society

Redheads Writing in Cafes — except when it’s the front porch

The sun — it burns!  IT BURNS!  When you are so pale that you look like you may be dead — the sun is your enemy. It’s extra evil when you forget to bring your sunscreen. I’ve been to the grocery store twice now and both times forgot to pick up some. Yesterday my mom scavenged through the medicine cabinet to find a tube of SPF 30 that expired in 2012. Might be time to get a new tube Mom! Maybe? Until I remember to buy a tube, I will be hiding out in the safety of the shade. This is what happens when you are part vampire.

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Two mornings in a row at 3 am I have been awoken by a strange noise outside. A low, guttural clicking noise. It sounds like it is coming from the side yard, just on the other side of the deck. Is this an animal? A reptile? What makes this kind of noise? Zombies? Werewolves? The neighbours? Every time I am up north, it always feels like the beginning of a horror movie.

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Then there are the crows.

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7:30 am on the dot, second morning in a row, my wake up call was the very loud, very boisterous cawing of crows congregating on the fence beside my parents house. At least a dozen of those gleaming black beauties cackling away at each other. This sound is music to my ears. I love crows and ravens. Once I finally stumbled out to the kitchen, I could see them all lined up along the rail-tie fence. Then I spotted her. A massive raven perched on the roof of the house directly above them. She looked regal, as if she was looking down at her coven.

Ravens are my spirit animal.

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I have always been fascinated by crows and ravens. More so ravens. They are birds that work in communities, who protect each other, are super intelligent and seem to be in tune with the energies around them. Many of my women partners-in-crime see themselves with houses filled with cats when they are in their eighties, I see myself with a house filled with ravens and crows. No. I’m not kidding. Two of my favourite things are a charcoal drawing of a raven that my super talented friend Laurie made and a small statue of a raven pulling flesh from a skull. My perfect creepy house, when I’m in my eighties and nineties will include a raven, on a perch near the front entrance. You definitely don’t need a fancy alarm system or a guard dog if you have a raven on the watch.

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I’m going to be at my parents for at least another week. I’m hoping to get a good photo of the raven. I may need to figure out where in Toronto to find ravens and crows. It would be a good series of photos to take with my DSLR. For now, while at my parent, I will need to rely on my cell phone camera.  

Until tomorrow… stay creepy.

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Redheads Writing in Cafes #2

Guilt. Why do I feel so damn guilty walking away from that very large pile of laundry? Why is it taunting me, making me feel like a bad person for ignoring it? I swear it was staring me down as I walked away, it was yelling at me as I grabbed my laptop and exited the building. Why is there so much guilt?

Yesterday I had the honour of being photographed by the amazing and incredibly talented Lisa MacIntosh. Lisa is not only an intuitive photographer but a wonderful human being. She has photographed musicians from all over North America for her Great Hall Series and many inspirational women, including Amanda Palmer, for the ASK series. Being included in this group of women is the biggest compliment anyone has given me. She will be working on the ASK series for the rest of the summer, please keep checking her website to see who else she includes and for more information on the ongoing series.

Lisa and I are both full-time artists, who work for ourselves and mostly work from our homes. We chatted about this and how easy it is to become distracted by the many chores and tasks involved in our households. One of the greatest traps when working from home is this exact issue. When I ignore these tasks, I start to let my imagination go to dark, dark places that include German Expressionist Silent films ala Metropolis, where my laundry and dishes revolt. Remember the below scene. No one wants their laundry to animate and attack them. No. One.

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When the weather is shite, being able to sit on your couch, or at a dining room table, desk or workstation of choice is comforting.  You don’t have to deal with the rain, sleet, snow, ice, wind or unbearable heat and humidity. Better yet, public transit in the rain, sleet, snow, ice, the wind or unbearable heat and humidity. If it’s your thing, you can stay in your yoga pants, pajamas all day or in my 1930s vision, stunning dressing gown. Your time and schedule are your own… until the laundry starts yelling at you or the dirty dishes start wailing or… or… or… Just walk away! Cover your ears, your eyes and just… walk.. AWAY. Trust me, this is so much easier said, than done, especially when you are running out of clean underwear.  This is why I’m in a neighbourhood coffee shop, writing.

