Saturday, March 15, 2014

Will Wonders Never Cease?

It may be cheating a bit to post a story I wrote years ago here, but there's a story to go with the story, and that's new at least.

I wrote the story "Will Wonders Never Cease?" for an art history class many years ago.  The assignment was to write a story that encompassed the mood of a work of art selected from our Art History text.  I chose Jess Collins' "Will Wonders Never Cease?" 1969, and drew upon memories of the adventures that my childhood friend Rachel and I had when we stayed at her family cabin on Galliano Island to create a tale that I felt suited the painting.   I posted the story on my old website, then I moved and promptly forgot about it and the other writings there.  A few years ago I got a message on Facebook from Gioia, the author of the poem that I quoted at the end of the story.  She is now a teacher in Surrey. When we were in high school, we both entered a district writing contest, for which her poem was picked and published in an anthology, while mine was not quite up to par and did not make it... I have no idea which poem I entered that year, but clearly Gioia's and a few others' were better. :)  In college and university I had a habit of including quotes or poems in essays and papers, and this story was no exception.  I had copied her poem into one of my many journals full of poems that I enjoyed, and thought it fit well with the story.

Gioia was teaching a lesson to her class about social media, warning them that once something is on the internet, it stays there.  She Googled herself in class, telling them that she was usually rather careful about what she put out there, but that even so, she'd likely find something unexpected about herself online.  Sure enough, she found my story with her poem quoted.  She tracked me down and we conversed a bit online.  She assured me that she didn't mind her poem being used in the story online (which was a good thing as I wasn't sure even I could access my Shaw account to change the webpage!) and said it was a great example for her class, not only for the lesson on online content, but of how to credit the original author when using a quote in your own work.
Here is the story (and Gioia's wonderful poem) for your enjoyment.

Will Wonders Never Cease?

By Janine Sebastian

Will Wonders Never Cease, by Jess Collins
via famousartistsbirthdays

When I was a child, my brothers and I would spend hours upon hours playing outside, dreaming up adventures and searching for treasures. Every time one of us brought one of our found treasures to Daddy, he would say the same thing: “Will wonders never cease?”

He would ask us about the treasure, where we found it, what we thought it was. Then he would examine it and either confirm our consensus, even when it was far fetched, or he would tell us a story about the real origin of the object.

When I was seven, we spent the summer up at my Uncle Joel's cabin on Galliano Island. We had a great time searching the shore for lost treasures and mystical creatures. Daddy told us a story of how he had seen a beautiful mermaid in the nearby cave once. He spent years searching for her, but never saw her again.

My oldest brother Jamie, who was nine at the time, swore he saw Daddy's mermaid hiding in the nearby cave. Lorne and I searched and searched but we never found her. He also thought that by standing in knee deep water, trusty net in hand, he would one day catch a fish big enough for our supper. Eight year old Lorne swore that there was a treasure buried somewhere on our beach… Uncle Joel was surprisingly understanding about the many holes we dug in his property. He had only two conditions on our digging there. The first condition was that should we find it, we had to share the treasure evenly, without fighting over who got what. The second condition was that any hole we dug, had to be refilled before the next one was begun. Being of reasonable mind, we agreed.

Once when we were combing the beach for shipwrecked treasures, I found a small tooth caught between a rock and some driftwood. I took the tooth home and showed it to Daddy, asking him what kind of animal it came from. He looked at my treasure and exclaimed “Will wonders never cease!”

“Oh Daddy, don't be silly. Is it a sea monster's tooth? Jamie says it's a wolf's tooth, but wolves don't walk on the beach… do they?” Before he could answer, I continued with my monologue. “And Lorne says it's from a baby sea monster, like the Ogopogo. I think they're both wrong,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“Do you now? And what do you think it is, Princess?”

“I think it's a dolphin's tooth. We saw those dolphins last week, and they had teeth this big. Do you think the tooth fairy visits dolphins too?”

How ever did Daddy put up with my constant stream of questions? I'm sure he often felt like he was under interrogation, yet he was always patient in his answers.

“Well Princess, I think you're right. It looks like either a dolphin or a shark's tooth. And there's probably a dolphin out there with a tooth missing just like you have. I imagine the tooth fairy left him a nice fish in exchange for it, then accidentally dropped it on her way up to the cabin to take your tooth.”

Pleased with his answer, I slid from his lap, and went in search of my older brothers to gloat. I love my brothers, but they've always had the propensity to think they are the authority on everything. It was nice to be proven right for a change.

One afternoon, we were on the beach with Daddy, and he pointed out an orange starfish that was stuck to one of the rocks in the shallow water. After assuring us that it couldn't hurt us, we each reached out to feel it's slimy surface. Daddy bet us that we couldn't find eight different types of starfish on the beach. The wager: if we found them, he's take us out for ice cream at the end of the week. If we couldn't find them, then we had to help him wash his car. Lorne tried to pry the orange starfish off the rock, to start a collection, but Daddy said that the starfish needed to be in the water to survive. He gave us his Polaroid camera to take pictures of each of the starfish we found, making us promise to put them back as soon as the pictures were taken.

