Natural Friends

Work has been more than a little intense lately – a good thing, of course – but the rare free moments are spent with friends or scribbling at the studio or, as spring springs and the weather gets nice, seeking to carve out wee moments that allow a few breaths of connection with nature.
In the mornings, if I hover at home for long enough, I can hear the coo of the turtle doves – maybe my most favourite sound ever – their gentle melancholy coos so delicious I just can’t rush myself out to the bus and begin the descent into the city, moving through the increasing urbanization into downtown, the sea of condo-building cranes and growing gridlock, to sit perched alone in a room with a computer.
If I opt to bike or walk a ways before hitching up with some form of public transit, there’s the kind of long short cut through the park.
And well, look who’s here – the rough croaks from the ponds and puddles all along the flooded walkway freeze time and I squat to take a closer look. Who cares if I’m late? I mean really – let’s talk priorities. There is a rarely seen friend here, the moment suddently so exquisite, it’s impossible to rush.

All the times with frogs come back to me – the streams filled with tadpoles when we were kids, the rims of ponds and lakes, long slippery legs swimming amongst the lilypads…

One of the jobs that’s had me busy is with one of my most beloved friends, Nicky – making a film of the play she did – a kind of hybrid of documentary meets play on film. Oh, her breathtaking performance – gives me goosebumps still after so many viewings. But the lines also follow me through the city, their poetry –

Love is love, and hard enough to find.

Oh indeed. It comes how it comes.
So when the cat, the center of our little home universe, gets diagnosed with something that will cost an extra $60 / month in medication for the rest of her life and griping about it to Nicky in the afternoon at her kitchen table she shrugs in a way to suggest maybe it’s time to rethink…
Oh but no.

Love is love, and hard enough to find.

Heading home at the end of the day, I’ve a bit of a long, elaborate route involving 3 buses, all to be able to watch the evening skies and shifting neighbourhoods and avoid the bad air and dank dark underground of the subways.
The streetcars on Queen have been replaced with buses and by about Carlaw at 8:30 or 9 on a Friday, heading east from the studio after work it occurs to me, Hey, I wonder if I should text Tom & Bea…? Cause they live somewhere along the route here in the east end and it’s Friday…
Tom & Bea arrived in my life in the strangest way – when my husband arrived from Cuba, the 2nd day he was in the country we went down to Harbourfront to catch a free concert with Femi Kuti.
Like, just soak that in for a moment – a free concert with Femi Kuti –

Sometimes Canada just rocks.
Anyways there we were, milling around in the crowds in the beer tent, my husband fresh off the plane from Cuba, and a woman stops and says to him: Hey! I know you!
That was Bea. With her husband Tom. They’d been tourists in Cuba, and well, whadyaknow, small world.
Right away there was something so familiar about them – Tom lanky with a sideways smile and a glass of beer, Bea vibrant and beautiful and laughing and always moving – there was almost a kind of deja vu, like I KNOW these people.
Several years and a divorce later here I am on the Queen St bus wondering if I should drop Tom & Bea a line.
Even just saying their names makes me happy, makes me think of the kids books, Ant & Bee –

But no, no, it’s late already, too late to be starting evening plans.
Until the bus passes the patio of that Cottage joint on the south side just after Leslie, and I glance over and could swear that’s Tom stretching to make a point to the fellow beside him at a table right there in the middle in the thick of things.
Without thinking, I scramble to jump off the bus.
What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe it’s not them?
I can always catch the next bus.
Totally worth the risk…

Love is love and hard enough to find.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Friend

Call of The Fox

She turned to me, her blue eyes faintly distant, mysterious and said:
I had a dream of a fox.
But when I asked the fox what he wanted, he said:

I am here for Kat.
I have a message for Kat.

We were sitting at the breakfast table, the three of us.
A few days together and we’d taken up the habit of sharing dreams while we figured out coffee and food, it feeling a natural, rich way to begin the day.
But this was different – this was A Message.
And the thing was – I hadn’t even told them the story about the fox.

car in barrie

There’d been too much going on – there was that crazy night in Barrie with the lousy car, being saved by our angel Hedy, then appeasing the Goddesses of crossroads out by the car rental joint on the highway and the drive to our place, and days with the urgency to get outside, get hot and get in the water and swim, have a real summer, make great food, drink wine and sit in the dark on the porch looking at stars and watching the bats dive for bugs.

trees blur
So I hadn’t told them the story of the fox.
I mean I’d told them about the place I’d been the weekend before – about the little cabins in the woods, the amazing locally-sourced food, the moon rising over the lake, and singing in the dark of the sauna and diving in the cold night lake, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, camp songs and show songs and snippets of Tragically Hip songs, all of us trying to remember the words cause it was the night of their final concert and all of Canada was said to be tuning in.

