Female Fates

(This voyage happened a little while ago –
Got a bit too busy to complete and post it at the time, but here it is now…)

Montreal again.

Time for the Foire papier and I’ve signed up for a hooked-up tour to see all kinds of hot shows and behind-the-scenes tours with curators and fun stuff.

In the morning on my way to the train station, rushing late onto the commuter train platform, I see a familiar face amongst the crowd – my sister!

Such a treat, such a surprise, and a chance to chat about travel plans, kids, family this and that, our 2 bashful waspy selves happily delighted at the unexpected intimacy.

Some hours later, early evening in a crowded vernissage in Old Montreal, mind blown already by the totally rad exhibit by Bharti Kher, hinting at things deeply feminine, reproductive, migratory, a cross between exquisite sensuality and mass production…

We are milling around by the bar, people-watching the funked-out Montreal artists in psychedelic shades and storm trooper boots, when across the room again I see a familiar face…
My sister-out-of-law! Another most adored human!

Not quite officially related (she is my son’s aunt, but my ex and I never married), it is wonderful to see her after some years of missing each other in passing, and there is news of new cousins in the mix, and tell me, tell me, how are all the kids?

It feels awfully apropos to be surrounded by spermatazoid specks and female shapes on this day of family, tribe, migrations and reconnections.

* * *

Next day, another 12 or 14 exhibits, but my favourite is this one, yet another amazing female artist, Elly Strik – new to me, very drawing based –

This entire room is called the “dream room”, with a huge drawing on one wall of Freud’s couch, and many smaller drawings of more intimate details on the surrounding walls.

The major portion of the show is comprised of these massive mysterious female almost-portraits… beautiful yet unknowable, huge and yet tender.

And you, Gentle Reader?

Seen any good Art lately?

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…

Pomegranates & friends – Layers

navel pomA friend was in from out of town. We used to be roommates – a year or so spent as Plateau rats in one of those gorgeous, reasonable-rent Montreal apartments with a view of the mountain, just before I became a mom or really had a career to speak of – so long ago now, those young and loose bohemian times.
hairy end pomMy friend was / is a singer, and would wander around the apartment in a thin bathrobe warming up her vocal chords. We’d meet for coffee and giggles in the kitchen before heading our separate ways – she taught from home, I was working long days in the early days of a film career.
interior skien pomThe first night she was here, after some 20 years of really not being in touch much at all, we stayed up late into the night talking, drinking wine, catching up on the many shifts and twists in the tales of fate and circumstances, reaching further and further into the delight in each other’s company, alive again and still as it had been at the kitchen table many years ago.
raw interior pomIt was in the morning after she left I saw the pomegranate on the kitchen table. She must have brought it with her and left it behind.
Such a treat, the thick rind, the weird layers of membrane holding the tasty seeds – such a unique fruit sensation.
Pleasures, simple pleasures, friends and fruit.
ecu pom berriesWeekly Photo Challenge – Layers

Watery thoughts

mile end water towerThere’s a boil-water advisory on here in Montreal.

The announcement came out about noon yesterday, just as I was meeting Brenda of burnsthefire for lunch, and the sweet young waitress seemed lost and confused as she almost served us presumably un-safe tea.  After lunch, B & I went for a walk, then there was a mad dash to get the girl I’m babysitting to her tutor at the other end of the city, and while she was at the tutor I hit up the local grocery store for bottled water.  Two bottles were left on the shelf, and a man stood in front of me, reaching for one of them.  We exchanged sheepish glances and shrugs as I reached for the last bottle.

Back at the apartment I started boiling big pots of water, put the girl to bed and was so tired and thirsty but realized our bottled water supplies were limited and the boiled water was

a) hot and

b) still looking a pretty dirty shade of orange

so I rooted around in the fridge and found some beer and drank that.

(Note to self:  beer is not quite the same as water.  Not a good idea to quench thirst that has been growing all day, craving water, with beer.  Somewhere in the night I tweeted something garbled and incoherent and perhaps vaguely sweet (if you’re feeling generous) to Brain_Rants, a very new acquaintance who I should be trying to impress with cleverness and panache.  Oops.)

Anyway – the water advisory.  It’s one of those things where nobody seems to know quite what’s going on and why, but in a funny way, people begin to connect over the unusualness of the situation, the strangeness becoming a point of conversation, opening up new pathways for human interaction.

I remember the ice storm back in ’98, and how we made great new friends while hanging out at the public shelter the YMCA on Ave du Parc had set up, sharing strategies for cooking food with no electricity, trading tips on which stores were still open, running on generators.

Photo by Shawn Moreton
Photo by Shawn Moreton

So I’m waiting for the silver lining of this little water scenario.

