Old Buildings

Old buildings. Old people. Memories that tell me stories of life and love. I’m collecting their moods in my heart. 

I love old buildings. At times I take walks along the downtown where history lives. Stone faces and wide trimmed windows. Old wood and brick somehow comfort me. Things slow down and I can breathe.

Walks take me out and away. Both provide and alleviate distractions. The stone in my shoe, a twinge in my hip. Fibromyalgia biting at me. Deal with it. Walk. I love to walk. Look around. Reflect on life.

Today, my walk starts indoors. Shopping. And a customer who likes to chat.

Oh you jumped the fence today, did yah?

I laugh. Yes. I jumped the fence, but I’m in later to work the afternoon shift.

A sweet man. Always friendly. He talks happily about visiting family, going to meet his newest great grandchild. Moments of joy. He will get tested (Covid) before he goes, just to be safe. He’s looking forward to turning 89 next June. Why that year, I’m not sure, but tell him he’s the same age as my mom. She’s aiming high too. He bought pastry shells to make butter tarts. Loves to cook. I knew that about him. He reminds me of growing up, having my parents and grandparents around me, soft smells of home.

Old buildings. Old people. Memories that tell me stories of life and love. I’m collecting their moods in my heart. Letting them fill me with strength and joy. I’m building my own stories. People I love, those who love me. Times and means of being together in this wild year, riding out the unknowns. Alone is better shared. Every puzzle can be solved. Even this one.

It’s hard to believe March is so far behind us. It’s been a choppy ride and promises a few more whitecaps before we’re done. Balance is important. Friends, neighbours, co-workers, customers all contribute and test my balance. Some kind, others … they rock things hard.

Old buildings, long walks, pacing myself. The smiles work their way up from inside. Little bursts of joy to measure the day. Giving myself space to react and remember there were older times and older ways and older folks who lived and loved and steadied themselves in rough times. They made it through. I can too.

One day, the old ways will be mine and others will look back at me and smile.

Time

It’s always here. Waiting

A thought, 7 days ago according to whatever tracks my writing.

Today, I’m starting with a thought from a fellow artist. Slow down. This year has taught me a lot about slowing down. It’s strange to say. Slow sounds out of place given my job running between customers to wipe surfaces and keep us safe. Running. Is that a form of waiting? Quick movements, telling customers to wait. It’s an odd thought. I guess it’s both. I used to say that a lot about getting things done when I was younger, especially about Jacob things. Appointments, workers, school things. They were all hurry up and wait.

But this morning, going slow, it’s intentional. I lay in bed, made plans for coffee with a friend tomorrow morning and another on the weekend. I read notes in my journal and wondered again how to organize my memoir. Whether to start my next online course today, how to write a spoken word piece for this afternoon’s workshop (what was I thinking!) and followed my friend’s art advice. Slow down.

Draw what you see. I did.

Morning. At it’s best. Taken slow.

Time. Waiting.

Something I notice when I approach things slowly, there is a space that opens up in me. A sense of clarity. The words move aside and a picture forms, and sometimes just the space. Waiting.

Maybe I did learn something from all those years. Jacob’s appointments, working on skills, words, signs, connections. It was all hurry up and wait. Frustrating at the time, but looking back we did well. He needed the time. I need time now. I’m too used to hurrying. Need to let that go.

Draw. And draw things out. See the lines and spaces. Let the image form in its own way. Maybe life can copy art. Line by line.

A reminder to slow down. If time can wait, I can wait.

Look. See. Breathe.

Wait.

Allowing My Heart

“My second day off this week. This morning I’m tired. The day involved simple things, sleeping and eating, painting and writing. I would be rested if life was functioning properly; but it’s not. Enough sleep doesn’t add up to enough rest. That’s been true before given some mental health concerns, but it’s so very noticeable lately.”

I’ve been staring at these words for two weeks. I wrote them May 7th, but it could true of last week or this one. a couple of days off do not resolve ongoing exhaustion.

Last week was difficult. Smoke alarms in my apartment ended their life abruptly in a chaos of light and sound that hurled me backwards through memory. Trauma lives in the bones and muscles, shuts them down without giving notice.  This was that was morning; sound asleep at 5 am my body slammed with a cacophony of sound and light, each pulse feeling louder and more intense. There is no up or down, no bed, no floor, no walls, no door, only bones and skin trying to hold together not knowing how to escape.

Between the strobes and blares, hands reaching for glasses, balanced on the side of the bed. Heart pounding, every muscle taut and loose at the same time, pain and panic became one. Stomach retched up while nerves shut down. Direction is a thing of the past.  Inside the bars of piercing tones and strobes of light, a sound. Low to their high, persistent, resonant, this deep drum roll of memory: pounding floors, echoing walls. A burst of anger. Feet and stairs colliding with enough intensity to break them. Before the assault, the sound wave hits.

Crisis ready. Trauma scarred. I wobble on the brink, between two boxes. Disorientation informs decision, but crisis says push on. Work calls. Crisis must be faced. So, I gather myself. Shaken. Carrying the pain. Ears screaming things my insides want to say. A voice finding a way through time and trauma speaks from memory, “What would you do if your house is burning?” 2014, revisited. I hesitated at the question, unsure of (the right) my answer. I hesitated. Stayed. Paid a debt not mine. Didn’t understand the question or the reasoning behind it. Learning the answer is a slow process.

Crisis and Trauma lived in separate boxes; still do. I shift gears and hope to find strength enough for this day. This time. For the smoke alarms; a phone call or two, repair handed off, I head to work only to find later the baton was dropped and two more alarms sounded that day as I waited for the electrician to come. One unit changed, one left, and two more alarms a day later. Five times total the shock wave hits before both alarms are changed. Broken moments too like memories past, I still cringe thinking of it.

Alert is a habit hard learned. Sleep is not rest. Rest is something beyond trauma that comes tentatively, touching a moment. Like the tiny birds on my balcony who chirp their questions at me and the day. Outside becomes sanctuary. Outside always was. Outside I was safe. Inside, halls and stairs, too many corners and doors. Boxes within boxes; no place to hide. Holes in the walls. Feet on the stairs. I can handle the crisis, but trauma wears me down. Rest? No. Rest is the full breath that comes when you have a safe space to breathe.

It has taken one whole week to convince my body this space is safe. I bought chairs and a small folding table for the balcony. Plants for something alive. I’m teaching myself to be in this space, enjoy the sound of birds and traffic flying past,  dandelions in the grass below affirming a change of heart is possible, imperfections are allowed. If I’m out early enough, the morning breeze softens itself against my arms, reassuring. It is in this space, I sit to read others’ memoirs and write notes for mine. Nine months writing, gathering, seeking form and momentum.  Allowing myself to look back, open myself to memory. As yet, no book, but many words. Today, a drawing. Allowing my heart it’s language of colour and form. Simplify. Memory. Just the heart of it, alarms and all, at the centre a hope: HOME.

Rest. I’d have you if I could. Stared two days at two lines from memoir notes. Yearning to rest. Question longing for answer:

Home is on my mind today.

Tell me where home is, I want to be there.

Allow Peace

In my building, there’s no beauty outside my windows, just a parking lot. I’m one of the few who don’t have at least a chair on the balcony. At home, I had chairs front and back, both decks. Nothing fancy; simple plastic chairs my son painted green out front and a basic metal and glass patio set out back, umbrella barely hanging on as it rusted around the base.

I’ve never been good at Martha Stewart, Feng Shui or Hygge. I’m more give me a step to sit on, a patch of sunlight and birdsong, a table covered in paints, brushes and water jugs. I definitely do not do the windowsill decorations that neighbours take so much joy in creating. A few I admire. Mostly, I stop and look out towards the farm to our north. I jokingly tell people I may move into the hallway as it has my favourite view.

Admitting that I miss the views I enjoyed at my house is sad. I’ve been realizing that with more strength of emotion lately; how much I miss. I miss my spring garden with its beautiful bulbs. Butterflies, bees and ants, many birds and every year a robin who would sit on the kitchen windowsill and say hi. I miss the backyard. It was a mess. Just a garden-covered rock hill whose plants I couldn’t keep nice. I took a better run at it in the years before neck and shoulder injuries stole the enjoyment, but it was beyond me. Maybe if I could have paid for help? Maybe.

Martha Stewart, Feng Shui and Hygge assume willingness to live in your space. I have so much trouble doing that, worked too long at believing where I lived wasn’t mine to enjoy. Miss my house. I could almost let a little Hygge happen there if I still had it, but here. Here is still far from me.

I met a lovely woman when I first moved here, and miss her since she moved away. She had the most beautiful things in her apartment, all laid out in Hygge style. Her rooms had the same directional space as mine, but felt so different. It mystified me. I loved being there for the softness of her couch, the simplicity of her table and other furniture, the colours, and lights, everywhere tiny lights danced on surfaces and hid among her other decorations. Her apartment was so peaceful.

She was brave. When she found herself alone, she decided to take a firm stand on out with the old and in with the new. She purged completely. What she had now was all her. Where she lived told that story. Every piece of furniture, while inexpensive, was something she had chosen for this place. Every decoration, all of her kitchen appliances, art, tiny lights hidden in tree branches, the colours and positions … none of it was accident. It was all her and designed to help her be at peace. I enjoyed going there just to sit and breathe.

I’ve been here two years. I don’t find mine comfortable yet, it has a few spots, but I’m still working at it. Past things live too large. I can’t get rid of them. They aren’t the things that can go. Not yet. Later maybe, but for now they are here, and I live in the nook and crannies of my art space … a table, a chair, bookcases and a window looking out onto cars in the lot. It has to do. Creativity only needs an opening to exist.
Creativity happens in the little things, finds life in surprises. When I get the chance, I walk the halls. I look to see what people put in the windows. I look out over the fields to my farm. I look to see if anything living comes to visit. I look for the peace I had with my friend. I try to find some Hygge even without her here.

And so I stopped, looked, took in the scene. The tiny window layout had that sense of calm and comfort. I took a picture because it framed my farm so nicely. Because on that day, walking the halls, that window, that scene made me smile and there are times I need to remember.

We are all still isolating. I don’t walk the hall often at the moment. I don’t visit neighbours, though I hear other voices at times and occasionally see people coming and going. Being inside without connection is a strange feeling. I miss connection. At work, I’m surrounded by shoppers. Standing on circles. Marking distance. Moving back to lines on the floor for price matching or asking for help. Stay back. Keep away. It isn’t really connection. Little conversation happens beyond how can I help and thank you for being here. Being here. It’s a big deal. Existing. Doing. Being. It’s tiring. At times I walk between me and work. Stare at the same things. Breathe. Look for peace. When I find it, I take a picture. I want to remember.

Remembering is one way of coping with being. Learning the things that let me smile, breathe, find peace. This is a long journey. I take the picture and hold to the memories when they come. Allow peace … and Breathe.