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

Attitude of Gratitude

dewy spiderwebToday I was painting and printing some photos, and I kept thinking about how Symbol Reader had said she liked that shot of the seagull, and in fact, maybe I could imagine a series of blue summer postcards using the seagull, the sky, the beach, and maybe another series of orange summer postcards using the sand castles, the paddlers, the kids, and as these ideas, these possibilities opened and unspooled in my mind, I realized how much I’ve felt buoyed by all the kind words recently of so many of the people who stop by here – Symbol Reader and Dawn and John and Sofia and Fat Bottom Girl and Uzoma and Ashley and my new friend Emmy at unbuttoned or undone and my heart started to overflow with gratitude for all the support and kindness and generosity of all these people, I felt so very very blessed…
And on that note I should include one more shout out, as I’ve been participating in a Create Positive Change Program (it’s free!!) by the delightful Nicole at Cauldrons and Cupcakes – and more than anything it is about practicing gratitude.
And man, am I ever feeling grateful…
white on white feather 2Just one paragraph (or two)