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2021 Daily Writing Challenge: December 1

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2021 Daily Writing Challenge, for December 1!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.  Here is my writing assignment from my writing class which is almost done … where does the time go?  This is a Reverse Chronology assignment.  I wonder if any of this sounds familiar to anyone out there?

Today

I am, as I have been for the past 3 months, sitting in the dark in my office, door closed, mask at the ready.  I only leave to use the washroom – no in-person meetings for me. Everything I do is virtual now which works much better for me and for the people I support. Maybe next term my institution will join the rest of the 21st century post-COVID world and allow us to work remotely when it makes sense (which for me is all the time now!)

October 2021

My boss’s boss tells us there will be no working remotely without special circumstances because we work in “service” units.  I wonder if she knows what I do, what service I provide, and how it works best for me to provide those services (virtually)?  Does it matter, or does she just want to exercise her control by forcing us to remain in-person as if that guarantees we are doing our jobs?  As if we didn’t all do our jobs 2000% over COVID.  At least Delta forced our government to return the mask mandates for indoor spaces so I don’t have to feel completely at risk around other people all day.

August 23, 2021

Today I returned to my in-person office, and today there are no mask mandates in our province which makes me very uncomfortable since my office is in the library, within an open office space.  I will keep my door closed, since no one needs to see me in person anyway (but it was SO important we return to campus), but every time I need to leave to use the washroom I have to walk past folks in our open office, and then past students in the library none of whom continue the mask-wearing I myself have kept up in spite of rule relaxation.

March 2021

Has it been a year already?  Wow.  Working from home now feels normal and smooth – it’s like I’ve always worked remotely and delivered all my workshops virtually.  Why did we not do this before?  But now there is talk of going back to in-person teaching full bore in the fall.  Have we learned nothing about the possibilities?  I am NOT looking forward to fall.

September 2020

There is a rhythm to the madness now, and things are feeling smoother for me after having a nice long break from work (stay-cations are very interesting when you work from home…just make sure you stay out of your remote office!)  Meetings are still constant this term, but they don’t feel so endlessly depressing and exhausting.

June 2020

I have never worked so hard in all my life over the past few months – 10, 12, and sometimes 16 hour days. I can’t seem to catch my breath. But at least I am one of the lucky ones with a clearly defined home office space and a good internet connection right next to my laptop.

March 18, 2020

Today I came to work freaking out. Why are there so many people here in the library?  Why are we still here?  It’s fucking dangerous man.  I come into our office space, and everyone is standing around in the same state of mind.  Worried, frantic, exhausted from not sleeping.  I don’t know how we made it through the day, but by lunchtime, we were all told to work from home starting the next day.  Loading up laptop and monitor and other assorted equipment for transporting home never felt so good, but I have no idea what we are in for, or how long we will be in for it!

2021 Daily Writing Challenge: August 4

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2021 Daily Writing Challenge, for August 4!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

So, I wrote this piece for a writing class last fall, and thought I would revise it for here in an attempt to jumpstart some writing on this here blog.  Plus, this is hitting me again as COVID numbers start to rise here yet again in our province, and as that country south of us is getting completely out of control yet again.  Will we ever figure this out?  NOTE:  If you are an anti-masker, you will NOT want to read this piece as it will undoubtedly insult you.

Look, don’t touch.

The other day at the grocery store, I saw a man picking up mushrooms out of a bin, peering at each one closely, and then either putting it in a bag, or placing it back in the bin.  Under normal circumstances, I might not have noticed.  He wanted the best mushrooms, just as all of us, standing and watching  him rummage through the mushrooms for ten or more minutes, did.  No, not a notable moment, except that this occurred in the middle of a pandemic.  That’s right.  A time when grocery stores are marking aisles as one way only, limiting how many people can enter the store, and hanging signs asking  people not to fondle the produce.

