World Poetry Day

Yesterday, according to various emails that I found in my inbox, was a trifecta of world celebrations. In no particular order, it seemed as if the stars had aligned so that we simultaneously celebrated World Recognition of Down-syndrome Day, World Poetry Day, and World Commonwealth Day. And here I thought my own calendar planning was poor as I battle mistaken double-bookings and overstretched responsibilities.

Recently I found myself fielding a number of questions about my blog, and why I write one. I let it be known to a small gathering of people that I also enjoy poetry, and when I said that I write a blog, I know in my heart of hearts that there are really blogs that I write, not just this one you may be reading now.

Poetry, fiction, general writing, and for a large part, English classes, were not seen as a highlight of my academic career. More a point of humorous embarrassment and ineptitude. English was a subject for other people in my family. I cannot ever recall learning the building blocks of English grammar, and I think that I grew up in an era of English teaching reform where the students would just ‘know’ English and come to practice it without having to go into all the details; something like ‘new maths’. As such, I tend to blunder my way through writing but get immense pleasure from reading and writing. I even like the sound of words and marvel at people who have provided the world with silly rhymes, or majestic marvels (like Gerard Manley Hopkins). If I was to compare my English studies and eduction, it would be not dissimilar to building furniture from IKEA without the directions — you could manage, and in the end you have something recognizably like a sofa, but with a lot of left over metal washers and screws. So far, the sofa in our house is holding together, and I suppose the same is true for my writing and general use of the English language. Just don’t move it around too much.

Family will likely read this, or if they are smart, only see that a new post has arrived in their ‘inbox’ and promptly ignore it. Reading, writing and general composition were painful events. I read faster upside-down than right side up, and especially when tired, I will simply turn the book around and read upside down as it is not as difficult. These actions truly annoyed professors as they thought I was mocking them, but in reality it makes my brain hurt less. I get emotionally attached to what I have written, so much so, that I will sulk and pout if others wish to edit and correct. I am not always as clear as I think I am in my writing (or at any time), as I feel that my brain jumps to conclusions that are easily made, but others tell me that they cannot follow. Catch up!

In order to enter university studies I needed to take English classes until my final days of high school. I think I skimmed most of the reading, and played dumb for a lot of the response that was needed to speak about plays, novels, and poems, especially poems because only girls read poems. That’s what was the underlying message from my peers and so I, wanting to fit in, acted in this way. I think that I have now, later in life, rediscovered the books that I read in school or was suppose to have read, and have gone and done my penitence and re-read all of them. Well, there is still Doctor Zhivago, but I enjoyed the movie more anyway.

My mother and sister are the English buffs, as the bookshelves in our family home can attest to a prolonged love and study of English literature. I have to admit that as my grades were not good I needed to take a test for English in order to register for English 100 in school. Those of my peers who had done better at English 12 immediately jumped into English 101 which was only one digit higher, but held a infinitely greater prestige.

To this day I do not know what I did on that placement test, but I now look back at it with a smile. After standing in a long line of students at a registrars office I received my test score which allowed me to try for enrolment, not in English 100, but (gasp!) English as a Second Language classes.

So why am I writing this blog? Why do I like to read poetry? Why do I even bother? I suppose a lot has changed in my attitude about how I learn and in what ways I have progressed enough in my own self that allows me to write more publicly. When pressed by friends and acquaintances as to the reason why I write at all, let alone on a public forum like a blog, I need to think deeply about this question. I can say I don’t often enjoy it. No, it isn’t like that. I enjoy writing, but it is hard work. It feels like something I just have to do. Perhaps it is a compulsion or a laborious event that just has to happen.

Writing is something that takes a great deal of effort, and at times, I cannot be bothered and have learned other methods to express myself. When re-taking the English placement test, I did get into the regular English classes. Mostly those tests taught me absolutely nothing about English, and everything about my own determination, desire, and destiny.

