Monthly Archives: February 2014

Picking Fights while Picking Berries

Happy Tuesday everyone.  I have a little taste for you this week.  A taste of the Original Sisters, lol.  The characters that I write about this week are two generations before the Sisters of Avalon that will be introduced in my soon to be released novel.  Enjoy the appetizer.

PICKING FIGHTS WHILE PICKING BERRIES

“Anita, dere’s a good spot of em over here la,” Dulcie called for her sister.

“Ol’ on to your horses maid I got a few here to pick first, no need in rushing it Dale, berry picking is all about taking your time, what have we got to rush for anyhow?”

Anita was always the voice of reason, she knew how to breath in and out without letting twenty things take her mind from whatever task was at hand.  It was the first good berry picking day of the season and Anita planned on enjoying every minute of her time in the raspberry bushes.  Like she said, what was the rush.  There would be plenty to do back home once the men got back with the fish but that all would have to wait until Anita’s two metal buckets were full of fresh raspberries.

Picking the precious red jewels carefully from the bushes was always key in Anita’s mind.  She wanted their juices to stay intact until she was ready to allow them to delicately ooze out while the heat from the stove stewed them to perfection.  She would make her tarts and pies first, the berries later in the week would be solely for next winters jam.  As her hands reached in and over berry after berry her hands itched from the pollen but she didn’t care.  Anita lived for berry picking season and could smell them in the air when the berries were finally ready for picking.  It was her gift, as it was handed down to her from her own mother who loved the land and it’s gifts of plenty just as Anita did.  Her sister Dulcie was always reluctantly dragged along to increase the size of her bounty but Dulcie couldn’t pick as fast or as well as her older sister.  “Two buckets to one,” Anita would say every time they went in the woods together and it sprung from her lips again today as they picked over the bushes near Bride’s Hill.

“Yes cause I can’t stop eating em, and I am not going to ider,” Dulcie was not afraid of her big sister even if Anita stood two feet above her.

“I knows you eats em sure, you would eat the funks if you could get at em,” Anita didn’t hold back any punches either.

“Now watch what you’re playing at missy I don’t have to pick dese berries if I don’t want to,” Dulcie’s lips were red from all the berries she pressed against her mouth, hand over fist.

“Den don’t pick em, sure I don’t care.  I can fill up all tree of da buckets faster than you,” Anita stood stock still as she was confidant in her berry picking abilities.

“Fine pick em den,”and with Anita’s threat still warm on her lips, Dulcie left in a contrary huff leaving her still empty bucket for her sister to fill.

“Fine go on home den, Tommy will never die while you are still living you spiteful cow.”

Dulcie didn’t even look back as she traipsed through the long alder bushes to make her way back to the path that would lead her back home.  As she muttered this and that under her breath she felt a sudden pang in her stomach.  The berries must be at work, she thought.  Listening to her gut was Dulcie’s gift but she sometimes misread the signs.  If she had not told herself it was the berries she would have realized that it was something entirely different.  Her gut was telling her to go back to her sister, to not be so foolish but she was too filled with the spite that had been passed down from her father to know the difference.  Her gut was hushed as the only thing Dulcie wanted to hear was the sound of her rubber boots sloshing in the mud as it meant she would be near the main road soon.  She hoped to catch a ride back to the Bight with the mailman.  She knew his horse and buggy would be passing by soon and he always liked to pick her up whenever she found herself along his route, which was at least once or twice a week if Dulcie could help it.

Dulcie walked while the knots in her stomach kept trying to tell her to go back to her sister.  She ignored the pain while hoping to hear the sound of horse hooves on gravel.  The sound never came but the pain continued to spread along her side forcing her to slow her pace until she couldn’t walk any further.  It was in that moment that she realized it was more than the berries.

“Oh dear Jez-us, not now,” Dulcie looked to the heaven and screamed out in agony as the torment inside her wrapped itself around her back forcing her to sit on the side of the road until she could make her way back to her feet.

