The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

It’s a Hobby

When I was 9 or 10, my friend Kathy invited me to join her on a Campfire Girls outing. That day she needed to demonstrate fire-starting in order to earn the outdoor skills badge.

She gathered kindling and stacked it according to the handbook, lit the match and held it to the tinder. Lots of smoke, but no flame. She tried a second time, and still no blaze.

I knew very little about outdoor skills other than scavenging for rhubarb stalks in our backyard. But I managed to help my friend with her fire. Dried pine needles littered the ground. I added a few and the flame took instantly. Oh they made a satisfying hiss and snap as the fire grew. I found some dried cedar branches and placed them on the pile. More furious flames and sparks.

I was so caught up in the excitement of building my first fire that I did not see the counsellor as she stormed across the field.

“What are you doing?” she cried.

My heart pounded. What a frightful woman! She was pissed off.

“This is Kathy’s project! You aren’t supposed to being doing that. Now get away!”

I may or may not have cried: I cannot remember much after the counsellor scolded me. But I do remember feeling ashamed and confused. Also, I suppose, I felt the shock of the rug pulled out, and certainly of being found wanting.



Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

To render an accurate image of this woman, take the picture of Margaret Hamilton as Miss Gulch and overlay that with Picasso’s Stravinsky, paying special attention to the tucked in chin, thick lips, and stern countenance. Oh, and of course, the wicked witch that lies beneath.

***   ***   ***

I set out today to write about my hobbies. Not so much to describe what I did, when, and where, but more along the lines of “why?”

When I partnered with the men in my life, I adopted their hobbies. For instance, like many schoolgirls, I went through a “horse phase” but as an adult, I had no desire to ride. Since The Cowboy had a horse, well then, so did I. Yes, I loved acting in high school, but not enough to seek community theaters and audition. That is, not until I was with The Performer. The only time I invoked my love of sewing (Lies! All of it, lies!) was when I walked into the sewing machine store to check out the handsome repairman behind the counter. Bringing us up to date is mineral collecting and photography. This hobby came along with Reiner. I enjoy it. Am I hard-core, over-the-moon, rocks and minerals 24/7 like he is? Uh, no.

This habit of taking my lead from outward prompts goes beyond my hobbies. Mom made sure I was gainfully employed the moment I was old enough to haul a sack of newspapers. It was she who snatched the job posting from the highschool bulletin board before any other student had a chance to apply for the  job with Bell Canada. Another friend suggested that I study Developmental Services Work when Bell made staff cuts and offered re-training packages. Sure, why not?

Once again, back to the future: I have one more year with the mining tech program. Never in a million years did I consider mining as a career choice. Reiner suggested it. His company is getting close (as in several years) to putting shovel into the ground. They will need techs. I demurred. Reiner saw an ad for the online technology course. I wondered, do I really have what it takes? I demurred some more. Then our 65 year-old mineral collecting friend announced that he enrolled in a geology course. Well, if he could do it, so could I.

But my heart? Not really into it.

As the years, relationships, and hobbies came and went, I frequently lamented that I wanted something more. Something to “scratch the itch.” Gardening did that for me, at one time. However, one too many uprootings, literally and figuratively, have left me tired and heart sore. I still tend perennial borders and a small veggie patch, mow the lawn, but gardening is a task, not a devotion.

Back to my question: why did I take up hobbies that did not scratch the itch?

In each of the relationships, taking part in activities that were important to the guy meant that we could do things together. No harm, no foul, right?

But what about the stuff that I wanted to do?

What stuff? I asked myself.

I felt that I was disappointing the self-help gurus of the world. The people who urged me to be independent, to find my voice, and speak it. To find my thing and do it. To do what I love.  If I am involved in something like minerals, someone else’s hobby that is, then I felt (and still feel) like a fraud.

Maybe there’s a hint in the story up top because as usual, the keyboard had other ideas and the Campfire Girls story leads the way. Why?

Oh hell, I don’t know. Maybe I just need an editor to give me a swift kick. Maybe there is no connection. Maybe I need to rewrite this into two separate posts.

Wait… do you suppose that I learned that I must not involve myself with someone else’s project?  Is it as simple as that?

Or is all of this navel gazing so much “new world problems” and I should get over it and attend to the daily prompt and be done with it? Because, yeah, blogging is scratching the itch.  Nice and satisfying that. Took a while to get here, but hey, at least I made it.

Put that in your picnic basket and smoke it, Miss Gulch!

