I’m so excited to share that I’m a guest for Living Hyphen’s brand new podcast! Season 1, ‘Homestuck’, draws parallels between the pandemic and the grander experiences of Canada’s diverse communities. Like all things Living Hyphen, the podcast uncovers what it means to live in between cultures as hyphenated Canadians.
Living Hyphen uncovers what it means to live in between cultures as a hyphenated Canadian – that is, individuals who call Canada home but with roots elsewhere. From the Haitian-Quebecois commuting along the Montréal Métro to the South Asian trans man applying for permanent residency, from the young Filipino-Canadian woman texting her immigrant mother to the Plains Cree and Métis man meeting a traditional healer, we reveal the rich inner lives of Canada’s diverse communities.
Our stories are beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, contradictory, and constantly unfolding. Living Hyphen’s aim is to reshape the mainstream and to turn up the volume on voices that often go unheard.
Episode 7, Love From Afar
In this final episode of the Living Hyphen Podcast, we’re talking about all the ways we send love from afar, both tangible and intangible, through both space and time, in whatever form we have available to us.
Featured pieces: “Balikbayan,” Sam Castaneda “Objects of Affection,” Sonia Nicholson “A Letter to An Ancestor Whose Existence I Cannot Confirm,” Vanessa Vigneswaramoorthy “Love From Afar,” Anne Claire Baguio
Sonia Nicholson Sonia Nicholson (nee Resendes) is a first-generation Canadian; her family has lived on the island of Santa Maria, Azores (Portugal) for hundreds of years. Born and raised in the small town of Osoyoos, British Columbia, Sonia went on to study French and Spanish at the University of Victoria. She remained in Victoria and lives there with her husband, two children, and two rescue dogs. When she’s not writing, she works as an executive assistant and archivist. Read more of her writing at https://sonianicholson.com or follow her on Twitter at @nicholsonsonia_ or on Facebook.
Living Hyphen is a community seeking to turn up the volume on the voices of hyphenated Canadians. You can purchase their magazine at www.livinghyphen.ca, support them on Patreon, or find them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Graphics and podcast information courtesy of Living Hyphen. I’m honoured to have been asked to participate. —SN
I didn’t write yesterday. Not a word. Despite setting aside the entire afternoon, a glorious few hours for uninterrupted productivity, on the longest day of the year.
June is busy, even during a pandemic.
When All the Things that come with season’s end take over, time is hard to come by.
So I’d settled myself at the bistro table on the front porch with my laptop, ready. I would finish that elusive chapter.
Except I wouldn’t.
I wouldn’t because just as my fingers lined up along the keys, my mother came up the steps.
A few days earlier my parents had arrived. Tired. Hair a little thinner. But rosy-cheeked and beaming. They’d had over twelve months to imagine what it would be like to see their children and grandchildren in person again instead of through a screen.
The setting didn’t matter — a driveway or a backyard or a porch would do well enough.
At first, the company was more important than the conversations. Embracing the chaos. Kids with water guns. Gates opening and closing, in and out. Laughter new yet familiar.
Panting dogs basked on the blacktop. They, too, were smiling. They felt the shift along with the rest of us.
When my introvert self craved quiet, I turned to my work-in-progress. It had already been too long. I wanted to get back to the story, drawing it out word by word.
And then my mother came up the steps.
For company, yes, but it was time for more. While we had it.
Beginnings. Endings. Some we choose and others we can’t control. Life is the story of both. On the cusp of summer, I sensed the start and stop. Time moving but standing still.
And it was her turn to tell the tales. Her story. My father’s. About an island in the middle of the Atlantic. Sacrifices and celebrations. Hardships and heartache. Peacekeeping on another continent in a time of political upheaval. Family. Love.
Questions flowed naturally. How did you feel? What were you thinking then? Were you afraid?
When did you decide to leave the only home you’d ever known and cross the ocean to a new one where you’d never set foot?
Why did you stay?
Some we choose and others we can’t control. Life is the story of both. On the cusp of summer, I sensed the start and stop. Time moving but standing still.
I chose to listen. Fiction could wait.
And I knew, in those hours that felt like minutes and a lifetime, that I would always remember that conversation. Words and memories and moments, to care for as if they were my own.
In a way, they are. An inheritance of incidents that together make a life. Lives, combined.
Non-fiction better than anything I could make up.
I didn’t write yesterday and I’m not sorry. Because after the Solstice, the days get shorter.
just one day is all I ask, to flit and flutter, free from the everyday tasks that have cluttered the past eleven months
of masks and Have you washed your hands? and temperature checks. You’re good to go – have fun.
everything is strange in the New Normal
and we march across the pool deck goggles and suits in white laundry baskets six feet apart and a splash of laughter echoes in the cool space between fake palms, half past nine flashes red and a disembodied voice break- ing up whines Fifteen minutes left
in this holiday illusion we are slowly sinking tricks of chutes and ladders only
one way down.
better to be frozen, hit with a dose of real
embrace the feeling of cracked lips, eyes water with windchill -10. A weather warning? No, a call to slip out, skate on flats iced-over, jump again in pristine banks as if we were eight years old, not afraid to fall, play, lose track of time for the right reasons a season of sore and happy limbs.
just one day in the snow, to flit and flutter, free as a million flakes that we waited for the past eleven months
Well, this was a welcome surprise to come home to today, (especially since lately I’ve been caught up in the anxiety cycle of submitting my novel to agents and waiting for responses.) I’m excited to share that my poem “Faith” has been published in Time Of Singing, a journal of Christian poetry based in Pennsylvania. Visit their website for journal and subscription info, and to buy your own copy of Volume 47, Number 3 (Winter 2020/21)!
