Geez, sometimes life is just too hard. I’ve been away from social media for the most part dealing with a couple of personal crises, and while I might be here bodily again, my brain is still offline, unable to fully function. I can’t do anything with it that needs the slightest bit of concentration. Well, no, that’s not true. I can drive or cook, and I can watch TV, but anything that contains a true challenge–working–is out of the question. While I’m waiting for the brain’s capacities to come back online, I’m trying to dab my brush at some small paintings.
Well, well, well. I came home from my kid’s house tonight to the news on twitter that my essay “The Dead Green Man,” which won Event Magazine’s cnf contest last year, is a Notable in this year’s Best American Essays, ed Kathryn Schulz. Thank you to Robert Atwan, series editor, who is the magician who makes these things happen (or so I assume)!
I should mention that this essay doesn’t appear online, so to get a copy you’d need to contact Event Magazine in BC, Canada.
I didn’t imagine this essay had a chance of being a Notable, because it’s an essay looking at guns from a Canadian’s perspective, which I thought would read as pretty naive from the US experience.
After I heard the news, I ate a late dinner I’d cooked earlier and rubbed spicy bbq sauce in my eye. Thank you very much, life, for keeping me waaaaaaay humble.
[As a point of interest for those curious, it’s really, *really* hard to see this with my deadname.]
My essay “The Drowned Boy” is now up on Medium. It’s about a boy who drowned in my family’s pond and about the time I was declared drowned in the same pond. I’m proud to have finally written this essay; it’s not easy or happy, but the boy and his death has been a lifelong obsession for me.
Today I was at the lake by my house where a teenaged boy drowned last week. All love and condolence to the boy’s family and friends. It is odd that I was writing this essay as this event transpired.
I’m a fan of Dr Ramani, who speaks to the world on a You Tube channel about narcissism. She has many videos to check out. We all have to deal with a lot of narcissism in our lifetimes–in CEOs, in politicians, in lovers, in family members.
This week, I did some preliminary work toward registering my legal name change to Eaton Hamilton. The lovely folks at Rise Marketing changed the name of this blog for me (thank you, thank you). I changed my driver’s license and BC Medical, along with my Services BC card and a credit card. I ordered a birth certificate because some places need two pieces of ID (I thought my license would be one of them). It’s obviously going to be an expensive, drawn-out process with many complications along the way, but in any case, I’m happy it’s underway.
Hopefully, my many publishers will take note and in any instances where possible, change over my short work or books (when new eds come out, say). That would be appreciated.
Some of you may know I’m writing a book of poetry these days, alongside a memoir-in-essays. I’m one of the strange creatures who has to work on multiple projects at a time (I direct sustained focus as needed). I’ve been trying to write an essay this week, but I’m running into creative roadblocks. By that I mean stylistic problems I haven’t been able to resolve. I’m not sure if they stem from content concerns or something else, but my voice has abandoned me. Does that happen to you, that you lose your voice? When I sit down with an intention toward a work, and yet it doesn’t come, I swear it feels like my mouth is falling open and closed without sound, like every time I’ve ever been silenced by another person.
Wish me luck. I still need to write it!
How are you doing these days? Me, I’m bloody nervous about BC opening when people only have their first dose of vaccine and the Delta variant is taking root. I’m a fan of zero covid and I hate the government taking such risks with our lives. Me, I’m staying home as much as is possible; not the summer of seeing friends and family. Not for me, anyhow.
I’m one of the hopefully-few unlucky people who got severe side effects from the Moderna first dose vaccine, so May has passed in a painful blur, mostly up and down from bed, as the weird side effects bounced around my body. Meantime, without me, the garden has catapulted itself into an unruly mess and I have no hope of ever catching it. Still, I love it. I love it unreservedly. Every day it’s nice enough, I pour myself into a plastic chair, feet up on the rock wall of the perennial beds, and spend a few moments in heaven. It took me years and years to learn to enjoy such beauty without having someone beside me, but I’m so glad I’m finally there. One of the beautiful things to admire after all, is me.
I have so many talents and a good number of skills, built over decades. I know I parented my children in a much kinder way than I was parented. I know I’ll leave the world better for having been there, without a sliver of doubt. I’ll leave fine literature and good painting behind me too and superlative memories in my grandchildren’s heads.
