The lone sentinel of a forgotten era stands dutifully in its eternal resting place, its roots digging deep into the earth once crowded with the roots of many other trees, now laid bare for farming. The only competition for nutrients, yarn-like tendrils of yearly planted crops. The crops and the roots change often, yet the lone soldier stands strong, never wavering.
It stands in the middle of the field, alone, casting a striking silhouette. Its branches bow in the restless wind, which now whistles unfettered across the open farmland. Its branches creak a solemn soliloquy to its fallen brethren, other trees cut short of their potential.
Seasons unending have unfolded around this sentry since it was lovingly placed into the ground as a seed. It broke through the earth and grew silently alongside a burgeoning nation. It has heard whispers of revolution, cries of victory, and wails of despair, all the while offering refuge to those in need, beneath its broad branches.
The canopy which blows in the wind, holds the memories of the birth of a nation, or one section of it at least. If we sit underneath its shade, we may yet hear the history of our country or one of the other countless tales it has seen.
Since its humble and fragile beginnings, it has grown into something of strength and beauty. It is firm in its grounding, yet flexible to the winds of change. It has its own story and history, yet allows itself to be used in the creativity of others; in their imaginations, lyrics, photos, art, and stories… much like this one. It puts itself second so that we may thrive, much like a great country does, much like the country it grew alongside with does.
Over the past 150 years, Canada has faced change, upheaval, and has been tested, only to come out on the other side much like the tree. Canada’s roots are deep, yet its peoples are flexible and understanding. We move with the winds of change, keeping our caring nature whole. When our fellow humans are in need, we reach out and help with open arms, not closed walls.
We live in a country where we must battle nature for six months of the year and have even developed sports to prove our mastery over the cold. We live in large, multi-cultural city centres and in large, multi-species rural centres, and choose to do so without large arsenals of guns.
When people ask, what is Canada’s identity? We can tell them, it is a country that gives you roots and allows you to flex in the breeze. Everyone is welcome to come and maintain your diversity, all the while being a Canadian. We are a country of nations, a country of acceptance, and a country which will stand by your side while the seasons and the crops change.
Just as the tree is ever reaching to greater heights, so too does our country. Canada is just now 150 years and is growing into the future. So long as we respect it, it will stand on guard for us eternally.
If you have a moment, sit beneath the tree and listen to what message it has to pass on to you. What moments in history will it impart to you? Pause and listen to its story, then use it in your own. That is, after all, one of the reasons it still stands, a lone(ly) sentinel, watching us stumble into the future as a nation.
Happy 150th Canada!
This is the first story my new typewriter told to me as I sat before it. Please be advised this story may evoke an emotional reaction.
He sat staring at the sunshine through the large pane of glass, her last words echoing through his mind. She had only looked back once as the cab drove her away to start her new life in a new city. City, that word still felt foreign to him. “Don’t worry dad, it’s not for long, I’ll be back on break before you know it.” He turned from the window, silently wishing those words were true and mouthing the word ‘city’.
He sat in his old wingback chair, the chair he used to sit in as he bounced her on his knee. He knew that he should not be wallowing in his sadness, but he couldn’t bear to sit through another one of Henry’s stories. Sure, he knew Henry was only trying to cheer him up, but he only had three stories to tell and, honestly speaking, none of them were really any good. No, today he needed to spend a little time in the past.
Too often we are taught as men to avoid our feelings, yet as any old guy will tell you, the only way to truly live life is to feel it. You turn yourself off, you die. Not all at once, but slowly and by yourself.
“City”, when he said the word aloud it seemed to bounce dully off the walls to fall flat on the floor. The last time the word city was bantered about was when he had to take his lovely Annie to the cancer doctor. Deep down, he knew that it was not the doctor's fault, nor was it the fault of the city. Life had taken Annie away from him and he was desperately trying to hold on to the last vestiges of her memory through Alice. He knew she needed to move on with her life, she couldn’t put her future on hold just to keep her old man happy.
He got up and made his way over to the curio cabinet and picked up the last photo ever taken of his wife. She always carried herself with such grace and dignity, traits that Alice had thankfully picked up from her. It was her strength and grace that he drew from when he waved his little girl off to the new adventure of college. Some day another man would take his place, he could only hope that she would keep him in mind and not forget to visit him once in a while back in the small town which she once called home.
Travis J. Croken
The room was filled with the sounds of the secret life of machines. There were hums, whirs, bleeps, and a gentle whoosh-hiss, that rhythmically kept time; as ventilators are known to do. Thin bars of light slit into the room through the few gaps they could find in the tightly drawn curtain. Overall, this place had a dark and somber feel to it. The only source of light in the room came from the numerous screens that filled every place that was not already reserved by vital medical equipment.
In the midst of this machined room lay one of the foldable beds that can be seen advertised on breaks during the sacred “Wheel Time” at your grandmother’s house. Upon purchase this bed had been placed into a dentist chair position and the gears had long since rusted tight due to severe under use. They fulfilled their purpose in life, but once before being left in purgatory, while watching the bed be used constantly.
It has sat in the same place since it was first moved in, slowly sinking into the floor, since it was carefully set up for maximum efficacy by two very caring PSW’s. Once positioned perfectly, its place was never questioned. It just spent its days as a silent sentinel forever supporting its owner whom rarely moved off of it.
As was custom it’s owner was currently laying down in the bed awash in the glow of all of the screens that now made up the life of Brandon Owens There hasn’t always been so many screens, in fact, there was a time where there was only one, yet it was a time that Brandon could hardly remember.
There was a time when he had been normal, had been an active part of society, yet an unforeseen accident changed all of that one sunny afternoon. He remembered the incident clearly because he relived it every time he closed his eyes, even after all these years. The doctors had said that as he got used to his new condition the nightmares would stop, well he certainly proved them wrong. He was a “special” case as his doctors liked to say. He was one of the rare few that would always relive not only the pain but the horror of that day, again and again for the rest of his life.
At the beginning of his new life he used to drive himself mad with thoughts of what if. What if I had just stayed home that day? What if I hadn't tried to be the hero? What if? What if? What if? In those days he would often think that if anxiety were a person, it would be a frail old man with a cane, flinching at every noise, and only able to say “what if”, while looking at you with haunted pale blue eyes that look like they have seen it all.
In the beginning, Brandon spent a lot of time with that old man and his big black dog of depression. They were his closest and most reliable companions; most of his friends could not handle the fact that he was no longer the old Brandon and had left.
After a while, those who stayed and tried to be understanding were quickly shown to the door by Brandon; they were too much a reminder of what he had lost. His old life was gone and now he was left to deal with his new life. His new life would not be an easy one to deal with, that’s why in the end he decided to cut off all natural human contact; even that of his therapists and doctors.
His days were filled with silent suffering while machines kept his vital organs operating as naturally as possible. It was within this new artificial, cold, machined reality that he made himself his new home. It had been long years since he had lost the ability to speak. With everyone cut out of his life he had no use for spoken word and his abilities gradually faded.
The keyboard now spoke for him as his hands whirred across the keys so swiftly, he often imagined them as his thrumming vocal cords. The key clicks had become a language that he now spoke. Connecting his ever racing thoughts to the outside world; he may not have a physical presence yet his virtual presence was larger than life.
To be continued...
Tracey woke up sprawled across the half-empty bed; languishing in the beam of early morning sun that splashed across the pillows. She stretched and tried to remember what her last dream had been. She could not recall its content, yet she knew it must have been sweet due to the smile she awoke with.
It was lazy mornings like this that made it not so bad when Gary had to travel for work; sometimes for weeks at a time, as was the case currently. It seemed as though he had been travelling more and more recently, but that was to be expected when you are upwardly mobile in a company. Still, she loved him and missed him dearly, which is why she felt guilty on days like this, where the empty bed felt more a treasure, than a sad reminder of his absence.
As she lay in the sun basking in its warmth she recalled her conversation with Gary from the night before with a smile. They spoke every night before bed while he traveled, each night as sweet and loving as the last. He was currently in Europe this trip, trying to save some company from going under, something to do with mismanaged funds. Gary had hoped that the trip would not be long, however, according to the last conversation things were going from bad to worse. All he knew was that he had weeks left at least. Tracey knew it would be tough, but they would get through it. They always did.