lake wide

Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, your word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time

The people were wonderful and strange: the core co-facilitators of the shamanic circle, a bunch of us newbies from various Ontario towns, and a young, fascinating First Nations fellow who, despite his youth, brought what felt like lifetimes of ceremonial experience.
It was the Saturday morning when I overheard him talking to my cabin-mate about a fox. Apparently on her drive up she’d gotten lost and ended up wandering on some back road where she saw a dead fox. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she stopped the car and gathered up the fox and brought it with her.
“I mean I don’t make a habit of picking up roadkill”, she said, still mystified.
That afternoon, the First Nations fellow led us in a ceremony to reactivate a labyrinth on the land, using a massive quartz crystal, tobacco leaves, water from lake Atitlan, and fur from the tip of the dead fox’s tail.
Most of the group circled into the center of the labyrinth, but 4 of us stood menhir-like in the 4 directions.
I stood in the West, my eyes closed while we sang as they danced their way to the middle point of the labyrinth to plant tobacco, quartz, water and fox. As I stood, I felt, saw, experienced the entire event as a spinning, galactic vortex of energy churning up and out into the sky – it felt so powerful, so forceful, I felt I might fall over.

vortex fern

The weekend was full of these kind of Experiences – this one with the fox’s tail at the labyrinth particularly intense.
But I hadn’t told my friends all these particulars before that morning at the breakfast table, before my blue-eyed friend said:
“I dreamt of a fox and he said he’d come for you”.
It all seemed too personal in a way.
Or maybe it was that such a powerful internal experience will never really translate into words, words will always seem dry and inadequate.
Or maybe I thought even to talk about it would dissipate the power in some way, cause it’ll all just sound hokey.
But as the impact of the whole thing began to sink in – that a fox had come to her in a dream to say: “I have a message for Kat” – the three of us looked at each other and wondered…
What message?
What did the fox want?
Why like this?
Why not just come to me directly?

fox drawing bluish

While I can’t speak for the fox, while I wonder if there was more to the message I should be able to fathom somehow, I’ve begun to think that the simplicity of his apparition to her was a message in itself.
It was a way to really REALLY get my attention.
Because it would be so easy for me to say to myself, “Oh, the things I felt that weekend were just my imagination”.
Or, “This whole idea of spirits is all very well, but…”
Repeatedly I’ve heard various teachers on my path say they’d spent months, even years on the path of shamanism, of ceremony and journeying and so on, but STILL they doubted this whole business of “spirits”…
Until something happens that hits them over the head and makes it all so very plain.

Looking back

I was in Ottawa visiting friends from back in the day, back in Montreal, and as if out of some random pocket of a time warp, my friend pulled out some tiny forgotten paintings I’d done on tiles – tiny still lives of the charming funky place we lived in together so many years ago…

bowl and hyacinth

And my gosh, it was a revelation to me – most of all, that I had more or less managed with, more or less made my way around oil paints a couple of decades ago.
I’ve been struggling with oil paints the last few months – torn between the more recent experience of a fast drying acrylic paint, the possibility of fast endless layers, and the faint memory of a rich buttery wet wet paint I was able to negotiate to some degree some decades ago…

kitchen telephone

Now, trapped in work deadlines, I am fetishizing the time ahead in the studio…how glorious it is sure to be with this new-found half-remembered confidence…

goose and duck

Happy happy summer all…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Looking Up

The Great Curve

Sometimes the world has a load of questions
Seems like the world knows nothing at all
The world is near but it’s out of reach
Some people touch it…but they can’t hold on.

peony burst

She is moving to describe the world
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)
She has messages for everyone
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)
She is moving by remote control
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)
Hands that move her are invisible
(Night must fall, darker, darker)
(She has got to move the world, to move the world, to move the world)

peony busy abstract exp1

The world has a way of looking at people
Sometimes we feel that the world is wrong
She loves the world, and all the people in it
She shakes ’em up when she start to walk

peony - points and folds exp1

The world moves on a woman’s hips
The world moves and it swivels and bops
The world moves on a woman’s hips
The world moves and it bounces and hops

peony deep dive exp1

Weekly Photo Challenge – Curve

Out of Time

Today a man unwound his long arm from somewhere behind his body and stretched his hand towards me, saying, “I have to warn you, I’m a transgendered person and my name is Eve”.
In his hand was an apple.
***
Yesterday a man standing beside me gently tugged my hair, calling me “cute”, “beautiful”, teasing and playing with his words, saying, “if you show me yours, I’ll show you mine”.
I shook his hand and bid him adieu.
***
A few weeks ago I met a man. He came announced, in a way – the friend of a friend and an elaborate story about how she hadn’t heard from him for 20 years, but he’d heard somehow through the grapevine about how she was going through a very very tough time.
He’d made the trip on horseback from his farm to the local town where there was a phone he could use to make the international call to her, the call to say, “I heard… and I am so very sorry”.
The way she tells the story, they were chatting away after so many years, catching up on many fronts, and there was a strange shuffling whinny sound that startled the conversation, making her ask, “What’s that?”, and he answered, “Oh, that’s the horse!”, as if he was of course still mounted on a horse there by some outdoor phone in a tiny little town in the mountains.
She’d told me the story, and we’d chuckled away together at the absurdity of such a thing in 2015.

Some weeks later at an opening at her gallery in Montreal where I am attending with a few pieces in the show – a fun, relaxed affair, with enough friends and new encounters to make it all feel just right, and at the end of the afternoon, milling around, why there is Harry – brilliant, hilarious Harry who I’ve adored since I was a wee little 20-year-old bohemian lost anglo soul in Montreal, and he’d always be an essential figure in the mix for all kinds of events and openings and dinners and all of that back in the day.

At some point he’d started dating my friend who has the gallery and this was in fact how I met her. I knew him, he met and fell in love with her, they became an item, and we began to go out to things the 3 of us, and well… I was smitten with her – a tiny, exquisitely beautiful Latina, ferocious, talented, sexy as all hell, brilliant.
In Harry’s car, coming back from a Buffy Sainte-Marie concert where the Neville Brothers had also featured, she sat backwards in the front seat, facing me – her perfect Inca-princess face raving about the amazing beauty and resilience of Buffy’s spirit. Harry drove and laughed and agreed and we all rode the wave of the moon, the music, whatever drugs we were on at the time. I was in love with her, hands down.

Oh so many decades later, and children and jobs and relationships and different cities and we all see each other less and less, except now, this moment, a tragedy has brought us all together, older, broken-hearted, perhaps more forgiving than we ever were.
We end up going out afterwards – Harry and my friend and me and the guy who rides a horse to get to a phone who has come into town on an overnight bus in a gesture of support.
Nobody has any money. We eat the bare minimum and go back to my friend’s place to drink plonk.

In the deep dark of a Montreal balcony at night things start to get intense in ways I miss, ways I long for – arguments about art and politics and love and aesthetics and priorities in life.
There’s a point where it becomes clear that my friend and Harry – ex-lovers who haven’t seen each other for many many years – are hashing out old stuff they need to work out between them alone. I head inside from the balcony – inside to a couch where it looks like I’m going to spend the night.
Guy Who Rides Horses Through Mountains comes in as well and says he’d like to show me something – photos of his life on his farm in the mountains, and the horses and dogs and whatnot.
Genius, I think, as in fact, I’m curious about this fellow who supposedly lives so far off the grid even access to a phone call takes 4 hours by horse. Yes please, let’s see what this looks like.

He has a little point and shoot camera. He apologizes that the photos may cover many years and many situations. But there are many magical moments in his photos – a series of strange fauna atop the mountains; the trusting happy bellies of his dogs, giving it up for a stroke of the belly; the work of local artists, painters and the like; the horses and also donkeys, whose step is apparently more sure through the narrow mountain paths; a strangely compelling series of metal fence grids that make me remember a dream that slips away before I can grasp it fully…
It is an awkwardly intimate moment there on the couch – two strangers sharing a moment… And we each pull away, diving into sleep.
In the morning I’m up early, packing my bags, heading north with other friends.
I give Guy Who Rides Horses my business card, as he and I will both be in Toronto by next weekend, so we could conceivably meet again there – a beer in Kensington Market, a drop-in to the show I’m doing on the weekend.
But I know already, even as I suggest it, that none of it will ever happen…

On and Off the Grid

Although we’d signed the lease early Tuesday morning, we couldn’t move in ’til Friday night – it was that kind of week, has been that kind of month.
We packed the car, dumped our stuff, breathed in and looked around and vowed to come back soon as we could.
Can you see our space, up there in the bright light on the third floor?IMG_20150918_203402-01-01Tuesday had been the final preparation of the large colour images for the dress rehearsal that night and then show opening Wednesday. Printing and mounting this combination of old photo resuscitation and photoshop art that I started to really love doing – Photoshop is growing on me.
Can you see those strange women, collaged and cloaked there in their layers of colours and textures and doodads?20150919_195216_HDR-01Wednesday was troubles hanging the dang pieces on the brick walls and printing black & white pictures for the charity show on Thursday.
Thursday was cutting the black and white prints and wrangling the little pieces of paper into the metal-grid-frame thingy I’d found that seemed like the perfect old-fashioned new-fangled gizmo for the subject.
Can you see all the different images, tucked under, beneath, and behind each other?imageFriday was packing, cleaning, preparation for Saturday’s art fair, setting up a new STORE page on this site, and then by evening the dashed move into the new studio.
Then running late, Saturday morning, the damn grid walls that have haunted my summer at art fairs here and there – the absolute necessity of them, the awkward unwieldy height of them, whether they have enough space between the rows to actually hang the resin pieces on them.
Everyone’s fascinated by the resin – they love hearing about the process – the blowtorches, the drying time, the risk of dust and bubbles, the sanding afterwards.
Can you see the grid walls, there sustaining everything, underneath all the shiny, crooked art?wpid-wp-1442869447858.jpegThen finally Sunday, at long last I am on my bike and off in the direction of the new studio.
It is a gorgeous, sunny day, blue blue skies stretching everywhere as I pass kites and kids on the beach, along unknown bike trails at the bottom of the city, and onto long stretches of path beside abandoned train tracks.
It’s the old grid of the city, the old infrastructure, the remnants of how things used to run down here.wpid-wp-1442869985683.jpeg

The whole way there, in amongst the trees, the paths, along the beach and finally even along the roads, the train tracks, the crumbling highways, there is movement. Monarch butterflies flit everywhere. Every few feet is another flutter of wings, recklessly spiralling up up up into the sky.
Can you see this one, tiny in the blue, making his way up and over the grid supports of the motorway?wpid-wp-1442869994939.jpegMigration season. Everywhere they’re finding their way to the lakefront to launch themselves on their insane, remarkable, magical journey down to the mountains of Mexico.
The fragility. The resilience.
I push on.
Bridges crisscross the opaque brown river, and it feels like the stinking bowels, the underbelly of the city.
Men sit amongst the bushes with fishing lines outstretched into the filthy water. Very “off the grid” living.wpid-wp-1442869455143.jpegFinally I am IN the new studio, full of the sights of the ride here.
The sun pours in the windows.
I have the whole space to myself for now.wpid-20150920_142512_hdr-01.jpegWeekly Photo Challenge – Grid

Change in motion

vic park bridge sunriseLately I’ve been thinking a lot about change.

It’s something I think about even when I’m out messin around with my camera – I have a new camera, it’s a delight, but I’m still learning all of it’s functions, all the little buttons and buried menus and options, all that fancy digital stuff.

So it’s a change.

mist on pondAnd I’ll be out trying something old or trying something new, and it doesn’t always work out, but it makes me think. And one of the things I think is about is that strange human thing where we resist change, even when it’s for the good, how we tend to always seek the familiar, the known, and want to stay there, because we don’t know what it’s gonna be like on the other side, even if we know we want to need to change, want to need to go in a new direction to a new place.

For example, say you want to lose 30 lbs, and so you know you need to eat less and exercise more, but in a kind of frenzied fit of self-sabotage, you start to eat more and move your body even less, as if some part of you is digging in its heels like a toddler saying, NO. No way. Not doing that.

And you get stuck in this tense place of resistance.

I’ve been feeling this lately, a kind of vague angst that I suspect may actually be a good sign, that I’m on the verge of some kind of movement, some shift. Because I’ve been looking for, pushing for changes that need to happen in my life, and it isn’t comfortable, what I’m feeling these days, it feels like pressure –

InteractiveForceField

Resistance is a natural biological function that shows up when our status quo is threatened.
Change affects us. As we begin to do things differently, we ourselves change. We can’t help but become different people as the activities that we participate in, the habits that pervade our lives shape us, re-shape us.
Clearly we all have fears…that keep our Current Ways of Being Intact.
And: even though we want to be living differently, we secretly hope that WE won’t have to change to get there.
We all have our own ways of preventing the death of a self: who we take ourselves to be. Right here. Now.
~ Joanne Hunt

bird in bullrushesIn the park, early in the morning, I was thinking about this. There was a bird in the stalks of the bullrushes. I wanted to get a picture of him. In my head was a photo I took with my old camera – if only I could do something kinda like that but with this camera with more pixels and just the right light in the bullrushes, then for sure it’d be the bomb…
bird hanging on w colorBut birds in motion are always a challenge, and at the same time I was trying to figure out the back button manual focus gizmo on the camera, and it only seemed to activate when you moved the focus ring, and would slip back out to autofocus if you lifted your thumb from it, and meanwhile the bird was moving around between the stalks and I kept losing track of him. Tricky stuff. I may have cursed. I hated and loved the new camera. And I was almost about to get the whole thing coming together when the bird flew away.bird leaving rushes newAfter standing sadly for a moment, waiting in vain for the bird to come back, I realized of course it was okay. What was really happening in that moment was about Practice. To change means to anticipate the resistance, and to lean into the resistance is to practice. Learning the new camera is practice, in the same way learning a new way of being is not a one shot overnight thing, it happens within practice.

Expect the resistance. Anticipate the resistance.

And practice.
sun in tree
Weekly Photo Challenge – Motion