Dulcie grabbed her stomach and wished she had not left Anita. Dulcie knew full well she would hear Anita’s scorn as soon as she found her still sitting on the side of the road.  But for the time being she would have to wait it out as she did not have the strength to continue on.  Dulcie thought she must have missed the mailman already and would rather be rescued by him then her older sister.  Thinking about him helped take her mind off the pain for a moment as she dreamed of being a fit enough women to find her way into his life.  She knew her mother would never let her marry him but she continued to dream about his strong arms lifting her up onto his carriage.  For a second she thought she could smell his scent but it was just her mind playing tricks on her as the pain got worse forcing her to surrender and pass out on the dirt that felt like it was sinking beneath her plump bottom.

“Wake up maid, what are you doing sleeping here on the side of the road,”Anita’s voice stirred Dulcie from her unpleasant rest.

“Oh I knows  I shouldn’t have left Neata but you knows me when the devil sets in.”

Dulcie was more than glad to see her sisters swollen and red stained hand reach out to pull her to her feet.

As Dulcie felt some relief from her pain another feeling of dread fell upon her soul as she saw the mailman’s horse and buggy waiting patiently just down the road, his back carriage lined with three metal buckets of raspberries.  Anita’s berries.  The mailman must have found Anita first before getting to her.   As she looked up there he was attentively looking on as Anita stood in wait of her sister.

“Matthew is going to give you a ride back with my berries.  Don’t dare touch one of them until I gets home or else.  And minds I’m telling ya,” Anita was ready to give up her seat on the buggy for her ailing sister as long as the berries got home safe.

Dulcie was grateful for Anita’s help in that moment and couldn’t wait to share the ride home with Matthew.  Her pain was still circling the inside of her stomach but Dulcie couldn’t feel it over the butterflies that had now stirred themselves insider her at the thought of sitting next to Matthew.  She would thank Anita for her help later.

As Matthew and Dulcie slowly started to leave Anita called out one last time to her sister, “And next time don’t be such a contrary ol witch and maybe you won’t be left to the demise of your monthly visiter.”

Just like that Dulcie’s grateful heart turned to spite as she vowed to get back at her sister once more.  Those buckets of berries might not make it home after all, Dulcie thought and with that the only word she could think to say out loud to her handsome driver was, “sisters.”

“Sisters,” he said back and it was the only conversation the two of them had the whole way back to Tickle Bight.

See you next Tuesday.

R.H. Downs

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My Ghost Story

The eerie, whistling wind brings out the writer in me so on this St. Valentine’s Day I give myself an hour to write as a gift to myself.  The rest of my day will be spent enjoying chocolate, good food, white wine and my lovely family of two little and one very big man, my husband.  There are red hearts pinned all over my house and chocolate pretzels, hand dipped by my two little Valentine’s.  They have been extra sweet to each other today which is really the best gift I could hope for.  Sibling scobbles are a daily occurrence at our house.  But oh well, they will grow up just fine right?

But even with a house full of chocolate the wind is calling to me harder and I abstain from having one more bite of heaven.  I am reminded today of a time 32 years ago when out on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland the Ocean Ranger sank and took with her its 84 crew members.  I was only 7 years old and had a very active imagination to say the least.  I had not learned how to write stories the way I wanted to yet so I often invented them, even today I still have a hard time letting go of some of the stories I told.

My stories often bled into my dreams and I was plagued with vivid nightmares at least once or twice a week.  My mom and dad took turns helping me chase he hag away.  I swear I have a 101 nightmare stories that I am sure Stephen King would love to write about if he ever got a hold of me.  But on this one night on Feb 15, 1982 I had a dream that still haunts me every year on this date.

Inside my child like mind I saw and felt a raging presence that was only in black and white, there was a heavy fog and the wind was in my ear much like it is today reminding me of its power and strength.  As a child the blowing gales frightened the living daylights out of me but in my dream I only bared witness to it and felt nothing.  I was an observer watching over something deadly and heartbreaking but I never felt the ache from that until I woke up.

