Saturday, May 6, 2023

“Writing Seeds” by Natalie J. Chan


Sometimes a moment is like a tiny seed – it takes root and grows. More often, the moment is a hollow seed. We notice the hazy mist of frozen breath on a winter’s morning or take note of how perfectly someone stacked the display of instant ramen bowls at our local 7-Eleven, and then nothing. We move on. Other times the seed germinates and promises something only to sputter out – a tender first kiss followed the next day by silence, or a compliment happily received only to realize its back-handed nature a beat later.

Now and again, there is full bloom. The seedling moment flourishes. We hope it isn’t a weed, a foolish pursuit perhaps, or an unwelcome circumstance, invading and wreaking havoc on our present and future. We hope the seed sprouts into a coveted blossom adding beauty, richness, and depth to the garden we’ve tended since birth.

For me, this came in the form of a notebook, a diary to be exact. I was young, but I don’t remember how young, because I could already write. I don’t remember who gifted it to me, only that they cared enough to know it would be the perfect present. I don’t know where the diary is now, only that it still exists in my memories.

I do remember how happy I was to receive it. I held on to it tight with two small hands, a powder-blue book, half an inch thick. On the cover were a little blue-haired boy and little pink-haired girl, sweet cherub-angels, sitting on the curve of a bright yellow half-moon with sharp, twinkly stars in the background. If you know your Japanese cartoons well enough, you’d recognize Kiki and Lala, known to devout fans of the Hello Kitty world as the Little Twin Stars.

The best feature though of the diary was the lock and key. A big sturdy padlock and metal key that made a satisfying click every time I used it.

I have always loved books – bedtime books, bath-time books, sitting-on-the-potty books, rainy day books, short books with pictures, thick books without – but now, a book with blank pages that I could fill, lock up and keep safe? Me? An authorMy mind was whirling with a tornado of possibility. I started to write in that book every day. Profound things, keen observations, poetry, all my feelings and it was a joy.

Eventually, I moved on to other pursuits and my Little Twin Stars diary faded into my past. Except, one day in my teens I found it on the floor in my closet, under a big pile of rumply clothes. It was locked. After sincerely hurting my head guessing where the key was, I checked my makeup drawer which doubled as a considerable junk bin. From a molehill of stray buttons, eraser nubs, safety pins, a pink Barbie doll high heel, and what looked like a half-eaten caramel that had fossilized, I picked out a tiny key. Hurrah! My hoarding tendencies had been rewarded.

I studied the key closely. I had my doubts about whether it was the right one, remembering my diary key to be bigger, heavier, and somehow more substantial in every way. I shrugged and grabbed onto the padlock, surprised it was only roughly the size of a dime and that I’d never noticed how flimsy and cheaply made it was. 

I went ahead, slipped the key into the hole, and twisted. I smiled. At least the satisfying click was still there. 

Flipping through the pages, I giggled with embarrassment. I remember how careful and exacting I was whenever I wrote in my diary. I could see now though, my letters were big, loopy, horridly shaped, and randomly slanted. As I started to run out of space, my words grew smaller and smaller until they were nothing more than dots as they reached the edge of the page. Sometimes, I would run out of space, and so, I’d just start writing vertically downwards to finish my thought.

My “keen observations” included such clever gems as:

 I liKe Granmas springrols to day.


to day I tok a nap.

Sometimes my thoughts veered into quite the serious territory:

didi is a Poo Poo hed for cheeting.

or this classic:

MaMa is not fare! I am gone to run away to the parK.

There were A LOT of exclamation marks.

To be honest, my handwriting hasn’t gotten much better with age and so I am quite relieved that the content of my writing has. At least I’d like to think so. Receiving the Little Twin Star Diary was a seed that became a big old comforting tree. All the way through until my twenties I devoured books like a child eating cake and wrote whatever I wanted to, until my hand hurt from pencil-cramp. But as I grew up, my world grew crowded and other seedlings inevitably took over – career, marriage, kids, and a whole host of complications that would surprise no one.

Time became an adversary and my writing tree lay dormant for years until suddenly with the change of seasons, another seed drifted my way. Carleigh, a mum friend from the neighborhood and fellow writing enthusiast phoned and said, “Hey, I’m taking this Children’s Writing course. Why don’t you take it with me?” It was the push I needed. I’d been thinking of maybe starting to write again ... thinking about it, for years …  

And so, in earnest, I began again. Things have changed. Instead of a powder-blue diary I have my black and grey laptop. Instead of locking up my thoughts after each entry, I will freely share them with readers. Also, I try not to use too many exclamation marks. I still write from the heart, though, and funnily enough, I still write vertically, well, only for notes in the margins and not because I’ve grossly misjudged the length of a sentence.

When I think about my garden, I like to picture my big old writing tree in one corner of the yard, new leaves and flowers in abundance, and a swing bench secured to the strongest branch. It’s here I’ll sit with pen and paper, observing in contemplation and content the loveliest of flora borne from the worthiest of seeds.


Natalie J. Chan is an emerging writer of short pieces, stories for children, poems, and essays. Her short story, “Sorrow’s Own Aria” won honourable mention for fiction in Askew’s Word on the Lake Writing Contest, published in their 2023 Anthology. She has a master’s in business administration and pursued a career in human resources until deciding to take a wholesale parenting break. She is part of CANSCAIP and continues to take writing courses and workshops to improve her craft while actively exploring fresh life goals.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

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