Story 3/52: Cheers, Darling!

sphynx-clipart-3The writing prompt was: Write about your Muse.

Cheers, Darling © 2018 R.D. Girvan

My muse has a great sense of humour.  She is quick to laugh and giggle, and if your joke surprises her, she may even snort. She loves puns and verbal dueling, self-deprecating humour and wit both wry and dry.

She is stubborn, determined, goes over/under/through obstacles to get where she is going. Once she sets her teeth into something she will not relinquish it. She is sort of like a terrier, in those ways. Or a tank.

She is kind and loyal, sees the best in people and promptly forgets when others disappoint. She prefers to live and let live, but knows that one can’t always do that. She protects me, like a best friend, a big sister, a sphinx.

Vaguely British, she runs her hand through mostly silver hair, looks over her glasses at me and says things like, “To master anything, darling, one must do it for 10,000 hours.  So let’s go!” She has a variety of surprisingly motivational sayings, most of which boil down to: don’t complain – don’t waste time – don’t give up.

She has her 10,000 hours already.  She came to the writing life late in hers, but refuses to bemoan that. She is a fantastic writer. Something about her work makes it impossible to stop reading it. She loves to reveal unspeakable truths, by degrees. She writes clearly, honestly. Bravely.

She leads the way with hindsight’s 20/20 vision, towards my future – her past. She is shimmering her way into shining existence with every word I write, every story I finish, every hour I add towards my 10,000. My imaginings, my fictions, are turning her into non-fiction. Is that irony? She would know.

My muse and I are the same girl, separated by a few years, so of course, we share a birthday. Every December 31st I like to drink to her health. Cheers, darling!




Carpe that Diem



Carpe that Diem ©2017 R.D. Girvan

A little while ago, this happened:  Three times in one day, I approached my computer to research… what? When I sat down, my mind was as empty as the search field. I had no idea what I had been about to Google.

Sometimes, memories scatter before me like tadpoles in the shallows, blurry black shapes highlighted against a ridged sandy shore.  This time, though, there were not even shadows darting away. Nothing. My inner eye showed only an image of blank sand under a foaming wash.

All my life, I have enjoyed my intelligence, my mind. I love puzzles, puns, cool words and finding the perfect way to turn a phrase. Making a new realization, mastering a subject, taking a mental leap and landing upon firm logic – these things delight and fascinate me.

I have always envisioned my mind as a magnifying device – a telescope or a microscope – and will mentally “dial in” my focus when I am working hard on something. And that day, my mental telescope had lost its bearings and was gawking at a black hole. My microscope, dialed in all the way, was straining hard, illuminating a blank slide.

That experience made me decide: today. I do things I want to do today.

While I still can, right? Write.

One Kind of Kind

Best. Bird's Nest. Ever

Best. Bird’s Nest. Ever

©2012 R.D. Girvan

I love when I find proof that we humans can be graciously humane, especially when the act is committed–and the evidence left–unconsciously.  With no quick glance about for an audience, no need for applause.  If you look closely at this picture, you’ll see traces of one such quiet, matter-of-fact kindness.

The power guys spent a few weeks working at this transfer station (all their extensive repairs and modifications are off-camera).   They had several trucks there every day, plus one there every night, for the Security personnel guarding the supplies.

They were supervised by a bird of prey. I think it was a juvenile bird, since one could usually see it keeping an eye on the men below from within its nest. Sometimes you would see another bird, presumably its mother, even higher above them, riding the air currents.  I’m not sure what breed it is, but it’s the type that build nests out of twigs the size of walking sticks.  OK, maybe just child-sized walking sticks unsuitable for the Alps, but as you can see in the photo, the nest is quite large.

As you can also see in the picture, the nest is on a pole that (now) serves no other purpose.  They re-routed the lines, installed new poles, removed old ones–did over two weeks of work on that site, and when they moved on, they left the bird’s pole right where it was.  Whether they left it there for good or for just as long as the young bird would need it, right now it is the best…bird’s nest…ever.

P.D. Day


Photo © 2010 R.D. Girvan

P.D. Day © 2011 R.D. Girvan


If you drive 30 minutes (40 in the Winter) NW of Edmonton, you’ll arrive at the small town of Onoway, Alberta.  If you know it or of it, you’ll probably agree; it is small.  Sleepy.  Very quiet, mostly, except when multitudes of motorcyclists arrive for a famous pig roast which used to happen on May long, or August long or perhaps on the Labour Day long weekend.  This year, it was on all three. 

Today was Friday September 20th, 2013.  When I went to town to run an errand, I noticed a different kind of hubbub surrounding a motorcycle.  There was a police cruiser parked on one of the main streets, by the pizza joint.  This restaurant is named “Burger Baron”, but, since a) Rocky owns it and b) his burgers are good but his pizzas are better, we all call it “Rocky’s Pizza.”  Beside the cruiser was a fire department  ambulance, one of those sturdy red first response trucks that look like the coolest die cast truck ever, all grown up.

If you’ve never spent time in a small town, you have to realize that sirens are so rare out there that when the Fire Department pulls out of their Hall, people go to the window to see who’s driving the truck.  Two emergency vehicles beside each other means a serious event.

I asked the water store guy what had happened.  “Oh,” he said, sighing, “I’ve already told this story to so many people…”  But he filled me in as he filled our reverse osmosis containers.

A 3 wheeled motorcycle had driven over the rail road track and something had fallen off.  The driver stopped and went back to get it.  The trike started to move, so the passenger attempted to apply the brake.  They must have engaged the throttle instead, for the trike took off over the tracks, screamed through the four way stop, blew past the nail salon, jumped the curb and crashed into a pipe guard that separates Rocky’s from its parking stalls.  Cue the sirens—and the neighbours.

My friend at the water store said he thought no one had been hurt. One of the motorcyclists had been taken away in an ambulance (a THIRD emergency response vehicle!) but had walked to it without assistance.

In my mind’s eye, I could see the look on the driver’s face, as he bent down to pick up the errant motorcycle part, turning around to see his trike leaving him, him running after it.  I can see the trike in slow motion as it made its dash for freedom and bucked off the passenger.  I imagined what could have happened if the traffic guard had not been there, and the trike slammed into the restaurant.  I can almost hear the crash, plastic shattering off the bike and the siding crumpling against the fender.  By then the momentum would have been mostly spent, and I envisioned a cartoonish man in the bathroom at that end of the building, reading the news, answering the dull crumping thud of impact with a cheery, “Occupied!”

As I drove home, I realized what could have happened.  What should have happened, really, on this sunny September Friday afternoon.   At 4:08 p.m.  On a Professional Development Day.

There was one thing that should have been present, but was thankfully, serendipitously, absent:  all the kids.

There was no school today.  There were no knots of children lining the sidewalk to be run over, no little brothers straggling behind older sisters walking with their friends.  No groups of boys watching girls giggle over cell phones, no boarders, no jocks, no geeks.  No students walking home, none heading from the Library to the Bank or the Bigway grocery store.  No one on their way to the candy counter at the Shell gas station (which we all still call “the Tempo” ).  Thank goodness.

On a different Friday, this could have been an horrific accident, instead of an amusing “you shoulda seen it!” traffic story.  I guess it’s true; life can turn on a dime.  Perhaps comedy and tragedy are fraternal twins.  And timing really IS everything.

Hearts Found on the Road

16 Hearts of Stone

Photo ©2010 R.D. Girvan
Hearts Found on the Road ©2010 R.D. Girvan

I have a thing for heart-shaped rocks.  Fascinated by their very existence, I am struck by the fact that they are by-products of slow-moving, implacable forces working to some other end entirely.  I choose to think there is a purpose, a Higher Purpose, one too significant to be revealed; a secret worth keeping.

Regardless, for all of Time, since Day One–or maybe even long before that–the forces of Nature have been working on these stones, inadvertently turning them from mountains to boulders to rocks to pebbles.

All the while, as we are busily living and dying, and our parents are doing the same and our parents’ parents’ parents’ were busily living and dying–as far back as Time goes, there were rocks being worn away into shapes that we now appreciate as symbolic and pleasing.

I find this contrast between the eternity of Nature and the immediacy of one’s daily life to be humbling and embarrassing, diminishing and yet motivating.  I have the same reaction when I gaze at stars, but the heart-rocks… these urgent reminders of my own human frailty and mortality keep appearing at my very feet.  They arrive as unearned bounty, as lucky talismans, proof of odds overcome.  It’s as if someone were saying, “Here: look.  If this is what can happen by Chance, what could be wrought if one put their mind to it?”

Am I reading too much into it?  What does it all mean?  Seriously, is there a Design, a Hidden Hand?   Considering all the immense forces of gravity, pressure and time… the Earth’s plates shifting and glacial movement across the Prairies… keeping in mind the oceans forming and then receding, mountains rising and crumbling… it makes me wonder.  Was it all meant to be?  Was all that pressure brought to bear so I could walk down my gravel driveway and discover another stone heart for my collection?  Or perhaps it is all just a happy accident, purely random–including my presence on the driveway.

