OVER THE MOON ABOUT MEN ON THE MOON

.ImageForty-three years ago, the first human set foot on the lunar surface. To celebrate this milestone, NASA released digitally-enhanced video of that historic landing in 2009.

Here is an excerpt from my second memoir, Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), which tells of my family’s experience of that exciting event.

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July 20 started out as another bright Sunday morning. Diane, Linda, and I spent several hours at the creek, picking saskatoons. We saved most of those purple berries but none of us could resist eating a few. “I’m just making sure these are ripe,” we told each other.

When all three of us had filled our small pails, we walked home for lunch. Diane and I had a difficult time keeping Linda, who was only four, from eating all of her berries, especially since we struggled with the same temptation.

The town was ominously silent as we headed home. The sky became overcast and not even a bird sang. Nobody was on the streets or in the yards either.

“They must all be inside watching TV,” Diane remarked.

I agreed and wondered aloud, “It’s so eerily quiet. It’s like the whole world is holding its breath, isn’t it?” Doubtless, everybody was waiting for the historic moon landing to happen.

Our family ate the saskatoons for dessert, topped with condensed milk and sugar. The combination of flavours was delicious and we savoured every mouth-full.

Then we settled down to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing coverage on television. Even though the set’s contrast was failing, our eyes remained glued to the screen. Walter Cronkite appeared to be on every channel and his reporting gave us the feeling of actually being at the Houston mission control.

As we watched the newscast, various experts speculated regarding what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would find once they landed. NASA installed large pads on the Lunar Module’s feet in case the moon was covered in fine dust. Some scientists speculated that the lunar surface would have collected approximately fifty feet of it over the four billion years of our solar system’s existence. Only the most optimistic people believed there might yet be alien lunar life.

The Lunar Module separated from the command module and began its descent to the surface. We watched eagerly as we saw on the screen how the moon came up closer and closer. As some scientists had predicted the ship might crash on the surface, I silently prayed it would land safely.

Finally the moment came and we heard those famous words, “The Eagle has landed.” Humanity’s first voyage to another world was a success. Then we waited as Houston made the decision to let the astronauts leave the Lunar Module. We felt thrilled as we watched Neil Armstrong descend the ladder and to hear him say, “That’s one small step for man; one big step for mankind.”

All of us cheered except Linda who was too young to comprehend this momentous event. We tried to explain to her that two men were walking on the moon but she still did not understand. At that age, everything is both magical and possible so why shouldn’t people be on the moon?

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In addition to this account, I wrote reminiscences of many other cultural events of the sixties. While I was in Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind and at home, these milestones had a profound effect upon me. I feel certain that those of us who lived through those turbulent times, and who actually remember what happened then, will enjoy my memoir.

Please visit my www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page for more information about my writing. I also post book excerpts there.

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THE VALUE OF WRITING EXERCISES.

ImageThe Inscribe writers group recently had a contest where participants wrote a 300-word story on a cat attacking something. The words “hiss,” “pounce,” and “scratched” were not to be used in it. The exercise evoked a long-ago memory and I set to work on my entry that day. Here’s what I came up with.

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Summer is a time for memorable family activities but minor episodes can also leave lasting impressions. This recollection from my teenage years comes back to me as clear as if it happened yesterday.

Brilliant sunlight poured through the living room picture window early one evening as my family and I watched TV. Cocoa, our Siamese cat, gracefully entered, intent on flopping out in one of her customary spots.

Then she froze, her sky blue eyes locking onto her favourite game. In the centre of the rectangle of sunlight on the light brown carpet, a foolhardy fly sat motionless and exposed. This chance was too good to pass up.

Like a hunting jungle tiger, she slunk through the shade cast by the chesterfield to within two feet of the unsuspecting insect. Seeing that the fly hadn’t noticed her stalking it, Cocoa crouched lower, gauged the distance to the target, and launched herself into the air. Her lithe creamy body described a perfect arc as her dark chocolate forepaws pinned down her prey.

Cocoa’s expression abruptly changed as she sniffed the inert object she worked so hard to catch. It was a watermelon seed that a careless human dropped. With all the haughtiness a feline could muster, she straightened up and strode underneath the chesterfield. She flopped down, her violently swishing tail conveying her righteous indignation.

The raucous laughter from my sisters and me only deepened her chagrin at making such an undignified mistake. The Queen, as we nicknamed her, was definitely not amused.

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This entry won first place, proving to me that I could write good prose. I would have been happier if I had won some cash but the experience of the judges praise for the story’s flow and narrative tension alone was encouraging. I now have incentive to write not just for my own amusement but because of my skill in the kraft.