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Today I chose The Good Neighbour. A cafe that is a short walk from my home, that has cute, artsy baristas behind the counter. They also have delicious coffee. In a pinch or when I am too lazy to walk to the grocery store, I have picked up a bag of their dark roast beans. Bonus: free WiFi.  The one downfall (or is it), they don’t have any vegan sweet treats (not to worry, Bunners is a two-minute walk away). They do have sandwich items that can be made Vegan on request.

This week I am back to working on short stories. I have two new ones I am drafting and a couple older stories that I need to revisit and edit. I am hoping to get those out the door… erm… via cyberspace by next week. One of them may or may not include sharks.  I am hoping by next week that it warms up enough that I can sit on a patio to write or head to the park with a book to read and a notebook to write out character sketches. Generally, I do all my writing via my computer, character sketches, I prefer to write out by hand. A bench in the middle of the trees and greenery or by the water would be a perfect spot for that. I’m not sure if anyone else experiences this, but when I am sitting near the water, my creativity opens up.

Sitting in this cafe, I have momentarily escaped from the laundry… I have not escaped from the shark that is currently stalking me. It might be time to feed. It. SHARK!  I leave you with this Peter Benchley trivia.  After the success of his book and the release of the movie Jaws, Peter became filled with dread and guilt over the fear he created towards sharks. He spent the rest of his life and his widow continues on with assisting with advocating for oceanic conservation.

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Redheads Writing in Cafes #1

***I have added a new page to the blog. It is called Redheads Writing in Cafes. Here is the first entry. 

Redheads Writing in Cafes #1

I’m a full-time writer. I work for myself. I don’t go into a Corporate office space. I create my own content. I work from home. I am my own boss. This is my perfect job. This is my dream. There is, however, one problem.  When you are working at home, there are…. how shall we say, distractions. I don’t mean the television, Netflix, YouTube or other forms of entertainment. I mean laundry, cleaning, washing that sink full of dirty dishes, figuring out what to make for dinner, tidying up, re-organizing. As you look up from your laptop, you see all the things that need to be done. You still get writing done, but between the tasks that are staring you down and when you don’t complete them…. there is that pesky guilt. Now that the weather is nicer, I plan on finding my way outside my home to write.  In the backyard, parks, cafes.

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As a full-time artist, writing in a cafe every day isn’t great for the change purse… I am considering a Kickstarter to help finance this endeavor. Feed my coffee addiction.  I’m sure others would be willing to give up a coffee a day to support my cup of coffee a day… right? No? Hmmmm….  All kidding aside, many well-known artists have written their novels, screenplays, plays and poems in cafes. There is a wonderful, addictive energy that fills the walls of cafes, not to mention the lovely wafts of fresh ground coffee beans and baked goods. Ok… now, I’m just making myself hungry. Focus. You need to focus.

The point of this new page is to write about what I’m writing about… while I’m in a cafe…. Maybe I could also convince other redheaded writers to guest write or join me in the cafe. I live in a neighbourhood that has cafes a plenty. I am going to try to choose a different one each time I write and let you know a bit about the cafe.

Today, I’m sitting in a cafe near High Park, looking out at the beautiful greenery, dreaming of the 1930s, listening to Edith Piaf’s beautiful voice, flow from the speakers. I am working on my novel as well as researching the 1930s. For some, being in a cafe would distract them. I drink in the energy that surrounds me, which is the complete opposite of when I am at home writing. At home, I need the sounds of televisions and stereos turned off, the windows open, so the sounds of the outside, find their way to my ears.

The cafe I’m in is Hannah’s Cafe and Bakery. They have a really nice dark roast and I’ve had their lattes. The staff is friendly and the cafe itself spacious. Recently we came here for a writing workshop. I’m Vegan and they have soy milk, they have some Vegetarian sandwiches and salads that can be made Vegan, however, the baked goods are not Vegan. Once you are done writing, you can hop across the street to High Park.

