Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Vesta August 16, 2012

Filed under: Alpha-biography,Rotary — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:11 am
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Vesta

I quite like Vesta.  She is the hearth goddess, the one who keeps the home fires burning.  Vesta is a virgin goddess, but she is ‘mom’ to the rest of the gods.  She’s the one who provides the milk and cookies and the ear after the stressful day battling monsters.

On Mother’s Day, the sweet and mushy cards abound and they mostly seem to envision the same mother, devoted and appreciated.  But mothers are women, and they are diverse!

I have 6 mothers.

First, I have the mother who carried me, thoroughly nauseated and regretting the idea, within her body and who raised me.  She is a creator mother.  She makes clothes, quilts, jewelry, tapestries, sweaters, and good food.   She gardens, and eats her harvest, while her flowers are admired by neighbours.  She has had four children, each quite different in outlook.  She cares for them with gifts of time and talent.

Next, I have the four Finnish host mothers who sheltered me on my youth exchange:

The first, was like Vesta.  She was  a nurse who had raised five amazing children, and she welcomed me into her embrace with a loving care that overwhelmed me with its sweetness.  She patiently listened each evening, sitting with me and asking me to describe my day and the news from home.  With my growing Finnish vocabulary, funny drawings and a Finnish English dictionary as a last resort, I learned to communicate with her.   I grew by leaps and bounds.

The second was an athletic teacher.  She was tough and no nonsense.  She had four children.  Three older teens (one in the army) and a two year old.  She was harried and busy.  I was devastated to have left my first host family, and suffering from serious Seasonal Affective Disorder while I was living there (though no one knew it at the time: I slept all the time, had no energy, and felt very morose).  I wasn’t a very good exchange student there, to be honest.  What I remember most, actually, was that the bathroom with the shower/tub / sauna didn’t have a lock, and the two year old would come in whenever I wanted to bathe.  I had no privacy, and was terrified of having my host dad or host brother walk into the room accidentally.  I smelled bad when I lived there, as a result! :-S   She was the working mother of a toddler.  Her life was full and exhausting.

The third was a trophy wife of a banker.  Bouffant bleach blonde hair, blue eye shadow, and black eye liner were her trademarks.  She had two children who were away from home, so I was a relief to her her boredom.  Not that she was often bored.  Her calling was as a hostess.  There was a constant stream of guests, dressed to the nines, holding their wine glasses, and discussing the world. She wore beautiful clothes, practised her English on me, and went travelling.  They left me alone rather frequently, and I found that I didn’t mind the independence of having my own little apartment where I could shower in security, but I missed the embrace of a family.

The fourth was the wife of a sailor.  She was grounded, earthy, and fun.  She had two teens and a 9 year old.  She welcomed me into the household and treated me like one of her own, taking me everywhere.  We chatted constantly and I felt understood and appreciated.  I adored my little sister in particular, as she had the time and interest to take me around the neighbourhood, have me at her school for show and tell, and to chatter with me constantly so that my Finnish was solidified.

When I married, I received my sixth mother.  My mother-in-law is a pious, caring lady who is anxiously devoted to her children and grandchildren.  She is a wife of a professor and farmer who hosts crowds of visiting entomologists, ornithologists, lepidoptorists, genealogists, farmers, church members and friends from all walks of life with good grace and sincere interest.  She adores each of her in-law children and grandchildren and makes sure we know it.

Vesta guards the hearth and everyone gathers around its warmth for sustenance, care, and conversation.  Pull up a chair.  Whatever kind of mother or child you are, there is room.

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Warrior February 13, 2012

Filed under: Alpha-biography,Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:37 am

Warrior

There are a lot of warriors who fight in all sorts of wars. Sure, there are the traditional kinds of warriors: soldiers battling with guns and tanks, or arrow, swords and shields. There are also those who battle injustice using words: reporters, essayists, comedians, Amnesty International. There are those who fight disease: research scientists, doctors, nurses, labratory technologists, among them. There are those who battle ignorance, like teachers, scientists, philosophers, professors, students. There are those who battle poverty, like Rotary and other philanthropic groups. There are those individuals who battle addictions, loneliness, or mental illness.

Wars are fought on many fronts, and those who fight are warriors and worthy of respect for their efforts to conquer the evil that they have been called upon to fight.

 

Xandros February 7, 2012

Xandros.

