Friday, May 25, 2012

My Mystical Day Off

My garden: Yesterday. With Yellow Butterfly. Somewhere.

This is an intimate story, so it scares me to write it. I don't usually write such stories. My essays are personal, not intimate.

Yesterday, I decided to give myself 'the day off.'  A day off from doing stuff. A day off from worrying about nothing. It was a fine summer day, and I am recovering from a neck injury which makes it hard to do anything that requires my left arm.

So I had a good excuse.

And  I had finished the fifth story, the last of my special genealogical writing projects I gave myself about 6 years ago. Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Biology and AmbitionMilk and Water and Looking for Mrs. Peel.  Six years ago, I had actually created a collage of images of the Finished Product and put it up on the wall in my bedroom and what do you know, six years later, these       stories came into being. (I'm very new agey, as you can guess. At times, anyway.)

Writers seldom have days off. As a freelance writer, in the past (over the past 3 decades) I have either been working frantically on some project with a tight tight (too tight) deadline (often with kids running wild around me) or looking for work, or worrying about looking for work. All very draining.

As a no-longer freelance writer, just a plain ole writer, who had given herself  BIG projects to work on to fill the time and justify her existence on this planet, for the last five years I've either been thinking about said projects, or guilting myself about not working on said  writing projects  or wondering if these silly projects are an excuse for not looking for REAL paying writing work, as if there's any of that around.

But yesterday, I took a deep breath and gave myself THE DAY OFF. Because I've completed my projects. This day off was my reward for achieving my goals, as NO ONE else cares about my projects except me, because they are personal and because they don't bring in money. We live in a material world, after all.

So, yesterday afternoon, I was sitting on the bed, propped by three fat pillows (because with my condition I can't sit in any one position too long). And I thought about St. Eustache and the butterfly.

St. Eustache is where I lived in 1958/59 in a dilapidated farmhouse with my father, mother and two brothers.

I have pictures of the place to remind me:

I can only find a pic where I Matissed the house up a bit.  (I have the negatives somewhere, which I can develop on my computer using Corel as they are in black and white.)

It was an ugly little house: I knew that at 4 years old. In the middle of an ugly field.  In a hmm ugly 'rustic' area (although within commuting distance to the Big City).

My brother says we look like Hillbillies in this picture. Weird Hillbillies. My father was Oxford educated, with a degree in Math from that place, a Business degree from McGill and with a newly minted CA diploma and he was working as an accountant in the City, a job he hated because he was a bit of an aesthete and he claimed "Money brings out the worst in people."

My mother was miserable as a young housewife, as she had been born to wealth (her father had been Director of City Services in Montreal in the 1920's. I write about that in Milk and Water) and given the best classical education afforded women of her time. She studied Greek and Latin - but not sewing and cleaning. She knew how to dress (herself, not her kids) and tell witty jokes and to give good parties. She was an expert competitive bridge player. She very upset about having to live out in the sticks among a class of people she wasn't used to.

She was also bi-polar and spent most mornings screaming and slamming cupboards when in her 'manic' phase. (She didn't know it. She never knew it. Apparently, around this time she 'was sent' to a psychiatrist who told my father she wasn't 'crazy' just 'spoiled.' )

I guess they never asked us kids about it. Not that my mother wasn't maternal. She was maternal in spades, when in a healthy state of mind.

Anyway, see that picket fence? I can 'distinctly' remember (or it has become one of my personal myths) that one morning, when I left the house because my mother was screaming and banging things around, I saw a HUGE yellow butterfly perched on that very fence and it told me that 'everything is going to be O.K.'

Maybe I wasn't in my right mind at that moment either; but then sometimes it's OK not to be in one's right mind. It can be helpful.

So yesterday, 52 or 3 years later, as I lay down on my soft memory foam bed, giving myself the day off from silly or at least unproductive worries, on a beautiful sunny spring day, in my large beautifully appointed home (I think) in a lovely suburb not that far from that depressed and depressing farming community I once lived in, having FINISHED the five big writing projects I had assigned myself 6 years ago, and with a sore arm so I can't clean out the cupboards, or wash the floors, or type anything for too long,  so I had nothing to do, I thought, "If I just take my Canon camera and walk outside into the garden, I will see a yellow butterfly and I will take a picture of it."

So I walked out (with a big part of my brain saying I am being very very silly) and right then a yellow butterfly flew over my lawn shelter over my head and away and I quickly tried to take a picture, but it all happened too fast!

The thing is, it's not like there are a whole lot of butterflies in my garden. There aren't. I think butterflies are extinct at least in the suburbs where all the low brush and milkweed has been eradicated. Birds are pretty rare too, despite the trees and foliage. Scary!

So I saw the butterfly I knew I would see. Mystical moment ? Maybe. Or perhaps I saw the ethereal thing flitting around through a window but paid no attention except subconsciously and it reminded me of 1958 and things went from there.

Either way, who cares.  I think it just goes to prove that if you 'give yourself the day off' from work, life, worry, from being Your Old Self, things, magical things, can happen.