Burnt Offerings

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Writing can be a frustrating task at times.

What happens when nothing is inspiring?

How do you tell a story about your life when your life has become a routine of work, eat, run, sleep?

When the Muse will not descend, you have to look for other ways to keeping putting the pencil to paper.

A few years ago, I lost everything in a house fire including all my sketch pads. When you lose something in that fashion it takes a while to get the urge back. It also set in motion the idea to use the charcoal that my own things had become to come up with new sketches.

Something simple.

Writing has been a chore the last few months as I prepped my book for release so I stuck to fiction writing that can be found on my other blog. Fiction requires inspiration and when that fails, I decided to break out the pencils and try my hand again at drawing.

Charcoal is a great medium for finding the truth in a single bold line.

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From a complex pencil sketch with dozens of lines,

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To as bold an image with a few simple lines.

But as simple as it seems to find a true image of a simple creature it requires a more deft hand to capture the most complex creature of all.

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Bold lines for the boldest of creatures.

So bold that I even framed my favorite piece to hang on an accent wall in my living room.

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Things always seem more easy to understand when you break them down to the basic components of black and white.

So when the urge to write escapes you then just put pen to paper. Or pencil as the case may be.

Canadian Content Laws

Being based out of Canada, land of Degrassi Junior High and Poutine, I feel compelled to share my culture with those of you not fortunate enough to live here.

Every summer there is a festival of buskers in a nearby city. It may be just a Canadian thing but streets are blocked off for miles while street performers of all types ply their trade to the enthralled masses for a few sheckles.

Here for your entertainment, I present the contortionist and acrobat Al Kazam. Before this ending act he had squeezed his body through a squash racquet and contorted his torso around to get his mouth close enough to his own junk that he would never have to wait around till the end of the night at a Country bar on Ladies Night.

The video is brought to you courtesy of my newly minted Youtube channel in conjunction with my Tumblr account that can be found under the account @jackchaser76. Yes, I will admit I am building a platform from which to launch my book but a bonus feature of my Tumblr account is that is the only place to have pictures of yours truly.

Enjoy some Canada.

Race Day

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After what has felt like months of training and suffering and more than one episode of soul searching, its race day.

On June 7th, I will finally be taking part in my first Spartan Sprint.

It has caused me to neglect a lot of things including telling my stories to all of you but in the end it has left me with a level of fitness I have never had before and the body to match it.

So, while I apologize for neglecting all of you, I will be back and hopefully in one piece sooner than later.

Thank you for not abandoning this blog as in the near future I have some super stupid great news to share with every one of you.

Madness

Stanford v Texas

My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my throat. Blood pounding in rushes so strong my ears flared red from the pulse. The clock was ticking down and the ball was moving through out stretched hands faster than the eye could follow. Bodies weaving in a dance set in motion by muscle memory and endless hours of practice.

I glanced at the scoreboard. It was going to be close. Up by five with under two minutes to play.

My team defending well but the ball is just moving too fast. Passed back to the outside. A shot goes up. Damn. Three pointer from the corner baseline. Only up by two.

March has always been the beginning of a season of renewal. The shackles of winter cast off by the warmth of a forgotten sun. Renewal of the trees as the leaves burst forth, renewal of the flowers as their buds scent the air, renewal of the taste of lawnmower emissions on steaks left beside the grill for a half a second too long and an over zealous neighbour.

Renewal of old rivalries.

It had started almost as a joke. My son, the Captain has always had a love for basketball. From his very first Fisher-Price plastic basketball net to the Reebok all black street hoop currently buried under a mountain of snow beside the driveway. He loves it in a way that baffles me.

I could have easily been one of those parents that drilled the things they loved into my kids. Instead, I let them find the things they love and just let them run with it. It might explain why my eleven year old daughter’s hair is turquoise after it was almost black with blonde highlights.

Back up the court and a turnover just past half. My team scrambling back to defend but a step too slow and inches behind as the easy lay up drops. Tie game.

The Captain and I were in the driveway shooting baskets for what felt like hours as he laid out the entire March Madness bracket system. I was really only half paying attention. I was much more focused on the fact I think I had dropped two of the three thousand shots it felt like I had taken through the mesh hoop.

“Who do you think will win?” The Captain asked as he rebounded yet another shot I had missed.

“Who is projected to go first overall in the NBA draft?” I asked as I watched him lay the ball up easily and catch his own rebound.

“Kemba Walker from the university of Connecticut.” The Captain answered in the same matter of fact tone he usually reserves for sports statistics. His knowledge of them baffles me at times. He can tell me the name of the kicker that kicked the winning field goal in the 1996 Grey Cup but can’t remember to put deodorant on after gym class.

“That’s my pick to win the whole thing.” I said with a half a smile. My knowledge of college basketball was limited to the sports highlights I watched over the top of a coffee mug walking out the door on the way to work in the morning.

“Wanna bet?” The Captain asked.

Inbound ball slips through the point guards hands and is shuttled to a streaking power forward who rockets into the air and slams the ball through the hoop. My team looks at each other in search of support and finds it lacking. Thirty-five seconds to play and down by a basket.

