old poetry I

In keeping with my tradition of appropriating my own old writing to post here when I’m feeling uncreative, here is the first of several free form poems I wrote way back in my Creative Writing class in second year, 2012-13 (arguably my best year for writing, which makes sense).  We were given a word as a prompt (our prof would close her eyes, open a book and point to a random word) and then had to write without stopping and without thinking, so the poems don’t make a lot of sense, and sometimes half the poem is just frantic word association.  But I was reading them today and found some of the things I wrote to be compelling, so here we are.

faint

a faint frown, I can feel it slowly coming, creasing my forehead
whispering faintly
faint, fain, feign, foreign, French, flag, frog, frappé
faint circles within faint circles, the delicacy
faint of heart; fainthearted.
anxious, inadequate, false.
darkness, dark, dark, eyes closed.

eyes open, bright, light, artificial, burning, cold
frowning, furrowing, burrowing, borrowing, bent
factitious angles in nobody’s train

fells always isolate nine times
faint, fainting, fainted, gone
faded, foreclosed, forgotten, found
followed, felt, followed, felt, felt
fuzzy, frowning fuzzy, muzzled, frustrated
fill, filling, faintly, gathering, finding, for, for what

why, fainting, what a dull, what a boring, what a selfish word
four times more, five times less, fainted dead away
gone, going, go, don’t go, stay; staying, here
here, faintly, faintly stirring
whisper in the wind, gone

back again, fading away, gone for good, forgotten
followed, frowning, forever following
forest. forced. forced. faint. faint-hearted. inadequate. dull.
forever. for never. silent. dark. out. tired, faint, weary, worried.
wary of the faintness within; focused.
alone.

stop it. just stop it now. this is not helping
why would this help–
whispering, dreaming, streaming. hallowed. lost. disjointed. alone.

2016 best books

me-books

at the Williamsford Mill, one of my favourite places

I read a lot of amazing books in 2016!  47 books in total (not counting rereads of Harry Potter and The Fellowship of the Ring) and I gave 5 stars to 34 of them, which you must admit is a pretty good ratio.  So let’s get to it.

Number 1. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The is a book that I’d never heard of.  I just picked it up one day while browsing in the library, and it took me completely unawares.  The Goblin Emperor is a very complex story full to the brim with politics in this world of elves and goblins and elf-goblins. A world the reader has to try to navigate while keeping track of what feels like over a hundred names and titles and places, all mouthfuls, including formal and informal pronouns and titles and names that change depending on the situation and status of the person in question.  The writing is incredibly crisp and clever.  I fell deeply in love with the characters, particularly Maia, a half-elf half-goblin who by some twist of fate finds himself on the throne.  Maia, the emperor who does not want to rule, who only wants everyone to be happy and healthy and safe and doesn’t understand why he’s not allowed to do that.  As much as I love characters that are full of flaws, it’s the completely selfless and self-deprecating underdogs that I love the most.  And Maia is certainly that.  And yet his life at court is fraught with peril as he faces discrimination and hatred from the elven nobles… here is my spoiler-free review.

Number 2. Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley

This book is pure gold.  I know others who have read it and found it too dense and slow, but I loved everything about it. You think you’ve read about dragon-raising before, but Robin McKinley brings the trope of teenage-boy-fosters-baby-dragon to a whole new level of brilliance. A level that is so intense, so specific, so blow-by-blow, so all-consuming, that you immediately realize, yeah, this is the only way that could possibly happen.  The protagonist, Jake, is blunt about his feelings while also full of sarcasm, and the book is narrated in such a way that it almost feels like one long monologue.  The world the story is set in is also fascinating–a contemporary, normal world, except that dragons exist.  The whole story takes place in a dragon conservation park called Smokehill.  I think it’s because the book goes into so much detail about the day-to-day keep of Smokehill, and the cost and stresses of the people inside and the misguided opinions of people on the outside, that it feels so real. It’s like reading a book about any other nature preserve, zoo, and/or national park.  Except, you know, with dragons.  The progression of the plot is great, all of the trials and suffering and twists and problematic people and good luck and instinct and family flux and research and mistakes and discovery–it all meshes together perfectly and makes the book a joy to read from start to finish.  Highly recommend to all lovers of dragons, science, and magical realism.  My full review is a lot more detailed and includes a few more excellent quotes.

