Book Two


There is an intense pleasure in filling a page with script. This pleasure could lead to hypergraphia, but for most of us a blank page is a threat rather than an enticement. I understand the many inhibitions keep us from the pleasure of the text - fear of spelling, anxiety over saying something stupid, or worse, saying something banal; a worry about describing those you love with the voice of a petty-minded, spoiled ingrate.

In 1986, when I started this book, I felt all these things. But I also had, often just before sleep, a strong narrative voice in my head that sounded like prose. If I had been reading, the rhythm and drive of the author's style would persist, but with my thoughts, shaping what I was thinking as if it were being read from a page. I found it added order to so much that was chaotic in how I thought - about people, about places, about feelings, about everything.

I was twenty when I filled this book. I've never really revisited it in detail, but it waits, and as you dissolve over the years, dropping bits of yourself and changing other bits of yourself, forgetting and remembering, it keeps a paper version of you safe between its covers.

Here is a passage that I found:

May 1986

In the morning Mark, Mother and myself pile into the truck and drive out to poplar hill where Grandmother lives. Poplar hill, that’s the perfect name for a village where your grandparents retire. I mean, with a name like that, you expect to find people like grandmothers with cookie jars, and huge willow trees. The kind of place where one summer afternoon seems to last forever.

Grandfather passed on in the winter. December. So we are going out to clean out the garage. It was a strange feeling, cleaning out a dead man’s garage. There were so many things that I remember faintly from when I was young, and we used to play up in the loft over the garage. There was a bobcat that had been stuffed and mounted on a birch log. I always used to be fascinated by the marble eyes. Now he was falling apart and his fur was coming off in clumps, his claws showing through. 

After lunch we went to visit the cemetery where Grandfather is. We drive in, and the trees are huge, immense things filtering the afternoon sun and casting shadows on the graves. Everything is soaked in peaceful shades of green that you can walk through. It is a quiet, restful place. The sunlight comes down like liquid gold, perfectly poured, it bounces off the cars, the trees, the graves and into my eyes. I remember walking through and wanting to describe it perfectly. We stand in small groups, Grandmother places flowers on her husband’s tombstone. We walk through and read the stones. While standing apart from the others I can imagine all the people buried here standing by their places dressed in the clothes of their time...

Here is a list of books.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada