Category Archives: Slice of Life

Ebb and Flow

One of the happiest accidents of my birth is that I was born along the New Brunswick shore of the Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the world.  (How high?  Try 54 feet in difference between high and low tide at the head of the Bay, and about 28′ where I live.)

When you are born beside the sea, it becomes a part of who you are, and when you live along the Bay of Fundy, you are used to watching the water height, even if you aren’t conscious of it.

Driving across the Harbour Bridge, you register how far up or down the boats are in relation to the dock.  And — because of those incredible tides (160 billion tons of water flowing into the Bay each tidal cycle!) — you get used to seeing the local river speeding up, slowing down, stopping, and changing directions.   You usually have an intrinsic sense of how close the moon is to one of its two extremes (new moon or full moon) based on the height of the two tidal extremes, and your inner compass points to the sea.

Life along the Bay teaches you that everything is in a state of change; nothing remains exactly the same.  Treasures disappear, and new ones appear in their place.  If you need to centre yourself, a deep breath of salty air will refresh you, and the exhalation will take away the stress.  And if you aren’t paying enough attention, you’re likely to get your feet wet.

Most of all, the incessant pulse of the sea reminds you that there are things that can always be counted on: the water will return, covering the seaweed and the sea creatures that rely on it.  None of the worries we humans carry with us can stop the surge of the sea.

Nothing — the highs or the lows — lasts.  And those automatic glances out the car window as I drive high above the water remind and reassure me of just that.

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

All I Need is a Miracle

Born in 1970, I am firmly in Generation X, and the 1980s were the years in which I largely became the person I was until 2012.  (Long story:  Buy a copy of my memoir when I finish writing it and it’s released upon the world. 🙂 )

I began writing in earnest in 1980, as a homesick ten-year-old, and became more and more prolific as the years ticked by.  In those days, music was a huge part of my creative process, whether I knew it or not.  Songs would set something off inside my head, and I’d be off and writing.

Somewhere along the way (likely around 2012) I forgot about that.

This afternoon I was thinking of something I would like to do, but the finances just aren’t there.  I chuckled and said to myself, “All I need is a miracle,” and suddenly the song by Mike + The Mechanics was in my head.

All at once I remembered the short story project I had done in the summer of 1986, when I’d bought that album.  Each song on the album had inspired, in parts big or small, a matching short story with the same title.  I called it a “literary album,” and I really enjoyed it.  I had done something similar with a-ha’s Hunting High and Low the previous spring.

Writing this memoir has been really hard work, for so many reasons.  First of all, I primarily write short stories, so a book-length manuscript feels daunting.  Secondly, I am not that experienced with writing nonfiction, so pulling together all of the material and organizing it before I even start writing feels like a lot of “hurry up and wait.”  And then there’s the topic itself.  Relieving what was easily the most difficult period of my life is, well, difficult.  But it’s important that it be written, not just for me but for other who find themselves in a similar position, and so I’m not giving up on it.

But I need to remember what it was like to write for fun.

So I am sitting here listening to Mike + The Mechanics, remembering the characters in my short stories from when I was sixteen.

I think I will take myself on a little trip in a musical time machine, and see what a song can bring out of me in the next couple of days.

Just for fun.

My Duran Duran collection will probably be the well from which I draw.  You could say I’ve been a fan for a very long time.

Photograph of the Writer; Christmas 1984.

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

Unexpected Joy in a Little Blue Envelope

The last month or so I’ve been feeling exhausted.  Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, all the personal adverbs … exhausted.  And I know I’m not alone.

Although I do my best to go through my days singing Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” to my cats and dog (“I get knocked down, but I get up again…”), the getting up is getting slower and more difficult each day.  And today was grey and dismal, and just one of those days when the cats were sniffing me for signs of life, and the dog gave up on trying to get me to the car.

And then I checked the mail, and the sight of a little blue envelope with my name on it lit up my face like Broadway.

One of the best things to come out of this past year is that I have found a wonderful community of teacher-writers through Jen Laffin’s Teach Write.

These friends — and they are friends — are spread out around the globe, but we get together via Zoom to write and brainstorm together at sessions like Time to Write and Wake Up and Write.  Outside of those sessions, it’s not unusual for us to reach out to each other via text, Facebook Messenger, email, and — yes — snailmail, like tangible blue envelopes that arrive as complete surprises on the days we seem to need them the most.

Besides reading the fun message about my ever-changing names on Zoom (there are two Karens, so I mix up my moniker regularly) and the other kind words contained within, I really enjoyed the variety of stamps!

The intense gaze of the big cat is definitely my favourite, but the grouping  itself truly makes me smile.  In a way, it reminds me of Time to Write, where we are all different but similar, beautiful souls, who come together to get us where we need to go.

We get knocked down, but we get up again … and We get by with a little help from our friends.

Thank you, my dear teacher-writer friend in Texas.  Your little blue envelope today was exactly the outstretched hand I needed, and you are a blessing.

Love, Karen

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

A Grove of Crows

I come by my love of black-feathered birds naturally.  Long before I knew that my Danish maiden name literally translates to “crow grove”, as a child I would spend hours watching and listening to the raucous birds in the trees around me.

My goodness, they are smart birds.  My fascination with them has only grown into admiration as time has gone on.  At my favourite beach, I have a friend I call Charles; he used to come to sit on a sign post when he saw my car each day.  Unfortunately COVID-19 has disrupted this ritual, along with so much else.  I was sad when I didn’t see him there yesterday.

Today as I sat writing at my desk, I had a feeling I was being watched.  A glance out the window showed me why: a crow was sitting in the branches of the nearby tree, looking in at me — or, more accurately, at my lunch.

His (her?  their?  I didn’t want to presume) head cocked back and forth.  I smiled and shrugged helplessly, gesturing to the window between us.  With a disgusted caw, the bird gave one last head tilt and took off for less-daft human company.

The chances of it being my friend Charles are very slim.  (I live nearly 8 km / 5 miles from the beach, as the crow flies.)

But let’s pretend anyway.

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.