She suddenly sat up in bed, her dream smile still beaming, even as the fog of sleep was slipping away. She remembered that as they were speaking last night Gary had said that he had sent her a package that should arrive today. He would not tell her what it was, not even a hint, but he seemed excited and begrudged the fact that he could be there to see her face when she opened it.
This new mystery added a spring to her step as she jumped out of bed to head for the shower. She paused by the full-length mirror on her way to check herself from head to toe. There was more silver mixed with her auburn hair than yesterday, yet it still looked great falling just past her delicate chin to frame her porcelain features. Her blue eyes sparkled even as she noticed new wrinkles framing them and her mouth. She stepped back, smiling as she took in the full picture. Her body was still lean, even if the skin did seem a little looser in some areas. Still, she thought she looked pretty fit for a 53-year-old, leaning in closer she bared her teeth in the mirror and gave them a good once over. Seeing that all looked good, she headed off to the shower and the start of her day.
Taking her time, she slowly dressed and went into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. The whole kitchen and breakfast nook were flooded with early November sunshine. She raised her black coffee to her nose and inhaled deeply, letting her eyes close and body warm in the sun again for the briefest of moments as the earthy, spicy notes of the coffee gently chased away the rest of the morning fog; bringing in focused alertness, walking over to the round glass table of the breakfast nook, she let her eyes roll across the cluttered chaos sitting upon it.
Normally this type of mess would drive her crazy, however, this was her mess, and a mess of love. For the past year Tracey had been using each business trip as a chance to chronicle and scrapbook their 19-year marriage. In a sense the trip being extended was a bit of a blessing. She had been feeling rushed trying to finish it before Gary got back, and she hated feeling rushed. Now she had time to finish it calmly to be able to surprise him for their twentieth anniversary when he got home.
She sat at the table and grabbed a stack of movie stubs and tried to organize them chronologically. This proved to be tough on two fronts. The first being the wave of memories that would whisk her away as she remembered each date. The other issue was her mind constantly wondering what Gary could have sent her.
Their anniversary was in three weeks, hopefully he would make it back in time. 20 years; it seemed so quick, yet the stacks of memories laid out before her on the table told another tale.
To be continued...
Today was one of the worst / craziest days I could've imagined, but I guess it kind of worked out in the end.
It all started when I slept through my alarm clock this morning, which of course made me late and I started my day off in a rush. I quickly showered and grabbed something to eat as I rushed out to my plumbing van. I knew I was going to be late for Mrs. K's job, but I hoped she would understand, I mean her son and I go way back.
I tried to start the van only to realize that I had left the dome light on over night and the battery had died. My brother had already gone for the day so I had to head off on foot to go buy a new battery.
I was already late anyways so I didn't rush too much, I wanted to enjoy the beautiful day and try to cool down after having such a rough start to my morning,
How is only a few blocks from the store when I heard a woman yelling for help. I knew this would me even more, but I could not leave a damsel in distress, Anyways I figured it was just some movie being filmed and that I hadn't heard of yet.
Either way I turned and ran as fast as I could towards the sound, I could still hear the woman calling for help but she always seemed to be just around the next corner, so I ran faster.
Whatever was happening, we are moving fast, towards the Old industrial part of town. I twisted and turned in the maze of industrial complexes until I finally shot around the corner just in time to see some huge beast pulling the most beautiful blond haired woman I've ever seen into a giant warehouse.
He didn't notice me seeing him so I counted to 30 and snuck in quietly behind him. The room I entered into was dark, filthy, and full of high scaffolding. The whole place smelled of tar and gasoline; with small oil barrels ablaze, being the only source of light in the room.
It took longer than I care to admit for my eyes to adjust to the new dim lighting. By the time my eyes adjusted, the hulking beast had dragged the woman to the top of one of the highest scaffolds.
I ran to the bottom of the scaffold and looked to try to find the best route up; I don't know why, but I just felt like I needed to save this woman. Suddenly there was an almost primal scream of rage as he finally noticed I had been following him. My blood turned cold, but I was committed.
Many of the ladders on the scaffold were broken, this meant I would have to run almost the complete length back-and-forth for each level.
He yelled at me again, which froze me in my tracks, but then she cried for help again and the thought of her in this monster's grip for a moment longer spurred me into action.
Without thinking I jumped up and started running along the first level. When he noticed this he started throwing chunks of wood at me to knock me off, I had to time my jumps just right to avoid being hit.
Between the third and fourth levels, there was a ladder that actually still was intact. I was about halfway up the ladder when he changed his tactics and threw a flaming log at me. This startled me and I fell backwards off of the ladder and had to start from the ground again.
I was hurt, but undeterred. I knew his tricks so I ran, jumped, kicked, and climbed my way up as quickly as I could. I was making progress and he knew it. I could tell by the change in his yells.
Seeing that I was getting closer, he started to roll barrels of oil down the scaffold. The whole scaffold shuttered underneath the weight of the rolling barrels, I tried to jump the first barrel for my foot hit the top and I was knocked backwards. I barely regained my footing in time to be able to jump and put my hands on top of the barrels to push myself over them, this worked well but it was exhausting.
I finally got to the scaffold beneath his and was standing directly below him I couldn't see him and he couldn't see me but we both knew it all the same. I pause to think of what to do once I got to him, he was much bigger than I was.
Suddenly the air grew hot and heavy with the stink of freshly burning oil. He had started setting the barrels on fire, how could I handled them now? My mind started to spin in a panic until I noticed one of the workers had left a huge sledgehammer behind. I might be able to knock the barrels out of the way I thought. I then heard a thump and saw the first flaming barrel making his way down towards me.
I put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could towards the hammer praying to my stars that I would get there before the burning barrel. I dashed forward and grabbed the hammer, swinging it down on the barrel, sending it flying off the scaffold. Emboldened, I ran on knocking each barrel out-of-the-way and finally managed to climb up to his level.
He screamed at me and threw the flaming barrels even faster than before, I dodged and hammered them all out-of-the-way until I saw the perfectly timed shot. I noticed that each time he threw he lost balance; so instead of dodging I stood my ground and swung the hammer like a croquet mallet and knocked the barrel right back at him. This caught him off-guard and he overbalanced and fell off the scaffold and died. At least I think he died, I didn't take the time to check, I grabbed the girl and ran out of there as fast as I could. I didn't go to the police because I didn't think they would believe me.
Anyways, back to the girl, she is stunning. Big blue eyes, blonde hair, pink dress, and a smile to die for. We fell for each Other right away, but she had to get back home. I know each relationship has its rough patches, well ours started out as rough as I can imagine, so I'm sure it will be clear sailing from here. I mean what could be crazier than saving your new girlfriend from some hulking beast that kidnapped her. What a first date!
Sincerely yours, Mario.
P. S. I spoke to Mrs. K and She was not understanding at all. She actually hung up on me, and I got a call from my buddy Bowser. He said he was appalled that I would leave his morn hanging like that so I could go out and try to play hero, He then said if I wanted to play hero, he could make sure that happened for real, then started laughing at me and hung up. I guess Koops and I are no longer friends, no worries, I have Peach now and nothing can get in our way!
I sit here staring at a blank page unable to decide if it is friend or foe. We have met on the battlefield many a time before and each time, one or both of us came away beaten, bloodied, and changed; sometimes for the better sometimes not. It is an odd adversarial arraignment that we have. All at once supportive and destructive; a force beyond anything one could imagine. Each day I hear the blank page calling to me with its siren song and each day I fall into its embrace, only to lose myself; sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours, it depends on what my characters have in store for me; how long I can hold out in the battle against the dreaded blank page. I can hear them calling to me from the other side. Their cries of excitement and support spur me on. They need me just as much as I need them; I need to tell their story and they need it to be told.
The blank page stares at me, mocking me; daring me to deface it. It knows that the first few marks, strokes of the pen, punch of the keys are the hardest. As I stare into its beautiful and terrifying depths I realize just how pristine it is. It is clean, virgin, with the potential to be anything; yet now in my hands, I realize it’s potential has been greatly diminished. In the right hands it could have been immortalized. It could have held the truths of a religious document, a nation’s declaration, or a love letter from a brave soldier to his love, far overseas; kept as a lifeline of hope around the world. Instead, it now sits on my desk, staring up at me, casting seeds of doubt into my mind.
