Norma Mary Hartery Berkshire

– by Albert Berkshire

Norma stood staring at the gravestone. It was tilted to the left. It sank slowly over the near thirty years it was in place. She never commented on its position or need of attention. It seemed almost irrelevant.

“I want my full name on my headstone,” she said rather blankly.

“Well, I don’t think we need to talk about that, but I agree. Mary is a beautiful name.”

I didn’t want to talk about headstone inscriptions. But I thought I should at least acknowledge the request.

“No. I don’t care if it says Mary, I want my maiden name on there.”

“I think we have plenty of time to discuss that.”

This was not my kind of conversation.

“No, Albert. I know. I know how I feel and my time is soon. Anyway, that’s enough about that. Let’s go.”

This was her usual way of ending any discussion with me that she felt had run its course, or when I had when I made some valid point about the invalidity of religion.

In all the years my father was laid to rest in that cemetery, she never once made reference to being buried beside him. The only hint that she would be was the blank space beside his name on the headstone, and the knowledge that that was what always happened to a husband and wife – they got buried together.

Lunch was Norma’s next suggestion. She was always hungry. She was, at best 90 pounds. She could eat five meals a day and never gain an ounce. Bit by bit, meal by meal, whatever was wrong with her system was depriving her of the necessary nutrients to stay healthy and strong. She never lacked an appetite. She just lacked the ability to make any use of what she ate. And so, we went for a drive and found a little restaurant on the edge of the water. An American might call it a diner. My father-in-law would call it a cafe. I like to think of it as your typical outport Newfoundland greasy spoon. It mattered not. They had a turkey sandwich on the menu and Norma was thrilled. She was an easy woman to please.

What are you going to eat?” She asked. “What do you eat?”

I’m a vegetarian. This was foreign territory for most members of my family. Norma assumed I lived on salad. If only it were that easy.

“I’ll find something. I always do.” In retrospect, I think I had apple pie. Close enough.

After lunch, we drove to a small community named Norris Point. Norma pointed up to a knoll, a mound of a hill. Too small to be a mountain, too big to be hill. It was a rocky lump that overlooked the harbour. Typical Newfoundland topography.

“Your father proposed to me up there.”

In all the years I knew this woman, in all the years we talked about life and travel, religion and politics, the news of the day, the philosophies of humanity, the trials and tribulations of the world, she never once made a single mention of where she and dad were engaged. I knew they were married. I knew where and when and who was there. I knew about when they dated – and her usual quips about how every girl in the office wanted to go out with him except her, and he had to ask her out. And of course the usual, “I wasn’t even remotely interested in him. I was engaged” routine retort to any mention of them as young adults.

And then this. Today. It was a surprise, more to hear the actual information, than it was to know they were engaged before marriage. It was like the missing link we never knew was missing. Oddly, none of my siblings ever heard the story either. Perhaps she just wanted someone to know. More importantly, this confirmed what I always knew…that I was her favourite. I jest. Unless you are my sibling, then I am serious. I was the favourite kid. Ahem.

After we left to drive home, we mostly had a normal conversation about life, news and politics…and eventually it turned to what we would do for dinner. She, like me, loved to go out to eat. Being served was high on her list. It was something earned from a life of work. She certainly never had the slightest entitlement growing up. Any dinner out for Norma was because she earned it. And she loved a good meal in a nice hotel restaurant.

Things didn’t go great for Norma after that weekend. She suffered a stroke a few weeks later and never fully gained the strength she needed to go home from the hospital. I flew back to Newfoundland on a whim a couple days before Christmas to spend it with her. Christmas in a hospital was about as equally depressing as seeing my mother in a hospital bed, semi-dependent on others…mostly strangers. Over the few days we spent, we had our usual talks, she had turkey dinner for Christmas night, and she slept a lot. Her stories almost stopped, and she was content to drift in and out of the conversations. I sat and wrote next to her bed. She occasionally asked me what I was writing, to which I could only reply – a novel. She said she looked forward to reading it.

“I hope it’s not trashy. And I don’t like a lot of swearing. It’s not necessary, you know. It ruins a perfectly good story” she said with a renewed strength of opinion. She was never short on opinion when it came to her literary critiques.

“No mom. No trash. I don’t think my characters ever swear.”

A few hours later I woke her up to tell her I was headed to the airport. She asked me where a few people were…some current, some past, some that I hadn’t thought of for years. It was the first time I really knew she wasn’t getting better.

About two weeks later, my brother called me and asked, in our typical family non-pressuring way, to come home if I wanted to come home. That generally translated into “I think you should come home.”

I arrived about 3am on the morning of January 13th. We spent the night in the hospital room with mom, and eventually, when the family shift change came, we got some sleep, some food and came back into the hospital a few hours later. By now, all six of her kids were doing shifts around her bed until someone suggested we let mom sleep while we all go have dinner.

The story, as I understood it from my sisters, was that at some point, about 5pm-ish on the 13th, Norma took off her oxygen mask, looked at my two sisters and said, in her typical conversation ending tone – a tone we all knew very well;

“That’s it. I’ve had enough. I’m done here. I’m ready to go.”

As we all gathered around her that evening, she went around the room, naming each of her kids and getting most of her children-in-law correct  – something that still makes us laugh. I, of course, just do it a little more publicly. When she got to me, she said, “We’ve had a lot of good times, haven’t we Albert.”

We had, indeed. My life was never short on adventure. I owe all of that to her.

I never got to tell her that I finished my novel. It didn’t seem important. There were more important things I felt she needed to know. I may even have tried to bribe her with a turkey sandwich if she’s stay a while longer, so we could talk a little more about the less important things. But I knew she was ready to go. She was tired of fighting. Tired of waiting to see my father. That, in itself, was the better story.

Norma Mary Hartery Berkshire died in the early morning of 14 January 2013. I was holding her hand when she passed.

I like to think she got the final word in our years long debate over the validity of religion, the existence of a god – one in which she firmly and loyally believed – and the importance of attending mass every Sunday. That final word, however little planning she may have put to it, was delivered in the most resounding way. She managed to get all of her kids in the same pew, in the same church, on the same day…at least one last time.

I’m certain I felt the Universe smile on us that day.

Norma lived a fine life. She was a lady to the end. Dignified in every way.

Today, 16 October 2013, Norma would have turned 82. There would most certainly have been cake. She loved any excuse to have dessert.