Right now I’m writing both a poetry book and a memoir-in-essays (along with painting. Follow along at IG: hamiltonart1000). Though there are still mysteries of memory for me, for the most part all the vast number of pieces for the puzzle of me are in place, and I’m inspired to write about them. An ideal place to be.
Today I finished a complicated poem about time I spent in the covid ward last year.
I’ve been reading Gina Frangello’s “Blow Your House Down” this week, for me at a rocket pace. It’s about a mother who explodes her home life by having an affair. It’s a wonderful book and I recommend it. More here, I hope, when I’ve finished it.
A couple of weeks ago, following her death, I read Shanna Mahin’s “Oh! You Pretty Things,” which I’ll probably find in my TBR piles at some point, too. Shanna’s book would have been a slice of heaven had she managed to crowbar in a plot to hang it on.
That’s all from here on this spectacular day. While I’m not okay today physically, I’m better than I’ve been since I got the vaccine. That’s something to celebrate as I was in bad shape earlier this week. I hope your lives are going okay for you. I watch all the opening up with suspicion, I admit, wishing as always that my country had gone for zero covid. We still could, but we are stubborn as hell and won’t. We won’t even have a referendum about it.
Will I get my second vaccine? You bet your bippy. To protect other people and with the hope the side effects won’t last forever.
I think I half-hate NaPoWriMo, where we write a poem a day for the month of April, because it makes me wish the month over. Where I live, April became a love song to gardens, with sunshine and summery temps all month, just vacating now. I’ve gone easier on myself this month, just tried to keep up, which isn’t so much of a demand. Remarkably I’ve only had one bad day that needed 14 bloody hours to get a crude draft out.
I paint every day, too, and you can follow a bit of that on IG. IG is not a very talkative media space, however. I have many things I’d say all through every day if I could just jot a quick note. Am I asking for twitter? Nah, *not* twitter. Twitter for politics, and halt. FB for politics, friends, writing and venting. IG for art. That’s how it shakes down for me.
For painting and writing, you can also join me on Patreon, where I exist as Hamilton Art.
I’ve just– Well, I was going to say I’ve just finished an essay, but the truth is I haven’t gotten to the end of the first draft yet. I’ve been writing essays back many weeks now, but this is the first one that’s close to the finish line, which is relieving. You can sometimes feel you just don’t know how to make it happen any longer. This is all for the lovely and fraught project of a memoir-in-essays. Stay tuned.
What’s happening in your life?
I’m waiting for my first vaccine shot a week from now and my g-baby’s 5th birthday. I’m a political animal, so I also keep up with the news and wonder how much anguish one heart can sustain. All our hearts are battered after this last year, weary and saddened and heavy with grief and survivors’ guilt.
With all my heart, I wish you and your loved ones well. I wish you safety.
I’m telling all my secrets on Patreon. Do you remember LiveJournal? Like that. Come join me there at Hamilton Art, or see my art on IG under hamilton1000.
I’ll save this space for writing.
The novel DEAD BIRDS is done what I think might have been draft 8134, and needless to say, this pleases me. I started this book in 2012. It really is a cool story.
I’m starting to pull apart my memoir-in-essays and this is thrilling, scary, unnerving. Somehow I have to turn my essays into a cohesive, linear whole without any of the essays losing their strengths. I can’t tell something in one essay that happens again in another. Or can I? Much to puzzle over, but meantime I’m writing new essays as I feel able. The book may end up being two books.
I’m also dong NaPoWriMo this month to go along with a series of poems I’ve been working on lately mostly about contemporary life. I suspect a lot of persona poems to come.
What about you? What are you doing as our hemisphere turns its yellow and pink head toward spring?
Happy International Womxn’s Day, folks! It’s good to have a day (a month) to keep womxn’s struggles for equality and equity uppermost in mind.
Did you know that when I was young, women couldn’t get credit in their own name? I had two kids before I could get my first credit card, and that was only a Canadian Tire card. Next oil and gas companies took a chance on us. We are talking mid-80s before womxn started reliably obtaining credit. In the late 80s, when I went to have my long hair cut off (I think only to shoulder length) the female stylist tried to send me home for a note from my husband.
Most of you know I’ve changed my name to align with my gender identity. (More about that here.) For several years, I concluded that it would simply be too hard to change my writing name to the name I now go by, which is Hamilton, but during lockdown the idea of not being genuine enough, and having to still deal with a girl’s name, to see it associated with me, really began to weigh on me, and I proceeded with a legal name change to Eaton Hamilton.
