Category Archives: story
I am taking a summer blog break. While I’m refilling my creative well, enjoy the insightful writing of the incomparable Paulo Coelho. In “The Myth of Psyche” he ponders the elusive nature of love, and how he learned to follow the strange language of “signs.”
“Each moment shall be lived and enjoyed, but whenever we try to understand it, the magic disappears.”
Tuesday I wrote about camp counselors’ hats in “Do you love it or do you love it?”, and yesterday I found this note on the ground:
- bow tie
- hot pink feather
I thought, “Whoa, I want to go to that party.”
Bow ties are making comeback, so I wasn’t too surprised by that one. But what kind of bow tie did the writer have in mind? I ran through the list of possibilities. A classic black tuxedo tie, a dignified plaid one, or maybe a large, droopy hot pink number to match the feather?
I wondered why (ears?) needed parentheses and a question mark. Most of us come with ears firmly attached, so I assume the (ears?) referred to here would be detachable accessories. Perhaps the person needed to be Yoda, or a cat, or Spock. But not for certain, because of that question mark. Perhaps a friend could bring the (ears?) instead. Or perhaps the person felt that, with a bow tie and a hot pink feather already in play, (ears?) would be just too much—over the top.
Oh yes, the hot pink feather. That really made me smile. What day doesn’t get a little better with a hot pink feather? I pictured a luscious Ostrich-sized one. A puny one simply wouldn’t do.
As I walked on I realized I was close to the intermediate school in our area, and the note was likely a leftover from the school play at the end of the year. Then I pictured a child saying to a parent, “Oh yeah. I need a bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather for tomorrow.” This would happen at 9:01 p.m., immediately after all the stores had closed for the day. (Similar scenarios played out in our house more than once.)
The writer of this note dropped it along the way. Did that mean that he or she arrived home and thought, “I know I was supposed to bring something. Now, what was it again?” Did a droopy, hot pink bow tie make it to the event? What about the poor, questionable (ears?)?
Stephen King is one of those writers who recommends a daily walk. Now I understand how he comes up with those out-of-this-world ideas of his.
On my morning walk I passed the site of one of our city day camps just as two camp counselors arrived for work. I assume it was Silly Hat Day at camp, because both girls climbed out of their cars wearing large, colourful hats. One girl called to the other: “What do you think of my hat? Do you love it, or do you love it?”
I didn’t get a picture of her hat, but it was a large-brimmed, splotchy, hat-of-many-colours that would challenge anyone to love it. But the camp counselor did not allow non-love of the hat as an option.
Do you love it, or do you love it?
With her big smile, she made it clear that everyone was going to have a lot more fun if they loved the hat in all its splotchy glory.
I walked on and pondered some hats I have been challenged to love. My husband has an impressive collection of hats, and some endear themselves to me more than others.
His pith helmet, for instance.
He hasn’t worn this in a while (and in no way should he take this as encouragement to pick it up again), but on really hot days in the past, he pulled this off the shelf and wore it happily. On the surface I would say I don’t love a pith helmet, but when I dig deeper, I do love that it means my husband is not a slave to fashion. I love the independence it represents. It’s practical. On the hot, humid July days we get here in Ottawa, it is the coolest head protection he could choose. In a backhanded way, I love that hat.
Then there’s this red and white polka-dot beauty.
Late last spring we had a sunny day with warm temperatures and ski hills full of snow: Spring skiing Nirvana. My husband scrounged around at the back of his closet and produced this hat. “This was the height of fashion for spring skiing in 1978,” he told me. I reminded him that this was not 1978, but, unfazed, he wore it anyway.
If you asked me if I love this hat, I’d say “No” at first, but I do love how it instantly teleports my husband back to 1978 and happy youthful memories. In a roundabout way, I love the hat.
This one is a Canada Day staple.
Yes, it is an inverted beer mug, and yes, it features the stereotypical “Eh?” expression that makes me cringe. I sigh when this one comes off the shelf, but I have to admit that everyone who sees it smiles and laughs. I love that it tells the world that Canadians can laugh at themselves, that we have the best beer anywhere, and that we live in a country fun enough and free enough that people to wear inverted beer mugs on their heads. In a surprising way, I love the hat.
This one I love without reservation.
My walk was a long one this morning, so I moved on in my thoughts from hats to other situations when it is most helpful to ask: “Do you love it, or do you love it?” Some situations seem inconvenient or unpleasant at first, but love and laughter or some other positive experience lie within.
- Sleep interrupted at 5:30 a.m., by a child who crawls in to snuggle.
- Repainting a room, to welcome friends into a new guest room.
- Getting fired from a job, right before your perfect job comes along.
- Missing your exit on the freeway, and then hearing on the radio about a traffic jam on your planned route.
- Following a misguided GPS that takes you on a long, convoluted route to your destination, along a beautiful country road with gorgeous scenery.
It’s best to not allow non-love as an option.
If we dig deeply enough or wait long enough, love surprises us where we least expect it.
“Build castles, don’t dig graves.”
We sabotage our dreams—our castles—before we even allow ourselves to begin to build them. We want a career change, but we tell ourselves we’re too old. We want a new house, but we tell ourselves we could never afford it. We want to go back to school, but we tell ourselves that we’re not smart enough.
We have dreams, but we bury them in graves of self-doubt.
Most of the time the dreams that we deem impossible are actually very much possible—if we dare to begin to build. We can take on a new career in our middle-age and enjoy satisfying work for several decades. We can save just a little more and spend just a little less until the new house becomes a reality. We can take the first brave step to register for a course that really intrigues us and discover that it’s not so difficult after all.
Decide what castle you want to build and place a first brave stone. Then don’t heed the temptation to shovel dirt unto that dream.
Build castles, don’t dig graves.