A Requiem for Spooky

I killed a cat on the way home last week.

A pickup truck was coming in the other direction.
As soon as it passed me, the cat darted across the road.
I was going slow already.
I hit the brakes.
It didn’t matter.

He was a big guy, all black, and very fluffy. Looked like a shadow with eyes.

I did a quick u-turn on the empty street, hit my flashers, and ran over to him.

He was still breathing as put my hand out to comfort him, but didn’t last long.
He didn’t cry.

I looked up in the direction he had been running; a house that resembled a well-worn and threadbare slipper.
There was a light on inside.
The porch didn’t seem like it would hold me.

Through the front door, I could see an older man in a bathrobe watching TV.
I knocked.

A silver-haired woman with bright eyes and glasses came to the door.

I asked her if she owned a black cat.
“A few!” She laughed, but then looked past me.
“Oh no.” She said.

“Yeah.” was all I could say.

She came out in her socks, and gently lifted the cat up from the stain on the pavement.

“I’m so sorry…” I said, I began to tear up.

“I told you, Spooky,” she admonished the cat, still warm in her arms. “I told you so many times…”

“I’m so so sorry.” I repeated.

The man called from the porch. “Spooky?”

“Yeap.” Replied the woman. “It’s too bad.”
She turned to me. “It’s not your fault. I just couldn’t keep him in, you know? Some cats just don’t take to bein’ indoors.”

The man, apparently ever practical, reappeared on the porch holding a garbage bag.

Their daughter came out, and took the bag from him.

She came out to us, smoothing Spooky’s fur down.

“I’m really glad you stopped and told us.” The elderly woman said.

“At least it was quick…” the daughter searched my eyes, it was a half question.

“Yes; very.” I reassured her. “I stayed with him until…”
She visibly relaxed. “Thank you for doing that.” She lifted him gently, closing his eyes. “A lot of people wouldn’a even stopped.”

They thanked me again, I apologized again, and they went back into the house, carefully cradling Spooky.

You were loved, Spooky.
I hope you know that.

Reading Response to Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula

While I am in Kawawachikamach, I am taking Naskapi 2 from McGill University, which my Dad, Bill Jancewicz is teaching.

One of our assignments was to read a portion of a book titled Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula by Henry Youle Hind.

The excerpt I read is available below.

Reading the selection from Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula was fascinating for me for a number of reasons. There was a peripheral fascination with the pet beaver and the tools they used and how they travelled. But I was much more interested in the interactions between the various people in the story.

I loved seeing Domeninque’s interactions with his wife. It is quite clear throughout all their interactions that they are in a strong partnership. Domeninque consults with her at every single interaction, even calling her over to participate in conversations when Hind and Louis attempt to talk to him alone. Even though Hind doesn’t even bother to learn her name, it is clear that she has equal footing in every decision that is made.

It was quite clear to me that the Innu chief Domenique did not trust Hind at all, even from his caution when he first approached them on the river. Louis, who serves as Hind’s translator, detects Domeniques hesitation in helping Hind at all at a very early stage. He delays Hind’s request for Domeninque to give him Michel, a young orphaned Naskapi boy, multiple times. He intuits quite well that Domeninque does not want to let Michel go with Hind.

Domeninque has had a lot of experience with white colonizers, being a member of one of the tribes that were first contacted by the French, and it is clear he does not trust Hind at all. I really want to read the rest of the story to find out what Hind ultimately does.

I also got kind of annoyed with Hind as the story progresses. It’s clear that he values Native people and hires and pays them quite well (a dollar a day is near the top of what going wages were for the time period) and yet he repeatedly ignores or resents their advice throughout the narrative. He gets told by multiple people that the water is too high, making it dangerous to continue, by people who grew up and know this territory. And he ignores them, even though he’s paying them for their expertise. Hind even calls Louis “talkative and bumptious”, when he sees Louis is at ease talking with Domenique, despite having just used the man for multiple pages of repeated and redundant questions about the previous winter’s hunt and the icy conditions ahead.

Hind then goes on to make racist remarks about how he knows how “Indians are deferred from any efforts involving great labour”. The high water in the Moise River is a life or death situation, and not something to be taken lightly. This attitude of doggedly pushing through any obstacle in their path is what led to the death of many white men who first landed on North American soil. 

