I Am Still a Mother

This post is dedicated to my mother…often misunderstood…whose opinions sometimes went unaccepted (by me)…but pretty much, my best friend ever. I’m remembering all of those times when I thought I didn’t do things as well as she did…and THAT, tonight, seems like foolishness. I love you, Mom, and I get you now.

At the age of 63, sometimes it’s easy for other people to forget that I am still a mother. All of those feelings I had when my children were just little babies…the insecurities, the fears, the awe and the weariness, the love and celebration…those feelings, I supposed, would just, one day, go away. But, they haven’t. They prickle on the surface of everything that remains…of me.

I saw my three children through their toddler and day-care years, all the while, dealing with the enormities of my own life and career(s). Did I ever have a good reason not to polish their little shoes white? Did I stop, for a moment, being a mother? At night, for all those years, there was my best-ever enthusiastic-reader-voice during every last-of-the-day book. There were the trips to the Emergency Room. There were goofy costumes. There were snowmen. Did I ever stop seeing them through countless agonizing nights of stomach flu or horrendous congestive explosions? All three? No.

Even when they were big Junior High sort-of-kids? No. Did I feel an intense responsibility to check their eyesight? get their teeth cleaned? attend to their vaccinations? Provide clothing around the seasons? Well, of course I did. Were they sometimes asleep when they should have been awake? Awake when they should have been asleep? YES!

I wondered if my night sweats would go away when my children were in High School. No. Was there some way I could possibly figure out how to get each of them on that tour? Was there a way that I could give my children everything that other children had? “I can do this”, I said to myself. Oh. But, then I started to notice the pulling-away…I started, then, to feel a nudge of what would be, according to the laws of everything in the universe, the separation. Would these laws of nature and life mean that I would stop being a mother?

No.

Surely, I could be a little less vigilant when they were accepted into University. No. The drives home…all hours. The push. The pull. That rage against the night. That anger that shrouded every single inkling of fear…that excruciating not-knowing-most-of-the-time-anguish. That incredible fear. A thing of invention? Perhaps. “I can do this,” I thought. I could manage my way through this utterly new and amazing puzzle…this huge labyrinth called life (of that time). Right? My children still valued me. They needed me, right?

What if there were miles that separated us? Rome? Nice? Spain? London? Was there a place on the planet that would take my child so far away that I would stop being a mother?

I wondered, with every new rite of passage, would I be absolved from motherhood when finally, I witnessed one child walk down the aisle? She was out of my arms and into the arms of someone who would love, cherish and create…a new life…a separate life… Was that the moment?

When something shattered in my child’s day, I was shattered. Every time I witnessed the tears of my son or daughter, I cried with them. When they laughed…when they experienced a success…when they were contented…I felt them and every part of them within me. As I sit here writing tonight, I remember their special outfits and Christmas concerts, the drumming strumming, flag-tossing explorations….I remember the music.

At one time, I thought that their growing was somehow connected to what I was doing and the choices I was making. But, no…they were growing despite me…despite my advice…my good intentions…or even my prayers.

They were making their choices and making their way and I have to shrug it all off some nights. I have to pinch myself with gratitude that I did what I could, to protect them. I have to let go with a sigh. I ponder about the present tense. At this time of my life, I still want to be valued. I want to move on through the years that remain, knowing that I still have something to contribute. Tonight I am wondering, ‘What did it all mean?’ And, ‘Who am I now?’

You say something and I roll my eyes, laughing.

I say something and you roll your eyes.

It’s the story of every generation before us…and will be…every generation after us. I am still a mother.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

When one thinks of good literature…beautiful writing…one can include the title, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by writer, Carson McCullers.  At the young age of twenty-three, McCullers took on this project.  I reflect back on myself at the age of twenty-three; young mother of one, struggling in a turbulent marriage and I can hardly imagine sitting down to write a powerfully inspiring novel.  Carson McCullers did.

To be honest, I would never have picked up the novel, given the title.  It sounds to be a bit of a cliche and looking back on my life and the significant events that mark transition, loss and accomplishment, I managed to steer clear of this one, up until now.  It sat on my book shelf, having been picked up along the way, as a second hand cast off.  Upon reading it a couple of weeks ago, the title now makes perfect sense and represents the content as much as any other could.

As one pours over the many reviews given to this book, it is difficult to articulate those qualities that make it so successful, just because there are so many.  I decided to write about just a couple and to simply recommend the novel to those who haven’t read it yet or those who read it a very long time ago.

Categorized as Southern Gothic, it is a novel that captures that particular flavour that one might find in To Kill a Mockingbird or A Street Car Named Desire.

 

McCullers’ use of language is elegant and it is consistently supportive of character development from beginning to end.  The reader comes to know, in the most intimate way, the characters who live ordinary/extraordinary lives in this small mill town in the south.  As if under a microscope, we observe their motivations, thoughts and ‘hearts’ from their introduction to the very end.

From the book, Without a Map: A Memoir by Meredith Hall, this…

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Oprah Winfrey offers a thorough book study section on her website for any of my readers who are considering taking on this one with a book club.  I highly recommend.  Included is a visual map and character links in order to explore, deeply, the motivations of each of the ‘lonely hearted’.  You can find the schematic and links here.

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Every one of these characters holds lessons for the reader and given Meredith Hall’s brave confession at the end of the quote shared earlier in this post, I will confess that I, too, am a lonely hunter.  Now, don’t be worried about me.  I think that there is much that is ‘unspoken’ in each of us.  Yes, I have faith.  Yes, I have a beautiful life, as do the written characters of this novel.  However, there is loneliness, even in the most social and ‘connected’ beings.  I think that McCullers’ characters are very brave and for a whole number of reasons.  At completion of the novel, one is left with the revelation of one’s own courage to face the day-to-day issues of living.

I find John Singer to be central to the themes explored in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  We meet him, along with Spiros Antonapoulos, very early in the novel.  The fact that he is mute, and that others rely on him for his good counsel, is essential to the theme development.  I think that the fact that his advice is really only fleeting and that he is left to seemingly absorb the personal narratives of others, is very significant and sometimes painful.

Since reading this, with respect and care, I highly recommend the novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.  You will find yourself or someone you love, written inside the pages.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop

My daughter informed me that the film, Exit Through the Gift Shop was last year’s news and that somewhere along the way ‘I missed the boat’.  I also missed the conversation, apparently, because ‘everyone’ was talking about it.  Following the trailer I include below, you can view the movie in its entirety or you can find it on Netflix (Canada) as well.

This morning, early, my sister-friend, Karen, forwarded me, from A Good Movie to Watch, a listing titled

18 Best Movies On Netflix You Haven’t Yet Seen

18. The Goon (2012)
17. Ne le Dis a (with accent, however you do that) Personne (2006)
16. Frances Ha (2013)
15. Broken (2013)
14 The Ice Strom (1997)
13. I Saw the Devil (2010)
12. Samsara (2012)
11. Mr. Nobody (2009)
10. Boy (2012)
9. Get the Gringo (2012)
8. Submarine (2011)
7. Headhunters (2012)
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
5. Detachment (2012)
4. The Station Agent (2003)
3. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About a Father (2008
2. The Hunt (2013)
1. Short Term 12 (2013)

I’ve selected a number of these during my own viewing time and agree with some of the posted comments that generally this is a diverse collection of very intriguing movies.  Of the remainders to this list, I have to tell you that a number of them might be available on the American version of Netflix, but for whatever reason, they are not posted here in Canada.  Given that my prep for today’s colonoscopy (come on!  we can talk about this openly, right?) was cancelled/rescheduled due to the onset of a huge upper respiratory cold/flu, I decided to go in search of a morning movie. (DELIGHTFUL as compared to the alternative)

So…with box of soft tissue on the table next to me, a cup of hot lemon and honey, my fuzzy slippers and a big blanket, I curled up with remote in hand.

Broken, Boy and Ne le Dis a (with accent, however you do that) Personne were unavailable on Canadian Netflix…but, my fourth choice, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2006) was!  Love love loved the introduction to the film by Banksy!  As I settled in, I decided to click PAUSE and get my notebook because I sincerely felt smitten by the content that followed.

I guess that Rylan Broadbent was the first gentleman/artist/arts educator and all round smart man I’d met who taught me anything at all about street art and graffiti.  When I sat on a train from airport to central Paris, I remember leaning my forehead against the train window, in total awe of the images that appeared for miles along the grey cement retaining walls.  Apart from this experience and Rylan, however, I had little world knowledge about the movement of street art happening globally.