Norma loved dessert, almost as much as she loved her family.
Norma loved dessert, almost as much as she loved her family.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer, voice actor…storyteller. He misses the conversations. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

The Passion of the Misguided Angel

– by Albert Berkshire

I had no intention of writing this today, or any time in the near future. Perhaps, not even at all. But as anyone who writes for a living knows, when it hits, it hits. Tidal waves, I call them.

I was listening to my Riding Mix in the studio this morning. It’s a mix I created to which, on those rides when I’m alone, and it isn’t bear season on the lower-elevation trails, I like to listen. It has good energy. I need that when I’m on my mountain bike.

I listen to music most days when I am working, writing, creating. I love the emotion that comes from music. Some music lights a fire under me, invigorating me, making me work hard and fast. Other tracks slow me down, bring tears to my eyes – may more these past weeks than in the past. Even now, Thunderball by Domino is making my brain move at an alarming pace. My fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts…and then the song slows. It gives me a moment to reach for my peppermint tea that has sat neglected on the table for the last five minute.

This morning, I was listening to a Phontaine track from the mix when I found myself on the iTunes store looking for more Phontaine. I thought there might be something new to download. I never managed to complete the query as I when I typed in “P”, a previous search for Polyphonic Spree came up. A viable alternative, I thought to myself – and the cat on the desk. As it is with most things for me, one thing lead to another, one click took me to something even more unexpected, and suddenly I was watching an NPR Little Desk Christmas performance by The Polyphonic Spree. Tim DeLaughter, the lead singer – and possibly cult leader of ’The Spree, makes me smile. He is the emotion of his music. And sadly, his songs, like those of Kishi Bashi don’t really go on forever. So when his NPR performance ended, I started to scroll through the NPR Podcast listing to find another.

And that’s when Margo showed up.

When I was in my twenties, I had a torrid love affair with the music of Margo Timmins. She was, in 1990, one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful women in the world. But she was more than that. She was (then, and still is now) an amazing voice. Now, I know there are two other members of The Cowboy Junkies, but they aren’t, and then weren’t, Margo. They play exceptionally well, but Margo, like Tim DeLaughter, is the emotion in her music.

The thing is, I don’t really like country music. There was a Garth Brooks cover of a Bob Dylan song back in the 90’s that I liked. Gord Downey from The Tragically Hip put out an album as Gord Downey & The Country of Miracles that was more folk than it was country, but beyond that, the only purebred country song that makes me smile the long and lingering smile is Seasick Steve’s cover of Hank Williams‘ I’m So Lonely I Could Cry. It’s that good.

But Margo…Margo was extraordinary. Turns out…she still is.

The song that struck me was the one I always loved – and never knew why. I listened to the words today. Possibly five or six times. I needed to do that today. Misguided Angel finally resonated with me for a real reason. The song relates, in a way I can’t, or perhaps, won’t properly describe, to a character that has been living in my head for a long time. It’s taken me years to get her out onto paper, and in the truest irony of my life, she doesn’t even have a name. (Nor, I think, will she.) For the most part, I never knew her story was going to be told. It was in me, as is any writer’s story, but it was never properly provoked into making an appearance.

Or maybe, I never asked her.

I can remember the day I started writing. I mean, really writing things that mattered to me – as a writer. You see, not everything I write matters to me. It is my job, and I do it. But sometimes I write things, perhaps like this, today, that mean something to me. Anyway, I remember starting to write from the heart. And when I say “from the heart”, I don’t necessarily mean romance or pain in the psyche kind of writing (although that is almost complete, I warn you). I mean writing with passion. The passion that permits my brain to surge ahead of my typing skills and renders my somewhat-obsessive-compulsive self to disregard my myriad of typos until a later moment when I will right their grammatical trespasses. But I never thought about when I started writing as a date, an occurrence, or a catalyst until my friend Shelley asked me when I wrote my best stuff.

The answer? When I was unhappy. When I was a misguided angel, of sorts.

And now, almost three years since Shelley and I had that brief conversation, I realize that it doesn’t have to be my heartbreak or unhappiness or loss or even turmoil that is adopted as the driving force for a story. It can be someone else’s.

Today, it was Margo’s.

The look on her face when she sang Misguided Angel was one of pain. I could feel every word she sang. I could understand the angst of her character. I could relate, in ways, perhaps most people would care not to understand, to the internal struggle of her misguided angel. It was powerful.

When I was younger, in my 20’s, actually, I had a friend who had the refreshing and youthful beauty of Leslie Caron, the stage presence of Sarah McLaughlin, and the deep passion of Margo Timmins. It was a trio of characteristics that set her apart from our other friends. It made her stand out. She was a conflicted soul. And back then, I used some of her pain to write. Yet, back then, and even until now as I just wrote those words, I never realized I did that.

Other people’s pain is an amazing inspiration.

There’s a line in Misguided Angel that Margo sings with such matter-of-fact explanation of her character’s less-than-ideal lover’s passion, to which I can’t help but relate as a writer. “…it’s in the way he walks, it’s in the way he talks. His smile, his anger and his kisses.”

Passion, it seems, brings out the best and the worst in us. But more than that, it leads us down the path we really know we should travel.

I followed it. And I wrote a novel.

Thanks Margo, real or otherwise.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer, voice actor…storyteller. He hears music as a gift, appreciates the meaning of words, and relishes in how singing a verse can redefine the meaning for every listener. His love of storytelling, and his passion for the written word has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

Running (from) The List

– by Albert Berkshire

I am running through the woods. I have left the comforts of conformity and normalcy and   safety and reason well behind me. Despite the pressure to accept them as society would like me, I am happy to have left them in my rear view. I never liked them that much. Still, I didn’t sign up for this race. I just happened to find myself in it. Like everyone else, I am racing against myself. Though I fear many of them fail to understand that, nor see the logic in its reality. There is no reward that I believe awaits me. No grand prize. No bragging rights that interest me. I seek only more of what I have already found.

The pace is quickening, as is my heart rate. My mind is racing at the same rate as my heart. Random things rush into my head. Memories of things good and things bad are filling my head. They scare me as much as they make me more determined to continue forward. Past glories, moments endured or delighted in, revelry – though I find the word carousal to be more to my liking. They all matter, whether I want them to or not. They resonate in rhythm with my feet. Take the good and the bad in stride, I think to myself.

I’ve gained elevation. Why any of us choose to flee in an uphill direction can only be explained by Hollywood screenwriters and the clinically insane. I can’t determine who would offer the more believable explanation. The air is starting to feel cooler. It is little relief in this race. As I gain elevation, the air, inevitably, thins. I start to slow. I am beginning to tire. I convince myself I have to press on. Giving in, giving up is not an option that I am willing to choose. Push harder. Find more. Do not get caught.

