Friday, January 23, 2015

Flowers in January.

It is January, and flowers bloom in my garden. Little pink buttons of promise among the spent wet leaves.  

Dear Blog,

It has been a long time again. I am like the big sister who seldom plays with her younger sibling. Forgive my absence. There was Christmas, of course, and much welcome company (my boy, my best friend, friends for a poker party). Then the matter of trying out a "regular" job; I didn't like that much. Perhaps I've been master of my own time for too long now.

I have discovered the Frank Jameson Community Centre, where I've left much perspiration on treadmills and recumbent bikes. I have enjoyed stand-up paddleboarding (river and ocean), hiking, playing guitar, and singing.

Here I am, below, at my friend Dave's, in Maple Bay. He plays guitar and mandolin. And as his friend, another Dave, would say: Cool 'dat.  

I also went dancing once, at the Queens in Nanaimo, and I remembered how liberating it is to let myself feel the music right down to my bones. 

The new book, I Wasn't Always Like This, is keeping me busy. I have an event-filled tour planned in Saskatchewan and Alberta in March and April, and events closer to home scattered about between then and now. 

I read in Victoria at Fairfield Market with Michael Kenyon, and last weekend I was on the Sunshine Coast for my inaugural Home Salon. My dear friend Jennifer Eberts hosted it in her Roberts Creek home. Fabulous night. I love to hear other people's stories, you see. I begin by reading a piece from the book, then I open discussion up -- via a series of intimate questions I've prepared, and have guests draw at random. The formula worked like a key in a lock. I was enriched, and here's what some of the attendees said about it:
You are an incredible joiner and connector! You walked into a new group and had people sharing very, very intimate parts of their lives. That is a real gift!” — Jennifer, host

 “Thanks, Jen and Shelley, for a SUPER fun evening. Please tell Shelley that I loved her reading! Can't wait to get into the book!” – Nancy, participant

 “There’s nothing like hearing the work of an author in her own voice, and especially in a comfortable home setting … it was terrific to hear other women open up about their lives, too. More than half of them I had never even met before!” – Florence, participant

Hearing people share their experiences was ... well, transcendent. These salons are like an antidote to a culture in which we're often more engaged with our cellphones than we are with the people around us. They were about 15 women in the room, and each was so brave and honest. It moved me. And four of the women cried. I think it went so well because participants were given permission not only to share, but also to feel.

To my knowledge there have not been any print reviews of the book yet: it was just released in December, and reviews are ever harder to get. I have been sharing some reader responses on my Facebook page:

"Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying your book. So far every story is my favourite ... I really love your writing. I've been warring with wanting to savour the stories and read them slowly or devour them as fast as possible." - Aspen Gainer, Youbou, BC

"I've read your book and loved it ... engaging, polished, and thought-provoking. You have certainly been through a lot ... " - Catherine Greenwood, Victoria, BC

"Shelley, I have just finished your book and I loved it ... it's like poetry in every paragraph. Love the way you describe everything. It felt like I was on vacation with you." - Terry McQuillan, Vancouver

"I loved your stories on Hawaii!" - Jennifer Eberts, Roberts Creek, BC

"I really enjoyed your descriptions of SK ... I related to your harvesting experience ...your wanderings triggered a long distant memory." - Emily Thomas, Nanaimo, BC

"I had an overwhelming urge to give you a hug when I finished, and to tell you that you've written something brave and beautiful." - Rachel Dunstan Muller, Ladysmith, BC

"This is a great book. Everyone should own one." - Thanks Mom!!

I have started book reviewing again. Today I received this book in the mail from Random House:

A novel about Daniel Boone, by BC writer Alix Hawley. It's had my attention most of this morning, and I will no doubt be packing it around to my favourite coffee shops in the week ahead.

What's also ahead: a home salon in my very own casa, on February 5th, hosted by Rachel Muller, a writer (Orca Books) and my Wednesday afternoon hiking partner. Then a Tuesday, February 24th event at the Ladysmith Public Library, 7 PM.

Click this link for details:
 Shelley-Ladysmith library2.pdf

2014 saw several major transitions in my life; I hope 2015 will be more settled, and I won't be so much on my own.  A woman at the Roberts Creek salon said that a friend of hers, lonely and single, literally "made space" in her house for a partner. And voila: he appeared.

Yesterday, in a coffee shop, I meditated on this. These are my final words for today:

Dear You

This could be my last life, and too long

since a man said he loved me.

I am in danger of idling,

of no longer believing in the intelligent, adventurous

and especially good-hearted stranger

I will meet by chance on a hiking trail

with his large black dog, or by intention

via a free online dating site.

Is it you, reading this now?

How often I have fallen in love carelessly,

throwing my heart out there

in the wind and rain

to have it lift and fall like a child’s hapless kite.

I believe too much. 

And I have made mistakes.

I have wounded my share. But I am ready now

to prove the words forever after.

Please find me.

Please know how good love feels.

Please crave exploration, in the woods of our island

and in the cities of this world. Be passionate, and sensual.

Let’s just touch each other for hours.

Let’s kiss and make love like each time is our last.

I hope you have fierce energy, wit, and enthusiasm.

Please desire a one-and-only.

Make art and music with me,

or just need and appreciate it.

Most of all, I ask that you be ready.

Live with me, Darling. Too much time has passed.

I promise my whole heart will be yours.

Let our days be rich with gratitude, with awe.

Imagine inspired conversations and laughter.

We’ll wake slowly, drink coffee in bed.

Discuss films, and the news of the world.

We’ll embrace each other’s families

and eccentricities, and we’ll walk everywhere

holding hands.

 -Shelley A. Leedahl