It’s Been This Kind of Day

I have to thank my new birder-friend, Bob, for his share of the story of Mrs. Shoveler on the Bird’s Calgary site, today.

I began writing on-line in 2005. In writing to an ‘imagined’ public, I discovered a public voice.  I learned to write about events that took place in my rather simple life in a way that could be explored and shared with any reader. There was a line that I refused to cross, a line that delved into the realm of the very personal.  I’ve enjoyed learning to narrate my life, while reigning in my voice to a degree.  In my head, I always remarked, “Only write what you feel anyone could read.”  I suppose the closest I ever came to crossing that line was at the loss of my mother.

I was in my father’s office, at the computer desk, the summer of her passing.  It was so bloody humid.  Dad tried to keep me from opening the windows because we had to have air conditioning or we were going to melt!  Whenever I would sit to write at the computer, I would secretly slide the window open to the right of me…in the night time, there was such stillness…not a breeze.  I remember writing this.

A lot of bloggers get weary of the process of writing after a while, but for some reason, I find the flow of evening-writing,  a wonderfully relaxing practice.  My initial story of Mrs. Shoveler and my effort to retrieve her from a small piece of open water achieved over 400 hits in an hour after publication.  I know.  I know.  I don’t really have a swollen head over this.  It’s not what the on-line crowd would call ‘going viral’, but, I was deeply touched that so many readers care about wildlife enough and in this case, a hen Northern Shoveler, that they would peruse the events that took place in the bitterly cold days of last December.  The follow-up story, involving the re-appearance of this dear bird, sent the numbers soaring yet again.

Well, today, with gratitude to Birds Calgary, more readers have visited and I’ve really enjoyed comments and messages and reactions.  So, readers, thank you for all of that.

This was my day…while Max and I played in snow and I met Abir again, after so long, and I made and enjoyed such a beautiful stew…while every thing was happening in my life, this is what was going on in the hum of the background.

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Where are you Brenda Draney?

It was blustery.  I thought about the slowest way I could possibly drive to the Esker Foundation, located on 9th.  I have attended other events related to the exhibit (film viewing, panel discussion, artist talk) since the opening of Fiction/Non-fiction.  There was no way weather was going to keep me from a painting opportunity where Brenda Draney would be doing some sharing…some wandering…some listening.  Everything I’ve been ‘incubating’ about since Mom’s passing (story, connection, identity, loss), would be a part of the afternoon’s experience…so, I was going to forge through the weather, regardless.

Once I arrived, I chose a seat that faced out toward the street…wide, tall windows stretched before me.  I could see onto the neighbouring roofs and watch the snow blowing.  Above me, the pod that houses the administrative space…a nest-like feature, caused an immediate sense of comfort and coziness.  Meeting Sharon, the artist across from me, led to a very quick and impact-full connection.  I felt happy.

I had dumped a pile of old black and whites into a zip lock bag before leaving home and proceeded to shuffle through them, looking for references. It didn’t take me long.  I won’t go into details…I won’t share the stories that connect me with the images…but, I will say that there was an immediacy.  Topics shared on my visits with Brenda and Sharon yesterday afternoon included, but certainly weren’t limited to; identity, memory, stories, mothers, objects of affection, nostalgia, art, teaching, journals, writing, voice.

At the conclusion of the afternoon, I felt so empowered and so grateful.  Brenda Draney is like an angel who was brought into my circle for the purpose of some reflection…some connection and some healing.  It was the most delicious of afternoons, and certainly a gift to myself.  Thank you, Brenda.

P1140140 P1140146 P1140147Technically speaking, it was a tricky thing to choose to use greys for the entire day…but, this session wasn’t so much about the technical aspects of watercolour (a completely foreign medium), but about meaning. I spoke to Sharon about the curtains that Mom had sewed on her treadle sewing machine, even when we were in military-poverty in those early years living in Ste. Sylvestre, Quebec.

Incubator: Brenda Draney from Latitude 53 on Vimeo.

Brenda Draney, Church 2012

Brenda Draney, Church 2012

Craig Cardiff, You ARE the BOMB!