Obstacles appear in front of me. Life is throwing hurdles in my direction. I’ve been in this situation once before and made the mistake of giving in to the challenge. I won’t make that mistake again. I know from experience you just have to go over them as quickly as humanly possible. Life isn’t going to give you more time. Circling back and around is too time consuming, and time is not a friendly travel partner. I press on…over.

Breath hits the back of my neck. It can’t be mine, despite the pace at which I now race. I hope it is just mine swirling around my neck, but it isn’t. I look over my shoulder for the first time. She is close. Gaining on me. I can’t let her catch me. It would be the end of me. And so I push harder.

As I break above the tree line, the terrain levels off. I have hit my stride. My second wind has found me. I can see the place I want to be. Figures await in the distance. It is still far off, so I lean toward the finish. I can hear heavy breathing behind me, but it is no longer against my neck.

Regret is exhausted. And I got to the top of the hill ahead of her…again.

Ski off bigger cliffs. Paddle in Thailand. Offer my feet to Garra Rufa fish. Sleep beside the Colorado River. Hike in Arches National Park. Photograph The Three Wise Men for my mother. Ride Missoula, Moab and Fruita. Crew for friends at the Leadville 100. Go back to the Asulkan Trail. Spend a week on the Oregon coast. Stand on the beach where one of my fictional characters loved to stand. Race, and finish, an enduro mountain bike race. Ride the Staten Island Ferry. Stroll through Greenwich Village. Walk across the Brooklyn bridge. Share dinners with friends. Drink at a Speak Easy. Eat breakfast alone, often. Travel for the sake of being present. Show up unexpectedly at parties because I could be there. Party with friends at the CN Tower. Go to the Vanier Cup, the 100th Grey Cup, and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Thank a soldier. Get caught up with Joe. Say a proper goodbye to Harold. Make a new friend. Share Rumi. Come to appreciate everything I have, everywhere. Apologize. Make peace. Give. Say no to the things that are wrong and yes to the things that are right. Make a promise I will keep. Stare at the lights on the trees. Stroll for no reason other than to linger…longer. Have honest conversations. Come to understand. Find out for certain.

It was a good year for the Bucket List.

In your face, Regret.

Personal Note: This will be my last article for a little while. Everyone needs a break from what they do, and who they are. And I have one more thing to cross off my list before time catches up with me. Unlike Regret, Time is relentless. I made a promise that I would do something important. It’s best that I go do it. I’ll be back before you can count to eleven.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. – Rumi, 13th Century.

Long into the field of life do we propitiously find the illusive path upon which we were destined to travel.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. With regularity, he finds himself in the strangest situations, for the strangest reasons, doing the strangest things. But it always makes for a great story…even if he’s the only one who understands its meaning. Making other people’s stories interesting has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

No Help From Self-Help

– by Albert Berkshire

I’m afraid to be old.

I’m not afraid to grow old. I’m not afraid to die. I am afraid to be old.

I know plenty of people who one might categorize as old. It’s not comfortable. They don’t have it easy. They have to give their children daily bowel reports. I’m certain it is written into their genome. They are, as I fear I will be one day, beyond the point of growing old. They have grown old.

It’s very past tense.

You might argue this is nothing more than forms of adverbs and a series of conjugations that make add up to semantics, but it is more than the meaning of these words. It is the thought and process of where it takes us.

Few of us ever think we are getting old. We think other people are old. When I was a kid, I thought my dad was old. Odd thing is, as I realized today, the age I am now, he was when I was born. And I probably only thought he was old because all my friends’ dad’s were much younger than my dad; me being the youngest of my six siblings. Maybe I thought dad was old because my friends thought he was old. I’m sure the grey beard didn’t help him look younger – by the time we were at the age of recognition – but it certainly was something that everyone else noticed. Being a kid, I just accepted it for what it was – he was old. In hindsight, he never got to grow old. He was there, and then he died.

No one in their 58th year is old.

I’d never given being old much thought until tonight. I’ve felt I was “getting old” after a half marathon, or a long mountain bike ride, or a four or five day backpacking trip in the mountains, or even after 13 hours on a airplane in a seat designed for the passenger who is going home to Hong Kong, but those are just feelings of fatigue. Being old was never a consideration, or a concern, until  I saw the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

It’s pointless to try to explain the plot, and really, why would I ruin it for you any more than I would tell you the dénouement in my novel (yes, I’m still writing it, Mom), but consider the movie to be about people facing the fears of old age. And before you yawn, let me tell you it’s the best film I’ve seen so far in 2012. If only I had Academy voting privileges. Yes, it’s that good. The point is, it was like a self-help movie for the person who’s never felt the compulsion to read a self-help book. I guess the closest I’ve every come to that is Jeffery Gitomer’s Little Gold Book Of YES! And that was more “self-business-help.

The self-help in the movie, for me, was that being old is probably not as scary as we might think. I always figured if I focused on not focusing on growing old – the thing I least feared – that one day I would just be old and since I was already there, I would just check in and resign myself to the fact that I would, sooner or later, check out. If you follow that at all. I’m not sure I do.

This may be why I avoid all self-help books like a plague. Firstly, and certainly most dear to my heart, is the crude fact that I like being a terribly flawed individual. I may not have shared this before, but I firmly believe that Jimmy Buffett’s friend Desmadona was right, “Human beings are flawed individuals. The cosmic bakers took us out of the oven too soon.”  I am completely okay with my squirrel stashes, my annual failure to get my taxes done early, and my unique ability (at least I feel it is a rather unique quality) to master the art of deadline procrastination. A consultant friend of mine likes to pile work on my plate at the last moment because he says I work petter under pressure. Procrastination, in his eyes, is my Muse. Ghad, if he only knew. What he doesn’t know is that it only sheer panic that sparks my creativity to the levels I like the to be at, and subsequently when the levy breaks, Albert’s brain barfs all over the page.

Maybe that is my best work. When I just page-purge. Sounds dandy, but it is usually pretty good stuff. Well…that was self-satisfying to say aloud.

Roit. Back to my point. The second reason I avoid self-help books is because the whole self-help book thing leaves me wanting for a match. I could be the guy on the pitcher’s mound having a book burning party. And while I believe every book is sacred – EVERY book, no matter what you posses for a belief system – some just will never get read, or have any shelf space in my book case. They make me wonder how a one-size-fits-all approach to psychology, or psychiatry, can possibly work. It makes me wonder why we need to self-analyze. And really, it’s one step closer to self-diagnosing. Being married to a medical professional, I know how much self-diagnosis is not appreciated by those educated and experienced in the science of diagnosis. It’s like the time I had hot tub folliculitis. I was convinced I had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. That was met with a swift, “No you don’t. And stay off the internet.” 

