Every day things

I’ve been trying to start a daily habit – to get out the door first thing every morning and say hello to the lake.

The morning is my favourite time – the light is beautiful, the day just beginning, and there is hardly anyone around except the geese, the gulls, the ducks, and the diving cormorants

The few people who are out are doing inspiring things like yoga, or jogging, or even finishing up that report from a beautiful spot.

All in all, you would think this new habit would be a) easy enough, not overly ambitious, not going from sedentary to marathon in a week kind of thing and b) highly pleasurable – it is, as they suggest, a small enough habit to start with, and it is a blessing on my day every time I do it.

James Clear describes his atomic habits as:

…a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.

…the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.

~ James Clear

I’d started thinking hard about habits a couple of months ago, when, up in the night with insomnia, I did some deep bio reading about Manda Scott, whose workshop I went to last year, and whose fascinating and refreshingly optimistic podcast I’ve been following since back in January when she launched it.

On her About Manda page, written in a unique tense, she describes the period of her life when she wrote a seriously ambitious historical fiction series:

Six years of Boudica dreaming. Throw out the TV. Throw out the sound systems. Light the fire every night and let it teach me. By the end, have lost all touch with consensus reality.

~Manda Scott

The television bit and the fire every night bit I’d heard before, but the sound system??? She says: “recorded music is one of our strongest addictions”.

This is deeply radical. This blows my mind. I’d discovered the enormity of music in my life during one of my current habit experiments, which is to make the studio a wifi free zone. Not having a phone to reach for is the key piece – I have to deliberately leave my phone at home and walk over to the studio without anything that connects to the internet. The idea is that, distraction free, I will spend more time in deep thinking, or at least deep being, if there is nothing to plug into.

And the first thing I discovered was how much I missed playing music.

The phone and Facebook and whatever I can live without for a few hours, even for the day… but no music…??? I am deeply deeply hooked into music as a kind of mood designer.

So, thinking about just how deep one could conceivably go with lifestyle changes (can’t light a fire every night in downtown Toronto, but maybe there are other things…) I’ve tried to change up even the tiniest of habits, to experiment and try new things. You know, just those deeply engrained little things like brushing your teeth with the other hand.

Or, the other afternoon, on my way to a backyard BBQ with friends, rather than take the obvious bike route along King, across the bridge over the Don and along Queen East into Leslieville, I got out the map and explored some twisty bike lanes that take you over little hidden bridges and under underpasses and down onto the Lakeshore bike path. It’s still kind of unfamiliar territory for me, but shucks, there was dozens and dozens of folks out there with some serious looking biking habits.

All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger… The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.

~ James Clear

Meanwhile, with some BC friends we’ve begun a daily drawing challenge – each evening one of us sends a prompt to the others, and the next day we each respond to that prompt with a drawing. Some days have produced some pretty terrible drawings, but by coming back to it (almost) each and every day, there are some drawings where I can really see my skills developing –

And my morning lake-visiting habit???

At the moment I’m averaging about every other day.

There are still days when, distracted by the inviting option of coffee on the balcony, watching the skies and scanning the construction site below, searching for the resident bunnies and foxes who can occasionally be spotted darting out from underneath sheds and pipes, I indulge in that strangely sweet uber-urban homey feeling.

So, for now, on those days I don’t make it to the lake first thing, I’ve been making sure to do it at some point during the day. This is not the ultimate goal but is a temporary compromise, and it has reminded me of how fun it is to see the same body of water at different times of day.

The glaring sun and choppy waters of a mid-day, can turn into a magical evening in exactly the same spot.

And in the evenings, turns out people are bringing boom boxes and coolers of beer and skateboards and portable disco balls, and setting up sweet mini parties and dancing underneath the trees by Sugar Beach. Small groups, as is proper during a pandemic, but such creative and romantic ways to enjoy our tiny sliver of city lake front.

Lens Artists – Everyday Objects

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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

Deep dreams

horse flank hairA large, hot, breathy, needy animal in the bed with me – powerful, emotional, childish, grabby.
So close, as if I couldn’t quite see it.
A horse?
horse eyeWaking up, stretching, catching the tendrils of the dream, I thought of the horse at the farm this past summer, the one who would always break away from the group and rush over at a trot – would be on me, nipping my shoulders, in my face, my ear, so needy.horse groupBut thinking further back, I realized horses have appeared a number of times in my dreams. They are beginning to take on their own symbolism – like a running motif in a story they’ve begun to be recognized figures, speaking, along with the cats and other regulars, in a kind of private dictionary of dream symbols.horse eating and lookingThere was that really vivid one some years ago – an obviously BIG dream – where I was with Claudia, and we decided to look for some old drawings I’d done.
If only I could find those drawings, we said, the way through to the future would all become clear.ronda archwayWe jumped down from the old stone walls, having decided to look for them right away, right now, and went into the house.
People were everywhere – women cooking and talking, gathered in each room.
They were friends, most of them – some of the Montreal gang, but a few Toronto friends as well – busyness everywhere, with the noise of laughter and talking and kitchen sounds rising and bouncing off the walls.
We made our way past everyone, polite nods and waves, and in to the centre of the house – some inner sanctum that posed as a crawl space but was really a kind of lost cave like those ones in the south of France and Spain.
There, in the doorway, at the entrance to the cave, where I was sure I must have stored the drawings, were 3 horses.
circling small w watermarkThey needed to be paid tribute.
They were needy, neglected. There was a whiff of beer.
They needed some kind of acknowledgement before passage would be allowed.
Animal as sacred; sacred as innate nature, as dharma, as animal.

So of course, to pay tribute, to acknowledge and pay respects to the call of the hot, needy, breathy companion of the night, I’ve started a new painting.begin horse pntgNow I just need to pick up some beer…double expose horse skyWeekly Photo Challenge – Depth

Letters from the alleyway

20140425-180623.jpgLately has been a patch of such intensity, so much pressure in every direction, that each glimmer of tenderness, of humanity, of a hand reaching out in the chaos has felt like a branch that must be held onto tightly in hopes of slowing the relentless slide down a slope.

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That dream the other night of a house where everything you touch turns into something else – you pick up the umbrella, it turns into an eel, you grab the doorhandle, it turns into a salamander.
A house of so many tricks and false faces and turns and complications, and in the dream I am trying and trying to leave, to take my son and go live with a man I’ve met by the seaside, a fisherman, to go and live a simple life, the three of us, if I can just escape this house….
But –
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But I can’t leave.
I can’t extract myself.
Yet.
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A couple of nights before that it had been a childhood home, passing through the kitchen and my mother making dinner and instructing me on how I should go out and do all the right things to get this man, to hook this rich guy already and get myself taken care of, fer chrissakes.
He is waiting for me outside, this guy. A producer I know – bit of a hot shot.
He is just up the street, and is impatient there in his fancy car, a sports convertible – he wants me to hurry up and get in the car.20140425-180350.jpg
I am annoyed at being hurried.
All I want to do is play in the mud…
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Weekly Photo Challenge – Letters

Three Hearts – alleyway art evolving

art in the alleyIn the alleyway just down from my house, there’s the expected graffiti on the garage doors, but more unusual are the bits of installation art that appear.
This one of the heart has been most striking.
It began on one side of the alley, on a kind of plywood sliding wall, and has morphed over time, its paper images and fold-out doors peeling away in the weather, then magically sprouting new imagery in its centre.
After several incarnations on the plywood wall, one day it had been moved to the other side of the alley, near someone’s rear doorway. alleyway heartIt continues to evolve. The images continue to shift. Over time it’s become a highlight of the walk down the alley – to see what new elements have arisen in the night.
I’ve been thinking I must contribute to it at some point, adding some new element, some small sprinkle of love before we leave the neighbourhood.

20140225-113954.jpgWeekly Photo Challenge – Three

Moons I have seen

In honour of tonight’s full moon and Valentine’s day, a revisit –

A cold full December moon cresting high over the Clinton schoolyard – staid brick building structures back lit with beams of moonlight, a few lone figures with dogs scuffling, breath in clouds in front of them, a faint dusting of white on the frozen ground.

in summertime the bats swoop down over this little round of track and trampled grass and soccer goalposts. In daytime the children shriek happily or protest the small devastating cruelties of their recess torments.

In the night with the moon bright, these daytime activities echo, ghostly.

In this city interior it is sometimes hard to distinguish the moon from a street lamp – a single globe like so many others – hard to believe the number of cultures that created a Moon Goddess out of this small frail lamp – almost an unremarkable phenomenon in the forest of lights.

A brisk February moon over the farm fields of southern Ontario – Ajax, Port Hope, whisking by in the night, the horn of the train calling out forlorn and hopeful at once, coming, coming, we are coming. As fast as the train goes, the moon does not move, the fields and houses are drowsy in her soft light.

A humid March moon low over the small town of shacks by the jungle – powerful single light of the night, illuminating modest wooden lean-to’s for homes, mud streets, the last tired men heading home after the long day to settle in before the monkeys begin to scream from their trees.

Late in the night when the moon is highest, laying a blue light over this little collection of shacks, only the skinny crazy woman is out – the  woman who went mad with grief, losing her child to one of those childhood illnesses afflicting only the countries closest to the equator.  She wanders in the night, sometimes silent, sometimes still wailing her grief to the unblinking moon, her body still young and beautiful under her rags, her tangled hair a glorious matted mane of dark waves. Tragedy incarnate, the beauty, the insanity, the youth, the grief, the potential, the loss.

The big river is not far.

A singular star-effacing June moon over the playas del este just outside of Havana – a beam of clarity on the ruins of dreams and hopes of generations past – rubble that used to be construction, vacant chicken joints that used to be dreams of prosperity, empty lots that once had been valuable property along the beach.  The most undeveloped, unspoiled and unloved stretch of fine white gleaming sand.

We walked, my new love and I, along the beach, my hand in his, contemplating together the empty shadows of lives unfinished, the dreams of futures never realized, the beginnings left hanging, suspended, abandoned.  The moon held us in its light, showing us the path, a way along the dark beach by its light.

A sharp glaring mystical eye of a moon over the October desert mountain stretch – a penetrating gaze in a landscape that offers nowhere to hide. The mountains present themselves stark dark ochre against the dark blue sky like a childrens’s book of cutouts. Pink highways push northward. Whiffs and shadows of the cultures of the plains, the great warriors, the visionaries, people of power, shimmer around the edges of shrubs, speed limit signs and gas pump exits.

A hazy unreliable November moon watching the square and the streets of Coyoacan, nudging its light into the patio and the windows of the casita azul, empty and haunted. Amidst the teeming millions, the frankly frightening overwhelming labyrinthine megacity, still the nights give themselves to the snaking rising mist of the ghosts of the old souls, the departed, the ancients, the history of the city. Even outside the throbbing discotheques, the shining towers of business and industry, the ancient layers of the Aztec breathe out their pustulent breath until the rays of the sun break the spell yet again, and all manners of ordinary activity return.

A massive May supermoon rising engorged and heavy, menacing as it looms over the city, heaving itself above the downtown highrises and slowly propelling itself up into the sky. In the park, people are stopped silent and clustered, staring, pointing, cel phones out taking pictures of the big ball in the sky over downtown.

I wander the paths of the park, alone with my phone, frustrated at the paucity of the images it’s able to capture of this monstrous moon.  Still, I pace back and forth, stalling, biding time, watching the moon climbing up the sky, waiting out the hours with my heart in my hand at the edge of the park, the street, the sirens, the moon, as my love – no longer new, now a fumbling, faltering marriage – is packing his bags, getting his belongings together, and leaving.

Photo note – usually I use my own photos, but most of these (save the one immediately above) are found from various places on the internet.  However as they were largely not credited where I found them, I have left them without credits here with apologies.

