Tuesday, September 03, 2013


It was August 26 when Panic hit me—knocked out my breath and set my knees to trembling. Somehow I had managed to keep her at bay with soothing words, with promises. “Don’t panic,” I had said to myself. “You know you never miss a deadline. There is still time.” And with those simple words, with the promise of time, Panic had been persuaded to hide backstage, waiting for the right moment to strike. Even in the summers that aren’t so great, summer is a marvellous time to let yourself lose sight of deadlines. Time stretches out in a summer, stretches out and flies away. Go on holidays and you soon get to wondering if it’s Tuesday or Thursday. Time gets distorted in the summer. But the ultimate, inescapable problem with time, in the context of a deadline, is that there gets to be less and less of it. Every unused day before a deadline is a day you never, ever get back. All through the spring and summer I had been looking forward to the pleasure of losing myself in whatever stories I would develop for the T.A.L.E.S Fort Edmonton Festival on the Labour Day weekend. Storytelling, after all, is a hobby, a pleasure. I had been promising it as a reward to myself, since I had not been writing THE HOPE LADY Blog, and writing always helps. But more to the point—in relation to the panic—I had also promised one 15-minute concert story and one 50-minute story performance to my hard-working, ever-faithful colleagues at T.A.L.E.S. The concert story would be about light. I had promised it for August 31—a story to pick up the threads from a beautiful song to be performed by The Once, a folk group from Newfoundland. The 50-minute performance, a montage of folk tales and personal reflections about mirrors, was promised for September 1. It was April when I first made the promises. None of the folk tales about mirrors had been located. None of the personal stories had been written. But it was all highly possible, back in April. It was May when I signed the contracts. May was followed by June and July and 25 days of August when I did absolutely nothing to move the project forward—nothing except for thinking occasionally about it, then shooing Panic back into the wings. At a certain point, when I was no longer certain that the project was possible, I turned to Hope. In fact, it was a hope statement that caused the panic. I woke up on the morning of August 26 and said to myself, “Don’t worry about the future. Why, just think, a week from today your stories will have already been told.” When Panic heard this, she rushed forward and knocked the wind out of me. “Worry, you idiot!” she shrieked. “You have left this so late, you’ll need a miracle. I have heard too many excuses about having writer’s block, and being on holidays, and spending time with little Ben, and dealing with all the issues in your life! This time you have pushed me too far!” Then she shook me so hard I saw stars. And so it was that, in Ontario, on the road between Long Sault and Gananaque on the morning of August 26, while sitting in the very back seat of a rental van, I took out Mona the iPhone and launched an Internet search for folk tales about mirrors. This is how it all ended. A concert story was performed in Edmonton on August 31, and a 50-minute set was performed on September 1. I have the recordings to prove it. I did the hard work of preparation. I did the suffering. But Panic is taking all the credit. These days Panic is feeling pretty smug—pretty proud of herself. “Bow for the applause,” she sneers, “but let me just say that you couldn’t have done it without me.” And, reluctantly, I have to admit that she is probably right.

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