If I told my wife I was old, she’d just tell me I am aging. And that’s the whole reality shaker about growing old. If you just roll along with what is happening around you, you’ll never really notice that you are growing old – or aging. Sure you’re going to take a little longer to get up that mountainside, or to run that last five kilometers, or you’ll feel it in your knees after a long run or a big ride, but it passes with a little rest and a few little blue pills – Aleve, not Viagra (although that’s another part of aging, I guess.) The physical aches and pains are not that different from the mental aches and pains. Just the physical ones leave shallower scars and heal more quickly. The mental ones linger for as long as we have our memories intact, but that’s the beauty of being a flawed individual devoid of the need for self-help of any kind, you just roll with the flaws like you roll with changes in your life. In all, it’s a process. It takes steps. It takes time. There is a starting point and an ending point.

And as I learned today, watching The Very Best Marigold Hotel; In the end everything will be okay. And if it is not okay, trust me, it is not yet the end.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He writes more now than when he was younger, and appreciates everything a lot more each day. Unlike his father, he didn’t have six kids by the age of 43, but he has a lot of things to accomplish in the next 15 years. Currently, he lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. Gaining knowledge and insight as he grows older, has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

On The Trail Of Bacon Crumbs

– by Albert Berkshire

I was doing research for a project, recently, when I got hit with one of those internet distractions. It was a senseless, but whimsical, deviation from my path. You know the kind, a friend sends you a You Tube link to a cat named Maru – who, by the way, is the world’s funniest cat –

Wait a second. This is where I need David Mitchell to chime in because I’m not 100% certain that a cat is a “who”, or a “which”. And while it does have a name – Maru – it, the cat (now I’m really pronoun challenged, or shy) isn’t a person, in which case I am compelled to ask; “Is a cat a thing?”

This is perplexing, and I apologize while I take time away from this thought, or what was originally to be the thought, while I confer with the Oxford English Dictionary.

<musical interlude>

Hmmmm. I expected as much.

Now I can’t remember if Maru is a male or female or a formerly male or formerly female cat. Either way, a pronoun is appropriate and it shall be “it”, not “who”.

This love of the English language is quite taxing.

So, as I was saying, one moment you’re watching Maru, which (grammatically correct) is the world’s funniest cat, and the next moment you’re watching Luciano Pavarotti performing live with U2 on stage in Modena and you have no idea a) how you got here; b) how much time you’ve lost; and c) why you didn’t run into Kevin Bacon in those six degrees of separation.

Please don’t ask me to explain the latter. Oh, very well then… <Me-Adam Bernard-Rick Schroeder-Kevin Bacon>

When I finally realized where I was in my day, in the web, and in my fruitless search for information, I started to become overly focused on the amount of time I spend wasting time. Now that, to a former Journalism instructor of mine, might be considered grossly redundant, but the fact of the matter is, it is accurate. I have actually invested time in the art of wasting time.

You know, the more I try to explain it, the more it makes sense to me. And normally I’d feel slightly embarrassed about admitting something so ridiculous, but in reality, it is the sublime that I find the most appealing. Now, you, if you care for definition and proper use, as I do, might argue the use of “sublime” in that context, but I like to think of the ridiculous as being sublime, or lofty, or elevated or grand (in the sense of a writing – no irony there. No chance here).

Were we going somewhere with this? Hells yeah!!!!

I was heading in one direction when something caused me to take a sharp left turn, then a right, then a left until I zig-zagged my way to the two-thirds point in a novel I started more than a year ago. Writing, not reading. I thought I had my story. I thought I knew what it was going to be about. I thought I had it all figured out. Then, as I started writing more and more, as I delved (was that too predictable a word?) deeper (now it is) into the characters, as I found not my story, but their story, I realized it was no different from my frequent – far too frequent – forays into research on ye olde world wide web-thing.

You might like to think that you just never know where you’re going to end up. And in some cases, you may be under the correct assumption; but I like to think of it as knowing where I am going, it’s how I get there that is the nebulous journey.

But that’s me. I’m big on dank adventures. Yes. I wrote dank.

Last night at a wine and cheese reception at a conference, I was chatting with a person who told me the many directions her career took her – so far. And in the core of that conversation I came to have a better understanding of how we, as humans (more particularly at this stage of our online social development), go through life searching for something that gives us direction. But if you, at some point in your life, stop to connect the dots along your path, the path behind you, you’ll discover some very interesting degrees of separation.

And that realization, however “Aha!” it may be, just might be the defining moment in your life…or at the very least, your career.

I had mine sitting outside a pizza joint last Sunday night. And I am indebted to the connection of the dots, and an old friend who is just one more degree of separation away from Kevin Bacon.

How far I am from Maru, the world’s funniest cat, is another puzzle all together.

I'm a vegetarian, and as such, am happily more than six degrees separated from THIS bacon.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He writes for a living, and for the love of the art. He is now focused on finishing the last third of his novel. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. Listening to others, and caring about their stories has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

Dénouement de Léonard

– by Albert Berkshire (the real one)

You know the expression – “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”  Yeah. I guess.  But I also value the pee stops. Sure, the journey is half the fun, but getting to the finish line is pretty sweet, too.

From March 30 to April 29, 2012 (yes, I guess that was just the other day) I was engrossed in a project with a fellow writer, a colleague, a friend. Tommie Lee (no, not that one, the real one) is working on his fourth novel; I, on my first. The project was called 30 In 30.  Our goal was to each add 30,000 words to our projects over 30 days. Some days were a struggle. Some days it just flowed. Some days I needed more and more wine. Some days I just needed to have a conversation, and then the words poured out of me. Some days I just needed to be left alone. Some days I completely understood how writers, authors, could become antisocial, brooding alcoholics. Some days I loved what I wrote. Some days I didn’t think I would ever make any progress.

In the end, we each added around 32,000 words. We succeeded in our goals.

The book isn’t done. I probably have another 20,000-30,000 words that need to be written. I tell you the word count, because based on they story so far – the story that is nothing like it was when I started – I know there is still a lot of ground to cover. And after twisting and turning through character development, new character introductions, and bizarre twists that even I, as the author, didn’t see coming, I am finally enjoying the process.

Writing a book is a lot of work. A LOT of work. But it is good work.

Over the course of my professional career, in radio and advertising, I changed my title many times. I was once a “radio personality”, a “presenter”, a “creative writer”, a “producer”, and for some time, a “writer, producer, voice actor”. I keep trying to simplify, or fine-tune my self-description. In all honestly, I would simply like to be known as “author”. That’s the end game. That’s the resolution. That’s the dénouement.

When I tell people I am a writer, they often ask me what I write. Thing is, I am a sarcastic bastard. I have often responded, mostly out of frustration with having to explain my career – the one that hasn’t yet produced a complete novel – with “Well, I like to start with words, then sentences, and if I get on a good roll, I feel I can step it up to paragraphs.” I’m often met with a blank stare. Deserving, I am sure.

The other challenge I face, and forgive me if I have shared this before, is the typical response to the revelation, “I’m a writer”. That usually gets me a “Oh. You should write a book.” Yes. I should. I am trying. Believe me, I am trying.

Here’s the thing: A writer writes a story when the writer has a story. No sooner. No later. No pressure can create it. No pressure can stop it. It is either there, or it is not. There is no middle ground.  And if there is middle ground, I sure want to know where that is so I can plant my flag and call it home.

Actually, check that. It sounds like a mediocre compromise. I’m not interested. I’d rather have the extreme highs and extreme lows of storytelling – and believe me, the highs are really high, and the lows are really low. My friends know all about it. I am either excited to talk about my work, or I want to erase any memory of ever having mentioned what this is about.

Today, is a good day. So let me tempt you with this notion: Someone loves. Someone lives. Someone tells the story. Someone better buy this thing…because I already have the characters and outline for my second novel. Funny how that happens.

This journey has been interesting. It has taught me a lot about my day job – perhaps the only reason you read this Blog. There are times I wanted to throw it all away and start over. But I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into it, and it will pay off – either as a successful novel, or a complete project that bleeds bliss. It’s like your marketing. You put a lot of time and effort into building your brand (or having my company, Great Creative.com, do it for you), and then you just have to be patient.

Sooner or later, when everyone is ready, they are going to want what you have. You just have to be diligent, be focused, and be original.

There’s a character in my novel who is willing to wait forever for something. But he never focuses on the waiting, he only focuses the benefit of the wait.

The benefit, in the end, is the one thing you (or he) want more than anything.

For what are you waiting?

Some things are worth the wait.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He just wants to be an author, which is why he’s so focused on finishing this novel. Currently, he lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. He’s waiting for something, and it is definitely worth it. Patience and determination has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

Help Me Obi Wannawrite

– by Albert Berkshire

There’s a disturbance in the Force.

I’ve felt “off” all day. Anxious, annoyed, conflicted, and challenged. Not challenged in the sense of mental capacity, that is a Carnation can of St. Jude’s worms you never want to open. But in the sense of focus. I’ve been distracted the entire day.

I express this, not so much for your amusement, although I’m sure some would delight in Albert being off his game, but more for the purpose of outward therapy. Not the kind of therapy a portion, a rather large and unnerving portion, of the population finds through Dr. Phil, but the kind in which a writer needs to indulge (sans a case of wine a week) in an effort to avoid thrusting a blade into one’s stomach and lifting upwards.

If I had become a porn star, I’d have taken the name Harry Karry. Certainly I couldn’t have remained Albert Berkshire. I’m sure someone would have delivered the news to my mother, and that tawdry career update would have been deemed a fate far worse that having a son who hasn’t yet finished his book…or any of the three currently under construction.

I’ve digressed. It’s the Force, I’m certain of it.

If we can loop back around, or crawl out of the garbage disposal, as it were, I’ll direct your attention the aforementioned point that I’m distracted. At first I thought it may be the three rather large and complex advertising campaigns I’m currently writing, but upon further analysis, I have come to the conclusion that two of the three are firmly under control and the third is underway. Thusly, the daunting task of starting (often at the end, first – trade secret revealed, should you care) the last item on my must-complete-this-week list is now diminished. Trust me, when they appear to be huge, they usually are.

Speaking of huge, I once had a girlfriend who had really large hands. I found it terribly intimidating. They were veiny, too. Man hands. Freaked me out. That was all I could look at when we were out. I used to pine for winter so she’s have to wear gloves when we went for a walk. My ghad, that’s a horrible revelation, but it is a terrifying truth. But, still, not the source of my current distraction.

I’ve considered that my writer friend Tommie Closson (aka the other Tommie Lee) who innocently posted the other day his successful 4000+ word writing day may have been toggling about in my head, but in the grand scheme of things, we who write don’t really compete. There’s no reality show for writers. There’s no grand prize (save for Booker and the like) that make us dedicate our weekend to writing versus a couple of long runs in preparation of an upcoming half-marathon. Although I would have loved to have spread 4000+ words on the page over the weekend, it seems Mr. Closson AKATOTL had the day. And kudos (not the mobile service, thank you) to him.

Sidebar: It has occurred to me, as I am certain it has to you – should you still be here – that I could be laying down chapters with these words right now. When I consider that, I wonder if perhaps I am. I mean, if you’re reading this, you’d be likely to…read this. <the writer pauses for dramatic effect>  There is definitely something not right in the Force’s head.

Yesterday I was watching CBC Television. I’m a fan of Mark Kelly’s Connect. Alarmingly, I noticed he has rather small hands. It could be the camera angle – having never met him in person – but I found it incredibly distracting. I was reduced to thoughts of the fictional character Austin Powers (aka the other Mike Myers) repeatedly ranting uncontrollably, “molay molay molay”. Juvenile, perhaps, but I was still alarmed. It’s not uncommon for me to have these experiences. And it doesn’t diminish Mark in any way. He’s frikkin’ brilliant. And in comparison, I have a bald head but might still be considered effective at my job, and possibly still (if ever) somewhat attractive. (I’ll do a survey and get back to you if the results turn out in my favour).

The odd thing is (assuming you don’t find all of this to be rather odd) is that I felt compelled to write to a friend about the whole “hand” ordeal. I actually struggled with it for several minutes. Then, one of my studio cats (an actual feline, not a man from the 70’s with an afro, bell bottoms and a bass guitar) jumped onto my desk, messed up my neatly piled papers, and proceeded to serve as a short term distraction.

I might be channelling David Mitchell, having recently overdosed on his soapbox videos on You Tube. Not that enjoying a good series of rants about improper grammar, ambiguous writing, and the flagrant use of emoticons is something on which a writer can overdose.

😐   :@(   ;o)

Okay…that’s just silliness wrapped up in a pastry. (The second one reminds me of a pig.) But this whole “the world is upside down and I’m explaining it in superb sentence structure and a British accent” thing does tend to make you wonder what else is wrong with the world. And then here we are – examining if there might actually be a disturbance in the Force. (The fictional “Force”, I assume you understand, but in the greater scheme of the Universe – the energy around us that makes us feel comfortable in our surroundings. For some this is a supernatural being (God, Allah, Jehovah, Ringo), and for others it is simply energy, or a Snickers bar. But this is a digression best left for…well…never.)

That wasn’t a visually impaired emoticon above. It was actually a period inside a parenthesis.

All of these things were thoroughly reviewed as possibilities as to why I feel something is so “off”. And still, I came up blank.

And now it hit me. It was my turn to drop some words on the page. It was my turn to break te bloc de l’auteur. The pent up frustrations (not those) that have prevented me from writing a single word that is mine (I do write all day for a living, but rarely my own work) have overflowed and finally (“FINALLY!” he cried) let me get back to the thing I love the most.

Writing.

Hello, old friend. I told you I’d be back. Is that the Force in your quill, or are you just happy to see me?

I'm certain the Force had something to do with this sunburn pattern on my head. I look like a Sith from Star Wars episode 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults with clients on Canada’s West Coast. His creativity is fueled by his muse, is a fan of all conversation interventions, and his hope that he’ll write something profound “today” is what gets him out of bed each morning. That, and the studio cats who like to be fed at 6am. Well crafted writing is a passion, and has summarily helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

 

Bernie, Stump and Focus

– by Albert Berkshire

We all have influences in our life.  Those who motivate us to exercise.  Those who encourage us to excel.  Those who inspire us to write.  Those who make us a better person; and in the absence of success, make us want to be a better person.  I’ve had a few influences in my life.  Some will never know it.  Some may be reading this now. Some probably had no idea they would have such a profound impact on my life.  And like all great teachers, they aren’t appreciated until years later, and often as a result of deep reflection upon one’s life.

Or in my case, when I had writer’s block and went out for a long run.

Bernadette Meiwald was an incredible influence on me.  She might look back at me and think, “I wanted to strangle that kid. Still do!”  But what a difference she made in my life, and in my growth as a student.  She once kicked me out of a spelling bee because I was convinced a kid from another school misspelled a word and she missed it.  In fact, I’m still convinced it happened that way.  Despite that, “What are you? Deaf?” is not the right way to approach the situation for a Fourth Grader.  It was an early indication that speaking my mind would become a signature trait of mine, if not one that would land me in some serious hot water in the years to come. (and my Ghad, has it ever!) But on that day, I was summarily dismissed from the room, or “excused” as I believe it was called back then, and then “corrected” (as it was called back then) later in the afternoon.  In the end, I had to make a formal apology to her in front of my class.  In the interest of remaining a “man”, we’ll move on from this part of the story, and into the goods.

Bernie, despite only teaching me in Fourth Grade, ended up being stuck with me for life.  Much to her dismay (and likely her sister’s dismay) I became lifelong friends with her niece.  So most family gatherings that included Bernie, also included Albert.  And there was no escaping it.  It’s what we did as teenagers and as young adults.  We hung out, and when the “family” was having a party – I was there.  So was Bernie, and the look in her eye always said, “You were wrong, you brat.”

I should point out here that her sister, Lorraine, taught me in High School, but didn’t figure as such a major shaping influence in my school life because she taught us Family Studies.  That’s the Catholic translation for Sex Education.  And being teenagers, we felt we already knew everything, and thusly chose to ignore the class entirely save for the one constant throughout the semester, “Miss, what do you mean when you say “it”?” 

I suspect Lorraine had the same feeling each class as did Bernie so many years earlier. “I want to strangle that kid. Still do!”   But she did instill in us that it was okay to buy condoms – after we were married. (Catholic School, remember?)

But Bernie did make me realize the value of decorum, the reality of one’s actions, and certainly, being what most Psychologists like to term “the formative years”, she did introduce me to a wonderful addiction – proper grammar and spelling.  I am forever grateful to her.

Then there was Stump.  Ronald Kelly.  The man was aptly nicknamed by the cruelest of high school kids – most likely, my older brother.  Stump Kelly was all of four-foot-eleven, pissed off, and still living at home with “Mother” at age 50. (Cue the knife and shower curtain scene. Renh renh renh renh)  Now, if you are a person of diminutive stature, this is not a slight to your person, nor your abilities.  The fact that some people can’t reach the liquor cabinet is not at play here.  It is most notable to point out that Stump Kelly, all just past eye level with a kitchen counter, was a formidable man. (Should Francais be your first language, he was all that, too, avec “tres”)  I note this, not in a usually ranting sidebar, but in context, because aside from the pure insanity of his character, he was a force with which to be reconned.

(Here’s an English grammar irony. “reconned” is used in Newfoundland in the intransitive verb form of “reccon”.  As in “I reccon”. I know, it sounds very Wild West. Yet, Oxford defines it as a US Military “slang” term for the past tense of “recon”, short for reconnaissance. Strange. The greater irony is that a US spell checker fails to recognize the word.) 

Kelly’s Box was my favourite.  Stump, may peace be upon him, was undoubtedly the most persuasive of English teachers.  That man put the fear of God (it was Catholic school, we had a god) into each and every one of us.  He would tell us, “If I see you hanging out in the mall ten years after you graduate, I expect that when I stop you and say “Kelly’s Box!” I want to her you, without hesitation, say to me, “And, but, or, nor, for, and sometimes, yet.”

I’m still torn between WTF? and Mon Dieu!

Conjunctions.  He LOVED conjunctions.  As do I, to this day.  In fact, anytime I hear a person speaking, or read a person’s writing and they string together phrases of English butchery like “and I too, also”, I think about Stump, spinning in his grave.

I also think he was the only teacher in history to take a bunch of students each year and turn us into obsessive compulsives. To this day, I am convinced OCD is a learned behaviour.

Still, there was so much to be learned from this man, and sadly, only a few disjointed years of high school.  But (there you go Stump), my foundations were there.  I appreciate to this day what he taught us.  And (another one for you, teacher) for all the quirks and fear mongering, he genuinely loved the English language.

Or (yes, another)…he was just a cruel bastard who wouldn’t let us leave the classroom until the desks were all perfectly aligned – rows and columns. I  hold out hope for the former. That’s the Stump Kelly I learned to enjoy.

