the problem with being trans is cis people. The problem with being queer is straight people. The problem with being disabled is abled people. The problem with being Black is white people. In other words, prejudice.
painting by: Eaton Hamilton, oil sticks on stretched canvas, unsure of size
ID: Non-binary person sitting in green chair wearing black t-shirt and blue pants, orange wall. Short hair.
I’m so tired from the demands of my week, trying to do the work of three people at once, that I ended up with a bad episode of PEM from overexertion. This is hardly new. I’ve had PEM for nearly 40 years. I don’t usually have to go back to bed with it, though, just sit quietly with few demands on my attention. So that’s all for this week, I’m afraid.
Painting by: Eaton Hamilton 2021? pastel on pastel paper, Shirley poppies
ID: Red poppies in a green garden
Has the literary world has shifted to the right over, say, the length of the pandemic? If pressed, I’d say yes.
I’ve been hoping to see more work from marginalized authors–racialized, yes, and also from non-binary, autistic, disabled, older authors–but is publishing becoming more conservative, less likely to take chances on books they would have to develop or tap into unused markets for? Perhaps in part it’s book bannings having a spillover effect; perhaps the anti-drag-queen/trans propaganda is becoming convincing to some; perhaps MAiD turns people away from disabled lives? Perhaps it’s simply the economy.
Somebody was asking my favourite presses. My knowledge of US publishers is not vast, but I’m especially fond of books coming out of Riverhead (Penguin Random) and Counterpoint. In Canada, we are spoiled for small-press choice. I’m hooked on books from Book*Hug, Coach House, Wolsak and Wynn, House of Anansi and Biblioasis. Hardly an exhaustive list. Near me, Arsenal Pulp Press who brought out my last book, the novel “Weekend,” and Caitlin Press, who brought out my last book of poetry. It’s poetry month, so please consider Brick Books in Canada.
I had a good, if grinding, writing week. I’m editing 10 pages of the current novel per day, which I sometimes don’t manage to finish until after midnight. This week was hard because I’m toward the end of the book and have changed some plot lines as I’ve gone along, so there’s a lot of deleting text and new composition, and, when I’m through, a new set of scenes to write. Draft 9 and eleven years in!
These days, I generally set aside time in chunks to work on the house, paint and work on writing but my schedule sort of fell apart when I looked after grandkids for half of their spring break. Hopefully I can force myself back on track, because I count on studio time to force my over-active brain to chill out. I already sit to paint, and because of my disabilities I can only last about an hour, physically. What do other disabled painters do to manage the challenges and limitations of their bodies?
Writing and painting are similar. For both, you require discipline, creativity and the ability to translate nebulous ideas into reality. They also involve a lot of drafts. Most painters don’t refer to “drafts” of paintings, but I do. I would love to be able to paint alla prima (finishing a painting in one sitting) because my disabilities are made for it, but in actual fact I can’t stay at it long enough.
I’ve learned that my brain will switch off at a certain point when it’s unable to pay true attention any longer. That’s a better cue to vacate than waiting for my bodily cues, which often come too late to stop a day of pain.
If you’ve ever been inclined to buy a .painting, now is a most excellent time. 10% off to anyone in April who mentions this post. I mail throughout continguous N America.
painting by Eaton Hamilton, 2022, oil stick on stretched canvas, 20×30″
ID: Non-binary yt person with short orange hair and black shirt and pants sitting in yellow chair. Green wall. Three-quarter view.
Do you have dreams of your mother or guardian?
Last night I dreamed a short story. I was writing it, but also characters were acting it out. The protagonists were a male and female aging couple, I recall, but what the story was is gone. At the end of the dream, my (long-dead) mother was sitting in a car with me. I was aware that I was editing my story, attempting to deepen it, and I introduced my mother to the characters, which regrettably woke me in such a way I forgot the short story.
I had a decades-long series of nightmares that I was responsible for the horses I grew up with, only no one had told me, and when I got back home, and back to the barn, they were all bone wracks on the brink of starvation. I’d run for water and food, but of course it was going to be too late. More recently, I dreamed of the same situation, that I was feeding starving horses, but this time they were inside the barn in stalls. I ran from empty stall to empty stall. There was one bale of hay and it was soon gone. I used the last of it to feed a mare and then I scrambled around again to find food for her filly. It never occurred to me in the dream that the filly could nurse. All I could find was a pen, one of those ones with four colours, black, blue, red and for some reason green. The pens were cheap and subject to breaking, and in the dream I remembered this, and I was worried about feeding the filly because the pen was likely to break into plastic shards.
It was easy to see when I woke up that the mother was the last horse I fed (true in life, too. I barely knew her in adulthood) and that I was feeding myself the gift of writing. A precarious gift, but a gift nevertheless.
As for last night’s dream? I have no idea. I just wish I could get back the short story and submit it.
