Diffusion and Refraction

November 30, 2011

Click to enlarge.

My father, myself, and my brother (Stephen). South Cross Lake, Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba. 1987.

We would go on a several-weeks long canoeing / camping trip up into the wilderness every summer. It was a very typically Canadian thing to do.

When canoeing, the person in the rear of the canoe guides the boat. They must navigate and steer. There is something immensely satisfying about stroking your oar through calm waters and watching the twin whorls of water dance off of your paddle as you slip it out of the wet.

We had a little island we would set up camp at. I would fish but didn’t actually want to catch anything. I just liked the act of fishing. I would built my little twig and stone forts and play out the lives of their inhabitants in my imagination. I was fascinated by tiny, mysterious worlds that could be hidden in a crack of a rock, or just below the surface of the water behind a log.

My father always looks unhappy or strained in photos. This is one of the few where he seems content. He had this photograph framed in his office for 25 years before he brought it home after retirement. It is now in his home office. That makes me smile.

I have an odd relationship with my father, and I don’t quite understand it. There is a strong, obsessive drive on the Chinese side of my heritage to respect your elders. I am combative with my father and I feel like I have to prove a point with him. I feel like his opinions are so extreme that I have to balance them out with equal and opposite viewpoints, even if I don’t even believe them. He is a man of very strict principles and stricter judgements. I believe he would do what is morally right before doing what he wants, or what his family wants. I don’t trust him because of this. I never have.

I love and respect and honour my father. I wish I could be more like him.

Modern Geometry

November 28, 2011

I live in a box fort in a box building. My box car drives down box roads in a box city.

This box city lies at the end of a long highway with 12-foot standard lanes. The highway is a testament to an old and desperate stab through the frozen, wooded wastelands around us.

I take my box car out, and trundle, arrow-straight, through this gaping wound of nature before grinding to a halt. I watch the other boxes flashing by as I stand on the side of the highway. Shining eyes peer back at me through dark breathing holes.

I pour out my box drink. FD&C Yellow Number 6 stains the struggling grasses that clutch to the edge of the asphalt. I remember a different time.

When corners weren’t so sharp. When the edges blurred together. When things weren’t so certain and proud of themselves. When my fingers rejoiced at soft surfaces and felt them yield. When I did not know, and mystery laid in wait at every touch. When it didn’t matter what we had to say, but we said it anyways, and that was enough. When my mind drew circle after circle after circle yet never sought to enclose the other.

When the corners of these boxes were still fresh and far apart. Before I built them.

Used Surfaces

November 22, 2011

It wasn’t for nothing. My loft in the sun.

Click image to enlarge.

“It happened so slowly. Delicately and instinctively. The book just wound itself shut.”

A nod of recognition. “It all sounds very familiar.”

“The more I struggled against it, the more quickly it would close. I could not speak words fast enough.”

“We all spared the words for those within the lines, brother. Now, it is too late. Our pages will remain blank.”

Dead and Dreaming

November 18, 2011

I died in a dream the other day.

I didn’t feel the bullets, but I felt them drive me back into the darkness.

I felt no pain.

Drops in a Bucket

November 9, 2011

In the last several days, I consciously remembered some things that had happened to me when I was young.

I remember the funeral of my paternal grandfather. I was only 10 or 11 years old. I did not know him well, but I know he was a somewhat imposing and frightening man. He had requested that his two grandsons be pallbearers for his coffin. I refused to do it. I remember the day was cold, and grey, and that his new, young foreign wife was crying loudly, very well-dressed in her black lace mourning dress.

It wasn’t until much later that I knew about how controlling and cruel my grandfather could be. That his second wife disappeared and we never heard from her again, taking everything with her. My father has next to nothing to remind him of his parents now.

I also remember playing out in the yard in the fall, picking up twigs and cutting them into tiny logs, then constructing elaborate mud and log homes. I built whole cities at the roots of the great elms and oaks in our vast yard. They would not last long. Entropy would destroy those little castles and villages, and my Lego villagers gleam brightly yellow and plastic, falling where they stood, to be scooped up until my next project.

I remember the first time a girl I liked phoned me up. She said she would phone at a certain time and I picked it up after the first ring, fearful my parents might pick it up elsewhere in the house. She put me off-guard immediately and asked, “Were you waiting for me to call?” I lied and said, “No.”


“I just need that solitude. I need to experience it fully.” She explains.

“You mean in general, or with this trip?” I ask, feeling a rising discomfort.

“In general, with everyone.”

I don’t believe it. I feel resentment welling up inside of me, threatening to pour out into the phone in a vicious tirade.

After a pause, I edgily say, “Listen… I think we’re done.”

I wait a few more moments and continue, “I think this is over between us.”

I hear her sigh heavily into the phone and I stare at the sunlight tracking a square of yellow across the bare wall.

I wonder if it’s a sigh of relief or sadness or both.

“What do you mean, we’re done?” She asks quietly, fishing to force me to say it.

“This doesn’t feel like a relationship to me anymore.”

“That’s the first time you’ve ever said what you want, it’s always been about what I wanted.”

I don’t really agree with her but I let it pass, “I’ve been thinking about us, this, for a while, and I know you have too. We need to break up.”

And then we did.

I could barely croak out the last words to the woman I loved. My throat clenched as I fought back tears, staring through the windows into the sun in hope that they would evaporate before they fell.

When I disconnected the call, it had a certain finality to it that had never existed before.

There was no alternative waiting for me, only a fearsomely lonely world that felt like it was actively shutting me out.

It had actually happened, and I was still edgy and irritable. Had I done it just because I was angry? Was I jealous? Was it a damaged ego? Was I that full of pride? Can I even say that I was the one who did it?

I don’t know.

I know that I walked away from someone I loved and I still don’t know exactly why.


November 7, 2011

After much effort, two 8′ by 4′ sheets of hickory plywood have now been affixed to the wall in my loft. I am excited to start working on them!

10. Prognosis of the main medical condition of this patient:

He will never recover from this condition. He will require a re-heart transplant or he will die from his condition.

That was blunt and it hurts to contemplate.