So welcome to the new, old me. The whole name thing bugged me from the earliest dates I can remember. You wouldn’t think “Jane” was a name people with which people would tease you, but you’d be wrong. I hated my last name too. When I was a kid, there was a TV show called Mr McGoo, with an addled senior in the main role, so having the name “McKee” was fair game on the playground. Now of course I understand it wasn’t really the names they were picking on, but the person they saw as different and flawed, but it still humiliated me, so I hated it too, and changed my surname to my mother’s natal name when she reverted after divorce.
I’d rather chase a female lineage anyhow, even if it does peter out mere generations back.
Happy almost spring! We got through this blighted winter. I wonder what the covid world holds in store for us in the next season. I only leave the house about once every six weeks, and unless something is emergent, I don’t partake. I hope to hell it’s more positive.
Elissa Schappell interviewed Toni Morrison for the Paris Review. “Morrison talked also about the weapons of the weak: nagging, poison, gossip. And about permission to write, and permission to succeed at it.“
Elissa Altman has written a fine essay about whether, in fact, we may, can and should write. She found permission within herself to write two memoirs. If you’re struggling to write, you might find Elissa’s thoughtful, consuming essay useful.
If you want to read about writing, you might enjoy a visit to Chelene Knight’s blog Quick and Dirty. Here, you’ll find many short essays on the writing world, largely by racialized, disabled or queer authors.
Valentine’s Day week is a good week to post a story with the title Hearts, isn’t it? It was published by the fine The Sun Magazine in 1993, almost thirty years ago. When they published me a second time, I didn’t actually recall having been published there the first time because, at the time, I was in a new relationship and I’d just quit smoking. I was slammed alternately between limerance and a sucking depression. I probably didn’t even notice a new publication.
I wish you all the best for this week of love. I hope there’s a person or animal who brings a sparkle to your heart. Luckily, a friend sent me a handmade card and a box of chocolates; things like that make it easier to get up in the morning.
If you’re like me, you don’t have a special someone. I’m locked down alone and have been all along. There are benefits to having a loving relationship with yourself, of course, and I find those mostly in the creation of art. Where I live, despite a current cold snap, there are buds on the daffodils, so I know I can soon have an affair on art and fool around with spring.
(If you’d like to keep up with my visual art life, please see Hamilton Art on FB or hamilton1000 on Instagram.)
I only found out yesterday that I had been a finalist in the cnf division of the Malahat’s Open Season Awards, judged by Lishai Peel. The marvelous author Tanis MacDonald took first prize and I’m sure her essay will be glorious. My happy news came with a lovely note from the Malahat:
“You’ve likely seen the Open Season Awards announcement about the winners Matthew Hollett (poetry), Zilla Jones (fiction), and Tanis MacDonald (cnf). Judge Lishai Peel wanted me to pass on some words to you about your piece “Splinter,” and to let you know that she had a hard time deciding on a winner.
“This piece of writing was exquisite, heart wrenching and masterfully crafted. While reading, I felt the proximity of both grief and beauty. It made me cry, it made me feel deeply, it made me want to take up gardening, it made me want to deliver dead flowers to my ex, it made me want to hold my child the way I did when he was small, it made me remember the prayer of new beginnings. This writing was a real privilege to read and a story that will most likely live in my body for a long time to come.”
Congrats to all the winners, to all the finalists, and to the Malahat Review for being an excellent litmag for Canadian authors year after year, decade following decade. I believe they published my first poems way back when. Connie Rooke found them in her slush pile, published some, and passed them along to Leon Rooke, who published some of my writing in the Second Macmillan Anthology.
So, onward we go until we don’t.
Connie Rooke died in 2008, but happily both Leon and John go on, and there’s a Malahat Review award named in Connie’s honour now.
For a break in the prevailing mood, read this lovely Lit Hub essay “What It’s Like to Teach a Magpie How to Fly.” by Charlie Gilmour. Anyone who knows me knows I am bird-besotted. Even as I read about this bird tucking tidbits of food into the USB port of the author’s computer, I fell a little more in love. Charlie’s book is called Featherhood: A Memoir of Two Fathers and a Magpie.
It’s such a surreal year, isn’t it? There’s not one human alive I would want to suffer through this. (And yes, I despise the usual number of dictators, right-wing politicians and generally cruel people. Still, still. Covid is a horrible disease I wish even they could avoid.)
