I sold my last chapbook yesterday, about a year since it was released into the world. It got me thinking how ephemeral this type of publication is. As part of a limited edition print run as per all Alfred Gustav chapbooks, I knew this day would come. Someone said to me, “But that’s what makes chapbooks special and one-of-a-kind!” Here today, gone tomorrow. The words offered a smidgen of comfort, though I still feel a bit sad (despite the good hands the book went into!)
No chance of doing readings with copies for sale; no future poet-friends I could meet and do a book exchange with; no opportunity for ongoing purchases.
I picked up my last two copies from my bookshelf that I’m saving for myself and husband, and the other for our 3-year-old daughter Madeleine. I don’t even have copies for the twins on their way, a phrase I could never have imagined myself writing when drafting the Afterword a few years ago. Nor did I imagine my bio would already be out of date, having moved from Vancouver to Coquitlam last fall. My husband began a drawing of Paris from the European vacation that inspired the poems in our old, bigger rental and finished it in our new, smaller one where it now hangs. You read that right. Our family is almost doubling and we reluctantly downsized because, well, money and, at the time, we had no idea what was coming. Life holds surprises in many forms. As Madeleine likes to say, “We never know.”
Can I live with the mystery inherent in her statement as well as she can? What do I make of the recent dream where a voice says, “You can’t have a remote control for your life”?
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, David Bowie sings. Fall to winter, winter to spring, spring to summer. My daughter refused to walk in snow for her first years and this past winter, built a snowman. Now she goes on hikes to find purple flowers.
Crocuses burst up from the ground, begging to be noticed. New friendships are starting to show too. We get invited to people’s houses in our city and our kids play together. A boy from daycare gives my daughter her first bouquet of flowers, for Valentines, and her face beams.
We find a church that feels like home. We visit the ER more times this season than my whole life, it seems. We watch blood leave our daughter’s arm as we hold her still with all our might and tears leave us too. I have an out-of-body experience watching this scene unfold as if it were happening in a movie to somebody else. I get the same feeling when I practice-push the double stroller. A doctor waves an ultrasound wand around my stomach every other week monitoring for life, growth, breathing, our ever-switching baby A and baby B. Our daughter practices the letter M on every paper she touches and the bumps go on and on like a heartbeat.
Writing is an act of paying attention and I think gratitude works this way too. I have to work at gratitude (which I often do through writing) because there’s a longer list I could complain about, things that are giving me anxiety or fear, but that’s not where I want to dwell.
Bless the people who give books to new, or newish parents, that don’t have anything to do with parenting such as this one, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (HarperCollins 2019). At the same time, it has everything to do with parenting.
BBC made a short film about it in 2022. Here’s the trailer that gives you a further sense of its charm and gentleness.
Bless the simple phrase and picture that hold layers of meaning; books you can read in one sitting and can enter in anywhere, not just the beginning.
Bless my daughter’s bedtime song inspired by Hello Humpback where she sings about the sun falling falling falling on everything, landing on the ground, and then rising each day in the sky. Already there’s an arc to her storytelling, there’s contrast, there’s plot. There’s even a hallelujah.
(even if it’s broken)
Driving back from Vancouver the other day, she told me she figured out what she wants to do when she gets older. “Fix things.” “What kinds of things?” I ask and then give some examples when she doesn’t say anything. “Like buildings? Or things in people’s houses, like Grandpa does? Or perhaps fix broken systems…?” I tentatively offer the latter, not having a clue how to explain it if she were to question further. But she doesn’t. After a pause, she responds, “systems” and then adds, “Because I don’t want to get calluses on my hands like Grandpa.”
What broken systems will she fix? How will she change the world?
Someone on Twitter asked, “Does it bother you to know you aren’t going to change the world?” I replied, “Yes. But if I think of ‘the world’ as my kids’ lives and others close to me, maybe that’s enough, even more than enough.”
I wasn’t trying to pass the buck or be sentimental. It’s a fine line between realism and cynicism and I don’t want to cross over. I wrote an essay after university about all the practical and wonderful ways my friends and siblings are changing the world and I wondered where I fit in with my words. It’s a bit facile and yet I still have that question. I also have two life-sized question marks flipping in my belly and I am very, very tired.
I often think of the lines, ”I want to change the world. Instead I sleep” from this Ingrid Michaelson song and I appreciate the honesty and humanity in her lyrics.
I’ve often thought I should do a post about sights in Coquitlam or Port Moody that match my architextural vision—I’ve lived here half a year now and my blog has nothing to show for it. While I’ve done some physical exploring, most of it has happened internally. The best way I can explain it is with this: