Lectio

Night at the philharmonic.

By Heather - January 24, 2016

I went to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra with my friend last night; we have concocted a tradition of having dinner at her place, with her family, and then the two of us take the train down to the Jack Singer Concert Hall. We especially like the choir loft seats — for me, it’s a treat to be so close to the musicians, to be able to look down and see their sheet music and hear the conductor talking to them, watch them playing. We really enjoy being able to look out at the audience, too. It’s always a fun evening.

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As sombre as the mood can be in Calgary right now, there are still these things going on — still an appreciation for things like this, a long applause for a visiting violinist, the welcome break from dire predictions about oil prices and the reality of inflation. Last night was Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, and between those two pieces, there was a surprise encore of Paganini’s caprice no. 5, which was a real treat. But the best of the night was the Tchaikovsky; we heard Symphony No. 6 Pathétique in its entirety, and it was beautiful.

I’ve seen some great shows this season, but it was an especially touching performance last night. At the end of Tchaikovsky’s 6th, the conductor let the last note die away and we were all silent — conductor, musicians, audience. It was as if we were all sharing the height of that last melancholy moment, holding onto it for Tchaikovsky and communing with him. It was breathtaking.

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And then we came out into the snow, and the world transformed.

Christmas day.

By Heather - December 25, 2015

A very Merry Christmas from me and Mr. Jones! We especially hope that you have snow to eat and a breeze to floof your tail.

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With the holidays here, I have a week off. I have a tidy stack of books to choose from, so I have a feeling I will curl up on the couch and turn on the fireplace channel on the TV and settle in for a good read. I finished work at noon yesterday, and went for groceries — naively thinking that the grocery store would be quiet on Christmas eve, because why would people go grocery shopping? It was the busiest I’ve ever seen my local Safeway. Still, I laid in my supplies, managed to get them all into my little bundle buggy cart, and took them home on the bus.

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I finished reading Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat last night. It’s a shortish book — a fictionalized account of a summer spent observing wolves in the Canadian Arctic (and heavily fictionalized, apparently). Still, it’s an interesting read, and I enjoyed the story without needing to think that it was completely accurate. Creative non-fiction, I suppose.

And so the holidays begin. It’s cold and bright today — it snowed steadily yesterday, and cleared at some point in the night. Mr. Jones has been out a couple times today to eat snow and look around, but comes back in quite promptly. He’s become quite a civilized fellow since the summer — he must have been in indoor cat at some point, but had been living rough for quite a while. Letting him out on the balcony actually seems to have calmed him down a bit. He doesn’t mind putting the harness on, thankfully, though when he comes inside he wants it off RIGHT NOW. He’s lounging on my bed at the moment, having finally decided that it’s a good place for a nap. I’m shortly going to have some lunch and then head off to mom and dad’s for Christmas afternoon and dinner.

A very Merry Christmas to you!

Saturday.

By Heather - December 19, 2015

Mr. Jones and I are slowly reading our way through Bleak House — roughly a chapter a night, though the schedule dropped off in the last few weeks as I recover from a nasty cold. I’m nowhere near the goal of a hundred books this year — it is what it is, though I also think shifting my reading practice to slow it down and savour a book is not a bad thing, either.

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As we get closer to the end of the year, I’d have to say that Among the Selkirk Glaciers, a book by William Spotswood Green, has been my favourite. I found a reprinted deluxe edition in Banff, and I read it very slowly, and very deliberately. It was written 1890: the account of travel through the prairies and into the Selkirk mountains seen through the eyes of the author. It is so entirely and perfectly Victorian, and Green is enthusiastic and filled with wonder at what he sees…and quite pragmatic, almost to the point of chagrin, about the mistakes he makes, and the relative discomforts of mountaineering and camping.

But what a view ! worth coming all the way from England to see. In a deep cutting the Bow river wound its way to the mighty Saskatchewan: the great highway of the North West, before the Canadian Pacific Railway revolutionised that region. North, south, and east lay the wide swells of golden-grassed prairie, but to the westward the Rocky Mountains were in sight for nigh a hundred miles. They rose like a great purple rampart, jagged and peaked in outline, above the ocean of grass. Glaciers and snow fields glinted in the sunshine; deep valleys suggested rivers and passes; the distance was too great to make out the details, the sharp outline of the summits melted downwards into blue atmosphere, as the lower portions of the ranges met the golden yellow of the prairie: the contrast was superb.

Later, after coming down from the Lily glacier:

Fortunately before leaving camp in the morning we had put some firewood into the tent; this was now quite dry, though all the rest was dripping; with its aid we quickly got a fire going, and splitting other logs so as to expose the dry inside, we began to steam before a roaring fire. Our shirts dried quickly under this treatment, and as our coats were dry and the rain had ceased, we cooked our bacon in comfort, and fried a scone in the remaining fat in the frying-pan, and after our day of twelve hours’ work felt perfectly ready to turn in by the flickering light of the dying fire. One or two corners of stones in my bed seemed determined to make a lasting impression on me; chipnuncks began their nightly scrambles up and down the outside of the tent; I had some dread that a mosquito or two had eluded our vigilance and got inside our defences of netting; but all these troubles quickly vanished into the blissful atmosphere of dreamland.

