Uncovering My Trans Identity

My name is River. I chose this name for many reasons. She felt safe, like the cold mountain rivers of the Kootenays. She is a home of sorts. I had another, of course, a good name chosen by a loving couple for their eldest child. When I first accepted my trans identity it didn’t yet feel other. But the river swept me away from that name. I left it behind on the shore. It is growing ever smaller and the sound of the waves muffles its call.

It took a lot to find my feminine identity as River. Like a lot of people, the pandemic hit me hard. I was working directly with the public. I felt exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes it felt like I was alone in fighting for safer practices. I would read how the pandemic was bringing out the good in communities, how people were staying home, or were finding ways to enter the world safely. Maybe all of that was true. My experience was that people became selfish, mean, and universally careless. It was enraging and that anger was exhausting. It broke me.

I got help. I started treating my depression and talking about my experiences. When I was a kid I needed glasses early on. I still remember putting on my first pair and realizing how sharp and clear the world actually was. I could not have conceptualized what that was like without those literal lenses to see through. Antidepressants did the same for my sense of self. I’ve always had a very antagonistic relationship with my body and sexuality. It was painful and scary. And I had been struggling blindly without even realizing it. Now, in building myself back up and with my vision cleared I could see that conflict for what it was; gender dysphoria. I wanted to kick myself for having been so blind.

The day when I finally put everything together it was a wonderfully sunny May afternoon. I was at work watering the flowers in the garden centre. It was the first day I could do my work and not interact with customers. It was very peaceful. I asked myself lots of difficult questions. And for once I could think things through without breaking down. By the end of my shift, the plants and I were both happy. I called my best friend and told her I needed to talk. We went to a park and I told her that I didn’t feel like a man. I wasn’t certain of my gender identity but I knew that much. I am so thankful for her kindness and encouragement. I figured why not start the next year as a woman? So a few weeks later, on my birthday, I came out publicly as a woman. A few days after that I took the first steps towards my physical transition. It was all very fast less than a month really. It was exhilarating and scary. The more closets I stepped out of the more liberated I felt. I just kept on being me and learning what that meant.

It’s been nine months since that first day of recognition. I still struggle with the pandemic and the ways that people view and treat me. I had to learn some very harsh lessons very quickly about what it means to be transgender in our deeply transphobic society. But I also feel happiness and contentment for the first time in my life. I feel more and more at home in a body that was once uncomfortable and detached. Whenever I hear my name I feel alive. Like the river, I am in constant motion. Slowly changing the world around me. And always changing from within. There may be many dams temporarily holding back her waters but the river is wild, deep, and teaming with life.

Van Life: In The Beginning

“That was the captivation of it to me. If it had ever been meant to be lived in, I might have thought it small, or inconvenient, or lonely; but never having been designed for any such use, it became a perfect abode.” – David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)

I moved into my rolling home, affectionately nicknamed The Sylvan, a month ago. Now that my build is functionally complete, I have more time to focus on activities like writing. It would also be fair to say that it is because my build is at the liveable stage that I am writing in the first place.

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Van Life: Moving House

Already some interesting challenges have presented themselves. In my first few weeks, I had to get stitches in my thumb (I lost a knife fight with an avocado) and an attempt was made to break into the van while I was laying in bed. Those small moments of negativity may once have seemed more significant. But the sheer volume of greater experiences has already faded their memory. I’ve parked by streams and rivers with my kayak and rod ready to go when I wake, in moss covered forests, and at the base of hiking trails. Ok yes, there were a few parking lots but those don’t seem so strange any longer. The first month has gone very well. Looking forward, I am filled with excitement and anticipation.

