VANcouver Island adventure

Diana and I drove from Chemainus up to Cape Scott, leaving Friday last, returning Monday. It was the inaugural voyage in our newly acquired Euro van, and the first holiday we’ve taken in quite a while. We had a great time!

Inhumanity at its worst

Image from the Gallus Domestics show by Diana Durrand

There are no words to adequately describe the inhumane behaviour of a group of men whose job it was to round up for slaughter a flock of ‘free run’ chickens in a Fraser Valley barn this week. Heartless, cruel and stupid will have to do.

But after we’ve tried to make ourselves feel a little better about being homo sapiens by expressing our outrage, we have to ask the same question SPCA animal welfare specialist Geoff Urton posed: “Why are these people abusing these animals in the first place? … There’s a fundamental disrespect for animals,” he said. “These workers need to see that these are living things that are capable of suffering.”

Continue reading “Inhumanity at its worst”

Does secular humanism have anything positive to say?

I joined a secular humanist society here in B.C. hoping to find some kindred spirits; got tired of all the ranting and railing against Christianity and let the connection lapse.

But the experience reminded me of a couple of things. First, praying still has its place in our world. I pray all the time… to my fellow humans, hoping they will embrace more humane ways and learn to enjoy the beauty of this planet we share; to flowers for growing, and bees for pollinating, and seeds for germinating; to dogs for being dogs; to those closest to me and all around me to fulfill themselves in loving, meaningful ways.

Second, humanity has gone through many stages as consciousness unfolding in this universe, belief in gods of one form or another among them. Without those previous stages – including Christianity, paganism, Islam, the fabulous cave art of Altamira – our current belief in science would never have manifested. We’d still be sleeping in trees at night praying not to become the prey of the magnificent saber toothed tigers lurking down there on the forest floor.

Continue reading “Does secular humanism have anything positive to say?”

Nanaimo-North Cowichan Candidates square off

Alana DeLong (Liberal), Anna Paddon (Independent), Doug Routley (New Democrat) and Lia Versaevel (Green) aired their positions on the issues, as identified by citizens in the Chemainus, Cowichan Valley area Monday, April 3.

Organized by the Chemainus Residents Association and the Chemainus-Crofton Chamber of Commerce, the showdown wasn’t so much a shootout at the OK Corral as an orderly trap shoot where the pigeons (none of them made of clay) were sent into their sights by area voters.

The candidates talked about homelessness, assisted living, climate change, forestry, health care (with an emphasis on the Duncan Regional Hospital), the economy in a broad ranging conversation with voters.

Those who enjoy B.C. politics as a blood sport would likely want to head out for a raw steak to satisfy their craving after this event. The format gets the candidates sticking very close to the issues and avoids the sparring and rancour that make for reality TV.

Election Day is May 9. For voters in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding the April 3 discussion is a good introduction to the candidates and their positions on issues of interest to citizens.



Expanding the creative cycle

I still have a long way to go learning to produce online clips that are a cut above amateur, but some of the techniques used in this video can be effective elements of a book ‘trailer’ – just one of the avenues to explore when it comes to promoting books in the digital era.

If you’re like me, you’ve separated the act of writing from the promotion of your work: the one is art and inspiration, the other a necessary ordeal. This aversion to the nitty-gritty of getting out there and selling leads to a sort of ethereal approach to publicizing the material you’ve laboured over, sometimes for years – an if you write it they will come attitude, buttressed by the notion the there’s value in the act of writing even if it isn’t brought to life in the mind of readers… self knowledge and improvement and all that, a better understanding of my corner of the universe.

This aversion to getting out and pitching goes so far as to deride those exuberant souls that do. They’re seen as brash, self-serving, too commercial, name your poison.

Well, it’s time for me to look in the mirror and fess up. There’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic when it comes to promoting books; and all the explanations I’ve used to devalue it as a legitimate aspect of the writer’s life – and it is a life we lead, a vocation – are nothing more than insidious versions of cowardice. Worse than that, my fear and loathing when it comes to promotion is an implicit admission that I don’t have enough confidence in my own work to stand on a podium and present it to the world.

There! I’ve beat myself up sufficiently over 40-plus years in the closet; now it’s time to act on my literary epiphany and build promotion into my creative cycle.

To start with, I have to gain a more fulsome understanding of why it’s important to ‘sell’ my stuff – and here I will hazard a few points of distinction between the goals of an artist and those of an ardent capitalist or insurance salesman. Yes, I need to make money to sustain myself in my chosen vocation – or rather, the vocation that has chosen me! The equation is quite simple: the more money I make writing, the more of my life’s energy I can devote to creating stories. When readers buy my books they enable me to give more of myself to writing.

But that’s not the main motivation for a bit of Barnum & Bailey in the soul. The heart of the matter is much more exciting. Truth is, my stories only live in the minds of readers. A book on the shelf is nothing more than a slab of pulped wood with a title on its spine; or in this digital age, a sequence of binary on some server or hard drive. Only when a reader opens the cover and begins imagining the events and scenes encoded on its pages do my stories live… and the story is everything! That involvement of audience as creative participant is one of the central strengths of writing, it’s why literature will always have its devotees even in this booming, gaudy SFX world.

So, if the story is everything, is it not incumbent upon me to do everything I can to make the story live? And isn’t the best way to expand the scope and diversity of the story to encourage people to read it? And if I claim to be a writer, isn’t it my job to expand the creative cycle to include promotion and sales of my work?

Finish Line

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FINISH LINE / by Craig Spence

“You don’t have to run fast, you just have to run hard,” Mel said.

“D’ya get it?”

Alison glanced up from her bowl of chopped banana and granola with milk, squinting. ‘What’s that supposed to mean,’ she was thinking. You could tell by the downturn of her lips and the knitting of brows she didn’t believe him. “Worked hard all my life, what the fuck did that get me?” she said.

How could you gainsay that? She had worked hard. Cleaning toilets, making other people’s beds, changing their towels and bars of soap… people who had money to spend on hideaway motels, determined to have a good time. But really they were no better off then her when you got right down to it. Grunting away at their ejaculations, their entangled moments of glory. Or just lying there side-by-side, sawing away like beached sea lions.

“There’s no meaning to any of it,” Mel judged. “Life’s just a series of sensations and events adding up to…” his thoughts on the matter petered out.

“What are you on about?”

Mel sighed, hadn’t meant to think out loud. He had to admit Alison’s wasn’t a bad line of inquiry though. ‘Except the questions had to be asked by the right person, a person with the mental capacity to understand the answers,’ he ruminated in careful silence.

Not that Alison was stupid. She had brains. But her neurons connected to what he classified as a crow’s spirit – opportunistic, argumentative, garrulous, greedy, focused on the ground even though Crow’s magnificent wings, sleek plumage, and obsidian eyes were a composite meant for the arc of flight.

Of course, she sensed when he was thinking stuff like that and it annoyed her. “You’re going to go out there and run like a fucking lunatic, give yourself a heart attack and die, then you’ll leave me without a pension for christ’s sake,” she accused. “Where’s the sense in that?”

Fair enough, he had to admit. There was an element of selfishness to his undertaking. And he did look the fool out there on the track. “Hey Usain, can I have your autograph!” a smart-aleck student from Cowichan Secondary had taunted just the other day, he and his buddies laughing at the jibe like hyenas. What did they know? What would they ever know, except the mechanics of bone, muscle and guts – the sensations of pushing a machine through an atmosphere thick as sludge.

“Don’t expect me to cheer you on,” Alison shouted after him as he stepped out the front door. “I won’t even visit you at the hospital! I won’t go to your fuckin’ funeral, you bastard!”

Of course she’d go. She’d even pretend to be bereaved, daubing her eyes with a tissue. She’d get herself all worked up – actually convince herself that she was mourning bravely, even though the bastard had made a dent in her retirement income by going out and dying… not that Mel intended to die, of course. He just wanted to see… even if the vision lasted less than an instant… just wanted to see if he could actually run faster than his own body.

That was the whole point of the exercise – to run so hard the ligatures binding soul to flesh might snap, and set something free, something unknown, unknowable really.

Can eternity be encapsulated in a split second? In a split-split second? Mel couldn’t say for sure, and the problem with that kind of question is you could never know the answer unless you actually proved the proposition true. You could fail, and fail, and fail again, and still you wouldn’t know. But all it would take would be one brilliant millisecond of success and…

“Careful what you hope for,” Mel cautioned inadvertently.

No fancy track suit or shoes. Sweats and sneakers were good enough. He tried to get there before the walkers and joggers started their rounds, circling the Sportsplex track grimly, or pertly, or in yakking pairs and threesomes. He knew they thought him strange. What was a graying, paunchy retiree doing out there, huffing down the track like a locomotive, then walking round the backstretch to the start line again, and sprinting once more down the outside lane – if you could call his lumbering gait a sprint?

Four or five times, two or three times a week.

He’d read on the internet somewhere that the hundred-yard dash wasn’t just a matter of running hell-bent-for-leather down the track. There were three distinct stages to a 10 second run: Drive, from dead still to full throttle; maximum velocity, where the sprinter runs erect, hips lowered achieving highest velocity; maintenance, where the athlete minimizes the inevitable deceleration, exhausted, but still striving for the finish.

Maximum velocity. That was the critical stage, the only one that mattered as far as Mel was concerned. But you had to run the entire race. “Go for it!”

Mel didn’t crouch, as if his feet were in the blocks. He just took off from a walking start into his run, accelerating down the track hard as he could, pushing harder through the middle of his sprint, continuing to drive through the maintenance phase. If separation was going to happen it would be in Stage II, he thought, when the psychic booster rockets kicked in.

If only. If only. He set off down the Sportsplex track for trial-one, fast as he could go. Then torqued up to maximum velocity, urging every increment of speed, and then some, out of his flabby muscles and clattering limbs, flapping down the runway toward… what? Take off…?

Pushed harder, surging until he ran out of oxygen and the inevitable strangulation of human nature took hold, throttling down his yearning… pushed even then, when he knew it was too late… that even the possibility of a glimmer of hope… of feeling himself detach, break free, fly out ahead of body like…

“Like what?” he gasped… crossing the imaginary finish line… body and soul at the exact same instant.


Thanks for reading. Finish Line is part of a series I am writing from what I take to be an Existentialist POV. It is inspired by the memory of track athlete and all-round amazing human being Jesse Owens.


The Idea

Writers, especially fiction writers, must venture into the realm of ideas. How open we are, and effective at representing ideas and their permutations in our work, determines how invigorating our stories will be. It’s important to be alert not only to the intellectual aspect of new ideas, but also to the emotional and the physical aspects. Our reactions to the ideas we discover in that fluid world of the imagination is as important as the ideas themselves.

A new departure, welcome aboard

Tomorrow begins my last week as Editor of the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle. The last 15 months have been fun, I’ve met lots of fantastic people, but I want to zoom in on my more collaborative and creative sides. So I’ve gussied up my web site, reconnected the dream batteries, and am ready to switch on a new current.

Hope you’ll take a minute to poke around and find out what I’m up to. One of the things I’m really looking forward to is creative workshops…