Off Track

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We’ve had a hot, dry summer so far, and my pots are suffering for it. I’m great with houseplants, but I tend to let my outdoor plants languish in the sun. I see the flowers drop, the foliage hanging limp over the side of the pot, and I’m guilted into watering. I’m not sure why I can’t manage to pour a little water in each day, but that’s how it is. A few days ago, as I was watering two pots that I was pretty sure were past saving (they came back, though!) I realized this is an accurate metaphor for my writing practice.

As much as I want to make writing a daily practice, I neglect it. I go through regular periods of drought that are not so much writer’s block as they are my own refusal to just come to the page and write. These days, I’m caught between being too busy and feeling like I need dedicated time to draft or polish poems. Once again, I’ve forgotten the simplicity of journaling and freewriting, and I’m telling myself the same old story of “if I can’t have it just right, I won’t have it at all.” That is not how to build a daily writing practice.

Going too long between watering causes plants to go into distress. Most plants can’t thrive if they are constantly going through that kind of stress every few days. This is the same for my writing practice: the longer I go between writing, even writing just a few minutes a day, the harder it feels to come back to it. I start to doubt myself, even if it’s just been a few days. If I don’t keep up some kind of daily putting-words-on-page regimen, I go into survival mode. The new blooms of words in my mind close up in self-preservation and then when I finally tend to them, it’s too late.

A week ago, I was telling myself that this new job was the problem. I’ve started serving in a restaurant 2 or 3 nights a week, and though the kitchen closes at 10, it can be 11 before I’m on the road home. Tack on a 30 minute drive and some time to decompress before bed, and my nights are pretty late. The next day I’m trying to stay engaged with the kids while keeping myself going on a steady stream of caffeine and carbs (which I think cancel each other out but whatever, it gets me through). It can be hard to focus my brain on writing. Or that’s what I tell myself. I tell myself that maybe the job has to go.

But the job makes me feel good. Having work outside of the house is another piece of the puzzle that is my mental well-being. Since starting back to work, I find myself more patient with the kids. I don’t feel so trapped. I like working as part of a team, I enjoy getting feedback for the work I do, and I love food service. The job is not the problem.

The problem is my always waiting for conditions to be perfect before I can let myself write, which, at its heart, is just a load of self-sabotaging b.s.  Thankfully, I’m getting quicker and quicker at wising up to this fact, and maybe someday, I’ll just live it, without any slips.

The problem is also in my hands right now: my smartphone, on which I am finishing this post because the wifi in my office isn’t working. If I approached my writing practice with the same devotion I do stalking social media and news blogs, well, I would probably have a book length collection of poems ready to publish. Or, at the very least, a steady, thriving writing practice.

So here’s to getting back on track, and watering the damn pots before they all die.

 

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How to Make a Summer

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Each morning, my husband and I sit in our favoured places in the living room, sipping our respective cups of coffee with cream and green tea, the kids fully immersed in intense dragon battles. He’ll look at me through blasts of dragon fire and when there is a lull in the roar, he’ll ask “when does school start up again?”

It’s a hopeful question, and a useless one. They’re here, all three of them, every day. How will we get through the summer? Just by getting through. One day at a time. Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the pool. Every morning we walk to the pond near our house and throw rocks. There may be more rock throwing later in the day at the river. There are car naps, and french fries, and mosquito bitten ankles. Yesterday, there were wild strawberries.

At work the other night, someone tipped me off to a strawberry patch accessible from town, so on Wednesday after our lunch, we loaded into the truck and drove to town, drove all the way to the end of Front street and parked under the slide, where every August the mud bog is held. As we got out of the truck, I could see the strawberry plants spread out in a mat over the hillside, amoung soapberry bushes, golden rod, plantain and the odd raspberry cane. The kids ranged over the patch, grazing. Colm, who wouldn’t eat fruit if I paid him, brought the berries to me one at a time to drop into the container I’d brought. We’re late in the season or this particular patch has already been picked clean, because the berries were sparse. I let Charlie eat what we’d collected, gone in two fistfuls.

I want to be the person who fills her freezer with wild berries each summer, lines her pantry with jewel-toned jars of preserves.  But truthfully, I find gathering wild berries to be tedious. They are so small: a good sized wild strawberry isn’t even as big as the tip of my pinky finger. Whenever I do pick wild berries, I can’t help but think of the Han people who have lived here and gathered here for thousands of years. Of the devotion they must have had to picking wild produce as it ripened. It’s not for me. I’m content to graze and to let the kids do the same. The berries are a tart burst of flavour, best enjoyed in the sun that brings them to fullness.

The kids went to bed last night with their mouths and fingers still berry-stained. Today is a pool day, maybe a rocks-in-river day. Now that we know what it’s like to have a kid in school, having three at home seems impossible, like filling a pail with tiny berries. But we get through it, one day at a time, and I try to make them about more than just “another one down”, if that makes any sense.

I’m not writing much, I am working more and the days are busy in other ways. It feels like I can’t fit it all in without letting something slip. It’s always the writing that slips. I have notes and half-poems started in my journal. I think about poems. I’ve been trying to read some poetry every day (to do that I’ve let slip the Trump-Russia fiasco and I gotta tell ya, it feels really good). I imagine that some day I’ll have it all figured out: work, family, writing, myself, so delicately balanced that even the seasons changing can’t throw it off. More likely, life will continue to be one day at a time, dragon fights and berry stained fingers and poems jotted down in between it all, each day never quite the same.