“Absolutely,” I answered “What are the stakes?”

“You picked a team so I will do the same. Whoever’s team makes it the farthest wins.” The Captain replied as he drained another long shot. The ball skipped out of my reach and rolled into the street. I stepped toward the ball but the Captain had already picked it up and was launching it toward the rim. It slipped through the hoop and whispered through the mesh.

“What are we playing for?” I asked.

“If I win, you have to clean my room,” The Captain replied with a sardonic smile “If you win, I will clean any room you want.”

“Deal,” I laughed as I plucked the ball from him and lofted it toward the net. It missed by a mile.

The clock ticks can be heard over the hushed crowd. Bodies fly up the court. Open hands are outstretched. Less than twenty seconds now. The defence seems impenetrable. The point guard dribbles hard to his left around a pick and sees the open lane. He drives his foot forward but glances at the time. He pulls back outside the three-point line. Pulls up. Shoots.

It was a tense few days of watching box scores and the non stop barrage of basketball on the television. I could have cared less who won.

The truth is, it was nice to bond with my son over something. As parents , we spend so much time working or doing laundry or getting groceries or worrying over bills that we forget that our kids see us doing everything but paying attention to them. The time they are kids is so fleeting that it slips by in a half a heartbeat. For those couple of weeks in March it was a constant conversation about who and what was happening in the tournament. A barrage of insults and jibes at each other that parents often forget bond you to your kids in ways we long for when they move on in their lives.

The Captain’s team, Duke University lost in the Final Four negating the chance of our teams playing each other in the final game but by that point neither of us cared. We watched the final game together as Kemba Walker led UConn to a national title on his path to being picked first overall in the draft.

Nothing but net.

I can’t say I am proud of it but I sat outside on the step laughing the entire time my son cleaned my truck. It’s always referred to as my office so I figured it was as good a room as any. I wasn’t laughing because he was cleaning out rancid coffee cups or sweaty clothes.

I was laughing because I had already cleaned his room.

The Yes Movement

The simplest of words have always held the most power.

As writers we use a massive vocabulary of verbosity to voice our inner thoughts and convey the message we have to share. Yet all around us is a world of single words and slammed doors. Rejection at every turn.

From the earliest stages of our lives we learn to fear one word answers. From the “No” you get from your parents when asking for something to the “No” you get when you ask that girl you have had a crush on for as long as you can remember if she would go the dance with you there is nothing more crushing than a one word rejection.

We are conditioned to say “no” to anything that makes us feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable. We are taught to say “no” to the things that seem strange to us. We are taught to say “no” to anyone that makes us feel something we aren’t accustomed to.

Saying “no” limits us in every way. It argues for us to limit what we do or think or feel. When we argue for our limitations we get to keep them.

No. That’s too far to travel.

No. That can’t happen.

No. This will never work.

There is a reason that twenty thousand people want to chant a single word over and over at a basketball game. There is a reason people gathered together around the world can easily band together and scream at the top of their lungs. It may have started out as a gimmick for a relatively mid level professional wrestler but its power can’t contained to one venue. On street corners and in high schools. In churches and rooftops. People around the world are chanting a word we don’t hear very often in our lives.

Yes.

The most powerful word in any language is “yes”.

Saying “yes” opens doors to things you didn’t even know existed. Saying “yes” opens you to a world where you have no idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. You are not in control. So say “yes.” If you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back. Now will saying “yes” get you in over your head at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish and dangerous things?

Yes it will.

But don’t be afraid to be foolish. You cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Cynics don’t learn anything. Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no.

Saying “yes” begins everything.

Saying “yes” is how things change.

Saying “yes” leads to knowledge.

“Yes” is for young people.

So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

Say “yes” to a day spent in your pyjamas.

Say “yes” to sing a Britney Spears song at karaoke if you are a guy.

Say “yes” to dinner with your mom even though she picks at the waitress like a tag on a pillow.

Say “yes” some help even when you don’t think you need it.

The next time someone asks you to do something just that little bit outside your comfort zone understand that the magic words that make things happen are not hocus pocus or walla walla washington.

It’s just “yes”.

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The Memory Remains

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Fortune, fame, mirror vain, gone insane but the memory remains – Metallica

The tremors started in my hand when I heard the first scream.

It was involuntary and I reached into my pocket to dig my truck keys into my palm. Hoping in vain that the bright pain would stem the dark tide I could feel washing over me. The tingle of every follicle of hair on my body standing on end was as electric as the ozone after image from a thunder-storm. I watched my daughter and her friend run ahead of me screaming that care free screech of the tether being loosed on childhood. That scream that only two young girls can manifest when their feet are flying over solid ground.

Lights flashed in the periphery of my vision like flashbulbs and I briefly looked over my shoulder to see if the predicted storm had finally broke. A waving hand caught my attention and I turned back to see my daughter frantically motioning me closer. I passed booth after booth of garishly colored animals and mirrors reflecting the swirling bodies around me as I weeded my way closer to them.