Update: Another dream of my mother last night. We were in my childhood living room and I was urging her up out of her chair to dance with me outside under the birch tree. I was saying was a pity it was that the window between chairs was painted shut, and saying I should fix that. She reached out and opened it, when it had never been opened in all my childhood. My idea was that we could play music in the den and it would reach us outside. We both seemed happy. I have no idea what it means. I’m airing out our relationship? Things are magically fixing themselves? I just watched a Holly Near concert?
I have a lot of profound animal dreams. I often dream of seeing whales, though usually from either a beach or a ship. They are generally much larger than they are in reality. Last night I dreamed my ex-wife and I, still together, were swimming in what seemed like Deep Cove, at night, far far out. I turned around and looked back at the shoreline and saw it was far, and thought I should start swimming back regardless of what my ex wanted to do. At once I was surrounded by J-pod of orcas. One spy-hopped, facing me, and suddenly my body got hit with what I knew was her echolocation. I felt it on my right side, particularly in my torso. It was not a feeling I’ve ever actually felt in real life, but in the dream it was a cross between an adrenalin hit and electricity. Without words, the whale said, “Do you speak orca?” and I answered, also without words, “Only a little. A bit.” I said, “Well hello. You’re beautiful,” out loud. I wondered if I should be scared because they were so large and so many, but I was not. Being taken out by an orca, being slammed out of my skin–can’t imagine a better way to go. I could still see whale backs and blowhole breath as they surfaced around me. The spy-hopper submerged. I turned around and watched my ex treading water as the largest whale of the pod (I don’t actually know which one that is) spy-hopped all the way up to her tail flukes, an enormous tower of whale flesh. The next thing I knew my ex and I were swimming beside each other back to shore, and I asked her if she was scared. She said she was. I said her whale had reminded me of a croc that had stood upright on its hind legs once when we were in Namibia.
Painting by Eaton Hamilton 2023 16×20″ oil on stretched canvas
An older yt man dances in a circle with his young yt grandchild. Both kick up their heels. He wears a suit, brown jacket, white tie, grey shirt and pants. She wears a dress, sweater and tights in scarlet. Around them is grass.
A lot to ruminate about this week. My mother’s been on my mind because today is twenty years since her death. I missed her dreadfully one day last week, and also missed the town where I grew up and being a child–the latter a first ever for me. It is not always a simple matter to think of her, as the experience is wrought with considerations of abuses mixed with the charm and incandescence of her good moments.
This week in the work front, I added a daily extra hour’s work a day of accounting. Wish I’d done it months ago because it is a good way to attack a stack of papers without becoming overwhelmed and resentful.
It’s been an excellent week in the office/studio, too, because I began to paint again after a week off to write, and the week writing, trying to break through a block, was fruitful. I’ve been working on the novel this stint, with periodic breaks for the memoir, since November. Lately I’ve been working on it in the evenings after I’ve cleared the deck of other necessities, which makes for late nights.
Yesterday I switched the first bit of the novel ms into single space which I always do if I’m trying to read it as a reader might. Of course I continue to edit, so it’s not entirely successful, but it’s the closest I’ve ever managed to come to being a reader of my own work unless years have passed. I think it reads well. For the first time, I’m not having to wince at awkward sentences or repetitions. The thing I adore about editing is that every time through you see new problems–and can fix them. My brain can’t or won’t consider all the problems at once. Sometimes they were only glimmering in the recesses. Sometimes the other, bigger work exposed them. Whatever–I feel so lucky to get to do the repairs and watch a manuscript improve. And then of course, the real magic begins, with one’s editor, when they add their fresh and perspicacious eye. That’s the stage that makes all the grueling years worth it.
I hope your weeks are good. I’m heartened, my burdens just ever so slightly lifted. May this happen to you as well.
ID: couple dancing in mid spin. One person wears a long dress that has flipped up with the momentum. Done in black and whites.
Hello, good people, how are you this week? Where does the time go? Seems to me the year begins to speed up at about this time. I add tax prep to my guilty procrastination along with garden clean-up round about now, so I’m certain that’s what changes the perception I have about time.
This week I’ve been looking after my strange rescue dog. She is a joy and delight and also a perplexing, sometimes saddening, mystery. In the joy department, she only pilfers used tissues and tears those to pieces, I think because she lived in a bathroom for some time. Oh one time recently she stole my Lypsyl and ate that as well. But the important thing is that my furniture and shoes etc seem to be safe. But this little dog has so much trouble eating. She has the desire, but her fear is stronger and she’ll leave food she wants sitting in her bowl or on her lick pad for hours. She also has genuine trouble going outside after being cornered by a racoon. I’m hoping once the weather is better and I’m outside more she’ll be motivated by that.
Not the best writing week here. For a hot minute I was encouraged by something I’d done and thought I could follow it, but the next day I despised it and jumped as far away as I could.
Meantime here is the link to the Paris Review, where writers with a sub can peruse seemingly endless interviews with writers, along with their stunning regular content.
Painting: Eaton Hamilton Couples Counseling, unsure of size, oil sticks and fingerpainting, 2022
The one time I went, for a period of about 6 weeks, I loathed couple’s counseling. I didn’t have an ethical person to attend with. My partner had already told me weeks before we attended that she was leaving me, and then, even despite our long talks about logistics, later claimed I’d fabricated this. On my side, I was desperately trying to get my partner to re-engage, and for that we needed truth on the table, but her agenda was to “win” the therapist so the therapist would find me unreliable. My partner was very calculated, very buttery faux-warm, and it worked, and it then became hard for the therapist to believe anything I said, and for me to respect the therapist. I needed to talk about a series of gaslights, and my ex saying I made up stories, rather than telling the truth, and the therapist chided me because, she said, my ex was obviously sincere.
I’d been feeling, after an increase in violence at home, imperiled, and I left counseling after my ex confided to the therapist that she’d been “waiting and waiting and waiting for [her] to die.”
Hello? I had time with that partner. I knew when she was sincere and when she was manipulating a situation, though I, like many others who knew her less well, tried not to believe she was as Machiavellian as she truly was. I’d had to see, and emphasize, the good side of her to stay. It turned out she was about to manipulate every “helping person” that came our way. The therapist, but later her lawyer, my (!) lawyer, two divorce counselors, all our mutual friends.
You both must form an intent to save the relationship for things to work in couples counseling, or don’t bother. That’s what I learned.
This week the Doomsday Clock moved up to 90 seconds to midnight. I watched bleakly, wondering if we’d be able to pull it back, sad and alarmed for all the children who are having to grow up around such complicated adult destruction.
But I also wondered how parents who take their children to dance, or soccer, or piano hoping they’ll have a leg-up as adults, who plonk helmets on their heads and buckle them into car seats, who feed them 3-square and make sure they get enough sleep, justify letting them sit in toxic air all day in school without the protections of masks and HEPAs. I wondered if they will have intact bodies after many, many covid infections, and if they don’t, as now seems increasingly likely, whether they will be mad. Furious. Livid at the parents who disabled them.
Another young Black man, this time in Memphis, was lynched by police. Mass shootings in CA targeted Asian Americans.
How can we cope? What can we do? How can we change things?
When I am desolate and there seems no way out, I keep Margaret Mead’s quote in mind:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world.In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Painting by Eaton Hamilton 2022/23 12×12″ on stretched canvas, oil, The Friendship (maybe they’re discussing Susan Meachen)
ID: Two yt women lying on a floatie at the edge of a swimming pool, holding hands, blue and white towel on side of pool
How desperate are you to succeed in the lit world? People have faked a lot of things in writing–faked their identities, faked being Indigenous or Black, passed other authors’ texts off as their own work, and now, have even pretended to commit suicide. Would you fake your own death to increase your sales? Well, romance writer Susan Meachen did, while having her”sister” continue to post on social media, until, finally this week, 2.5 years into it and wanting her old life back, she came clean. She apparently didn’t think she’d done anything wrong, but the moral injuries others feel are heightened.
Painting: Eaton Hamilton, 2022, oil and acrylic on stretched canvas, 30″x40″
ID: Women in red dress reclining on purple sofa with green wall behind. Orange/yellow cushions.
I seem to have broken out of what’s been my worst writer’s block in twenty years! I’ve written my way through it, but it was desultory, unhappy writing–and with ADHD procrastination that’s like pulling teeth–but, fingers crossed, I’m done with it now and moving back up to speed. My advice with writer’s block is to always have several projects on the go at once so that, when you encounter it, you can just move yourself to a new piece. It’s always worked–until it didn’t, these last couple months, because I refused, absolutely refused, to get engaged by a different work. I wanted to break through to the fiction under my fingers, not any other piece.
I don’t have a lot of insight at this particular moment. Just the relief. You know? I’ll be considering the plight I put myself into for the next while seeing if I can figure out the collision between my reticence and stubbornness.
How’s writing going for you? What are you working on? Drop a line and let me know how it’s going.
Disabled, trans, autistic authors maybe have to build support amongst ourselves? I’ve been left in the agonizing situation, since I’ve been unable to “work” due to disability for decades, of having pension/supplements under $1000/month, which doesn’t even cover housing.
