Is it grouse that storm up from the underbrush
and stop your heart a moment?
I wrote this for a young friend who had something pretty awful happen to her. She’s a gifted artist, before trauma and after.
I did some performing as a kid. I played piano, clarinet in school band, sang in choirs. I performed in dance recitals; gymnastics one year, jazz dance the next and then Highland dance. Every year I gave speeches at school.
In speech arts I always won at the classroom level, often the division level and a couple of times for our school. I don’t know why it had to be a competition but it was and I did my best. I wrote the speeches with a lot of help from my mom and dad. She worked part-time as a teacher and knew what they looked for, as well as speaking to groups of kids, teachers and parents all the time.
After my dad died I didn’t want to perform. He had a motorcycle accident and died 5 days later from the injuries. It was sudden but the crisis went on for a long, long time. Ties that bind us to the earth fray, snap, blow in the wind.
My dad was a powerful, provoking and inspiring public speaker. As a United Church minister he liked to preach sermons. As a senior public servant he liked to give speeches. He worked really hard on them and he coached and helped me practice my own on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, just us, in the dining room by the piano.
The year he died I didn’t write a speech. Instead, I memorized a poem, not too long, about a sailor. It was like a jig or a sea shanty. Anyway I won at the classroom level. I was too good at it by then, even without practicing. I found myself performing, a grade 7 girl, in front of a few hundred kids, the grade 7’s and a very tough group of grade 8’s. They were a sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll crowd.
I got started, and through the first verse. Then, on the second verse I stopped. The words were gone. My memory was white, like old bone.
I stood there for a long minute. And then another one, while the giggles started in the audience. My friend Jeanine from our street was in grade 8. I found her with my eyes and she wasn’t giggling. I heard a voice, inner or maybe from backstage, telling me to start again.
I did and got through it. And that was all. It was over.
After that I didn’t want to perform for a long time at least not as a solo artist. I played in the band in highschool, 2nd clarinet, in the back of the crowd. I loved drama class but didn’t do school plays. It’s still something I feel very unsure about, drawn to, sometimes with longing, but mostly I hear a NO, not for me.
Except. I’m noticing there’s more exceptions as I get older. Some things that felt like performing 20 years ago, like leading a workshop, just feels like sharing with friends now. Or playing at being a rock star, like at ladies rock camp. It can take a while for nerves to heal up I guess.
Thomas King on not being raised within the Cherokee Nation, from The essential, inconvenient book for all Canadians, an interview by Taiaike Alfred. (An interview with Prof. Alfred from the CBC’s wonderful 8th Fire.)
I just carry myself and the culture and everything else that I have been able to pull together around with me like a turtle does.
A brief note to my myself that I want to read Thomas King’s latest and am looking forward to Taiaike Alfred’s in-progress memoir on Mohawk ironworkers.
The quote stirred up an image of my long ago turtle island dream, the one where I stood on a white sand, Caribean blue beach and watched the horizon swim toward me, a turtle the size of a continent. I wonder if I was a little turtle in the dream, ready to jump on with my culture and everything else I was able to pull together.
Thanks Tianyake for sharing the photo.
It’s been a doozy of a month for many I love. We met Jacinda and Leon and their baby Maddy when Harry was a baby. We live close, we celebrate our milestones and holidays together. Maddy slept over the night her sister Phoebe was born and we went to meet her together, just a few hours after she arrived.
We live far away from our families and that’s only possible with friends like these. They bring the joy. And endless practical help.
A fire broke out at their house, started in the dryer. Jacinda was sound asleep but woke up, feeling hot. She looked out the window to flames and screamed “FIRE!”
Maddy flew down from upstairs, Jake and Leon grabbed the girls, whatever coats they could from the front door and escaped to the street. They watched as flames engulfed their home and all their belongings.
Fire trucks arrived, blocking their car, and so they ran up the street to us. As we would have done.
We got through the first few days, alternately giddy with relief and shell-shocked. Offers of help came from near and far and most of our activity, once our school community and their extended family met their immediate needs, was answering the phone and emails of all those who love them.
One of Jacinda’s hand-crafted Soul Sisters on a bed or rosehips, harvested last fall from their wild and lovely garden
The next wave of support rolled in. Tawny, one of the many fabulous souls they’ve introduced me to over the last 9 years, set up a website with a list of their needs to get re-established. It’s a wiki, a website that we can all edit. So we can add in what we can share and they can keep track of the needs that are being met. It takes a lot of help to start again.
Here it is: http://oldales.wikispaces.com/
p.s. The title of this post is borrowed from Jane Rule’s great novel: After the Fire
I hope you cross paths with it someday.
I saw a swarm of mosquitoes hovering today
flying in drunk tired circles
stupid in the late season
There’s breeding ground a-plenty:
garbage can lids under pots of earth,
overflowing with rain water
mini ponds in low, sodden footprints
but I tracked them to a crack in the lid of 5 gallon plastic juice bucket
Inside a stinking brew of weeds
water rich green, primordial soup
I remember now: a splash of olive oil on top of the weed tea prevents this
Tip it over, wave goodbye, no tears at the
mosquito graveyard (where the garlic grew)
There’s death in the garden. I’m always murdering something when I’m out there. Slugs get it the worst. Right through their soft bellies with a sharp stick. I don’t show much mercy to aphids and their nasty leaf-sucking ways either.
However, it’s all hand to hand combat and I don’t focus. I’m opportunistic and lazy. I’m picking greens for dinner or throwing a bit of mulch around, thinking peaceful garden thoughts (or anxious thoughts about money or bored considerations of what to make for dinner) and then GWAH HA HA…!
What I need are more predators. Garden snakes eat slugs. They’d be more consistently motivated. But it’d take some doing to get a habitat corridor going in this neighbourhood that would support a snake population. A snake learning party? Invites all done up with skull and cross-bones with a big X through the slug? T-shirt tie-in?
Gardening, from a permaculture perspective anyway, gets you thinking about sex and death pretty much all the time. A permaculture garden provides the setting for a frenzy of fucking, birthing, eating and dying. (I liked when farmer, story-teller Michael Ableman said last year at his talk in North Van that we we are missing the boat trying to interest people in sustainable farming by talking about health and abundance etc: it’s SEX, SEX, SEX all the time people. But then again, you start with sex, you get to death and in that little human conundrum there lies the story of how we got to the hyper-controlled rows of veggies jacked up on fertilizers.)
I spent yesterday’s late afternoon out there in the end of September sun; warm enough for bare skin, humming the same song over and over, like an am transistor radio in the 70’s
Do you realize
that everyone you know
someday will die
and instead of saying all of your goodbyes
let them know you realize that life goes fast its hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning around
The Flaming Lips know what’s up. They share it generously with balloons and confetti and smoke and LOUD, BEAUTIFUL noise. I loved hearing the new Embryonic songs live and loved, loved that Steph was there with me. We’ve been listening to new music together since we met in grade 9 but its been a million years since we’ve been able to go to a gig together.
It was perfect- well a drink or two would have made for more unrestrained dancing but as Wayne points out there’s trade-offs to the Malkin Bowl. You get to rock out in a forest cathedral but they kick you out at 10 and don’t serve booze. Isn’t that just like real life.
Thank-you Flaming Lips for another magic show in our forest, in the heart of Vancouver. ’til we meet again, in the meantime, I discovered you’re all on twitter…
I am pulled into my back. Nubs of wings want to sprout.
It fucking hurts to grow wings out of this calcified chest cage.
Pushing, through flesh, wounded thin at the surface. Sap oozes, trickles down and pools, a little ocean, a salty bath for all the micro-organisms living in the small of my back.
The body absorbs.
The sea evaporates and is renewed,
one inch less.
Millions live, millions die. This goes on for a long time.
The salt tang, the liquid pooling, the body absorbing,
water sliding, sap oozing, forming eddies.
Taste snaps me back: this is a spiral pulling in on itself.
Something vital is being drained while I lie, face down in this cool, sunlit room. Rest does not follow this waiting.
There is a depth,
and a wide open sky,
a golden field stretching to horizons.
I need to walk it. On and on, through the day, sipping water, warmer than my breath, little laps to make it last.
Ahhhh, another blast in the middle of my mouth, stretching me thin into a wisp of cloud.
Vapour calls to vapour, clouds coalesce, densify
and rain over me,
my naked body, lying flat on a field of rape yellow, blue flax in my mind’s eye,
tongue out, waiting to receive.
This is a joint production of Harry and I, photos chosen by Harry. He also had final authority on the text.
We start the day at a cafe where Harry drinks his hot chocolate, usually from a bottle but sometimes in a glass. He is now a confirmed cacaolat maniac. Grammie and mom prefer cafe con leche.
We were very excited to see some of Gaudi’s buildings and designs in person after pouring over a Gaudi book that Brian (Harry’s dad) brought back from his trip to Barcelona last year. Gaudi was inspired by nature. He observed the curves, waves and arches that we see in trees, shells and bones.
This was on the roof of Casa Milà, also known as “La Pedrera” which means the quarry in Catalan. Catalan is the first language in Barcelona but everyone speaks Spanish too and many have a bit of English.
Harry ran these stairs fast as lightning to the bottom.