Hardcover sketchbook. It is not a very nice book to look at. It is worn from being carried in a bicycle pannier for three months. There is nothing interesting pasted inside, and it is messy. Still - so many things began in this book. It has drafts of poems that I would complete later. Like Birds of Good Omen for Sandra. It also has bits of writing and thoughts that would find their way into finished works. Once piece that remains unpublished goes like this:

In the nineteen-seventies a fascination develops with dare-devils. Swimming pools are converted into shark tanks, the Grand Canyon bristles with approach ramps and the remains of rocket engines litter the rocks. High-wires are strung between the tops of skyscrapers.

Marcel d'Extrodinaire has a special car built with two accelerators. One for the driver and one for the passenger: "Like sewing in a second heart." he comments to the press.

He offers the passenger seat to anyone who will get in. "Experience the greatest thrill of all! The thrill of pure speed!" A large crowd blossoms around Marcel's vehicle, a flower of expectant faces. The crowd withers and disperses when Marcel tells them he has also removed the brakes.

He is finally approached by a young woman. When he reminds her there are no breaks she is unflinching.

"I will get into your car Marcel" she says, "on one condition."


"That I drive."

Marcel's family has a long history of tempting fate.

I was young - only twenty-five. Writing and wanting to write. I would set myself the challenge of describing things. Often I would use photographs because there was a moment of drama in them. Sometimes there was a character there that could be brought to life with only one or two lines. I would go to art galleries or photography exhibits and describe the people in the pictures.

- A man holds a child and smiles. The child is terrified.
- A man alone. Formal.
- A woman, her head turned left.
- A young girl, a baby, and a pair of arms holding the child.
- A daughter and mother facing each other.
- A young boy with thick black-rimmed glasses.
- A man with a dog - a great Irish Setter - the dog is blurred, trying to get away.
- An older woman in a black sweater and heavy eyelids, a small string of pearls around her neck.
- Two men, their arms are crossed as the each clutch the other's nose.
- A nun.
- A man in a raincoat and sunglasses. In each hand he holds a toy gun. The sunglasses are thin and do not hide his eyes.
- A frightened cat on a garbage-can lid.
- Three girls, their faces distorted as they try to press each other out of the picture.
- A woman with roses.

And as always there are fragments of things. Little bits that cast a partial, twenty-year old light:

The boy is shown frantic. He clutches at the neck of a large bird. The bird flies and the ground is missing. The eyes are wide on the boy. On the bird they are just ordinary avian eyes. Natural, unconcerned with the passenger attached around the neck. This is a natural form of flight. The kind you experience in dreams, when what is unnatural is the ground - placed like a wall in your path.

And the only thing I consider strange is that in the morning I awoke and my arms are clutched frantic about your neck. The plumage of your wings is crumpled beneath the weight of my body.

If I could give advice to a young person it would be this: Write everything down. Always. Absolutely everything - leave nothing out. The result will be like living twice.

Here is a list of books.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada