poverty

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

 

Been a Few Days

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Don’t forget to Scroll down past the picture at the bottom of this post for today’s poem!

Hello Dear Readers and Friends!

I haven’t been posting much, I have been so freaking busy these past few days I haven’t even done any writing to speak of.  Today I did write a poem and I have decided that I will continue to write and post my poetry here and at my Facebook page, Valhalla Books where you can find a lot of my archived poetry.  I don’t even know where to begin with all the stuff that has been going on.  I have a friend who has been generous enough to let me use his vehicles and whenever I have a vehicle I run myself off my feet.  Yesterday I decided to take a break and I grabbed my snorkeling gear and swimsuit and headed for the swimming pool.  I am blessed in two ways with regards to the pool, one is that there is a really good one just two or three blocks away, and the other is that I have a free pass to go there as much as I want.  Life really is good for me in Alberta (Edmonton), I live in a subsidized group home, I get a disability pension, I get a free swim pass and a subsidized bus pass.  I really wonder a lot what people who have Psychiatric disabilities in third world countries or even states without plans for disabled people do.  I would like to invite any of you to share your story with me by emailing viking3082000@yahoo.com  I am really interested to hear how people do because now that I have completed my two memoirs that talk about my life with Bipolar Disorder (Through The Withering Storm and Inching Back To Sane), I am very interested in writing more non-fiction books about mental illness.  At one point I was working on a documentary for radio on this subject but I got frustrated with the radio station I was working at and quit.  It was kind of a good job to have but I was spreading myself too thin.  It was a volunteer job mind you, but very rewarding and it gave me a place to go each day and I was learning so much about computers and technology.

Anyhow, I can’t really think of a topic for today.  I think one thing I can talk about now that Spring is in Edmonton is the healing power of walking.  I can’t walk an awful lot because I developed plantar’s faciitis, but I still try to get in as much as I can.  As I probably mentioned, when I first got out of the hospital 14 years ago my Dad would come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk and bitch and complain about politics and so on and it was very healing.  Today I went to visit my ex-girlfriend’s mom in a senior’s home and I took her to a very nice park we have in the city here and she felt a lot better after sitting near some water among green trees and grass and watching the gulls and the geese and the ducks.  I am so amazed by birds myself, when I watch them-and I don’t want to offend anyone-I often think of how to me it seems impossible that such perfection as birds could have come about by evolution.  To me it makes a lot more sense to think of a creative designer in the Universe, but that’s off topic.  If there are people out there with mental health issues, I suggest that you take a bus or drive to a nice park, unless you live near one and just drink in the beauty of God’s creation for a half hour each day, treat it like a sort of meditation exercise and maybe even bring a notebook and write for a little while about how the sun and the grass make you feel.  I am a firm believer in the healing power of keeping a journal, my mom did it for years and swore by it.  I didn’t start doing it until I moved out on my own, but it formed the basis for a lot of my writing.

I am looking forward to the rest of the week, on Friday I am going to my job with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta to give a talk at a junior high school to two separate classes.  I really enjoy giving these talks and doing my bit to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Then next Friday I have booked a book signing event at a downtown bookstore.  What makes me excited about that is that I have a new book out now, called “Those Who Dare To Dream”, a historical fiction novel for young adults that I feel has some appeal to older audiences as well.  It is kind of funny the reactions you get from people when you tell them you are a writer.  Some people are so impressed that a person could fill up so many pages with words, other people think you are automatically rich or famous.  The truth could lie anywhere in all that, but I certainly don’t consider myself rich.  I am very lucky that my bills are covered and that I have enough money to print up books when I need to, but I am just happy to write and read all I can.  Well, I think I will leave off at that.  Don’t forget to scroll down past today’s photo for today’s poem.  All the best dear readers!

 

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Once a Poet Once a Lover

 

Once there was a girl who was kind and sweet

Seeing her smile was always such a treat

She loved me though I didn’t love myself

She had beauty and brains and even wealth

 

For years I waited, wanting her soft touch

But when it came to me it seemed too much

Sometimes the things that we desire the most

Leave us lonely, empty just like a ghost

 

She could have saved me so much awful pain

Turning her away was simply insane

I felt I had to make my own way through

And so I write these lines for all of you

 

I’ve tried to give my all with just my pen

I’ve tried to give back what I took times ten

Always hoping to touch another heart

To soften someone for cupid’s love dart

 

Because when someone’s heart is hard and cold

No matter their age they are sad and old

No one really feels worthy of romance

You stop living if you won’t take a chance

 

It is a lonely thing to sit and write

While everyone is deep in dreams all night

But if I can express my deepest soul

I will live on past death, which is my goal

 

It matters not that I have loved and lost

It matters not that I have paid the cost

Because as long as words still come to me

My heart, my mind, my soul will all be free

 

And though us poets write of love and war

As we all journey to that distant shore

We shall one day be clothed all in white light

Live on and love on for ten trillion nights

 

And in that place my perfect love will be

Her long curly blonde hair flowing and free

Her smile, her lovely model’s shape and face

Will be beside me in that resting place