As 2020 draws to a close, I have been thinking about the parallels between current times and the “Roaring Twenties” following WWI and the 1918 influenza pandemic. Just like then, we are living through a historical event that will be studied and written about one hundred years from now. Once all of us have received the vaccine, will we let loose like they did in the 1920s? Will it be empty and meaningless because collectively we will still be carrying so much trauma? And will future generations ignorantly look back on us with envy?
The clock ticks, keeps time as we count — ten, nine — winds down days of darkness to forget. Toss the old year, spit out the last drops of wine once sweet now bitter at the bottom. Lost
Generation, raise your glasses! Lipsticks boldest rouge leave their mark overflowing. We are drunk on sadness — eight, seven, six — black frocks beaded fringe out of mothballs ring
in a new vintage. Cropped hair flying, we dance, drawn to the light as dying moths — five, four, three — to a flame. A meaningless romance for a night, when music moves us to mourn.
Dizzying moments of pleasure and pain, Future’s envy when — two, one — none remain.
The year 2020 has been a Rubik’s Cube of emotion, an ever-changing combination of sadness, inspiration, confusion, anxiety, and connectedness. There have been days of merriment, days of not wanting to get out of bed, days of frustration. Sometimes the right squares aligned, and other times the colours were a contradictory jumble.
I have experienced all of these. But for me, 2020 has also been something more: the year I dedicated to writing my debut novel, Provenance Unknown. (This decision had been made long before the Covid shutdowns and quarantine.)
Today, my emotion is pride. Despite all of the uncertainty this year, I have completed the manuscript and carried out my rounds of editing; now, the novel is in the hands of my beta readers. Writing a book was a twenty-five year old goal and no matter what the rest of 2020 brings, I have accomplished that. In the New Year I will start on the path to getting published. In the meantime, however, I am taking a well-deserved break — even if it is a short one.
Those who know me know that I won’t be able to stay away from writing for long. Once I’ve had a chance to recharge, I will go back to playing with shorter works for a while. (Poetry? Articles? Songs? Plays? It’s wide open!) Whatever I end up creating, I will of course post it here.
I also have most of the plot for a second novel rattling around in my head, and eventually it will demand to be written. I’m not sure how long I can keep it at bay so it may be sooner rather than later. We’ll see. Several times lately I have said that the stories control me rather than the other way around; I’m getting better at listening to them.
And I’m grateful that I can share them with you. Thank you for your encouragement and support over the past eleven months or so. I hope that when you read Provenance Unknown, it will at least partially pay back that debt.
I wish you a healthy, happy, and safe remainder of the year, and a fresh start in 2021.
We blinked, and suddenly it’s fall. I wrote this poem last autumn but kept it squirrelled away until now. I’m more drawn to writing poetry these days even though my focus is my novel; it offers a welcome break between chapters.
This week we celebrated my daughter’s birthday. While she was opening presents, I quickly wrote this poem as a simple but heartfelt gift to her.
Birthday (A Poem for Rose)
sweet, green girl eyes round like peaches rolling up to heaven when you think I can’t see you (in the young, fresh grass) sprouting, all limbs gangly and beautiful to carry forward strongly, boldly your secret wish burning red dancing unpredictable on pillars of fire
Back on April 11 I posted my first attempt at song lyrics, “Paper Hearts”. At the time I asked any musicians who might be interested in giving the tune a go to contact me. Honestly, my expectations were low, and the lack of any kind of initial response just confirmed that this was justified thinking. But much to my surprise and delight, a number of days later I received a message from a LinkedIn contact of mine in Ontario asking if he could pass the song along. My little lyrics then travelled to his colleague, and then to that person’s daughter. Eventually she sent me an email, and that contact has led us to today.
After a Zoom call and a few emails back and forth, a couple of months later the talented Victoria Bernardo sent me the link to a draft audio recording. I was absolutely blown away by what she had so generously and wonderfully produced, (and in her spare time at that!). To hear my words put to music was both humbling and empowering to me as a writer, and I am grateful to Victoria for agreeing to collaborate. And now today, I am so, so excited to announce that the final version will premiere on YouTube on Tuesday, July 28 at 2:00 pm Pacific Time (5:00 pm in Ontario)! Be sure to turn on the video reminder to catch it as soon as it launches.
This entire experience was unexpected to say the least and has left me with goosebumps on more than one occasion. To me, the real story here — and one that I will always treasure — is how two strangers, from completely different parts of the country, came together to create something beautiful out of a very strange time. As we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, I hope that this song reminds you that we really are in this together, no matter where we live or whether we know each other or not. Stay safe, everyone.
Update: the story was picked up by CTV News Vancouver Island! This has been an experience that I will definitely always remember from this crazy year that is 2020.