A Bevy of Characters

“The light is not very good for taking photographs,” Ric remarks as we turn onto the road along the river which has fast become our favourite drive.

“I know.”  

It’s not in my character to give up just because circumstances are not ideal.  In my mind, there are always photo opportunities.

The river flows inky blue, and as Ric slows the car on the lookout for birds, the wind blows up, bringing with it a shower of wet snow.  

“Stop!”  An eerie mist is hovering over the land and I want to get a picture.

‘Stop’ is our agreed upon command for when we see something worth photographing.  This road is gravel, and seldom travelled, so it is safe to pull over frequently.   

“Might be too cold for the birds.”

I refuse to be daunted, determined to capture a reasonable number of photos.  Barren trees line the road, deserted nests reminders of the vibrancy of this place just weeks ago.  It is almost haunting.

We creep along, and just as I begin to think that Ric might be right about the birds, there is a flurry of activity.

“Stop!”

We roll down our windows as blue jays, chickadees, juncos and woodpeckers flock to nearby branches.  Despite the greyness of the day, I am pleased with how some of these characters showed up:

Blue jays are seldom this compliant.

There is nothing sweeter than the chirp of a chickadee.

I think I feel a painting or two coming on.

***

This week’s focus has been on character.  A special thanks to all who participated:

Proscenium

Somewhere Sea

Culture Shocks

Willow Poetry

Cactus Cats

Sgoeil

See you tomorrow for a new challenge!

Appearances

Testing social waters –
that cherished state of interaction –
prone to revealing too much

have been homebound,
studying life without a facilitator,
now attempting to penetrate invisibility

gathering the salvageable bits –
minimal fragments of a once whole woman,
reaching out, reconnecting, reception mixed

much has passed me by –
no amount of homework can undo
this loss of sharpness, this dependent state

as achievement focused as ever –
would go back to work – my heart space –
if illness had not deemed me redundant

must be selective in sharing –
am met with disregard, my story, like a gunshot,
causes others to duck, glaze over, lack of scarring

a disappointment for those expecting
acts of heroism – scars command respect –
metaphors telling a linear story – my journey

not marked by projected deadlines –
origins of disease unknown, defies medical
knowledge, research lacking – I am estranged

who dares to question beyond the trembling
exterior, behold the opportunity that blesses me,
witness the gift of joy that comes with re-evaluation

when character overcomes strife,
and simplicity replaces frenetic ambition –
the outcome of enrolment in this life class.

(Appearances was penned in December, 2016, after two and half years of being primarily bed bound with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  As I gradually gained strength, my doctor suggested that I might attempt a few social outings.  What I had to talk about, when I had been out of the loop for so long, weighed heavily on my mind, as well as the fact that I have a little known disease – difficult for others to relate to.

Featured image is an original watercolour, Dreamy Coast

I submit this edited version for my weekly challenge: character.  To participate, just clink on the link. Thanks for reading.)

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V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #23: Character

It’s a funny thing, character, the way it brands people
as they age rising from within to leave its scar
– Kate Morton, The Distant Hours

The school board I worked for introduced an initiative to promote character education in the classroom.  Acceptance, caring, honesty, respect, empathy, perseverance, and responsibility were among the traits targeted.  At the start of each week, I would introduce a character trait and then weave it through the lessons, offering students an opportunity to apply and learn.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it was like hitting my head against a brick wall.  It led me to question how character is developed.

In literature, a character is established and demonstrated one of four ways:

  1. through dialogue – what the character says
  2. through their thoughts – what they don’t say
  3. through their actions
  4. by what others say about them

Could we apply this same process to people?  Impossible, of course, to know what anyone is thinking, but the summation of words plus actions plus how a person is perceived surely makes up character.

Kate Morton’s line from The Distant Hours struck me enough to write it down.  The idea that character can rise up and “leave its scar” made me ponder.  I thought immediately of an old aunt of mine, long deceased.  A crusty individual who saw the world in terms of black and white, and yet who in her older years revealed herself as rather grey.

Much to think about this week, and I can’t wait to see what you come up.

In the meantime, I thought I’d leave you with one more quotation:

images

To Participate:

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On The Subject Of Beauty

From the time I was preteen, I was obsessed with drawing the same cartoon over and over;
the first illustration showed the shapely backside of a long-haired temptress, and the next frame revealed the fact that the things are not as they appear – a woman with a monstrously ugly face.  It was a self-portrait, and I remember that when I drew it, I was feeling the impossibility of ever finding love with a mug like mine.th-2

That was the 1960’s, when the first coloured TV set appeared in our household,  and apart from the odd magazine that floated through, there were limited visual standards for what beauty entailed.  In my case, I was comparing myself to my older sisters, whose dark-haired, fine-featured beauty was unmistakeable – they turned a lot of heads.

I knew that my overbite and receding chin disqualified me from physical beauty, and I remember distinctly believing that this gave me no hope.  Furthermore, I was academically inclined and a diehard tomboy.  “Who will ever love you?” floated off the tip of my mother’s tongue repeatedly.

Self-esteem, it seems, has always been a fragile thing.  I cannot imagine how difficult it is in today’s world where images of ‘beautiful’ women bombard us, and selfies populate the social media screen.  th-1

Raise your hand, ladies, if you have ever felt like you don’t measure up.  Well, that’s about everyone.  How tragic is this. (If this didn’t include you, please leave your secret in the comments.)

Things could have been different for me, if my mother had valued my intelligence, or spirit, or recognized any gift in me other than focusing so much on the physical.  But she didn’t.  In fact, beauty was the measure of a woman’s worth in our family, and my second eldest sister, who became a fashion model, set the bar.

What saved me, I believe, is that I also grew up in the time of Women’s Lib when women were encouraged to address and fight for equality.  It was a cause I could throw myself into – a battle for human rights.

What cause engages the hearts of young women today, I wonder.

What prompted this post was the appearance of a young woman on the reality show:  The Bachelor, and then subsequently on Bachelor In Paradise.  (Don’t yell at me, it’s a mindless indulgence that both my husband and I watch.)  Initially, the young woman is attractive, and appears to be a contender for the coveted male attention.  She receives a lot of flack for speaking up about another girl to the contestant, Ben, and then lying when confronted with her act.  (Raise your hand if you’ve never done that.  I thought so.)

When she appears again, this time in Mexico, she is unrecognizable as the wholesome, attractive blonde that we first met.   She has transformed herself – fuller lips, more pronounced makeup, a new bad girl attitude.  I understand that she is setting her sights on stardom, but it saddens me that this is the standard that some young woman aspire to.th

As an educator, I have participated in the widespread effort to raise children’s self-esteem.  We missed the mark by a long shot.  What we now recognize is that esteem derived from intrinsic values is more important than external praise.  We have turned our focus to developing character, and resilience.  The media still lags behind, and understandably so – they have an agenda to sell a product, and making the audience feel bad about themselves  fits their needs.

If I could go back and talk to that young artist whose deflated sense of self obsessively drew a mutated self portrait, or offer a kind word to the young, aspiring actress that appeared on reality TV, I would say:  “You are perfect the way you are, and your reason for being on this earth has nothing to do with your physical appearance, and everything to do with discovering who you are on the inside and what you can do to contribute to making the world a better place.”th-3

As I watch my granddaughters grow and develop, I pray that they will come to appreciate themselves for so much more than just looks.