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Remembered Rain

Remembered Rain

When I finally go upstairs in the morning, I can hear the rain pounding on the roof. Good, I think, we need the rain. It’s been much too dry this spring. Even though I prefer sunny days and dry heat, there is something I love about the rain. After breakfast I put on old clothes and go for a walk, barefoot in the coulees. I delight in the mud between my toes and the water on my face. My hands get muddy from holding my dirty flip flops. I look up to the crying sky and remember other rains.

 

I laugh, heart pounding, as our canoe crests another wave. Under my rain gear I’m mostly keeping dry, but I find myself grateful I don’t wear glasses anymore or I would be blind. As it is I trust Mark to steer us well, because it’s all I can do to make out the other canoes nearby. Were I in the back we would be hopelessly lost. I’ve enjoyed our canoe trip more than I thought I would, but now, fighting the waves, feeling the danger of falling, I am thrilled. It might not be a massive storm. It might not be too terribly dangerous. But for a beginner, it’s enough to set my heart racing. As we glide into a space that is sheltered from the wind, I shake my hood off and thank God for the storm.

——-

My feet and hands are cold and wet, but somehow my fingers are nimble enough to tie the ropes that hold the sweat lodge together. I think we must be an interesting sight, the men holding the branches fast as the women tie them, but we have to move quickly and I don’t have time to step back and look at us working there. When I am not busy, I watch the sweat lodge come together and wish it would stop raining.

I kneel on the floor near the opening of the tent, in line with the opening of the sweat lodge where most of our site is sitting. Those of us outside are spending time in prayer and wondering what exactly is going on inside. As time wears on and the flap of the lodge opens and closes periodically, I grow cold. It may be warm nearer the fire, but I don’t dare move even to grab my coat. Something pulls at me – I won’t leave my spot until everyone is out of that tent. Cold air blows on my back and I fancy that despite the shelter I can feel the rain.

When everyone has left the sweat lodge I step outside to make room for those in line for their food. Steam rises from their bodies and when they too come outside it seems like the rain hardly touches them. I understand the feeling – I never liked the idea of that sweat lodge – and for a moment I too feel like skittering away from them. But the moment passes, and I am cold and curious, and it doesn’t bother me to move closer.

——-

It’s drizzling like it does practically every day here. I’m getting used to the constant rain already, but I’m glad I live somewhere sunnier most of the time. Still, there are things to enjoy about rain. For instance, the rain means nobody is outside to see me when I spread my arms and run along the path from main hall to cabin, pretending to be an airplane. I delight in the speed and the raindrops on my face and I giggle to myself like a child, enjoying not being quite a grown up yet.

——-

It’s not really raining, exactly, when we wake up in a cloud.

——-

Just because we spend most of our day in caves, sheltered from the rain, doesn’t mean we don’t get wet. I’m glad for my raincoat and the set of coveralls that provide and extra layer of warmth even though I’m wet to the bone. Nobody seems to really care today that it’s raining and sometimes cold – we explore every possible route and race each other though the tunnels. We roam over the outside of the mountain and peer at slugs and lizards. Then, cold and wet but thrilled, we collapse in the vans and prepare for the last event of the day: the race to the showers.

——-

We’ve only been in Africa for a day, and we’re currently exploring a mall, where we can buy phones and call home and drink bubble tea and get used to the time zone. It was warm this morning but as I leave the bookstore I glance outside and see that it seems cooler. Soon enough, rain starts lashing at the windows. I can see the trees outside bending from the force of the wind. I sip my bubble tea and internally bemoan the fact that I’m experiencing my first African rainstorm from inside.

——-

The storm outside brings everyone to the doors. We gather underneath the sheltered parts of the courtyard and at first we just watch. I can’t remember who starts it, who first runs out and starts spinning, but I remember joining them. We grab hands and spin together, leaning out and trusting our connection. Laughter bubbles up inside and pours out of us as we turn and turn until someone calls us back. After, drenched, I play Émilie’s Song on the broken piano, just to know what it sounds like out of tune in a thunderstorm.

——-

We come back from our work in the storerooms dusty and tired, and the afternoon shower is just starting. I stay outside in my dirty clothes and let the rain fall on me.It doesn’t take much to convince others to come out. We take advantage of the uneven ground, jumping in the puddles and letting the splashes turn the dust on our legs into muddy tear tracks.

——-

It was a beautiful sunny morning as we hiked along the coastline, enjoying the views and anticipating the pizza. Now, the pizza has been consumed and we’re left to explore Coffee Bay. We get down to where the river meets the ocean just in time to get across dry, and instead of wandering too far, we sit on the rocky beach and watch the waves. And as we watch the rain rolls in again. Looking out on the ocean, seeing the wind drive the waves to greater heights, the drops on our heads don’t seem to matter.

——-

I’m near the front of the long line of students who want to enter Lesotho, so I have a while to wait once I get through. I’m not much good with pictures, so I only try a couple of times to get that perfect lightning shot. But I do stand with the others, looking through the fence at the hills where you can see that it’s storming. When we get back on the bus, I sit in the front and watch the countryside and little villages go by, waiting and hoping we’ll drive into the rain.

——-

Storms escalate quickly here. One minute we’re standing out behind the buildings, watching the storm come to us, and the next it’s too windy to hold our plates and everyone is being called under cover. The rain starts, torrential, and the wind rushes across the semi-enclosed area made by the buildings. The tent goes flying, a sheet of metal whips off the roof, almost taking off heads. We watch the wreckage while we eat, caught by the sheer power of the storm. Then, as quickly as it came, it has passed, and we can watch the lighting as it moves away from us, into the distance behind the hills.

——-

My stomach is full and I’m starting to get warm despite being outside in the rapidly cooling night. I curl up in my sleeping bag and pull it over my head, arranging myself carefully so that I’m protected from the water dripping from the roof. It takes a while to get comfortable on the rocky floor of the cave, but I’m tired and that helps. I fall asleep to the patter of raindrops and when I wake up in the morning to the fog lifting off the mountain, the sound is still there.

 

When I finally go upstairs in the morning, I can hear the rain pounding on the roof. Good, I think, we need the rain. It’s been much too dry this spring. Even though I prefer sunny days and dry heat, there is something I love about the rain. After breakfast I put on old clothes and go for a walk, barefoot in the coulees. I delight in the mud between my toes and the water on my face. My hands get muddy from holding my dirty flip flops. I look up to the crying sky and thank God for the rains.

 
 

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The Backpack

I’m in my room ,listening to Phantom of the Opera and doing cleaning I should have done two weeks ago, when I see it. Flattened on the floor in a corner, blue and forgotten already. I pick up my hiking backpack and shake it out, straightening the straps before I set it on my bed and just look. It’s completely empty, has been for almost a month now. It’s been a while since I pulled the last odds and ends out of the bottom and asked where I should store it. Now I’m glad I haven’t put it away just yet, because it sits here, daring me. A woven bracelet hangs from one of the straps. The day pack is dusty with African dirt still. I suddenly see the appeal of having dirt from places you’ve been. The dirt on my bag reminds me of Stellenbosch, walking about barefoot everywhere, getting covered in dust and paint in Kayamandi, going to bed with dirty feet and legs and waking up with a dusty sleeping bag and red dirt on the mattress. I loved it there.
As I pick up a shirt to re-fold it, I’m tempted for just a second to pull my clothes out again and roll them tightly and stuff my bag full again. My first aid kit is still intact – I carry it in my purse now in case of emergencies. My toiletries could be packed in seconds, my sleeping bag in a minute, maybe. I could grab a journal and just go. The lure of moving again, of heading somewhere I’ve never seen before, not knowing what to expect, is strong. Practicalities hold me back: my family, money for school next year, nobody to go with. Besides, I know I like where I live. Southern Alberta is definitely a part of me, and it holds all the treasures of home: friends and family, my books, old haunts. But part of me itches to do something, to move and learn and see new things. I know where I would go.
I’m tempted to sort through my clothes, to take ones I don’t need every day and pack them up again, to set my bag by my door just in case I get the chance.
But I won’t. I’ll find a place to keep it that isn’t too inaccessible, but I won’t pack up just yet. I’ll look at it and remember the value of every day I had travelling Canada and South Africa, and I’ll remember to find adventures that don’t require backpacks for now. One day I’ll pack it up again.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Little Adventures

 

Okay

tell me the lies I love

She falls off the swings when she’s eight and while she cries her father holds her and says “hey, you’re good, you’re fine. Everything will be okay. Tell me what hurts, baby. It’s okay. You’ll be alright.” But they go to the hospital and her arm is in a cast for weeks and she thinks that that’s not quite okay.

