Crimson gold

I may be overdoing it with the raspberries.

It’s just that they’re everywhere, literally ripe for the picking, low-hanging fruit, all the clichés. I can trudge through the back lanes of my neighbourhood and emerge with a couple of yogurt containers’ worth of berries in under an hour, my fingers stained red like I’m some urban foraging vigilante — hey! Another cliché for you: caught red-handed. Not that anyone’s guarding them, not that anyone owns them; they’ve just colonized the spaces between the backyards, brilliant flashes of red weighing down their branches and beckoning to me: if you don’t take us, who will?

I can’t not. I can’t rest for thinking about all that goodness, fret about those berries darkening and dropping to the ground, all that waste.

I’m not alone in my obsession. “Thinking of raspberry foraging tonight,” M texted to me on Saturday. We cycled to the latest jackpot: a different friend’s massive garden, bordered on three sides by raspberry bushes, and she’s too busy to harvest them (Don't worry; I’m paying her back in frozen berries and jam). Like shooting fish in a barrel. Metaphorically, obviously — I would never shoot fish in a barrel.

We got talking over the fence to of the neighbour, who — obviously — happens to raise Monarch butterflies. He talked to us at length about milkweed and chrysalises (I just looked up “plural of chrysalis”) and showed us his monarchs in various stages of growth. I love that, all over this city, all over this world, people are passionate about, fantastically expert about, so many different, tiny things. “It’s like Christmas,” said M, after making arrangements with the butterfly man to come back in the fall and get some of the apples from the tree in front.

I eat plenty right off the bushes, freeze more to use later in smoothies and baking. I’ve mashed 12 cups’ worth of into a crimson, jewelled mess of pulp and seeds, and I may well mash another 6 cups worth before I’m done. In a few weeks, M will show me how to make jam. And we will pick windfall apples and make sauce and cider too, and I’m thinking about a late-summer raspberry tart — you know, in a flan pan, some kind of custard vanilla base, the very best berries on top. Like the proverbial cherry, marking the height of summer and easing our way to fall.


Awkward selfie of right arm Taken with left arm.

Awkward selfie of right arm Taken with left arm.

Being in New York was a little bit like being at a tattoo appreciation party. Everywhere I went, people came up to me and remarked on my typewriter, asked to take photos of it: strangers at restaurants, the guy who sold me tickets at the Guggenheim (if you're there, go, go, go see the Doris Salcedo exhibition, and be stunned, floored, by how she represents trauma) on the Highline, at BlogHer – fitting, since I got it a year ago immediately following BlogHer14.

I admit that I started to develop a bit of an ego around the whole thing: if real New Yorkers were impressed, then how cool was I to have an impressive tattoo? “Are you a writer? Are you a writer? You must be a journalist. You’re a writer, aren’t you?”

Thank you! Yes, yes, and thank you. Sure, take a picture. I’ll flex for you. 

“It should have its own hashtag,” I only half joked to my roomie the Palinode.

And then, out for dinner last evening in Thunder Bay, a woman came up to me as I sat with a fellow writer friend. “I love your tattoo,” she began, and I smiled and nodded because I am JUST SO USED to this by now.

“What does it mean?” she asked.

“Well,” I began, “it’s—”

“Are you a secretary?” she asked.

And now, I am thinking about class.


On time

Yes, I do have time — and sometimes, that’s scary to admit.

My JORD Wood Watch in the woods.

My JORD Wood Watch in the woods.

Stephanie texted me about four minutes after I got home from the gym. “What are you up to this aft? I’m heading to the Cascades.”

Damm. I had articles to write, forms to fill out, errands to run. I had already exercised (you know, in the sterile, indoor, slightly grotty environment of the gym). Everything practical in me said that I needed to politely decline, defer to obligation and responsibility, stay indoors and get to work. Everything practical in me said, You don’t have time.

But. The Cascades. Outdoors. Moving through the slow spring woods to the falls, swollen and rapid with melted snow. Conversation with a friend.

I texted back: “Twist my arm…” By the time she picked me up half an hour later, I had drafted one of the articles on my to-do list, and figured I’d shoehorn the other stuff into the evening or the next day. It would all work out. It did work out. It always does, when I admit it.

Because, you know what? I do have time. Not for every single thing, in every moment, but for more than I’m often willing to admit. I have time to squeeze in a soul-sustaining walk in the woods with a friend. I have time, when I remember, to stop and listen fully to my kids and respond to their (sometimes incessant, often overlapping, easy-to dismiss) queries. I have time to meditate (still a very bumpy work in progress).

The scariest thing to admit, though, is that I have time to write. My own words. Every day.

I’ve journalled almost daily for more than two decades, so, clearly, I have learned how to make time for that kind of writing — the messy, boring, brain dumps. I have boxes of Hilroy notebooks filled with pages and pages of my musings and glorified to-do lists, with instructions to BURN WHEN I DIE.

But: creative writing. Blog posts, essays, the short story collection I’ve been funded to write. I have time to write all of these things, too. For the past month or so, with varying degrees of regularity, I’ve been making the time to write most days, sometimes for as little as five or ten minutes, sometimes for an hour or two once the mojo gets going. The hardest thing is sitting down to do it. The writing always comes, and the result has been, well, product: I’ve finished several essay drafts, written a half dozen or so new pieces, and sold several of them to boot. I’m tracking words and minutes (they add up — who knew?), checking in with a small group of like-minded friends on Facebook, applying the old ass-in-chair approach.

It works.

And this is scary, because it means that, really, I’m in charge of whether I get anything written. Whether or not I feel like admitting it, there are always ten or fifteen minutes in a day to move forward on a piece, jot down a few ideas, write a couple of lines of dialogue. It’s scary because it means I have no excuses. It means that it’s not too hard. Which means it should be easy, right? That’s the plan, to make creative writing as reflexive as journalling, as eating breakfast, as brushing my teeth, putting on my watch in the morning. I have the time, and I’m waiting for the time when that feels more like comfort and luxury than it does potential shame. And the balance on that is tipping — more often than not, I look forward to those minutes.

But writing, like all aspects of living a full life, also requires that you get your ass out of your chair at appropriate moments and say yes when a friend invites you for a walk to one of the most beautiful places you know, a place where there’s no cell-phone reception, where you pass by fiddleheads and trees that will end up very soon in a beaver dam.

I’ve been musing about time since the JORD Wood Watch company very kindly sent me their Fieldcrest model in black. I’ve been wearing it ever since — at my desk, on errands around town (it gets lots of compliments), and, of course, in the woods at the Cascades, where it feels most at home. It’s quite lovely — chunky but light, the wood smooth and burnished to the touch, the styling simple and elegant. It keeps me looking at my wrist more often than I do at my phone to check the time, which is a good thing.

And it keeps time well, just like I’m learning, always learning, to do. 

This post is sponsored by JORD Wood Watches. All opinions are my own.