It was a lovely book to read; I carried it around with me for months before it was entirely finished. Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth is also going through a slow read. I took it with me to China and read it in airports and during flights (there are a lot of rules about devices on planes, moreso than flying in Canada, and I discovered that taking an ebook was not a good idea). That book isn’t done yet, and Bleak House will take a while, I think, before I’m through.

I have a nice chunk of time off between Christmas and New Year’s, though, and a plan to spend some quality time on the couch with Bleak House propped up on a cushion in my lap.

About that time I went to China…

By Heather - November 29, 2015

It’s been a pretty solid year of blog silence — a year of change and new beginnings, for me, and the blog writing slid more and more to one side as I marched steadily through the year. And here we are, at the tail end of November, and there is snow on the ground and that whiff of the holidays. This year has been so much its own, and full of so many experiences.

The novel is back in the drawer, I think. As much as the blog posts felt like they were too much to do, the writing has been a struggle. It’s hard to be creatively engaged with fiction when the energy that flows into the stories feels so depleted.

I think that’s changing, now that we’re moving into the winter months. I went to China recently — yes, I went to China! — and if that’s not something that shakes up how you see the world and what you think about yourself, I don’t know what is.

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Global Centre, the world’s largest building. It’s impossible to get the whole thing in one shot.

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First night in Beijing.

More than anything, I learned that I could be brave. I could fly across an ocean — something I’d been really scared about. I could learn to speak simple phrases in Mandarin, and I could navigate my way through six cities, flying from place to place, on average, every day and a half. Jet lag was something new for me, and not so bad going to China, but pretty vicious coming back. I ate a ton of incredible food and met wonderful people. But most of all, I figured out that I could do something so out of my normal routine, so vastly different…and I liked it. There were times when I looked around and felt like I’d stepped into a William Gibson novel, and other times when I just stopped, looked around, and let the enormity of being so far away from home hit.

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Night and rain in Xian. I think this is something I will remember best.

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The Terracotta Army in Xian — staggering in its scope. The history of it weighs on you the whole time you move through the museum.

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For 10 yuan, you can have your picture taken at the replicas. Totally worth it.

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Night in Chengdu. The light displays on buildings make you feel like you’re living in the future.

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Pandas!!

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Pandas, pandas, pandas!

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The view from my hotel in Wuhan. It was so breathtaking and beautiful, as the sun came up. East Lake is somewhere behind those buildings.

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Lunch in Chengdu. I very quickly learned how to say ‘it’s so delicious!’ in Mandarin. A very helpful phrase to know.

I felt very much the lack of a partner to share it with…both when I was away, and when I was home and crawling miserably into bed or sitting awake at 3am, waiting for the rest of me to catch up to me from crossing the dateline. But I also felt the lack of writing — the lack of creating, I suppose. And both are things I’m working on, restoring and rebuilding. China taught me that you can make do with what you have, because it’s so much more than you realized you had. It’s like driving or walking in a throng of people: you get in there, because if you hang back and wait for a space to open, it never will. One shoulder, one hip forward, watch where you’re going, but get in there and take your place.

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More of Xian.

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Our driver dropping us off at the airport for the flight to Qingdao.

So! As the end of November approaches…welcome, December, and the tail end of this hard, but wonderful, year, and the feeling that there is a new journey ahead.

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Halfway through the trip, chilling at the airport. There were a lot of night flights, and a lot of time for thinking.

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Walking across the Han river in Chaozhou, one day before leaving for home. The legend is that Han Yu appealed to the crocodiles to leave with a logical argument. It worked. No more crocodiles in Chaozhou.

Women Destroy Science Fiction wins a British Fantasy Award

By Heather - November 8, 2015

I’m very excited and thrilled to announce that Women Destroy Science Fiction received a 2015 British Fantasy Award in the anthology category.

Congratulations to everybody involved with the project, especially Christie Yant, and thank you to everybody for their support for the project!

I got the news while I was on the road — and it was pretty incredible news to get. This year has brought me so many wonderful things; the award is such a vindication. Thank you!

By Heather - August 31, 2015

I had the immensely good fortune of camping at the Elizabeth Parker hut in Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park with friends who kindly invited me along. We made the journey to British Columbia — Yoho is just over the border, and hiked in to the hut.

It was a beautiful, wondering weekend. One glorious vista after another, in the company of good friends. For the first time in my life, I saw the Milky Way at night,

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There is an element of the sublime there: that fearsome, staggering beauty, the feeling of something so much greater than yourself. What a summer it has been! So many changes in my life. And all along the way, surrounded by friends and loving family. As we transition to the fall — the leaves here are beginning to turn — I’m looking ahead to the cooler weather, the adventures still to come. More writing, back to more reading, new things to learn and see.

Summer in Alberta.

By Heather - August 4, 2015

A week and two days of vacation remind me how fortunate I am to live in Alberta, and how beautiful a place it can be.

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The novel has taken a back seat lately, sitting and making comments as I try to figure out what to do with it. It is a bit like having back seat driver, I suppose. ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Watch out for that plot. Oo, that chapter! Careful!’ I spent some time on holiday to think and draft, and I think I have a workable plan now. I don’t want to be one of those writers forever saying that they’re working on something without ever having something to show for it.

Meanwhile, I’m very pleased to say that Culpability, a story published by Bartleby-Snopes last year, was nominated for the Million Writers Award this past week. The story was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I’m so pleased at this news!