I’d pretty much always secretly believed that she was, you know, intelligent, more like humans are intelligent than like dogs (or mynah birds) are intelligent, but I also knew I was loopy from the strain of the relationship that was keeping her alive… But I also thought about Mom and Katie and I figured it’s just part of momming that you think your kid’s wonderful. Even if you’re a human and your kid’s a dragon.

Now you just sit there and think that back at yourself for a minute. Why do dragons live quietly in caves and human beings have invented global warming and strip mining and biological warfare and genocide? Who’s the real winner here in the superior species competition? What dragons do is think. That’s what they’re really good at. Like it or lump it.

Number 3.  The Martian by Andy Weir

I am not a scientist. I am not even that big of a sci-fi fan, really. And this book is far more sci- than -fi.  But I certain got caught up in this story from the start.  This book feels like it could literally be a record of a real Mars-mission-gone-wrong.  My favourite thing about The Martian is the narration. Narration can make or break a story, and this is some of the best. It was easy to get lost in the world of a single astronaut stranded on a dead planet, because the words feel like they come from Mark himself, like he’s just telling you the trials of his day each night before he goes to sleep. There’s nothing flowery about the language; it gets right down to business. It’s both a joy and a trial following Mark through his various adventures and misfortunes.  It’s an experience reading this book. It’s not something you can just sit back and enjoy. You’re part of it, as the reader.  You’re not only rooting for Mark from the very beginning, but you begin to really grow attached to him until you can’t bear the thought of things going wrong for him (again).  Here’s my full, spoiler-free review.

It’s a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I’m the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn’t moved in a million years!

Number 4.  The Little Country by Charles de Lint

2016 was the year I finally discovered Charles de Lint, at the recommendation of my father.  I devoured every book of his I could find, but this was my favourite.  Full of magic and quaint English countryside and standing stones and little people and the thread of traditional music woven throughout… yes please.  I think a common feature of Charles de Lint’s books is a large and diverse cast of characters, all with their own motivations and goals and ways of seeing the world, all in grey areas of morality with only one or two who are truly evil. The Little Country is no exception.  The characters are frustrating and terrifying and relatable and real, and their development is excellent.  The imagery is stunning, the magic is fresh and unique, and it’s all tied up in myths and legends and traditional folk music and I loved it!  Here is my spoiler-free review.  Some other favourite de Lint books I read in 2016 include The Onion Girl, Memory and Dream (minor spoiler alert), and Trader (all Newford books, all read out of order, oh well).

“Doesn’t matter how poor you are, you can still be kind. Doesn’t cost a tuppence, and maybe those you’re kind to won’t be kind back, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried to leave the world a bit of a better place, even if all you had to spare was a smile.”

And hadn’t there been a music playing, just before the light took her away and brought her here? A wonderful, heart-stopping music that brought tiny chills mouse-pawing up her spine when all she did was just think about it? A music that when you heard it, you realized you’d been sleeping through your life, because what it did was it woke you up. Suddenly and completely.

Number 5.  The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

This is a quirky, semi-lighthearted book about a world where superheroes and monsters and people with magic exist, but the story centres on the normal people who have to go on living their lives in spite of the chaos and destruction caused by all of the “indie kids”.  The concept is funny, but the conversations and development and relationships between the characters are really heartfelt.  Also I found the main character, Mikey, incredibly relatable.  This was the first book of Patrick Ness’s I’d read after Chaos Walking, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he could be just as brilliant a writer without destroying my heart.  My review is short, but there are some more quotes in it.

“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”

“I wonder if realizing you’re not sure about stuff is what makes you a grown-up?”

Number 6.  More Than This by Patrick Ness

… And then I read this, which just shows that while Mr. Ness is perfectly capable of writing lovely, lighthearted things, it’s the soul-crushing stories that he enjoys writing most.  This book is very sci-fi, very YA, slightly painful, very bewildering, and took me so long to process that I couldn’t really write a comprehensive review. A faint outline of the story is that it’s about kids who wake up in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is completely living in virtual reality, and these kids have to survive in this empty world while also trying to figure out where all of the people are who are still “sleeping”.  None of Patrick Ness’s books are my first choice (you know I love high fantasy more than anything else), but he always manages, within the first few pages, to pull me in so completely that I forget about anything else while I’m reading. His books make you question everything you read and root for the heroes harder than you thought possible, with all of your heart.  This book is a puzzle from start to finish. And all of the puzzle pieces have razor-sharp edges.

“There’s more than this,” Seth says. “So let’s go find it.”