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Miss Gulch, who in the real world shall remain nameless, surfaced again in my life when I worked at Bell.

She was my first boss.







Categories: It's a Hobby, Personal Growth

Tags: ,

44 replies

  1. I think that Miss G sounds very mean spirited and totally impractical. In the wild, we make the most of what we have, right? We work together co-operatively, yes? And if someone is helping me, nowadays I regard that as a total triumph and not a failure. Enough of this ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, ‘us’ and ‘them’. It is a pile of croc poo.

    We all tend to ingratiate ourselves by professing an interest in other people’s hobbies. Partly perhaps, because, once again, we like to be sociable, and mining sparking bits of bright colour is preferable to another cup of tea, alone again. For a long time, I went to hubby’s rugby matches. But I got fed up with that all too soon. Too much grunting and swearing. But there have been real highs, like the time we sat at a packed stadium at Croke Park in Dublin, and the Scots beat the Irish by one point. I leapt of out my seat, totally exhilarated, after the taunting that hubby got for wearing his kilt (‘ye needn’t have bothered with that caper, son..’.)

    Lovely post, thank you! xxx 😀


    • Thank you Fran!

      Yes, Miss G could have been a tad more diplomatic with her intervention, to state it mildly. Something along the lines of, “Thank you for helping Margaret. Now let’s have Kathy do it on her own, shall we?”

      I very much relate to this line:”preferable to another cup of tea, alone again.” Especially when I was married to The Cowboy… I was more or less a rodeo widow in the summer months.


  2. Oh the irony of Miss Gulch!
    I have never taken on the hobbies of a lover. I can’t say I’ve never spelunked, played golf, or read a history book, crafted a piece of stain glass etc etc. but never with passion, or the intent to do it repeatedly, lol!


  3. Perhaps your acquired hobbies devoid of passion were or are merely pit-stops en route to that promising and passion-filled hobby. 😉


    • My first impulse is to say, Hope so! But then I wonder… maybe this “passion” thing is another Oprah/Hollywood/Disney bill of goods that I’ve bought into.

      It sure can stick in my craw, though.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. I tried some of the interests of various boyfriends but none of them stuck. Occasionally they would try something I liked (like tennis, that’s a gender neutral thing) and that didn’t stick either. I finally decided that I would pursue my own interests. Miss Gulch could have used better techniques to allow your friend to accomplish her task without belittling you. Back in the day, that seemed to be the way to correct kids.


    • I’m hanging my hopes on this writing thing. It has held my interest completely since the first of the year. That’s promising, and like you, I hope to pursue it while hubby does his thing. Of course I will take part in mineral trips and the “admin” work like the catalog. But to make it my primary interest? It’s not in the cards.

      Thanks for writing. Appreciate your thoughts.


  5. I’ve never really had “hobbies”. Whenever I get asked that question I just stop and think, “What’s wrong with me…why don’t I like to DO anything?”

    Well, like you blogging seems to fill that role but other than that? I just enjoy being (well…at least now that I’m sober anyway).

    Mrs. Gulch seems like she needed to get laid.



    • Yes! The “what’s wrong with me?” thing. All the time! I’ve spent good money, bought the supplies, set up space to work, get started… and boomph another unfinished project collects dust. In some cases I’m capable, in others, I outright suck, but it always ends up “Meh”.

      One of the things that I did not touch on in my post is the self-imposed or perceived outward pressure to create, to contribute meaningfully, to have something to show for my time.

      To “enjoy being” as opposed to “enjoy doing” is something I think I need to pursue.

      Thanks, Sherry. Your words have been helpful.


  6. I’ve pondered the same issue – I get caught up in other people’s passions, not my own. There isn’t a single adventure I can think of where I was the instigator, but I was always ready and willing to dive in.
    The problem is … I don’t know what my passion is. Do you?


    • Yes! That’s important, somehow, isn’t it? To be the instigator, the driving or leading force. Nope, not me. A follower all the way.

      I cannot say with 100% confidence that I am “passionate” about writing. I sure am devoting a lot of time to it, still having fun and get a tickle of delight when stuff comes together without me knowing exactly how I did it. But is that “follow your passion” passion? I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing. If we (Hollywood/Hallmark/Disney/Oprah) haven’t manufactured a “thing” so that we have a goal, something to strive for.

      When I first got into gardening, I was obsessed with it. I buried myself in the study, in the doing, and in sharing with other people. That, I’d say was passionate. That, I will also say was 25 years ago when my body was sturdier and I hadn’t yet left a garden behind.