This must seem benign to some, even in these strange times.  One man, one store, touching all the mushrooms,  several people staring in amazement at him, waiting for mushrooms, but not wanting to get closer, respecting social distancing measures.  I finally gave up, partly because I was tired of waiting, but mostly because I didn’t want to touch mushrooms this man had already touched, and he had touched all of them by the time he was done.  You may tell me I am overreacting by relating this story and the horror it struck me with.  You would be wrong.  Why can’t people understand that these are not normal times?  Why can’t you be kind and polite, think of others, follow the new rules and, you know, don’t touch all the mushrooms?  Oh, and while you’re at it, maybe also wear a mask.

I confess I don’t understand the controversy surrounding mask wearing.  People complain that it violates their civil liberties and puts the government in control of their body (my body, my life).  Except that it is, of course, not just about your life.  It’s about saving someone else’s life.  Aside from my beef with these anti-maskers while I think are some of  the same folks who tell women they can’t get abortions (whose body is it again?), what is the big deal?  We wear seatbelts, we take off our shoes at airport security, we drive the speed limit.  We follow rules and obey laws because we know they are not only good for us but for others.  Why can’t you just wear a mask when you go out?  You say you’re not afraid of getting sick, that you will get over it.  Well, it’s not just about you.  What about your spouse, or your parents, or your elderly neighbour, or your kid’s friend who has asthma?  And don’t tell me the flu kills more people a year.  Blah blah blah.  Maybe read something for a change?  Do your own research?  Just because you feel something is true doesn’t make it so.  Wearing a mask protects others, so you should feel honored I am wearing mine around you.  And maybe I would not worry so much about you walking the wrong way down the clearly marked aisle if you were wearing a mask too.

All these new protocols in stores seem hard for some people.  My husband’s optometry clinic is in an optical store.  In order to keep track of which pairs of frames are being handled, the store is open by appointment only, meaning you can’t just walk in and try on scads of glasses at your leisure.  You will be served directly by an optician.  Now,I think the personal shopper thing is great.  Who doesn’t want to have someone work with them one on one to pick out fashionable frames?  Apparently, lots of people, one of whom wrote a scathing review of my husband’s clinic, which but the way does not have anything to do with the store, because he wasn’t allowed to just come in and shop for frames the way he usually does.  Irony?  This person works in the health-care profession.  I guess even when you work in health, you don’t necessarily understand it.

Why am I writing all this?  To tell you to take a pill.  Chill out.  Relax.  Take your time.  Take a moment to think: is this really such a big deal?  And if your answer is still yes, maybe try to answer the question why?  Is it really about your civil liberties, or are you just a selfish ass who doesn’t like to be told what to do?  Maybe try wearing a mask to see how it feels.  You can get them in all colors and so many amazing designs, I am sure you can find one to show us who you are.

But remember, wearing a mask doesn’t mean you can touch all the mushrooms.

 

2021 Daily Writing Challenge: March 2

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2021 Daily Writing Challenge, for March 2!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

 

Waiting in the car in the rain.

I mean, really? What else is there to do when you are waiting in the car in the rain but take pictures of random things? Inclines abound, nothing is straight. Not the street, not the sidewalk, not the trees, not the building. Choices are, choose one thing to be straight, or edit the hell out of the picture to create straightness where there is none. There is something to be said for leaving things as they are, straight or not. Probably a weird metaphor there somewhere for life too. Accept the things you cannot changes and celebrate the things you can’t? Or something like that.

This is what you get when you shoot from the passenger seat, no rolling down the window, especially in the rain cause, I don’t want to get wet in the name of a shot that won’t be “perfect” anyway.

What do I really like about this picture? Maybe it’s the raindrops, maybe it’s the trees all scraggly in their end of winter beauty. But I think mainly it’s that it’s all over the place. Trees and poles and grass and is there a face staring at me from somewhere in that building? Cool.

