Every year it feels like the last IFOA (International Festival of Authors) was just two weeks ago.
Admittedly, I got an earlier than usual start this year. Yesterday, Teri and I went to a reading and interview with Ben Lerner and Ian McEwan, and it seemed to go by in a blink. Right near the end, the two authors were asked what they were working on. I can’t remember McEwan’s exact answer, but it was along the lines of, “I’m very good at not writing.” And I’ve been feeling that way for a long time. Maybe it’s the summer. I never really write in the summer. I feel dormant and quite at ease about it, too. I barely think about it.
Perhaps it’s good timing, then, that IFOA starts at this time every year. During the interview I could feel little cracklings of story ideas in my brain, thoughts of dusting things off and continuing on. I feel the word “inspiration” is overworn in the blog world, but it’s really the exact word for how I feel every time at IFOA. Another yearly tradition, it seems.
About 14 years ago, I somehow discovered a website of a business that had webcams up around its building, and were sharing live views of Dublin. I looked at it whenever I could. There was a pub, and a shop called “Not To Worry!”. I suppose I found it comforting to see people in a faraway country going about their everyday lives, running errands, chatting with friends.
It still exists, though Not To Worry! seems to be gone.
This is a photo of some trees somewhere in Finland, from a webcam I found one winter night a few years ago when I was being dreamy about Finland. This was a live stream too, I think. Not much moved. It was soothing.
This is St. Petersburg, Russia. My brother and sister-in-law lived there for a few months recently. I was Skyping with my brother one day, and he stuck his laptop out the window and turned it to face the city. Since then I’ve been curious about it, I suppose (and my recent obsession with the Russian Winnie the Pooh cartoons hasn’t helped).
Most webcams I find online are high up on buildings, looking down on faraway highways or town squares. This one, one of several owned by a hotel reservation company, brings you closer, and you can hear snippets of faint Russian, people laughing. This sidewalk seems rarely empty, even at three in the morning. And the time difference is such that I can watch their day start as mine is ending. There’s something soothing about that, too.
I was in Calgary recently for a dear friend‘s wedding. It was the first time in three years that I’d been there. In the first couple of years I was back in Ontario, I went back to Calgary three times. So it was Calgary all the time, then nothing for so long.
It surprised me. It was disorienting. Familiar, home-like, but different enough to confuse. Inner-city neighbourhoods I’d loved to wander through were packed with jarring, blocky infills. Were those new? Or had I just forgotten? At the wedding, I spoke to someone about Casa Loma with such familiarity for the longest time, until I realized that I was not in Toronto. My two old worlds existed in one place.
Despite the disorientation, the trip was filled with the best things: Long, relaxing visits with friends (and a wedding, which was beautiful), good food, that fantastic drawn-out Alberta sky. Driving and walking around, making lists of what was different and what had always been there.
In 2005 I had a poetry blog. It’s strange for me to think that I wrote poetry, but I did, and I used to post the (mostly unpublished) poems on my blog. That’s another thing that’s strange to me now.
I recently rediscovered the blog thanks to files I’d saved years ago. Aside from the many, many poems I’d forgotten about, I found this old writer’s purpose statement of sorts:
I like oldness, I like brick buildings, creeping ivy. I like winter imagery and visceral imagery. I like to write about coldness and bones and bodies. I like dreaming of lakes and stones and tall trees. I like a little teeth in my poetry. I like it when poetry is a bit brambly around the edges.
Much of that’s still true, though now I write some of these things in fiction rather than poetry – except for bones. Apparently that was a phase. It’s interesting how many of these things are accepted in poetry, but not so much in fiction. I think it’d be considered confusing to walk up to someone and say, “Hi. I write fiction about coldness and bones and bodies.”
However, I still do like brambly-edged poetry. Fiction too, for that matter.