Meanwhile it has me thinking about water, about how we take it for granted.  They say folks from around the Great Lakes are water hogs, cause we’re so used to having so much clean water at our disposal, we give no thought to it.

Not like a lot of First Nations communities, removed from the easy access to clean water, whose natural resources have often been polluted, of whom 113 were under long-standing water advisories as of this January.

And not like folks in China, for example (random factoid: over 300 million rural Chinese have no access to safe drinking water).

Not even like folks in Arizona or New Mexico (various super-scary factoids available here and here).

There’s a lot of talk out there about how water will be the next oil, the next big commodity, the next resource so essential, wars will be fought.

Funny though, cause you can’t drink oil.

Here’s a few factoids from the book, Blue Covenant, by the tireless Maude Barlow

The average human being needs 50 litres of water a day for drinking, cooking and sanitation. The average North American uses 600 litres a day. The average African uses 6 litres a day.

Seven hundred million people in China, out of a total of 1.3 billion, drink water that doesn’t meet the minimum health standards set by the World Health Organization.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 130 million people don’t have safe drinking water.

Mindful biking

bike and foot
A couple of weekends ago I went to Montreal to see one of the special guru type people I have in my life.  Though actually she is not a guru the way Robert Moss or Ohki Simine Forest are in the sense of giving workshops and teachings and publishing books, still she has been a major influence.  Really, technically, she is simply a psychic.  But she is a special psychic – not a corner store neon sign flashing crystal ball type psychic, but a real bona fide seer – special enough to take the bus to Montreal just to have a session with her.

The first time I saw her – sent there on the recommendation of a friend who had heard of her but said she didn’t have the courage to see her herself – she completely spooked me out.  The spook was in part because her eyes remain half closed, flickering, the whites of the eyes showing through her eyelashes while she talks. Partly she spooked me simply cause she saw everything in my life with such a searing clarity it was like a knife slicing open my clothes and cutting into my chest and ripping my heart out into the light of day.

However.  She never remembers what she says or even your face if you were to meet her in the street – a fact that I’ve become grateful for, as it makes the session entirely private.

She explains the first time you see her that what she does is not about predicting the future, but is about serving as a kind of mirror, reflecting back to you the deeper voices inside your life that need to be heard.

Part of what I love about her is that she’s a Buddhist – well, she doesn’t declare herself as such, but it’s obvious from the few books on a shelf, from the minimalist decor, from the mockery she will make of things like attachment to desire and hope – evidence of Buddhist teachings and philosophy.

This trip I took I’d been craving to see her for months – I knew she would be able to speak to something I was struggling with in my own creative projects, a lack of focus, too many ideas.  I’d been struggling with myself and knew I was flapping in the wind, not on track, not clear in my direction.  I got on the bus essentially hoping she would tell me which project I should do.

She didn’t.

She didn’t – instead she chastised me (as she always has – or perhaps as my own internal voices always have) and the entire experience left me in a terrible funk for several days.

But pulling out of the funk, I focused on her instruction, her teaching, which was: GO DEEPER.  Take up serious practice.  Get a life coach, meditate, do yoga, something, anything that will make you Go Deeper.

So as a first step I’ve loaded up the iPod with some meditations and teachings by greats like Pema Chodron and Lewis Mehl-Madrona (a very interesting physician / story teller / healer of the indigenous persuasion) and a new-to-me, but very known and experienced teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Well, Thich Nhat Hanh talks a lot about mindful breathing and mindful walking – and I’ve been listening to all this on my bike ride to and from work.  And at first, I thought, well I don’t really have time for mindful walking, I need to get to work, so maybe mindful walking is like mindful biking in a way…. but the distractions of traffic, and trucks unloading in the bike lane, and the dicey characters on the way down Sherbourne who eye the purse in my back basket, and the terrible bumps in the state of the roads in Toronto these days…. and although I loved the amazing peacefulness of his voice, I thought perhaps it was just all too spiritual for weaving in and out of the cars and streetcar tracks, trying not to get side-swiped by the cube trucks talking on their cel phones….

bike on sherbourne

But then I got to a bit in the recording about mindful driving.

He takes you into the possible moments for mindfulness while driving – he talks about being grateful to the red light for slowing you down to breathe and pay attention and go deep…

Well then, true love.  I love this man’s knowledge and appreciation of the human condition so completely….

And slowly I’m starting to shift my anger at the trucks in the bike lane ever so slightly.  The bumps in the road seem more like an opportunity for an ab exercise to suspend myself above the bike and not feel the bounces of the path.  And I’m starting to look at the dicey characters on Sherbourne Street with some affection and compassion.

may virtue