Number 7.  The Thessaly books by Jo Walton (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, Necessity)

Never have I read philosophy so quickly or with so much attention and investment. These books are so full. They’re stuffed with so many things to think about that by the time I finished each one, I felt like my brain was all wrung out.  It’s a utopian/dystopian sci-fi/fantasy like none I have ever read before. Greek gods, time travel, potentially sentient robots, art and music and the pursuit of excellence, and so many questions.  The first book, The Just City, is about humans and gods and robots trying to build Plato’s Republic and discovering many flaws in the plan as they go.  It’s a page turner because of the narrative, because of the dynamic characters and hopes and fears and potential disasters at every turn, but it’s also so philosophical. Each chapter is riddled with expertly-worded dialogue on the nature of Truth, happiness vs. excellence/justice, choice, freedom and volition, souls, etc. etc. etc.  The second book is mainly about picking up the pieces in the aftermath of the failed experiment, and the third gets… really weird (but the writing is still brilliant and the story still fascinating).  Here’s my review of the first book, which does not contain spoilers.

“Plato wanted to give people something to aspire to. That’s why he isn’t here, he didn’t really imagine it as a possibility, just as something to encourage everyone to think, and to work toward excellence. In reality, while we aim for excellence, we’re always living on somebody’s dunghill. But that doesn’t mean we’re wrong to aim to be the best we can be.”

Number 8.  The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The very first line in my review for the first book was “I am undone”, and that about sums up my feelings throughout this trilogy.  Even after reading The Rain Wilds Chronicles in 2015, I was not prepared to have my heart trampled so quickly and so repeatedly throughout these books.  Robin Hobb is relentless with the treatment of her characters, with her manipulation of your feelings and perceptions and fears, with the complexity of her storytelling. It is incredible.  Again, an underdog protagonist who finds himself swept up in the politics and intrigue of court life; Fitz as a narrator becomes so close, so vulnerable to the eye of the reader that you can’t help but love him and just wish that he had the chance to find some small measure of happiness.  Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.  One of the most interesting things in these books to me was the constantly shifting relationships between Fitz and those close to him, as he struggles to trust and fears to love and constantly puts himself down.  And like in The Rain Wilds Chronicles, the main villain in these books is expertly written and perfectly hateful.  Robin Hobb’s character writing is some of the best I’ve ever read.  Here’s my spoiler-free review of the first book, and my spoiler-filled reviews of the second and third books.

“Not all men are destined for greatness,” I reminded him.
“Are you sure, Fitz? Are you sure? What good is a life lived as if it made no difference at all to the great life of the world. A sadder thing I cannot imagine. Why should not a mother say to herself, if I raise this child aright, if I love and care for her, she shall live a life that brings joy to those about her, and thus I have changed the world? Why should not the farmer that plants a seed say to his neighbour, this seed I plant today will feed someone, and that is how I change the world today?”

Number 9.  After Hamelin by Bill Richardson

This is actually a book that I read for the first time when I was around eleven, and only just happened to come across it in a used bookstore last year.  I loved it as a child, and now, not only does the writing hold up, but I find myself imagining reading it to children myself. After Hamelin is the story of a deaf girl who rescues the children spirited away by the Pied Piper.  It has a fresh, silly quality to it like Roald Dahl, while at the same time being sprinkled with poetic language and heartfelt moments. The main character, Penelope, is darling, both as a child and as an elderly woman as she recounts the tale of her adventures. It is a whimsical tale, rambling and silly and imperfect, but I do love it and I do want to share it with my students when I have them.  Also, there are dragons.

I say I have made it a rule not to preach. However, anyone who is 101 has earned the right to break her own rules. Once in a while, at least. And so, I am going to give you one piece of advice. Pause once a day and relish the moment. Look around. Notice the colours, the smells and the sounds. Take them in, for that moment will pass and no one can say what the next moment will bring. I know this better than most.

Meeting a dragon is like falling in love. Even though you have never experienced it before, you will know when it has happened.

Number 10.  Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

This is a precious book that I never would have found had I not happened to stop in at a local independent bookstore when I was early for work one day… Heartwarming and entertaining and sad, it’s the story of an eccentric young woman (Audrey, known by all as Oddly) going back to her hometown to deal with the aftermath of her father’s death by a freak accident.  It is also the story of her pet tortoise, Winnifred, who was left in the care of some friends and wants nothing more than to escape and make her way back to her human, but can’t do more than think about it while making a running commentary on the lives of the people she’s been left with.  It’s such a unique book in terms of the characters–one of them so full of the boundless imagination and reckless determination of a child, the other a mere tortoise.  It’s also unique in terms of the writing style, because there are no quotation marks and no question marks–which gives the narration a sort of dry and ironic tone.  Quite delightful (and this summary is more than I wrote in my very lazy review, so I’ll not link that).