This experience has also taught me that writing exercises do have practical value. If the topic is one I can tackle, I’ll participate in such exercises.

Speaking of writing, you can read about my two books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living with Bunnies and Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School, on my http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page. I also post book excerpts there.

HEARING THE WORD OF GOD.

churches really must make more of an effort to accommodate disabled congregants. Though many houses of worship now have wheelchair ramps and some buildings were designed as single-floor structures, blind and deaf Christians are often left out of the activities.

In my case, I can’t read the overhead screen or hymn books easily. This puts me in an awkward position when everybody else is singing. The previous church that I attended graciously provided me with large print copies of the songs. For the first time in my life, I was able to sing with the rest of the congregation. I gained a deeper appreciation of the lyrics too.

Thirty-seven years ago, I attended a cultic house church. In my upcoming <i>How I Was Razed</i> memoir, I tell of how that congregation’s elders bought something which benefitted me greatly.

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“The church just bought something wonderful,” Sister Eileen enthused one Wednesday evening before the meeting began. “You’ll enjoy this – it’s The Bible In Drama.” She pulled a large white wooden box out from the book shelf next to the communion table and placed it on the card table. Then she unfastened the metal clasp on the side, revealing two compartments with two rows of red and maroon cassette boxes in each. “We bought this especially for any blind members of the church and for the children to hear. Look at this. There’s the New Testament read by a Shakespearian actor and down there are stories of great Christians.”

I stared myopically at where she pointed and said, “That’s cool! Can I borrow some? I’m borrowing a cassette recorder from the CNIB.”

“Sure. I’ll ask Mother first though. They are brand new cassettes, you realize. We don’t want them ruined before others can have a listen to them.”

“You’ll want to hear the New Testament first,” Sister Roberta explained when I asked to borrow a few tapes after the meeting.

“How come?” I frowned.

“Because you’ll get wrong ideas if you listen to the Old Testament first.”

“What do you mean? Can’t I hear the tapes from the start?”

“Most of the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us because it was written to the Jews. They were under the law but we aren’t. The New Testament was written for us Christians. If you don’t hear the New Testament first, you’ll be confused and learn the wrong things from the Old Testament.”

Since she insisted, I grudgingly took the handful of tapes she proffered.

I fell in love with the series as soon as I arrived home and listened to the first cassette. “Wow! It’s like I’m there with Jesus and the disciples,” I repeated as I sat on my bed.

In a matter of a few weeks, I borrowed every Bible In Drama, King James New Testament, and Lives Of Great Christians tape. The Bible stories were thrilling but the biographies of believers, mostly American, who did great things in Jesus’ name seemed jingoistic to me.

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How I Was Razed is my third, and most likely final, memoir. I previously published When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School). They are both available from the www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page, along with information regarding my writing. I also post book excerpts there.

TWENTY-SIX HOURS WITHOUT POWER

Electricity is such a constant and useful part of our lives that we’re helpless without it. I had this fact amply demonstrated on July 12, 2010 when a severe weather system knocked out the power to my home for twenty-six long hours.

While I was shaving at about 8:30 A.M, the power suddenly failed. I thought this was strange as we had no storms in the area at the time. As soon as I finished, I called the power company to report the outage. Because I had no electricity to run my computers and the UPS back ups wouldn’t last for more than a few minutes, I listened to two audio magazines on cassette.

At 11:00, somebody from the alarm monitoring company called to ask about why my system sent a low battery alert. I explained that we had a power outage and that I had to get off the line as there was a thunder storm overhead.

I called the power company after lunch and felt discouraged by the recorded list of blacked-out areas in the province. After being on hold for a half hour, I spoke to a man who told me the repair crews were working “flat out” and would restore service as soon as possible.

As Canada Pension Plan expects me to seek some sort of gainful employment each working day, I considered what writing-related tasks I could do while the power was out. A woman from Edmonton ordered a copy of <i>When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies)</i> on the previous Thursday but I was too ill to fill it promptly. Fortunately, the blackout didn’t effect my accounting as I still use old-fashioned books. I wrote a receipt, packaged the paperback, and placed it in my bag, awaiting posting the next day.

The power continued to be out all evening. I had wisely bought a gas stove the previous year so I was able to make hot drinks and cook supper. When I moved to this house ten years ago, I foolishly had an electric stove installed without realizing how many times the power would be interrupted.

After supper, I listened to a battery-powered radio with a built in dynamo power generator. When the sky grew dark, I plugged a lamp into my computer’s battery back-up and placed it on top of my fridge. The compact fluorescent bulb stayed lit for several hours, providing me ample light. I could have watched a small black and white TV too but I didn’t care for the local programming.

My security system had been making squealing and bleeping noises since the early afternoon. I became so annoyed with the din that I put duct tape over the intercom speaker grills to stifle the racket. This was only marginally successful.

The power was still out by the time I went to bed. Having no electricity to run the pump in the well, I boiled some water, that I keep in large plastic bottles for such emergencies, and washed my face in it. I had also collected three large pails of water from the down spouts so that I could flush my toilet.

Though it’s dangerous to do so, I slept that night with ear plugs so I wouldn’t be awaken by the alarm’s intercom. It was still whining faintly when I woke up the next morning.

After boiling more water so I could shave in comfort, I phoned the power company again. The recording said that service in some areas would be restored the next day while other areas would be out indefinitely. I called several local folks in Radway, who were no longer affected by the outage, for permission to temporarily store my perishable food in their fridges. One man loaned me the key to the seniors centre, since its fridge was almost empty, and drove me there with my bag of thawing food.

When I returned home, I was astonished to find that the power had been restored. I walked all the way back to the seniors centre, retrieved my groceries, and returned them to my fridge.

I learned from this blackout that my emergency preparations weren’t as adequate as I supposed. I need some way to keep my food cold during prolonged summer outages and a hand pump connected to my well so I can have potable drinking water.

I realized too late that I should have had my old lap top set up so I could continue editing my <i>How I Was Razed</i> manuscript. My hope is to have this book in print by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, my http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page features my two previous books and a short blurb about my writing.

Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)

Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)

This memoir abounds with vignettes of life in British Columbia’s infamous institution for deaf and blind students during the sixties. Some are poignant while others are hilarious. This book is available at http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com and sells for $20.00 plus postage.

Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)

This memoir abounds with vignettes of life in British Columbia’s infamous institution for deaf and blind students during the sixties. Some are poignant while others are hilarious. This book is available at http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com and sells for $20.00 plus postage.

A BORED BOY IS A BAD BOY

I once thought that forcing children to do household or farm chores was despicable. Childhood, so I was lead by grown-ups to believe, was supposed to be a time of carefree play and freedom. My exile to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia reinforced this belief as everything was done for us by the staff except that we had to make our beds.

In july of 1965, my family visited my mom’s sister’s husband’s farm. Since the adults were all busy with chores and my older sister was helping care for my baby sister, I became restless. Consequently, I found myself getting into trouble. From my <i>Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)</i> memoir, here’s what happened.

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As I never spent any length of time on a farm, the experience was new and exciting. Doubtless, it was that factor which kept me in continual trouble. One day I wandered into the barn and saw the cream separator. I yielded to temptation and sipped both the milk and cream streams.

Uncle Herman came in at the moment I held my head over the spouts. “Have you been drinking from that?” he accused. When I admitted that I had, he stormed out of the barn without a word.

“You ruined his days milk production you know that?” Mom lectured. “Because you had to pull a stupid stunt like that, he can’t sell his milk. You got germs in it. Now he’ll have to throw it all out.”
I felt mortified that I cost our host so much in lost money.

The next morning I found a wooden pallet near the house. Thinking it was junk, because it was lying in the grass doing nothing, I stomped it to pieces.

“Why did you have to break that pallet, huh?” Mom demanded. When I told her, she exploded. “That wasn’t yours to break. Why can’t you think about other people and leave things alone? Can’t you do a damn thing right?”

Since I seemed to get in everybody’s way, I spent most of my time alone. That was the safest course of action as I appeared to upset adults no matter what I did. One morning, I found a pond near the farmhouse with cattails growing along the edges. Their bushy brown tops reminded me of microphones which I had seen television news reporters use. I pulled up a cattail and strutted around, making up imaginary interviews. That helped to pass the time on that sodden vacation.

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<i>Deliverance from Jericho</i> contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. <a href=”http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com”>Click here</a> to read more about this book or to order it.

Bruce 1962 school photo

Bruce 1962 school photo

This photo shows me as I was when I attended public school. I’ve had to wear glasses since I was 5 years old. This lead to massive teasing by sighted kids at school. I’m grateful that children are now being taught to empathize with those who have disabilities.

Bruce 1962 school photo

This photo shows me as I was when I attended public school. I’ve had to wear glasses since I was 5 years old. This lead to massive teasing by sighted kids at school. I’m grateful that children are now being taught to empathize with those who have disabilities.