I have to scramble. At the time I might want to consider retiring, I can’t. I won’t ever be able to. I don’t have a partner or inherited wealth. There’s a real plague of senior poverty in Canada–it’s an ungenerous, dangerous country for older disabled Cdns. It’s hard not to believe, between legislated poverty, ableism, MAiD and hospital triage (BC kicked 1/3 of patients, disabled all, out of hospital in Sept, and is continuing this eugenicist practice, even with kids) the actual agenda is our hastened deaths
So, please, if you can spare the cash, please help by joining me on Patreon. It’s an aspirational place I’d build into a site where I can discuss being a cross-disciplinary artist–writing and painting–and how the two intersect, but I need followers to engage by asking questions and leaving comments! I’d love to get to know you there!
painting: Eaton Hamilton, Nov 20 2022, unfinished, oil stick on canvas board, fingerpainted, 8×10″
What’s to say about this week, folks? Life, ever precarious, grows more so by the day. Watching kiddos without updated covid vaccines or flu vaccines navigate schools is daunting because so terribly dangerous. Every day I hear the wait times for BCCH, where one of my grands once spent time in an isolation room, and I wonder how parents are not breaking. I know how frantic one is when kiddos are seriously ill; to then wait with that sick kiddo in a room full of coughing need-to-be-patients for hour after hour only to finally give up after a day in exhaustion and hunger? What the hell are we doing, Canada? What the absolute hell?
We know that covid is a chronic disease now. We know it affects every bodily system–from brain to heart to liver to kidneys to vasculature. We know it stays in the body even after a so-called “mild” acute stage, and we know, now, that it is working to kill people a few months hence. Young people without comorbidities, usually quickly by heart attack or stroke. We now that the “brain fog” people have identified shows up as dementia-like damage in brain scans. We know that the damage caused by reinfections is unsurprisingly much, much worse. We also know that because of the PHO’s “let ‘er rip” DIY pandemic that most people have gotten ill again and again.
But we also know how to slow down (and even perhaps stop) the bastard. We know that N95 masks and elastomerics work a charm–their electrostatic charges attract and trap virus particles (we also know we can’t pick that virus back up from the filters of these masks). We know that easy-to-make CR boxes work brilliantly at cleaning indoor air. All they need is duct tape, a box fan, and 1-4 filters the same dimensions as the fan and about two hours of your time.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy safety.
Here’s one a 6 and 7-year-old made almost alone. I steadied the sides while they applied duct tape to hold them together, then after that all I did was cut a lot of tape, check it when they were through, and cut shapes they asked for to decorate “Georgie.”
HEPA filters work a charm, too, and guess what? There are portable ones now! You can take them with you, whirring away on battery charge, to the doctor, the PO, the pharmacy, the grocery. School! You can even loop them around your neck and wear them like a purring pet kitten.
Anecdotally, I can tell you that I’ve had two positive people between a small HEPA and my 20×20″ CR box, and I was masked (they were not) and I did not get sick.
These protective measures work! I can’t tell you how relieving it’s been to be without viruses the past few years. What a feeling to know I’m not going to be plugged up and coughing my lungs out several times a year.
There is oodles of peer-reviewed studies on twitter covid or mastodon to read. We haven’t been getting the straight goods from PHO or govt. This is an on-going pandemic that is worse now than previously (more deaths in 2022) and that is now striking kids hard. At this point, it’s child abuse not to send your kids to school in masks as good as you can possibly provide to them. We don’t fully know what covid’s doing to developing bodies, but what we know without a scintilla of doubt is that it’s nothing good. This virus strikes to harm, long-term.
Peculiar week where nothing went as planned. Had a freaky meltdown using zoom. Always knew I couldn’t manage it but had no insight as to why (obviously, autism, but when it was first around I imagined it would be a wet dream, and it was the opposite, and I had to stop. I still wanted the contact, and the reading or workshop or whatever I was on there for, but I couldn’t handle it so quit zoom altogether). I’ve talked about it a little and it’s actually quite common. We’re not good with phones as a population, and we’re not great with zoom either.
As for painting, yum, going great, but oils are so *wet.* Using a lot of RF oil sticks this week because I ran out of a lot of colours, and those of course require whacks of driers resulting in an instant headache. My Corsi-Rosenthal filter is helping with this a lot, thank goodness. I’m using only oil sticks and fingerpaints, and anyone who knows this media knows they’re as good for fine detail work as, I dunno, socks? Still, I’m learning to control them, in part by painting bigger (covering old work I never finished). The two brands I really love, RF and private ones I have made, are sooooo sexy and buttery, but the driers for the former exhaust me. The sexiness reminds me of Kroma tube paints (Granville Island, Vancouver); it’s like lubing up a canvas, I swear.
Writing, well… I seem to keep running away from the difficulty of it. I know I have many, many pragmatic and urgent things to do and ordinarily that would keep me head down, writing, right? (The way the urgency of having to clean behind your fridge with a toothbrush only arises on a writing deadline.) I am procrastinating, and it’s the thing I despise most about myself. It gives me days and weeks and months of agony for utterly no reason at all.
Have a good one, wherever you are. Mask up, keep your kids safe(r) in their schools. Promote ventilation to every business you use.