It’s obvious now that BC, where I live, among most N American jurisdictions, has mishandled the pandemic. Masks have only just been mandated. Our schools are open with large classes, no distancing and no masking. Transmission by the asymptomatic, including kids, is not accepted. Airborne transmission is waved away. We’re in a semi-lockdown (not one that makes much sense. Inconsistencies abound), but, clearly, we are in big big trouble, our hospital capacity already sagging under the weight.
And we have unethical triaging here as policy. If you are older or you have disabilities, your hospital staff may recommend not treating you to their ethics panel, who will likely agree. It hasn’t occurred to these people that disabled and elderly lives are not burdensome, but are of equal value to any others. The disabled love just as bigly. The disabled laugh just as loudly. The disabled and seniors have the right to the same treatment as everyone else. When hospitals surge, a lottery system needs to go into place.
The pain of this year is not equally distributed, and this plagues me. Few care about the disabled. When Canada was handing out CERB, the amount the gov’t decided was absolutely necessary for survival in this country, it was pretty much double what they provide to seniors and the disabled. They care shockingly little for people who struggle more–which is goddamned well backwards.
I hurt to think of the folks unable to breathe and dying (whether at home or in hospitals), I quiver for the losses of their beautiful futures. What could they have done if they had lived? What child would they have made giggle, what book might they have written, what right might they have fought for, what painting might they have painted? When we lose a person, we’re losing their potential along with their corporeality, all they might have been.
The what-ifs. What if these people had survived, what would they have brought us? I don’t mean they needed to contribute or accomplish things to be valuable to us–they would have been valuable to us without lifting a finger. But what have they lost? What have we lost in losing them?
We have enough answers to hurt ourselves with: we lose more of them because they are Black or Latinx, because they are poor or unhoused, or because they were already suffering with age or comorbidities/disabilities. Or because they come from countries with fewer resources.
We lost them because of racism. Because of homophobia. Because of transphobia. Because of fat phobia. Because of ableism. Those are measurable causes of hospital deaths in every jurisdiction every damned day–I can only imagine how much worse this has become when workers are too taxed to want to try and do better.
I was texting a friend today that I imagined every human’s mental health around the globe has now been affected by covid. What are we planning to do about that, as a species? I’m positive there will never be covered therapy-for-all.
Will the children infected now (will the adults?) whether symptomatic or not, have organ damage that will affect their lives going forward, and will the medical industry be swamped by people’s needs long-term? We aren’t even exploring kids’ vaccines yet.
I think of the care workers putting in too long shifts and going through too much trauma, waging a war every day while trying to stay, themselves, uninfected and not to infect their loved ones. Trying to treat everyone so they don’t have to triage people out.
Me, I barely go outside any longer. It’s not easy for me to walk, so that’s not really available except under controlled circumstances (for me, a treadmill). I only go to our centre of commerce about every three weeks to shop. I live alone. I’m disabled with complex and difficult overlapping medical needs. When something happens, either in my life or in the world, I absorb it alone. How many people will be stricken with illnesses they wouldn’t otherwise have contracted that simply flow from being alone and/or unloved/untended?
I’m happy about vaccines. I’m curious to see if there are side-effects, more curious still to know how long their immunity lasts? What if people can be infected again in just a few months?
I’m somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of doom. As I create work this year, I wonder if it matters. Did it ever matter? Does it matter now, really? What piddly thing could I create that would matter a good goddamn if I hadn’t created it?
But, but. It is the season of celebrations to welcome the return of the light. In 2020, I’ve had my small successes in amongst my many quite severe difficulties. I’ve sold a lot of paintings, and this is probably my best news. Thank you indeed to all my lovely collectors. I won a writing contest and placed in some others, which is gratifying. I worked on a novel I’ve been working on since 2011. I had work in several anthos along the way. That’s me. In 2021, if I don’t sicken further, I hope to paint and paint and paint. I’ll be working on an essay collection most of the year. That’ll be hard and frustrating and satisfying.
I wish you all health, and love and safety over this holiday. I know it can be a difficult time for many, but the good thing is that in a week it will be over, and solstice will be over, and in January where I live our gardens stir. Once January arrives, I can usually make it through just with the promise of spring and I hope that’s the same for you.
Here’s BAX, which just arrived at my place. I took a selfie in front of a different wall this time: