Second Wind

It’s a wonderful feeling when energy returns after I’ve met (and crossed) the point of exhaustion. Demanding on myself and greedy for experience, I prize those moments, and – I have to admit – depend on them.

A much-needed second wind came on Saturday night when I stopped in to the home of Lil Blume to collect my authors’ copies of Letters & Pictures from the Old Suitcase, which Lil co-edited with Ellen S. Jaffe. It was a thrill to see the beautiful book, which contains an excerpt from my second novel, My Luminous Ones, still very much in draft form. Seeing this tentative beginning in print got me dreaming about the future, and ideas and plans began to proliferate despite the inner voice which forever groans: Why bother? It’ll just create more work.

But I didn’t have to wait to see the book; I felt recharged as soon as I walked in the door. Rolf and I shed boots and coats in the hall and found a group of people around a big table, eating, drinking, and fervently talking. I bet everyone in that room was overtired and overcommitted, but the excitement of creating something new, and of being together to celebrate it, trumped all that. It was a great reminder that human accomplishment is not bounded by measurable factors: hours in a day, even years in a lifetime.

This is the pair’s second anthology, collecting essays, fiction and poetry by Jewish authors. Under the name of Pinkingshears publications, they’ve also produced a play and two Jewish literary festivals in Hamilton. I’ve been fortunate to be part of both books, and have loved the sense of community that Lil and Ellen foster. In this bizarrely public-yet-isolated business, it is truly precious.

How much of the literary activity in this world comes from people who don’t have time or energy to do it? I’m full of admiration and gratitude for people who somehow keep coming up with ideas, and somehow keep bringing them into the world.

For instance, have you seen the Advent Book Blog?

It’s a great sources of reading and/or gift ideas, but it’s worth a visit just to admire the creativity, industry and generosity of the folks who put it together.  Contributors are invited to send a 100 — word recommendation for a book, a great writing prompt in itself.

The brilliant and inspiring Kerry Clare took the time to recommend Outside the Box for the site, and a week later I took up the challenge to recommend Ann Scowcroft’s superb poetry collection, The Truth of Houses.

And while I’m in the recommending business, a couple of other poetry collections became dear to my heart this fall. They are The Pillow Books by Karen Mulhallen and The Onion Man by Kathryn Mockler. Both have strong narratives, and both invoke landscapes that brought them especially alive for me. In Mulhallen’s it was the Toronto Island and College Street, while Mockler’s book took me on a trip down a long-grown over patch of memory lane. Like Mockler’s narrator, I spent the summer of my 18th years working in food services in London, Ontario and – in addition to creating an unforgettable character in a few elegant and poignant strokes – The Onion Man brought that early experience back, right down to the hairnet.

Now after all that I wish everyone a restful holiday. I’ll be hibernating.

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