Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

I've always considered 13 to be a lucky number.  When my daughter was almost born on Friday the 13th, I thought it was magic.   Then the doctor was having a nap so she waited until it was barely the 14th to appear.  Which, I suppose, makes 14 the luckier.  But I still have high hopes for 2013.  It just feels lucky.

It feels right.  Good things will happen this year.

This Christmas, my kids chose one favourite tree in the forest behind our new house.  We collected up our Canadian Tire money and went and bought some ornaments for this one, special tree.  It was one of the best things I think I've done as a parent.  I can't tell you how excited they were.  It felt like we were breaking a rule.  But were we?  This one, small, beautiful and out-of-the ordinary thing is the one thing they will remember from this Christmas.  (Far more than what they received.)  (Certainly more than what they gave.)

We walked up the little mountain every couple of days and admired our work, cleaned up any that the wind blew down, and watched other people's reactions:  invariably positive ones.   The magic of the season was right there:  that one tree, windblown and exposed, at the top of the mountain, shining with baubles and love.

When we went up to take the decorations down, someone else had beaten us to it, ripped them all off and destroyed them, replacing them with birdfood 'alternatives'.  One small, mean-spirited person could not see the beauty in hand-picked Canadian Tire adornments.  One small, mean-spirited person took my kids' magical gesture and made it ugly and sad.

I am very angry.  I am trying not to be.  I am trying to assume they did it for a good reason, something noble and kind, but I just see self-righteousness.   

I am trying to be someone who sees the good first, but I'm not very good at it yet.  

Maybe in 2013.


I am reading The Casual Vacancy and I can't put it down.  I never meant to pick it up in the first place -- municipal politics aren't particularly what I want to read about in my novels and the negative reviews swayed me.  But I did.  It's making me think about what makes a book "good".  What I've concluded is that it's really sometimes little to do with the book, but more to do with the writer.  A good writer takes you on a journey, in spite of your qualms about the subject matter.  And you go willingly because they don't let you hesitate, they pull you in with their language and the tantalizing promise of more.  They absorb you.

A poor writer makes you aware of his punctuation marks.  You can feel his effort, which turns reading into work.

A good writer confidently reaches out, takes your hand and takes you where he/she wants you to go.  You don't have a choice, is what I'm saying.

Finding a good book and being pulled in makes me think about what people say when they fall in love (invariably with people they shouldn't):  "I didn't mean for it to happen."

I didn't mean to stay up all night reading either, but I did.

I couldn't help it.

Only now do I have some sympathy for the "couldn't help it" people.

Books.  Love.

All a metaphor for the same things, really.  No?

I am sure I'm not the first to say that, but I think I'm only just -- after all this time -- really recognizing it.

I need to find more books like that.  For a while, lately, I've been struggling to find my way to the end of anyone else's story.   

My own, too.

2013: It's the year for finding all the lost endings.   Yours and mine.  

In novels.  

And in love.

I am spending more and more time away from the computer.  For a few days after Sandy Hook, I couldn't open the laptop at all.  There was too much that it contained that was too painful to see.  In those few days, I got more done than I'd done in months.  

I felt more myself.

I love the internet, don't get me wrong, I think I'm just done with it for a while.  I like that it is there, but it's not where I need to be right now.  I am trying to be present in my own life.  More present.

I am trying to be outside more than not.

I am trying to find my way back to myself.

For a while now, I've had the feeling that I'm becoming smaller.  That I exist within me, but in a tiny way, like a small white pebble inside all of this bodily housing.  I think I feel that way because of so much time spent in front of a screen, staring, absorbing, shrinking away from the bad things and witnessing the good ones like a deer in the woods, frozen in place.  

Becoming smaller.  And harder.

I am just trying to be present.  If I was going to make a resolution and if someone asked what it was, that is what I'd say.  

I am here, right now.  

I am on the couch.

It's cold in here, but I'm about to leave for a hike, so I'm leaving the heat off.

I am drinking juice I made myself.  There is pineapple and ginger and celery and it tastes like something I've forgotten from a long time ago.

I have handwritten a note for the person who destroyed the tree.  I will take a note to the mountain tree and leave it, tied on with a zap strap, waiting for what I do not know.

(Waiting for someone.)  

I will take photos on my way down the hill.

My Christmas tree drops needles.  Every once in a while, an ornament slips.  Later, I will take each and every ornament and pack it away for next year.

I will vacuum.

I will sit on this same couch and work on my novel for at least an hour.  

I will light the fire.  

I will sit.

I will think.

I will read.

I will eat.

I will do all these things.  

I will likely be on Facebook.  (I'm not a purist.  It's not all or nothing.)  

(It's less.)

(Just less.)

(To make more elsewhere.) 

(Do you see?)

(What I mean is that I won't idly click around, reading screens and absorbing nothing, allowing myself to get smaller and smaller while time eddies and swirls around me, looking up only to find that it's become dark outside and the day is done.)

I am going to stretch (languorously).  

In fact, I'm going to take my time in all things.  

I am going to wait for my novels to find their endings.  I am going to wait for the good things to happen.  

I am going to stop rushing into love.  

I am going to stop rushing at all.  

I am going to stop.

Stop clicking this and linking that.

Stop feeling like I am late for something that I didn't know was happening.

Stop shouting at the kids to hurry up.

Just stop.

And then, after all that, I am going to feel myself within me, expanding like the dust-like "eggs" the kids got in their Christmas stockings that became a rainbow of smooth, transparent, colourful marbles when placed in water. 


I want to spend 2013 that way, becoming my colours. 

It's all pretty simple, really.

So for someone who steadfastly "doesn't make resolutions", it seems like I just made one.  

Happy New Year to you and yours.  May it be a magical year for all of us.