Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Xenophobia - A Flash Story

I ran into the breakroom to prepare my first cup of tea for the day before anyone else got there. As I watched the steaming hot liquid fall into my Harry Potter mug, turning instantly into fragrant lemon ginseng green tea, I noticed that a woman had walked into the room as well with her mugs. We exchanged smiles to each other then she said in a soft yet steel tone, "Isn't it a shame that we can no longer trust the Chinese?" My face fell flat, devoid of all emotion, as I stared at her, wondering why she would bring this question up to a person she barely knew?

"I just don't trust their products anymore, not since the lead in the toys thing. If I had kids, which I don't, I would never send them to China to watch the Olympics, you know? I think their not caring about anyone or anything is all about money." I stood rooted to the spot as I listened to a woman speak about a culture she had probably never been exposed to aside from her regular listening of NPR's newscast. She wore a smug expression on her face as she continued talking while all I could think of was my tea that was now probably cold.





(and yes, this did happen to me at work yesterday. Makes you wonder . . .)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What If - A Flash Story

Tabitha stared at the pictures in her photo album and wished for the millionth time that she could go back and be around those people whose faces showed only happiness and peace. She sighed as she closed the book, wondering (again) if what she did was the right thing to do; granted, she did put so many people in danger but it was for the greater good. Yes. Of course it was. Outside, it had begun to rain and Tabitha was glad to be inside for once. She pulled the blanket tighter around her body and positioned herself on the couch so that she look outside her window. So much for so many, she thought again, watching the rain fall from the sky, landing on the charred remains of her "decision". I had to do it, she thought as tears began to fall down her face. So much for so many.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Perhaps - A Flash Story

Perhaps Charles knew better than to open his bookstore, the old ladies who met every day in the tea shop would say in their sweet arsenic voices. Perhaps he did and yet he was still going to open the store anyway. What was he trying to prove?

The entire town knew of his high level of intelligence, his sharp wit and silver tongue as well as his oh-so-charming personality; was the bookstore, then, a monument to his greatness? Was it his way of snubbing the rest of the town, declaring that he and only he had the right, the bloody gall, to open such a place?

Perhaps.

But then again, perhaps he opened his small and tidy bookstore simply because, at the strapping age of 38, he simply loved to read.

Perhaps.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Flowers in the Attic

I am drained.


I just finished reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews and I feel as though my own soul has been ripped out of my body.


Damn!

Normally, I love strange and unusual books because, well, I am a strange and unusual bookseller (commercial pulg, buy from Viridian Books!!) but this story left me feeling dirty, angry, disgusted . . and grateful for having read such a novel. I bought my copy from the recent library sale for only pennies and yet this story will stay with me for months to come. In fact, I know I will be buying the next several books as soon as I have enough books to trade.

Let me wrap up the story for you, for those who have never heard of the novel: a woman who places her four children in the attic of her parents' mansion to live for YEARS, older brother and sister who discover that they are in love with each other, powdered doughnuts with sprinkled arsenic, a grandmother who condemns all things related to exposing the naked body to the opposite sex, an inheritence gained only if the heir claims to have no children whatsoever (and she does have children from her first marriage . . to her step uncle!) and so on and so on.

I think I need to get drunk tonight, but in some strange way, I don't think I will; I want to keep the Gothic images in my mind for as long as possible.

Strange and Unusual indeed.


Thanks for listening.

Tea Shop - A Story

When I first met Paula, I told her that she smelled like bergamot. Every time she moved her arms, every time her hair was caught in a light breeze, my senses would go into overdrive and all I could think of was a kettle of Earl Grey tea. She said she smelled that way because she spent most of her childhood in her uncle’s tea shop, wandering among the tall glass jars filled to the brim with exotic smells and delicacies from around the world. A pinch of oolong here, a dabble of British Breakfast there, some lavender thrown in for good measure, and voila!, she would say, raising her hands over her head as if she was a magician. She lived for the scents that awakened the senses, for it was in those scents that brought us to a moment of undiluted happiness. One day I wanted to test that thought, so the two of us walked from my home to her uncle’s tea shop, the small ocean blue painted store at the end of the street with wind chimes at the door. When she opened the door, I closed my eyes without even thinking. It was here, all of it, ready and waiting for me and only me. Her uncle, a grizzled old man who somehow forgot that the 60s had ended a long time ago, came from around the desk and hugged his niece with happiness and pride. I stood back, giving them their space but also taking in the scents as best as I could. Her uncle then pulled away from her and introduced himself to me with a smile and a firm handshake.
“I give people happiness,” he said with a wink. “Too often, people come in here dull and grey. I let them see what they are missing.” With that, he walked back behind the counter to a small stove with a kettle that had just begun to whistle. From this kettle he filled three already prepared cups that stood to the side then waved at us to join him. When we reached him, he handed each of us a cup; Paula’s was the colour of blood while mine was a deep violet. He raised his bright white cup in a mute toast but smiled as we took a sip from our own cups. Once the hot liquid touched my tongue, my skin began to smell of jasmine.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Book Review - Yarrow by Charles de Lint