And then there was Focus Keough.  I had a few dances with Focus.  But before I explain his place in my world, I should probably give a brief explanation of his name.  Truth be told, I don’t know his first name.  We were in Catholic Boys’ School, so it was either, formally, “Mr.” or “Brother”.  Later there was “Miss”, even if “Miss” was a “Ms.” or a “Mrs.”  I don’t remember any “Mlle”, but we did have one “Monsieur”.  I generally got kicked out of that class, French, regrettably not on my priority list back then.

Focus had the thickest eye glasses we’d ever seen.  They were so thick, they didn’t even make “How thick were they?” jokes.  And for a bunch of pubescent brats in neckties and dress pants, (and no girls to shame us from embarrassing our collective selves), he was target number one for humour.  We’d simply never seen anything like him.  And what a voice!  That man could cause tremors when he spoke.  Deep baritone vocals poured out of him like a magnitude 7 quake in the percussion section of a symphony.

Our first encounter was in Library class.  Yes.  That, in itself, should clearly define how messed up Catholic school was for Seventh Graders.  We had Library class.  And it had value.  We actually got marks in “Library”.  It wasn’t a “best whisper” passes thing.  We had to learn to do research.  And Focus was going to teach us how.  How?  By giving us 25 questions for which we had the research the answers.  Sounds pretty simple.  He wrote them on the board, and we had two weeks to get the answers. (Actually we had one night to call around to everyone we knew and get their answers. But, you get the gist of where this is going.)

It was all sunshine and roses until question number six.  “Who painted the Fifer?” Someone had to ask, “The what?” To which Focus calmly replied, “The Fifer?”

This occurred at least four times. Then he lost it.

(Pssst! Over here! This should have been a sign of things to come, but we were kids, and we giggled. And it went downhill rapidly from this point onward.)

“WHO PAINTED THE FIFER?  EF – EYE – EF – E- ARRRRE!”

Actually, it was correctly titled “Young Flautist” and was painted by Eduardo Manet in 1866.  Some things are ingrained in our memories.  Did I mention Kelly’s Box?

Later, Focus would come to be my favourite of all my teachers. Sure Brother Blackmore, a former member of the Canadian rock bank The Guess Who was of particular conversational interest.  Stick Taffe was one of those all-round teachers who made you feel like an adult, expressed his sense of humour openly, and shored with us the other perfect academia – mathematics. D’Arcy Drury, one of my Journalism professors, tried his best to teach me brevity; but no one lit up a room, or Shakespeare, like Focus.  He would read to the class, changing his voice for every character, yet never falling out of each character.  He was a master of the art of voice work.  But that was never his goal.  In essence, he was simply conveying to us the sheer brilliance and beauty of Shakespeare.  He wanted us to understand the beauty of the English Language.

In the ensuing years, I began a long, continuing love affair with the English language.  And while I studied Journalism and Business (never formally pursuing English Grammar in post-secondary school), I learned to love the nuances of English sentence structure.  She is, after all, a beautiful and complex language.  And in every correspondence, I like to think I’m doing them justice.  Bernie, Stump, and Focus.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. At present, he is in the middle of five books. Two he is reading, and three he is writing. And while he may be forced to write in “street” for his work, he never misses an opportunity to relish in the nuances of engaging communication. Well crafted writing, a la Bernie, Stump and Focus, has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

 

This would give Stump a woody.

Grace Kelly

– by Albert Berkshire

My knee stings. My shoulder aches. My head is still ringing.

I imagine Grace Kelly was aptly named. Certainly in her professional career she exuded flawless execution. She didn’t walk as much as glide. She was loved and she was known for many things, including her beauty.  And she was graceful.

I, am not.

The modern day Grace Kelly, I suspect, is equally graceful, and equally loved. The modern day Grace Kelly, likely, is flawless in her professional career, and perhaps the most graceful person you’ll meet. I suspect she can, as did Princess Grace – the evolution of the original Grace Kelly – manage children, staff and a room. Probably a room full of hearts, too. It is grace, after all, that makes presence known.

The Grace Kellys of the world command attention, often without seeking it. They draw the eyes of the room to them no matter what they do. They are sought out, respected, and almost always in control. Almost always. And I suspect that even when they let themselves go to the moment, they are in control of their uncontrolled release, like a flood gate opening gone wrong on the Red River in May of any given year.

In my musings, I see the modern day Grace Kelly sitting on a lawn chair watching kids play on a field. A simple light blue and grey scarf on her head. Auburn hair and tanned olive skin.  A cleverly disguised cocktail-in-a-coffee-mug in hand, she is the envy of the neighbourhood. Beauty has befallen her without requesting permission, and she is no longer free to be anonymous. “Look at her”, they must say with envy from across the field. She’s escaping the world, only everyone is looking at her. That’s what happens to Grace Kellys.

Graceful as the Grace Kellys are, I think they have their frailties. In their own protected ways, they have moments when they are in complete disarray. A broken dinner plate could set them off, if they handle such commoner items. Spying the bottom of a wine bottle could be equally disappointing and unnerving. Or a stumble off a curb might even cause a momentary sensory meltdown. But, still, they handle the most difficult situations, or stumbles, with carefree grace.

They are, after all, Grace Kellys. Modern, or otherwise.

Grace Kelly, had she lived, would have been 82 today. I think sometimes I feel that old, in my overdramatic, flaky writer kind of way. Mostly, though, when I hurt myself…like last week.

I crashed riding in Oregon. I have’t crashed riding mountain bike in years. In fact, four years ago was the last time I crashed. I was 25km in the backcountry mountain biking when I went over the handlebars, into some rock and then the trees…and broke my arm. That one hurt.

I should point out at this moment that I have been banned from any more mountain biking vacations. Not in so much that my partner feels the need to tell me what to do; that’s neither the issue nor the intent. But in the sense that the inevitability of my self-injure (crash, not slash) is enough to suggest that a) others know that there will be a temporary invalid in tow and will be unwilling to travel with us partly out of fear of having to life-save-assist and partly from the perspective of not wanting to be the person asked to pay for the ambulance ride should there be one conveniently placed near my moment of over dramatized near-to-death-did-you-see-that crash; and b) there is the potential for the riding to be cut short and she, the partner, would have to do all the driving as I am incapacitated. For the record, four years ago when I broke my arm riding, she made me, hopped up on T3s with a casted arm in a sling, drive two hours over logging roads and tertiary highways to get us back to our lodge because she was tired. I think I’ll remind her of that soon…or now.

Onward. This ship needs to sail before Princess Grace haunts me for taking so long to make a point.