This movie was jam packed with information, as well as amazing archives of intimate happenings and interview segments between videographer, Thierry Guetta and some of the artists he had come to know through his own passion for making recordings.

All of the Mr. Brainwash stuff aside, I was intrigued by the fact that Thierry had such a strong compulsion to ‘capture’.  He had no interest in viewing his own recordings although he had carefully labelled and archived boxes and boxes of film.  Instead, he was obsessed for a period of at least ten years, with recording.  He had lost his mother at the age of eleven and had not been told, prior to her death, that she was sick.  From this, he developed a need to record absolutely everything as a response to his thinking…”Anything in my life would be the last time I would see it in this same way. I didn’t know how to stop.”

I have some sympathy for this and find, at times, my fascination with capturing ‘the moment’ in nature, reading, art, music, and my experiences with others, comes from a similar revelation about the temporal aspects of all.  Writing about or photographing a subject somehow causes it to be sustained for a moment in time.  I wonder if that is selfie craze is another manifestation of this practice.  Perhaps some people are insecure with the notion that their bodies are temporal and are evolving from youth to old age…and that photographs ARE the self.  The catch is, photographs are also ephemeral.

This movie got me thinking about a lot of things.  When Thierry Guetta takes on the mantle of Mr. Brainwash and successfully earns over a million dollars on his first exhibition, the viewer is left pondering the authentic aspects of art and confronts the forever-question again, “What is art?”  Mr. Brainwash has named himself well.  Even at the conclusion, other long time street artists are at a loss for words and Banksy promises to never be filmed again.

Street Artists mentioned in the film include,

Space Invader
Shepard Fairey
Neckface
Sweet Toof and Cyclops
Ron English
Dot Masters
Swoon
Borf
Banksy
Buff Monster and
Mr. Brainwash

I hope to grab some permissions from photographers so that I can post some photos here soon.  For now, looking for some shots that I took of street art pieces I found in Hamilton, Ontario two summers ago.

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Wood Carving Amazement

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One of the cherished afternoons I shared with my father, this past summer, was a visit to Al Gerritsen’s studio and wood shop.  Something I really admire about this artist is his humility about his craft.  He is selfless.  Just recently I had a conversation with a couple of my artist-friends and more and more we notice the self-absorbed ego that gets a tad too large in the role of ‘artist’.  It’s almost as if a particular type of narcissism has taken hold.  Is this the only way that a person can be ‘known’? Or if this is the only way, is it best to be unknown? Something to think about.  Al is one of the most inspired and prolific artists I know.

With his particular connections with and history in Saskatchewan, it ended up being a bit of an exchange of memories between the two men.  That was lovely to see. I know there are many wondrous art spaces and experiences that can be had in this city, but sometimes it comes down to sharing time with artists in their modest, but inspiring spaces…their studios.  I like that nothing is staged in Al’s studio.  A person is able to get the true sense of the production happening…how the tools are stored and used…and the evolution of amazing works.  There is no room here for candles and fairy lights.  It is a working space that is filled with energy and love.

Again, I want to express my gratitude for the work of Al Gerritsen.  His work surrounds us and his skill is exceptional.  Thanks for your willingness to share some time with Dad, Al, and to give us your stories.

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One Voice

Trying to Find My Bird Movie 129I spent four weeks tracking a warbler every morning and afternoon…trying to get close enough to identify the little guy.  And for all of that time, he rarely stopped singing.  When I return home, I will publish the song archive that I collected and perhaps one of you will help me to identify him. For all of those days, this small bird distracted me from a sad heart and filled the empty space once filled with my mother’s laughter, with a song.

Because I was so intent to listen to this single bird voice, I could hear the voices of others; chickadees, cardinals, blue jays and black birds, voices woven through the old Belleville trees. The transforming landscape, full bloom of maple, elm and willow, caused the red flash of cardinal to stand out against countless shades of green.  But more magnificent for me, each morning when the dew was still wet on the grass, was the little bird perched on the highest single finger of a blue spruce tree, seeking a mate…no answer to its determined voice.