Hind seems at face value a neutral observer who simply records the things happening around him, but it is clear to me that as soon as his ego is at stake or if he feels himself the professional in the situation (despite having never travelled this part of the world), everyone else’s advice and opinions are null and void.

It is clear to me that Domeninque sees himself at a clear disadvantage in this situation. He and his family are alone on the river, and encounter a rather large (and uncounted in this section of the book) party entirely composed of men. Though the power dynamic is quite strong against him, and he fiercely protests the taking of Michel still. He makes the correct argument that Michel is the one and only failsafe his family has of survival should anything happen to him. Despite all this, Hind again does not take the Native person seriously, and asks Louis if Domeninque’s death threats are legitimate or not.

I look forward to reading more.

Peace & Being Unsure

Benjamin Jancewicz, fresh from his haircut at Emerald City Chop Shop

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

“Healing requires from us to stop struggling, but to enjoy life more and endure it less.”

—Darina Stoyanova

• When do you feel calm, peaceful, and in touch with your inner self?

I feel the greatest peace when I am out in the forest, or by the water’s edge. Something about being out in cool air and surrounded by greenery helps me to decompress, and I begin listening to myself more. I find that when things get busy, I’ll ignore the child that is inside me.

That child never stops talking, I just tend to drown it out.

• Is there anything that you want to do but feel unsure about? What is it and why are you so unsure about it?

I think that sometimes I rely too much on my ability to fly by the seat of my pants, which makes me not plan enough. I’m not sure I’m saying I want to feel more unsure, but I think that not feeling unsure contributes to not planning things well enough.

Joy & Accomplishment

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

“Healing old hurts can only begin when the children we once were feel safe enough to speak their hearts to the adults we are now.”

—L.R. Knost

• When was the last time you felt nothing but joy? What was going on around you? How can you bring that feeling back?

Right now, my kids are fighting like cats and dogs, so it’s really hard to remember what moments of pure joy feel like. 🙃

I do not think it’s the most recent, but what immediately comes to mind is swimming with my friend Ayinde on Manhattan Beach. It was just around sunset, and Ayinde had been practicing swimming having just learned. I had brought a waterproof camera with me, and was snapping shots as the sun set. The waves were large and warm, but were not violent. They moved us in a gentle rocking motion up and down once we got past the breakers, and we laid on our backs and just floated until it got dark. It was wonderful.

I’d love to go back.

• What have you not accomplished yet this year that you feel is important that you do before 2021 ends? Why is it so important to you?

I’d really like to get the two books that I’m working on published.

For one of them, I have a 2-month deadline with a photography partner, and so I feel like that one is going to be easily accomplished and done.

The other I have been working on for years. It’s actually 99% done, I just have to take the time to polish it and get it estimated for publication. I just feel like I am constantly stretched too thin by client projects, and never have enough time for my own work. But my own work doesn’t bring in the funds I need to survive.

Goals & Gratitude

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

“Forgive the past.
It is over.
Learn from it and let go.
People are constantly changing and growing.
Do not cling to a limited, disconnected, negative image of a person in the past.
See that person now.
Your relationship is always alive and changing.”
― Brian Weiss

• What do you do every day to get closer to your goals? If you’re not satisfied with your answer, ask yourself, what SHOULD you do daily to get closer to your goals?

I claim I want to be healthier and more at peace. But I’m not working out enough, nor am I taking enough time to meditate. I’m not even coming to this class often enough. I’ve been prioritizing work over everything, and I’m not even getting paid properly right now.

I need to make sure I am active. I promised someone I would, but haven’t been. Even when Karate is cancelled, like today, I need to make sure I do something. I need to get up early and meditate and pray. I need to get to the beach and down to the water more. I need to prioritize myself and not work.

• What are you most thankful for? How do you show your gratitude?

Right now, I’m grateful for the help and support of those around me. I’m grateful for the little messages, the comments, the notes. Every day I make a gratitude list before I go to bed. It helps me to reset and remember everything that happened throughout the day. Sometimes because of my trauma, I don’t remember things the way the actually happened. The gratitude list helps me to reset some of that.

Habits, Priorities, Looking Forward, and Forgiveness.

