Distant spring

Two swans appeared at the lakefront this week, giving the ducks some company. The ducks mainly seemed to have spring on their minds… or at least one fellow did, who kept trying to jump any and all females in his orbit.

Oh to be a bird …

Like most everybody else out there, we are in a state of emergency and movement is limited, but there is no fierce regulation keeping people in their homes (yet), so I still have my little circuit which happily involves not only the grocery store, but also the lakefront.

And it’s interesting to see what continues to move – the tankers that still come in from distant lands to deliver sugar at the Redpath dock –

The construction sites all around us that continue to pound and hum through days and nights –

And there, at the top of those metal structures, the tiny little dot in the middle, just a few feet away from the highway, a bird sings.

Spring continues to approach, indifferent to, regardless of human troubles.

From the balcony the skies are expansive, the weather ever-shifting. We are at the very bottom of the city looking north into it, watching….

Distance – Lens Artists Challenge

New Teach

Truth is, though I continue to add new teachers, I’m never finished with the old ones – just always growing a bigger roster.

* * *

Back in May I went to a workshop with a teacher I’d had my eye on. She’s based in the UK, and there was no fast and easy way I was going to make it to one of her weekend workshops there, so when she announced a workshop in the States, I jumped on the bus heading south with bells on.

The trip was through a part of the States I love – the Mohawk Valley, and the beautiful little historical towns of upstate New York, on into Massachusetts.

There was a rather hilarious moment with a ride-share, where Sharon had agreed to pick me up at the Albany bus station to drive together along highway 2 into rural Massachusetts. She opened her arms to me at the bus station with a big hug, and we clambered happily into her car, where she started with: “So, how do you know Rabbi Jill?”

Well, I knew nothing about Rabbi Jill, and she knew nothing about shamanic teacher Manda Scott, but as we soon found out over the weekend at the conference centre in the woods, there was plenty of overlap and love between the various groups sharing the space.

There are stories I could tell about the weekend itself – about details and insights and the way one weekend in the woods can seem more important than several months on either side of it, but…

… at this point I will focus on the fact that there were so many things about Manda that were very appealing to me – her fierce intelligence, her life as a creative (she’s an author – more known in Britain than over here), the way she had navigated learning shamanic practice and then building her own way with it, the excitement she brought with her about Extinction Rebellion (a much bigger movement in the UK than here), and the seriousness with which she took her role as teacher and guide to more novice travellers.

So when she and her partner, Faith, launched a new venture in December – around the time of the equinox, moving into the new year – I signed up right away, without even really knowing what it was.

Turns out, it’s a series of offerings, and you can follow the podcast for free, or you can sign up for the paid membership version of the whole thing. Aside from the (fascinating, brilliant) podcast (where Rabbi Jill makes an appearance!), there’s an online discussion board, and my favourite part – a series of guided meditations and visualizations connecting with the elements (water, fire, air, earth, and so on).

The project it proposes – of believing in a new world, of imagining a new world, rather than being locked into the narrow vision of modern life as it is currently known – has been an anchor of optimism for me. It was an anchor of optimism even before the mammoth towering shadow of a global pandemic, so I mention it to you, just in case.

Just in case it is of interest to even one someone…

Dream of Death

I am already dead. I am a corpse.

It’s already a fact, and yet, in spite of being dead, I am rushing and scrambling to organize everything – things have to be put in place for my son after I’m gone, there are things I still haven’t taken care of, I cannot go until I’ve done all the things….

And I’m beginning to smell. Bad.

Time has run out.

Was it December when I dreamt this? Maybe even November? Long before the pandemic was upon us. It was deeply disturbing, yet had no obvious outside reference. At the time I wondered – was it psychological? Was “the old me dying”, and was I “moving into a new phase”?

Now I find myself scrambling to pull together all the info to have a will in place for my son just in case, just in case… and it’s as if the dream echoes around me, the dancing calavera mocking, following me as I, already a stinking corpse, rush to get everything organized before I get tripped up by the virus.

* * *

Some traditions have an approach of “canceling dreams” (Toltec teacher, Sergio Magaña), or acting out a bad dream so that the dream is realized in a controlled way while the worst of its implications are avoided (Haudenosaunee / Iroquois).

Glimpsing this spooky dream in my peripheral vision again and again – while practicing pretty strict hand washing – I am pulling out the notebooks on techniques to do these things – the canceling and the acting out – and working on some homemade witchy magic to make it all “just a dream”…

* * *

And you, Dear Reader? Any pandemic dreams following you through your days?

Scrambling home, sheltering in place

Each family, each group of friends suddenly scrambling to be in a particular place, their country, their home.

On facebook I watched over several days as a friend’s beautiful haunting photos of Italian countryside turned to desperation as there are no masks, there are no flights, and the government help line is forever busy.

Photo by: EF

My dad, a snowbird lounging by the pool in Palms Springs, brushed off with insouciance the increasingly frantic pleas from us, his adult children, to come home, while simultaneously trying to convince me that a trip I had planned to the Laurentians in Québec was “too dangerous”.

At my end there were still so few cases in Canada, was still no mandate from government to avoid travel between the provinces, and I knew the visit with trees and birds and snow, devoid of humans except for my Montreal buddy, would be about as safe as you could get…

Back home after traveling the newly-sanitized trains, I returned to a roommate who had joined me in mid-February to be close to her pregnant daughter, due to give birth – a first grandchild. The plan had been a month or two to help the new parents in the early days. She is frail, older, but can still cook and consult and be of comfort.

But as the emergency decrees descended, she too got imploring calls from sisters and the other daughters back in Vancouver – “come home now, while you still can!”

One look at the state of the airports on late night television made her decision for her –

People travelling from all over the world jammed in with no masks, no gloves… the WORST possible scenario. For now she is “sheltering in place”, which is my place.

Since I had been on trains, exposed to travellers, and since I continue to go to the grocery store and my studio, we decided to be cautious. We are maintaining (mostly) 6 feet apart in the home, and wipe down all faucets, door handles, counters, and light switches just in case.

The invisible enemy…

All work that was potentially on the horizon has vanished. No travel, no shoot. No shoot, no edit. But I have the great good fortune of being in an artists’ co-op of sorts, full of community-minded folks, in the great, safe country of Canada where we have this thing called universal health care.

And you, Nose Followers? Any recent travel and scrapes along the way? Are you happily sheltering in place, or stir crazy already? What news of this strange new reality we are living?

Room to write

In the city. Benjamin has moved out. I see him from a distance – we wave.

I’m in the new place, yes, and I have the studio where I paint, yes, but there is also a writing room I have not been to in some time….

It’s a bit of a grody place, kind of like a rundown motel room, no real neighbourhood around, and dodgy things going down in the nearby rooms…

But it is a place to write.

* * *

In waking life, space is not such a problem – heck, you can write just about anywhere (if you can still go anywhere, given the day by day increasing restrictions on movement) but it is more about the time – time to write.

But well, hey. Looks like there’s gonna be a lot of free time ahead!

There’s so many things I’ve been meaning to write about – rambling thoughts in my mind, rough drafts sitting in the draft folder here… Not sure I’m ready to make a big public commitment to a daily practice or anything just yet, but it does seem like an awfully good time to a) be as creative as we can be, and b) enjoy the beauty of widespread connection the internet gives us and not just the obsessive paranoia.

Speaking of which – this was happening in the building across the street yesterday –

Scary dystopian scene, right?

So this is the challenge – to find the focus, to shut out the tremendous corona-noise for a chunk of time each day, and to find the joy that is always there, waiting, in creativity.

And so many people, across the globe, are stepping up, shouting out, in the most amazing ways already. For example, my hugely talented neighbour –

Teiya

And you, Nose Followers? What are you up to in this strangest of times???

Cold ‘hood, warm hearts

There’s a thing that they say about Toronto, that it’s a hotel city – cold, soulless, people from all over the world with nothing in common and no desire to know each other. No naturally occurring culture.

In my new construction zone of a neighbourhood that reputation seems personified in the architecture, the condo towers, glass shoeboxes in the sky, holding lives of tiny isolations.


And yet, and yet… on my way to work last week, I noticed some new ducks in the water.
Usually we have the mallards, currently fattening themselves in the waters by the sugar dock…


But these ducks were different, with white stripes on their heads.
A google search suggests they are long-tailed ducks, who summer and breed up in the arctic and are currently migrating to the eastern U.S. where they winter – just stopping in, a layover on their journey.


I was talking about the ducks with my old friend Sabrina, visiting from Ottawa.
She was in town wanting to see some of the exhibits at the inaugural Toronto Biennale – one of the larger exhibit spaces being just across the street from me, gathered around the theme of Shoreline.

We climbed around on the big wooden structure by Adrian Blackwell resembling the shape of the lakefront I look at every day –


Until I noticed my old friend Andrew across the room, just sitting down at a table with a coffee, and went over, startling him into a hug.

It had been so very long since I’d seen him, so many years had passed that there was a divorce I’d guessed at but didn’t want to believe between two beloved souls, both of them so creative and wonderful in different ways – too different, they’d finally concluded, and off they went in their own directions, a warm beautiful home on a tree-lined street in a friendly neighbourhood torn assunder, hearts broken.

In fact, there was a new book he said coyly, a sly crooked smile of pleasure in accomplishment.


And later in the day, sitting on the Sherbourne bus heading south after a browse in an overflowing Book City on the Danforth, full to the brim with the beginnings of the Christmas season on a Saturday afternoon, I cracked open his latest Ticking Heart and was reminded of how much local flavour he imbues in his books – the corner of Barton and Euclid evoked in the opening paragraph, a corner I know by heart from the years when my boy went to school at Palmerston, and a place I still see on the days I visit my friend Nicky…

The richness of place, I was thinking, even in its younger moments, its birthing moments, even as it is being built, even if it is cold.


The strange melancholy even of a construction site where bunnies can be seen in the early mornings and the Santa Claus parade parks at the end of its run in a moment of fun park absurdity.


Sunday, the final day in a weekend packed with lovely human encounters, was brunch with Sabrina and Louise, another old friend from back in the day in Montreal, in town to visit family.

We stood around the kitchen table in my tiny new home and laid out food and found plates and cutlery in the cupboards and talked about time and failing memory and the decline of bodies and accidents slow to heal the way only women who have known each other for decades can do, talking over top of each other finishing each others sentences, laughing at jokes that have been running between us forever…until a moment where Sabrina – or maybe it is Louise? – is telling a story, making a point, building the narrative towards a natural culmination point, saying:
“… Because in the end, we are all…”  and completing the sentence, Louise and Sabrina both speak at once:
Louise saying: “goddesses”
Sabrina saying: “bags of flesh”
There is a split second pause before we are all bent over, helplessly howling with laughter at the perfection of the opposition, the absurd juxtaposition of such wildly diverging endings to a sentence.
Ahhhhhhh… old friends.

And there you have it – a dispatch from the life of a goddess/bag of flesh in a tiny glass box in a cold and soulless city.

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Lens-Artists Challenge – Cold

Filling the frame

Mornings are very different in our new place.
Here there are no early morning blackbirds, cardinals, or blue jays, no turtle doves, no squirrels…
Here there are gulls and monarch butterflies heading south by the dozens, and the occasional gatherings and murmurations –

Here we have boundless skies over the outstretched cityscape –

Here we are by the lake, colours changing every day, different skies, different temperatures –

And here there is … CONSTRUCTION!

The whole neighbourhood is under construction.
Even just outside our balcony, there is construction – the site itself is due for a building soon, but in the meantime the large lot seems to be a drop-off point / work site for other nascent buildings nearby.

I’ve noticed the gates to the site open before 6 a.m. on weekdays, with workers arriving in their SUV’s, big long trucks backing in, delivering building materials, forklifts unloading materials, headlights lighting everything eerily.
In the background the 72 bus already trundles eastward towards Commissioners and the Gardiner roars quietly, the commuter day already in motion.

This new context has been an interesting place to be as so much more attention has started to shift to the climate change issue.
Every day in the media has more studies, more discussion, more pressure on politicians… it is moving fast.


And to be with this new ultra-urban vista, with the cranes in the sky, the trucks backing in before dawn, the constant motion of the highway,
there is a sense of the powerful relentless motion of our society, forever building, forever moving, forever growing.
The effort it would take to change, to turn it around, to make the giant shifts necessary…
Heck, that is gonna take some willfulness from all of us.

Lens Artist Photo Challenge – Filling the Frame