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Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write by her father, who was her biggest supporter. “He was always behind me, rallying me on with my writing. I would always see him with a book in hand. He gave me a great appreciation for the written word, and the power and responsibility that writers have to shape those who read their words. He also taught me to respect nature and to value the beauty within it; my reflections on my environment are just an extension of this.” Skarbo was raised on Vancouver Island and is working on her next two books.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Mad Swirl Moment

Here is a link to Mad Swirl for a look at the short story The Polygamist in Me.  Please come and take a look at all the wonderful writers and words on the site. 

http://madswirl.com/content/stories/The_Polygamist_in_Me.html

Thanks so much,
Tracie

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Island Girl

I cast out my new lure in the slight breeze over the rocky shore and across the smooth surface of the ocean saying a little prayer.  Not much of one, just that I would be grateful to actually keep it instead of losing it to the seaweed and the rocks below.  And if it became a lucky lure, good for multiple strikes, that would be great too. 

I am a lucky woman to live on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, and every time I come out to this beach—not a five minute drive from where I live—I give gratitude to the powers that be.  The beach, the ocean and her moods, and both the animals and people who live here are a constant inspiration. 

Today I was in for a treat.  I heard him singing before I could see him, the breeze carrying his voice over the water.  He was on the other side of one of the rocky fingers jutting out along the shore.  But there could be no mistaking the low husky voice and those chants in a native dialogue that seemed to fill me with an unexpected comfort when I heard them.  I figured he must be an elder or perhaps a medicine man from the reserve community that was close by, and these chants he sang were for the ocean and her children.  As if to answer in greeting, an Eagle stutter whistled from the pines behind me.   

He rounded the bend and his familiar yellow Kayak came into view, still a ways down the beach and complete with the little Terrier figurehead. 

I never saw the man without the dog, or the dog without the man.  They were inseparable and seemed to have a symbiotic relationship so in tune they were together.  At times the dog would jump off of the Kayak and then swim along the boat, or swim for shore and then run along the beach while his master paddled along.  Then when he was tired he would either swim back to the Kayak or signal with a bark for his master to come and pick him up.   

It was peaceful to watch the two interacting without words, while I cast out my line and felt the little fish bite while I waited for bigger prey.  Often times seal and otter are out here to enjoy the waves.  Or the resident blue heron comes to fish with me while the sun sets in the west, giving purple hues to the snowcapped mountains in the east.

I went to live in Calgary, Alberta for a couple years, and found that I had this deep heartsick longing for the coastal waters and the mild climates, I had to move back.  I shake my head at it now, wondering why I had ever thought I could be a Cowgirl.  When it should have been so clear all along that to the depths of my bones, I am an Island girl, and only with the scent of the ocean am I truly home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Lesson in Appreciation

When in an accident one year, I had been knocked around pretty good: whiplash, a knee the size of a grapefruit from where the keys had gone into the actual joint, and lower back pain that had resulted in the difference of opinion between spine cracking forces of physics and my seatbelt keeping its promise.

Recovery from such an incident was long and painful, the first week I was bedridden only getting up to use the bathroom.  There was no television or computer in the bedroom so I was forced to contemplate my demise, read or sleep.  I couldn’t write because sitting up was painful and laying on the bed on my stomach seemed to inflame things as well. 

Mostly I had long conversations with myself in my head about all the things I could be doing at that moment if I had not been in the accident.  I thought about plot lines,  I tried to envision what my characters were up to in their make believe worlds, and not to think about how much fun my friends and family were having at that moment.  Then came thoughts of the fragility of life, and how lucky I was to be at home recuperating rather than at the hospital in traction.  Really I had nothing to complain about.  I was still breathing wasn’t I?  Enough moping. 

I began thinking and making lists, things I wanted to do in my life.  What had I not experienced?  What had I experienced and liked but hadn’t done for a while?  This cheered me up and gave me a goal to work towards when I had to go through physiotherapy and procedures that were painful. 

These promised events would also help when I was feeling down about how hard it was to do the simple tasks in life like laundry.  It was an excruciating chore to go down the two flights of stairs in the apartment building and grab the laundry out of the machine then lug it back up stair by stair which left me exhausted and sweating profusely.  I had always been an active person, and to have to slow down to this level of movement was frustrating. 

I didn’t give up, day by day things got better, some days held victories, in others there were setbacks.  Some held more tears then others.  I held on to the fact that time was my best ally, that it would be the salve to heal my wounds.  Eventually I was walking faster, longer and then pain free, years later I could run again.  This would at times aggravate the back or the knee but it would settle down with use and with proper icing.  I have to be careful gardening that I don’t twist on my knee wrong, or that I don’t kneel for too long or it is apt to swell, but it is holding up just fine none the less.

What stayed with me is the appreciation of my body, and all it allows me to do, the knowledge that my life and its routines could change in an instant, and that even though things looked bleak at the time, with determination, strong will and patience, I can get through the hard times. 

The Agreement

One night when I was sixteen and had just finished getting ready to go out with friends my father took me aside and said, “If you ever get into trouble out there on your own you can call me, no matter what the time, or the situation.  There will be no questions asked no punishment given.  I just want to make sure you are safe no matter what, ok?”

I looked at him.  I saw serious concern on his face.  I wondered what kind of trouble he was thinking of, boys, alcohol or drugs no doubt.  As if to echo what I had been thinking he said, “You have never given me any reason to be concerned on your part of things, but as you get older, you are going to face more challenging situations, and some of these things might catch you off guard.  I know you have a good head on your shoulders, so I know you won’t get into a car with someone who has been drinking, but I want you to know that if that happens that you can call me and I will come and pick you up no matter what.  Ok?” 

Then I knew what had prompted this, it was a week ago when the news of another three teens died at the hands of a teen who had been drunk at the wheel was on the local news.  They were boys who went to my school and were supposed to graduate in a month.  I smiled at my father and the worry lines furrowing his brow eased.  “I can’t promise I won’t get into some situation where I should have known better Dad, but I can promise you that I will call you the minute it gets out of hand.”  I said being sincere in my promise. 

My father had always been an understanding man; we were more like good friends then father and daughter.  He taught my brother and I life lessons with compassion, understanding and respect rather than harsh judgments and a heavy hand. 

Who knew a week later I would be in a situation just like that my father seemed to have had some foreboding about. 

My friends and I were going out to meet some guys we knew at a local lake that evening, we packed up our suits and a change of clothes and anything else we needed and headed out to meet up with them at sunset.  When we got there we saw that the guys had brought beer with them and they offered some to us.  To my amazement my friend who had been driving said “We don’t need any, we brought our own.”  I just gaped at her.  To my knowledge she didn’t drink, and I wondered where she had gotten the two cases of coolers she had brought.  When she offered me one, everyone was looking at me expectantly so I took one.  I was curious; I had only tried sips of wine on special occasions, like Christmas and even then it was only under tight supervision.  Never on my own with friends, I figured one couldn’t hurt. 

The sun went down and we went swimming, but I wasn’t in for long because although I had only had half of one cooler I was not feeling my regular self, and didn’t trust myself in the water.  The others goofed off in the water a bit then came out again.  We started a fire and dried off and changed.  Then continued to drink and talk again.   I must have been on my third cooler when I looked at the time.  I was going to miss my curfew.  I looked over at my friend who had driven us over; she was in no condition to drive.  She was slurring her words and could barely walk straight let alone drive.  I wondered what I was going to sound like when I called my Dad.   Oh man, what was he going to think?  He had said that there would be no questions and there would be no punishments.  I tried to think about other ways out of the situation, if perhaps I could wait for my friend to sober up and just go home late.  No way I could do that, she had just opened another cooler as I sat there contemplating the problem.  There was no way I would get into the car with my friend, and there was no way I could let my other friends get in with her or let them drive either.  If something happened to them and I didn’t do something I would be haunted for the rest of my life.  So I did the only thing I could.  I told them I was going to call my father to check in and I would be right back, then I went to the payphone and called my Dad.  I told him about the situation because this was going to involve driving my friends home as well as myself due to their inebriation and my fear of them driving.  He told me it was alright and to hold tight because he was on his way.  I went back to the beach and waited, wondering how I was going to get my friends to go with my Dad when he showed up.  I just hoped they weren’t going to be mad at me.