Portal to the Otherworld

OK, I will admit it: I am sci-fi and fantasy geek. I feel better now.
Within the masses of the sci-fi and fantasy literary genre, there is one author who stands out as the master of the urban fantasy tale and that is Charles De Lint. His stories give us a clear insight into the world we know of and the world that lies just beyond the veil. He is most known for his stories about the fictional city of Newford and the inhabitants of that city who stumble, quite literally, into the Otherworld, a realm populated by elves, dragons, twin girls that change into ravens, and the like. His book, Yarrow, is no exception but instead the epitome of his extraordinary talent of not only as a writer but a “record keeper” of the Otherworld.
“Old ghosts lived behind Cat Midhir’s eyes, memories that had no home until they came to haunt her.” So begins the story of writer Caitlin Midhir, a woman who is a best selling fantasy novelist but also a recluse in her city. She has very few friends, no lovers, but a wealth of information that leads her to write novel after novel of extraordinary creatures and beings, giving a source of escape and joy to her readers.
However, there is a catch: these stories do not come from her imagination but rather from the Otherworld itself; while asleep, Cat “travels” to the Otherworld to spend time with her strange friends and then writes down the stories and legends given to her by a poet-bard named Kothlen. All is going well until one night when a dark and evil presence begins to steal her dreams, thereby cutting her off from the only world she ever knew. For months, she can not write a single world nor is she able to visit her special place.
The thief, a more-than-human being named Lysistratus, enters the city to steal people’s dreams as well as their souls, giving him the essence he desires to continue existing. He, through his own feeding and later carelessness, brings several characters from both the real world and the Otherworld to, unknowingly, fight the creature to get their dreaming back. But at the center of it all is Cat who must overcome her own insecurities and fears to recognize her own strength as both a writer and a goddess of the Otherworld named Mynfel who share the same secret name, Yarrow, which means “Heal-All”.
I have been a fan of Mr. de Lint’s work with each book brining me closer and closer to the Otherworld with his lyrical and descriptive stories and Yarrow proves to be no different. Although I read the 255 page novel in three hours, it felt as though I, too, traveled with Cat and her friends to assist in getting my own dreams back.
We live in a world of metal with everything around us promising something new, something faster, something better for our lives. Mr. de Lint, however, tells us of something that is even greater: a chance to dream and a chance to believe. Yarrow is full of hope and conquering one’s own limitations, to see what lies beyond and to understand that it is real no matter what others might say. We are given a choice in his works: do we continue with our daily lives that possibly lack colour and imagination, or do we take a chance to peer behind the veil and begin our exploration into a new and strange world?
I have made my decision. Have you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

10 June 2008

It is raining now. I can feel the drops
Sliding across my window, giving me the sign
That Nature is hard at work.
I can time the drops, here and there, slow, fast,
Unyielding in their relentless drive
To seek those who still believe.
I want to hide under blankets and just watch
But they have more of a role for me than that.
They want me nearer, closer, touching the velvet
To parade across my forehead, anointing me
To remind me of my times before.
God must surely be happy, I think,
To allow such a simple act to manifest.
Manifest Destiny, I once heard,
Cried over rooftops and subways, yelled by people
Who wanted a better life, one with the raindrops.
I want to share it with good friends, people who are
Not afraid anymore, and yes, they do exist.
I no longer want to be afraid of what will naturally
Happen to me, for I have witnessed my own demise.
Give me a chance to redeem myself and I shall not disobey you.
No slander can ever come from my mouth, only raindrops
Silently falling to the ground, acid tearing away
At what was once pure and tame, not laced with licorice
And fish scales collected by the dead.
This time will be my time, to slide along my own future with the rain,
To cleanse the Earth and its inhabitants.
A word shall come from me and I will make it better
For us all, denying the very essence of what it means, what it means
To be of the rain, in the rain, and without the rain.
Give me the strength to finally see.

10 June 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

Alchemy Lab Quiz

So.

I just took this quiz and I must say, I was pretty pleased with the results.

Alchemy Lab Quiz


Here was my result:

You are emerging from the dark night of the Soul and entering into the brilliant light of pure Spirit.

The depths of darkness and depression that have marked your life in the recent past will now be transformed into the penetrating light of divine consciousness. In chemical terms, the next step in alchemy is Fermentation, a natural process consisting of two parts. First comes Putrefaction, in which the matter is allowed to breakdown and decompose. The alchemists often added manure to help get the process going. The sign that this preliminary process is nearing its end is a milky white fluid that accumulates on the blackened, rotting material. The dead material seems to come to life again with an influx of digesting bacteria, as Fermentation begins. This new life force changes the fundamental nature of the material in what the alchemists saw as a process of spiritization. Out of the utter blackness of Putrefaction comes the yellow ferment, which appears like a golden wax flowing out of the foul matter. Its arrival is announced by the formation of an iridescent, oily film the alchemists named the “Peacock’s Tail.”

