Ian Rankin

Not much time to write this week… and today was busy, capped off with seeing Ian Rankin speak at an event this evening.  Always nice to chat with Ian! Even he enjoyed the story about how we first met… (Second part of the Rankin trilogy that appears in my book)

Confirmation

I wanted to know.  Standing on the edge of the cliff, overlooking all of Edinburgh, I wanted the answer.  Was this Salisbury Crags?  Too bad the weather was blowing in bands of rain with a mad wind.  It all seemed deserted.  No other hiker to answer the question.

But on the far edge of the cliff there seemed to be some equipment and a few people.  My eyes are bad and I couldn’t make out what they were doing but they must know if this was Salisbury.

As I headed towards them I realized it was a small film crew.  Very small.  Camera, crane, piles of gear and only three people.  I ambled up and tried to play the polite Canadian tourist.

“I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and a huge Ian Rankin fan.  Ian wrote in one of his books about a man being thrown off the Salisbury Crags and I’m wondering if you could tell me if these are the Crags.”

Everyone here knows of Ian Rankin, the Scottish writer made famous by his series about the Edinburgh detective, John Rebus.  I prayed these people would take pity on a fan who only wants to stalk the book’s locations.

They looked at me and laughed.

“Ask him yourself… we’re a BBC film crew doing a documentary on Ian and he’s heading up the hill any minute.”

What?

That is how I ended up spending the afternoon with my favourite writer.  Total fluke.  Or fate.  I don’t care.  He is my writing God.  And I got to hang out with him.  From the cliff he pointed out his neighbourhood.  The street he shared with JK Rowling.  “Writers Block” he told me.  Ian wanted to come back to the Vancouver Writers Festival and asked me to plant the seed.  He was chatty, and kind and very very normal.  And he put up with a fan intruding on his film shoot with grace and humour.  A gentleman.

It was so much more than Salisbury Crags.

 

 

Homage

The stage was set.  A car parked under the awning at the foot of the stairs.  A man stood next to it as if guarding the space. This seemed required as many people were beginning to gather.

Thrangu Rinpoche, spiritual teacher and head of this monastery was on his way back to India, his home since his withdrawal from Tibet. We were not sure he would ever return to Vancouver.  His age and failing health were taking its toll. The crowd amassing to wish him safe travels was growing.  We all wanted to get one last blessing before he left us.  I wanted one last smile.

A line formed to pass in front of Rinpoche before he headed down the stairs. I made my way forward.  He put out his hand and smiled, my heart grew. I lightly drew his hand in to touch my face.  A gesture not planned but needed.  I smiled back, content knowing this might be our last meeting.  At least for this lifetime.

After the blessing I moved to the waiting car wanting to catch a final glance as Rinpoche drove away.  I stood by the man still guarding the car door.

The blessings complete, and time to go; two monks helped Rinpoche as he started down the stairs.  All eyes were on him so none of us saw the man standing next to me drop to the ground and lay flat, covering the pavement between the bottom step and the car. As we turned at the commotion there was a collective gasp.

Two Lamas came to his aid and encouraged the man to get up.  Huddling over him.  The man did not move.

It was his obvious intent from the beginning to do this. An extreme supplication.

Rinpoche came down the stairs and with the monks supporting him; he stepped on the disciple’s back and maneuvered into the car seat.  The crowd stayed silent.  The door was shut and a monk patted the man’s back and whispered, “Get up, get up, say good bye to Rinpoche”.

We just watched.

He jumped to his feet as Rinpoche’s window came down.  I was close enough to see their eyes meet.  Both men nodded.  I felt the love pass between them.

The man stepped back and Rinpoche waved to the crowd.  We all bowed.  The car drove away.

The mystery man stood next to me.  He looked content.  I reached out, touched his shoulder and said, “That was lovely”.  He turned and walked away.

I was humbled to be a witness to such homage.

Rinpoche arrives back in India...

Rinpoche arrives back in India…

 

 

Kindness

Kindness is never a problem.

The reaction to kindness is a growing concern.

People don’t seem to know how to handle someone showing them kindness.

A modest “thank you” can usually suffice.

Try this.  Hold a door open for someone. Many people will not know how to acknowledge this simple move. They shrug, mutter something, a few smile, and if you are lucky a few do give a quiet thanks. Now imagine doing something much bigger. If people are not used to the simple acts of help… how can they accept the life-changing ones?

I am a very kind person. Overly kind at times. I step up.  I’m comfortable with this position.  It can cause a few problems but it’s better to deal with being “too kind” than “not giving a shit”.

Some people try to take advantage of my basic nature.  I won’t let them.  I give when and where I want.  I am fully aware of what I’m doing and why.  I am also fully aware of when I fail and when I could do better.

My religion asks and implores me to be kind.  It is an Eastern philosophy and maybe that is why the overriding gestures seem suspect here in the west.  A sad commentary.  If we were all as kind as the Dalai Lama just imagine the state of mankind? Everything would change.

But we don’t all act with kindness…

My religion also asks me to give without expectations.  That’s much harder to do.  Be kind but don’t wait for a “thank you”.  I find this much more difficult but I’m getting better at it. I can also see the rewards. Having no expectations and you will not be hurt. A very valuable lesson.

Don’t always assume there is a hidden agenda to someone’s kindness.  They may be like me; trying to do their best, following their basic nature, attempting to be a better person. Don’t cloud a positive with a negative. Sometimes good is just good. Not everyone has a corrupt agenda.

If someone is kind to you please give them a heartfelt kindness in return.  Whether a friend, family member, co-worker or random person on the street.  A “thank you” can mean everything.

Kindness is a way to live; it is not a commodity to be bought, sold or bargained away.

The best way to react to kindness?   Be kind.

 

Whisky and Beer

I drink whisky and beer.

It’s an odd line to start off my blog.  I’m sitting here in the Mallard Bar up at the Chateau Whistler; I’ve written in my journal, checked Facebook, sent out a tweet and read my emails.  There’s nothing left but work on this week’s blog and this is the best line I can write?

Whisky and beer?

Clearly there are other more pressing subjects to talk about… but in this bar, at this moment, there is only whisky and beer.

Sometimes scaling everything down and blocking out the world is the best option.

And for those who are curious, the whisky is always Glenkinchie, from an Edinburgh distillery, and the beer is either Stella or Blue Buck.  I am predictable.

I’m not a big drinker.  Though for the past few months I have found myself in many bars and lounges, drinking, listening to my favourite music and writing.  Always writing.  It seems many writers end up in coffee shops to scribble or type their words.  I tend to chat too much at my local Starbucks. And I like to write while sipping something a little stronger than a latte.

I also like to watch people.  When I’m not writing I spy.  Right now there is a big crowd around the long curved bar. It looks like a company event. Everyone is talking and laughing. Well everyone except the man at the end. He’s drinking a martini and intently watching the bartender. I wonder about him.

I’m sure there are people here who wonder about me.  What is she doing in the corner, writing in her little book and occasionally stopping to watch the singer?  Yes, I bet they have questions.  A young man comes over and invites me up to the bar for a shooter.  I laugh and say, “No thanks… I’m working, and I only drink whisky or beer”.  He chuckles as he walks away.  A few minutes later he’s back and says he’ll buy me the drink I want.  I smile and accept the offer.

This bar and hotel are famous.  I can imagine a writer taking up residence here.

It would be a life gently filled with writing and whisky and beer.

A Writers’ Conference

How can two accomplished, well-known writers critique the same story and give such different feedback?

One person loved it.  The other told me to change my style and start over again.

This simple fact became the dilemma for my weekend.

I wrote 364 words and they gave 2 opinions.

Which voice will be stronger?  The positive or negative?

Don’t get me wrong, I never expect everyone to enjoy my stories.  That would be silly.  But I’ve been lucky to share my work with readers that appreciate the intent of my thoughts.  Very lucky.

Or maybe most hate the stories and are too kind to say.  Ah, there is the old negative pattern trying to worm its way into my psyche.  This time I won’t let the bad review creep into my thoughts.  I will look the other way.

And let’s be honest.  I don’t think I can change. I write the way I write.  It is my voice. It is who I am.

Over the four days I met with agents, attended workshops, chatted with famous writers, drank with wannabes, learned about “dino-porn” and connected with as many people as I could.  I loved every second of the conference.

I even loved the bad review.  It taught me I won’t be devastated by a negative.

Well at least not this time.

 

Connections

Tomorrow I head to the Surrey International Writers Conference to learn more about the fine art of writing and publishing a book.  The goal is to also make some valuable connections…  (of course I wrote a piece about that very topic)

Connections

Are we all connected?  I don’t know about this.

Sometimes there seems to be the six degrees of separation.  Sometimes it feels like we are all alone.

And what about the fine art of networking?  How does that fit in?

Isn’t it drummed into us that to get ahead these days you need to network? Mine those contacts. Milk each connection. Master the art of making it work. Speak up!

And where in all of this is our basic integrity?

That is the question I keep asking myself.

In a life that craves the magic of everything networking can achieve, how do I do it without seeming insincere and plotting?  How do you balance the need to utilize all the people you know to push your agenda to succeed?  Then there’s the Canadian tendency to be humble and unassuming.  And don’t ever forget I practice Tibetan Buddhism. We are meant to be quiet. We don’t push our agendas.

Where is the balance?

Even with all this contemplation I will continue to connect the dots.  I will always be amazed I get to know the people I know.  Even more shocking is to know the people they know.  It boggles the mind.

Networking…. yes, I do it… and I like to believe I do it well.

We are human, what are we if not people who talk to people?

And if this is true, why at times do we feel so all alone?

 

Stalk

Here is another excerpt from my book “The Long Game”, a memoir told in one page short stories.

Stalk

I stalk my half-sister.  Facebook and Google have made this easy. She has no idea I exist.

Even better, her husband has no restrictions of what he puts up on his pages.  I’ve seen the whole family. I’ve looked at pictures of a nephew I share dna with.  I know his birthdate. My bother–in-law probably thinks he has nothing to hide.  Why would anyone ever stalk him?

I know my half-sister teaches Zumba. I’m not a big fan of Zumba. Funny, she is a little chubby.

As far as I can tell we look nothing alike.

I wonder how she will handle it when she finds out I exist.

One day I will admit I have been stalking her for years.

How could I not?

Only once has my sister put up a picture of her mother, yes, my birth-mother, on her Facebook page.  I think it was to celebrate Mother’s day. This is the only time I’ve seen my mother’s face.  It took my breathe away.

We look nothing alike. How sad.  How appropriate.

And do you want to know an embarrassing fact.  If my mother and her family looked rich and successful I might be tempted to contact them sooner rather than later.  I’m being completely honest here.  If it looked like there was some money involved I might not be able to hold back the temptation to milk that puppy.

But they look average.  From the holiday shots I can see they have an older car and trailer.  They go camping and take trips to the generic holiday places with good but basic sights to see.  Nothing exotic or fancy.

I wonder when the stalking will end.  I will not be surprised to read of my mother’s death on a Facebook update.  This is what it is to live in the world today.

Nothing really remains a secret.  My mother must live in fear each and every day.  Does she scan her daughter’s postings and pray family details aren’t released.

Will everyone be shocked when the truth comes out?

And yes, the truth will come out one day.

Not because I’m mean or vindictive or even curious.

The truth will come out because I’m sick and tired of being discounted.

 

Buddha and I agree…

There is a famous quote attributed to Buddha “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense.”

I am finding the need to repeat this sentiment more and more these days. In doing this I have not always been kind.

The trend these days seems to be towards “trusting” and giving power to the people around us and not listening to our own gut. Even worst, giving power to people not remotely connected to us. There are plenty of “experts” out there with proclamations on what’s best, but do you have to take their every word as gospel?

When did we all start listening to the so-called experts and hey, wait a minute, how come there are so many experts? And why do they all seem to think they know the answer?  Even more infuriating they think they know what’s best for me!  Wait. Maybe I’m taking this a little too personally.

I will admit, few people are telling me what to do. (Who would dare?)

Many of my friends and clients ask my opinion on the advice they are given.  (And when I say advice I mean when they are told to do something) My caution is always the same… get a second opinion, do some research and most of all, trust yourself.  That last one is the key.  Listen to the voice inside your head.

I may have an over-inflated affection for the people around me.  I believe most of them are brilliant. They should inherently know what’s best for them. I have faith in their judgment.

We tend to go astray when we give away our power.  So stop doing that. Know thyself. Trust thyself.  Give yourself the benefit of the knowledge you’ll know what’s right and wrong.

Buddha also said, “Be kind”. So I’ll back away from the computer and stop my rant… for now.

 

My Great Friend

My friend, the famous Andrew Mockler, moved out of my home today.

He’s stayed with me for the last ten weeks while he established himself back into Vancouver’s creative world.

It’s been ten weeks of intense work, hysterical improv sessions, gallons of Starbucks, private concerts, sushi, road trips, long chats, too many Dairy Queen Blizzards and so much more.

If you ever need a break from reality to put yourself in touch with where dreams are possible, open your home and heart to an “Andrew”. Then step back and watch magic happen.

“Andrew” stories feature heavily in my book and some of our adventures together make for compelling essays.

I can tell you our current undertakings have a follow up book brewing on the outer syntax of my mind.  With Andrew you can never guess what is just around the corner.

Trust me, if you want an interesting life, vow to take a leap with a friend like Andrew.  It might scare the crap out of you but you will also know what it is to truly live.

Life can get boring and predictable. Don’t let it. Move towards what might have the power to make you happy.

I’m sure you still have dreams. Follow them.

People come and go in your life. Even friends come and go in your life. Some will leave a huge mark; some will pass with only a whisper. All are valuable.

Some people may be the catalyst to change everything.

There is no end to the “Andrew Chronicles”… it is just the turning of the page with the anticipation of “What next?”

 

End Of Summer

On August 30th I finished writing the first draft of my book, “The Long Game”, a memoir written in one page short stories. The following is one of the final pieces added into the mix…

End of Summer

Yes, you’re right, nothing new has happened.  So why does today hurt more than yesterday? Why at this particular time does the pain have the power to overtake me?

It just does.

Some days are worse.  Some hours are unbearable.  The loss of the children screams louder at certain times.  It hurts everything and comes in uncontrollable waves.  I did not expect the violence of these assaults to carry on. Will they ever stop?

I don’t search out thoughts or circumstances to rip open the wound. Give me some credit; even I’m not that cruel.

My life without the children has become the new norm.

It’s the milestones that remind me this is not normal.

And yes, I should have seen it coming.  This week marks another event I will miss.  The annual visit to the country fair.  A tradition the kids revered. The rollercoaster, cow milking, deep fried Mars Bars, the Super Dog show. Ian’s first taste of Perogies and the year we sat for two hours to watch a calf being born.  Jake having the thrill of seeing the RCMP Musical Ride and meeting Data from Star Trek.  And Ricky, well she loved it all, but her growing love of baby goats meant hours spent in the petting zoo. They all loved the pig races. Each day had to include those crazy pig races.

For four years I spent three days at the end of each summer with some of the best one-on-one bonding time with the kids.  One day each.  Yes, for me a repeat of many of the fair’s classics, but seeing it from each of the triplets eyes made the day unique.

This is how I welcomed them home from their summer at the cottage back east. How we reconnected and deepened our bond. There will be no reconnecting this year.

The fair is on and I’m not at the pig races.

So you’re right.  Nothing new has happened.  And that is what has re-broken my heart.  Today there should have been hours of new memories made with the kids.  Instead I have the task of pretending my heart isn’t being cracked wide open again.