The first few hours of the year 2020 are dressed with finely sifted snow. No hollering or screeching of tires, just the old trees rumbling peacefully in Gage Park. Some fireworks to the northwest begin at 11:55 and continue for fifteen minutes. I sense a breathing out in the world, like a photographer does, after taking a shot that requires patience and utter stillness.
2010 to 2019. Quite a decade.
Houses. Ten years ago I lived in a house I’d spent five years building with my husband. Three years later I walked away from both – a good move. I will forever miss the trees there, and the walls I built with my parents but to stay would have been unthinkable.
I lived in four beloved places in that decade after I left the house with the trees. Released two of them, built a tiny, sacred one that will anchor my soul for lifetimes to come. It’s a seven-generation kind of place. Has a heartbeat.
Cars. Chelsey the Tercel, Sam the 20-year-old red Impreza. Katie the silver Fit, and now Indigo Thomas, just cleaned inside and out by my family, in time for Christmas. All cars loved, two of them grieved like old friends when they passed on – Sam developed a hole in his gas tank, but for two weeks after I kept driving him anyway. The unbelievable cost in gas was necessary in my process of letting him go.
Music… a decade of cello – teaching, playing, cajoling, gigging, laughing, snorting & cursing (happily) at tricky bits. No regrets there, but I did eventually injure my bow arm and now must pay attention and play differently. My old friend – (now ninety) with whom I bonded when I was sixteen – came back into my life. He sits across from me now like a strong anchor in stormy seas. Not an instrument, really. More like my grandfather whale.
A great deal of learning and discovery about the capacity and stretch of my own minds (heart, brain and gut). Their limitations, too. Funny how doing a Masters in Community Music extends my awareness and insight into so many things that I’d once thought were not related to either community or music. Like writing. Painting. Or just …art, in the world. For and about people of all species, for and about provocative relations with the world.
Family. Our home was packed up, distributed and sold; my dad passed too after a slow battle with dementia, having mostly made his peace with humility by the time he chose to go. I read in his chair now, my book is lit by his lamp. I hear him every time the train passes my house. Ten months before the decade’s end I moved into a place five minutes by foot from the house where he lived between his ages of nine and twenty-five. Up the street from the stadium where the Tiger Cats won every home game last season. In a way that makes sense to me, I know they did this for Dad.
I live two minutes by foot from Gage Park, whose trees were no doubt climbed by my dad in the late ‘Thirties, and twenty-two minutes by indigo blue car from the park where Ontario’s reintroduced Trumpeter Swans spend the winter.
I moved myself here to make art in whatever form it comes, in collaboration with past, present and future. To make a meaningful third anchor for myself in this Treaty 3 land (1792) of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Attiwonderonk and the Anishinabek nation., this city of immigrant workers, artists and broken old industrial buildings, where 125 years ago the wives of the cotton, then steel industry magnates made certain there was an art gallery of note, and began collecting good work.
These broken old industrial places are connected to our shame as a city that prospered early on the labour of slaves we stole from their villages in Africa. The rows of immigrant worker housing are connected to the fires raging in Australia, the melting ice caps in Antarctica. the steam and fire still belching from the steel mill to the tar sands in Alberta, the damage caused by the NRA in the United States and the industrial barons around the world who continue to insist that money is the most important thing.
Now the artists are here, to tell the story of where we are going.
Here in the beginning of a new decade, our payment for unchecked colonial, industrial and now neo-liberal greed comes due. We all come, willy nilly, to question our entitlements. Each of us is called to be accountable to ourselves, and then to all others – including other-than-human others.
Though the news suggests otherwise, I really do believe this is a time of reconciliation, of finding and making connections, especially where there seem to be none. This requires a form of courage we would not need to dig deep for, if not for climate change, gun violence, poverty in all it’s facets and forms, war, fear-mongering, generations-old cycles of abuse… some days I’m quite paralyzed by fear when I look straight at these things. On those days it takes everything I’ve got to step out my door, get to work, do the research, write the music, to find the clear space where curiosity can grow.
Rage is good as a fire-starter, but it can’t be sustained; it burns both itself and mySelf out. I much prefer curiosity as fuel for creativity. It is sustainable, can participate in a full spectrum of observation and emotion, can offer up epiphany and insight, understanding and compassion, but it cannot live in a place of fear.
It’s my sense that we need to find our way to both courage and curiosity, now. I know I do.
At age ninety-three, Her Majesty The Queen of England maintains her dignity and decorum as she carries the inherited sceptre and shame of British colonialism. She suggests that we take this next decade one well-considered step at a time.
…small steps, taken in faith and in hope, can overcome long held differences and deep seated divisions, she offers.
Just as a balance, I’d be more than interested to know what Ru Paul might have to say about how we proceed from here; I’ve got enormous respect for him. Think I’ll write and ask.