogator asked.

Gloria closed her eyes. Mountain meadows rose up to meet her and the light sweet smell of flowers brushed by her face as she danced with helium fingers back to her family and away from the circumstances that would hold her down.

 

xx.

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The Greatest Beyond

Hey guys, today you’re getting a short story. This is a really rough cut but would essentially be a beginning to a longer portal fiction story. Let me know what you think, what’s confusing, what you would change, what you like. Honestly, this was written mainly as a fun little project and is entirely based on the title, although I originally intended to take it in an entirely different direction.

 

Icy rain drops stuck stubbornly to Aubrey’s coat and eyelashes despite the steadily rising temperature that had nearly found the 0 degree celsius mark. Aubrey didn’t even try to wipe them away. She leaned comfortably on a fence post and watched animals shift under the shelter of the windbreak, black backs coated in ice.

From a distance all looked well but a quarter mile away Aubrey had shuddered at the site of a calf, curled up as though to keep warm, but frozen in place with its nose tucked in its flank. The cow to match the ill-fated calf was nowhere to be seen then. Aubrey sighed and hoisted herself back up into the saddle, her red-dun mutt of a horse–Henry–sighed back and they wandered towards the cattle casually.

The cattle looked at the horse with some trepidation but his meandering gait gave no reason for concern. Aubrey slowly sifted through the group, looking for any cows that had obviously just calved. She eventually settled on a big but thin cow who’s udder bulged in all directions. Henry deftly sorted the cattle, abruptly changing from lumbering to catty with only the lift of a rein. Five cows, including Aubrey’s choice, ended up pushed out of the herd and Aubrey deftly directed the cattle towards the fence line.

Time was a sort of slow-fast, that Aubrey thought of as unique to agriculture, that morning. Every movement of Henry’s muscles was snappy and purposeful, but they moved the cows with a standard peacefulness and at a low speed away from the group. It seemed slow-fast was always the best way to work with animals, you had to be just fast enough to be one step ahead of them but not so fast that they got scared. These commercial cows were very quiet though, Aubrey had noticed since she arrived two months earlier.

Aubrey let Henry have his head. He knew where they were headed and pushed the cattle on towards a set of pens a mile away. As they got within site of the pens Aubrey spotted a break in the fence line and tapped Henry up to cut the cattle away from the  barbed wire barrier. The cattle suddenly seemed fractious though, they pressed on along the fence line, speeding up and refusing to allow Henry to slip in beside the fence.

The hole in the fence was coming up fast and Aubrey groaned as she saw all her work bringing the cattle to the pens go up in smoke. Regardless, something had to be done, she dragged Henry’s nose to the inside and galloped past the cattle turning and stopping Henry ahead of them and unfortunately scattering the cows in the process. She watched as the cows suddenly objected to their relative loneliness and took off towards where they had come from.

Briefly she contemplated pelting after the uddered up cow but facing south again the freezing rain blew into her face harder and faster making her give up the idea for the moment. No way would that cow, worked up and all alone, turn around and come all the way back without a fight. She would probably go for the hole in the fence if Aubrey did get her back this far and knowing Murphy’s law Henry would probably slip in the icy, muddy slush and that could leave them both injured in the middle of nowhere.

Aubrey slipped off Henry and rubbed his neck. “We’ll go back and get her once we fix the fence, hey Hen?” The horse just nuzzled her pocket.

Together, Aubrey and Henry walked to the break in the fenced peered at it. All four wires were cleanly cut by the looks of the ends Aubrey picked up. She tossed them down disgustedly. Some recreational vehicle driver wanted a bit more space to ride probably, and just didn’t want to take the time to find a gate. It seemed silly though, what with the pens right there. Open a gate and you could drive straight into the alleyway of the pens and the gate into the pasture from the alleyway was open. Why cut a fence?

It was really inconsequential to Aubrey, it needed fixing either way. She fished around her saddle bags to see what she had for tools. The search produced enough extra wire to get the job done, a few staples, and a wire cutter. She grabbed one end of the bottom wire and brought it as close to the other as possible and then the other. She would need a stick to put a bit of tension in the wire. With Henry ambling after her on a loose rein she stepped across the fence line to cut branches of the trees in the ditch.

Her eyes burned momentarily with sudden brightness and she covered them with her arm until they adjusted. Opening her eyes she saw sand ahead of her, a warm breeze slipped by her cheek and Henry snorted. Looking behind her Aubrey couldn’t see a fence, she could’t see a blade of grass either. There was only sand and of course Henry. Looking ahead there was more sand and what looked like a group of camels, perhaps, headed towards her from an oasis. Aubrey stepped backwards two steps, trying to find her way back to a Canadian prairie, but there was no change. Sand shifted and nothing else.

The group coming towards her became more and more clear and made less and less sense. Aubrey contemplated mounting Henry again just to feel a little safer but was froze in confusion. The beasts, she realized as they came closer, where actually the size of a large pony but their colour was very similar to a camel, in all other respects they could be considered almost grey-hound like, clearly canine at least. They did have riders though. Henry flared his nostrils and blew out hard, his snort screamed nervousness but he stood firm, only glancing worriedly at Aubrey.

