birds

The Most Glorious Summer of My Life (2015)

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Well, the water and the sun were especially beautiful the other day.  This shot was taken at Hawrelak Park.  I have been getting out and doing a lot lately, going for bike rides, going to take photos with my Dad to various parks.  Edmonton is so amazing.  When we were at the park taking this picture, there were conservation officers not a mile away on the same side of a river trying to deal with a black bear that was spotted in our oh so lovely home city.

Yesterday (Sunday) was an especially cool day for me.  Cam Tait, a well known writer for the Edmonton Sun, did a story on me and my book “Inching Back To Sane” (which has just gotten an honorable mention in the New York Book Festival).  It was like having a birthday, only my presents were notices on my phone in text, email, Facebook and voice mail saying that people saw me and congratulations and all that.  I feel a bit nervous about the whole thing because I talked candidly about being mentally ill and I wonder how people will take it.  I am kind of hoping that if I get out to some book signings people will recognize me and the name of my book from the paper and possibly buy more than normal.  For anyone in the Edmonton area by the way, I will be at the Chapters Store on 105 street and 82 (Whyte) avenue for a book signing next Sunday, July 5 from 11:00am to around 4:00pm.

I really liked the article that Cam Tait ran, and he has also been kind enough to agree to post my book signing on his twitter and Facebook accounts, but I felt a bit more pride and happiness later in the day when I found out a short story I wrote was given high praise by a couple of artists working on a project to historically portray a well known (at times infamous) Hotel in downtown Edmonton, the York.  It is so amazing sometimes to see one’s name in print and to see people write things that are positive.  When I was a teenager I used to get that thrill from driving my old Ford Cobra as fast as I could, I was a real show-off and some kids would be amazed at it.  Then later on in life I remember being in a large pool tournament and feeling that incredible rush when you make a difficult shot and a crowd of people applaud for you.  I also had quite a rush from flying a small plane but that wasn’t quite the same.

Now I just love it when I write something and it has substance, people compliment it and even say it touched them.  That is why I have been excited about taking on a greater role as a writing teacher in my community.  So far I have only taught a few classes, but I have this idea in my head that when you take people who are poor or homeless or mentally ill and teach them something that gives them a skill, a way to express themselves and communicate, you empower them to transcend their situation, to improve their lives, even to free themselves from their current difficulties I believe.  So in that vein I am going to try and get funding from a community revitalization grant to teach two classes, bring in guest speakers and hold other events and workshops for people in McCauley and the surrounding areas.  One class will be open to the public but kind of geared toward people who are mentally ill, and the other will be at the Bissel Centre, a drop-in centre for people who are homeless or without means of support.

On a side note, I made kind of a neat purchase the other day, it is a little device the size of a deck of cards and comes as a ‘you build it, you program it’ computer that runs on Linux.  It was so much fun to hook this thing up and add software and all that but I fear that will be where the fun ends.  I got an interesting free software package of office programs and I also installed ‘Doom’ on it.  I love doing things like that to challenge myself, but then the reality is that there is actually little use for it once it is up and running.  When I had my own apartment I had sort of a computer business running in it, I think I had more than ten computers, and I was always doing things like setting it up with Linux, upgrading the Operating systems and all that.  Now that I have a Mac I have gotten a bit lazy about things.  I actually don’t just have a Mac though, I have an iWatch Sport, an iPhone 6, an iPad mini and a desktop Mac Mini.  All in all kind of cool but a little overboard.  I think my iWatch has really enhanced my life though because it can time how many calories you burn and how much motion you undertake each day and I have been doing some serious exercising and feel really good physically.  I have always wondered though what the connection is between people who are extremely fit and people who are extremely smart.  It seems rare to find a bodybuilder who is nerdy, I wonder if it has to do with the amount of time it takes to work out compared to the amount of time it takes to study and work hard academically.  One thing I do know is that when I was around 17 I started to discover how good it felt to be in shape and I started to seriously want to make that my main focus.  My brother was a bodybuilder when we were teens and for most of his adolescent years he did poorly in school but then turned things around in grade 12 and did very well for himself while being very fit.

One of the things I remember was that when I was in Cadets it was almost mandatory to lift weights, it was just what Sergeants did and I used to do a lot of different workouts though by that time I was a smoker.  Then I started to go into what I can only refer to as a pacifist mode and wanted to turn away from everything military.  I remember talking with my gym teacher and I told him that the majority of people who work out or play sports do it with the sole intention of being able to do violence to other people.  I was very wrong, but in school I was really turned off of sports for my grade 11 and 12 years (though I still did a martial arts workout several times a week and had very physically active jobs) because of the way ‘dumb jocks’ had bullied me.  It’s all a question I have no answer for, except to ask that you read my poem which is after the picture below, keep and open mind and feel very free to comment on this blog entry or even send me an email, I would love to hear from you.  My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

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The Way

 

Once I felt so worthless and forgotten

But I kept my sense of pride

Always thinking of how I hurt so many friends

Who have moved on and even some who died

 

If I had chosen another path for myself

I will admit I would not be standing here

With new friends and a family I love so much

And the one woman I hold close and dear

 

It seemed that I had wasted

Such a huge part of my days

But in the end I think I had to

For things to become so good in so many ways

 

Once there was a light of my life

A young woman beautiful and smart

But she simply would not become mine

Though now I’m glad that we did part

 

She seemed to think the she has class

So much more than all the rest

I thought she was all I wanted

But now I live among the poor and feel so blessed

 

I have my true love, I have the words I write

A family all over who I care so much for

I had to learn a lesson to become a man

Always ask for less than others and give more

 

I can hardly express how my life has become

Living among so many dear friends

Even some I worship on Sundays with

And will hold dear until the bitter end

 

A strong heart now beats inside of me

And I have so much more than I could ever ask

Who would have thought a thing like love

Is far and above our lives’ most important task

 

I send these world to the whole world

In the hopes that even a few will see

Only when you give all of yourself

Can you be at peace and truly free

 

I also ask that you honor those who paved the way

For our present world and now are gone

Be like a bonded servant to all those who need

Care and love to just simply keep on keeping on

 

Pray for the poor and lonely

Always try to ease their pain

Give all you can and know the truth

What you give will come back again

 

And as the years melt past before your eyes

Your hair may whiten but your soul will grow

And you will have the joys and memories

That only the good ones ever know

 

What The Heck Do You Think This Is? Band Camp?

DSC_0148Snapped this photo today of the underside of a raven on the wing

     Hello Dear Readers!  Well, this has been a good week so far.  I apologize to any 7th day Adventists out there, but I like to think a week begins on Monday, but it can be useful to think of Sunday being the first day of the week.  Personally I can go to church on Saturday or Sunday though I usually like to catch the early mass Sunday mornings.  As per usual though, I didn’t get to church this week.  I feel a bit bad about it because we have an amazing Priest, he is both American born and a convert to Catholicism and he is an incredible person.  Yesterday I went over to celebrate father’s day with my Dad and brother, I put a few photos on my Facebook page, which anyone is welcome to go and view, just look up Leif Gregersen and make sure you get me and not my Dad who has the exact same first middle and last name as I do.  Then after that I worked the Cirque De Soleil concert load-out which was mostly uneventful if you aren’t my poor aching back.  Today, Monday was pretty eventful.  I went out for an early lunch with a friend and we have been discussing several writing projects involving the community I live in and I also found out that I am being featured in a poetry exhibit of some kind at a local festival.  The most fun part though was going to the park with my new telephoto lens and my new-ish Nikon camera and taking a whole whack of pictures.  It is a bit of work to swap lenses all the time, but I sure can get some amazing photos, especially now that I have been learning more about my Nikon.  After supper I had no desire to sit in the house and lament my sore muscles so I picked up my stuff and headed for the swimming pool.  I borrowed some flippers and a flutter board and did some slow laps then hit the steam room and then dove into the cool water.  All in all it felt very relaxing and refreshing.  Now I don’t know how I’m going to get to sleep.