When he did show up I went to go and meet him and told him of my fears and how I thought they would be upset.  He told me he knew that I would know how to handle the situation and if I was just honest with my feelings that they would see things as I did, and if they didn’t well I had done all I could.  So back to the beach I went and told them that my Dad was there and that he would drive us home.  My friends were shocked and then mad because they thought my father was going to call their parents.  I told them of the agreement my father and I had and that he was bound by it not to tell or I wouldn’t trust him again.  Then I told them that they should come with me because I didn’t want to have to go to their funeral like the other kids that had just died so recently.  That if we were “adult” enough to drink that we should be adult enough to do the right thing too.  Then I waited.  I watched them look at the ground, then each other, then back at my Dad’s car. 

Then one of my friends said “I’m sorry I got mad at you, you were only trying to do the right thing.”  Then she looked over at the car we had come in, her parent’s car.  “How am I going to get the car home?”

“I told my Dad about the situation, he talked my Mum into coming to drive your parent’s car home.” I said, suddenly so proud that I had such cool parents that loved me enough to go to such lengths.  Right then and there in this one act, they had instilled in me a determination to be just as kind, compassionate and understanding of others.  I never wanted to be a disappointment to them, and I would do whatever it took to make them proud of me.

So we piled in the cars, and went to my friend’s houses to drop them and the other car off and then home again.  True to their words, not another word was spoken of the incident.  In their act that night and the following silence, no words they could have said would have resonated louder, or with more meaning.   

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ribs Anyone?

I was in the shower when it happened.  Just the normal everyday motions of washing my hair did the trick.  Who would have thought a dose of suds in the layered locks could prove so painful?  Suddenly there was a clicking sound and then I had to fight to breathe, I had seething pain right in the middle of my shoulder blades along the spine. 
I thought I had somehow slipped a disk.  I rinsed my hair, and carefully got out of the shower navigating the towel through shards of pain.  If I leaned this way I was ok but several inches the other way and it was mind numbing pain again.  Perhaps a pinched nerve? 

I pulled on some clothes over my mostly wet body and thought about what my options were.  One was a trip to the emergency room, which when I thought of the long lines and the general sickness of the people there, was an idea I was not fond of. 

I tried to isolate what I thought was my problem.  It had first started with the sound and then the pain.  It was a kind of twist that had started it, but it didn’t feel like a pulled muscle at all.  The fact that it affected my breathing when the pain was the strongest meant it had to be dealt with, and sometime in the immediate future.  Then I knew what I had to do.  I had to call a Chiropractor.  Even though I had heard some negative stories about these kinds of practitioners in the past, I thought there was no other solution to my problem.  Especially when two hours later I was still wracked with pain and it had not eased at all.   

When I called and explained my problem they said that they could fit me in as soon as I got down to the office.  I was floored.  What kind of an office does that?  I suppose they thought it was an emergency as much as I did.  Their point tally in my head just went higher.  I got a ride down to the office.  There was no way I could have driven myself.  That would have ended in disaster.  When I got to the office they told me to sit for a couple of minutes and fill out some forms then the Doctor would see me.

The young secretary ushered me into an office and told me it would only be a minute more.  When the Doctor came in I was surprised.  Not by the fact that she was a woman, but because she was such a thin waif of a woman.  I thought that the position would have to be filled by a gruff muscled sort.  One who would have no trouble in bending the human torso this way and that, popping air pockets and aligning spines.   This woman must have been all of one hundred and twenty pounds if that and she stood about five foot seven.

She must have read what I was thinking on my face because she said, “I am lean but muscular, I have been doing this for years on people much bigger then yourself.  It is not a matter of force per se more like precise manipulation.  When you have everything lined up just so, there is not much strength needed.”  And as she got closer I could see what she meant.  This woman was thin yes, but a waif?  Not on your life.  It seemed as though she didn’t have an ounce of fat on her, and underneath her skin her muscular form was firm and defined, yet feminine. 

She asked me a bunch of questions about the pain, about how it started and some health questions, then told me to lay on the table and relax.  I had a hard time doing that because of the pain and because I had no idea what to expect from her.  I had never been manipulated “precisely” or otherwise before, and it made me nervous.

She must have sensed this because she got me talking about other things, the weather, what I do for a living that kind of thing while she twisted me this way and that.  Every time I relaxed enough crack, she would bend me one way, then crack she would pull on something else.  I felt a bit like a big voodoo doll being tossed this way and that. 

In twenty minutes she had me back to my regular pain free self.  She explained that what had happened was when I was in a car accident in the past, the impact had knocked out one of my ribs some of the way from my spine, but not enough to cause pain or an issue until the motions of everyday life had wiggled it out more and more until now when “pop” it came all the way out.  She wanted to see me two more times and then all would be fixed up.  I asked her if it would happen again in the future.  She said that the joint would never be snug again like it had been before, but that it shouldn’t happen again for a long while.

I thanked her for her time and for fitting me in as quickly as she did.  I now see Chiropractors in a whole new light and to this day, knock on wood; I have never known that pain again.




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Square Peg in a Round Hole

Who said being a teen would be easy?  Not the books I read that’s for sure, and popular cinema was no better!  I was told or shown, various taunts and tricks that seniors would pose on juniors if one was unwary.  If someone were not to conform to the regular river of fashions and implied rules, one could get locked in a locker or worse.

I thought I was right to worry, for I was no regular girl.  I was not one for make-up or nervous fits of giggles when boys went by, I didn’t look forward to the latest fashion magazines and shopping escapades.  In fact the mall made me nauseous.  Even when I was a young girl I traded playing with Barbies to getting muddy with Tonka trucks and Hot Wheel cars.  I was all for hanging out with the guys, in jeans, climbing trees, cliffs and making tree houses, I was a girl who liked snakes, tadpoles and fishing down by the sea shore.  Much to my mother’s dismay; she wanted to dress me in dresses and lacey things, which she succeeded in until I was about six or so when she gave up because I repeatedly came home with mud in the ruffles, and grass stains on my knees. 

It was not that I didn’t like guys, it was that I didn’t feel like I had to spruce myself up into something I wasn’t in order to get unwanted attention.  I thought the whole thing was rather silly really.  Why would someone like me just because I looked a certain way or did certain things?  Why would I be more valuable because I fit into a certain group and how that group’s status was looked upon?  Who was making up these silly rules anyhow? 

When I finally did get to junior high I quickly saw how things were divided down into subgroups, there were the Popular kids, Goths, Punks, Jocks, Metal heads, Skaters, and the Geeks.  I had not come up with these names of course, it seems they were a sort of inferred social hierarchy handed down over the years by those who had come before us, those who had survived our plight of the lowly junior and lived on to the grand heights of becoming a senior. 

Personally I didn’t think I fit into any of the said groups, and I was glad of the fact.  I wanted to be different, a square peg in a round hole.  I wanted to be hard to define, to stand out from the rest and to be trekking down an untrodden path.  I decided to join groups that interested me rather then ones I was “supposed” to be interested in: The swim club, drama club, school newspaper, and the photography club.