The giant dogs stopped and one of the riders handed off his reins and dismounted.

“Al sumarkeen samala garath.”

Aubrey blinked and shook her head. Trying to think of a way to explain she didn’t understand. It was then she remembered she was wearing her winter clothes. She tugged her silk wild rag down off the bridge of her nose, shifting it so it was around her neck and pulled the hood of her oil skin down. She didn’t want to appear hostile by staying entirely covered.

“Umm, sorry,” she began, “I speak English or French or Mandarin. Do you speak English? Francais?” She gestured back to the man.

“I simply said, greetings and mercy to you friend,” the stranger explained in accented English.

“Oh. Thank you, greetings to you and your friends as well. I’m sorry, I am somewhat lost, can you tell me where abouts I am?”

The man regarded her quizzically but answered, “You’re near the eastern edge of the Arhurrian in the jurisdiction of the kingdom of Tamarin.”

“Relative to North America, where would that be?” Aubrey inquired tentatively.

Now the man appeared confused and went back to his companions. Aubrey wondered if she had offended him, she thought she knew her geography reasonably well but neither Arhurrian or Tamarin was ringing a bell. He had an animated conversation with his companions before returning, with both of them, and all their dogs, trailing. Henry made a high pitched snort and his head jolted higher, dancing to either side he made his sentiments about giant rideable dogs known. Aubrey pulled him towards her and elbowed him in the shoulder to get his attention before placing a steadying hand on his neck and speaking a few words. The man waited patiently.

“Neither I nor my companions know of a place called North America, you seem perhaps more off track than you realize. My name is Bartholomew, and this is Markus and Artor.”

“Aubrey,” she replied, holding out a hand.

The men stepped away slightly as her hand came out and Aubrey, suddenly worried she had done something wrong, quickly withdrew it.

“Is there a city nearby that I could head towards then?” Aubrey inquired.

Now the man called Markus spoke, “Meloria is fairly nearby, but taking your beast there may not be the best idea.”

“You mean Henry?” Aubrey asked incredulous. “He’s entirely harmless, totally bomb proof.”

The men looked around at each other. “I think you misunderstand my companion, ” Bartholomew explained. “The creature you call Henry, he is… how does one explain it… he would be considered an incarnate god in Balerta, the kingdom within which Meloria lies.”

Aubrey stared at the men.

“An animal like this is rarely seen in these lands, in Balerta specifically your subjugation of him would be considered an offence punishable by death,” Bartholomew added, as though it clarified anything.

Aubrey turned to Henry and looked at him. “They think your a god Henry,” she whispered. “I’m not sure what to do.” Henry lowered his head and pressed his nose into her stomach, sighing into her jacket. Aubrey sighed back.

Turning around she addressed the men again. “Then where can I go? I need to reach a university or a library at the very least.”

Now Bartholomew’s nut brown face cracked to reveal a brilliant white smile. “Why then you are already in the right place. We ride out to you from Garindiga, you see the beginning of an oasis string which is home to great university. Garindiga starts just beyond the trees there.”

Aubrey looked at the oasis sceptically. These people could be lying to her, or they may not be. The real question was, did she have any options.

“Right. Then I will go there,” Aubrey replied.

She swung up onto Henry’s back lightly. The men in front of her gaped.

“Is there something wrong?” Aubrey asked, anxiety building.

“Your beast, he lets you not only adorn him with items, but ride him?” Markus looked as though he shivered as he spoke.

“I mean, Henry and I have our disagreements, but for the most part he’s happy to get me where I need to go.”

Bartholomew motioned to his companions and they mounted their dogs, he glanced at Aubrey again as Markus and Artor rode a little ways away to wait.

“I am leader of the guard in Garindiga and you are welcome to be our guest but be careful, even here many will be awed, afraid, or even hostile towards you if you carry on this way.”

“What should I do? What’s wrong?” Aubrey asked.

“You ride a creature hardly ever seen, and by many revered as a holy messenger. Many in Garindiga are of Tamarin and will not be worried by you, but those who are not will be very hostile.”

“So what do I do?”

“Dismount, remove the equipment on Henry and walk into the city with me.”

Aubrey slid back down and untacked Henry. She removed her halter from her saddle bags and replaced his bridle with it. She looked at her saddle lying in a heap on the ground. It was a nice saddle, her favourite actually, comfortable and simple.

“I’ll send someone back to retrieve it,” Bartholomew offered. “Remove that head piece too though.”

“But he’ll be totally loose,” Aubrey replied.

“Yes.”

Aubrey turned away. How had she ended up here? She looked at Henry. They had done a lot together, he was a steady and trustworthy companion. Tears welled up in her eyes, he could die out here. Despite herself her shaking fingers settled on the knot of the halter. She untied it and let the halter drop. She brought her hands to his cheeks and drew Henry’s forehead to hers, closing her eyes. “Be safe little Hen, I’ll meet you back in Canada.”

For a few long moments they breathed each others air and then Aubrey’s hands clapped together. Her eyes snapped open. Henry had vanished. He wasn’t just galloping off into the distance, he wasn’t a little ways away looking for something to eat. His jaw had been between her hands and now all of him was gone. Aubrey’s chest heaved and her whole body shook. Where was Henry?

