Snow in the skies today, first time this fall. I’m reminded of every other first snows I’ve experienced, how watching the way the flakes move makes the wind visible, like magic. A grin that begins in my belly. Then watching, still in all the swirling: here we go, into Winter.
I was born into these seasons; my body is aligned to and by the rhythm of them. To NOT have days in which the light becomes shorter and shorter until it seems just a blink, oh, I would miss it. I love the richness of twilight that whispers into deep long nights. That’s where the stars sing from as the earth spins her eye across them, as the moon spins around us.
But it’s easy to be distracted from the magic by what’s happening on the streets these days. Wall street, Bay Street, Sherman, Barton.
On my way home from the studio I pass darkened factories, a derelict line of houses where a rose blooms golden from a choked garden. Boarded up businesses or just abandoned ones but a thriving McDonalds. Antifa Coalition headquarters, darkened and broody. Ivor Wynne Stadium eerily still and silent all these months, even the echo of cheering gone. Then a wave of small children chattering home from school with parents. Some are alone, kicking stones along the street.
I walk my big 5-foot square painting of Georgian Bay waves southward through heavy trucks, squealing brakes and throaty muscle cars, or just cars, constant on Barton. A bicycle with a tiny whining engine whizzes through stop signs, hood up, mask on. Birds, dogs, and wind. Trees and gardens falling into slumber. The painting’s heavy so I switch arms every block, a gallery-in-motion with alternating views: houses, street, houses. A neighbour calls from his porch, “Nice sail!”; I’m on ‘street-view’, so I can grin to him.
Just a thirty minutes of noticing while I use my legs to move with, my arms to anchor the five-foot ‘sail’ to my body. Because there are no vans available and it’s just half an hour. Because I need the space in my studio, and I want Georgian Bay in my Hamilton apartment. Because I want to read the street weather, not just the sky.
Because I live in a house that’s full of stories, on a street that connects through these stories to those in other houses, close to a neighbourhood were some people do not live in houses but in cars or vans or doorways, where for some McDonalds is the default because its cheap.
It’s easy to get distracted. Real Estate prices are ridiculously high here, as are rents from Toronto landlords who bought 20 years ago, and yet minimum wage has not risen proportionately – not even close. University students aren’t renting this year – why would they when classes are online? So that extra income from renting the basement is gone. CoVid-19 has boarded up half of the small businesses and all retail work is precarious, so is it cash business that’s keeping a lot of folks here afloat? Savings are dissolving – I know mine are – and CERB was over after 28 weeks, or since October 3, whichever came first.
Amid all of this other stories emerge, if you choose to hear them. Turns out deficits are a myth, which is extremely hopeful if we can learn to act accordingly. I watch discussions about circular economies and Indigenomics that make perfect sense on so many levels: economies are relational, complex. I notice too that there are high level discussions about universal basic income, that caremongering networks are still going strong – stronger even than they were at the outset of CoVid-19 in March. It is now illegal to demand a doctor’s note from your employee if they are sick, or it soon will be.
Also and importantly we are increasingly, actively committed to working with other species on this planet now. Case-in-point: the once-extinct Trumpeter Swan now numbers in the thousands, with a strong and well organized coalition of human defenders and helpers throughout Ontario and the US. They were first reintroduced back into Ontario (after 100 years gone) at a beach half an hour by car from my house.
My personal best and only answer to the pressure and bad is to keep doing what I do. It makes me a better human and I see no value in staring at the mud, sitting in it until I become mud, even though some days mud pulls at me like a magnet. I choose differently, even as my savings dwindle, since every fibre of my being believes that art is as essential to human life as love and hope. So, I make art, carry it through the streets, weave it into video and story, and offer it up as a sure-fire way to wash the mud off. It’s what I can do, and I get better and better at it all the time. I will launch my current wave of work online this fall and winter; we’ll see what happens.
A golden rose blooms in a choked garden, the snow makes the wind appear. The stars sing from out of the deep night, and the moon spins herself around us. Deficits are a myth, and economies are relational. Nothing we can imagine is impossible.
My faith in human ingenuity, in our ability to rise above all of this mud, together, is unshakeable.