2021 Daily Writing Challenge: March 1

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2021 Daily Writing Challenge, for March 1!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

This time I’m really going to try and put more of my writing here, so, here is the piece I read for my writing class this evening:  it’s called Tetraptych

Frank stood proud next to his handiwork, fresh bulbs poking up, camellias ready to bloom at last, and lawn clipped to perfection.  He took off one glove and pulled a dust covered cloth from his pocket, not really a handkerchief, but handy for wiping the dirt mingled sweat off his brow.  He breathed deeply – ah, the sweet air, remnants of winter making it crisper than it would be in a few weeks.  But the snow was almost gone, lasting only a day or two as it did here.  Frank bent over to pick up his clippers, new and shiny, the best he could buy.  Suddenly a sharp pain wrenched through his chest, and he fell to his knees, the damp grass soaking into his pants, then his shirt, and finally his face as he gasped out his last breath.

Sweat glistened on his face as Joe jogged down the path.  He looked up, and closed his eyes for a moment, feeling the warmth on his face.  Opening his eyes, he squinted and raised his arm to shade them against the low February sun wishing he had not lost his sunglasses last week. How amazing to finally see the sun, but so strange still to see the paths so empty.  Not as empty as they were six months ago, but he was used to the lawns and benches dotted with the gawking tourists from all over the world, come to see this oasis of Canada.  Grimacing he slowed, the stitch in his side coming out of nowhere.  The unexpected heat was beginning to get to him.  He slowed to a walk and headed for a cluster of benches.  Always benches….they were everywhere in this city.  This one sat next to a large camellia bush with green buds blushing pink, and little yellow heads of daffodils popping out among the green.  Spring was on its way.  Something about the bush bothered him.  He couldn’t put his finger on it.  Was it something hitting his nostrils?  The stillness?  Slowly circling behind he stopped.  Boots sticking out warning him of something he would rather not see.

The ambulance arrived in a blaze of lights and sirens.  Paramedics rushed to the scene, but found quickly that there was nothing they could do; the old gardener, cold and gray, was beyond help.  Police questioned the runner, but it looked like the unexpected heat had just had its way with the old man.  As the paramedics took the body away, one reached down to pick up a glove, trodden into the dirt under the bush, clippers near by.  Wondering if dropping the glove was the last thing the old man had done before death had taken him, Sarah  tossed it aside,  grabbed the clippers and pocketed them.  They were shiny and still had the price tag on them… you could never have enough good clippers.

Emily came upon the scene later that week.  Working at home meant enjoying lunch break walks with her camera along the inner harbour walkway. And today she was enjoying the solitude and sun, in spite of the wind which was pervasive these days.  The bench, seeming to watch the calm waters, caught her eye, with the glove discarded, flecks of dirt still clinging to it.  Kneeing down, she pulled out her phone and framed the shot, then looked around, wondering how it got there, and why on earth there was always only one lonely glove left behind.

2020 Daily Writing Challenge: October 7

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2020 Daily Writing Challenge, for October 7!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

I am taking a Creative Writing class, and am free-writing every day with themes posed by our instructor.  So, I am going to post my writings here…lucky you! Today’s prompt:  Try setting a scene somewhere that has been stripped of its usual characteristics: a forest with no trees, a supermarket with nothing on the shelves, a city with no humans.

Hmmm, this is an interesting one.

I recall a scene like this in March and April, grocery stores stripped of so many things on their shelves. Toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels, anything having to do with cleaning. Those are the obvious ones. But also what was interesting was the lack of chickens and eggs — not sure which ones went first — and also rice and pasta. Canned vegetables, although fresh veggies seemed to be there, but obviously people were hoarding. Packing their pantries, as it were.

It took awhile for some of these things to come back, and even now, paper towels shelves are bare.

In terms of the scenes listed here, I guess you can technically have a supermarket with bare shelves, even though it’s not much of a supermarket, but you can’t have a forest without trees. The definition of forest is a bunch of trees. A city with no humans? Sure. In fact, our city is much nicer in some ways with fewer humans. Well, there are more out there now, but it was sure quiet for a while out there.

Other ideas?  I think a bar with no alcohol would be a drag. Not much point there! What else? An ice cream shop with no ice cream? Well even if it has some ice cream, but no mint chocolate chip. A travesty! A butcher with no bacon. What’s the point? We have a college with no students on campus, well very few. But they are out there online! So, some appearances are deceiving and you have to look under the rug or in the dark corners or in the closets or online to find the things you are expecting.