Then I found my niche, which was when I became a peer helper in school and on the crisis line in my city.  I had a knack for listening and being there for those who needed to unload their stories, those who needed a shoulder for a while.  There were those who wanted guidance and those who didn’t.  I was there for them regardless.   I was listening to them no matter their social standing, skin color, or creed, but because of their simple need.  I learnt a lot from the experience.  I found out that no matter who we are, or where we come from, or what we think we know, we are all the same.  We want to be loved and accepted for who we are, challenged at what we are good at, and cherished as individuals.  So reach out for what you want, don’t be afraid of breaking through barriers just because someone has pegged you this way or that.  You might just find another dimension to the person you are.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holding Hands (My attempts at Karl Pilkingtonisms)

So Susan and I
go to the park the other day, right
just for a stroll like,
get out for some fresh air
and all that.
It had been kinda stuffy
in the house,
cabin fever creepin’ in.
Anyhow so we get there
and everything seems fine
the birds are singing,
some squirrels scurrying
here and there
chasing each other.  Right?
Everything looked normal.
So we start our walk,
and in about ten minutes
or so I start to notice
that its all couples in the park.
And to make things worse,
they’re all holding hands
and smiling like.
Some are even pushing baby strollers
while they are walkin’ in their wellies.
I look over to Susan to see
if she has taken notice.
No wonder I don’t like the park
too much pressure.


The world doesn’t need another round head like mine.








Saturn's Rings (My attempts at Karl Pilkingtonisms)

I was watching a special on space
on the telly last night with Susan
and it was about the planets
and whatnot.
When they got to Saturn
I thought there is a planet
with some style,
it would float like an apple if you
had a pond big enough,
it has 60 moons,
and with its rings
it seems it is the only engaged planet
in the solar system.

Musta been all that mooning going on.

Frog Legs (My attempts at Karl Pilkingtonisms)

I was thinking about frog legs
the other day,
and I was trying to understand
how anyone would have thought it
a good idea to put them on the table.
I mean what were they thinking?
Some guy down at the local pond fishing,
looks over and sees a fat frog,
turns to his buddy and says
what do you think? 
Would you have a bit of that?
Buddy says a bit o’ what?
He says over there, that frog, his legs look a
might bit tasty, probably easier to catch then fish too.
I wonder even more about how they got
the first guy to taste it.  Right?
‘Cause no one in their right mind
is gonna drool at the sight of some
pesky little frog legs.
Maybe they did up a stew,
and invited the villiage idiot.


I’ll take a bag o’ crisps over that any day.

Cats (My attempts at Karl Pilkingtonisms)

Cats are great aren’t they?
I mean they don’t eat much,
they clean up after themselves,
and you don’t have to worry about them
barking at the neighbors.
Just give them a comfy spot
on top of the chesterfield
with a view of the street,
it’s a reality TV program for cats.
There are no leashes to buy,
no sub-sized doo’s in the backyard to search for,
and they will even rid the house of mice;
if you ask me it’s a no brainer.


Baths (From my attempts at Karl Pilkingtonisms)

What’s the story with baths?
I just don’t get it
you lay in hot water
that becomes dirty the minute you get in it
laying there you become human stew
don’t you?
Then you wash up in dirty water
splash around a bit,
then you’re clean?
(shakes head)
I just don’t understand it,
besides in a bath
you can’t reach all the important bits can you?
You need a shower afterwards
just to clean up proper.

Birds (From my attempts at Karl Pilkingtonisms)

You think you are getting a great deal on meat
until you de-feather ‘em
then you find out they are nothing
but naked pink gooseflesh
you know what I mean?
By then I’ve lost me appetite

Friday, July 15, 2011

Man Pizza (My attempts at Karl Pinkltonisms)

If the Minatour had
kicked up his feet
to tunes of Pan flute
and a Man Pepperoni Pizza
perhaps Daedalus and Icarus
would not have laboured the Labyrinth
and all would have been forgiven

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garden Girl

Yellowed eyes
peek out from beneath
un-tutored blackberry brambles
she, my whiskered rambler
sliced with shadow smudges
lays with gaze lit upon
bruised blue-black
feathered fiend
perched worrisome
upon wired house tether
it rocks back and forth
with exerted beak warnings

All talon feathered friends
aware of her golden grassy bunker
amongst pink petals and thorn
potential feathers stolen
from her splayed claw
and chattering jaws


Monday, July 11, 2011

Rainbow Toes


She sat on her front porch and waited for her muse to come and pull up a chair.  The vessels lining the wooden deck boasted dark fuchsia Peony and bursts of brilliant Geranium.  So bright against their green splayed leaves that they almost looked like garish globes of still life fireworks. 

He was late today; he had not shown his face during the last batch of dishes, had not whispered sweet nothings through the landscape of her mind while she had vacuumed, nor had he come while she prepared the chili ingredients for the slow cooker.  Now with the blue skies and gentle sea breeze she looked out to the snow capped peaks in the distance and prayed for his arrival.

Her friends teased when she described her relationship with her inspiration this way, “It’s almost sounds like you are describing a lover.” they had said.  What they failed to understand, what most people uninterested in creative endeavors failed to understand, was that her relationship with her muse was exactly like that of a lover, and a fickle one at that.  A lover with moods,  insecurities, one capable of instilling feelings of devastation and vast levels of longing when she was left without words for bouts of time. 

Where could he be?  Why had he gone?  Was she somehow deemed unworthy?  Tiresome?

She looked down at her toes which she had painted in a rainbow of colors, splitting the biggest toenails in two with the colors because you needed seven toes for a rainbow didn’t you?  Tiresome?  No, how could someone using rainbow hues in such a way ever be considered mundane?  The neon lime green of the third toe bold as it screamed out everything but simple and ordinary.  No her muse had not become tired of her.  Bored?  It was unthinkable.  He and the words they came up with together were her world, blood and breath.  It was not as thought she could exchange him for another. 

A muse and creator were fused at birth, like some Janus dance of flesh, the gate to the river of words could only be breached with each present.  Like the Genie and the lamp, someone had to be there to rub its surface, and reap the rewards.  It was the very nature of the relationship, the key to their shared creativity, the give and take, the acceptance of the differences that strengthened their bond of companionship.  But where was he now?  If they could not be separated, and could not create without the other, was it not reasonable to fathom that he too was hurting from the lack of words?

She wondered at the possibility while the Harley Davidson bikes sped by the front of her house.  These loud, brash motorbikes roared through her quiet calm like chrome piston swords that reminded her of phallic ego enhancements.  Crinkling her nose she stuck fingers into snug holes to protect her hearing.  As the bikes passed they were followed by a slower moped that buzzed out its presence with a less intense decibel, and despite its unassuming nature carried its rider with a socially acceptable pinache and toddler-like carbon footprint.

A smile curled both her toes and the corners of her mouth while she wondered what the bikers would think about the quieter biped.  Probably the same thing Wasps and Hornets thought about Bumble and Honey bees; evil glares exchanged while on honeyed flights or food hive drives.

A giggle escaped her while the blades of grass took no notice.  Her thoughts drifted in and out of the miracle mechanics of insect flight.  Her concentration quiet and so intently focused that she didn’t notice his articulate embrace.  The figurative arms of her unseen Siamese twin encompassed her and felt as though a rolling mountain mist fingered over her shoulders and slipped into her existence, stealing all of her senses so completely that she almost forgot about the sun sliding on the razored horizon, slitting its flesh to splash brilliance upon the back drop of a cloudy canvas.  Gentle wisps looking like spoken secrets grasping the transformation of the dancing illuminescence as it crawled up the sky and the ravenous, jealous sea swallowed the ruddy orb whole. 

He was here, she was whole and nothing seemed more right with the world then her shared existence with the purpled periwinkle peaks in the distance, and the steady shared word pulses whispered upon her lobes.