Number 11.  The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book was so cool and interesting, let me tell you.  The idea of a planet of human beings with no gender is fascinating, especially looking at familial and societal structures as well as how the main character, a human ambassador to the planet, views and interacts and judges the Gethenians.  The book gets quite political and sociological, but it also delves deep into the friendship that grows between Genry (the human ambassador) and Theram/Estraven, and that is really what I loved the most about the book.  Genry learns so much through this relationship, not only about the planet Winter and its people, but also about himself.  It is a tale of love and discrimination, of survival, of the concept of war, of kindness and of humanity.  It’s brilliant.  Here’s my review, which has some more quotes as well as a bit of a critique on one aspect of the book.

It is a terrible, thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with this small change. We have nothing else to give.

I certainly wasn’t happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can’t earn, and can’t keep, and often don’t even recognize at the time; I mean joy.

Number 12.  Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart

This may be the book that affected me most, mentally and emotionally, in 2016.  Hannah Hart is one of my favourite humans; but those of us who are fans of her as a YouTuber, the bright, shiny vitality of a personality that is Hannah Hart as she presents herself to the world, could never have imagined anything close to a backstory like this. I admire her and the incredible strength and courage it took to let it all out into daylight after thirty years of being bottled up (at least in the public view).  There tends to be an inclination to dismiss books written by YouTubers because so many YouTubers have been publishing books lately… I wasn’t expecting brilliant writing, but I was completely blown away.  Buffering is equal parts raw, deep, heavy, heartfelt, soul-achingly real, but also wonderfully charming, light, and funny.  And the language and detail and word choice and everything is just so precise and fitting–it’s a memoir that reads like a gut-wrenching urban fantasy novel, like Charles de Lint but more personal, more impactful because it’s real. The way she tells her life story you can see it play out like one of those indy films that leave you with tears choking up your chest and a deep sense of connection with the world.  Hannah is one of those strong and humble and honest souls who survive a traumatic past to become a force for good in this world. She is still struggling and learning and processing and growing, and she acknowledges that.  Buffering is another reminder that everyone has their demons, or as I like to put it everyone has their bitterness, and it is often difficult to see from the outside, especially when they are someone you admire. It takes a lot of trust for them to show it to you. And it is amazingly gratifying when they do.  I shared my full review in a blog post a few months ago.

I guess this is a message for those of you who contemplate permanent solutions to temporary problems. You never know what could be coming in the future. There is so much music you’ve yet to hear.

More

I also read a couple of really excellent graphic novels in 2016 and didn’t write reviews for them, but I highly recommend checking out Nimona and Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson for some really excellent and interesting strong female-led adventures.  I also finished of several different series’ in 2016 that I had started previously: the great Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (third book in Miss Peregrine’s series), The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan (third book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent) and of course the long-awaited The Raven King by Maggie Stieffvater (fourth book in The Raven Cycle).  All of these were fantastic and definitely among the best books I read in 2016.

If you’re interested in a comprehensive list of all of my book recommendations ever, categorized by genre and subject and emoji-coded for your convenience, I made one.

My goal for 2017 is again 40 new books because there are still so many books I want to reread as well.  I’ve only read 5 so far, which is terrible compared to last year when I had already read 12 by this time (and that was with school going on too!), but I’m going to the library tomorrow to rectify that.  I just finished The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket and started my 30th (or so) reread of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

on motivation (part 2)

The only way I’m going to get anything done is by doing it.  Stop allowing myself to get distracted or wallow and just do.  Right?  I don’t know.  That’s what I just told myself when I thought, for perhaps the hundredth time in the past month, about writing this post.

Remember when I made a post about motivation over two months ago?  Well, at the time, I was planning to make a second post a few days after, continuing that discussion.

And here we are, approximately 144 days later.  A tad ironic, given the subject matter, wouldn’t you say?