I’m lucky to live in such an amazing neighbourhood. I am a brief walk away from the best park in the city, shopping, bars, restaurants and groceries. The hood is also home to literary and art events. There are writers, painters, musicians, visual artists, burlesque dancers, and other artisans who call this area home. Most importantly, there are cafes a plenty and if you get lucky, you may walk into the one with the Redhead.  That might be an idea for a treasure hunt. Find the cafe with the Redhead who’s writing.

Redhead’s writing in cafes.

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The Good, The Bad and The Dead

“Hello.”

“Hi there. This is the ‘local’ town cemetery.”

“Oh geez.”

“Ya. Could you come pick up your daughter? Again.”

This sounds like some type of dialogue from your typical 1980’s, angsty teen flick, however and to the shock of no one, it isn’t. This was me. This was me as a teenager. Yes, I have spent many hours in cemeteries. No, I’m not a grave robber and you can’t prove it. Hold on, that’s an entirely different story — let’s continue this one.

As a teenager, I was often chased out my local cemetery. My reason(s) for being there were innocent enough, I was there to read. Just to read. I didn’t go there to cause issues, it wasn’t out of a reason of morbidity, though many would think my desire to sit in a cemetery to read, was morbid, weird — inappropriate. I didn’t feel what I was doing, was any of those reasons. I went because I felt comfortable, at ease and safe there. Being close to the dead brought me a sense of calm and peace, it still does. However, circumstances weren’t as simple as me wandering into a cemetery one day and discovering this, it was more complicated than that. The journey was much darker, grimmer and yes, this is where the morbid part really fits in. It all started at the age of ten when I was introduced to death. Confused? Intrigued? Stick around, I’ll explain.

The first time I experienced the death of someone I was close to, was when my Great Grandpa Bill ‘passed away’ — died. Before that, the only death I can remember was when my beloved German Shepherd Queenie, ‘went to the farm’. Yes, those are the words I was told. Until my Great Grandfather died, I actually thought she was running around, chasing squirrels in some farmer’s field. After my Great Grandfather’s death, this changed, my life changed.

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I was incredibly close to my Great Grandfather, he was someone who was my best friend and constant companion. He lived with us and I got to see him every day — until he got sick. A mild heart attack lead to a stroke. The stroke caused his death. He had been in the hospital for a few weeks before he died. I, in my ten-year-old head, figured he would eventually get better and come home. He didn’t. I don’t remember how I was told about him dying. I’m not sure why I don’t remember any of that, maybe I wasn’t told. Maybe, I just became part of the process, being swept along with everything that happened up until the part I do remember.

My first experience with a corpse was seeing him in his open casket. When I saw him, I was confused. He didn’t look like my Grandfather. He was wearing weird makeup, rouge, and lipstick. He didn’t look real. Everyone kept referring to him, to the man in the casket as Great Grandpa Bill. I couldn’t make the connection. It just didn’t look like him. It wasn’t registering in my adolescent mind. This is when the questions started. About my Great Grandfather, the man in the casket and about death.

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I was a shy, introverted child. I spent my time hidden away in my room or corners, reading, doing art, daydreaming. My Great Grandfather took the time to talk to me, tell me stories, coax me out of my room. We went on adventures together. When he passed away, I became confused, then curious about what had happened to him, why it happened and what would happen to him afterward. At the funeral home, a lot of questions were asked by me. Why was he wearing weird makeup and lipstick? Why didn’t look real? I became upset when no one would answer me. No one would explain. I wasn’t allowed to go to his funeral because of this. My actions were considered inappropriate, I was distracting and likely causing an embarrassment. I was expected to be quiet, well-behaved and sedate. I may have been hushed that day, that however, wasn’t going to stop me from asking questions.