If a person looks, they can find a Craig Cardiff lyric for anything they are thinking about…anything they are feeling.  He gave me a hug as I was waiting for dinner at the Ironwood the other night…that, after the hand shake, which, with creative people, is usually enough.  He passed me a book to write my thoughts down and then went about doing the same thing at most tables.  I drew a scene…it spilled out of me…and I thought about the full moon that was coming as I drew.

The music was so special.  I most appreciated that I had opportunity to share the music, good food and I nice bottle of Malbec with my cousin, Peter.  Our conversations are always deeply personal and all-encompassing.  We ‘don’t beat about the bush’, as some folk would say. Recently, I’m of the mind that life is too danged short to mess about contemplating whether or not you should or should not share your true feelings.  So, forgive me, if you’ve been the subject or the result of my tirades.  I’m not that great with boundaries these days, at least not where ‘the voice’ is concerned.  I’m speaking more.  I love Craig Cardiff’s music for  that very reason because I think that he’s ‘saying it’.

I like that he signed my cd…and spent time signing it, instead of thinking that the interaction was solely about his signature…instead, with this musician, it’s about the interaction.  I liked that.  I’m posting the song that spoke to me most remarkably, that is, after the When People Go thing…that one speaks to me the most.

Dance Me Outside reminds me of my love for the book The Diviners by Margaret Laurence…the moment in the beginning chapters when Morag’s daughter, Piquette, asks what a buffalo looks like…this, a question posed in the Manitoba landscape where once, myriads of buffalo ranged free.  That exchange was one of the reasons I became a landscape painter in the day…long story.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

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This Indian girl walks out into traffic
The traffic stops then she’s causing havok and baby won’t you
Roll up the windows dial up on the cellphones
Get the cops to get out here
I just want to get home

She says, “Well, do you remember the all buffalo?”
And all the dumb white people say, “Do you mean Jimmy Neil Young Springfield?”
She says, “No”
But Cleveland isn’t the home of Indians
And not even Eskimos it feels like you just don’t want to know

She says; “Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
and oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

This Indian girl
Spins like a toy top
And her hair spreads out like fire and it’s like she just can’t stop
And then the cops come
Donut guard state car
Rolling up along the side
With the fire lanterns burning
The sirens opened wide and they say
“Excuse me little miss I’m afraid its time to take this home”
And they try to get her address
She says, “Sorry I don’t have one
It’s only we and the feeding fields
And look where you are”
And she kicks at the hem of her skirt
And on go the cars

She says; “Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
and oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

This indian girl
Feeling cold and tired
Wouldn’t mind some help then
But the cars go by it’s no wonder why
‘Cause all they want to do is go and get away
“All I wanna do,” she says, “is get away from here”

So she builds a fire
And all through her belly
And through her hair and bones
And to remind her that shes alive she stares at in awe

And she says; “Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
And oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

“Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
And oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

Self by Yann Martel

The movie, The Life of Pi, is coming out soon…at least the television reminds us that it is.  The Life of Pi truly impacted me…its images, syntax and reflection on all that motivates the human spirit.  To journey on a small boat with a young boy endlessly…to contemplate survival…to be blown away by acute realization in the end…the book is powerful, engaging and has a forever-sort-of-impact.

It was for these reasons and more that I picked up the book, Self.  I was thinking that Martel wrote it after the Life of Pi, but nah… it was published in 1993 and this, according to Wikipedia.

Critical reception

Self was Martel’s first novel, and followed the publication in 1993 of The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, his first collection of short stories. The novel, in Martel’s own words, initially “vanished quickly and quietly”,[6] though it was shortlisted for the 21st Chapters/Books In Canada First Novel Award, then Canada’s most valuable first-novel award with a prize of 5,000 Canadian dollars.[7]