Psychological Fermentation is the introduction of new life into the purified presence that you developed during Conjunction. This child of the Conjunction, however, is really just a gross melding of opposites of the personality that may still be contaminated with traces of ego, so it is necessary to "sacrifice" it to bring about its resurrection on a new level of being. During psychological death or Putrefaction, the child of the Conjunction, which is the strongest presence you can create within your earthbound personality, is exposed to the decadent humidity of your deepest and most clinging psychic components, the psychological manure in which most of us wallow.

This is the dark night of the soul, in which you realize how futile it can be to try to overcome the personal, social, genetic, and even astrological limitations to change. The enthusiasm of the Conjunction turns into a black mood, and there is an extinction of interest in life. At this point, you have to stubbornly persist to achieve enlightenment or relax into the dull slumber of mere physical existence. Like the white light of the Other Side seen by near-death experiencers, we finally leave the darkness and enter the bright light of resurrection as consciousness is restored on a higher level.

Fermentation then begins with the inspiration of spiritual power from Above that reanimates, energizes, and enlightens the blackened soul. It can be achieved through various activities that include intense prayer, desire for mystical union, breakdown of the personality, transpersonal therapy, psychedelic drugs, and deep meditation. In simplest terms, Fermentation is a living, loving inspiration from something totally beyond us, something existing wholly Above in the realm of pure mind. "Separate the Earth from Fire, the Subtle from the Gross" the Emerald Tablet instructs us at this stage.

Like the iridescent "Peacock's Tail" of its chemical counterpart, successful psychological Fermentation is indicated by colorful visions that symbolize the activation of the True Imagination ¾ what the alchemists called their "Secret Fire." Personal awareness and creative abilities skyrocket in this state of consciousness, and Fermentation is the quality we envy in great artists, prophets, and spiritual leaders. Once fermented, a person becomes suddenly alive and irrepressibly hopeful because their attention is diverted from this world to something much greater. This is a time to tune into the full intensity of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, since they are offering you a true escape from the mundane world in which you feel yourself trapped. You are undergoing a period of true inspiration during which you should try to keep as grounded as possible. Keep a journal of your thoughts and dreams no matter how strange or irrelevant they may seem, because they may be communicating great insights.

Bodily changes begun during Conjunction reach an entirely new level during Fermentation. The Second Puberty of Conjunction causes the growth of a Second Body, a body of light experienced at first only in the True Imagination. The level of inspiration may become so intense that it is experienced as a palpable, warm light circulating in the body. This living inspiration can even be consciously directed as a healing energy to various parts of the body or to others. As Fermentation progresses, people report feelings of extraordinary grace and "flow" as the physical body raises toward perfection, toward an ideal or archetypal image that is slowly taking on reality within.

Poem of the Day from The Poetry Foundation

Narcolepsy
by Ann Lauterbach

Comes sarcastic November in mummy garb, hauling,
same old same old what laid bare
what totaled. Sees thru the estimated costs, stench
collisions, inanimate dregs, remembers
the bruised figures, their
numerology as stars. Up up, down down
is how she counts as the hunters begin to hunt.

This is the plot of erasure, this the lavender bath.
Truth be known, the dark won by a landslide.

Yet friends in far January
await news of the front, cycling up the snow-clad hills.
They are to be exhumed from the grail of the keeper,
he who heralds what’s here. To them, send dreams
that pop open when breathed on
and ask them to complete this sentence:
If God is in the details, then ...

But in the end there was only a chair covered in velvet
and the sibling, dark as a forest, turned into words.
There were the stamps with monsters
and the stamps with flowers,
there was a dumpster of old paint.
Even the egalitarian whimsy of the gold rush
is in partial view: harbor’s sleek hulls,
willow disintegrating in drapery and nonce.
What others did
taking us to task in the field, into archival maps
along a bank. What is it they wanted?
Among strangers, beyond the stamina of pictures
—the dancer on stage, his ruined feet,

as they would flail crops
when the spring comes, and flood, and tassels
rise, as my head—


Across the ballast’s drab plaster
a colder moment assumes shape.
And Thee, found inside eternity’s crawl space,
midget doctrine of reckless variety,
homing pigeon of whatever returns,
what is your method now and
how do you know when it is finished?
When it detaches, when it comes to life at the edge of time.


Ann Lauterbach, “Narcolepsy” from If in Time: Selected Poems 1975-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Ann Lauterbach. Reprinted with the permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see www.penguin.com.