Whut Cha Been UpTah? Balletlujah With the Alberta Ballet

P1100992 P1100993 It’s been over a week and I am only now sitting down to write about Balletlujah! It was a brilliant  collaboration between Artistic Director of the Alberta Ballet, Jean Grand-Maitre and k. d. lang.  My friend told me that she began to cry during the second half…I cried from the time I saw the magical prairie landscape open up during the first number, Inglewood.  Suddenly, I was flooded with memories of times shared with my grandfather, miles traveled on Alberta roads and my years of painting the landscape I’ve treasured so much the past thirty years.

P1110002I can not possibly capture for my readers, the gist of the performance.  The dancers were exquisite.  The costumes were perfect.  The lights and video effects were spectacular and the music created for me, a narrative that moved me beyond belief.  The images of buffalo, crows, fish and star studded nights were dreamy.  The contrast of prairie and city experiences was so well-developed through the music and the ballet.  I definitely felt that the piece was encompassing themes of place, home and identity…of what it feels like to love completely and without holding back.  A spectacular night!  The second last tune resonates with me personally and so I am going to link to it here.

If given the opportunity to see this ballet in the future, please do.

You Are More Beautiful Than You Think

2 Year Old Mom1st CommunionInteresting…my Mom sometimes described herself to others as overweight.  I saw Mom on diets, while at the same time, working her way through the 10 BX, a fitness program developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force.  I used to sit on her legs for a lot of her exercises when I was a wee little thing.  I sat on her feet for sit ups.

Mom wasn’t crazy about her freckles…so, in a way, I wondered if she was crazy about mine.  She had troubles controlling her curls.

She really didn’t have any idea how beautiful she was/is.  I scanned some old photographs while I was home this past couple of weeks.  The photographs tell the truth about my mother’s beauty.  This is food for thought, my dear friends.  As you read my words on this page, consider…are you more beautiful than you think?

29-03-2009 5;10;06 PM Mom 29-03-2009 5;16;42 PM Mom in Sherbrooke 2n510266132_2664474_5795 New Years

Mom at the Beach Kay Moors

A Novel Idea

Marc Chagall: Time is a River Without Banks 1930-1939

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence…my favourite book of all time!  I read it once every five years or so.  Recently, while reading, I began to add its content to my clothing. (my father, at this point in reading, will articulate, in some fashion, as will my close friends…”What the hell are you doing, wasting your time??  Why aren’t you painting?  To which, I might respond with something from Chagall’s titled work…”Time is a river without banks!”  Or more likely, “I Don’t Know.”)  I’m getting ready to have my portrait taken by Jen Hall.

As I explore the first chapter again, The River of Now and Then, I experience a huge affinity with the character that Laurence writes, Morag Gunn. Her’s is a search for identity.  A very ‘Canadian’ read, I strongly recommend this book.

Excerpt


The river flowed both ways. The current moved from north to south, but the wind usually came from the south, rippling the bronze-green water in the opposite direction. This apparently impossible contradiction, made apparent and possible, still fascinated Morag, even after the years of river-watching.

The dawn mist had lifted, and the morning air was filled with swallows, darting so low over the river that their wings sometimes brushed the water, then spiralling and pirouetting upward again. Morag watched, trying to avoid thought, but this ploy was not successful.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

Sidebar: Bees

Queen

Ok…so, it’s one in the morning and I know that I’ve been reading/writing/thinking too much.  I tried to sit in front of a dark and disturbing episode of Criminal Minds, as a distraction from my own MIND, but no such luck!  I came upon a blog and was totally charmed by the adventure of it all and the challenges that Catherine Jaffe takes on with her quick wit, amazing desire to learn and her love for all things BEES!

It brought to mind a friend of mine, Verna Reid, and her book, Construction of Self in the Work of Sharon Butala, Aganetha Dyck, Mary Meigs and Mary Pratt.  One of the women who assisted her in the exploration of women’s identity was Aganetha Dyck.  I was wondering if perhaps Catherine had explored the amazing art works of this inspirational and strong woman.  I DO find Aganetha’s work inspiring!  In a few short minutes, I found another blogger who has featured some images of her work and also, a short biography.  BEE inspired!

While on the subject, I’ve got to recommend Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Secret Life of Bees and Gail Anderson-Dargatz’ A Recipe For Bees, both excellent books!