By Chance Alone by Max Eisen

Last week, I read Canada Reads 2019 winner, By Chance Alone by Max Eisen.

While books about this time of our history are very sad and very dark, it is so important, as a part of our education, that we continue to share these narratives.  This book is particularly well-written, so steeped in an authentic voice, that it is rich and heart-breaking.

Given that I believe that the human spirit is rooted in love and compassion, I am reminded when I read such historical memoirs as this one, just how horrible and brutal human beings can be. There is an innate spirit of hatred that has surfaced throughout our human story.  If a person focuses too much upon this, it can be very traumatizing.  So many atrocities in the name of power, greed and difference.

I strongly recommend this book.  It has been Max Eisen’s life work to bring his family’s story to light.  It is historical and contributes to the documentation of the experience of this time.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

This was a truly remarkable book.

Four Years After 9/11

In 2005, I began writing this blog.  It had something to do with the privacy or public notion of words.  I was thinking that morning about the impermanence of life…of all of the floating papers of our lives…of art.   And so this blog was born at the remembrance of those papers fluttering to the ground, from those broken buildings and from all that is ephemeral, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

It is an interesting thing to go back to September 2005 and consider the words that I chose to write down…a blog was born out of those words.

 

WORLD TRADE CENTER

Memory

Posted on September 11, 2005

 

I was spinning my wheels that morning.  There were things to get done as always and so I busied myself with those rituals when one of the children called upstairs to me, “Mom, what is the World Trade Center?”

 

 

As I remember it, I stepped out from the bathroom, into the hall where I could see the television clearly.  A voice said, “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”

 

 

As I set myself down on the couch, a plane hit the second tower.  Smoke and flame billowed heavenward… it was truly something that seemed unbelievable.  It remains so.

 

 

It is very early in the morning.  I’ve just come in from the studio…it is only right that I should remember in the silence of this first bit of morning the many who lost their lives and the families they left behind, shattered and rebuilding to this day.

 

e. e. cummings

http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/eecummings/11909

here’s to opening and upward,

to leaf and to sap and to your

(in my arms flowering so new)

self whose eyes smell

of the sound of rain and

here’s to silent certainly mountains;

and to a disappearing poet

of always, snow and to morning;

and to morning’s beautiful friend twilight

(and a first dream called ocean)

and let must or if be damned

with whomever’s afraid

down with ought with because

with every brain which thinks

it thinks, nor dares to feel

(but up with joy; and up

with laughing and drunkenness)

here’s to one undiscoverable

guess of whose mad skill each

world of blood is made

(whose fatal songs are moving in the moon)

I have enjoyed a beautiful half moon tonight….walking from the studio to the house!  Good night, dear world!  Be kind to those who are lonely or hopeless tonight.

In the Classroom

Posted on September 12, 2005

 

I played two songs for my students this morning.  One was Deja Vu written by John Fogerty and the other was Wake me up When September Ends by Green Day.  I thought there were common themes in these two pieces of writing and that the melodies were rich, emoting ‘stuff’ that the students could think about, given the circumstances in Iraq.

 

Just recently they have been considering Ray Bradbury’s short story, All Summer in a Day…and there are also some parallels there; with the seven years of rain….and issues of isolation, sadness and abandonment.  The image of the sun gives us some insight about  hope and its potential in very dark moments.

 

After listening, I distributed both sets of lyrics and led  some rich discussion about ‘seeing the writing on the wall’. I felt pleased that the people sitting in front of me were going to take some learning with them.

 

As a follow-up, they will first write a comparison of the two songs and their themes and then go on to discuss which song they prefer and why it is preferred.

 

Finally, they will find a pathway into the lyrics and write their own narrative based on thoughts that surface as a result of considering the writing of these two powerful songs.  I was excited when one of the boys came to ask me if he could write from a voice in the song Vietnam by Creedance Clearwater Revival.  Good!  I told him that I was especially pleased that he had extended the suggested activity as it will mean more to him this way.

 

It was a very rewarding day in the classroom.

 

This writing has provided me a brief shift in posture and in focus.  Now I must return to the studio where work is really pushing forward.  I hope that the energy can be sustained.

 

Gorilla House LIVE ART: March 27, 2013

I went to paint with my community last night…not for the sake of an auction at the end of the evening, but as a way of working out my frustration at being here in the west while out east my Mom is sick and my Dad is worried.  I’m grateful to my sister and my daughter who are there as supports…grateful to my uncle who drove from Montreal to love and support…but still my heart aches to be there…so I painted.

I have captured a likeness of my mother at a young age, but recognize easily the bits that need to be perfected to give a truly accurate depiction.  S’ok though, because in two hours, the place I arrived at was a peaceful place.  In attendance, and greatly appreciated, were Clayton, Margy, Wendy and Jen….and with open arms and big hugs; Bassano, Jeff, boy-Morgan, Karen, Jess, Harold, Tamara, Andy, Bruce, Jeff, girl-Morgan and of course, Rich.  Oh yes, and there was one wee girl who observed from behind for much of the evening and finally approached.  Her hair was in a thick mass of curl.  She said sweetly, “If that lady had brown eyes, we would be twins.  I think I look like her and she’s beautiful.”   Great conversations were shared while painting and I thank the people who attended for the first time and the people who stopped to give me their thoughts on my process.  It was wonderful.

So, no, I did not paint the inspirations of the night…and I began upside down and then shifted to right side up during the last half hour.

P1100278 P1100279 P1100284

Watching My Life Happen

Sometimes, most times, always…it’s not about what I choose to do.  It’s, for the most part, about how I respond (no sense, reacting) to what happens.  Just this past week, my friend embraced her sister and, together, they held their brother in their arms while he breathed his last breath.  Her story, shared in the studio, took my own breath away…the story at her core…the letting go…the holding on…the shared narrative…a life…a voice…gone.  She dialed up his answering machine…I listened and left a message.  The tiny fragments of a big life, left behind and cherished.  I know.  This post is fragmented (not coherent).  What is it that I’m trying to say?  Live your real life?  Think about it.  Thanks to Mel, who shared this song earlier this week.  It makes sense to me.

Colin Hay – Waiting for My Real Life to Begin

Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I’ll keep checking the horizon
And I’ll stand on the bow, and feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down, down, down on me

And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
Don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin

When I woke today, suddenly nothing happened
But in my dreams, I slew the dragon
And down this beaten path, up this cobbled lane
I’m walking in my old footsteps, once again
And you say, just be here now
Forget about the past, your mask is wearing thin
Just let me throw one more dice
I know that I can win
I’m waiting for my real life to begin

Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I’ll keep checking the horizon
And I’ll check my machine, there’s sure to be that call
It’s gonna happen soon, soon, oh so very soon
It’s just that times are lean

And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart, let the light shine in
Don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin

Responding to Writing and Pain

I’ve wanted to comment on this post since it was written.  It was written a few days after this post and just slightly after this post.  Sometimes I read words through this medium that absolutely try to blow me away.  These words did.  Writing a short comment on your blog just didn’t seem ‘enough’.  I’m just glad that you are writing again.

1911 Red Studio by Henri Matisse

Considering; writing, pain, writing the pain and ‘how writing helps us see’,  I revisited something I was thinking about my own writing.  I once wondered if my writing sounds too optimistic, too positive and too ‘grateful’.  At times, I’ve wondered if my life is even believable.  More than once, I’ve written about  ‘audience‘  here and I’ve thought and wondered about the writer’s voice.  This is somehing that CAN be taught. Pain, loss, struggle and challenge are all floating about in my head all of the time and are beneath the surface of my writing, however optimistic. My words are arrows pointing me away from that pain and I am able to see blessings clearly.  To consider something you said…

“When I move, when I walk (because I can no longer run), when I chew the juiciest slice of steak or when I plunge head first into a crashing ocean wave, the pain tugs on the chain and snaps me back to the reality it has configured for me.  Pain grows jealous of any sensation that does not include it, and, like the guest at the party who must always be the center of attention, it screams and drowns out the more pleasant feelings as they politely try to redirect the conversation.”

Conversely, when the pain was so biting that I found myself sitting in front of the t.v. on the red couch more days than can ever be deemed reasonable,  when I tried to lose myself in the pain…not even really watching, but hearing the drone in the background of sitcom and reality t.v. and drama and Criminal Minds…immersing myself in the pain, shifting, sometimes crying…totally caving into its reminding, its nagging, its repeating…there in the midst of the darkness was this life force that shattered all of it.  Optimism, hope, gratitude and faith sucked me out of my warm seat…optimism caused me to pick up a book and read. Hope dragged me to the studio to paint.  Gratitude moved my pen.  Faith led me to pray for every need.  It all goes both ways, doesn’t it?  Better to have the ‘pain’ in the background screaming…than the other.  Sometimes we are fortunate enough to be able to choose one over the other.  I pray for those in our world who do not have the choice.

In the Classroom

I played two songs for my students this morning. One was Deja Vu written by John Fogerty and the other was Wake me up When September Ends by Green Day. I thought there were common themes in these two pieces of writing and that the melodies were rich, emoting ‘stuff’ that the students could think about, given the circumstances in Iraq.

Just recently they have been considering Ray Bradbury’s short story, All Summer in a Day…and there are also some parallels there; with the seven years of rain….and issues of isolation, sadness and abandonment. The image of the sun gives us some insight about hope and its potential in very dark moments.

After listening, I distributed both sets of lyrics and led some rich discussion about ‘seeing the writing on the wall’. I felt pleased that the people sitting in front of me were going to take some learning with them.

As a follow-up, they will first write a comparison of the two songs and their themes and then go on to discuss which song they prefer and why it is preferred.

Finally, they will find a pathway into the lyrics and write their own narrative based on thoughts that surface as a result of considering the writing of these two powerful songs. I was excited when one of the boys came to ask me if he could write from a voice in the song Vietnam by Creedance Clearwater Revival. Good! I told him that I was especially pleased that he had extended the suggested activity as it will mean more to him this way.

It was a very rewarding day in the classroom.

This writing has provided me a brief shift in posture and in focus. Now I must return to the studio where work is really pushing forward. I hope that the energy can be sustained.

Image borrowed from the Kevin Webb 22 website.