This crash hurt, too. And it, too, hurt my pride. It was on a simple section of a climb and it was not even remotely difficult. I’ve climbed and descended much more technical trail many times. Often a couple times a week. But time, circumstance, and a pedal cleat that had a secret side-deal with Karma took me down. Well, not all the way down. I never made it to the ground. Just a part of the ground. My knee hit one boulder, my should the next, and on the third, and biggest boulder, my head broke the fall for my body.

About eight months ago I was asked if I was interested contributing my time and professional knowledge to the local board of directors for Brain Trust Canada. They focus on head injury prevention. One of their most common campaigns is “Wear a Helmet”. I do, for the record. And it saved my ass, and head, and career today. (Yeah, I use my head to work. Difficult to imagine, I’m sure.) Advil is still helping a little, too. I should probably follow up on that invitation.

Even a week later, I’m pretty certain that isn’t the phone I hear ringing, but I’m going to go check…just in case.

Let’s hope this is a graceful exit.

While it does look like the injury is smiling, I can assure you I was not. (Apologies to the cleaning staff at AmeriTel Inn, Bend Oregon. I didn't mean to get blood on the towel.)

 

High Tide

– by Albert Berkshire

When I was a kid, we had three cabins.  Or cottages if you’ve ever visited or lived in Ontario, Canada.  But none of the three were a cottage, at least not to us.  We were Newfoundlanders living on the Island of Newfoundland.  We had “cabins”.  Cottage usually had “cheese” attached to it in our house.  That was the only cottage we knew.  And frankly, when you get a visual of cottage cheese, as I’m sure you now have, the question must surely enter your mind as why on earth a person would call a cabin a cottage.

One of our cabins was about 30 minutes from where we lived.  It was close to a lake and  every day we’d walk along the train tracks to the park.  It was a summer paradise for my parents, but we always thought, “What the heck? We could walk home from here!”  Another cabin was about two hours drive and then a forty minute walk through the woods to get down to ocean.  We were nestled in a little inlet with five other cabins. It was rustic.  Wood stove and no running water rustic.  And it was fun.  The third, where we spent a lot of time from the time I was about nine until I was fifteen, was about a six hour drive.  Sometimes it felt like a house, but it too was near the ocean and there was lots for us kids – family and neighbourhood – to do.  A LOT to do.

The cabin that was close to our home was never really of much interest to me.  No ocean meant no adventures.  A lake is a lake is a lake.  Boring.  It’s like The Umbrella Shop.  It was convenient Monday morning when I was in flip flops, knickers, and a T-shirt in a rainstorm in downtown Vancouver, but I quickly found myself asking, “So, what else do you have here?”

But the other two cabins were gold.  They had the ocean, and with an ocean comes low tide, and with low tide comes treasure!

We would troll the beaches for mussels, and rocks, and shells, and drift wood.  We’d search for net buoys that had drifted ashore, broken from their moorings by a strong wind or powerful undercurrent.  We would seek out the Holy Grail of every beachcomber.  A bottle.  And not just any bottle would do, first it had to be old, and glass, and then it had to have a note in it.  It had to have a plea for someone to find it and be the soon-to-be-famous-savior of the person stranded on a deserted island, a la Gilligan’s Island.  We identified with Gilligan and the Skipper, too.

In our search we would slip and slide on kelp.  We’d jump from one barnacle-covered boulder to another.  The crunch-crunch of sea life meeting its untimely demise at the feet of unknowing kids. “Tread Lightly” didn’t exist back then.  Neither did TV and video games at the cabin…so we made our own entertainment.  THIS was entertainment.

Everywhere we went was interesting.  We’d create games, skip stones, sling slimy seaweed at each other, write our names in the black, wet sand with a stick, make up songs about the things we’d find on the beach, and deep in the background of the “we” activities, I was busy writing about it.  It was in my head, but I was creating a narrative about all the wonders of the newly exposed ocean floor.  THIS was a playground worthy of a storyline.

I would speculate as to whether or not the barnacles knew they were on bad rocks.  Did they really want to be exposed to the fresh air where birds could peck at them and kids could make firecracker sounds at their expense?  The expense, of course, being their mere existence.  I would create entire stories about the bottles we’d find and what must have happened to the note that was, at one time, in the bottle.  Surely there had been a note from someone who was stranded. Why else would a bottle have been thrown into the ocean and subsequently washed up on our beach.

Sidebar: Incidentally, “subsequently” didn’t exist in my vocabulary back then. And come to think of it, neither did “incidentally”. The bottle was just there of it’s own free will. We did have “free will” in our vocabulary back then, mostly because we had nuns and brothers as teachers. They reminded us of that regularly. Most often with the strap. Not that we thought about them, or that strap, when we were on the beach. We were, after all, on vacation.

And then there were our competitors.  Seagulls!  And not the kind of seagulls that live on the Prairies.  Not the ones that followed the scent of McDonald’s french fries inland and have spawned generations of egg-crackers who have no idea what the ocean looks or smells like.  Not the kind that think a lake is the be-all and end-all of bodies of water.  Those kinds of seagulls are bored to death and they don’t even know it.  I’m talking about pre-fast-food seagulls.  The kind that lived off of the ocean.  Seagulls with real character.  And simply I loved them.  To me, they had everything.  They were doing everything we were doing, only they could cover more ground (or air) in a minute than we could in an hour.  It was their flight that trumped us.  But only in the physical sense. In the spiritual and adventurous sense, I would fly with them.  I would pretend that I was up there looking around for flipped over sea urchins and star fish.  Star fish being as rare as notes in bottles for us.  Must have been a North Atlantic Ocean thing.  But we were ten, so we didn’t know what we were missing…they just weren’t there.

It was fascinating.  We had endless summers of fun.  We had everything we wanted.  We had everything we didn’t know we needed.  We had our imaginations catapulted into the stratosphere.  We were airborne with creativity.   And in the innocent tradition of curious kids, we milked it for all it was worth.  Had the beach been a cow, she would have covered her nipples and ran for her life when we showed up, because we were going to get every last drop out of that exposed canvas of imagination.

It was good back then.  There was no pressure on us.  It was real.

Low tide was full of inspiration.  It felt good.  And right now, in my creative world, the water has just rushed in and the tide is high.  Really high.

But you know what comes six hours after high tide.

Yeah…I’ll be back.  One way or another.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. And while he appreciates the beauty and serenity of the the Pacific Ocean, he prefers the violent and unforgiving nature of the Atlantic Ocean. Like his muse, the Atlantic fuels his creativity. It’s a part of what helps make his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

High Tide is as boring as a lake. Move along, move along! Nothing to see here.