The next day, Jamie was reaching for a purple starfish, which was partially hidden under a particularly large, slimy rock. We couldn't take a picture of it unless we could get it out in the open where we could see it. Well, he reached too far and fell in the water with a big splash. We all laughed and he sloshed onto the shore triumphantly holding the elusive purple starfish in hand. We took the picture, and took turns holding the starfish, before returning him to the general location where we found him.

It took us three days to complete our task, but in the end, we had pictures of eight different starfish, each a unique colour or shape. When we marched into the house on the third day, with the photo's in hand, and triumphant grins on our faces, Daddy made his usual exclamation.

“Will wonders never cease! I guess I owe you all some ice cream sundaes.”

On the drive to the ice cream parlor, I asked him why he always said “Will wonders never cease” when one of us showed him a treasure. He said that it came from a line “Will wonders never cease to amaze.” Then he explained that it meant that he was amazed that we could always find something new and interesting to fascinate us. He told us that when he was a boy he and Uncle Joel and Aunt Elizabeth would do the same thing, always finding some way to entertain themselves during the long summer. It was hard to picture them as children, but if I tried really hard, I could imagine myself as my namesake, Aunt Elizabeth, looking at all the little things with wonder.

One afternoon, we were all sitting down to lunch, when we noticed that just outside the window, there seemed to be a constant flow of minks between two large rocks in the brush. Daddy said that years ago someone on the island had been breeding minks, and a few of them had mysteriously gotten loose. That was why there were so many of the creatures wandering the island now. The look on Uncle Joel's face when Daddy told us this, was quite suspicious. I asked him if he knew how the creatures had gotten out, and he nonchalantly claimed that when he and Daddy were children, someone opened one of the cages and set the doomed animals free. Somehow, with the infinite wisdom of a precocious seven year old, I knew that they had something to do with it. When I asked if it was him that had opened the cage, Uncle Joel had the following response:

“I swear to you, neither your father or I ever touched the latch on that cage… your Aunt Elizabeth however…”

“It was Aunt Liz? But she said you and Daddy were the ones that always did things to get into trouble.”

“In many instances we did, but in this case our hands were clean.”

“True enough, but it didn't take much persuading to convince Liz that they were doomed to become fur coats if they stayed in that cage…” Daddy grinned, as if he could picture the day clearly. “As I recall, we had to hold her back until the coast was clear, she was so eager to set them free.” Daddy and Uncle Joel laughed at the memory.

Jamie and I watched the creatures weave through the brush, and noticed that there was one mink that seemed to stay in the same place all day. He was tucked into a crevice in the rock, and the other critters just kept scurrying past him. We became determined to find out what was wrong with him that he would just huddle in one spot while the others appeared so active.

Jamie devised a plan, to surround the mink's hiding place, and spook him out into his net. We clambered outside, chasing away all of the minks except the one we had dubbed Fred. Fred remained huddled in his hiding spot. When we had each blocked the other possible exits, Lorne started making a ruckus, and lightly kicking at the rock. Fred scampered out from under the rock and right into Jamie's waiting net. Jamie scooped him up, and we all crowded around to see our new captive. Fred just stared up at us, and after a few minutes of wriggling in attempt to get away, he seemed to see that there was no escape, and he stilled. Jamie carefully reached into the net and pulled out the small animal. We noticed at once that one of his hind legs was bent at an odd angle, and had dried blood on it. I began to cry, and insisted on being the one to hold him. Jamie handed Fred to me, and I tenderly held him close, my tears falling on his soft fur.

Whenever one of us was injured, we would go to Daddy, because he always seemed to know what to do to make everything all right. So we did just that. I carried Fred into the house, while the boys hurried ahead to find Daddy. Seeing my face, Daddy got this look on his face that he always got when he saw me hurting. He pulled me close and looking at the mink, tried to reassure me.

“Will wonders never cease” he said gently. “It's all right baby, we'll take him to Doc Bennet, and she'll fix him right up, okay?” Doc Bennet was the town vet. “Then we'll see what it will take to get this little fella back on his feet.”

We all clambered into the car and made the journey to the vets office on the other side of the island. I spent the whole trip crooning to Fred, telling him that we would take good care of him and that he would be all right now.

Doc Bennet treated the wound and wrapped the leg in a tiny cast. A few hours later, upon the ardent assurances of my brothers and I that we would take care of Fred while he was healing, she sent us all home with a bag of feed and orders that Fred be kept inside until it was time to take the cast off.

For the next month, Fred was a household pet. He would follow us around the house, hide in our sock drawers, and cuddle with us at night. Even Momma took a liking to him. He would sit on her shoulder while she read in front of the fire in the afternoons. We would leave him in the house during our adventures on the beach.

We continued to bring home treasures and snapshots of creatures such as hermit crabs and seals. Lorne had the misfortune to discover of a group of jelly fish. He was searching the shallows for an elusive hermit crab, when he stepped onto a clear jelly fish. We took a quick picture before rushing him up to the house. Momma was there when we arrived and quickly rushed him to the doctor to treat the painful sting. We learned to be careful not to touch any more jelly fish.

