About Me — Danielle Loewen
I wrote my first stories back when I was in the single digits. I had one of those pens that wrote in 10 different colours but, if my old notebooks can be trusted, I strongly preferred the purple one. The durable and faintly fruity scent is still there, palpable on the paper.
I confess. I have a terrible habit of telling the story before the story before the story, like those nested Russian dolls. This vice comes from my paternal grandmother, who had an iron grip despite her gnarled and arthritic hands. If she caught you while you ran by — foolishly believing yourself hidden in the herd of grandchildren — she told at least a dozen stories without even taking a breath.
She also happened to be the hero of each one, even if she wasn’t present at the time. She’s passed, but sometimes I think I can still smell her, too. Sun-warmed earth, but slightly musty, like the garden that was her first and foremost love.
Smell is my favourite sense, probably because I’m as near-sighted as a rhinoceros and loud sounds quickly become static, distracting if not downright painful. My discerning nose has given me my taste for scotch (burnt sugar), wine (tobacco and leather), and cooking (cinnamon, rosemary, and mushrooms simmering in white wine). Sadly, rare is the meal that lives up to the promise of its tantalizing smells.
Even though middle-age is just a fuzzy outline on the horizon — an albatross hanging at the edge of perception — I feel as though I’ve lived several dozen lifetimes already. I won’t make false promises: not all of them are real. Some lives are lucid dreams, while others are favourite stories from out of which I never found my way.
Still more are fantasies I told to entertain myself while I crossed and recrossed the country — west across the prairies to the Rockies, or east across the Canadian shield — but always in the centre of an inverted porcelain bowl a deep and shaded blue. I’ve lived in half the provinces, which I count as a mark in my favour.
Are the facts more real or important than the fiction? Are we all the things that actually happen, or all the things we dream? It’s easy enough, to hide behind a string of names and dates. But when you tell a story, you always show your hand.
Did I mention one of my degrees is in Philosophy?
In one life I taught at a prestigious Canadian university while I nibbled away at a PhD in English Literature. Our collective dream of accessible and affordable post-secondary education has lost ground in the wake of top-heavy administration and government cuts, so I jumped ship and swam to more welcoming shores.
Of all the break ups in my life, this is the one I find myself gazing at most often in the rear-view mirror. I long for the drowsy east coast city perpetually, sometimes painfully so, not unlike a missing limb. Ten years later, few things thrill me more than a wet and misty day when Winnipeg smells like Halifax. I close my eyes and try to forget the intervening years; I devour the air as though I’ve narrowly escaped drowning.
I’m prone to putting my foot in my mouth and saying far too much, far too loudly. In my case, this isn’t merely a metaphor, since two decades worth of yoga and a body built for bending means I’m quite capable of tying myself into knots. It also helps that I have over-sized feet.
In this life, I teach yoga. In earlier lives, I taught swimming. The first time I taught was in Grade 3, when my homeroom teacher caught laryngitis and tottered me around for a day so she could whisper in my ear and I could do her talking for her. A grade later, another teacher had me read the better part of The Voyage of the Dawntreader to the class when she was too sick to talk.
Perhaps these experiences explain why I’m far more comfortable in front of a crowd than I am within one. Someday I’ll get around to being psychoanalyzed— if only so I can close my eyes and imagine I’m Anais Nin for a while — and maybe I’ll figure it out. Perhaps the room will smell of leather and moldering books, underlaid with just a hint of Cuban cigars.
You’re equally as likely to find me reading about
- Neuroscience, Anthropology, & Evolutionary Science
- Fantasy & science fiction
- Mindfulness & Buddhism
- Graphic novels
- Social justice issues such as Feminism and Racism
These topics are pretty scattered; these topics are all interconnected.
The only time I read more than I did during the prep-year for my comprehensive exams in Anglo-American Modernism was while I was highly pregnant. For six months I lay propped up on the couch with pillows at night, and between 2 and 6 am I read to keep the sleeplessness at bay. I feel it was almost adequate training for the sleeplessness that came after.
The best part about pregnancy was being able to smell as sharp and sure as a fox tracking a rabbit.
My literary appetite lists towards Europe and South America, as I often find American fiction either raunchy or puritanical. The strong dose of religious piety in my childhood left a medicinal taste in my mouth that I’d rather not revive. Books, I believe, allow us to imbibe innumerable and alternate lives.
People often comment on my bravery and strength. On the inside I’m soft and watery and rarely heroic, but apparently I do a convincing impersonation. Most of the time I suspect I’m so focused on my dreams that I don’t even notice the dangers that inhibit many people. Don’t try to talk to me while I’m reading: I won’t be able to hear you.
Allegedly I’m also intimidating, as though I have a far-more-formidable-looking shadow that follows me around like a bodyguard. I’m not sure I’ll ever quite understand this, though I’ve had to make room in my self-concept for it. It certainly isn’t a quality I strive for; and it’s rarely a quality admired in women.
An estranged soulmate gifted me a beautiful tarot set during my most magical life to date. I believe the cards are prompts for my subconscious to speak, a more colourful and evocative Rorschach if you will, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise.
Amongst the cards was a bizarre set of duplicates, pictured above. For context, my sun sign is libra, the scales. Although I’m skeptical but curious about the more mystical elements of life, I do know our brains are wired to see meaning and patterns and I roll with it. Is is supposed to be a warning, not to confuse justice for strength? Or does it mean they are interchangeable?
Does the universe send us messages or are we just very good at telling stories? I keep the tarot in a silk bag that smells like palo santo, woody and fresh. It reminds me of the time I spent in Nicaragua and Costa Rica adventuring and growing and learning and shedding layers of old and unused lives.
My mother tells me that as a baby the two things which kept me predictably content were a jolly jumper and her endless recitations of Dr Seuss. It would seem I was birthed with a joy in movement and a thirst for words. Most of what follows after has been my search to balance bodies and books. To understand and celebrate them.
To breathe in their scents, the wonderful as much as the weird. And to share their sorrows and suffering and pleasures with others.