Her first boyfriend dumps her in front of her friends when she’s fifteen. Her mother rubs her back when she tells her about it and murmurs “it’s all okay, girlie, you’ll find someone. It just takes time, you’ll see. It’ll be okay,” But her friends start to drift and his friends are rude to her, and she doesn’t feel like she’s okay.

She refuses to call home for the third time this week because it isn’t an emergency, But she has this feeling that something is going to go wrong. Her best friend makes her tea while she frets and points out “there’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure everyone at home is fine, just relax. It’s okay, nothing is wrong,” But then her mother calls her and her grandmother is dying and she’s pretty sure this is not okay.

The economy isn’t that great right now and she knows, just knows that cutbacks are coming and she hasn’t been working long enough to keep her job. Her husband holds her while she worries and reassures her “hey it’s okay. You’re great there, love, I’m sure you won’t lose your job. But even if you do, we’ll figure something out. It’s all okay, just watch.” But she does lose her job, and he barely hangs on to his, and they have to put off buying a house, and how will they support the baby and how is this okay?

She cries a bit as she helps her son pack for university. Will he eat? Will he study? Will he find friends? Her boy grins at her and says “hey Mom, I’ll be fine, you know that, right? I promise to eat my vegetables and study and whatever. And I’ll see you at Christmas, okay?” But the house seems so empty without him and he doesn’t call as often as she would like, and she is almost but not quite okay.

Her husband starts having memory trouble, so she takes him in for a medical evaluation. She sits with her head in her hands as she listens to the diagnosis and thinks of what he would say if he knew how she was feeling right now. “Whatever it is, it could be worse. We’ll get through it together, promise. It’ll all be okay.” But the Alzheimer’s progresses and he doesn’t remember her anymore and he can hardly do anything for himself and she knows they aren’t okay.

She’s lying in a hospital bed and it’s hard to breathe, hard to think. Her son and his family are in the room with her, her little boy all grown now and holding her hand gently. It’s her daughter-in-law who whispers to her, choking back tears “We’ll be okay, Mom. We’ll see you soon. We love you. It’s okay.” But as she uses her breath to whisper her love back, she wishes she had enough to tell them that it’s okay not to be okay.

 

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Father Says

It’s very warm out today. It’s too warm to go out and play, and Jilly and I don’t want to anyways because when we go outside the dust blows in our faces and it feels like we’re choking. Father says the land is breaking up, because there hasn’t been any rain out here. I don’t like it.

I want to go home. Back home the land isn’t breaking up. Father says we can’t go back, though, because of the Mayor. When we left, Father told us why. Father is very good to us. He tells us everything, even when other people’s fathers say we’re too small to know, because he says we need to be strong and we can’t be strong if we’re too little to know things. He told us what happened.

He said when he was little, he had a younger brother called Yarrow. Kind of like me and Jilly, he said, only Jilly and I are friends, and he wasn’t friends with Yarrow. He said Yarrow was kind of mean, and he was really mean to a girl named Lacey and that girl was the Mayor’s sister. The Mayor didn’t really like Yarrow because he was so mean to his sister, and even one time he hurt her really bad, but he couldn’t do anything about it because Yarrow was lots bigger. Only now, the Mayor is the Mayor, and he has lots of power, so he wanted to get back at Yarrow for hurting his sister. Father said that when the Mayor started being Mayor, he had the Agency pick up Yarrow and they sent him away too. Father calls it exile, and he says there are rules, like when they send someone away from the city, they have to give them enough food and other things so that they can make it to an oasis or a village.