The call of carnival barkers broken off by a derisive wave of my hand that I was trying to control in vain. Music pulsed at ear drum shattering levels that seemed to be in time with the pounding in my chest. My internal temperature dropped and I shivered despite the oppressive Indian summer humidity. The breeze kicked up long enough to dry the cold sweat that had broken out on every inch of my skin. A low animal growl of thunder in the distance broke my reverie and I made my way over to the impatiently bouncing girls.

My daughter’s smile briefly quelled the wave of anxiety breaking on the shore of my memory as I saw what she was pointing at.

” We are going in here,” She said in the tone she has that leaves no room for argument and had already kicked off her shoes . Her friend followed suit and I watched in near abject fear as they climbed inside the huge dome of the old-fashioned bouncy castle. It’s red and white stripes dulled by some many seasons of travelling from farmers field to farmers field. I reached out tentatively to run my hand over the mesh on the windows and pulled back as the texture of it felt like spider webs.

I felt the motion of the bodies inside it and heard the screams that you can never be sure are fear or laughter. I leaned my head against it and closed my eyes. The dream came back just as vivid as it had been when I woke violently from it the morning before.

The smell was the first thing I remembered. The musty wetness of damp ground as I walked  the stone bridge to the island I ran the trails on. The leafy canopy of the trees as you stepped on to it shielding me from the early morning spring sun. The trail feeling soft under my feet as I walked slowly towards the field where I always began running from. I started for a moment as I saw I wasn’t alone.

I saw her standing in the full light of day with the gossamer fluff of dandelion fronds dancing around her. Her tanned limbs stretched out to kiss the sun back. A smile broke on her face as she turned on her toes with a dancers grace. Her eyes lighted on me and I could feel my heart hold its breath.

“Chase me,” she called out and turned toward the lushly groomed trail.The turned her whirling hair into a blazing comet’s trail as she picked up speed. My heart leaped into my throat and I bolted after her braying for her to wait like a blood hound on a scent. My arms pumped furiously to drive my muscles to the breaking point and yet she seemed to be gaining speed. The ground felt at times insufferably muddy and other times as barren and harsh as the mountain tops. I chased her over vast fields grape vines and oceans of desert sand. Her musical laughter at my plight causing me to let loose the maniacal giggle that lay trapped behind my gasping chest.

The trees enclosed around the path again as the sun rose high over them. The oppressive humidity causing the air to hang heavily laden with moisture. The horizon I could just make out between the thick limbs began to darken as a storm was building drawn at a maddening rate by the thick air. I could see her toned limbs flash around every corner I passed and I redoubled my efforts.

I came up over a small hill to see a vast field spread out in front of me. Endless miles of wild strawberry flowers lay on the canopy floor giving the first hint of early summer. I saw the whisper of a gossamer shift flicker on the edge of my vision just as I felt a hand cup my own damp palm. My heart hammered once before freezing in that way things do when a moment holds its breath. Long fingers wrapped around mine and I turned my face to see a beatific smile. Her lips grazed over my jaw line and up to my ear where I could feel her heart pounding in the tight pants of her breath.

” Let’s go have some fun,” She teased as she used her nose tip to turn my face to see the huge dome of the bouncy house. It’s striped exterior giving a red tinged hue to its shaded interior. I felt the first drop of rain from the storm before the first massive clap of thunder shook the ground around us. Her smile and laughter dragged me towards the relative shelter as much as her tugging of my hand. Rain spattered the ground like crystal tears as the sun dipped over the tree line and the dark clouds enveloped the sky. Lightning arched through the teeming rain and I heard the same laughter that urged my frantic chase draw me inside the air-filled dome.

I felt hands on the side of my face and eyes lock on mine. I could feel my feet sliding on the wet surface but was held fast by a grip as sure as steel. I was pulled into an embrace that was as safe and warm as anything I had ever known despite the rain that continued to chill my soul. I looked out the spider web style windows to see the last of the fall leaves being lashed away by the gale force winds pounding through the clearing. Lips grazed mine on their way to my ear and a voice breathed over my brain.

“Miles don’t matter and time changes nothing,” Her voice echoed in every fibre of me ” But it’s time to wake up.”

I felt the embrace fade like a shadow in the sun and the rain turned to snow crystals on my eyelashes. I rushed to the woven windows to see her walking back up the path towards the trees. My heart exploded in my chest at the same moment the scream tore from my throat calling her back.

” You going in,” A voice gruff from years of smoking said blandly as I blinked the dream away.  I could hear my daughter and her friend laughing and screaming in that way kids do when they think no one is watching. My hands shook violently and I gripped my keys harder as I gulped down a breath. I shook my vision clear to see a young carnival worker gesturing towards the entrance of the bouncy house. The first drops of rain began to fall as the storm finally broke around me.

” No,” I answered in a near whisper ” Once was enough for me in there.”

It was true. Time does change nothing. The pain may fade. The heart does heal.

But the memory?

The memory remains.