Saturday, July 26, 2008

To dream the impossible dream

I have no imagination. That may sound strange considering the fact that I'm a writer, musician, dancer, teacher and mother. How can I do all that without imagining?

I create out of what's there. If it's not there, I can't make it up. I dance the steps I'm shown, I sing the notes on the page, I rearrange the statements from an interview into a meaningful story.

I guess I'm more of a sculptor than an painter. Give me a blank page and it stays blank. Give me a chunk of words and I'll chip away the garbage until the beauty underneath shines through.

My dream is to write a novel. I've been working on it for the past year and I'm not so proud to announce I page. Not necessarily the first page. (It is a very good page though!!)

The thing that's blocking me is that I can't seem to make up things about my characters. Even if I could, it feels like lying. So everything about them and everything they do is from either my life or someone close to me. (Right now the guy is sort of a combination of Tony, my dad, and Ray Goertzen, if you can imagine that! Short, furry, and loves airplanes.)

If I haven't experienced it myself then I can't imagine it happening at all. Which means I'm giving away a lot more of my secrets than I'd like through these characters! How do other people feel deep down about God, sex, death or their own elbows in their most honest moments? I don't know!

So either I need to get comfortable with telling the world my secret fantasies and insecurities or I need to learn to lie. Or God needs to infuse me with a serious dose of imagination. He created an entire universe no one else had ever thought of before, so maybe he could show me how to create a story world from nothing too?

Or maybe I should just stick to writing truth. The truth that I know. Like "How to be your best unemployed self" or "10 things, I hate, about commas" or a commentary on the "Intertextuality of Ezekiel." Informative (for the 1% of the population who would care) but not very inspiring.

No, I have a need to create. A God-given need to lead people towards beauty: the beauty of a Creator who "can do more than anything I can ask or imagine."

Imagine that.

Monday, July 07, 2008

When all hope was lost

Biking around the neighbourhood feels very different this summer.

And not just because I finally have a bike with working breaks, a kickstand that reaches the ground, and more than one gear. I have a very sweet husband, who values me, and my ability to stop before the parked cars, enough to surprise me for our 14th anniversary.

This summer I don't cry every time I go by the school playground.

Before you google "new antidepressant meds" allow me to explain. In May 2007 we found out the school board wanted to close my kids' elementary school, around the block from my house, due to low enrollment. So last June my full time job was ringing doorbells, doing surveys, handing out fliers, calling the division office regarding services and funding policies for small schools, researching the history of the building and its founder, and writing speeches.

And chastising the apathetic parents on the playground. You know, the kind that say, "Oh, we can't make a difference anyway." Or "My kid's going to junior high next year so it doesn't affect me."

When the kids were let out last June, we only knew we had a year-long fight on our hands, with no hope in sight. It was a bunch of zealous soccer moms and dads against the elected pocketbooks.

The suits had already made up their minds. The suits controlled the media. And despite our brilliant presentations, the suits voted to put our school up for review for closure.

Every time I rode by the empty playground and saw the vertical garden the students had just painted, poles full of jellyfish, flowers, fruit and butterflies, I cried. I wept when I imagined the new playground equipment torn down and the playing field sprouting condominiums. Or the building where K. learned to write his name turned into a military base, or a meat packing plant. (Nothing says "happy family neighbourhood" like raw pork and tanks.)

The school board's final vote to close the school was scheduled for the beginning of June. "All through the school year," one staff told me, "not a day goes by when the topic of closure doesn't come up." Like a cloud over our heads. Why plan and dream? Why create and improve when someone is going to tear it all down?

Enter Education Minister Peter Bjornson. Out of the clear blue this June, he passes a bill in legislature placing a moratorium on school closures in Manitoba. Done.

When we heard the bill had passed I heard a parent say, "A week ago it seemed so hopeless, and now it's all turned around. I don't believe in God, but this almost made me wonder..."

I'd have to agree. To step in and save us when all hope was lost and all our efforts had failed sounds very God-like.

I'd like to think rescuing beautiful, safe places where children are loved was on the divine to-do list for 2008.

Race you to the swings!