Am I worthy of this piece of paper? As I sit transfixed by its dangerous beauty it has already begun the war. It’s seeds of doubt are rooted in my mind and growing strong. What do I have to say that could be worthy of this piece of paper? What words do I have to place and in what order, to make myself feel worthy? To feel worthy of taking it away from what it could have been. Do I have the talent to make this into something great?
What if I start and I decide I don’t like what I have written and need to start over? I would have marked this page and taken away its potential for no reason. The weight of the page begins to hit me more than I could have imagined. This page has begun to take on a new life.
I find my hands caressing it gently, feeling it’s fine texture intimately. I realize that I can smell the page as well; a faint dusty woody scent, that normally I would not have noticed. Yet the blank page has me in its grasp and I am entranced. This formidable enemy knows that scent bypasses the rational centre of the brain and heads straight to the emotional core. As I am bombarded by this sensory warfare I am transported to a new place; I feel as though I am there, I am no longer at my writing desk.
I am now standing in the middle of a beautiful forest with a light mist floating around me. It is a magical place with life everywhere, in all forms. The air is thick with the scent of earth, flowers, and the ever present cycle of decay. It is a warm, comforting scent that makes me feel grounded; at home, and one with the earth. I am one with the ferns that grow up around me; I can sense the small creatures running along their leaves. I am one with the water drops that form from the mist gathering on the leaves overhead, only to fall with a muffled splash on the damp leaves littering the forest floor. My mind is filled with the sound of birds and animals saturating the air with their calls. I can hear each one distinctly or all combined in a beautiful melody, it is as though I am listening to my own private, natural jazz ensemble.
I feel at ease; peaceful, as I look at around at my surroundings. I notice the large trees surrounding me; telling me that all would be well. I see each wrinkle in the bark, each mark caused by the animals and birds that call these trees home. It slowly dawns on me that I am standing in a community that I do not understand. There is a whole side of life that I never fully understood. Just as we live in neighbourhoods so do the creatures, plants, and trees. I may not understand the dynamics, yet now I can see that there is a dynamic there. They rely on each other, love each other and even communicate with each other. The forest speaks a language that I do not understand, yet I can understand it’s imagery. The blank page is showing me where it comes from; it’s family and friends. I remember that this blank page is more than just an advisory full of potential; it once was alive and sacrificed its life so that I may create. The realization that this blank page was once loved and relied upon weighs even heavier on me.
Who am I to deface it?
I try to convince myself that I am worthy, that my words do matter. I try to tell myself that, sure the blank page could have been something to be immortalized, but the blank page also could have ended up in a worse place. It could have been used as the tail end of an email attachment, which didn’t need to be printed, or hastily given to a child to keep it out of the parent’s hair for a few minutes, only to be scribbled on and discarded. Being in front of me may not be so bad a fate after all.
My hand continues to slowly caress the page as my mind tries to find a crack in its armor. I can hear my characters on the other side shouting support and calling out ideas on how to start; how to break the spell of the blank page. Their cries clutter up my head as I realize that I have been a bad parent. I have been away from some of them for too long and now too many want my attention. The blank page begins to draw close for the final attack as it notices my mind is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and despair. It quietly sneaks to a dark corner of my brain and whispers that this is all too much. You have been gone from your babies for too long. Just walk away and try something else. Maybe this whole writing thing isn’t for you?
I feel my resolve begin to crumble. The blank page’s softly whispered words are now forming in my mind as though they were my own thoughts; self doubt is now beginning to take over. After all this writing thing is a lot harder than I thought it would be. The weight of the blank page’s past and potential future weigh on me heavily as I stare into it, beseeching my characters to band together and help me. I try to tell them that each will get a turn and that I will never leave them, but my voice falters at the lie. I know that some of them will have to be sacrificed in the end, but I vow to love each one up to that point and remember them fondly when they are gone.