Only Father says we’re not supposed to be in exile. He says that the Mayor sent us away because Yarrow was Father’s little brother, except Father never did anything to the Mayor’s sister or to the Mayor or even to anyone. Father didn’t say the last part but I know it’s true because Father is the nicest person ever and also because I heard people in the city saying how he was a good man and had never done anything bad. Even Miss Annabelle at the corner shop said we shouldn’t be exiled and she doesn’t like anyone. Father never even talked to his brother once they grew up. He says it was because he was ashamed to be connected to him. I don’t really understand that part, but it’s not important. What’s important is that we didn’t even do anything, but we were exiled anyways. When Father told us, I said that’s not fair and he said I was right. Then he told me a big word that means that it’s not fair. He said our exile is an ‘injustice’.

So there. I asked why we couldn’t go back, if it was an injustice, and Father said it’s because the Mayor wouldn’t let us. But he said that it doesn’t matter. He told us we couldn’t change other people, even if they weren’t fair. Father always says that we can only control ourselves. He told us about the Samuel Mason Family, and how they were exiled a long time ago before I was even born, but after Father was grown up. He said it was also an injustice, but that they got really mad at the city and didn’t want to leave. Of course, the Agency picked them up and left them outside the gates. He says they had all the things we did, but that instead of looking for a new home, they just set up outside the city and stayed there. I asked why they did that and he smiled like he does when I ask smart questions. Then he told me. He said that Samuel Mason was a very little man and that he worried a lot about what people said about him. I asked why it mattered that he was little and he said he didn’t mean little like me, like short. He said he meant little in spirit. Then he said anyways, he was really worried about what people said about him, so he stayed right outside the gates to show people that it was an injustice, because he didn’t want people to think of him as an exile. After a long time, they ran out of food and things because they wouldn’t take any help from the caravans. Father told us how even one time he went with some friends to try and help them and they brought more food and other important things because they had run out. But even when it was his friends trying to help him, he didn’t want to take anything. Father says Samuel Mason tried to hit him and his friends and yelled and made them go away. I don’t know why he did that, because if I was Samuel Mason and someone tried to help me I would let them -especially if Jilly was with me because I need to keep Jilly safe too. I thought maybe he would need to keep his family safe, but Father says Samuel Mason never thought about that. Anyways, eventually, the rest of the family left with a caravan because they couldn’t live out there and Samuel Mason died.

Father says we are not going to be like the Samuel Mason Family. He says that’s because we know who we are. He told me and Jilly that we were going to leave instead of arguing because we knew the truth. He says if we know that we didn’t do anything wrong, then it doesn’t matter what everyone else says. He says that’s why we’re moving on and finding a new home. Inside of me, Father says, I’ve got a little picture of myself. He asked me what that picture looked like and I told him. Pretty much it just looks like me. I am not very tall, but I am strong for a little person. I have blonde hair and blue eyes and freckles, and I like to smile a lot even when the land is breaking up. Father said that’s a good picture. He says it shows that I have lots of self-respect -Father says respect is when you have good manners with someone-  because I think I’m strong. He says knowing that we’re strong is what lets us move on ‘independently of other’s encouragements’. I didn’t know what that meant so he said it meant ‘without other people telling us we can do it’. But he also said that’s what let us take help from the caravan that came by, because it’s not weakness, it’s just that we need to because of the injustice that happened to us.

I don’t really like it out here. I don’t like that the land is breaking up and that it’s too dusty and warm to play outside of the wagon with Jilly. I think it’s alright, though. I don’t think it matters that there was an injustice. I’m strong, and so are Jilly and Father, and we’re all together. That’s all that matters.

 

 

I wrote “Father Says’ for a school essay in Grade Twelve. It’s become one of my favourite stories to read out loud because of the childish voice. The narrator isn’t very defined, on purpose. I put this at the end so I can tell you: in my head they’re a boy, seven or eight years old. Did you read it as a boy or a girl? How old are they?

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in From My Pen, Short Stories

 

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Imagination’s Lament

Imagination’s Lament

An old poem of mine. I put it into a collection of poems for my family and friends a couple years ago, and my good friend Tori drew a gorgeous picture for it, which I love and enjoy showing off.

You were here again today,

In my world, so far away

From yours.

So far away, yet so near

To everything that you hold dear.

Not me…

It’s hard to see the sky some days.

Without you it’s the gloomy grey

Of clouds.

Remember how we used to be?

We played and laughed, so carefree

And young.

Now you grow old, leave me behind

For you have someone else you’ll find

Somewhere.

