I started walking daily at the river, once prompted by a friend. I remember this friend in the same ways that I remember the pond, where I had for six years, taken respite from the world, from work and from my worries. I circled the same still water and watched its changes, daily…apart from a very few days when the roads were too icy on the hill to make it there OR when I drove to Ontario to visit my mother…or to be with my loved ones when they celebrated her life.
I became a new person at the pond. I became a soldier for sustainability there. I became an observer of what human beings have become, in the order of dismissing their responsibilities to the earth. My sadness grew exponentially over those years as I communicated with management and staff in many big businesses that surrounded the area, scrolled through sustainability reports, became an activist with the City of Calgary, and talked about nothing more than what was happening in this single ecosystem. I picked litter…garbage…most days, filling and depositing bags and bags of human filth by the one bin that remained…”$13 dollars a bin to empty”, the city worker chimed in one day when I asked him, “What is going on with our city?” He explained that it is a vision for the city that people will learn to take their litter out with them…”much cheaper”. I sighed. That was when I began to lose it. I was crying during my walks, instead of taking in the bliss of the Mergansers, the Pintails, the Coots and Grebes.
Arriving home to upload my photographs, I would notice for the first time, plastic bags lying on the slopes as Black Capped Night Herons fed. I’d notice a 2L plastic bottle as a backdrop to the beautiful gesture of a Great Blue Heron. The evidence of our thoughtlessness was in my face daily.
I left the pond about a year ago and came to the edge of the Bow River. I’m still questioned about why the redundant act of circling the same location. To that, I can only say that by returning again and again to the same place, one really comes to know it…much like being with one person every single day. I really come to know this place in all sorts of weather and in all sorts of moods. I notice. I observe change and transition and presence with a keen eye. New is easy to see. I never see the same thing. And, while there are still signs of human carelessness, I do not directly see the road development, hear the machines or feel wholly responsible to clean up other people’s mess.
I feel as though I am walking in the middle of a Clea Roberts poem when I am at the river…and that is a beautiful place to be.
Please, if you can, read Clea Robert’s poem, The Forest, from Auguries. Perhaps then, my readers will understand why I come to this same place. Blessings for a remarkable day.
The poetry of Clea Roberts has been a source of great inspiration since attending a Wordfest session, Into the Quiet, this year. Every poem is an elegant string of words, sparse but potent. I am left, after reading, with a sense of wonderment about this world of ours.
Because of the immediacy of social media, I have been able to access other people’s travel, adventure and world exploration over months and years…Nepal, Venice, Spain, Croatia, Haida Gwaii. I get the sense of how vast our life experiences can be…to eat seafood in Japan, observe the art of the masters in far off galleries, stand at the top of the Empire State building. I enjoy all of this very much. It all comes into my home, while I sit in my pajamas at the keyboard, with my cup of coffee on the desk, to my right.
However, nothing moves me more than these poems. Because somewhere in these images, lies the remembrance of camping with my parents, the smell of woodfires burning, the soft conversations as neighbours drift off to sleep. The childhood listening.
The poems of Clea Roberts take me to that beautiful intimate place of connection in a much smaller place, full of limitless possibilities.
In the meantime, for two weeks, I have been observing a single Horned Grebe on a pond, hoping to capture just one focused photograph. I have watched muskrats frantically building winter homes in the cattails on the north side of the fence while bulldozers plow and reshape former dwellings. I see miracles every evening as the sun begins to set.
One poem to share this morning…from Auguries by Clea Roberts
Sitting behind me in the Big Secret Theater, this afternoon, Beth stood and as we were both putting on our coats, asked, “Did you see the Into the Quiet session this morning?”
I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
From there, I went on about how I had read the book by Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life in early spring…February…and she shuffled through her phone to show me a photograph that she had posted to all of her friends in April.
This is Beth’s photograph and it speaks quite loudly of the magic found in the pages of Kyo’s book.
Beth and I, I felt, had an immediate connection as she shared the utter joy of watching birds at her feeder and about the fact that she wishes to gift her friends this book. I utterly agree about the magic of this writing and heartily recommend it to others.
I booked my tickets for two sessions only this year at Wordfest, and both because Kyo Maclear was a panelist. One was titled In the Quiet and the other, Bionic Women Writers. I had no intentions of picking up any other book, but brought Kyo’s in my purse so that I would take opportunity for a signing and maybe a short conversation.
The following photographs are a tad (understated) unfocused…but, that’s okay, right?
Snipped directly out of the Wordfest archives…no sense in me writing all of the biographical details again…will just link back. That’s alright, right?
I haven’t read anything by Michael Finkel, but he has interviewed and written about Christopher Knight. I purchased my own copy of The Stranger in the Woods, after hearing a very provocative reading and interesting panel discussion on solitude. I have respect for Michael’s approach to research on this one and his respect for the process.
This next one gave me shivers. Reading from his chapter, The Failing Body, I was captivated, based on personal experience as it relates to my own loved ones and their health. I think that all of the authors reached deeply into my heart this morning because for the past ten years, while still surrounded by my loved ones and friends, I am in a constant relationship to/with solitude. The title of Michael’s book, i A Singular Life in a Crowded World will most likely support a lot of my views on life and love and time and presence. I had a lovely chat with Michael at book signing time. It meant a lot to me that even in this case, he was completely present to me.
Kyo’s contributions to the panel discussion, as well as her selected readings, continued to support my true connection with the lessons that are written down into the pages of her book and lived out during her time journeying with a bird-watching musician, Jack Breakfast, in the city of Toronto. An awesome read! Do it!
Clea Roberts, living on the edge of Whitehorse, Yukon…on an acreage that opens up to a huge expanse of forest, shared three poems that caused me to shiver in my seat. The images were so exact, the phrasing was so perfect…I am so grateful that tonight I am able to hold the book, Auguries. Not only were the readings beautiful, but the substance of what Clea had to say. I was moved by her perceptions…about wood burning…about the dark river’s edge. Moving!
I feel as though all of these writers touched upon a bit of my heart that holds on so tightly to my mother…her memory…the responsibility I feel to keep her alive in other loved ones’ memories. Grief is a journey that must be allowed.
Just this morning, I looked down at the socks that I put on my feet. At my mother’s passing four years ago, while packing, I rolled up all of my mother’s socks and brought them home to Calgary. They had been snipped at the ankles by my father, with scissors. My mother’s ankles were swollen. Of a bag load of socks, after four years, there are only two pair remaining. I speak to my mother when I put my socks on in the morning…most mornings they are not, any longer, her socks. Something in Clea’s poems brought my mother’s socks to mind…something that Kyo said…the look in Michael Harris’s eyes…and the words that Michael Fickel wrote into his book for me to find later.
I can’t write about the session titled Bionic Women Writers at the moment…about seeing Melanie…about any of it. I just have to step back for a little while. Maybe pour a glass of wine. Maybe Skype with my father. James has taken Max for a walk.