Before my tearful cries came to stir my parents I watched as the stormy waters washed over a strange platform.  I knew in my mind that it not a boat but something that was made to rest on top of the sea but I had no idea what.  The toughest part of my dream and the part that I can still see clearly in my mind was a man, wearing a grey sweater, his faced covered in a thick black beard that made him look like his eyes were missing.  I saw a look of death over him as he jumped from the bouncing platform into the hungry sea.  I screamed and then he was gone and I found myself wrapped in my dads arms under the bright light of our living room.

Through my tears and hiccups I told him my dream, in the same detail as above.  He rubbed my back and told me it was just a dream and that I was ok.  He tucked me between him and my mom and I slept the rest of the night in their bed while I am sure they slept very little.

The next morning my parents went about their usual morning duties, mom got the fire sparked up in the Woodchief while dad put on the kettle for their morning tea and coffee.  As soon as the kettle was switched on then went the little red button on the radio.  They both went about their days as per usual.  I do not remember exactly when my parents found out about the disaster but I do remember that when dad heard the news that he turned to mom and said, “My God, that was what she dreamt about last night.”

Dad went white as a ghost, as mom brushed it off as nothing, “just silly dreams is all.”

Either way, be it fact or fiction I still feel that night long ago out on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.  The Ocean has many gifts to give but she sometimes takes back and unfortunately our hearts always go with her.  I cannot even imagine what the families who lost loved ones went through, it was a terrible disaster that haunts many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to this day.  It was February 15, 1982 but for some it still feels like yesterday.  I pray for them and I hope that you will too.

See you next Tuesday.

R.H. Downs

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My Village, My Tribe

This weeks blog was inspired by watching a new favorite show of mine called Downton Abbey, I am currently watching season 2.  The show I watched this week revolved around wounded patients returning home from the Great War.  One soldier was deeply depressed and didn’t want to leave the hospital but because the doctor didn’t regard his condition as being serious he told him he would have to leave.  In doing so the depressed soldier killed himself.  Yes I am fully aware that this is a fictional show and that the Great War happened a long time ago but I still believe our society has not fully comprehended the seriousness of what depression does to a person.   I will not hide behind my veil anymore, so prepare, this one may sting a little.

Mental illness has run deep around me, I have wrestled with this perpetual demon for as long as I can remember.  When I was a teenager it was labeled teen angst.  When I was a young adult it was called being in my twenties.  When I was in my thirties it was baby blues when really it was postpartum.

The day I realized that my “baby blues” were more shades of grey  then blue, was when I started my acting career up again after having boy number 1.  I was asked to audition for a PSA on postpartum depression.  I picked up my sides the day before I was supposed to read.  I started reviewing my papers as I sat on the bus back home and hid the tears that were flowing from behind my Jacki-O style sunglasses.  Numb to what was happening to me as I read further I decided right then I would not be able to do the audition the next day and risk breaking down.  My come back to acting was again put on hold for a little while longer.

I didn’t run to my doctor, my mother or my husband.  I kept trying to hold it down as long as I could without exploding.  It finally erupted 6 years later after my father passed.  To accurately define the moment of impact would be difficult.  There was so much leading up to it that each moment blended into the other until I couldn’t see anything except for a blur in front of my face.

What felt like an eternity of low days was indeed roughly about 25 years out of my now 39.  Not everyday was shrouded in dark shadows, there was a lot of good in there too.     A big chuck of that good came when I met my tribe of girl friends after I had boy number 2.  Without them I do not think I would have ever gotten to the point in my life where I could have openly admitted that I was depressed.

Before having boy number 1 I had moved to a province where I knew no one.  My husband and I came east for work and to be a least a province closer to my family even if I was in Nova Scotia and they were still in Newfoundland.   Meeting people in my early thirties proved to be difficult at first.  It wasn’t until a friend from home came to visit and hooked me up with another one of her friends who had boys close in age to mine that things started to shift.  My blind “friend” date was a hit and she introduced me to other momma’s that she had met at play group.  PLAY GROUPS were my saviour back in the early days of being a mom.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  But when I did what a difference it made in my life.

I had found myself a tribe of women who became my village.  We would babysit for one another, we changed each others kids diapers, cooked each other meals, and handed out tissues on the days that one of us felt like the world was crashing down.  There was no judgment, no back biting and no harsh words of “get over dat my dear and stop being so soft.”