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On the Run

After making what was a rather hasty visit to Canada I realize that I have not had the time to write for a long time.  Much has happened, but little of it is of significance.  I recall reading the words of Roald Dahl in “Going Solo” that “A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones.”  As well, what may be “enthralling” to me, is not necessarily memorable for all.

I’ve decided to change the template on the blog, and have considered going to a paid rate to get better services, as well as many other features.  Now that the GDPR rules are enforce I wonder if I should write anything at all, and if so, shall I still link them to Facebook, or Twitter.  All this is not the real reason I write.  The real reason I write is that I have an assignment in a Spiritual Direction course to complete, and well, the procrastination is ever present.  I have made several stabs at writing my paper on “How does one grow in intimacy with God?” and I am now in the editing phase.

Intimacy with God is a fickle thing.  There are times when some of the basics become just that – too basic – and I search for some other possibilities.  I am loth to write an easy answer that sounds like a self-help easy 10 steps to Spiritual Enlightenment.  At the moment, along with the classical examples of prayer and Bible reading, I have found running to be a quiet centre where I commune with God.

I have been active in running or jogging since living in Vancouver.  As a child I recall loving to run, until a diagnosis of Asthma happened and it felt as though I had a pillow stuffed over my face, or like I was trying to breathe through a thin plastic straw.  Eventually, having a lot of time alone and going to university, I was determined to run as some kind of exercise – an activity that was not expensive.  Over time, running along with walking became easier and easier.  The asthma no longer seemed present and I felt that I could extend my runs for longer periods of time.  I participated in the Vancouver Sun Run a number of times, the Grouse Grind Race, various seasonal ‘fun runs’, and several other Vancouver area runs.

The journey back to Canada to visit family was focused and short, but I wanted to include a race to help keep my mind set on some kind of goal.  I found that the Shaughnessy 8k was on so I submitted my entry form and fee and waited for the big day. The run had appeal as it was around the area in which I began running in ernest, and it was also a race for the good cause of cancer research.  Lapping up the nostalgia as I lapped the neighbourhood was what I was expecting.  What I did not remember was how hilly the route was!  From a steep initial incline, to the gradual rolling streets, it was a far cry of running for many kilometres down the German side of the Rhein!

My daughters stood on the side of the street screaming at me to run faster as the finish approached, and my father was able to be present for the race as well.  After having intended to go for a short run a couple of days prior to the race I became lost (poor signage) and circumnavigated most of a nature park only to return to the parking lot 5 minutes after other family members had finished their 4 km hike to see that I had completed 17 km of running through what was mostly elbow-high grass rather than trail.  Having now over-trained prior to the 8k race I felt unprepared and more than just a little winded as I climbed the first hill.  Running, with feet pounding the street, breathing paced, and sweat dripping down the forehead, are all paths to growing in intimacy with God.  “God, when will this end!”, may have been the prayer at one point in the race, but overall it is a style of meditation that draws me closer to God.

At the end of the race I was shocked to learn that I had won a door prize, and later, that I was called up for winning 3rd place for my age category.  And if you are thinking as my brother did; I can tell you there were more than three people in the 40-44 age group.

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And the bronze medal goes to…

Now having returned for some weeks to Germany I continue to run on a regular basis looking for scenic routes, for longer and longer distances, or even a quick jog that I can fit into my schedule.

Reading in a German running magazine the responses from various runners when asked if they thought it correct to greet other runners while out on your own run (I think only in Germany would this be an issue) I liked one gentleman’s response, in that he waves to everything but the trees because as he runs through the forests he doesn’t often see other people, so takes every opportunity to wave.  So far, of the places I have ventured to run in Europe, I have enjoyed Switzerland the most.  The scenery of both the Rhein, the Münsterplatz of old city of Basel, the parks, and the people (all of whom waved), have made it an enjoyable place to grow closer in intimacy with God.

Now that I have probably outdone myself in word-count and run-on-sentences for this blog post it is probably wise to head back to the paper on spiritual direction…or maybe there is still time for another run.