Good morning

My morning ritual has gotten more and more elaborate over the years.
It begins hors champ, out of frame, in my bed with scribbles in a dream journal à la Robert Moss – you can’t move too much or the dreams get lost, as if it is the body that holds them, not the mind, so this must be done while still in bed, searching inside the positions of the body for the secrets of the night.
Then journal and pen get dragged groggily downstairs to the kitchen table where writing continues, a kind of morning pages thing à la Julia Cameron, but with candles, I’m not sure why, just for fun.
candles, journalIdeally this is all happening before first light, cause next up is the Sunrise Ceremony à la Diane Longboat, with a little more fire to make a smudge of dried lavender and sage – it’s supposed to be tobacco, but tobacco is kind of pricey around here and doesn’t burn so easily and I’m not so fond of the smell, and seems like the main idea is prayer and gratitude for the day, giving thanks for being alive and being able to see the sun rise yet again, the smoke rising to wherever prayers are heard.
smudgeThis is done facing east, of course, though as a Canadian the changing arc of the sun becomes quite evident if you are doing this daily, and right now the sun is a little further south each morning.
If the day is not too wet, and sometimes even when it is, I stand barefoot out in the dewy grass and damp soil of the back yard, out where the morning glories and other plants reside.
sun in artichoke stalks 2And somewhere in this greeting of the sun a glass of water will be consumed, the first drink of the day blessed by the light of the sun, re-hydrating the body after sleep.glass of waterBut I must confess, each morning is a struggle between the timing of the glass of water with the sunrise, and the feeling that I want, I crave, I shouldn’t, but I just can’t hold off on my one deep intractable addiction, my true love, the one I lie in bed the night before fantasizing about…
coffee groundCOFFEE…..
Oh how I love my coffee, can’t wait for some coffee, am sad each time my allotted 2 cups are done and I’m not allowed anymore.
But I’m not the only one. As I move through my morning routines, often as not sneaking one coffee in before the glass of water, or even before the morning pages and the first lighting of the smudge, I have to be careful not to set my cup down. Someone else here, bizarre little thing that she is, will lick my coffee cup if I’m not looking –
kitty sniffsWe call her the Italian cat cause she likes coffee and pizza, will steal a piece of pizza from your plate if you’re not careful. As a kitten she was found in the alleyway here in Little Italy – seems it might be genetic…
For a good morning bonus, here’s a nice little article on creativity and morning habits.
(Weekly Photo Challenge – good morning!)

Film, music, party

Last night we drove to Stratford to a film screening, part of the Stratford Music Festival. It was a film I’d worked on several years ago about Jane Bunnett and the making of the album Embracing Voices with a Cuban music group, Desandann. Desandann were going to be there at the screening and would be seeing the film for the first time. On the way there Elisa, the director, explained the film would be shown on the bare brick wall of a restaurant – a fairly excruciating scenario for any director, let alone one as brilliant with a camera as Elisa…but there it was.
first arrivalWhen we arrived, dinner was just beginning. Things felt a little quiet, a little formal, as if there was something missing – at first I couldn’t pinpoint what. Plates of food came and went – a bit rarified for the Cuban palette, a bit heavy on vegetables and pungent cheeses – but still it seemed there was something else not quite right in the scene… And then it hit me – a table of Cuban musicians and no alcohol! No, no, no – this was not an acceptable state of affairs.
We ordered several bottles for the table, and just then Jane and her life and music partner Larry Cramer burst into the room, a party in a box, and the evening really began.
beerThe film begins with Jane in a moment of despair and doubt about her life in music, a heartbreaking and surprising life passage for a woman of such talent. Just listen to her solo on this track –
Even without subtitles, the folks in Grupo Desandann got the gist of the story, how it was through the love of friends, her love of Cuban music, and her collaboration with them that she remembered herself, slowly got her mojo back, and they went on to make this beautiful album together.
projectionAfter the screening, emotional speeches were given, hugs and shoutouts were passed around, tears were shed, and then sitting there, suddenly, Desandann broke into song.
singing startsIt was so stirring, so moving to see them right there, the rich power of their voices emerging effortlessly, the hairs rose on my arms feeling their sound wash over us in waves, building to the crescendo –

singing full onThis week they’re in Toronto, at the CNE twice a day, and Wednesday night at Hugh’s Room with Jane and Larry. If you can, check them out. Just remember to stay away from the cronut burgers.

Focus / unfocus

egret fishingThe egret was fishing in his usual spot in the river – he can be found there most mornings. So I was taking photos of his strange egret-y shape, gangly and odd and awkward, he flying away further upriver whenever I got too close, moving us both further and further upstream, until I sensed something in the grasses behind me.
unfocus grassThere was a presence – or perhaps a flicker in the peripheral vision – of movement, of something, of someone.
And then I saw him – utterly still in an effort to remain invisible.
bunny in grassForgetting the egret now, eyes focused into the grass, I managed a couple of photos, but when I moved and looked again, I’d lost him.
Wandering deeper into the field, trying to track him down, I realized there were tiny flecks of blue everywhere in the tall grasses around me.
blue dragonflyThe entire field was filled with strips of blue, and now, forgetting the bunny after forgetting the egret, I focused on the dragonflies, many of them having their private moments in flight, hovering, or resting briefly on the stalks.
What an intruder I was to each of these critters, and yet, invasive human, I didn’t hesitate.
double dragonfly
Weekly Photo Challenge – Focus