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.

* * *

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

Waiting for …

There has been a lot of topsy-turvy here in our tiny household. Much transition.
The cat has been a bit stressed out at all the activity, Nervous Nellie forever waiting for the worst. It’s become a bit of a sport to tease her about her Chicken Little tendencies, while the humans stumble through Harvey, Irma, and the sabre rattling of North Korea as if everything were hunky dory.
Ah well. Who knows really.
Meanwhile, summer was…

…as summer should be.
Road trips and friends and lakes and chili hot dogs on Sauble Beach and misty river mornings and dragonflies buzzing and the sudden swarms of mosquitos on the Bruce Trail and an impromptu dinner party crammed around the tiny table of an RV.
Through it all the strange part for me was a health issue – I’m not usually a person with health issues, but 2017 has presented health issues as a distinct new concept, so there’s a new sense of the body as something potentially treacherous, fickle and demanding – an ally to be carefully courted – not the effortless ease of yesteryear.
Ah well. So be it.

Then beginning of September my boy moved out – after 23 and a half years, with the hope of a job on the horizon, he packed up his things and went to live with some friends in a hipster part of town.
Ah well. Very very happy for him.

And so with a bit of extra space at home, slowly I’m packing up my studio.
A few things are in progress on the walls, and I go over after work and look at them and feel unsure of what to do, where to begin, when to end.
I sit and look, waiting.
Waiting for some kind of sign, some kind of indication of what’s the next move…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Waiting

 

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

50 happy things (almost)

In fact, this is more like 25 happily grateful thoughts, but apparently I’m very slow, as I spent a lovely hour making my list and was still at only 25 or so, and the exercise was supposed to take 10 minutes… please see below for the full explanation of the challenge, and I recommend the list-making, whether or not you are a blogger. It is a wonderful meditation on all that is good and even glorious in your life.

* * *

I am grateful for gentle rain on this quiet Monday of a solstice
I am grateful for the delicate chirps and warbles of birds in December
I am grateful for yoga in the mornings, the long deep stretching like a cat
I am grateful for flowers, endlessly fascinating colours and shapes

sunflower center askew

I am grateful for my smart sweet boy, snug as a bug sleeping upstairs

IMG_20151215_101212
I am grateful for our tiny home tucked away in a courtyard in a neighbourhood tucked away from the rest of the city – a small hamlet of a home
I am grateful for kind and friendly neighbours around us
I am grateful for the cheap thrill of glittery gold candles from Dollarama, adding light and sparkle to this dark restful day

glitter gold
I am grateful for new friends who have come so quickly to feel like family, like we are all right in the soup together, there for each other
I am grateful for old friends who after so many years and cities apart, show up as such wonderful human beings still and again, as interesting and supportive as ever
I am grateful for blogging friends who pull me into the fray, who make the big wide world of the internet feel like a sweet friendly village (including the wonderful and indefatigable Dawn, who invited me to do this)

pencil crayons
I am grateful for pens and paper, for pencil crayons and cameras, for paints and computers, all the delightful toys I have at my disposal to be creative almost all day every day

IMG_0590
I am grateful for the new studio, amazing precious fun-filled space that waits patiently when work overflows
I am grateful for the amazing job offers coming out of my ears right now, and for finding myself in love with my metier all over again
I am grateful for our new Prime Minister, the Paris Climate Change agreement, and for all the hints of optimism out in the political sphere
I am grateful to live in a country with universal health care

20140307-153439.jpg
I am grateful for 3 nephews and 1 niece full of sweetness and silliness and laughter
I am grateful for a family as interesting as it is kind, as unique as it is supportive
I am grateful for the bus along our street that comes almost every 5 minutes
I am grateful for the library just 2 blocks away, source of all kinds of amazing worlds inside of books
I am grateful for the park down the hill where I can spend hours lost in a world of turtles and ducks and geese and hawks and even the occasional muskrat

single turtle on log
duck in light
I am grateful for travel, each and every time
I am grateful for Netflix, and the huge amount of excellent TV shows that have sprung up, making a cozy evening at home a stimulating option
I am grateful for water – element that I sheepishly love the most – to swim, to soak, to drink, to dabble toes in
I am grateful for sage and sweetgrass smudge to clear the air, heart, and mind

smudge w abalone
I am grateful for coffee
I am grateful for spinach
I am grateful for fish
I am grateful for all the teachers I’ve had, for what feels like a huge resource base of knowledge so close, so accessible, so generous
I am grateful for this moment of quiet on a Monday morning to think about all these wonderful things in my life

* * *

Here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes. Once you start the timer, start your list – the goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

It’s about choosing to look at and appreciate the happy, choosing positive over negative things to focus on. In taking time to reflect on things that made me happy in 2015, I feel grateful. If I express gratitude, I find myself feeling happy. Either way, it’s a win/win. I guarantee, you that you will find yourself feeling good, smiling, feeling grateful and happy if you spend 10 minutes reflecting on positivity.

To join in: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of Tales From the Motherland’s post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

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…

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