Friday, October 11, 2013

My Life as a House

I loved the concept of 'my life as a house'.  The movie of that name was poignant and surprisingly satisfying given the odd title and the Hollywood line-up. It didn't get great reviews, but it touched something in me, perhaps because when I finally watched it, my dad was dying. 

Alice Munro's recent Nobel for Literature made my writer's heart soar.  How wonderful that this venerable Canadian author has been so recognized on a world scale.  Sarah Selecky, the accomplished Canadian short story artist and blogger, recently stated that she believes there is a true renaissance happening in the Canadian Short Story, and this certainly supports that vision. 

Munro was quoted as saying that a short story is not a linear art form, but she likens it to a house that you revisit, each time seeing a new aspect of that house and slowly piecing together what it means.   

Words to live by, and isn't a short story, or any story, a metaphor for life?  So, 'my life as a house' resonates for the writer, and for the reader, who 'visits' our stories for a look into our house, a perspective on the everyday things that make us human, emotional, real.
Long live the art of short story!  And all stories, as they glimpse the power of emotion, the character that moves us, the new, the odd, the familiar.

There have been a lot of house references in my life lately.  My Mom's house has needed extended tending since my dad's death, including the cutting down of a massive maple in the front yard that my dad planted when my brother married in 1978.  It was a sad day to see that tree go, but I remember sitting on the front porch of my parents' house, the home I grew up in, only weeks before my dad died. It was my birthday, and Dad looked up at the huge tree and said, "It has to come down.  I shouldn't have planted it there, but I love that tree."  And I promised we would take care of it. After.  So it would be there for him to look at until the end.

So the tree came down this past August, and when the workers came to take it down, they looked over the extensive property and informed us that there were 15 Ash trees that would have to be treated before the Empire Beetle got them, an expensive process.  There was considerable debate amongst my siblings and my mom, but something inside me said that we had to save those trees.  At least some of them.  Because they grew there in 1956 when my parents bought that property in Kingston and put a house on it.  Our house. 

So save the trees we did.  And I wrote a poem about it called, "The Maple and the Ash" which I will read at the next Words of the Season event for WCDR, along with my recent award-winning poem (Shortlist, Montreal Poetry Prize) "The Wedding Service". 

Some things are meant to live beyond us, and some things, like the house we grew up in, lived and worked and laughed and cried in, deserve a loving return of the TLC and shelter they once gave us.  And that's worth writing about.