More critical attention fell upon the book when Martel’s second novel, The Life of Pi, won the 2002 Man Booker Prize.[8] A reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, noting that Martel himself had called the novel “terrible” and expressed a wish that it “disappear”, agreed that the work suffered from a “serious crisis of identity”, and lacked the power of Life of Pi.[8] The Montreal Mirror went further, calling Self “lame… A pastiche of autobiography and post-modern plot twists, it was haunted by an off-putting tone of smug precociousness.”[9] The Toronto Star reviewer objected to Self‘s protagonist’s “self-satisfied air”, but praised the work for its deft touch and compelling narrative.[10] A writer in The Independent described the book’s handling of gender change as “crude confusion”,[11] while The Hindu described the book as “interesting ideas juxtaposed against not-so-inspiring writing”.[12]

I have struggled with this book and wonder, especially, why Martel’s male character becomes female (sublimates?).  As a female reader, I feel insulted by the supposition of what it means to be ‘female’.  I find myself thinking, “How does he imagine that this is how a female might experience this situation?”  This…unlike Wally Lamb’s book She’s Come Undone…a novel that successfully creates an authentic female character.  I feel as though Martel is trying to create far too many scenarios in a relatively short book…the reader is guarded, confused and left pretty ‘put off’…at least this reader has been.

I won’t be recommending this one although I know that the book is investigating the notion of identity…the self of the self.  I’d be interested in hearing from others who have ‘hung in’ through this book.  Some of the images feel too personal and too descriptive.  I think that the act of reading includes the reader as co-creator.  The reader needs to explore the themes from the place of prior knowledge.  The reader does not wish for the writer to put everything ‘out there’.

I suppose that I’m curious about his recent book, What is Stephen Harper Reading?

 “I know you’re very busy, Mr. Harper. We’re all busy. But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep.” From the author of Life of Pi comes a literary correspondence — recommendations to Canada’s Prime Minister of great short books that will inspire and delight book lovers and book club readers across our nation. Every two weeks since April 16th, 2007, Yann Martel has mailed Stephen Harper a book along with a letter. These insightful, provocative letters detailing what he hopes the Prime Minister may take from the books — by such writers as Jane Austen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Stephen Galloway — are collected here together. The one-sided correspondence (Mr. Harper’s office has only replied once) becomes a meditation on reading and writing and the necessity to allow ourselves to expand stillness in our lives, even if we’re not head of government.”  Quote taken from here.

Hmmm…causes me to think about that feeling every artist must have…whether that be a writer, poet, film writer, thespian, actor, visual artist, musician…when they create that MONSTER of a piece…that EPIC piece that every one will remember and then they are left with that foreboding feeling of what to do next.  I’m wondering how that particular peek moment impacts the rest of the creative journey.

Sound of Collective Consciousness…the World’s Heart…this Santana interview causes me to think again about the creative process.

Blip #2: My Sister

Last summer, I drove east on the #1.  One night, after an epic day’s drive, I pulled into North Bay, Ontario before the sun went down.  OH, I was tired!  I had paid for my room and was unpacking the van when I hear, “KATH!” as a dark van drove by, soon to back up.  There was my sister looking for a hotel for the night…same place…same time.  I will never forget that meeting, for as long as I live.  I love you, Sistah!  Thanks for thinking of me at the South River Coffee Shop!

Blip #1: My Brother

I can’t bring myself to empty special voice mail messages.  Ridiculous! I’ve saved this message since May.  It WAS a happy birthday.  I will be clearing my machine today.

A Bus Along St. Clair: December by Margaret Atwood

It would take more than that to banish me:
this is my kingdom still.
Turn, look up
Through the gritty window: an unexplained
wilderness of wires.

Though they buried me in monuments
of concrete slabs, of cables
though they mounted a pyramid
of cold light over my head
though they said, we will build silver paradise
with a bulldozer

it shows how little they know about vanishing:
I have my ways of getting through.

Right now, the snow is no more familiar to you than it was to me: this is my doing.
The grey air, the roar going on behind it
are no more familiar.

I am the old woman sitting across from you on the bus,
her shoulders drawn up like a shawl;
Out of her eyes come secret hatpins, destroying the walls,
the ceiling

Turn, look down:
there is no city;
this is the center of a forest

Your place is empty.

A Monument