Out Back, the Sun is Out

Slow down, stand in the sun: storm’s on the way.

Here's The Thing...

I’m writing this from my phone, standing outside in my backyard. The sun is out, I am barefoot and in shorts. Currently my phone is playing the new daft punk single and a thunderstorm is on its way. That storm however means nothing to me at this moment. There will be plenty of storms in my life, some worse then others. Some will be mundane, some will be quite the opposite. However right now the heat and sun are to good to be ruined by a future unknown. I don’t want to be inside, I have no interest in missing out on this. Don’t let some storm in the distance ruin a sunny day. Go outside, there’s not a whole lot on this world that can’t wait 5 minutes.

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Performing

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.

Dream from Turtle Island

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.

海龟岛 Turtle Islands
Thanks Tianyake for sharing the photo.

House for rent, Hastings-Sunrise

We’re renting our home near Nanimo and Hastings, on the bike route. Both the upstairs and downstairs suites are available for October 1, 2012. UPDATE Sept. 7. The downstairs suite is rented but the upstairs is available.

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It’s a quiet neighbourhood (no traffic noise.)
Safe for kids.
Kind, responsible neighbours all around.
Local elementary school is Garibaldi Annex with an intimate, caring K-4 program and an innovative homelearning program.
Walk the back lane’s and see how generations of families have grown food in the city.
Fabulous local food shopping and restaurants along Hastings St.

About the house:
1942
New drainage in 2006.
New roof in 2005.
Heating and insulation upgrade complete by October 1st, 2012.

Garden

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Full of perennial food (raspberries, currants, gooseberries etc) asparagus, rhubarb herbs, flowers and art/craft materials. Care of garden will be negotiated between us as landlords and residents of both suites depending on interest level. There’s lots of room for annual vegetable gardens.

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About the suites:

Upstairs: $1450 plus 60% utilities
900 ft2
2 bedrooms
Kitchen and private back deck face south over the backyard. Front yard patio.
Freshly painted this summer.
Gas Fireplace in living room
Storage closet on main floor plus overflow in downstairs laundry room.
Piano!

Downstairs $1050 plus 40% utilities
850 ft2
2 bedrooms
New floor in living room.
Note: ceilings are 8 ft in living areas but shower in bathroom is 6.5 ft.
Private patio onto the back garden
Big closets in both bedrooms plus unheated 35ft2 storage room (good for root cellar!)

Interested? Call 604-707-0337 and ask for Keira.

After the fire

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.

Soul Sister on a bed of rose hips 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/

Thank-you.

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.

Primordial soup, a thank-you to the Flaming Lips

Photo by strangejourney

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?

Photo by photogirl7.1

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…

photo by draggin

photo by draggin

Growing Traditions: Sharing gardening knowledge across generations

The elders in our community have abundant knowledge of gardening practices. My grandparents grew up on farms on the Prairies during the Depression. Growing food and composting were facts of life. But as this generation of gardeners retires to smaller homes, their knowledge is leaving us.

At the same time, so many people are getting excited about growing their own food. Maybe it’s the recession, or maybe it’s just time: new parents want to teach their children how to garden, and flower gardeners are starting to cultivate food as well.

This year, the Sustainable Living Arts School, in consultation with the Edible Garden Project, is  working on a small garden mentorship program funded by North Shore Health. The Growing Traditions project is a small pilot program designed to help us learn how elders and new food gardeners can share their knowledge. We would like to learn how garden mentorships work, experiment with how learning parties can support these relationships…and get families growing food!

A big thanks to Stacey Friedman and all the participants of Intergenerational Landed Learning at UBC Farm who welcomed us to join them for a day of Landed Learning fun at the farm. We also took the opportunity to crash in on  Diane Johnson, who managed UBC’s Trimentoring Program through its start-up years.  They both asked great questions, created a context where we could ask what we needed and well, mentored us for a day.

The project is looking for experienced gardeners on the North Shore who would like to mentor newer gardeners. We’re also looking for families to participate – newer gardeners who would both contribute to and benefit from a community connection with an elder gardener. The mentorship would occur from June until the end of September.  At the end  families and elders will share their knowledge with their neighbors and friends by hosting a learning party.

Do you know anyone who would like to do something like this? Interested participants or those with any questions are welcome to contact Tricia at 604-842-3251 (please leave a message) or email growingtraditions(at)slas.ca.