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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Shocking Duplicity of My Existance Or Confessions of A Minimalist Dumpster Diver

Before my grandfather sold everything he possessed to move to Haiti, he owned three antique\junk shops in the Chatham area.  My memories of him begin with hot sunlight, dust billowing up behind an old rusty car as we drive down the dirt lanes of the prairies in search of dusty treasures for sale in someone's barn.  Some colorful beads, some unusual glassware, something strange and unexpected.  I was a very little girl but I remember the thrill of possibility.

And this my friends, is the shocking duplicity of my nature.  I have written about the appeal minimalism has for me and it does have appeal and value, there is no doubt.  I have admitted that I sometimes panic if I feel too "cluttered" or that I own too many things.  I do donate unused and unwanted things on a very regular  basis and feel renewed, cleansed even.  I crave a simplistic and zen-like existence.  Wandering the countryside, writing haiku's, wearing orange robes, communing with birds and foxes...I may be mixing up religions here but you get the idea.

So how can the following situation make any sense at all when measured against my zen-like aspirations?  Per comes home from work.  Announces that he is going to take a load of garbage to the dump.  I shrug my shoulders nonchalantly.  I don't really care.  Then he says that they have a room there where they put the good items and after people have unloaded their junk, they can browse there and help themselves to anything they like.  These words!  They're like magic!  Suddenly all my minimalistic ambitions fall away and I jump up eagerly announcing that I'm ready!  Let's go immediately!  And the thoughts that fly through my head...oh my goodness...oh my goodness...Colleen...breathe deeply...what if long lost...Munch painting there in that little room full of treasure?!  What if??!!  I steady myself but my head is on fire as I contemplate the possibility of discovering some famous and beautiful work of art under time's veneer of dust and grime.  I run upstairs.  Should I change clothes?  Oh my goodness!  I'm so excited!  (Disclaimer: I never said I was cool.)  I want to shout out the window, tell the neighborhood of my evening's thrilling plans but instead I just hug it to myself like some delicious secret.  The dump!

It's like how I feel when I enter second hand bookshops or second hand  shops of any sort for that matter...I just have to rush around and look at everything.  Then I go around more slowly, more reverently, examining, searching out treasure.  It's a heady rush.

My own father has no shame about actually taking chairs and pieces of furniture out of other people's garbage piles and he has found and refurbished some amazing pieces this way.  I love used things, I love books that have been scribbled in by previous owners, hope chests that have been full of someone elses dreams.  But see I love these things just for themselves, for myself and I do believe that's where the difference lies.  In this affinity I feel with the woman who likes the same Edward Thomas poem that I do and made note of it in the margin of the book I picked up at a stall in Aberdeen for example.  I don't like these things to impress other people (and yes I'm aware of just how impressed they would be.:)  I like them because I just do.

So you see how very complex this situation is.  This seeking (and succeeding) in living a life uncluttered and yet this intense passion for sifting through heaps and piles of discarded junk at junk sales, in antique the dump...

In case you're curious, I found no long lost Munch (are there even any long lost Munchs out there?) but I did find that someone had actually thrown away a Giovanni Guareschi book in perfect condition!  For those of you not familiar with the name, the books are genius.  They are stories written about a communist leader Pepponne and his nemesis, a Catholic priest Don Camillo.  They are utterly wonderful and hilarious and for the most part, very difficult to find and when you do, they cost you.  And I found one at the dump here in Norway.  Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Peace out, from Grunge Queen Colleen

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The days are long but the years are short...

The other day when I enthralled you all with my word portrait of our growing William, I kept thinking of so many more things that I want to remember when these lightning fast years have raced by.  And race they will, if my friends and other parents with older or grown children are right, it's a matter of blinking and you're taking them to their first day of school with a perfect new lunchbox and a spirit not yet wounded (hopefully) by other children's ridicule or unkindness.  And all the hope in the world that life will be good, so unbearably good for them.  That their innocence will last.  That no one will hurt them, ever.  But even as you wish it, you know this wish won't come true.  Blink again and they've grown and you're in your house on your own and it's very still and very quiet and there are no children's toys anywhere and no smudges on the windows or building blocks in the toilet or small cars in your shoes and suddenly you have all the time in the world for those things you used to wish desperately you had more time to do.

