2017 was the year I got married for real. In Mario Martinez's book The Mind Body Code, I read, "For example, if you were wounded by shame as a child, as an adult today, it is very possible to consciously create for yourself living conditions that are based on honour."
In 2017 I learned to drive. What does it mean? It means that if last winter I hated this apartment on the wrong side of the river, if I insisted on renting an office for five hundred dollars a month just so I could be away from it, if Dylan and I fought because he was more free than I was, this winter I can drive away to buy donuts or go to a movie by myself any time I want. I can drive myself home from work at three-thirty on Saturday morning. I can drive to Three Hills in a blizzard.
In 2017 I put up white curtains and dismantled the vinyl blinds. In February we painted our livingroom green and in July, while I was in Saskatchewan, Dylan painted the office crocus-purple. We had a Maxim calendar hanging in our front entrance. We bought two incredible photographs from our friend Jord Rule, who makes Alberta's perennial construction sites as grand as Greek ruins.
I read these books:
Just Kids (Patti Smith), The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings (Charlotte Perkins Gilman), War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy), The Story of My Teeth (Valeria Luiselli), John Steinbeck, Writer (Jackson J. Benson), Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders), An Experiment in Love (Hilary Mantel), Universal Harvester (John Darnielle), A Breath of Life (Clarice Lispector), The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood), Saved (Ben Hewitt), Debt: The First 5,000 Years (David Graeber), Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin), The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls), The Winter of Our Discontent (John Steinbeck), A Defense of Ardor (Adam Zagajewski), Lullabies for Little Criminals (Heather O'Neill), The Mind Body Code (Mario Martinez), The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery), O Pioneers! (Willa Cather), My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante), Project Compass (Lizzie Derksen, Matthew Stepanic, Robert Strong, Kristina Vyskocil), The Stand (Stephen King), The Crossroads of Should and Must (Elle Luna), Under the Glacier (Halldor Laxness).
13 books by women and 11 by men and 1 by two women and two men. 7 in translation. 8 non-fiction and 17 novels.
2017: We adopted a puppy from the Yu-kan Rental yard outside of Dawson City. We walked more of the river valley than we ever walked when we lived six blocks away from it. I watched Dylan care for a small creature and my heart and my uterus swelled. We let Ranger sleep on our bed and colonize the Gurba couch. We taught him that "Slumber" means Lie down, and "Release the Kraken!" means Get out of the car.
I published two chapbooks and a novel. I finished a set of short stories about Caronport. I finished my first funded film and showed it to a roomful of 30 people who buzzed and rustled before the movie started and asked the right questions afterwards. For the first time, I felt that my work was beginning to come all the way across to my audience.
2017 was the year I grew my hair out for the third time. It was the year I started life modelling. The year I started reading my writing out loud. The year I wrote two rejected grant applications. The year my best friend of 13 years and I tattooed the woodcuts from Dutch Blitz on our right arms, above the elbows. The year I finally put together a decent CV. The year we drove up north and lived in a van for a month and I finished a lace sweater. The year I worked in a calzone restaurant for three months because not only were my accounts depleted, my credit card was maxed out. The year I did things for money that will show up in a fictional story one day. It was the year I realized I only ever want to work for myself.
It was the year that my brother and sister and I were all writing novels at the same time.
In 2017 I forgot what it felt like to experience a sense of absolute loneliness and despair in my body. I stopped living as if I had been thrown out on the inhospitable crust of the world to scavenge by myself. I recognized a family who asks me to marry them in spite of my views on Beyonce, who hangs a gold sequinned stocking for me, who slums it on the north side, who makes smoothies in the morning, who sends me their stories and music, who reads my difficult words, who lets me be good.
May we all be so lucky.
"Today is the day of nothing. Today is down to the wire. Could there be a number that is nothing? that is less than zero? that begins where there is no beginning because it always was? I tap into this vital absence and I'm a young man again, both contained and complete."
- Clarice Lispector, from A Breath of Life (translated by Johnny Lorenz), 3