      Here’s something that I wonder about: On one hand, I think I may be too old to kindle the same kind of spark (speaking of campfires!) It comes with living with the highs and lows and multiple starts and finishes. I’m tired. I don’t want to devote the energy.

      On the other hand, and this is where I want to tread lightly: I wonder if I haven’t sunk into a little eddy of depression and don’t know it.

      Thanks for writing and for listening, Joanne.


  7. I said to someone else just yesterday that wanting to post anything you’ve written is sufficient unto the hour. If you DON’T want to post it, you won’t. If you’re AFRAID to post it, you’ll dither for a while and then post it anyway. If you’re hesitant about posting it, seek the reason and address that.
    Basically, navel-gazing or no, scratching itches or no, blogging is a highly satisfactory experience for like minds. Ecco tutto. 🙂


  8. I don’t know, Maggie. I’m putting your early pyrotechnician attempt together with the comment, “oh, hell” and figure you have found your calling. “Hey, Reiner! You cold? Let me set a BLAZING fire for you.” “What’s that? You want to grill out?” “Well, let me just FIRE up the Barbie.” I love it…..


  9. First off, love the image of the combined sketch and photo. It’s scary. And second, playing Freud here which is always dangerous, maybe you do what your sig other does to avoid having to succeed or fail at what you want? Or excavate it?


    • Hi Kay! thanks for joining in! I’m glad you liked the image choice. When I was looking for shots of Margaret Hamilton I was struck by how beautiful she was off camera. My real life Miss Gulch? Yeah, not so much! 😉

      Interesting choice of the word “excavate” as that’s exactly what we do on our mineral collecting trips. Thanks for your thoughts.


  10. I think the idea that everyone has a ‘passion’ is Fran’s ‘pile of croc poo’. I’ve been lucky enough to love writing all my life. You’ve been equally lucky to love a lot of different things along the way, and discard them when the interest ran out. What’s wrong with that? Self-help gurus, in my experience, (fairly wide), have a sort of ‘one size fits all’ approach, which is also a pile of croc poo.


    • Thanks so much for commenting Helen, I appreciate the no-nonsense approach. I have so much to learn.

      Or maybe: as I suggest elsewhere in the comments, I’m aware of the croc-shit that’s flung at us via Hallmark and Oprah and Disney. I grew up on Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I know it’s BS (or CS as the case may be!) but I haven’t yet UN-learned the fairy tale messages.

      While I am very much aware of my inner guidance system, and believe in it, I still feel what I perceive as an “assault” from the external messages of the “one size fits all” types. “Assault” may be too strong a term, but I am aware that I feel I must defend myself. I’d like to get to the point where you are at, or where I think you are at. Teflon coated. Resilient and sturdy.

      I admire you, Helen, and I thank you.


      • I’m not sure I deserve admiration, Maggie. I guess you’re right about the Teflon coating, (though only to a point, I’m a social disaster!) but is that good or bad? Until about 15 years ago, I was up to my neck in shit, some flung from a great height, some definitely home-grown, but I was lucky. I had the chance to start again, and I took it. Living on my own in a place where I still know virtually no one (my choice) suits me through and through. Maybe it’s given my bullshit detector time to flower! And getting oldish certainly helps put life in perspective: it never turns out the way you expect, but at the same time, nothing’s wasted, and spring always comes. It’s unrealistic to expect a perpetual rose garden, and what’s more the constant scent of roses would probably make you throw up, in the end, so those who promise three easy steps to creating one are not doing us any favours.

        You don’t have nearly as much to learn as you seem to think. Yes I’m resilient because I’ve had to be, but so are you. You approach life with far more gusto than I ever have, and you’ve learned things that I’ll never know.

        Have you ever read ‘Last Chance Cafe’ by Liz Byrski? I’m halfway through it. The general idea is the expectations of our youth versus the reality of our older age. You might find it interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Social disaster? As you say, who’s to judge?

          I think I know what you mean about living on the “outskirts.” In the last year, since a friend moved away, I’ve been in semi-hermitage. She was the social convener of our group. Still is, actually. We used to gather once every three or four weeks. Now it’s once every three or four months when she returns to town on business. As for family, my brother and his family live a half hour away, but we see each other only on the usual holidays. I am home alone weekdays wrapped up in my studies or here on the blog. I actually resent having a “full” schedule – which might be a dentist appointment on day one and the need to get to the post office on day three.