My mind begins to wander, trying to grasp the enormity of the task ahead of it. I pull back from the blank page and pour myself yet another cup of coffee. Perhaps taking my mind off of it will help. The idea strikes me that I should organize my desk, yet I already did that while I was battling yesterday. During the battle yesterday I cleared off most of my to do list for the week; it is amazing how productive you become when procrastinating. Yet that was yesterday’s battle, now we are on to today.
I stare out of my office window and watch life go by. What the street lacks in vehicle traffic it makes up in pedestrian traffic. For a side street it is quite active, with people walking, running, biking, and using any other form of exercise possible to get around. My office window is the perfect place to sit, write and be inspired. Each person that goes by is filling the main role in their own story of life, while unknowingly being a walk on character in mine.
I start thinking about their stories; I know some of the stories of the characters walking by. Perhaps not the whole story, but enough parts of it to be able to give an educated guess as to what is happening and where they are going. Some are new characters that I have never seen before and never will again. These stories I have no knowledge of, but can sometimes piece together from snippets of conversation floating loftily on the fresh spring breeze through my office window. Each character plays the main role in their life while advancing the plots of others. The world is full of stories if you are able or willing to just sit back and watch them unfold. I watch one of the neighbors walks by with her dog. Her dog is moving much better now that she has been using subcutaneous shots for it’s hip problems. Even the dogs of the street have their own stories, and these are the stories that are used for artificial relationships.
The realization slowly dawns on me that even these thoughts have been brought to mind by the blank page; it is doing all it can to distract me. I need to get to work.
I sit back and look at the old bookshelf in my office as I silently curse my coffee for getting cold. There are thoughts to be had and words to be said about the bookcase, yet my cold coffee takes precedence, at least for the moment.
Upon my return, the blank page is still sitting on my desk, untouched save for the loving caresses earlier. I once again sit at my desk and look out to the street, then find my gaze drawn back to the bookcase and some of the names upon it; Grace, Orwell, Shakespeare, Burroughs, and many more authors that are gently giving their silent encouragement through the ages.
I feel entranced and locked in by its power. It seems so simple, a few pieces of wood bound together to form an object capable of holding items, preferably books. However, upon closer inspection one finds out what it truly is; a monument. Those pieces of wood form a monument to hold the final remains of many countless battles raged, just as the one I am raging; against writer’s block. Each of those pages had been a blank page at one point in its life, each throwing down the gauntlet to a writer. Each page had been given a purpose, its potential now defined. Each page was a testimony to the writer’s victory over the dreaded blank page. Each page would live on for better or for worse with the markings it was given. Each book a battlefield that witnessed the epic struggle of author versus words. Each book a tenderly loved baby.
My mind wanders to a bookstore and I am suddenly standing in the middle of the store smelling all of the books waiting to be read. I look around and for the first time see what the bookstore is. It is a sanctuary. It is a place full of Aha! moments, full of dreams come to life, full of idea’s given leave to speak. It is a place where countless blank pages have had their potential defined lovingly by an author who has laboured over them. Each book is a baby that started as an idea and was coaxed into being by the loving hands and mind of an author that tried their best to relay the story as it came to them. For the author is but a utensil which the characters use to put their own stories down on paper. All the author does is listen to the words and put them down as best they can.
Emboldened by the power of the victory of other authors over the blank page I focus my gaze once more upon my own dreaded blank page. Again, I hear the taunts and my mind begins to swirl, yet this time I am stronger, I am somewhat prepared. I clear my thoughts and reach out to the first character that comes and wants to tell me their story. To my surprise, in my absence, my characters have organized themselves and are ready to work. As my character begins to whisper its words of wisdom in my ear, my doubts begin to fall away, I realize the stories will write themselves if I but listen to what is being said.
I pick up my pen and watch as it floats over the blank page, getting ready to finally make the first mark and define the page’s purpose. The pen hovers, shaking ever so slightly as though it too is afraid of breaking the sanctity of the blank page. My mind is still as I listen to the first words that will be this page’s fate; I realize I can do this. All I have to do is start; make the first mark, write the first word. The pen slowly lowers to start its work and I wonder if I brushed my teeth this morning.