It's probably because it's his birthday tomorrow that I feel as though each moment is graced with a sort of poignancy.  I always have felt deep, unexplainable regret at the official markings of passing time.  New Years Eve used to fill me almost with a kind of sorrow at the thought of the year disappearing, birthdays while happy occasions, remind me of simple, precious moments that are lost as the calender page turns.  You go out into the world and nobody knows that you used to be a child.  Maybe that makes no sense but it's how I've always felt.  That when it's Christmas or someone's birthday or any other special day you had better make it count from start to finish and say always make sure to say "I love you" one last time before bed...let the person, whether a child, parent, or friend, know how much they mean to you.  Because it is all so finite. 

I think I think too much.

But I am often prey to sudden and deep surges of feeling over mundane things.  Like yesterday evening, we went out shopping for balloons and little things for William's birthday and in the mall, he was racing ahead of us and he still runs kind of funny.  Like the fact he doesn't fall over is pure chance.  Arms waving and legs propelling him forward with lurching motion.  As he ran he was laughing this huge, free laugh that was just pure energy and joy.  I think only children know how to laugh in such a way.  I could see his little brown feet in his sandals and that his hair was sticking out all over his head and that he still has chubby rolls at the back of his neck and as he laughed and shouted "weeeeeeeeeeeeee" (because it was just so fun apparently) and I laughed too but I also felt a sudden and deep sense of loss already for the time in the future when this little boy as we know him this very moment will disappear.  I can't explain it better than that.

Today we went on one of our long and leisurely walks downtown and on the way home we sat on a bench by the harbor to eat our yogurts.  There were two people fishing and as we sat they both caught fish and took the fish off their hooks and let them flop to death on the pier.  I am the sort of person who is bothered by things like this (I can't help it:) but I don't think fishing is wrong of course and I didn't want to turn William against something he might possibly enjoy as he grows up a bit so I didn't say anything at all.  But as wild a little man as William is, he has a really sweet heart.  I saw him look over at the fish and he put one hand over his heart and said "Fish is hurt Mommy.  Poor, poor fish."  Then he sat there for a long time with his little dirty hand on his heart repeating "Poor fish...poooooor fish...oh, hurt...hurt go i water"  And I thought for all his stubbornness and  noise and the fact that he occasionally succeeds in frustrating me until I actually cry, he has a gentle heart.  I'm not sorry.:)

The name William actually means "strong defender".  That was one of the reasons we chose it.  I hope that he lives up to his name and is brave, strong, kind, and a defender at any cost of those who need defending. 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Marlon Brando, Phocahontas And Me: Portrait of a Boy Just Shy of Three Years Old

You may wonder what I have in common with Jasmine, Pocahontas, Cinderella, Belle, the female hippo from Madagascar...  Aside from the last one on the list, this is a mystery indeed.  I wrongly assumed it was beauty we had in common, a graceful yet spirited demeanor perhaps.  For quite some time now whenever William would watch a Disney film and one of the doe-eyed, impossibly slender female lead characters would come on, he would point and say in a loving and indulgent tone, "Awwwwww, mommmmmmmmmmy..." or if one of these ladies cried, which happens quite often despite their alleged independence, he would say sympathetically "Oh mommy, so sad.  Poooooooooor mommy."  And my heart would just melt because I made the obvious connection and thought my darling little boy thinks that I am so beautiful that he likens these ideals of womanly beauty to me.  How precious, how perfect, how terribly terribly sweet!  It was my turn to be indulgent.  Until I showed him a picture of my sister and I and he cooed "Ooooh, two mommies!".  Until a friend came over and he ran to the door and said in a friendly tone "Hi Mommy!".  Until we were out on a walk and a group of ladies walked by and he pointed to them and said "Mommies.  Masse, masse mommies!"  (Masse is Norwegian for lots.)  A niggling doubt began to creep into my heart as I understood, he doesn't think that the Disney characters resemble me (this shouldn't be such a shock to me really), he is simply terribly confused about the word "mommy" and all it encompasses.  Certainly he'll call me mommy, no problem.  But every other woman is also mommy.  So it would be best for me to not get too swelled a head about this.  He's just letting me know, yeah, you're mommy but I got a lot of ladies I call mommy.  *shoulder shrug*  It's my thing.

