Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Physical Space Between

I was in Wal-Mart the other day and something interesting happened. I was standing in line to check out, and amid the busy lineups, children crying and bright lights, I noticed something.

A man was walking from the opposite end of the checkout toward me. I didn't think anything of it; I didn't think he was walking toward me. I saw that he was walking toward the woman in line behind me. Before he walked up to her, before he said anything to her, I could tell that he knew the woman behind me. I think that's why I didn't think he was walking toward me - because he walked in a way that signified closeness; he walked in the way you would walk toward someone you knew.

How do I describe this? It was really cool, like the space between them was connecting them. His body language relaxed as soon as he met the woman's eyes. He was communicating with her before he even spoke to her.

That got me thinking. I wondered at how different our body language is toward people we know versus complete strangers. Even more specifically, how different our body language is toward people we know quite well (co-workers, acquaintances) and people we know on a more intimate level (family and close friends). The gap of physical space between two people who know each other well seems calmer, smaller, softer, sweeter, as it closes in. The gap between people who don't know each other, well, it is more solid and less noticeable because we expect gaps of space between us and those we don't know.

I understand the concept of body language. Of course, we can read so much more about someone by looking at what their body is saying than by hearing them speak words. In this case, the body language went a step further and stretched out into the space between two people, as though that space was alive with something. A space - nothing - full of something.

I'm going to the mall today, and now I can't wait to observe more people and the spaces between.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Comfort Maple

Preposterously, I have only recently learned of the Comfort Maple, a tree gracing a plot of land in Pelham, believed to be the oldest sugar maple tree in Canada. It's approximately 500 years old. Wow. "Born" approximately in and around 1500. Perhaps it was even a tiny seedling when Christopher Columbus discovered America.

Anyway, Joel told me about the Comfort Maple when we were out for a drive, several weeks ago. We were on Cream Street in Pelham, but we must have been on the wrong section of Cream Street or something because we didn't actually get to it that day. I thought, oh well.

Yesterday, I went for a drive as something to do with Emmett. One of my favourite aspects of the fall colouring in the Pelham area, which I am lucky to live very close to, is the way the bright colours of the leaves seem to turn the entire sky, the entire daylight, brighter than usual. Like someone turned an extra light on.

My navigational skills are incredibly lacking (usually when I think I'm going the right way, I'm not. Sadly, that has ironically become my navigational strategy: go the opposite way that I think is the right way). I ended up bee-bopping up and down various roads, until I was on Balfour Street and decided to turn right on Metler. Then I saw the sign: Comfort Maple.

I drove down the little drive to where the tree stood. Majestic. Absolutely huge. Old. Strong.

I read the sign, which described a little history about the tree: it had been preserved by the Comforts, who had owned that property for generations. It was dedicated to a family member named Earl. At the bottom of the sign was the statement, "O Lord, how glorious are thy works."

With my hands still wrapped around the steering wheel, a light drizzle pattering across the windshield, and no one else in sight, I felt comforted. Comforted that such an old tree was still alive. Comforted that we have such a powerful God who created things that can be alive for 500 years. Comforted by the beauty of the gnarled branches, the thickest trunk I've ever seen, the bright yellow leaves gingerly leaving the tree to rest on the ground. I wondered at how many seasons this tree has seen, how many lifetimes this tree has lived.

O Lord, your works are truly glorious.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Um...and Similar-Sounding Pause-Fillers

Most of us do it. We say "um" or "ah" or something like it, to fill in those awkward pauses within our sentence-making. Perhaps we aim to sound fluent or speak beautifully, but usually our brain breaks in between strings of words and we draw that horrible know, that place where we need to stop briefly and think about what to say next (which is a good thing!). Most of us aren't comfortable with an actual pause - we feel the need to fill the pause with sound, which ironically ends up being a non-word such as "um" or "ah".

