Friday 16 October 2015

Guest Author Gwen Martin of Yoho, NB

The Scribbler is pleased to have Gwen Martin as guest author this week. It is her second visit to SBS. The first was a 4Q Interview for August, 2015.
Please drop by this link GM to discover more about this talented lady. She has been kind enough to share one of her short stories. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Life as Clothesline
I've just come indoors from hanging clothes on the line. It’s the first time this year, as winter winds are too cold for these joint-sore fingers. Facing east, the warmth of the early spring sun on my face, I’m reminded of the simple pleasure of the act. The gentle squeak of the line as I shift it sock by sock, towel by towel, to the left. The satisfaction of arranging laundry by type and colour, a practice I first encountered in a book about Japanese culture and have followed ever since, even while chuckling at myself. The quiet aesthetics of it.
A few months ago, it appeared that my terminally ill father might not leave his house again except to head to hospital, or worse. But after a round of chemotherapy and tons of TLC from my mother, he agreed last week to take a short road trip. And so my beloved and I drove him down the Saint John River. We had a glorious Mayday, poking along beside ponds and swales and soggy fields to gaze at ducks and other birds heading northward along their migration routes.
As we watched a dabbling Wood Duck, Dad repeated what he often said while on birding trips: “The idea, you know, is to look at every bird as though you’re seeing it for the first time.” I smiled at his usual reminder never to take anything for granted. But then he added, almost to himself, “...or for the last time.”
Two days after the birding expedition, I ended up in hospital. The tightness in my chest lasted long enough for me to head reluctantly into ER. Nine hours and many tests later, they said it was not a 'cardiac event' but to consult my doctor for further investigation.
 This I will not do, because I know it is a stress thing, related to poor adaptation. Since last summer I have tried adjusting to restrictions caused by suffering a serious concussion. I cannot walk as far or as vigorously as before, can't smell the spring air or the warming earth or the fox scent or the crocuses or the pine needles. I can’t bend over to garden for more than a few minutes. Or dance without feeling nauseous. Or sing without feeling dizzy.
I cannot, in fact, get too thrilled or exuberant about anything because the adrenaline does odd things to my head. I've repeatedly told myself — and truly believe — I am lucky to be alive. I should count my blessings, and I do, daily. But somewhere deep inside, that intellectual sense has not penetrated the heart. There’s still a lot of work to do.
One of the wonderful things about hanging laundry is how its rhythms encourage contemplation. And so this morning I found myself feeling, not for the first time, that much of the angst we bring upon ourselves is caused by an unwillingness to accept the passage of time.
We want things to stay the same. We want family and friends to last forever. We want to continue being strong and healthy. We want our language and culture to remain familiar. We find it difficult to see ourselves as part of the natural world, as part of the usual cabal: life, death, rebirth.
 But here in the woods, as I hang out the clothes, the hermit thrush is singing clearly, its call one of the most ethereal sounds in the world. The loon yodels faintly from the lake across the road. The crocuses inch open as the sun reaches the gnarled stump where I planted them last fall. A fly whizzes across the stump and dives into a yellow crocus.
And I think: it's just a time thing. Expand your sense of time. Things do stay the same but within a far longer frame. We’ll always have the migrations south and north, the cultural comings and goings, the ebb and flow of life in some form or other. Onward it goes, season after season, century after century, eon after eon.
 The winds out here can blow hard or waft soft. Sometimes the sun warms and other times it slips behind clouds. But one thing seems certain: the clothesline may appear linear but is actually an elongated circle that will shift around and around forever.
Thank you Gwen for being our guest this week and for your heartwarming story.
Drop by the Scribbler next week when I plan on revealing the cover and content of my third collection of short stories.
As with the first two collections, SHORTS are dedicated to my grandchildren. Vol.3 is for the youngest, Damien.

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