Avoiding a child’s questions and dismissing them will have consequences. They will either stop asking questions altogether or go to the other extreme. The latter happened to me. When my parents didn’t give me the answers I sought, I went elsewhere. I freaked out teachers and librarians. Especially the librarians. They would cringe when they saw me knowing I would ask them to help me find books on death. I’m sure that getting a call from the principal’s office about this, delighted my parents. I became relentless. I wasn’t going to stop until I had an answer, an understanding. I needed to know everything about death. Did it hurt, what happened after you died? Was death final? Was there an afterlife? What happened to your body after you died, after you were buried? What happened if you weren’t dead when they buried you? (thanks urban legends) The questions were endless and I needed to know all of the answers.

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Since that day, I have been death-obsessed. No, I’m not suicidal, I’m not looking for ways to end my life. I just trying to seek all the knowledge I can about death. My childhood death-obsession also lead me down my current path. I’m a writer and performer. I write in the horror genre and am working on a novel that is a semi-biographical ghost story. I have spent many hours researching death rituals of different cultures, past and present. How other societies celebrate it, what their customs are, how they view it. I have spent a lifetime thinking about it, writing about it, obsessing about it, talking about it.

Recently I have been inspired to start openly talking about death again and to more than just two people. I’m sure Sarrah and Zoltan will be relieved about this. After years of being shut down and told that I was being morbid or hearing the standard, ‘Ha ha. Guess that’s why you love horror.’, I’m finally motivated to talk openly about it again. Normally, my outlet has been writing, now I finally feel free enough to talk to many others. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a channel on YouTube that advocates The Good Death. The channel I am talking about is Caitlin Doughty’s Ask A Mortician. Finding this channel was like reconnecting with a long lost, beloved friend. I found Death again.

More now than ever, I think it’s important to start talking about death. To open up about it.; start the conversation. Recently a cousin of mine died. He was only one year older than me and I was shocked by his death. When someone this young dies, you start to question your own mortality. I’m not afraid of dying or death. Years of trying to learn everything about it, my education, has removed that romantic notion that I will live forever. We all die, there is no way around it. His recent death is just another push to ensure I do all things in life I want to do. Live my dreams. Make every moment count. Don’t let time run out. We all need to start the conversation about our own impending death. The one thing that Caitlin talks about often, is making sure you get the death you want, The Good Death. I’ve started thinking about what I want to be done with my body when I die. I don’t want a funeral, or a casket or an embalmed body that is preserved against what is supposed to happen naturally. I want to be wrapped in a shroud and buried in a shallow grave. A green burial. The perfect end and burial for a horror writer. It’s also an environmentally friendly way to dispose of… erm… bury a body.

Something else that has become an important source of support and information is Death Cafes. A Death Cafe is a safe place to talk about death and dying. They have speakers who cover a variety of different topics relating to death. Most cities have them and Toronto has a few every month. I think they are brilliant and I will be going to the next one that is closest to me. Another event that has started to happen around the planet are Death Salons. The idea of holding a Death Salon also intrigues me. I’m thinking about how to put one on. More details on this soon. To find out more on what has inspired me, please click on the following link. https://deathsalon.org/

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Will my obsession with death ever fade? No, if anything it will continue to grow. I will never stop reading about it, researching it, learning. I really wish that I had someone like Caitlin to talk to when I was ten. If I could go back and talk to that ten-year-old me, I’d assure her that it is ok to ask questions and that she should never stop. If your child or any other child asks about death, don’t dismiss them or avoid answering them. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you don’t and then find out the answer! Once you have that answer, go back to that child and have a conversation with them about their questions. Sheltering them from death and dying is not going to help them later in life.

I will always carry the ten-year-old around with me. She will always be there asking questions and expecting answers. I’m glad we live in a world that I can research from the comfort of my own living room. Living in Toronto has also made it easier for me to find the information and resources I need, without being pointed out as that weirdo wanting to talk about death. Let’s talk about it. Let’s start a conversation and keep it going. Don’t let the ten-year-olds, with questions about death, be swept away with the process.