A World in a Week

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So I bumped into an old student of mine the other day at the bank. Oh, you didn’t know? I used to teach creative writing. Not anywhere fancy, just at a local “school” for seniors mostly, something I did for free once a week in the fall for a couple of months. I did this for two years.

I think that I was more successful the first year, considering the gift that my students gave me and which I still have: a black porcelain Inuit-styled candle-holder of two people in parkas sitting opposite each other. The following year they gave me something else, noticeably more kitschy and long forgotten.

Luckily for me, I used a book I had on creative writing as a teaching aid; I was able to mine many of the author’s ideas on stories. My students were eager to write and I was critical yet in a constructive way, so hopefully no one’s feeling were hurt in the reviewing of their work; they would leave both encouraged to continue in their writing efforts as well as knowing that they had been seriously critiqued. At least that was the plan.

As we stood in line for the teller, she asked me if I was still writing. Just a blog, I said, but it’s been quiet lately. I’m always thinking of ideas to write about but nothing seems to grab me as of late, I said. We talked about journaling, something which I did for many years but which didn’t lead to successful writing. She said that she wanted to start again but might concentrate on a weekly journal entry, writing about the week that just ended.

This idea resonated with me. A day can be just a day, unless of course, you’re working on something serious, a short story or a novel or living through something intense, or travelling. Writers often swear by the journal, and I now see the possibility of more success looking back at the week that was in order to try to notice any important themes in it.

They say that the biblical prophets were ordinary men and women until the moment of prophesy. They could only receive the word of God in a state of grace and bliss. For me, writing is like that. The idea that ignites in your soul is a light that uplifts you and inspires you to share with others. To change metaphors: It’s a wave that lifts up the listless raft of your spirit and guides it inland to a tropical beach.

We know about the suffering artist. But I doubt that he is suffering that intensely during his moment of creativity.

So, in that vein, permit me to look back at certain themes of this past week…

The Retirement
People, if they do ask me, are wondering about my “retirement”. How’s it going, Ron? It took a while to formulate a response besides a rather meek “Okay”, and now I would say, “I don’t really think of myself as retired.”

I turn 62 next week. My quitting my job was more a response to a director that I didn’t want to work with than a conscious decision to retire. Having had a couple of weeks to think about it, I would say that despite many enjoyable moments, there is something missing from my life that a job, even one with a lousy boss, brings.

To have a purpose in life that one is paid for – and I did my job as an executive assistant quite well (even if I became snarly in the last couple of months) – is a good feeling that fulfills deep down. This goes away with “retirement”. There does come a deep pleasure in not having to stress over the small stuff, which happened with too much frequency in the job that I had. (If only people were more mellow!)

So, the bottom line is that some things are gained while others are lost. Happiness didn’t just hit me over the head the moment I moved back to my house in Glen Sutton. Slowly, however, a deeper peace is growing. I’m beginning to like “it”.

Pet Peeves
It’s still hard to get over my pet peeves when it comes to modern-day entertainment. For example, why do they show trailers of upcoming TV shows which also depict gratuitous violence at an hour that youngsters would still be watching, between 8 and 9 pm? This is an abhorrent practice. I have trouble watching them, and it hurts to think what effect this might have on a young sensitive child – desensitize him or her to aggression?

And the shows themselves! Do television producers really believe that the average TV viewer is a 12-year-old boy, excited by violence and fantasy? Naomi was worried that I would have the TV on a lot once I returned home. Not happening. I am reading a lot more, however.

I saw a film the other day – Truman, a Spanish flick about two friends, one of whom is dying of cancer. I arrived early and was there for the trailers of upcoming films.

In the past, I used to stay out of the theater during the trailers. After all, so much of the plot is given away. This time, I sat through at least four trailers and not one movie seemed remotely interesting. Are we living in the Dark Ages of film? The plots are contrived to draw out an emotional response, but there’s no subtlety in the attempt (hint: Julia Roberts, what have you been drinking?). Perhaps films are so expensive to make that producers are afraid of letting one creative person take control. Could you imagine a Picasso painted by committee? I have been told by a real-life Hollywood producer that a lot of dreck was made in the Golden Age of film (the 40’s, 50’s 60’s & 70’s) that I look back on as a time of very good Hollywood films, but I’m sure that much of the splendid cinema of the past was made with only a few creative people in control of the script and direction.

Wanting to pass over Passover
We were not looking forward to celebrating Passover this year. Because Jewish holidays begin at sunset and due to a late start on the calendar, we knew that the Passover dinner would be served at around 11 pm this year.

And we know the Passover routine like the back of our hand. As well as the usual direction of the conversation.

Been there, done that.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Was it the delicious Israeli wine? (Custom decrees that you drink four full glasses each Passover Seder).

I normally sip my wine but that’s impossible when you’re supposed to have an empty glass in about three minutes’ time. Instead of feeling sleepy or drunk, I kind of woke up and enjoyed the Passover Seder with a new appreciation, which, I guess, is what is supposed to happen.

The service didn’t flag. I got involved in and even began a few good conversations around the table. No one bored us with too much “meaningful” commentary. We went straight by the book.

And it worked. Before you know it, supper had arrived (brisket is delicious) and, although it was quite late, there was a feeling in the air that something special was happening.

Naomi and I could both feel it and left quite satisfied.

& On the Trivia Side…
I have either arthritis or a bad hip/buttock injury and it’s frustrating to think that I can’t work out as much as I’d like if taking it easy is the best way to heal it.

I’m back to playing bridge with real people instead of the computer. I haven’t embarrassed myself too badly so far. I might even take lessons from someone close by in Sutton.

I’ve asked to join a book club, which is a bit scary; members are usually mostly women and I’m also a very particular reader, rarely pushing myself to read a book that I’m not enjoying.

I’m addicted to a game called 1010! which I play on my IPad (try to connect lines either vertically or horizontally when presented with different-sized shapes). Can you beat my score of 2518?

And a great upcoming week to you, too!

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