I’ve written about Gail’s books before, but completed The Spawning Grounds in October, so I thought I’d leave a small footprint in the passage that is my life about this one. In her promotional video, Gail uses the perfect word to describe this story…well, at least it comes up. The word is ‘numinous’…not a word I’ve encountered before, but I love it.
having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.
“the strange, numinous beauty of this ancient landmark”
The Spawning Grounds gives the reader opportunity to consider characters, conflict in relationships and an awe-inspiring setting, but the thing that will either make or break this book, for the reader, is this ‘numinous’-thing that Gail, herself, has described as being ‘magic realism’.
The book confronts the stories of people on two sides of a river, separated by a bridge. In itself, this initial setting establishes a huge metaphor for readers, especially given the present-day events of Standing Rock and the struggles for the Sioux and Lakhota peoples.
While the element of magic has been present in other books that I have read by Gail, this one takes the cake for the consistent and fluid relationship between humanity and its spirituality. (Science Fiction? No! Magic…or as we religious folk call it, Belief.) There is conflict as a result, and the reader questions his/her own ability to distinguish between what is real and not. Some readers will cluck their tongues on this one. However, I was able to move beyond rational explanations like ‘mental illness’ and ‘trauma’ and flowed easily into more remarkable mythologies that explained the sequence of events that erupted throughout the book.
This won’t make any sense to my readers, right now. In looking over that last paragraph, I take pause. “Hmmm”…I’d say, “give it a chance”.
For me, the novel was lyrical. The images that were created were both horrifying and wondrous. I loved this book.
I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.
It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn. It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.
I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!
I’m going to loop the photographs here. My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.
For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.
There’s been quite the razz-a-ma-taz going on around this house since I returned home from Ontario, what with getting things sorted and cleaned up. I make similar references quite often here. Yesterday was a bit of a gong show as I continued the process and put my studio back to rights. I’m pleased about that and feel hungry to get to work.
I started thinking about making it down to the Gorilla House after Max got out for his walk round the circle. “NO, you can’t play WHIZZO, Max!” Max recently ripped a dew claw on his front leg, so after repairs under sedation mid week, he’s had a very quiet five days. All that aside…
I prepped two boards instead of one because I have committed a panel of art to the People’s Poetry Festival and hadn’t had a chance to get the piece completed last week. (See dew claw and house-organizing anecdote above.) I then had a soak in the tub and got the day’s dust and bleach washed off. Renewed, I was waiting for my panels to dry and got caught up watching this. I was mesmerized and so ended up tearing out of the house in a bit of a flap, arriving a half hour after the wheel was spun.
I tore right into both panels, switching off right up until the 45-minutes-left-point. Then I decided to commit to the auction piece. The panel for the festival would have to wait. Everything I see or do at this time is impacted by the memory or the thought of my mother. Tonight’s piece is no different. It finds its beginnings in a scene from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint- Exupery, Chapter 21.
“Please–tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”
“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”
The next day the little prince came back.
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .”
“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–
“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:
“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
And the roses were very much embarassed.
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
And he went back to meet the fox.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated so that he would not forget.
My mother was responsible for me…
I was responsible for my mother…
I miss her.
Thanks to Chris who purchased this piece at auction. Watch for the progress of the visual poetry over the next 24 hours!
To abide in anything is a very ‘old school’ sort of concept. I picked up a bit of the history/meaning of the word here. Pronunciation:ê-baid• Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive, transitive
Meaning:1. (Intransitive) To live in the sense of dwell, to reside. 2. (Intransitive) To continue in existence, to exist unchanged in some state. 3. (Transitive) To tolerate, put up with, endure.
Notes: Historically the past participle of this word was abidden, but the past participle assimilated with the past tense a century or so ago, so now this verb is conjugated abide, abode, (has) abode. However, since this latter form is now used for the noun (an abode), the verb seems to be converting to a regular verb: abide, abided, (has) abided. This trend should continue if this seldom used verb survives at all.
In Play: The original sense of today’s lovely word has pretty much been replaced by the simpler verb (to) live, but it holds its ground for those unafraid of touching up their conversations with a bit of poetry now and again: “How Lester can abide in such a hovel as he inhabits is beyond explication.” I still like to hear the noun from the old past participle when in such a poetic mood: “Postlewaith retired from cricket in 2002 and now occupies a small but cozy abode tucked into a garden of his own making just outside Stikiwick.”
Word History: Today’s Good Word is a rarity, indeed: a genuine unborrowed English word. It came to us from the Old English verb abidan, comprising a-, an intensifier prefix + bidan “to remain”. The same root that came through the Germanic languages to English as bidan emerged in Latin as fidere “to trust, confide” and fidus “faithful (remaining unchanged)”. Words with the Latin root were borrowed en masse by English in words like fiancé, affidavit, fiduciary, and confide.
John Teaches Us
Father Jerome shares that in John 15: 1-8, the word ‘abide’ is used 8 times…seems to be important…a concept to be meditated and prayed on, for sure. “Abide in me as I abide in you.” This afternoon, I will be attending a memorial for a young man who, on my birthday, lost his life. I will honour his life by residing in his memory and remaining in the boat of God’s love. I will continually lift up his family and friends. Peace be with you…beautiful boy…treasured son…fun-loving brother…intelligent and mindful friend.
I Enter Into the Garden
The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert
I just watched one of a television series, “Spirit of the Art” (2006) and am reminded just how much I enjoy the work of artist, John Hartman. Again, I think of my journey tucked in against the shores of Georgian Bay this summer and as I look at his canvases, John Hartman’s work reaches into my heart.
It’s really impossible to describe the painterly surfaces of his images, but suffice it to say that they are lush, with both smooth quiet places interspersed with yummy thick applications. His marks are varied and in most pieces, it is possible to find depictions of figures, drawn loosely and in contrasted colour, figures that in themselves, convey a narrative. For the most part, the viewer has the feeling of floating above a surreal landscape of both warm and cool colour, water and sky elements. I treasure my hardcover book Big North, the Paintings of John Hartman, …always will! The following video can be found on John Hartman’s website listed under Projects: Columbia River.