Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dear Life, You're Nobel

She wanted to crawl across the bus floor but it was puddled with dirty water that people shook from their jackets and umbrellas as they ducked into the bus to avoid the torrential downpour outside. After wrestling my twisting girl back into her buggy and comforting her with a book and a cracker I sat heavily down in my seat, feeling damp and exhausted, and opened my Twitter feed where the first alert was a notification that Canadian short story write, Alice Munro, had just won the Nobel Prize for literature.

I let out a squeak of joy then immediately opened up my Facebook to post the news.

About a half hour later my friend sent me an excited text message, also telling me the good news. I replied with excessive exclamation points, telling her that I felt like it was my grandma who just won.

That's how excited I am about Alice Munro's win.


When I went to university I decided to study English Literature just because I liked to read. I had no plans beyond this--no idea what purpose this education would serve--I just wanted to read books and discuss them with people who also liked to read. I think I've made it abundantly clear that I am no book snob; I will read pretty much anything I can get my hands on (okay, except for Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, but those deserve their own blog post about why I don't think the pages are worthy for wiping your ass with...but anyhow...), but while in university it became abundantly clear to me that I am a die-hard devotee of Canadian Literature. I absolutely love it and we have some truly remarkable writers sprinkled across our landscape. Furthermore, it's women writers that I gravitated to.

Margaret Atwood is a no brainer, L. M. Montgomery, Margaret Laurence, Miriam Towes, Carol Shields, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Donna Morrissey, Elizabeth Hay, Amy McKay. The list could seriously go on and on, and of course, there's Alice Munro.

The first time I read a collection of short stories I was ten years old, lying on the pull-out couch at my Nan and Bup's ranch, avoiding the afternoon desert heat that was wilting the landscape around me. I was killing time until evening when I was hoping to harass my aunt into taking me riding, and I picked up a new book I'd bought before we left to visit my grandparents by my favourite author at the time, L. M. Montgomery. As I started into the book I was totally confused about why there wasn't a cohesive plot, why none of the characters repeated into the next 'chapter', and why each chapter seemed to take place in a wildly different setting. It wasn't until the fourth or fifth 'chapter' that I clued in this book was a bunch of small stories.

I wasn't impressed.

I wanted a novel!

Did this stay with me? I don't know, but while in university a professor assigned a few Alice Munro stories for required reading and I remember stubbornly starting the story with the belief I would hate it. How much could take place over ten pages? Rubbish. What a waste of time.

Except, it wasn't.

A lot can take place over ten pages, apparently, and that is Munro's true gift.

Everyone knows that daily life can meander in a common and banal way, so why would we want to read about it? Except under Munro's authorship we do want to read about it. Her stories don't have that bawdy humour you'll find in a Dorothy Parker short, they aren't fluffed up with a Capote quill, and they aren't a fucking slug through the mud like anything of Faulkner's. Reading an Alice Munro story is like floating down a gentle river; you go where the quiet current takes you until all of a sudden you're surprised when you've reached land: you've docked at a surprising, poignant, conclusion.

Her stories are beautiful, and if you haven't read any I encourage you to do so.

My friend claims that the collection The Lives of Girls and Women changed her life, and I can also attest to its beauty. Dear Life is her latest, and possibly final, collection and the final three stories--which Munro attests aren't stories but memories--are delicious.

I am proud she's Canadian and that her prolific career has been recognised.

Go, read, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Foto Friday

Anyone remember how, ages ago, I said I was going to do a photo feature every Friday as incentive to start using my real camera again?

And then I never did it?

Well, I'm going to try. It's that time of year where I always feel artistically inspired, and I've been making an effort to pack my camera with me while LB and I are out and about.


At her favourite park

Back story to this photo:

She's in this in between stage right now where she has the balance to walk, but hasn't yet taken any independent steps (she's a quick walker when clutching my fingers). I don't know if this means she's feeling frustrated because she can't go where she wants as quickly as she wants, but these past few weeks our LB has been a ball of emotional fury. So much so that I'm trembling at the notion of 'the terrible twos'. Because I feel like we're already there.

Our baby has wants and needs, and needs to let us know what she wants.

It's all very cool, surprising, and exhausting.

What this means is I have been using every chance possible to get her outside so that she has ample time and space to explore as fast and as far as she wants to. A favourite place for her is a local park because there's a Kita group that often lunches there, and she likes to try and steal the other kids' snacks, watch them play, and explore the equipment herself.

Here she is clutching onto a bouncy giraffe, watching the three year olds run circles around her, wondering when it's her turn to do the same.

Soon, sweet girl, I think it will be very soon.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Where My Stiches At?! **

As I previously mentioned, the reason LB and I were in Canada was to surprise my Nan for her 80th birthday. The whole family gathered to celebrate, pets included. One of the dogs there was my aunt and uncle's red Australian border collie, named Carmen.

Carmen looked sort of like this, freaky eyes and all:

Image via Google images
When my aunt and uncle arrived late on the Friday night--after a long drive from Alberta to British Columbia--Carmen hopped out of their truck and looked up at my uncle, her freaky eyes clearing saying, "Okay, I'm ready to work."
My uncle sort of ignored Carmen and moved around to do the obligatory hugs, but Carmen was not to be ignored.
"Excuse me, Sir, I'm ready to work now. Work. I'm ready to work. Hello. I'm ready to work. It's been a long day, but I'm ready to work."
Then my uncle said something along the lines of, "Bloody dog, go lie down next to the fire with the other dogs and relax."
This did not compute with Carmen. In fact, I'm almost positive I could see her face take on a look of disgust as she looked over to the fire and saw the other bloated, domestic, hounds lolling around just waiting for some clumsy fool to drop a Cheeto. She was not impressed. She was a herding dog of proud lineage! She worked cattle for a living! She was not some domestic disabled who shook a paw for its meal! Clearly she was not used to being asked to do something as idle as relaxing, especially when there was a pastoral flock of sheep on the other side of the fence who had the audacity to simply be grazing and not moving from corner to corner of the pasture.
"Excuse me, Sir, the sheep. Over there. I can make them move. Do you want them farther away from the fence? I can do that. I can. Just give me the whistle, and I'll have those woolly beasts tightly circled and in the pen in no time."
"Carmen! For god's sake! Lie down!"
Poor Carmen, she was just flummoxed as to why she wasn't being given a job to do and at one point her neuroses got so bad that she started trying to herd the grandchildren. So on Saturday night, after a couple of cinnamon shots of fireball and a bellies full of lobster, we were all gathered around the fire laughing and joking when Carmen reached her breaking point and couldn't take it anymore.
"This is bullshit!" she clearly cried, "Total bullshit! You sloths! I refuse to do nothing, any longer! I'm going to herd those GD sheep RIGHT NOW."
And she was off, while the rest of us--in varying degrees of sobriety--wondered what the freakin' commotion was all about. I'm pretty sure she had those sheep rounded up before we even put our drinks down. When she was returned to the fire she look appropriately mollified for having acted of her own accord, but also...slightly satisfied.
Internet, after having watched Carmen's little brain whir-whir-whir all weekend long, anxious that she was just doing nothing, I realised: I am just like a red Australian border collie! I don't know how to effing relax!
It's true: I don't!
I can maybe lie quietly for an hour, tops, but that's it. My mind never shuts off! Poor Dan bears the brunt of this for on quiet evenings my little mouse voice will quite often break the silence with one of these two dreaded sentences:
  1. "Hey, we should totally discuss..."; or
  2. "Let's make a list about...."
I am always, always, always thinking about something. Anything. Everything.
I really like to ponder, okay?
But when I saw Carmen, totally nutters Carmen who would rather be working steers than eating Cheetos, I realised I need to learn to chill the f-ck out. Pronto. I needed a hobby.
So I decided to take up knitting. My Nan taught me to knit years ago, and at the time I vigorously knit a scarf for Dan and then never did anything about it ever again. So while in Canada I went to a couple of local knitting shops in town and picked the brains of the people working there, looked up a pattern for a hat and gloves, bought my supplies, and became A Very Determined Knitter.
When we landed back in Switzerland last week I thought I'd use my copious waking hours courtesy of jet-lag to bang out these two projects. Well, it was a little...frustrating to say the least. First of all I am nothing if not an overachiever. For a person who hasn't knit in a decade, I decided that the project I would start with was a cable-knit toque and fingerless mittens.
Knit on four needles instead of two.
Total, utter failure.
I taught myself to knit in the round (no big deal, don't be intimidated by my vocab, Internet, whatevs) by watching a lot of YouTube, then I found myself a more realistic pattern. A fisherman's toque.
And guess what?
I totes finished it last night.
'Sup stich?
Here's a shot where it's easier to see:
So, not a big deal, but I'm sort of addicted to knitting now. It's really fun, though I'm not sure if it's cured my overactive brain. The other night I was practicing knitting in my head before I went to sleep.
Plus I want to make LB a sweater now, and also enter some sort of fall fair and submit a knitting sample AND WIN FIRST PRIZE.
What can I say? Once an overachiever, always an overachiever.
Though, unlike Carmen, I'm not above a good Cheeto.
Just sayin'.