          At first I had a hard time with the adjustment after my friend moved away. But I am comfortable now and appreciate the lack of contact with people and the chance it gives me to gain some perspective, as you say.

          It’s really quite enjoyable, as long as I don’t allow myself to indulge in too many computer games or coffee breaks. Then the “shoulds” start to pile up. I should do something creative with my time, or I shouldn’t have the jam and toast with the tea.

          I will certainly look for that title, thank you! And thanks again for your thoughtful comments. Much appreciated!

          Liked by 1 person

  11. was the same lady really your first boss? that is crazy.

    and well I just want to say that this post flowed – so smooth – and you summed up your fun changes with succinctness…


    • Yup, though, thank goodness, I did not connect the dots until several years later. Kathy ended up working for Bell, too about seven years later. Small world stuff, yes?

      Thanks for the feedback on the post. I can never tell from my POV over on this side of the keyboard. I’m glad you found it fun!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  12. Poor Margaret Hamilton…forever paired with Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West. Did you know The Wizard of Oz was written by a nineteenth century US politician? Every character in the book is based on a political interest of the times. For example, the straw man is the Farmer, the woodsman is the worker. The yellow brick road is the Gold Standard. I think the lovable but cowardly lion may represent William Jennings Bryant. He made the famous cross of gold speech. The Wicked Witches of the East and West are the 1 percenters of their era.

    The 1940 film bears only a slight resemblance to the book.

    But I digress. I have or had gardening as a hobby. Mostly, I try to figure out politics. None of my husbands had hobbies, unless you count consumption of alcohol. I have pretty much always been into history in one form or another.


  13. I don’t follow other people’s passions but I’ve always been a dabbler. I get engrossed in something for a while till I master it then become bored. All my hobbies have been of the ‘sit on your arse’ variety because I’m not big on the athletic outdoors. I enjoy looking at the mountains but climbing them? Meh. A coffee and a cig while I admire from below. Running? Hubby’s passion. Nope. Almost vomited when I tried it and find it boring to watch. I was also shit at any sort of PE at school, apart from dancing. It has to be fun for me – at least in the beginning. I just accept that I’m a dabbler and my dad was a bit like that too; photography, woodwork, etc. Maybe it’s in the genes.
    I think it’s fine to give someone else’s passion a try as long as you don’t feel compelled to persist when you discover you actually hate it. Like running. 😉
    And don’t you just wish you could go back in time with current knowledge and attitude and make some suitably grown-up retort to Mrs. Gulch or any other adult that talks to kids like they’re a piece of poo?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We share the preference for sitting. Nor am I an athlete. I like walking and taking in the scenery. I’m trying to get out for at least a 2 km walk every day. In the summer it’s easy. I hope that I will get habituated to the exercise and crave it once winter rolls around. Whaddya think? A good plan? A viable plan? 😉

      Yeah, I can usually muster some sort of sympathy or compassion for those who have treated me shabbily. Somehow I don’t want to, in this woman’s case. She scared the hell out of me.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, I enjoy your remarks!


  14. I’m so thrilled that you have found your itch, as I just love reading your stories. Those nasty people make good fodder!


  15. This was so fascinating: That you are that multi-talented and capable is unsurprising. That you wanted to share interests with your spouses, also not. But it was a great surprise to me that rocks were not a passion of yours, but an adopted passion. And the idea that you felt your were subsuming your Maggieness to the interests of the spouse of the moment–that surprised me. For you seem, now, to be so confident, and when you describe yourself as a girl, you sound like you were pretty confident then, too. (No camera shyness, no dismay upon hearing your recorded voice, etc.)

    The struggle over finding your way–are self-aware introspective people EVER through with that? One would hope, eventually, the answer is yes, and that it is sometime prior to being through with everything this side of the grave.


    • “Are self-aware introspective people EVER through with that?”

      This is eerie. As I was waiting for my coffee to finish brewing this morning, I was thinking about exactly that: will I ever get to a point where I’m OK with who I am? Does this OK-ness come with age or does it come at all?

      The idea that I was “subsuming my Maggie-ness to the interests of the spouse of the moment” was more or less in hindsight, especially after reading self-help and especially feminist publications. Somewhere along the line I got the notion that in order for my activity/pastime/passion to be valid, it had to be something that I chose to do based on my interests, not something that randomly fell in my lap.

      Crazy, eh?



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