Hands grabbed her and she was spun around with such force her feet nearly slipped out from under her.

“What have you done!” Bartholomew whispered desperately. His grip on her wrists closed with vice like strength.

Aubrey opened her palms face up and shook her head speechlessly.

“This has not gone unnoticed!”

Bartholomew looked over his shoulder and Aubrey raised her eyes to see what he was looking at. Dust rose behind Markus he sprinted his dog towards the oasis. Artos remained but the look he directed at Bartholomew was full of meaning.

“This will be trouble,” Bartholomew growled.

 

xx.

 

 

 

Back to the Beginning

Happy New Year!

Beginning again is always so… well, it just sort of always is, so we’re going to be intentionally optimistic about it! “But it’s already the tenth,” you protest. Yes, well… I like to let things settle and decide whether they are real before I comment, okay? You never know when we’ll all be surprised by the end of the world on the Friday after the New Year begins.

On that note I thought I might update you guys a little.

I did make a few new years goals which I’ll share despite their wonderfully cliche nature.

  1. Study more consistently–Honestly, I’m a horrible crammer when it comes to school and it’s not very good for long term retention. My grades have been better this last semester then in my first year in vet but I would still like to see them get even better and really want to keep practical information in the forefront of my mind.
  2. Be careful of my nutrition–I found myself being really lax during December finals about my food, eating more carbs and just generally not being very intentional. The problem is I feel way better when I keep my diet more consistently healthy so when it seems more difficult to do it is probably when it is most important.
  3. Increase my exercise–While I am not doing morning swims this semester, I do want to work more on my flexibility and focus on some strength and grip training, as well as trying to increase my running capacity. Part of this is because I would like to see my weight in the 160-165 lb range (or less) by the end of the summer (I am hoping to decrease or eliminate my need for a daily inhaler for my asthma and this would be a good step), and partially because I would like to increase the steadiness of my hands (for suturing) and the amount of weight I can lift (for calving and other large animal procedures).

That’s a pretty vague list as far as actionable items but I think you get the gist of it.

A few things I am excited about this year:

  1. I have two opportunities to work with performance dogs this year. One is confirmed and the other may be this year or next. Pretty pumped for the opportunity to be a student under some talented vets participating in the industry in very different capacities.
  2. My summer job! Seems crazy but I have had this lined up since November (for funding application reasons). I’m still working out accommodations and details but am super excited to work with a new (small) team in a small town this summer. Plus I’ll be close to the US border so I am thinking of maybe popping into North Dakota and Montana.
  3. Puppies! Okay so this one already happened. I was bugging a family friend about having two intact, young dogs of the opposite sex and guess what? By my estimate they conceived about a week later and the puppies were born just before Christmas. While I by no means support irresponsible breeding or keeping intact pets, I do love puppies despite their less than prime origins and I am so excited to go home for a weekend in February and visit some really cute puppies (and also check that Max, the male dog, has been to see the vet about his… eh-hem, testicles). I also get to house sit in February with some cute dogs, horses and cats.

Speaking of Christmas, I had a great one. A few highlights were having my Grandparents around, we also had Max (male, Great Dane x Brazilian Mastiff) and Sugar (female spayed, Red Heeler x Bernese Mountain dog) as Christmas guests (their families were on holiday), my new lunch box from Denmark (my sister got me a super amazing metal box from the Museum of Design or some such), my lap desk (which my mom purchased from Amazon–her first Amazon purchase ever), and preg checking cows with my dad (he’s a vet in case you forgot, we were doing this by ultrasound so there were some heartbeats and little faces and everything).

It was a quiet but good Christmas season. I swam a lot, I ate a lot, I played with dogs a lot.

Low-lights of the New Year so far: our classroom at school seems to consistently become frigid around 11:30 in the morning (no idea why but sweaters or blankets are required, and yes we do bring blankets to school since we’re vet students and we practically live there); I had some sort of 24 hour bug this week which resulted in the first time I have vomitted since grade one due to an actual stomach bug (my occasional migraines frequently put pressure on the vommition centre of my brain and cause me to be sick but it doesn’t count because it’s a neurological symptom not a physiological syndrome/disease); I’m sad to report that all of my plants, which I attempted to keep alive last year, are now deceased, let us all have a moment of silence for my poor plants.

So that’s the deal presently! Not much to talk about.

 

xx.

A Tribute to the Horse

Horses shaped my daily life from the age of eight to the age of twenty-two. At first they simply impacted what I read (when I was eight to ten I poured over anything remotely horse related), then they became the activity in my week that I most looked forward to (at ten or so when I finally begged my way into regular riding lessons), and eventually they become part of my daily activities and chores (at twelve when I was shown the horse I would be allowed to have).

This journey started out only because I was the daughter of a veterinarian and spent many days chasing around cows and horses owned by other people. To those producers willing to have me on their properties and those who let me ride their steady old boys I owe a great debt. I was afforded great opportunities, despite living in town, to become a country kid.