It’s a strange world now where all the things listed here, except the treeless forest which I addressed already, have existed for most people at some point this year. An interesting question and I don’t think I’ve set a scene at all, but only reflected on what has happened in the past covid months.  End Scene.

2020 Daily Writing Challenge: October 6

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2020 Daily Writing Challenge, for October 6!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

I am taking a Creative Writing class, and am free-writing every day with themes posed by our instructor.  So, I am going to post my writings here…lucky you! Today’s prompt:  Think of a scent, such as an ingredient for a meal, a perfume, or perhaps something from the outdoors or nature, that you associate with a person who has played an integral role in your life. Write a scene that explores the intertwining of smell and the resonant memories you associate with this person.

Oh, man. This is a hard one. I am trying to think of a scent that I remember at all, let along associate with someone.

There is a food smell which I can’t really pin down, a roast or gravy or something, which sometimes reminds me of Kevin’s mom. She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Just accepting and kind and giving of herself right up until the end.

To give you an example, she and one of Kevin’s aunts would deliver meals on wheels to the “old” people who were younger than they were. She sold Avon, but it was really more about visiting with people who always became her friends. And she took so many pictures all the time, of family dinners and other get togethers, or when she visited people, so many that when Kevin and his sister were going through the boxes and boxes of pictures after she died, they reluctantly threw out tons of them because they simply had no idea who was in the pictures.

It was poignant, seeing all those memories disappear, but memories are ethereal anyway. They are really only or most important to the person who has them. They are never the same for a home else. Pictures were her way of holding those things in memory. I am beginning to document some things that way too, different things. Daily things. Things that strike me. Both in pictures and in writing. But I don’t think I will ever take pictures of people the way she did, nor do I think I will ever be able to be as kind and accepting as she was.

So every so often I catch a whiff of a scent that reminds me of Isabel and I think of her and her dinners and her kindness and of Christmas Eves with her and her family, and of a New Year’s Eve when Kevin and I took her to a Japanese restaurant in a snowstorm and how she liked the place so much, she took everyone there for a meal shortly before she got sick. I don’t know what the smell is, but it is powerful enough to take me there, and I am grateful for that.

2020 Daily Writing Challenge: October 5

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2020 Daily Writing Challenge, for October 5!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

I am taking a Creative Writing class, and am free-writing every day with themes posed by our instructor.  So, I am going to post my writings here…lucky you! Today’s prompt: Write a scene that contains the following words: coffee, inflate, identification.

This morning I woke up ready for my coffee.  As I do every morning.  It’s what I like to call a routine.  Get up, feed the kitties, make coffee.  Then meditate and do my morning pages.  Every morning.  Then check blogs, blog myself, and at some point, make a second cup of coffee.  Every morning.

Don’t inflate this to more than it is:: a comforting routine that also serves to wake me up and prepare me for the day, whatever day it might be.  Missing my coffee in the morning?  Not possible.  There are just certain things I can’t do without in the morning.

If one day I can’t have or drink coffee any more?  Well then someone will be using forensic identification to figure out who all the dead bodies are buried in my yard and littering my basement.  Because without that coffee, that what will be unleashed upon the world.

People I work with these days are very lucky we are living in a virtual world.  Much easier for me to lose my shit over Zoom than in person,  which is probably good for me too,  I can easily mute myself and scream into the void without anyone hearing the vile spewing that would be that much worse without my coffee.

My point is that coffee is something I can’t do without in the morning.  That is not inflated. I can be identified by my love of coffee…and bacon.  But I won’t talk about the bacon now…

2020 Daily Writing Challenge: October 4

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2020 Daily Writing Challenge, for October 4!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

I am taking a Creative Writing class, and am free-writing every day with themes posed by our instructor.  So, I am going to post my writings here…lucky you!

Today’s prompt: Write a scene that begins with the line, “The pen hadn’t been worth stealing”

The pen, in the end, hadn’t been worth stealing. If he had not stolen the sharpie off the table after the meeting with his top aides, he might not have been tempted to add that extra circle to the map.   A circle meant to add to the number of people who would receive an untested vaccine.  A circle meant to win votes in swing states.  A circle which led to the extended distribution of said vaccine that in the end caused the zombie apocalypse.

2020 Daily Writing Challenge: October 2

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2020 Daily Writing Challenge, for October 2!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

I am taking a Creative Writing class, and am free-writing every day with themes posed by our instructor.  So, I am going to post my writings here…lucky you!

Today’s prompt:  Write about someone discovering a key.

It was buried down deep in the bottom of his pants pocket.  The pair he never wore and she was always begging him to get rid of.  Someone else could wear those, you know.  But he never did.  Pulling them out of the drawer, the odd lump drew her attention, pulling her thoughts from the abyss.

She reached into the pocket and felt the shape of something cold and metallic in her fingers.  Slowly drawing it out, she looked at the small key in the palm of her hand.  She had never seen it before and had no idea what it was a key to.  There were so many boxes full of things in the basement it might unlock, or maybe it was something else, something left at his office, or lost during one of the many moves they made.  How long has it been there?  She couldn’t begin to guess.  The pants had been folded, unworn, in that drawer for as long as they had lived in this house.

Turning the key over in her hand, she thought back to the last time she remembered seeing him wearing these pants.  So many years ago when they were both younger, and thinner,  with no idea of where life would lead them.   No plans written in stone for life, letting it take them where it would.  And it was a great journey.  But none of those memories helped with the mystery of the key. And no key would help unlock the door that had shut his mind to the world, no memory of pants once worn would bring him back.

Sighing, she walked to the bathroom, turned the key over once more in her hand, and tossed it in the trash, and went back to her work.

2020 Daily Writing Challenge: October 1

And now, from Jo Hawk, the 2020 Daily Writing Challenge, for October 1!

A new month, a new try, a new kick at the can for writing here every day.

I am taking a Creative Writing class, and am free-writing every day with themes posed by our instructor.  So, I am going to post my writings here…lucky you!

Today:  Write about a memory of blueberries.

Blueberries themselves don’t evoke a lot of memories in me.  I remember my dad loves blueberries, and we have tried to grow blueberries, but have not been successful yet.  I love blueberries and love them baked into muffins.

Ok, here is a memory for you.  I remember when I worked in the language lab at a university, and my co-worker, Susan, and I, would walk down to the cafeteria in the morning for our morning coffee break, and I would either want a blueberry muffin or a cinnamon bun.  But the problem with cinnamon buns was that sometimes they snuck raisins into them, and I would pile all the raisins on a napkin back in the office where we typically had our break.

Now blueberry muffins were usually safe.  But, I especially liked blueberry bran muffins which you had to be cautious of because sometimes were not blueberries, but raisins again sneaking into the mix and running a perfectly good muffin experience.

I miss eating those muffins.  Not because I no longer work at that university and can not longer avail myself of the delectable coffee treats at the cafeteria, which I don’t know if it even still exists, but because I no longer eat regular muffins, or cinnamon buns, or anything with gluten goodness in them.  And I can tell you from personal experience that gluten free blueberry muffins just aren’t the same.  At least none of the ones I’ve tried over the years.  Too dry and sweet at the same time typically.

No. I miss the days of blueberry muffin gluten goodness.  I also sometimes miss the days of working with Susan in the language lab, the small office where we shared a desk, with windows only on the other side of internal walls, and windows we popped open so we could get air until the janitors came in and riveted them shut again.  Where I finally got my own office, and it was the cassette tape library…yes, our lab had cassette tapes as this was just in the beginning days of computer assisted language learning where we coded the programs in DOS and ran them on big floppy disks.  Ah, those were the days.

I can’t believe thinking about blueberries took me back to those first days of working with educational technology.  And that’s what I still work in today.  Yes, the internet has changed things, as have iPhones and other devices, but blueberry muffins are still the same.  I just wish I could eat them again.