Brave New “www.World”

I love the connections and coincidences that abound in the social media “”   For example, one of the people who read the “Fingers Crossed” post (about my Philippine Tarsier book idea) was actually reading it from the Philippines! I think that is too cool for school. Today, however, I would like your opinion.

What is your take on social media?  Is it useful or just a shiny way to waste a tonne of time?  Do you use facebook, Linkedin, twitter, all three—or none?  What about Pinterest, Youtube and the dizzying array of other options? How do you keep it all from taking over, or do you even try?  Does it bring you sales, knowledge, friends?  The time that you invest, does it pay dividends?  How do you determine or track your social media successes?

What would you say that “one most important thing” was, in 140 characters or less?  Just kidding, LOL… use as many characters as you like.  Send your TBH (To Be Honest), it could be FUN 😉

We’ve Got the Whole World, In Our Hands…

I really am starting to like facebook, twitter, et al.  Well, I liked them before, but now I LIKE-like them.  In fact, if there were a “love” button for those apps, I would probably click on that.

The power of social media to draw us all together, introducing disparate people from across the World, is staggering. Mass media is about making news; social media is about making connections.  Yesterday, something happened that brought that point home to me.

I had written a (previously posted here) book review on ‘Call Me Princess’ by Sara Blædel, and I decided to send her information on it.  Remember that she is DENMARK’s “Queen of Crime”—and I reside in Alberta.  Canada.  On the opposite side of the Earth from where she holds Court.

I searched facebook, and hadn’t finished typing ‘Blædel’ when her profile popped up.  I “liked” her page, sent the link to my blog, and thought, “Well, that’s that.”

But that was NOT that; she responded to me (see below)!  And she did so kindly, graciously, and personably.  Thank you so much, Ms. Blædel.  Making that connection absolutely made my day.

Sara Blædel

Hi R.D Girvan! Oh, what a fab review! Thank you SO much. I am so very, very happy you liked my book. And so grateful for your words. Big thanks Sara

  • Wednesday
  • R.d. Girvan

    Sara, you are so welcome.  Would you mind terribly if I added your above reply onto my blog post?  (Sorry to be so star-struck, but.. 🙂  Rd

  • Today
  • Sara Blædel

    HA! 😉 NO not at all – I will be very pleased to have my comment on your blog ;-)And big thanks again!

Better to Light a Candle than Curse the Darkness (and other Proverbs)

Better to Light a Candle than Curse the Darkness

(and other Proverbs)

I read the blurb on the back of Robert Fulghum’s book “Maybe (Maybe Not)” yesterday, where he speaks of holding opposing notions at the same time. He says, “…I wore two buttons on my smock when I was teaching art. One said, “Trust me, I’m a teacher.” The other replied, “Question Authority.”…’
It’s a concept that resonated with me, how we can simultaneously believe equally valued—and wildly conflicting—ideals such as:
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and “Risk is a four-letter word”;
“Honesty is the best policy” and “Don’t tell tales out of school”; or
“Pride goeth before a fall” and “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”

Brought up in a very English environment, I developed qualities our family valued, such as a stiff upper lip, a sense of reserve and a touch of understatement. But if I would like to get a word in edgewise at home nowadays – well, let’s just say that one needs to be a little more forward in order to be heard. My mother would call that type of wading into a verbal melee “interrupting.” This forum, however, is loud, it’s excitable, it’s quick and witty, and if you don’t sharpen your elbows at the buffet, there will be nothing left but salad. Luckily, I like salad. I guess that set would be: “One can never be too rich or too thin” and “Life’s short, eat dessert first.”

On October19, 2012, I attended the LitFest Panel discussion, “Author Promotion in a Digital Age” with a friend of mine. It was fantastic. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail was the facilitator, and Dana Di Tomaso, Alexis Kienlen and Noah Richler covered items such as blogging and social media in an informative discussion on digital marketing techniques.

Following that, organizers found space for extra chairs, so we were able to buy tickets to Richler’s sold-out workshop, “Narrative Construction in Literary Nonfiction.” This talk addressed life as a writer and provided writing tips to improve the story so the idea can stick better. He also gave encouragement that struck home for me, saying that one doesn’t need to be young to be a “fresh new voice” as a writer. He said many people do not begin their writing career until much later in life, and that if one is compelled to do so, one should just write. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – and “Truth will out.”

Afterwards, so fired up and enthused by the event and the atmosphere, I saw someone I wanted to talk to and marched right over there. Unfortunately, the individual was speaking with somebody else at that moment. Even less fortunate was the fact that they both seemed firmly ensconced in the Reserved Section, rather than the Festival Seating of Communication Techniques… Now, I’m there as a newbie writer, the ink is barely dry on my figurative press card, and I would have preferred to impress them favourably. “There’s many a slip, betwixt cup and lip” and “I got nuttin’…”

The embarrassment of that faux pas still sniggers at me, heckling from the cheap seats in my mind. “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it” and “Let it go”.