We befriended a sea lion who liked to splash us and quickly dip under the water, only to pop up ten feet away. We would throw stones and drift wood and he would “chase” the objects, popping up right where they hit the surface of the water. He never got less than three feet away from us, but he was a regular playmate for two weeks straight.

With the aid of his net, Jamie caught a number of small fish and crabs, which we took pictures of and then set free. I found a handful of perfect shells and even a sand-dollar. Each new treasure was met with the familiar phrase from Daddy, “Will wonders never cease.”

At the end of the summer, we had a box full of treasures, and an album full of pictures of the critters we had discovered. Among our treasures were a number of special finds. A rusted nail still in a chunk of petrified wood, which we imagined came from a shipwrecked galleon full of golden doubloons; a handful of perfectly shaped, colourful shells; chunks of smoothly shaped driftwood which Uncle Joel claimed were perfect for whittling. The dolphin tooth, my most prized discovery, had a small hole drilled into the base of it, and it hung on a chain around my neck.

The last week of our vacation, Fred's cast came off. We all gave him a tearful farewell, and set him free in the back yard. He visited us a couple of times each day, and Uncle Joel promised to keep an eye on him for us during the winter.

The day before we left for home, we went wandering the shore, knowing in our little hearts that it would be the last time that summer. We were about to go inside for lunch, when I happened to stumble while climbing between two large logs. I was uninjured from my fall, and while I was trying to regain my footing, my hand touched smooth glass. I had found a bottle with a message in it! This was the ultimate discovery, as we had each thrown a bottle with a message at the beginning of the summer. I hurried to the house with my new find, and Daddy carefully removed the cork and the piece of paper within the bottle. He read the paper, then softly exclaimed:

“Will wonders never cease! I threw this into the sea with a letter, over fifteen years ago!” He gathered the family together, and read the paper to us. It contained the following poem:

I want to soar through the sky on a magic carpet
I want to run barefoot through the purple grass
I want to watch the roses dance, waltzing to the sound of
Laughter and maybe join them for a step or two.

- Gioia Breda

On a second slip of paper was the following message:

“Young Charles, wherever you may be, I hope this returns to you. I remember the days when everything was seen from the eyes of an innocent child. Thank you for reminding me to value the little things in life. Keep searching for that mermaid.

Andrew Arlington.

Portland, Oregon.”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Haircuts 2.0

You may remember a few years ago when I chopped off all of my hair and donated it? (Or several years before that when I did the same thing?) Well, I did it again. Only this time I didn't have the lovely J there to hold my hand and take me to an actual hair dresser... Nor did I have my Bronzer friends there to take me to get it cut by a barber in LA...*

I just did it myself at home... without anyone around to trim and tidy up the back, so there's no telling how uneven it is. I have a braid that's about 18 inches long waiting to be donated, and just above shoulder-length hair. I think this is actually the shortest my hair has been since I was about 4 years old! I tried the whole picture in a mirror thing, but can't get a good idea of how uneven it looks, so I suppose I'll have see if I can coerce someone into being kind enough to even it up for me sometime in the near future. 

After (I trimmed it a bit more after this and it got less straight, but more even in length front-to-back.)

I love it when my hair is really long, but I also tend to kind of hide behind it. When my hair is long, I get lots of comments about it, and subconsciously I figure that if people are looking at my abnormally long hair, and admiring it, they're not looking too closely at the rest of me (and I don't mean just physically). I also tend to literally hide behind it, pulling it around my shoulders like a cloak of invisibility or some such thing. Silly I know, but old habits die hard.

When I go for a drastic cut, it usually means I am gearing up for some change or challenge that I'm about to face. I'm taking off that cloak of invisibility and getting ready to face the world and tackle the next hurdle. I'm not entirely sure what that next hurdle is going to be this time around, but I've been thinking of cutting my hair for a few months now and the night before last I just got an overwhelming urge to do so RIGHT NOW BEFORE YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND AGAIN DAMMIT! So I did.

I keep hearing that song from West Side Story, “Something's Coming.” I don't know what that something is, but on some level, I'm gearing up for it, whether it be somethin new, good, bad, scary, challenging, or exciting... 

The haircut is just the first step... Something is coming... and I'm almost ready to face it... 


* The day I cut my hair in LA (PBP weekend) a large group of us got together in Cricket & Ivy's hotel room to watch that week's new episode of Angel.  That episode "Couplet" happened to involve one of the characters, a somewhat magical being from another dimension named Groo, getting a major haircut.  Just before Cordelia cuts his hair she asks: "Oh, wait. It's not like your strength is in your hair, or anything like that, right?"

His response: "No. I believe it is in my muscles."

While we watched this I was feeling a little under the weather, was wrapped in a blanket, and using my friend Becker as a pillow.  I believe there are pictures somewhere on the inter-webs to document this, along with before and after pics of my hair.

Once the scene ended and cut to a commercial, Becker looked at me with my newly cut hair and said something along the lines of: "So that's what's wrong with you!  Your power was in your hair!"*