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• What habit would you most like to break? What habit do you wish to

I think I’d like to break the habit of absorbing what other people say about me when they do not have love for me. I soak hatred up so readily, even when I’ve been given a ton of love and the hatred is only a tiny portion of what I receive. As soon as the hatred comes, it will affect me, irritate me, and ruin other good things in my life. This bothers me.

I’d love to recreate a healthy workout habit. It’s tough because I feel like I’m always trying to play catchup, fitting exercise and walks and meditation into the cracks of my schedule. I know that’s no way to live, but I always feel like I’m in survival mode and don’t know how to break that cycle for myself.

• What are your top priorities? What keeps you motivated to accomplish
your goals?

Right now, my priorities are my kids, and saving up for whatever the next step is. It really feels like I’m in a bit of holding pattern in a lot of ways. Amazing opportunities have come through and I’m taking advantage of them, but they’re all local and tied to this space. So I’m listening and working on being content here.

I’m also working on my stress level. As the weather warms, that means I need to be getting out and hitting the beach and the forest more. It means eating properly and on time. It means paying attention to my mental health even when I’m busy.

• What are you looking forward to in the next 30 days? 90 days?

I had to look up when those would be. I don’t usually have the bandwidth to plan more than a week in advance.

I’m really looking forward to being a lot more active outside. I want to be at the beach a ton. I want to travel. I’m hoping restrictions get lifted soon so I can visit my parents.

• Is it easier to forgive yourself or someone who has wronged you? Why?

It is much easier to forgive other people, because I do not give myself enough worth. I know myself intimately, and I’m very hard on myself. I find it easy to forgive other people because I don’t know their entire situations, but I know mine.

Activities & Hateful Comments

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• Name an activity you hate but pretend you like to stay in the good graces of friends or family. Why does it matter to you?

Sometimes the exchange of my kids with my ex is harder than I let on. Lately it’s been much easier, but especially when the divorce was fresh, it was really really hard. Old, angry feelings would arise and dominate every thought, making it tough to relax or even get through it at all. But I had to grit my teeth, force myself to relax, and smile.

It matters, because it’s important to my kids. They need the stability. They need to know that their mother and I are on the same page. They need to know that no matter what, they’ll be loved. They know that, and that makes it all worth it.

• How do you respond to insensitive or hateful comments in a group setting? Tell us about the time you failed to speak up or a time you did.

I get a ton of hateful comments in a lot of public settings online. It’s slowed down a bit this days, but it really used to bother me a whole lot. What people think of me is something I think about often, often in really unhealthy ways.

I remember reading that Martin Luther King Jr. used to save all the hate mail and death threats that he got in a box, and so I started doing the same. I created a separate Twitter account that was dedicated to just that, and I would post screenshots of the hate mail I got there.

After a while, it got really depressing, but a close friend reminded me that I also get a lot of other messages that are much more positive and kind, and that I should save those too. I created a Twitter account for that as well. And somehow, the good messages always outweigh the bad.

Geeks, Luck, Skills, Aspirations, and Being Somewhere Else.

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• Are you a geek? What it something your are completely passionate about?

I’m a complete geek about design. And honestly it’s hard to turn off sometimes. For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been completely immersed in design, and it means that everywhere I look, I see things that are designed. Virtually everything that people have created has been designed in some way. But that also means I also see a lot of things that are designed badly, which can be a kind of torture. In design classes, you learn about something called kerning, which is the study of space between letters. And now, I see bad kerning everywhere I look. Before I learned about it, I had just walked around in complete ignorance, and it didn’t bother me at all.

• Is love luck, or is it designed? Explain why you think so.

I think love is luck to start with. The person you happen to meet, a friend of a friend, someone you’re randomly paired with on an app, but I think it rapidly becomes more and more designed as you go on. I think that some people have a natural inherent connection, but I also think that it’s something you have to work at as well. Love that lasts a long time takes work and effort. You take the skills you’ve learned, and apply them to a person. I think there’s beauty in that.

• What is one skill you already have that you’d like to improve this year?

I really want to be a more dedicated artist. I feel like I’m a good artist that has flashes of inspiration and episodes of art. I want to be more consistent about it.

• When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? How do you feel about what you wanted to do now?

When I was young, I wanted to own a junkyard! My father and I used to go to junkyards when I was kid, both to pull parts of the old cars so he could fix our aging Jeep Wagoneer, but also to explore.