A few days later I was at my writer’s group, telling this story, carefully threading my way through the minefield between self-deprecating and self-denigrating humor. “Know thyself” and “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

I had just reached the part where my enthusiasm overtook my manners and I interrupted a private conversation, when my daughter came up and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but…” Then, confused by our collective reaction, she asked, “Why are you all laughing?”

This brings me to my last and favorite dichotomous duo: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and “Every generation, better than the last.” Thank goodness.

Canadian Karma

Leanne Myggland-Carter, Marketing & Communications Supervisor, Spruce Grove Public Library (on left) presenting Award Certificate to R.D. Girvan

I had entered Spruce Grove Public Library’s Post Card Travel Story Contest… and on October 20, 2012, I was thrilled to discover that I had won the Contest!  Here is my entry:

Canadian Karma ©2012 R.D. Girvan

On our last road trip, I stopped for fuel at a station with a drive-through.  I can’t mention their name, but it rhymes with “Lim Lorton’s.”  Not needing gasoline, I aimed for coffee, dispensed around back.

Two lanes waited, merging at a red-on-white sign that read:  “Please Alternate.”  That’s so Canadian.  Like a commercial for “Jim Jorton’s.”

We proceeded politely: right, left, right.  Then it happened: left, right, left, left…  A woman driving a small car scurried before a gentleman piloting a pick-up truck.  Occupying his rightful place in line, she sat squeezed against my back bumper like a spider evading a broom.  So close, you could not have slipped a “Gim Gorton’s” gift card between us.

The lady in front of me saw everything in her Lexus’ rearview mirror.  We shook our heads in shared disapproval.

The gentleman acted like a prince.  He was honorable.  He was dignified.  He was on the phone and may not have noticed a thing.  Not to worry.  Karma was calling, and I was just the girl to answer.

Reversing my SUV into Small Woman’s vehicle seemed slightly overzealous…  perhaps, instead of punishing her behavior, I should reward his.  I ordered Prince Pick-up a donut.

At the window, I overheard employees congratulating Prince.  He and I exchanged solemn nods, saluting through our side mirrors, right over Small Woman’s head.

It was fair.  It was just.  Then, I discovered Lady Lexus had bought my coffee.  It was karma—to go—at “Rim Rorton’s.”

La-La Land

Photo Credit: Stuart Cook
La-La Land ©2010 R.D. Girvan

I was talking this morning with a friend, at the grocery store. We were talking about how our thoughts shape reality.  Actually, we were talking about the flu going around and how our families had both fallen victim to it, but “we had a nice Thanksgiving, anyway.”  While we were chatting about this, I was the one thinking about how our thoughts shape our reality.  So many things happen, in a weekend; in a day; in a life.  So many things to either focus upon or ignore.

People know this intuitively. Each of us edited our weekends massively, omitting the parts about holding heads and fetching buckets and cleaning carpets.  We did this without thinking, because that’s what we all do, almost instinctively.  It was Thanksgiving; therefore it was a good weekend. And in a few months, my family will not remember the flu.  We will remember going for a long walk in the Nature Reserve.  We will remember cooking Thanksgiving Dinner all together, how the kids peeled enough potatoes for 50 before we stopped them, and our son exclaiming, “I’m thankful for sausage!”

One of my favorite parts about writing is that, when I’m writing, that ability is valued.  It is not social convention or a positive attitude or living in a derogatory la-la land.  It is “a good imagination” or “foreshadowing” or “making people feel like they can’t wait to find out what happens next.”  I like that.

I think it is like living in la-la land; MY la-la land.  Writer John Barth was quoted as saying “reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”  David Morrell (who wrote “First Blood”) said, “… The stories that I tell distract me, and if I do the job right they distract people from things that are happening to them that they wish had never happened.”  Hear, hear!

Because, when it’s my world, my la-la land, my own private Idaho, neat things happen to distract me from the others.  Like when I went to bed after nursing our youngest, staying up for a couple hours in the middle of the night, when I felt pretty rough myself, performing the Mom duties that are really too gross to discuss – when I went to bed finally, I looked out the window and saw a thank-you gift from the Universe.  (My world, remember!) I saw the Northern Lights, dancing, filling the entire window, top to bottom, side to side.  As I told my friend this morning, I’m taking that one personally; that light show was for me!  Although: if anyone else saw them too, I’m happy to share.  🙂  RD

Photo credit goes to Stewart Cook, Photographer, with much thanks.