So I have trouble with self-motivation.  I think it really started in university, when I first entered into the unescapable world of perpetual procrastination (I look back on my high school self and my ability to do homework every night and be 5 projects ahead in art class and I am flummoxed).  Immediately in first year I got into the terrible habit of writing assignments the night before they were due.  And I got A’s.  So what did that tell me?  GREAT!  I work well under pressure!  Let’s never be proactive again!  Or I guess subconsciously that’s what happened, because I continued to procrastinate and smash out essays in a blind panic more often than not for the rest of my five years at school.  I was only proactively productive when course outlines forced me to be, like when professors asked for an outline before a final assignment, or peer-editing was expected to happen at a specific time.

At first, I only procrastinated on things that I didn’t like doing.  If I found an assignment utterly boring or pointless, I would avoid it until the last possible minute.  I blamed it on the professors, like, maybe if you gave me an interesting topic, I would actually put an effort into it.  But eventually it got into the things I enjoy doing too.  And since I’ve been out of school, I think it’s gotten worse.  Journaling, writing stories and poetry, blogging (hi), writing book reviews… and not only writing things.  Without the potential disapproval of my fiddle teacher to motivate me, I’ve only practiced fiddle about once a month at the most.  That’s no way to improve anything.  I rarely go into the studio and dance by myself, even though I want to improve my stamina and I know it makes me feel better about myself in general.  And crafting… I did nothing all fall and then went into a crafting frenzy the week before the craft fair I went to recently.

So, this is where I seem to be right now: I am motivated by deadlines, and I am motivated by peoples’ expectations.  I find it relatively easy to write when the NaNoWriMo website sits there waiting for me to plug in my word count every day, and showing me charts and graphs of my progress throughout the month.  But have I written a single word of my story since November ended?  Nope.  I will practice fiddle when I know there is a jam coming up that I don’t want to embarrass myself at, but otherwise?  No.  I find it easy to dance in classes and prepare for the classes I teach because I know there are people counting on me to be there, and I enjoy being there with people.  Maybe it also has to do with routine.  Perhaps if I had a routine where I set off a couple of hours a week for my own studio time, and my own writing time, and my own music practice, it would work.  I think it would have to be the same time every week.  The most productive practice I had was last year when I got up half an hour early and went into the studio at school to practice highland at 7:30 in the morning, four days a week.  That went on for a good two months!

This is getting jumbled up and I’m probably contradicting myself.  But as I’m writing this I’m realizing that I have found ways to motivate myself for certain things in the past few years.  I’m just not exactly sure what those ways are.  I think routine helps, but I don’t think it’s the only thing.  I think there’s more to it.  Spending a lot of time on the internet is almost certainly detrimental to my productivity.  It has been a very long time since I’ve given myself a no-internet day.  Part of my inability to self-motivate is definitely fear of failure as well.  Why should I practice fiddle when I’ll never be great at it?  Why should I finish this story when my writing is terrible?  Obviously these thoughts point out the exact reason why I should  be doing those things.  To get better.

I have a bad habit of constant self-deprecation that is probably unhealthy.  I don’t know if this is entirely related to the above ramble, but… anyway, I’m working on it.  I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the things I haven’t done this year, all of the things I haven’t worked on or practiced or finished, and it’s making me forget that I’ve also accomplished things.  Some pretty cool things, I guess.  So I think my next post (fingers crossed that it comes sooner rather than later) will be about the things I have accomplished this year.  And I will try very hard not to belittle any of those things as I am often wont to do.

I don’t know how to end this patchy rambly post.  Here’s a pretty picture of snow, because it’s snowy here at last!  I am so happy to be home where the snow is pretty and deep, unlike the slushy grey city…

15356531_1538916556124459_6708270730846740568_n

Harrison Park, Owen Sound

have a harto

Over the past ten years, I’ve processed a lot. I’m still processing. And there is more to be done. But I’m very proud of the person I am today. I’m proud to be gay. I’m proud to be a reckless optimist. I’m proud to keep learning and sharing what I’ve learned. I’m proud to be a work in progress.

~ Hannah Hart

This is a (spoiler-free) review of Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded, an incredible book by one of my favourite people in the world, Hannah Hart.

(Disclaimer: I wrote this review between 3 and 4:45 in the morning, after reading and watching old MyHarto videos pretty much all day and night.  So it might be rambly.)

I was going to wait to finish the book until today but I couldn’t. I was going wait to write my review until today, but I couldn’t. I had to lie on my bed and process for a while, but then I had to grab my laptop and force myself to stay up just a little longer. I didn’t want these thoughts to drift away.

We, the community surrounding the bright, shiny vitality of a personality that is Hannah Hart as she presents herself to the world, could never have imagined anything close to a backstory like this. Her belated “coming-out” video a couple of years ago was probably the closest she ever came to revealing the slightest crack in her superhero image, and that was barely a pinpoint on the tip of the iceberg of her incredibly difficult life. I don’t want to focus too too much on the actual events of Hannah’s life (Hello, that’s what the book is for. Read it.) but rather on how deeply I admire her and the incredible strength and courage it took to let it all out into daylight after thirty years of being bottled up (at least in the public view).

I would like to take this opportunity, however, to talk about what a freaking brilliant writer Hannah is.  Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded is equal parts raw, deep, heavy, heartfelt, soul-achingly real, but also wonderfully charming, light, and funny (there are puns. and emojis. and footnotes!!). And the language and detail and word choice and everything is just so precise and fitting–it’s a memoir that reads like a gut-wrenching urban fantasy novel, like Charles de Lint but more personal, more impactful because it’s real. The way she tells her life story you can see it play out like one of those indy films that leave you with tears choking up your chest and a deep sense of connection with the world. Heck, her old journal entries themselves are poetic and beautiful. Perhaps other people are not as blown away as I was because they have already read My Drunk Kitchen and know her writing style but I haven’t and I just can’t get enough so I probably will read that at some point.

Speaking of My Drunk Kitchen, Hannah of course mentions her channel and her videos, in particular the drunk cooking show that put her in the spotlight in the first place. Although I knew about her soon after I joined the YouTube audience community (very soon after she started, actually), I avoided watching her videos because I didn’t like the idea of someone making light of getting drunk on a regular basis. I think I was watching Grace Helbig first and loved Hannah in her videos, and then I subscribed to Hannah and watched a bunch of her non-Kitchen videos and fell in love with her as a human being, and then sometime in the past year and a half or so I kind of accidentally started watching My Drunk Kitchen and loving it just as much as everything else she does.

Anyway, Hannah talks about specific episodes of My Drunk Kitchen in the first half of Buffering, namely, the very first episode (which has a lovely story behind it and is so true to who Hannah is!), and the special The Burning Man; so I decided to scroll waaaay down through youtube.com/myharto and watch those two episodes to enhance the experience of reading the book. 5 hours later I had watched the first 47 episodes of MyHarto in chronological order and was struggling to decide whether to keep watching or keep reading Buffering. Spoiler alert: I watched 15 more videos, and THEN read the entire rest of Buffering. Hence the being up at 4am still writing this review. Anyway, I’m rambling, which tends to happen when I’m tired. My point is that I am glad I chose to watch all of those videos, because the book was giving me a context, a deeply complex backstory for the Hannah portrayed onscreen all those years ago, and now I am deeply invested in following her video journey all the way through to becoming the Hannah Hart I know and love today. Also, the book explains why Hannah is in a different kitchen nearly every video for the first year or two, which could otherwise be quite puzzling.

Hannah is one of my favourite people in the world. She is one of those strong and humble and honest souls who survive a traumatic past to become a force for good in this world. She is still struggling and learning and processing and growing, and she acknowledges that. I don’t know why I was shocked that some of the most terrifying trials outlined in Buffering Hannah was dealing with within this past year (2016)–perhaps because I have been following her online presence closely in that time and she is oh-so-good at putting on a cheery face and cracking jokes for the camera. It is hard, apparently, to remember that entertainers aren’t just that.

Buffering is another reminder that everyone has their demons, or as I like to put it everyone has their bitterness, and it is often difficult to see from the outside, especially when they are someone you admire. It takes a lot of trust for them to show it to you. And it is amazingly gratifying when they do. Of course as an internet celebrity who is recognized as a positive force in this world, Hannah has a lot of support outside of family and friends, she has this community she can count on to take this gift she has given us and love her 1000 times more for it. But that doesn’t mean that opening her heart and soul to us and the world could have been anything less than terrifying. So thank you, Hannah, for baring your soul and sharing your story with us.

PS.
I am a very lucky person who has led a very blessed life. I know nothing really helpful comes of comparing your life to another’s, but reading Hannah’s story, especially with regard to her mom, has made me that much more grateful for what I had and have. I lost my mom but I had her, whole and complete, for long enough to have had a healthy, fulfilling childhood. As much as I am feeling the power of this story, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for people reading this book who can relate to Hannah’s story directly. I hope that this book serves to educate those who are ignorant and lift up those who are fighting to survive or close to giving up. A reminder to hope, because…

You never know what might be coming in the future.
There is so much music you’ve yet to hear.

so…

Practice reckless optimism.

idhren glîr odo: autumn I

Here’s a little bit of stream-of-consciousness poetry that just happened.  It makes no sense and is probably very pretentious and silly.  The line breaks are especially silly but I was playing with rhythm, so… Also, here’s a lovely photo that doesn’t really go along with the poem but does go along with the slightly existential feeling I have coming out of that brief writing spell.

background

this photo comes from this gorgeous tumblr blog that I just discovered

Autumn

tick.
tock.
a stiff breeze
shuffles the leaves
(dry, frail, papery, thin)
against my
window.

steam
from my mug
touches
the glass
gently
turning
slowly
to frost.

tick.
tock.
scratching 
pen on thin
paper
idly
idly
idly
coming to terms.

rumble
of the cat
from his perch
on the arm
of
my
chair.

tick.
tock.
quiet
again.
tick tock.
quiet.
tick tock
quiet.
tick tock quiet tick tock
quiet.
tick.
tock.
breathe out.

on motivation (part 1)

If I don’t write this right now, perhaps I won’t write again, ever.

It’s been three months since I posted anything (and that was just a poem that I wrote earlier in the year so does it even count?) and it’s not that I haven’t had ideas or the desire to write them down–I have.  But every time I wanted to write about something in particular in the past… since the winter really… I said great, I’ll do that tomorrow.  And then never did it.  Obviously.

I was going to make a post on the last day of school in April, about the feeling of ending after five years of being in that place where I grew so much.  I was going to make a post a couple of weeks later about my insecurities and fears about becoming a teacher.  I was going to make a post in June about graduating.

I was going to make a post about Mom near her birthday–I actually wrote a lot in my journal that day and was considering just typing that up for a post.  But then time flew by, and I didn’t.  I was going to make a travel post about my trip to Halifax with my cousins and how I fell in love with Nova Scotia, but I didn’t do that either (maybe a poem, later? we’ll see).

I’ve been trying to write a post about motivation for over a month.  I’ll do a proper, full post just about that… perhaps in a few days.  Ha!

This is what I wanted to write about last weekend:
I was thinking about things Mom has missed out on (like Buffy Sainte Marie at Summerfolk in 2014), and things she would have been surprised and proud to see me doing if she were still alive today, and I thought wow, Mom would have loved the fact that I decided to join a slo pitch team this year, since she used to play in the annual slo pitch tournament back in Walters Falls when we were little.  I was at an end-of-the-year party for my team when I was thinking about this, sitting by the fire, and one of my team mates reminded me of my mom in some funny ways, and I know Mom would have gotten along well with a lot of the ladies on my team, and would have enjoyed that party immensely.  And then I realized, if Mom was still alive (and well), she wouldn’t have just been happy that I joined a team, she would have wanted to play slo pitch again too!  She could have joined with me.  That could have been something that we did together.

I didn’t, of course, write a post about that last week, while it was fresh in my mind and aching in my chest.  I did write about it in my journal, so I suppose that’s something.

Should I make a little post about Halifax now, or is it too late?  Should I pull up the things I wrote in my journal around Mom’s birthday and make that post now, two months late?  Should I go back and make that post about saying goodbye to the York University dance space, with all of the photos I took in anticipation of writing?

You know what, maybe I’ll just turn all of those things into poetry.

Then again, maybe I’ll do nothing for another three months or longer.  But we can hope.

And this, my friends, is what is known, in technical terms, as a “thought splatter”.

poetry in movement IX

Part 9 of the free-form poetry inspired by my experiences practicing Skinner Release Technique in the final term of my final year at York University.  This is the last one!

March 22, 2016

it’s easy to believe in magic in your mind
in your mind, there is no concept of weight
of gravity
(nothing is heavy in dreamland)

in your mind you can float, untethered
drifting through currents of slow-moving air
toes just brushing the tops of the dream-grass
and the dream-flowers

it’s easy to believe, until you open your eyes
and feel your real body, the weight of it
sinking into the floor.

but… suspension is not impossible
it may be hard to let go of that concept of heaviness
but if you do
if you let go
if you keep in your mind that dream space, that dream-grass
you can begin to believe in the magic again
and drift away,