I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day, observing people as I am wont to do. As an aspiring writer, what better place to learn about human characteristics, dialogue and situations than to simply watch and listen. Overheard tantalizing snippets of conversation have led to some wonderful story ideas that currently reside in my ‘gotta write about this someday’ file. What I have noticed lately is the prevalence of technological forms of communication that are impeding or eliminating conversations between real people standing beside each other in a line up, at a checkout or just passing each other on a sidewalk.

While technology is a marvelous tool that keeps us connected to our five favorite people, it is replacing social conversation. While ‘nice weather, eh” may not be the most inspired ice breaker, small talk is a way to acknowledge people around us in an open way, possibly leading to more conversation and striking a connection. Hard to make eye contact with someone when their head is bent while they frantically text their BFF.

Eye contact and social conversation is an integral part of our human beingness (is that a word? Well, it is now…LOL). There are many solitary people in this world whose social contact is limited to trips to the grocery store, bookstore or post office (perhaps not right now with the postal strike but in general). Human beings crave companionship, social interactions and connections. It is said that your eyes are the window to the soul….but only if you can see someone eye to eye. Eye to iPhone is not the same thing.

Do I think this is the rise of the machines, as foretold in the Terminator movies? Yes and no. I think that if we as people lose our connection to each other, we lose some of our humanity. It’s hard to hug via text message, see fear, desperation, love and passion in someone’s eyes via phone call and even with Skype and other face-to-face communication tools, it’s hard to reach out and actually touch each other. Emoticons are cute but hardly the real thing.

Besides, if people stop actually talking to each other LIVE, I will have to resort to making up things for my stories. Truth is so much stranger and way more entertaining than fiction.

And if you think I can’t see you from my blog, you’re right. Next time I pass you on the street though, I’ll make sure to look you in the eye and give you a big smile and say hello. Who knows, it just might make our respective days just a little bit brighter.

Connecting through face to face conversations….who would have thought it could matter that much.

Rainy Days and Lemon Pie

It’s been raining for several days in a row and it’s hard not to succumb to a sense of gloom. Unlike falling snow, it’s not fun being outside in pouring rain – unless you’re at the lake. Swimming during a soft rain can be quite wonderful.

When we were kids, rainy days weren’t disappointments as much as opportunities to do other activities. Even when camping, the rain meant enjoying inside games such as Monopoly, Clue, Uno and Rumoli. At home, it meant movies on TV, reading books while wrapped in a warm blanket and mugs of tea or hot chocolate. It didn’t ruin plans so much as redirect them.

As adults, we tend to sigh at rainy days as if to dismiss them as being unworthy. We forget to embrace the opportunity they offer. Of course, going to our day jobs will happen whether rain, snow or shine but on weekends, we are disappointed if the weather is not sunny and fair. We hope that next weekend will be better and so on and so on.

This weekend, we finally remembered to embrace our inner child and enjoy the day we were given. Donning raincoats, we went about our day, just as planned. Like wet dogs, we gently shook ourselves dry at each stop, and ended up in a delightful cafe in Glenora. We gratefully downed delicious hot soup and fragrant fresh baked buns while the rain pelted the cafe windows. The crowning glory was a piece of decadent lemon meringue pie, shared in comfortable companionship before braving the rain for our next adventure.

How did we forget to take each day as it came and make the best of whatever it had to offer?

Perhaps the more important question is why on earth didn't we see sooner what we were doing? We finally understand that it’s not about what the day can offer us….it’s about what we can offer the day.
Actually it’s all about the pie….and my oh my, what wonderful pie! Maybe next weekend, it'll rain again....:-)

i to the e: Stepping out of my comfort zone…

This has been an interesting week for me as I needed to step out of my small ‘i’ introvert personality and into a small ‘e’ extrovert personality for two separate occasions.

The first was work related. The national CPA payroll conference was held this year in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre.  It involved that ‘n’ word that strikes deathly fear into the hearts of introverts across the county. Yes, I do mean ‘networking’.  J

In my job, I deal with lots of people. However, this is usually on the phone or via email and occasionally in my office.  At conferences, you have to talk to people face-to-face ALL THE TIME. Yikes! Fortunately for me, there were usually enough big E extroverts around to carry the load, allowing the rest of us to be hangers on instead of initiators, at least most of the time.

The second was in my personal life but the fear it struck in my heart was as daunting as the aforementioned networking, if not more.

Sunday night was the launch of the Spring 2011 issue of Other Voices who have done me the honour of publishing my second short story Red Passion No. 9. I was given the opportunity to read my story aloud to an audience who were neither my family nor the protective cocoon of my Tuesday Night Writers.

On the one hand, I really looked forward to sharing my work. On the other hand, it meant speaking in front of a group. Double yikes! Gave a whole new meaning to the words 'big gulp'!

It turned out that I read first which kept my nervousness to a minimum. Speaking into a microphone was much less stressful than I'd imagined and the audience was receptive and appreciative to all of us who shared our work. It was SO much fun!

Thank you, Aspen, Erinne, Danielle and the rest of the terrific volunteers from Other Voices. The Untitled Bookstore is a real find (can't wait to go back and buy more books) and the whole evening was simply fabulous.

Now I have to write more stories so they can get published and I can do it all again!

Letting beauty find you...

A wonderful poet spoke to my writing group last week about living a poetic life. That doesn’t mean seeing poetry everywhere you go but it does mean embracing your creativity and bringing the consciousness of your inner artist into the life you are living. Let your inner essence spill over, bringing fresh meaning to what you do and bringing the poetry of creativity into your every day life.

She spoke of having a reverence for life, observing everything with an open mind and open heart. Articulate clearly each and every day about your experiences. Share your words – they may not sound like poetry but if they are the words of your heart, they are poetry.

Slow down and notice what is going on around you in this moment in time. If you are anything like me, you have a massive to-do list that leaves no time to enjoy what has already been achieved before you are on to the next item. By doing this, you miss the connection with ‘now’. I know that I do this myself every day. No wonder our psyches get so worn out – they are not being nourished or acknowledged.

She told a story of a time when she was healing from a difficult break-up and spent a lot of time walking, alone. Over time, she started noticing isolated pockets of remarkable beauty – a budding flower, a beautiful bird – and realized that the greyness and sadness that had enveloped her was lifting and beauty was finding her again. That’s when she knew that she was going to be okay.

Her story reminded me that if we look for something too hard, it becomes elusive and avoids us. We need to stop and refocus. Carpe Diem - ‘seize the day’ – slow down and let ourselves become grounded in today. Instead of our lists telling us what we should do, let our inner selves guide us to what we need. In the silence that ensues, beauty will find us and we will find ourselves living a poetic life, perfectly in tune with ourselves and the world around us.