Alexandros of Macedonia aka Alexander the Great. Warrior. Emperor.
What we know of him from history reflects his excellent understanding of the strategies of war, his passionate nature, the strength of his character, his knowledge of power and how to manipulate it, his charisma.
How to translate that for a modern audience in a way that makes him an entertaining character, but is somewhat true to history? The thing about writing is, that we can re-interpret historical truth. We can manipulate facts into fantasy, and so we do.
My Xandros likely bears little resemblance to the historical figure, whom I imagine was actually much more brutal than my version. Mine is full of passion and dedication to his task, but does so with humour. He does know how to manipulate and intimidate, and uses those skills on the other men, in particular. It’s a worthy ability.
I think the real Alexandros had a dark spirit. According to Annabel Lyon’s research for her novel The Golden Mean, bred from birth to his role, blooded at an early age, it is likely Alexandros spent most of his life in a state of Post-traumatic Stress. If not, he was psychopathic or sadistic. Considering he was adored by his men, I think that is unlikely.

I’ve seen PTSD up close over the years.  It is a debilitating condition that can make emotions volatile.  Power battles insecurity.  Fear battles rage.  On the surface, a vision of self-control must be observed by all.  It reveals a deeply conflicted character, a frail human who is never safe to reveal his frailty.

When you know there is a tender heart beneath the bristling exterior, you can try to reach it.  I hope the Xandros that I’ve written shows something of this dichotomy.  Can the reader feel his heart beneath his bravado?  Can you?

 

Young love February 2, 2012

Filed under: Alpha-biography,Pondering,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:44 pm
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This is the second entry in a  section called an “Alpha-biography.”  The exercise is to work through the alphabet, commenting on a word that connects somehow to your world.  My students are doing this in English 9 this semester, and I am modelling it by creating my own alpha-biography.  For myself, I will be focusing on how I am interpreting, synthesizing and contemplating the Greek/Roman gods as I’ve been exploring them in the process of crafting the Grace Awakening series.  (I’m working backwards, so that in the blog they’ll eventually appear A-Z instead of Z-A, as they end up ordered by time).

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Young Love:

Sometimes I feel like young love coloured my entire world. I am not alone. I speak to a lot of women who are very nostalgic about the first person to whom they opened their heart. Some had negative experiences, I suppose, but I seem to meet a lot of people whose first love set them on a course of self-respect and happiness. I hope that means the negative experiences are fewer than the positive ones. Perhaps it’s just that with the span of years, one begins to find the positives, even if they hadn’t been noted previously?

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I think a good young love is one that remains a fond memory throughout your life. If you take the issues and troubles, and learn from them, future relationships can be stronger.  It can become a fuel for creative endeavours, like perhaps a novel series…

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Nostalgia can be a snare though, and if you build up a young love into impossible heights, a current love that must be worked around children, mortgage and bills, can seem as if it can’t measure up. Sometimes we idealize romance from the time when we didn’t have responsibilities, and forget that maturity requires change.

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There is nothing like the intensity of a new love, young or old. Awakening passions make everyone young when they’re first in love.  I remember giggling phone calls from a senior lady, a widow, soon after she accepted a marriage proposal.  Her giddy joy was no less than the girls in the college dorm.  Love is a happy thing, whenever it occurs, but the small space in our hearts that is occupied by that first love remains through the years, forever young and precious.

 

Zeus January 31, 2012

Filed under: Alpha-biography,Mythology — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:43 pm
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This is the first entry in a  section called an “Alpha-biography.”  The exercise is to work through the alphabet, commenting on a word that connects somehow to your world.  My students are doing this in English 9 this semester, and I am modelling it by creating my own alpha-biography.  For myself, I will be focusing on how I am interpreting, synthesizing and contemplating the Greek/Roman gods as I’ve been exploring them in the process of crafting the Grace Awakening series.  (I’m working backwards, so that in the blog they’ll eventually appear A-Z instead of Z-A, as they end up ordered by time).

Zeus:

Sky, thunder, lightning bolts. That’s what I think of when Zeus comes to mind, and while sky can be memories basking beneath balmy blue skies, it also can mean clouds and rain or snow. Summer storms are all about power unleashed in the heavens, with a suddenness that captures boats out on the lake or starts forest fires. It’s a power that is beautiful and dangerous.
Mothers can be like that. They’re all balmy (in the British sense) where their kids are concerned. Cross them, and lightning bolts are flying, and you find yourself electrocuted and sizzling helplessly on the ground.
Sometimes people in power throw around their tempers with the sudden explosions that ruin careers, and destroy relationships. I think of Zeus that way. He is proud of his power, but tempestuous with it. He is not an even-handed administrator; he is an emotionally unstable tyrant.
It means that people have to move cautiously around him, nervously keeping their voices low, conscientiously trying to avoid offense. The problem with such people is that offense is taken, or not, without reason, so there is no hope for it.
I’ve lived with Zeus and worked for him as well off and on over the years. It’s a challenge. What joy to be in the sky beneath his radar, enjoying the sky without the storms.