I predict a time in the near future when I may have to have a serious talk with William on how he speaks to women in fact.  There was one Sunday morning when I was sitting on the couch with a coffee and Mr. Intensity came and grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the kitchen with a stern "Come!".  When we got to the kitchen, he pointed at a rather large pile of dirty dishes and said in the same tone "Mommy, you wash!  Wash mommy!"  (Personally I think it's only because dirty dishes are so rare a sight in our house that this happened.)

Or there was the walk we took in downtown Mandal when he was running ahead of me and we passed a very attractive woman sitting on a bench.  She had long blond hair and was wearing a leopard print top, black tights and high black boots.  And she was eating a pastry.  So William races by her and somehow the pastry must have caught his eye and he stops, doubles back, stops directly in  front of her and lets out a long, low appreciative "mmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmm!"   I hope she realized he was referring to the pastry.  

He really is an appalling chauvinist at times.

He is also quite charming.  Dead set on getting his way but charming about the whole thing.  Makes you think you have a choice in the matter.  Lately he has been teaching me how best to answer him when he asks for ice cream, any sort of treat, to go for a walk to see the tractors, anything he wants really.  The answer isn't no.  It goes like this, he'll say "Mommy, (remember how loosely this term can be used), ice cream?  Sure!  A' course William."   "Mommy, go walk and see the tractors?  Sure!  A'course William!"  If I do say no or not yet, he persists with a firm smile and a "Sure, a' course." as though cancelling out the negative response.  I've got a lot to learn obviously.

Watching the Disney movies Ratatouille, there is a part where the rat comes out of the sewer and says "Paris?  You mean to tell me all this time I've been under Paris?"  And in response, I hear William answer totally deadpan, "A' course rat."  Like "You damn fool rat, where do you think you've been all this time?"  Except he didn't say that but may as well have.

William is turning three next Friday and I was reading back over my blog and the posts that I have dedicated to the sweet little man and laughing and wishing I had written them with more regularity because there were so many little things I had already forgotten.  I know it's impossible to capture everything, to remember every funny, sweet or wonderful moment but it's worth a shot.

So like every word portrait, this one too is horribly inaccurate, just a moment here and a moment there.  I don't know how to capture the way I feel about those other things.  Like that for the longest time he had a bald spot on the back of his head even though his hair is the stuff of luxury.  All over his head, his black hair is like silk but where that bald spot was for so long, the hair has grown in like fluff and just sticks straight out and every time I run my hand over his head I remember that bald spot on his beautiful little head.  Or the way his truly sweet little soul shines through at times like when we passed a dead cat on the road and for weeks afterward he talked about the "poor tat" and was genuinely worried about the "tat".  Or how he loves pots and pans with a passion and fills all his little buckets up with sand and water with such intensity you'd like he was in the middle of an amazing feat of engineering.

All of these details are so normal.  So like every other child.  I recognize that but I also recognize that his uniqueness (like that of every child) deserves celebration.  My hope as he celebrates his third birthday is...well...I have so many for him.  One at least is that he keeps his joy and his enthusiasm and that nobody destroys his spirit.  His happiness and excitement are catching and his sheer, undiluted joy is still the thing that everyone mentions about William.  He is full of passion.  I hope it takes him places.

Friday, 8 June 2012


The war within.   These vast, vast spaces.
They can be filled with anything.

I didn't ask for this.
Didn't dare.  Didn't think.
I didn't know
Because no one taught me
That lips were made to whisper lies.

That sometimes the very act of living wounds.

I sometimes see in color.
I always see in words.
Always, always, always always
Always see in words.

They dance around in my head
But they stumble, clumsy, off my tongue.
Like they would like to show me
They can't be trusted.
That I am both more and less
Than they would indicate.

Most life is lived outside
The body
The soul
Outside any real meaning
Life is lived outside
In acquiring
In futility
In emptiness and convention
In the emptiness of convention
And nothing

But my life is often lived within
The confines of my mind
But not of my words
The elastic confines of my thoughts and my being

The vastness
The sheer space
The complexity of life

Rich in my elastic mind.
Sometimes the very act of living restores.

 My lips weren't made to lie.