Nuclear Power – by Melissa Ballard

 

Leon

A writing mentor, Richard Taylor, said recently “What do you do with the shit in your head if you don’t write? Hit a supersize bag of cheetos and a litre of Coke?”  So many reasons to write. Here’s one of my favourites –

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. – Joan Didion

 

Or how about this from a great Canadian writer:

I’m concerned about the unknowability of other people. – Carol Shields

I can guess why my friend, Melissa Ballard, wrote this story. See if you can, too. Whatever drives Melissa, I’m grateful for her beautiful non-fiction stories and exploration of events and people in her life. She finds the universal in the particular as you’ll read in her latest story in Belt Magazine. I hope you like it as much as I did.

 

 

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Fear of Authenticity

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Christmas morning – Authentic dog and snow

“If I brought my authentic self to work, I’d be fired.” This was the most authentic thing I said in the 2.5 hour long discussion my employer held on the new corporate values. My authentic self is quick-tempered, opinionated, potty-mouthed, and arrogant. These are not highly prized attributes for an underling and certainly, during a corporate group-think values session, I was not about to expose my true self. Continue reading

Bespoke

In 1981, I owned two pairs of corduroy pants, four hand-knit sweaters made by my mother, a pair of Adidas running shoes with a loose heel that slapped my foot as I walked, and two dresses I sewed using material found in remnant bins of fabric stores. That year, I shifted my job hunt from the careers section of the Ottawa Citizen to the classifieds. An English Literature degree had not guaranteed entry into any work I aspired to and I needed a job. I borrowed a jacket, a blouse, and a pair of shoes that blistered my baby toes for interviews. I landed a job as a secretary with the Canadian Construction Association. At 24, my real education began. Continue reading

For sale: red dress

RedDress

Vintage. Size 8. Worn three times in 1992.

The reason
I wore the dress for the first time at a Meeting Planners International (Ottawa Chapter) Gala. I won “Planner of the Year”, for which I received a plaque. Now when I hear the word plaque I think gum disease and heart attack but back then it meant achievement. I was good at a job that, among other things, demanded good feet. Back then when scouting a location for a 1200 delegate conference and 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, I walked every inch of too many hotel function rooms and concrete floored trade show halls – in stilettos. I tromped service corridors and loading bays. I hoofed the cobblestone streets of old Montreal surrounding the Montreal Convention Centre. I pounded the paved cruise ship docks beside the Vancouver Convention Centre and marched up and down Halifax’s hills to and from the harbour and up to the Citadel because back then there was no Google Earth or Mapquest to help situate the convention site within a city. I had to see it for myself. In stilletos. Because. Fashion. Continue reading

Let me help you with that

A guest post from my husband, Chris.

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Juno Beach, Normandy, France

Considering the rotten things Donald Trump has said about – and done to – his neighbours to the south, it seems almost churlish to complain about his latest insult to Canada. Hell, despite his patronizing tone he may even have been trying to be complimentary when he conceded that in the Second World War Canada “helped us out”.

But honest to God, for the benefit of the many thoughtful and fair-minded Americans who may not have the grasp of history that you would expect of a President, let me explain a few things.

Here’s a good one to start with: by an interesting trick of time travel we started helping America in September 1939, two years and three months before you joined the fight. During that time we helped you by flying in the Battle of Britain; escorting convoys across the North Atlantic; carrying out bombing raids over Europe; sending agents into Europe; and training thousands of American ex-pats to help us in the fight against fascism. Immediately following the disaster at Dunkirk and the fall of France, the First Canadian Division was the only large body of trained soldiers in England equipped to resist the expected invasion.

While you listened to “do-nothings” and quasi-fascist isolationists like Lindbergh, we got busy helping set up the Commonwealth Air Training Plan which put over 140,000 aircrew from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Norway and other countries through training in Canada. Included in this number were a pretty healthy crop of Americans who needed our help to get into the fight. By the end of the war about 10,000 Canadian air crew lost their lives.

Canada fought in China at Hong Kong, in North Africa, in Sicily and Italy, in North West Europe and in south-east Asia. We took one of five beaches on D-Day.

With a population of only 11 million at the time, Canada had over one million people in uniform during World War II. Virtually every industry was a war industry. And we were never attacked! We did this when we could have sat back and relied on geography to see us through. Instead we stepped up. About 60,000 Canadians died in the war. And if it happened again, we’d do it again.

I don’t begrudge the United States the pride it takes in its contribution to the fight in the Second World War. You were an indispensable ally. But let’s get this straight. When you joined the war late in 1941, you helped Britain and its allies. Even the USSR, which took a savage toll in casualties, can’t claim that we were just their helper. It’s not something they like to be reminded of, but they only joined Britain, Canada and others after two years of trade with Germany – including trade in war materials – bought them time to get a little readier to face the inevitable. So, thanks America for doing the right thing. But remember, while your track record on fighting fascism may be good, on identifying fascists for what they are – not great.

The space between

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Dandy dog

When I opened the book I ordered on-line, the thing I noticed immediately was neither the beautiful photography and the carefully crafted knitting patterns nor the lyrical language of the stories accompanying the patterns. What I noticed was the lack of white space. Paragraphs bumped into each other like commuters in Toronto and margins were narrower than country roads.  Photos worthy of singular exposure were lost in a visual melange. There was no place for my eyes to linger or rest.

I felt like a Panini pressed between paragraphs. I wanted a moment to breathe and think. I needed space to digest what came before and what was coming next. Continue reading

Forgiving pink

Fifteen year old me said something like this: “Pink stinks.” I got extra marks in university for brevity from an exhausted professor probably worn down reading 300 term papers replete with rosy language hiding empty thoughts. Pink as a colour struck me this way. Pointless, pathetic fluff. Continue reading

Zee end

Image result for Becca Courtice Modern brush calligraphy

The brush should be at a 45 degree angle as though bent into a strong wind. You want headway. Your pen takes orders from you, your hand its aegis. Never forget that.

Start at the left and trace your pen along an imaginary line. Keep your brush down and pull it steadily due right. Look straight ahead and don’t stop. Continue reading

Games I don’t play

It is a few evenings before Christmas and we’re in the living room of my brother’s house in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  A low fire winks behind the screen of the small coal burning fireplace and undernotes of coffee mixed with alcohol intermittently finds my nose. Continue reading