Years later I look back on that first horse, Smokey, with fondness and a measure of chagrin towards the early years when we didn’t get along a fair bit of the time. He was an old tie-down and team roping horse with a stop that could dump you over the fence, a go that could send you off the back end, and a buck that taught you the meaning of having a seat. He was also aloof and a one person horse, and if you were his person… he would do everything for you.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 10.00.09 AM.png(Smokey, lunging attentive and relaxed, at approximately fifteen years old.)

This Christmas, a year after selling a different horse (Luna), I find myself looking back on the horses that shaped me. Smokey was my boy, heart of my heart; even before Smokey there was Pokey, a determined pony who never met a saddle tight enough not to roll towards his belly; my first lesson horse Homer, a former chuck-wagon race horse turned three-day eventer who danced when you forgot where your leg was; after Smokey, Black Betty, a pitch black percheron/quarter horse cross standing taller at her shoulder than my head and wider than any other horse I ever rode, who’s hooves rolled thunder when she ran but who rode like a rocking chair; my moms horse Mojo, who ended up being my horse, who I could never get along with because he was just too in your pocket and dependent on instruction; a friends horse who I called Beau after Bucephalus, who freaked out at nearly everything until he had five days of work on him and then was able to be ridden bareback and bridleless through a full flat routine, who I got in shape for a summer.

There were others but the next big one was my small statured Luna, an untrained racing bred thoroughbred/quarter horse cross that I started before I owned her, who I bought for a dollar when she was a three year old and rode for three years until I finally had to let go of her. To be fair to her, young as she was, she needed someone to ride her regularly and having gotten into a professional college, needing to be able to go where the wind blew fair for summer work and having no time or money to keep her where I went to school, I needed to sell her on.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.55.00 AM.png(Luna, the week I sold her, six years old.)

These horses shaped me. Smokey was my therapy and my friend when school bored me out of my tree–we spent hours together every day wind, rain, snow, or shine for years. Pokey was my confidence builder when I needed to remind myself how fun cantering was. Homer was my teacher who wouldn’t let me get away with anything. Black Betty was my first summer love after Smokey passed on, she reminded me why I loved the difficult ones. Luna was my project, the student who made me a teacher and a lovely little spit fire who, when she was young would try to nip your shins when she was frustrated.

Today I still ride occasionally with horses by the names of Indie, Mae, Will, and Gord, but certainly not the way I used to. There is no horse to come home to at the end of the day, there are no four hour rides into town, or helter skelter full speed gallops for miles, or evening sunsets on the hilltop while I lean against solid legs. I sold my last horse last Christmas and now I’m in a period of waiting, for the day when my lifestyle can again accommodate a 1000+ lb best friend.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.59.15 AM.png(Smokey with his friends Jazz, the bay, Sunday, the grey, and Shag, the donkey.)

Not too long ago I found myself speaking to a couple of non-riders who asked some questions about riding. As I explained the incredible feeling of being of one mind with an animal ten times your size they looked at me quizzically and I realized again the privilege these friendships have been for me. I often imagine who my next big friend will be.

 

xx.

Pressing Play

Hey guys, if you haven’t read my previous post, you might want to so that this post makes a bit more sense!

Alright, we were talking about my sister in an effort to come back around and put my finger on what bothered me so much about Sam (with whom I had a friendship before I hit the pause button on said friendship). My purposeful, driven sister, inadvertently makes me feel odd in a particular way but at the same time has learned to appreciate some of my quirks. My sister is lovely and has a gift for raising people up, even those that differ from her in the extreme. She refers to me (to my face) as a genius, a visionary, a dreamer, an artist, and adventurous. This is of course far too kind when held up to what I actually am, but she has found a way to appreciate my quirks.

I remember driving with her from a city I was working in back to our family home (a friend had dropped her off with me). I was explaining the route we were taking and that the back roads didn’t add much time but happened to create a much more beautiful route to drive than the highway. She looked at me and asked when I had driven this way before and why I took this route instead of the highway for the first time. I had to think a bit but it really came down to the fact that I had been leaving from an area a little ways away from the city one day and the map gave me a few routes, all of which took me back into the city and onto the highway. It seemed boring to go back through the city (and felt like back tracking) when I didn’t need anything from there, so I manipulated the map a bit until it gave me a different route. My sister agreed the scenery was prettier but found my mentality towards route finding rather amusing. The idea of changing your route, at the sacrifice of convenience, simply because the other way was too familiar is alien to her.

Sorry, I really am trying to make this come full circle.

My sister called me recently, to have a conversation about a fairly personal topic and she rambled about it for some time, to my pleasant surprise. Earlier in the summer, during a family holiday, we had had a pretty big… incident. These two moments together taught me something and that I think fundamentally changed our relationship.

The disagreement we had illustrated to me how strongly she identifies herself with the teachings of people she respected because the whole thing occurred when I tried to politely and then not so politely explain why I didn’t want to listen to a podcast that she insisted we finish after taking a long break at an attraction. I ended up calling the person speaking in the podcast something like a “sexist, mysogynistic ass-hat passing judgement on people like he has a monopoly on what a Christian needs to be to be lovable, while simultaneously contradicting himself by referencing God’s unconditional love” and she ended up pulling over (mildly endangering us all) and crying. This instigated a long conversation which ended with me finding a way to apologize for hurting her while simultaneously refraining from rescinding my opinion of the speaker (this took at least three tries), because she found my verbal assault on the speaker to be a direct reflection of my thoughts on her beliefs.