In Spite Of

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July. This is it, the few brief months of warmth and wild growth and freedom and endless days. We are in the middle of it and tipping ever so slightly towards cold and dark but mostly just sweating in thirty degree heat, hanging out at the river bank or at the edges of tailing ponds, dipping our feet in the icy cold water and letting the delicious chill of it give us goosebumps. These are the days of working two jobs, squeezing in friends and family and maybe even some sleep. These are the days of wildflowers and mountain climbing and new friends and live music and festivals. It’s all happening, as it does every summer, and it should be great. Mostly, it is.

But the last two weeks, since the solstice, I suppose, I’ve been in a real funk. I’ve learned enough by now to know that this doesn’t mean THE END of happy days, but rather that it’s a bump in a very long road. That doesn’t make it any easier, though. For the last two weeks I’ve been saying such mean things to myself. I’ve stopped putting cream on my feet so that deep cracks have opened on my heels and it hurts every time I take a step. I’m so thirsty, and I tell myself to drink some water, and I don’t drink the water. Maybe I have some more tea because I’m so tired because I’m staying up too late and not getting enough sleep so I need caffeine to buoy me.

The fact that all of this was happening while my wonderful parents were visiting, while the wildflowers bloom, while life continues to happen around me, is such an insult. And it feels so shameful. How dare I feel like shit? One more thing to add to the nasty things I would say to myself. Stupid. Fat. Ugly. Talentless. And then: Ungrateful. Ouch.

I let it all build up for a while. I mentioned it to a close friend, and to my husband. But otherwise I smiled my way through it (or maybe not, I’m sure my mom knew something was up. Hi, Mom!) If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is to have patience with these things. I could feel tears dammed up inside of me, but I had no time to cry. Work, family, writing and poetry readings and friends and garden…no time for tears.

This morning, home with the kids, Colm threw a toy at Aedan and Aedan exploded, as he does (he gets it from me. We’re both learning how to stop doing this). He picked up a Transformer he got in a toy exchange at school, a hard plastic thing with lots of angles, and chucked it at his brother. And missed. He pinned me instead, right above my lip. Instantly, I burst into tears and I sobbed for a good little while, all three kids just staring at me. Finally, I regained myself and we talked about why that wasn’t okay and what he could do instead. I’m grateful that toy didn’t hit Colm, because it fucking hurt. I’m grateful something broke the dam and I had a good cry. I’m grateful that Aedan got shocked out of himself a little bit, and that it lead to a conversation about how to better handle anger.

I’ve started to come out of my funk. I think I’m on the other side of it. The nasty voice in my head is silent. I’m in my studio writing this, Wednesday night, and below the open window, people sing on the sidewalk. The swallows swoop through the air, gathering up the mosquitoes. One block over, I can see kids on the swings in the schoolyard–it’s ten thirty and the sun is still in the sky. There is still July, and if we’re lucky, August, too. But then it will be brilliant autumn, and then the gorgeous, difficult winter and I will try and remember to take the highs and the lows in stride. And if you’re having a hard time this summer, know that it’s okay. Drink some water. Ask for help. Do what you need to get through.

 

 

Life Lately

It feels like this summer is flying by. My parents arrived on the 18th and between spending time with them and work (did I mention I took on a second serving job?) life is busy. Here’s a quick update for you, with pictures!

It’s been hot and dry and some lightning made for a few very smokey days. We had forest fires burning all around us, with the closest being just 21 km from town. That one was something like 5 km away from a historic site, Dredge #4: the fire crews had it surrounded with sprinklers just in case. Between the efforts of the fire crews and a few days of rain, all the fires are out.

Last Thursday, I read alongside U.K. based poet Chrys Salt at Alchemy Cafe here in Dawson City. This is my third time reading in public, but my first time as something of a feature. My name was on the posters and every time I saw one of them around town I felt like a total imposter. But we had a great turnout, twenty to twenty five I think. Chrys was fabulous: her background is in theater, and it certainly shows in her readings. She was captivating, and I feel like I learned a lot watching her read. I read for ten minutes to a much appreciated, very warm reception. At the end a few people asked where they could find more of my work, and as I wrote my website address on scraps of paper, I wished for business cards. I think I secretly (not so secret anymore?) love an audience!

Other highlights of the last week: a walk through Orchid Acres, a spot in West Dawson where thousands of spotted lady’s slipper orchids grow together in the forest, and a private tour through the Bear Creek compound just outside of Dawson. This was the headquarters for all of the dredging activity that happened in this region up until the 60’s. Everything there is pretty much untouched since the day they ceased operations: it was fascinating!

Next week I hope to have a book review for you, if I can manage to squeeze in some reading time and finish my book! Hope your summer is fun. xo

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Spotted Lady Slipper Orchids
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Forest walks
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Midnight Sunsets
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Smoke in the valley
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Me and Chrys Salt at the Alchemy
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Safety first!

 

Poetry Reading with UK poet Chrys Salt

Hi Friends! Just a quick update today to let you know that I’ll be reading tonight with UK-based poet Chrys Salt, at the Alchemy Cafe in Dawson City. I’m very excited and also nervous because now I suppose I’m officially “out” in the real world as a poet. My name is on the posters around town, and this morning on the local CBC radio, I was referred to as “Dempster Highway poet Tara Borin”. So the jig is up. I suppose this is all a part of me putting myself in the way of my passions. When my friend, Whitehorse poet Joanna Lilley, asked if I’d like to read with Chrys during her Yukon visit and I said “I could do that!” it was a big leap for me. Leaping without looking first, because if I’d looked I would have seen lots of fear and apprehension and feelings of not being good enough and I never would have leapt. I guess once I put aside all the feelings of not-good-enough, I’m mostly just excited to be on this path, excited by where all these leaps are taking me.

If you’re in town tonight, I hope you’ll stop by for an evening of poetry!