We always got through the worse days together and because of that we were able to offer a kind shoulder and the advice we all needed to hear.  We encouraged each other to see our doctors, to do yoga and to just simply breath.  In fact, it was one of my tribe members who brought me to my doctor on the day that I finally hit rock friggin bottom.  She made the appointment, drove me in her car and held my hand as we cried together.

On the lighter side of things, there was always someone who had a square of chocolate hid away in the freezer for special occasions, be it good or bad.   We had “girly” birthday celebrations a plenty and had our own kitchen parties marked with silly pictures (that never go on FaceBook) and nights at the theatre where we pretended to be sophisticated and worldly.  I also have a friend who had her own cupcake business so on the really bad days there was nothing better than her peanut butter, triple chocolate,  cups to put a better spin on my day.  Self medicating at its best.

Our babies have become little humans going about their own little lives and dramas and we do not get to see each other as much now that they are in school.  We still know that we are and will forever be there for each other.  And that kind of medicine is just as important as anything that comes from a little yellow bottle.  Combing friendship with the help from my doctors was the recipe I needed to finally get my life on track.  My vision is no longer blurred, my bad days are just that and I know that when things sometimes become over whelming that I have tools to help me get through it all.

I wish that same combination for anyone out there who is still struggling.  It’s tough, I know.  The first step is embracing it.  When I finally wrapped my arms around my depression and acknowledged its presence in my life things changed.  I think owning it and then telling someone about it did the trick.  Being able to hear yourself say it out loud can be a defining moment.  When you put it out there, you are letting it go.  Letting go can be really good sometimes, so let go and don’t look back.

See you next week.

R. H. Downs

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Twitter Bug

In the world of Twitter I am but a lonely spec waiting for Horton to hear my call.  I am referring of course to the very famous Dr. Seuss story Horton Hears a Who.  My analogy was carefully chosen for a couple of reasons but mostly because I too feel like a tiny spec in the grand scheme of the Universe.  Here I am, an emerging writer, anxiously awaiting my first novel to be published and feeling grateful for the opportunity that my publisher has given me.  However, I have been told that if I want to continue on this path I must align myself with the social media gods and write profound statements daily to make myself known.

I have stayed away from the almighty Twitter up until now because it seemed silly, I often said it was a waste of my time, my energy and my creative juices.  But putting it off any longer would be wrong according to those  that want me to do well for myself.  So I did it, I signed up last Sunday and what a ride it has been.

I have opened myself up to a whole new community of writers, publishers and positive role models that I enjoy having influence my life.  I only follow those that I want to hear from and ignore all the negative jibber jabber that Twitter can for sure generate.  That is the stuff I want to stay away from and what I feared most about signing up.  I don’t particularly enjoy “haters” and was afraid of falling victim to that side of it.

This past week alone I was able to do my part to help #BellLetsTalk raise money for mental health and enjoyed all the positive press that Bell brought to light around this very serious issue.   Well done Bell, I may not subscribe to your business but I do support you whole heartedly on this one.

I also discovered different writing workshops, grants, and other programs that are available to me as a new writer.   At one point I felt so overwhelmed by it all that I had to put restrictions on myself as to how much time I should spend perusing the Twitter feeds.  There is just so much great stuff out there that I probably would not have found out about if I had not signed up.  My summer reading list also got a lot longer as I found other writers that I had not even heard of until Twitter.

I am still getting my feet wet when it comes to what it is I am supposed to put out there but I know I will get it with practice.  I enjoy being the new kid on the block as I prepare myself for the future of promoting my own novel.  I am learning as I go and when that time comes I will be armed and ready with Twitter at my side to guide me.

Most of you may have already signed up ages ago but if not don’t be afraid, you’re only 140 characters away from saying something really great or insanely stupid.  Either way, someone out there will read it and for a moment in time you will be heard.   And who knows, maybe you will even change someone’s life for the better.  It’s worth a shot right?

Until next Tuesday

R.H. Downs

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