The other thing I did was stop procrastinating and I got to work on a magazine assignment I was assigned by the Tribal College Journal.  It was interesting to learn some of the facts about the Tribal College I was showcasing in words and pictures today, the student body is 75% female and of the average age of 30-35.  It almost makes me think it isn’t too late for me to go back to school, which could be highly beneficial to my career as a writer, but I have decided a long time ago that I know enough to make a living, and I do have a good job and lots of prospects, but also that going back to school would likely be too much pressure on me.  It is sad to think, but in my entire life I have never held a steady full time job.  I have been working with the Union I am in for a long time, but it is at best part-time and at worst not at all.  I can recall times when I worked for a few days in a row or a few weeks, but something about me and my ability to handle stress and sleep deprivation just won’t allow it.  It is funny because when I was a teen I would go to school all week, pull down decent grades and still work 20-40 hours a week, even more at times.  I recall a teacher in elementary having a talk with my parents about working me too hard.  Sometimes I wonder if my first serious mental collapse had to do with burnout.  For years afterwards I would sleep sometimes 12 hours a day on average.  It was hell really, living in an apartment with no contact to the outside world.  Sometimes I had no phone, I certainly didn’t have my front door buzzer connected.  I had no computer, I would just sit in my apartment sometimes in dizzying depths of depression and loneliness watching my small black and white TV, typing on my electric typewriter and reading my books.  At one point I took in a roommate just to ease the loneliness, but he ended up taking severe advantage of me.  Soon after he moved in he seemingly took over the place and invited all of his street friends in to live in my apartment and it took me months to get rid of them, not to mention an $800 phone bill I had no means of paying.  Things are so much better now, but I have to admit that even today I entertained thoughts of moving out on my own.  I really would like to go back to cooking for myself, I used to enjoy fiddling around with a budget and trying to eat healthy and all that.  Anyhow, now this has become a long rant, I will cut things off there.  As always, everyone who visits is free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com or join me on Facebook at Leif Gregersen.   Anyone in Edmonton or area can now order my books from Chapters, I have six in the system now, I am going to try soon to get copies placed in stores.  All the best Dear Readers, enjoy the poem below today’s 2nd photo!

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Hear Wisdom Cry Out, See It In The Sky

 

Will you celebrate your own happiness

Will you sing out words of joy

Do you understand the love that binds all of us

Young or old, man, girl or boy

 

Oh, when I was younger the world was such a perfect place to be

Savoring each moment like a ruby red glass of finest wine

I had so much love and wonder for the world around me

But soon that joy was no longer mine

 

The whole world was not enough for me

Neither was my own fair share

Somehow I couldn’t go on living simply

It was as if I was deathly scared

 

I would look at those with money

Lament I didn’t have enough

And then life became no fun for me

And I began to work harder and far too much

 

And then came more than my share of con artists

Who fleeced me for every dime

They knew how to exploit my own greediness

In truth the fault was mine

 

I believed all the lies they told me

How they would make me rich

And somehow things just didn’t come to be

One time I was left hungry in a ditch

 

There is no easy road to wealth

The streets are not simply paved with gold

I traded happiness and health

And I will regret it soon when I get old

 

But I will tell you if there is a thing of perfection

It would be admiring the gentle flocks of geese

They can always find the right direction

As they soar through the air with ease

 

Take the bird’s lesson, follow where your heart takes you

My friend, follow your heart when you are young

There really is a loving God and it really is true

There are songs not written that can be sung by you

 

 

As you journey forth to find your own way

You will always find a place to rest your head

Remember a miracle on a far off day

Where a few loaves fed thousands bread

 

Work hard and love your family

Always do what you think seems right

Prepare for the time that you are free

In a perfect world of light

 

Write great wisdom’s teachings deep inside

And you will always find a way

Put away hatred, addiction, anger, pride

And for you there will be perfect peace one day

 

 

Leif Gregersen

June 23, 2015

Muse, Cruel Muse, I Need You Now

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The picture beside this paragraph is one of me and a promising young pilot from my former Air Cadet Squadron at Villeneuve Airport, where I took some photos for an article I was writing for the Lion’s Club magazine.

 

 

 

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This second photo for today is of another aviator, one I never tire of watching or photographing.  The young man above is likely flying military jets by now, but he will never have the real freedom and beauty of this little birdie here.

 

 

The Long and Short of It All

Well, I did have an incredible birthday, but life must move forwards.  I don’t like to say “life goes on” because I remember a day many years ago when I was 17 and I first had to seriously deal with death.  A good friend of mine, named Brad had killed himself a few short days before and I was completely devastated.  I was working at a gas station at the time and some people who also knew Brad came in and when I asked one guy if he heard, he smiled and said, “oh well, life goes on I guess.”  I will never forget that cold little bastard or the smile on his face.  Not three months later his mother committed suicide and I went through hell not knowing how to deal with the situation.  I don’t know if it was a direct result, but not long after that I found myself being confined to a mental hospital in dire need of treatment.  I am reminded of words such as, “For whom the bell tolls” and Tennyson’s incredible quote where he spoke of the loss of a friend and said, “I go on with a deep sense of longing and regret, among new faces and different minds.”  But the reality is, I now do kind of feel that when someone kills themselves, there are better things a person can do other than fall to pieces.  The sad fact of things is that many people believe that suicide is a form of revenge-getting.  And the person who kills themselves doesn’t have to live with the pain, the people he/she leaves behind do.  I also have been looking at the whole question of suicide a bit differently because recently I have been going to a Catholic Church with an incredibly kind and wise priest who once mentioned that while suicide is a sin, there are some people who are not in a normal state of mental health who kill themselves and will be forgiven by God.

I suppose I should turn to lighter subjects.  I am glad to be 43, and very glad to be in a healthy state of mental and physical health.  I keep active by swimming and doing a lot of walking and a bit of Yoga.  Sometimes I wonder if it is a good idea to do Yoga being a Christian because it is almost a religious practise that goes against some tenants of the Christian faith.  This does seem a bit silly to think about, but it is really important to me that I keep my faith and my ‘relationship with God’ in a right state.  I have to say I like a lot of what our new Pope Francis talks about, though some of the things he says leaves me confused.  I hope one day soon I get some bold followers who are knowledgeable in such subjects to comment and discuss these things with me.  I also hope that I get my lazy Sunday afternoon butt out of bed more often so I can get to Church for the first time in months.  I really enjoy going to Catholic services, there is something so holy and pristine about going there, I often feel very cleansed and renewed after a service.  I do have this problem though, and I suppose it has a lot to do with my illness, and the proper balance of medications I am on, I get paranoid and angry quite easily when I am out in public.  This is something meditation is helping me with, but I think I also need to look at other chemical therapies that can help me with this.  Well, that is about all I have to say for now.  Below I am posting a poem I just wrote that I am hoping to take to “The Stroll of Poets” where I recite my poetry in public each Monday night.  You can find the poem just past the attached photo.

 

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In the Darker Hours

 

 

Cruel, insipid muse, where can you be?

Inside I have quatrains longing to be free

Stanzas of of rhymes dancing in my head

They won’t let me rest as I lay in my bed

 

Perhaps it’s the comics, the TV and cartoons

Ingesting those media makes me feel the perfect buffoon

I should be drinking in sonnets and dark villanelles

Tasting ancient philosophy, feeding brain cells

 

Poetry you are such a cruel wench

Poetry, poetry you disgust me like a stench

All I can come up with since this past week’s start

Is four rhyming lines that stink worse than a fart

 

I tried going to a play, I tried expressive art film

Throwing in fiction short stories into the kiln

Yet all I have brewed is words stale and flat

Un-chewed, undigested verse chunks all greasy and full of fat

 

I live in such a time that I shouldn’t have to beg you

My muse, my inspiration, for rhyming lines that are new

Once there was a time I could write on for hours

But trite teenager comic books seem to have sapped all my powers

 

It was a nice thing going out to a reading or two

But in the end they reminded me I’ve boiled a poor stew

I need to flambé up some words that will tickle and inspire

My need for these things is growing so dire

 

I can taste on my tongue the vestiges of well thought out lines

This aabb scheme crap I am putting out is somewhat less than divine

I want to train my little brain to speak more iambically

I want to loosen my belt and let my constrained breath of words free

 

It’s for you my dear reader, or listener perhaps

That I need to somehow create something more than this crap

Because in the end I live for that applause

At the end of my poem when I know I have stated well my bold cause

 

All I think I must do is sum up in these short bursts of words

The plight of the lonely, the angry, disturbed

Because in the end who among us has all they want

Why my good muse do you tickle, tease and taunt?

 

Leif Gregersen

December 3, 2014

http://www.edmontonwriter.com