The junkyards would have lots of really old cars, with gigantic chrome bumpers and huge tail fins, and to me they looked like spaceships. Owning a junkyard seemed like the perfect place, because people would drop things off for free, and I would get to sell them!

I don’t think I’d be terribly happy doing it now, junkyards are dirty, polluted places. I really love having trees and woods and fresh air. Junkyards are still fascinating places to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

• Is there somewhere else you’d rather be right now? What are the good parts of where you are right now?

I’d really like to be on a beach right now. Somewhere with warm soft breezes, with water I can swim in, trees to string a hammock up in, and doze.

There is some really beautiful parts about where I am now, though. Spring is coming to Baltimore, and everything is budding and blooming. The weather is warm but not yet hot, and the nights are still nice and cool. I can have the windows open, which I love, and the scents of all the flowers blooming in my backyard are filling my house. There is always somewhere else I could be instead, but being here is pretty nice right now.

• What is something that makes you smile without fail? What always brightens your mood, no matter how you’re feeling?

Sunsets always brighten my mood. No matter how I’m feeling, how tough my day has been, or whatever I’m going through, taking a moment to watch the sunset is always something to makes me feel so good.

I have an app on my phone that reminds me when Golden Hour is approaching, which is when the sun dips low right before sunset and turns everything to gold. It’s been wonderful watching that time get further and further back into the evening as spring comes sweeping in.

Life Lessons, and Celebration

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• What important life lesson did you learn the hard way?

I think I didn’t really know how much having kids changes the way a relationship works. I absolutely adore my kids, and I’m glad there here, and I would never trade anything for them.

I did not anticipate how unready me and my partner at the time were for the stresses of parenting, though. I wish I had known the value of therapy, counselling, and support networks much earlier.

I am glad I know those things now, and my kids are definitely healthier for it.

• Do you celebrate yourself enough? List 5 things you are excited to have
accomplished in the last year.

I surely do not. 😂

Let’s see. In the past year, I managed to get my housing situation under control. I completed a bunch of new art commissions. I’m bringing in lots of new work for my business. I’m being much more intentional about my exercise and health. I’m choosing moments of peace when I need it.

Deepening values, The Gardener and the Flower, and 6 Months of Getting Better

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• What has surviving a pandemic taught me to appreciate or value deeper?

Hugs. I love them, and I really feel like I took them for granted so much. Not being able to access human touch has been hard.

I’ve definitely value my health more, and have been taking the time to work on it and make sure I am more fit.

The time I do get to hang out with people, I’ve been appreciating a lot more. I am much less inclined to be on my phone at all.

I’ve been appreciating the outdoors so much. I feel like I’m so much more in-tune with the weather, and get out in it when it’s pleasant. I took that for granted so much more.

• Are you a good receiver? How does it make you feel when people do things for you or buy you gifts? If it’s hard for you to receive, why is that?

I’m a terrible receiver, but I crave it.

Whenever someone does anything for me, or gives me a really thoughtful gift, or even is considerate of me, I melt completely. I tear up, and just don’t know what to do.

I think this is because normally I partner or am around people who tend to take more than they give. It feels more familiar to me, because I am someone who will give until there’s nothing left. I find joy in being useful and appreciated, and giving like that often brings that feeling. It makes me happy. But many times, if paired with someone who is constantly taking, I end up being used.

Because I am so frequently paired in friendships and partnerships like that, I crave being taken care of and catered to, because it nearly never happens. But I’m also scared of it, because being taken care of requires a certain level of letting go and trusting someone. And being with people who constantly take has made me wary.

During the class, someone asked “In your relationships, are you more often the gardener, or the flower?”.

I am almost always the gardener. But I’m learning to be the flower.

Melony gave the following advice during class on how to learn to be a flower:

  1. Set your standards and boundaries
  2. Treat yourself the way you expect others to treat you
  3. Teach them how to treat you
  4. Spend time only with people who make you feel good and/or special

• What has gotten better in your life in the last six months? How
have the improvements added to your life?

I got vaccinated! I have new contracts for work. I am close to signing the contract on my house. I’ve grown friendships with people who care about me and make sure I’m ok.

All this has put me more at ease, and taken some of the stress off of the anxiety of the pandemic.