I went to Niagara College with a delightful colleague who was originally from Nigeria. When she was doing a talk in front of the class, she, like most of the rest of us, uttered the occasional "um." No one thought twice of it. What I and a couple of my carpoolers found out on the way home from school that day (she was in the carpool, too) was that she actually thought that was what you were supposed to do, here and there, while speaking, in English. So she learned to start talking that way, too.

Huh. So enough people say enough "ums" that to someone whose second language is English, these "ums" are deemed a deliberate part of the language.

I laughed. I thought, how funny. I was immediately self-conscious of all the "ums" and "ahs" and the like that flow from my mouth every time I talk...which is a lot. Yuck. I wish I sounded more fluent.

I also learned that if you omit the "ums" and just stop for a minute, you actually do sound a little more fluent, and the pauses are actually quite attractive! I think they command attention. It reminds me of the simple yet strong speech the Lord of the Rings characters all have.

Don't get me wrong. It's been like six years since I've been in that course at Niagara College, and I've spent the better part of those six years adding thousands of "ums" to my "um" tally (I'm assuming there is a tally somewhere in my brain; I just don't happen to know the total off-hand)...but I was thinking about it the other day and I thought I'd try to practice the so very classy and attention-commanding pause. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Music is so abstract. It's tangible, but you can't see it. You can visualize it, but you can't really touch it. You can hear it and even when you can't, you can still feel it inside. You can taste it as though it was full of flavour or hear it with grave distaste. Music can force you to move even though it isn't there physically pushing you. Music is so abstract.

I want to sing. I want to project the happiness, the passion and the emotion already emanating from the sound. The sound. I want to express the sound I hear myself. I want to create my own music. You can't see how I make the sound - you can only hear it. Oh, the mystery and the melody of sound. Normal sound taken to a new level. A breakthrough. The same way that singing is a on a different level than speaking, musical sound is that of another plane of reality.

Could we survive without music? Or would we be zombies with pasty gray complexions, wandering monotone across the scales of life? Maybe we would still live; maybe our hearts would slowly beat - but our emotional centres would be hollow. We'd have no radio industry, no performances, no soundtracks, no recording equipment, no instruments, no night clubs, no dance classes, no movement, no expression, no vibrancy, no colour, no inspiration...

...could we survive?

I can't see music, but I can feel it moving people around me. I can't reach out and touch it, but somehow it has reached out and touched my soul. Music.

Check out some of my and my sister's music (Zusters):

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Baby and the Dog

I have a two-year-old Jack Russell named Lucy and a five-month-old baby named Emmett. Today they really bonded. I've never heard Emmett laugh as hard as he did today, watching Lucy run around the living room and jump on and off the couch. Thank goodness for the simple things in life that make us smile and laugh...oh, the sound of a baby laughing!

This made me wonder, though, why did a dog make Emmett laugh harder than I or my husband could make him laugh? She didn't even try. She doesn't even know that she was being funny (to a baby). When Lucy jumps around like that, I get annoyed. I definitely don't find it hysterical. Is a dog running around a very simple form of humour? One that adults, in their advanced stage of cognitive development, can't appreciate anymore?

What is it in our brains that make us find things funny? What tells us to make the laughing sounds? Not to mention the fact that I'm pretty sure adults can (usually) control our laughter, whereas babies sure can't. They just let themselves pretty silly things.... Babies also seem to laugh at things for some time before they can generate their own humour. soon as a baby starts shrieking for joy, I can't help but laugh myself.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OK I'm Finally Doing It

So I know people have been blogging for quite some time now, and I know someone like me (someone who loves to write!) should have hopped on the blogging bandwagon a long time ago. However, here we are today, October 12, 2010, and I've finally done it. I've created my first blog. Better late than never.

I love to think and I love to wonder and I have more spare time than I've had in years, so I'm going to take a stab at it. The last time I wrote consistently about whatever places my musing mind took me was in OAC Writer's Craft. I'm pretty excited to have created a new outlet, here and now.

Here we go.