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Preface by Anne Cameron

For me, life has seemed to be a collection of spirals, each leading into another, some off-kilter, some others more or less eccentric, and still others becoming dead ends, trailing off by themselves. Once in a while I almost convince myself that in this spiralling I see, or sense, a pattern. There is every chance in the world I delude myself into thinking there is some sort of reason to it all because daily life, up close, is often so untidy and so unreasonable.

And every now and again it feels as if I'm almost back to square one, all set to repeat: one of the spiralling cycles. But before I can start it again I first have to finish things, tidy them up, get them in order so I can move on again. I think the all-knowing shrink types even have a term for the tidying-up process, and I think that term is cloture, which seems to me to be from the French, meaning "closure." Or ''fence.'' Enclosure. Which makes me wonder why they had to get esoteric and try for cloture when they could have as easily said closure or fence or enclosure, but I guess that's how you learn to do things if you stay in school long enough.

Fiction can grab a writer just as strongly as it can grab the reader. Writing is an odd occupation, a bizarre pastime, very similar to trying to grab a handful of water and then hang onto it. If it is true, as the song suggests, that "a dream is a wish your heart makes, when you're fast asleep," perhaps fiction is what happens when the dream your heart makes is grasped firmly and gently (and that's a great trick, try it sometime) and put on paper for others to share. Writing is similar to hypnosis, or selfhypnosis; you sit down at the word processor, or pick up your fountain pen or your ballpoint or your pencil or whatever your particular mechanics of the craft happen to be, and then you "concentrate," and the next thing you know, if it's a good day, it's three hours later, there's a nagging pain in the small of your back, your bum is numb and your bladder is sending out bright red warning signals that its time to shift position or flood the house. And hypnosis, whether self-induced or not, brings with it almost total recall, which is, I believe, why so many of us appear to be so haunted. But hypnosis can be a way to dredge up the bogeys and frights and maybe this time put them to rest.

Way back in the sixties we all parroted, "what goes around comes around." Suddenly everybody capable of growing long hair and/or a moth-eaten beard was going on about karma and past lives and did you ever wonder why so many of them had to be pharaohs or kings or bishops or popes, and so few would admit to having been ditchdiggers or galley slaves? I have personally met at least half a dozen women who claim to have been Cleopatra; I have never met one who claimed to have been llse Koch, the Bitch of Buchenwald. A tall, skinny, bearded, long-haired, Scots-born professor once told me he had been an "Indian chief" in a previous life. Amazingly, he could recall nothing at all of the customs, mores, philosophies or life skills of any of the First Nations. An English-born professor confided in me that he had been a pharaoh, had even so named his son. I haven't met anyone who was a slave, dying of overwork in the construction of a pyramid.

But what pop/cult was blethering on about is very true for some of the darkest parts of our souls. What goes around comes around. Those who were abused become abusers, those who were damaged become damagers, those who were carefully taught not to give a fat rat's ass about others because loving hurts too much teach others not to give a fat rat's ass, and we have become a culture which relates in just about every way except from the heart to the heart.

We don't need any more royal commissions, we don't need any more studies, we don't need any more statistics, we don't need any more bullshit from those without the spines to develop a political will. What we need is for those who get paid better money than most of us will ever see to stop playing with us and properly fund the rape assault centres, the transition houses, the group homes, the places where those who are being regularly crucified on that cross we call "love" can go for help, the places where those who are the victims of atrocity can find quiet, if not peace.

More and more of our children and grandchildren are committing suicide. They are murdering themselves and each other. Our jails are full. Rape is so commonplace a person from another planet would have reason to think we consider it normal. Sexual abuse of children is rampant and aIways has been. But it is not true, as some Christian credo would have us believe, that "there is no hope in us."

We're full of it. One of the most fragile things in the world and it grows in some of the most sterile soil. lt's what keeps me breathing in and breathing out again.

I grew up right in the middle of a horror story even Stephen King couldn't imagine, and I thought all that nutsiness was normal. Instead of sanely deciding I wanted no part of any of that stuff Id learned, I tiptoed into marriage, and if that wasn't as big a horror story as what had preceded it, it came in a close second. And I gave birth to kids who were born to parents who had no idea at all what life was supposed to be, and even less idea of how to raise children. Society taught me a lot of stuff - the names of the kings and queens of England, the year of the signing of the Magna Carta, and other things even stupider. Nobody taught me to mother.

Except my kids. I learned more from them than I can believe. Unfortunately for them, I learned it late and I learned it the hard way. And did them no favours.

And now I am a grandmother. And that is terrifying. Except my kids taught me well, and I think I am a better Gunga than I was a Mom. And I did not do as badly by my kids as was done by me, so there is some small improvement.

Just not enough, and not fast enough. We do what we did, over and over and over, and do to others what was done to us, over and over and over, and it has to stop. We are smothering in our own filth, we are capable of destroying every living thing on the planet a thousand times over, and it has to stop. We may be the last generation with any choice at all, and my hope is we will choose to stop it.
There will be critics who say this story is incomplete; our lives are incomplete. Others will say there are huge gaps; all our lives have huge gaps. Some will say it is, at times, disjointed; please do not insult me by believing that is an accident. I worked damn hard to get those jarring disjoints! Some will say I am bitter, others will say I am too sentimental. To all of them I say Stop nitpicking and bitching, get off my back and out of my face, if you know so fuckin' much why aren't you writing fiction instead of reviews and critiques?

"Critics are like eunuchs; they know how, when, where, why, with what and to whom - but they can't. . ."
There are no simple answers. But could someone explain to me why it is we can a'ways afford guns and bullets and never afford love? Why we can always find the money for a war against our cousins and never find the money for a war against the harm we do ourselves? Why we can always screw more money out of the working class taxpayer so we can drop bombs and destroy things but never find the money to undo the pollution? Why are we so willing to pay more money to break up a family than to help that family heal? And why does there aIways have to be "fault" found and "blame" assigned, and why is the victim aIways the one to be blamed?

Why do we call them victims? Why can't we call them survivors?