The long rambling conversation we had recently confirmed to me what I had always hoped but never dreamed of, which is that she will tell me when something important or wonderful is happening in her life. I always felt like she never told me about herself or her life, I never heard from her that she was struggling (occasionally I heard it from my mom in retrospective terms) and it made me think that she wouldn’t want to communicate her struggles with me and therefor she also wouldn’t necessarily communicate her joys with me. In the last few months though she has communicated with me some of her stresses and worries as well as some of her joys.

I suppose to me my sister always seemed a very “flat” person, too flawless to be believable, and assuming every body is like me—with complex, three dimensional depths and a healthy (or unhealthy) level of self-doubt and internalized personal crisis—I also assumed that this “flatness” meant she was withholding her true self from me. In my sisters case, perhaps I was somewhat right and she was holding back some of her complex inner world from me. As children I think we shared our world more and now as adults I think we are gradually learning to do that again while remembering to respect each others differences. Regardless I suddenly felt like I was an adequate friend. I had somehow reached the point of deep and fulfilling relationship with a fellow adult.

This brought Sam back to my mind, for the first time in a long time, and I tried again to put my finger on what bothered me so much about him. It was the first time I made a connection between the disconnect I felt with him as a friend and the rather stoic relationship between my sister and I. A phrase came to mind: “You have to be real when you’re alone, too.” This statement was like a key, it echoed with importance in my mind but I failed to see what it was meant to unlock. Until today.

I walked through a campus art gallery today where the art varied from the traditional, to the fundamentally beautiful, to the bizarre but that the dichotomous styles presented due to the exhibit being multi-artist were truly extraordinary. To me though, the bizarre pieces only felt validated when they elicited a reaction. I couldn’t find a truth behind them. It made me think on the idea of a true self.

I feel most true to myself when I am alone and retreat from external influences, perhaps to maintain the integrity of what I believe is my true self.I also despise eliciting a reaction because reactions are a form of judgement and judgment is an attempt to exert influence and elicit change. I suppose you could say I am a long term project. I know every layer of medium within myself better than I can express making a reaction extraneous because my true self is in knowing the development that has occurred as the layers have built up. This also means as a piece of art I would likely appear slightly incohesive but display a rich variety of methods and mediums in thick muddled layers.

In contrast my sister is both true to herself alone and in company but much of what her truth is reflects the external influences she chooses to respect and listen to. As a piece of art she is one in which you can see the personally curated influences of the masters, where the layers are careful, each one integral to the final project and showing through just as much as they need to, and the mediums are unmuddled. She is as real to the public eye as she is when she is left alone with herself—like a Mona Lisa—a timeless beauty.

Sam bothered me because I believed that he was presenting a one dimensional and therefore inhumanly bizarre picture to me. In some part my sisters Mona Lisa appeal can seem almost the same, but it’s nuances are more true to life, there is less negative space and more background and setting. Sam seemed to only be real by external validation—the shock or even awe elicited by his minimalistic personal credo projecting a stronger impression of self than he in himself actually had—and thus to be unrealistically empty. I guess you could explain it as a form of modern art primarily defined by it’s negative space (that is it’s largely white with one primary focus onto which the observing public projects meaning).

To me it is impossible to actually be this simple. Nobody can possibly be satisfied with a single layer of paint to express what they are, which means I always felt like there was a secret painting beneath that top piece that was being hidden from me. I felt like I was failing as a friend because I couldn’t have long and deep conversations with Sam. I could’t imagine who Sam would be when he was alone, in his own mind, and so it seemed to me as though he wasn’t letting me in as a friend. What I failed to recognize is that it is all art .

I am a piece that stands in the artists studio perpetually unfinished, perhaps manifesting the artists fear of being unoriginal, and evidencing continuous attempts to be true to new understandings of the nature of art; my sister is a well planned and orderly piece that stands in a gallery to be admired for it’s technical merits as well as its beauty, that has reached a certain level of completeness but that offers new nuances the more you observe it; and Sam, Sam is a take it or leave it minimalist statement piece that can be rather unforgiving if you try to hang it in a room that doesn’t suit it, it is complete even without multiple layers of nuance and offers a stable, unchanging perspective on it’s subject. Each of these pieces is true as long as the artist is satisfied. They question comes down to whether you like you when no one is watching.

So I unpaused, and decided to let Sam be Sam and not worry so much about whether our relationship had depth or whether we run out of things to talk about. If our conversations are destined to be simple reports of what has happened recently then so be it. Perhaps I need to learn a lesson in minimalism and start applying a bit of paint thinner to my layers.

 

xx.

Pressing Pause

I pressed pause on a relationship with a friend a while ago. I was frustrated with the cycle of our conversations. He found my meanderings and questions non-sensicle and unimportant and I found him… holier-than-thou. Perhaps he needs a name to make this easier: we’ll call him Sam.

Sam and I always started our conversations with, “Hey, how’s it going?” or “What’s up with you?” We would tread a familiar path of conversation through the forest of friends problems, work, school, and family relationships and then… a butterfly, off my mind would go. Do you think it’s possible to be good but not have a soul? What is a soul? How can goodness be defined outside of a higher power? If a higher power exists could it exist within time? If time is non-linear is there a way to access other points in time from a human perspective?

The pauses between our texts would grow longer as my questions and ideas became more abstract and I accepted the petering out of the conversation and thought on things myself. Until one day Sam’s reply set me on my haunches and made me… feel… inadequate.

“This is why I sometimes forget to text you back. Why are we having this conversation”

“You don’t think it’s interesting?”

“I think it’s meaningless to talk about. I don’t need to understand the world or seek it’s mysteries, they pale in comparison to God.”

Now, I do subscribe to a faith personally but you have to understand God and I love each other in a never ending round table discussion. God blessed me with intellect and my intellect pushes and pulls me at times, it forces me to reconsider and reconfirm my faith, and it presents me with questions. I often feel like a rather odd creature—out of place in the world of faith—not just a black sheep but a wolf in sheep clothing because I seem to be incapable of following a straight line with my brothers and sisters (figuratively). This incident reminded me, “you’re not one of us.”

The conversation continues:

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a goody two shoes?” (Me)

“Once or twice, I would tell them that I’m surely not.”

“If you can actually keep your mind so singularly focused on God and not be distracted by questions about life I would say you are.”

“That’s not being a goody two shoes. That’s just being focused on God.”

A few texts later:

(Me) “… as of yet God has not put strong enough blinders on me to keep me facing one direction at all times. I do what I can and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest but that doesn’t mean I never get distracted.”

“And this is me putting on my blinders and not getting distracted it’s not that hard.”

I’ll stop quoting here and summarize. I expressed that the questions I have address life and the afterlife and the nature of creation and life as a creation and as such are worthy because they therefore address God and life purpose. I also reminded Sam that I take medication on a daily basis just to sit still and listen. Sam retorted that he had better things to do with his time such as helping people and reading the Bible, to which I asked whether he ever did something just because he wanted to do it. As you may suspect by now, the answer was, “I try not to do things just for me.”

Now I fundamentally disagree with the idea that enjoyment of creation and personal time without directly focusing it on God is purposeless. As an introvert personal time is very important to me particularly time spent purposefully doing nothing very important. So my reply was rather succinct and unencumbered.

“Well… I’m going to the lake so I’ll talk to you later, once your incredible spirituality ceases to make me want to barf.”

After that we conversed once in four months. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what bothered me so much about Sam, because him making me feel inadequate really wasn’t it. I’ve honestly felt inadequate all my life, it’s one of the driving forces behind me achieving or rebelling against anything.

When I reflect on this whole situation it reminds me of how I feel around my sister—though my sister never questions the purpose of my round about conversations—she always seemed to carve out this straight line to the things that where important in her life, without distraction, and with iron-clad determination. Nothing stopped her and she never seemed to question what was right for her.

I think I’ll stop here for the day as this post is getting rather long winded, but there is a conclusion to it so come back in a few days to read the rest.

 

xx.

Sheepish

Hey guys! I thought today I would do a quick post highlighting something I’m studying for presently–Bacteriology!

So today I rather hesitatingly present to you a dating profile for a bacteria you have probably never heard of:

Corynebacterium renale

C. renale (or Ri-ri to her friends) is looking for a nice ram to snuggle up with at night. She loves rams that eat a tonne of protein and it doesn’t hurt if they convert urea to ammonia super readily! She’s totally game for that, in fact C. renale just loves the irritating environment it leads to. As a fan of irritation she will get all up in her rams space (if you know what I mean) and eventually cause injury and scarring.  Fair warning if you’re still thinking of taking her out for a spin though, she’s also a bit promiscuous and may wander off with your buddies if you turn your back (she even goes for cattle).

If you end up wanting to get rid of her at some point it’s good to know that she hates penicillin, bright light/dryness, and really wishes rams would stop trying to get rid of the dead debris that builds up in their nether regions, employ any or all of these tactics to get rid of her faster than freemartin at weaning!

(Disclaimer: the bacteria mentioned in this profile does not actually have a gender and will and does cause “pizzle-rot”. No matter how fun a bacteria makes themselves sound we do not endorse attempting to form an attachment to a bacteria, they are silly and flippant creatures that don’t just break hearts, they break other parts of your body as well.)

 

xx.

A Very Uni Christmas

Hey guys! Last night was absolutely massively draining and it was for one reason: Carolling. My college is small and tight knit due to the small class sizes accepted each year which means our profs get to know us a little better and are expected, to some degree, to be willing to invest a bit more in us. One of the ways they do this is through a tradition of Christmas Carolling.

Here’s how it works, every year each class chooses three professors who are willing to host them at their houses and busses from one house to the other to eat their food, trample the snow around their houses, and just generally cause a lot of fuss and most likely leave a mild mess everywhere they go. While this event is by no means mandatory and other classes have a lower turnout, my class has embraced this tradition whole heartedly and fills a full sized school bus to the brim with three to some seats and many standing in the aisles. We even invite additional professors and lab personelle to join us on the adventure (this year we had three join our ranks).

Before carolling classes generally do a gift exchange, which generally ends up being pretty boozey, and take a big class photo (in which I decline to participate). Students often bring a dog or two to this part, and everyone has a chat.

This year we spent the evening at our Anaesthesiology professor’s, Neurology professor’s, and General Pathology professor’s homes drinking mulled wine, cider, and hot chocolate (with peppermint schnapps or Baileys); eating mince-meat pies (courtesy of our professor with English heritage), cheese and crackers, sweet treats, Christmas oranges and anything else that was sitting out anywhere! Hopefully they hid the things we weren’t supposed to eat.

One professors little black lab was utterly overwhelmed by us but was utterly charming (as was her cat, whose name was Pumpkin I think), while our other professors ten month old English bulldog and middle aged flat coated retriever soaked up the attention like the stars of the show that they are!

We progressed from a three story classically built house, where high ceilings were standard, with a dining room, sitting room, reading room etc.; to an old modern house with a swing hanging from the exposed rafters and a brick fireplace standing centrally in the living room which was open concept to the dining area and kitchen, where the line of the roof was evident in the ceiling; and finally to an older house, the traditional single story bungalow with hallways between smaller rooms which where warm and homey, and which featured a myriad of artwork (my favourite being the two oil paintings, hung together which depicted a flying saucer, teacup, and spoon with only clouds in the backdrop) but left you in danger of getting stuck in a corner (luckily food was laid out in most corners so stuck people wouldn’t starve).

We sung a few songs at each house, and were informed by one professor that we were apparently the only class she had encountered which actually adhered to the obligation to sing implied by the word carolling. This utterly shocked all of us! We honestly just assumed that because it was called carolling… It won’t be changing for us anyways I suspect, although the song at the last house was much worse than at the first as a good portion of the class was slightly more inebriated than they were when they started.

I was utterly worn out, socially, by the time we finished at the second house but the third house is where the event got particularly interesting for me. I kept to myself at the first couple of houses, visiting with my English professor’s soft spoken husband and a friend from class who I speak with frequently. At the second house I was again drawn into conversation with a single classmate and then a couple of professors and more of my normal crowd. To properly explain the events at the third house will require me to explain an earlier incident however.

Last year, during an event referred to as Drink a Small Town Dry, I received a phone call as I wandered towards bed in my PJ’s (my favourite cow shorts in fact). While the voices at the other end were moderately unintelligible I eventually found myself changing back into street clothes  and crawling into my messy car to give three classmates, who had missed their bus to the bar outside of town, a ride. I pulled up to the front of the college and texted to say I was there which resulted in three men barreling out the doors and sprinting up the ramp to my car as they shotgunned beers, the tallest and gangliest of whom was body checked into the side of my car. The rule of don’t throw up in my car and no criticizing its messiness or my driving was established and we rolled out.

One of the guys happened to be musical and the others (musical guy also included) happened to be drunk which resulted in being serenaded with country songs and random raps as I drove out of town. Eventually I mentioned I only knew one rap start to finish. Well this of course resulted in me rapping, and loosing my place because they tried to beat box, oh, and making a wrong turn because they weren’t being very good navigators.

Anyways, apparently this left quite an impression because at the beginning of the night last night, on the bus, on of the other guys turned to me and said, “So ___________ told me that you rapped for him once.” To which I said, “Umm, yeah that’s true.” Which resulted in the inevitable question, will you do it again? Or do you need a few drinks first? And an offer to supply said drinks. I ran of a couple of verses of rap before someone made me laugh and I told him I had lost the words thanks to that.

Fast forward, we’re at the third house. I’m sitting around, the guys are peer-pressuring one of our profs to shotgun a beer and he lays down a sick burn in response. A few minutes later all I hear is one of the guys saying my name and insisting I can rap and I needed to do it right now and were was I. It was pointed out that I was a couple of feet away and I eventually tell them hush, I’ll come over. Standing in the group they ask if I’ll rap and glancing over at my professor I sheepishly agree. The response to which is three of the guys beginning to beatbox. Now, I cannot, to save my life rap to someone else’s beat and I try to stop them saying it’s not the right beat and that I can’t do it if they keep going.

One of the guys insists he can do other beats and starts running off all sorts of different rhythms. Finally I hush them up and take a breath to stop laughing and start.

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scottsman,

Dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean,

By providence impoverished in squalor…

I got to–By fourteen they put him in charge of a trading charter–before the beatboxing resumed and I absolutely lost it. Then the guys insisted I keep going and I told them they couldn’t beat box if they wanted me to finish, my prof reminds me of the time I said I couldn’t sing and I insist that wasn’t singing. Finally the beatboxing subsides and the all try to get me to start again. I start and another of my professors roams past looks and me and goes,” Hamilton!” I nearly keel over, I’ve literally never met someone else who knows the musical (yeah, I know it took the USA and the general Broadway crowd by storm but it didn’t get to my neck of the woods).

Which is the story of how my General Pathology prof and I ended up having a long conversation about Hamilton and how he had been to see it, just after Lin stopped playing Hamilton, and how the guy who was playing the King when he saw it was better than the original, and how great the music was and how insanely well done the songs were and how a relative of his had seen the show twice when Lin was still in it!

Honestly, it was just the best conversation ever mainly because it is so rare, when you spend all day surrounded by students and professors who study or studied the same subject as you, that you talk about anything other than that subject. While I can’t say I ever finished the rap I did at least prove I’m not the least hip person ever and I also learned drunks have surprisingly good memories (so don’t  say or do anything too interesting or it’ll come back to bite you)!

And so ended another year of carolling. I have had a relaxing and lovely morning decompressing from last nights social whirlwind, complete with French Toast (made with rye bread) and canned peaches. So for your next Saturday morning brunch here’s my recipe:

(This will make about four slices, and yes I know it is easy as pie but you can’t knock tips right?)

2 Eggs

3-4 Tbsp of Milk (I eyeball this so this is a best guess measurement)

a splash of Vanilla (I love vanilla so I put in lots but try a tsp. to start)

4 Slices of Bread (I’ve been loving rye bread lately!)

Warm up a frying pan with just a little bit of oil in it (think a Tbsp.) on medium or medium high heat. Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla in a container large enough to fit a slice of bread in it (so the bread is flat). Dip both sides of a slice of bread into the container, allowing it to soak a few seconds on either side and then place it in the hot pan and repeat! Let cook on either side until golden brown throughout and then serve–these are great with fruit, syrup, or–my favourite–cinnamon sugar.

Alternatively you can make them into a grilled cheese, to do this put sliced aged cheddar cheese (if you must go with mild go ahead, but not pre-sliced because, bleh!) onto a slice  AFTER you have done the first flip and flip another slice onto the top. Cook until the bottom of the bottom slice is brown and flip so the top browns too (and the cheese has plenty of time to melt). This is also pretty amazing if you throw some marmalade in before you put the cheese on! Weird I know.

Again, I know this is super easy and you probably already make this but still its such a yummy, fast breakfast, I just have to remind you about it!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Great Whatever-You’re-Celebrating-This-Season! Be generous and show love.

 

xx.

 

Slowly Withering Inside–Professional College

Guys… I’m drowning in paper and a lack of motivation. Finals are… ugh.

However, I have done two finals already and I have six finals, a project, and a midterm to go. So, I need to keep my shabby self moving forward for at least another two weeks! However, the rest of life is going on hold with that in mind–so no swimming, no sleeping, and no keeling over dead until at least December 15th. Everyone in agreement? We’ll all die inside together once we’re done.

Okay, well that’s it for now. Ready? …BREAK!

 

xx.

Viral

So I wrote a midterm this morning on virology. It was fine but it got me thinking on the term viral. It’s a big thing to create a viral video or tweet. What is a virus though?

Viruses are zombies. Yeah–they can spread like wildfire, mainly because viruses mindlessly reproduce without producing anything of value to the general world. Viruses replicate and mutate without using their own metabolism or machinery for the most part, only providing a genetic template. Despite this or rather because of this parasitism their genetic template kills, destroys, creates lasting scars, and can continue to shed from an apparently healthy host for long periods of time, affecting all those in close contact with that host.

Could we reach a little and say that viruses have done some good in the world? Most definitely–they have kept populations in check and created selection pressure for the hosts. In fact viral interactions even accomplish pretty amazing things: they strengthen our immune systems, inactivated viruses serve as vectors for modern medical treatment, and ancient retroviral inclusions account for parts of genomes. However, viruses will be much more famous in the course of history for the lives they cut short than for their ultimate role in selection and genetic development.

In a culture where virility is the aim–for much of our art, actions, and communications–does the ultimate impact of those things that claim the title viral reflect the pathogenic viruses we know so well.

Is it possible for virility to build people, things, or ideas up? Or is the viral system setting the stage for collapse? In many viral infections the host cell must eventually lyse, similarly many things made famous via the viral culture will disperse with the pop of the bubble–the hashtag will die off, the legislation won’t be changed, people will only be moved for a moment. Despite much replication and mutation of the original viral organism the infection and interest in it will be self-limiting.

The legacy of viral trends may only be how inane and harmful they were to development of true and original thought.

Ultimately, it challenges me personally to think on this–it pushes me to take care in what I propagate. I strive to be original, but with so many people on this earth it is easy to start taking cues from those around us. I NEVER want to be a zombie: I NEVER want to propagate something which could be unjustly hurtful in the short term or the long term, I NEVER want to be remembered for the destruction I cause in this world, and I NEVER want to twist and break beautiful things for my own self interest.

I would say this is one of the reasons I rarely repost things on social media and I generally choose not to chime in on issues if I am not equally willing to put my money, or my work, where my mouth is. There are many amazing causes out there, but unless I am willing to pick up that flag and run that race I will strive not to pour empty words on open wounds, especially not if those words were someone else to begin with.

 

xx.

 

P.S. The last bit sounds a bit rant-like and maybe somewhat condescending–be assured it is not meant that way, but is more of a personal code. If you feel differently about any or all that I have said let me know! I’m totally up for discussion, just please, keep it civil.