Fear of Success

Does anyone else start procrastinating near the end of a large project? I’m so close to getting the van to a move-in-ready stage but I find myself staring at simple things and thinking they will never get done. Then I put them off instead of doing them or I start a small quick project instead of working on the essential to-do list. The last day I worked on the van I built a cabinet at the foot of the bed, a bookshelf, and a divider. Today I panelled 3/4 of the couch. That’s 11 identical boards screwed in a straight row. Not the best day’s work to be sure.
I’ve noticed this tendency before. When success is close, I start throwing obstacles in my own way. When there are no obstacles I start to feel helpless and despondently procrastinate. The conclusion which I have drawn is that I am afraid to succeed. Afraid to finish something and move on. I am comfortable with the routine of building my new home. A part of me doesn’t want to give that up. What will I do with myself when it comes time to put down the hammer and start living my life? What will that even look like? I don’t know.
What I do know is that the hammer needs to remain swinging for now.

Converting a Step Van into a TINY HOUSE!

I began this process a few weeks ago when I purchased a pre-converted 1990 Grumman Olson. The interior was not at all to my liking. Over the past week, I have torn out the interior, kept the appliances, and begun design on a new layout. The van came with a cosy wood stove which I will be keeping. That and the immoveable wheel wells have informed the design process. I’ve used Google Sketchup to create a few layouts. These two are the current winners.

HouseBreaking

A last-minute publication has been added to The Black Bear Review!

“HouseBreaking” is the second poem of mine to be featured in the publications third issue. If you’ve ever wondered what my creative/poetic process feels like from the inside, this meta-poem is one of many possible answers.

To read this poem or any of the other work featured in the December issue click the link below to below:

The Black Bear Review: HouseBreaking

The Black Bear Review: Ascending Rearward

Predawn Footprints

overhead a slow accumulation
of white drifts on frozen sky
dancing in the air formlessly
fated to sink beneath
black heels, rubber spiked

predawn streetlamps
far less electric
than their daytime cousins
hold close promises of pale slumber

with each breath of frigid air
the snowplowed banks encourage
my breaking of new earth

each heretical footprint
leaving behind ice-blue

shadows on the carpet Continue reading

Ascending Rearward

The best holiday present I’ve received so far? It has to be having my poetry featured once again in The Black Bear Review.

The poem “Ascending Rearward” began its conception in the months after my nuclear family lost our matriarch, Helen. I wrote down an early draft of the final stanza last year around this time. I worked on several versions of the poem but was unable to manifest a workable piece. It took over a year of sitting in a cluttered file buried somewhere in the digital scrapheap of my hard drive for the shape of the finished poem to finally manifest.

I am very pleased that the editors of The Black Bear Review chose this piece to be featured. To read this poem or any of the other work featured in the December issue click the link below to below:

The Black Bear Review: Ascending Rearward

A Lot Can Improve in Half a Year

Night Crone

I started this piece on May 15, 2017, as a part of my Oracle Deck. I ended up with the image on the right which didn’t fit in well with the deck. This is partly because it feels less grounded than the other cards and partly because it was really poorly done. Creatively, I sometimes find myself painted into a corner (metaphorically or otherwise). When this happens I find that the best solution is to set the entire piece down. This one had to sit for six months, but the end result is a finished work which feels like it belongs in the mystical world which I am creating.

Creating a Witches & Wizards Fantasy Oracle Deck

I’ve been working on a series of fantasy pieces for a potential oracle deck. Each piece is created in Photoshop using photo manipulation and free-use imagery from Google. My goal for each card is to create an image which is rich in magick and meditative mysticism. Creating each character and their surrounding environments is an essential part of that process. I want each card to convey its themes without the use of any outside material. The Regent, for example, looks somewhat melancholic despite her material wealth and majestic backdrop. I have had to discard several pieces which I dearly like because the art simply did not have the meditative quality I was trying to achieve. Perhaps those pieces will find a home in some other project.

I made a video talking about the personal process of creating one’s own oracle cards. At the end of that video, there is a quick slideshow where I flip through the various photoshop layers of several cards. I also created a time-lapse of the entire two-hour process of creating The Sage card.