I’m nothing but a fleeting fancy,

A pastime for when you grew antsy

Before.

I always wished that I was more –

But you just went and closed the door

On me.

You’re leaving now, you think forever

But this time I think I know better

Than you.

You’ll be back again someday

Here in this world so far away

With me.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in From My Pen, Poems

 

And Then You Dance

I wrote this last September, thinking about different occasions that call for dancing. One morning in Mdumbi I read it out loud, accompanied by Nathan R, a pastor who was visiting our outtatown site. It was an experience that will never be replicated, and I’m very grateful I got that opportunity.

Today is good.

You’re sitting with a picture book

teddy in your lap –

this is the life.

And it comes to you slowly,

filters into your mind;

you stand up and catch your balance,

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and at the end all-fall-down

with laughter and smiles.

 

Today is good.

You’re walking, just wandering,

sun on your face –

feeling alive.

And it sneaks up just quiet,

you find yourself humming;

you throw your head back and arms out

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and slowly spin to a stop.

This is beauty and joy.

 

Today is good.

Vows are being solemnly said,

happy tears in your eyes –

the start of a new life.

And it’s just there, but not sudden,

you stop talking to listen;

you reach out hands to be held

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle

you jump and you twist

you headbang and air-drum,

and after one song, the next,

and long-lasting joy.

 

Today is good.

You’re just doing dishes,

soap-suds on your hands –

this is life.

And it’s been on all evening,

but this song is different;

you shake your hand dry

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and then, back to dishes,

just a break in routine.

 

Today is pretty good.

You’re just driving home,

ache in your heart –

but you’re still alive.

And it hits you like a freight train,

that song that is theirs

you have to pull over and climb out

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and crumple to the ground

with bittersweet tears.

 

That Day will be Good.

You’ll finally be Home,

Love will surround you –

You’ll be truly alive.

And it will be sudden

yet not unexpected,

you’ll bask in His presence

and then you will dance:

You’ll sing and you’ll giggle,

you’ll jump and you’ll twist,

you’ll headbang and air-drum,

and when you can’t dance you’ll sing:

and this Forever.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in From My Pen, Poems

 

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Like a Shadow

no one has noticed I’ve slipped away from the party

I much prefer it out here. It’s quieter, more peaceful, there’s no pressure to be someone I’m not. I can take off my shoes – they’re uncomfortable anyways. I sit on the edge of the patio and turn my back to the house, looking instead into the dark night. Tilting my head up, I stare at the stars and try to tune out the noise from inside. I relax and let go of the feeling of being surrounded all the time.

I prefer the sounds of the crickets and of the occasional car going by to the blaring music and raucous laughter inside. It’s just too loud for me in there. I prefer being alone with my thoughts to having to make conversation. People always ask about the life I should have but don’t actually, and I don’t like trying to explain that I’m okay the way I am. Not that I feel inadequate. I don’t. I like my life, but I don’t like defending it. People never understand.

I much prefer being alone out here to wandering from one conversation to another, never speaking. I could join in, of course, but I rarely find a topic I feel I can speak authoritatively on. It’s easier just to listen, or to slip away and think about the really important things. I’m too serious, and nobody really cares to hear about those kinds of things. I like it out here better.

I much prefer the cover of darkness to the glare of light inside, to the knowledge that people are looking at me, if not for me. There’s not much too look at. I’m plain in comparison to the others here. I don’t bother with the makeup or the elaborate hair. I don’t want to spend more money on something I won’t be comfortable wearing. My dress is in fashion and I’m clean and neat – I’m not here to make a statement. People just notice I have nothing to say and move on quickly.

I much prefer it out here, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m choosing to be alone – I’m sure I could talk with a few of the guests if I wanted to. I’m choosing to think – I’m sure they would welcome my input in a few of the conversations I overheard coming out here. I’m choosing to leave – I’m sure people have noticed and just understand that I want some time to myself. The noise from inside is suddenly louder, and I hear a familiar voice nearby – someone has opened the door and stepped outside. I know them. Have they come looking for me? They never realise that I prefer – oh. Never mind, they’re just getting more drinks. I think I’m visible from there, but they don’t say anything. The noise swells again, then is muted as the door shuts once more. Good.

I much prefer it out here.

 

 

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