The Queen suggests…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Briar Hill was built in 1867 by colonial scots stonemasons, my parents bought it in 1968 as a decommissioned rural school complete with desks, a centralized woodstove, a wall of slate blackboards, institution green paint, and big white globe ceiling-hung lights. A house of many many great gatherings.

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.

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These broken old industrial places are connected to our shame, that as a city we prospered early on the labour of African slaves stolen from their villages, as we deforested then paved over the astonishing beauty of 10,000 years of traditional Haudosaunee territory. The rows of immigrant worker houses 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 and to all those who continue to insist that money is the most important thing.

Now the artists are here, to tell the story of where we’ve come from, and 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 arrive, willy nilly, at the place where we question our entitlements. Each of us is called to be accountable to ourselves, and then to all others – including other-than-human others.

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Rage is good as a fire-starter, but it can’t be sustained; it burns itself out, leaves a dry husk behind. 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 courage, to muster enough curiosity to balance the fear. That this, not anger, is a good way forward.

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At age ninety-three, Her Majesty The Queen of England maintains her dignity and decorum, even 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

The happy grouch

Annoyed – that on April 10th at 6:45 am the wonderful deep drenching spring rain turned to heavy wet snow before my eyes.  I don’t have a picture for this post because I was too annoyed to take one – you’ll just have to imagine the soggy, cold, icy slop of it and feel my blues.

Happy – to be annoyed because this is all as it should be.  We live here, where the weather is inconvenient, unpredictable, often violently extreme, but never never dull.

Here’s Chris Hadfield’s post of the Great Lakes at dawn, taken Easter morning.  Note the streamer covering the base of the Bruce Peninsula, where I live – that’s snow.

Nevertheless & whatever the weather, I love this beautiful blue planet.

Thanks, Commander Hadfield, for providing the big picture.

https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/status/318340723147677696/photo/1

 

No straight lines

I dig into the Brahms E minor cello this morning and find myself swimming strong in a strong river – a great deep and fast and roiling that collects and contains a watershed of stories as it carves it’s way through the land.

Why, Mr. Brahms.  It is good to meet you here from across the centuries, far far off the page.  Shall we immerse ourselves together?

His piece curves and bends around it’s internal themes, climbs great hills and tumbles from impossible heights.  Its landscape demands constant, intense commitment, even and especially in the pianissimo sections where the piano commands the melody line.

There are sections I have not internalized yet, where I am yanked back to the written notes, back into my technical head, back into training my fingers that “this is not contortion – this is easy…”.  It’s not easy, but it will be, once I’ve found the technical key and relaxed enough to repeat repeat repeat, repeat.  All the while the river flows on, steady and constant – I know I can immerse myself again.

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These days on the brink of Spring 2013 seem to be deep with a tectonic level of unrest.  Old contracts that were seemingly set in stone are fracturing on their own, or being consciously, sometimes painfully re-negotiated to reflect a new set of boundaries, priorities and shared realities.

It’s both personal and political – US debates (!?!) over gay marriage and civil rights,  and indigenous peoples with the profoundly deep roots of Idle No More which support dignity, demand clarity and re-negotiation over native civil rights, and seek to work with respected settler allies to protect the land from the commodity boys in their banking suits.

This river we’re in right now is not like the Brahms’ E minor, no.  This river is clogged – with ice, with debris, with garbage collected over miles and years of mutual and self-perpetuated … abuse?  Is that the right word?

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This is nothing that the natural cycles of the planet can’t handle.  It will pass, and this debris will be flushed downstream to the filtering grounds.  The spring floods will recede and the landscape will be different – perhaps shockingly so, but there will still be life.

But we humans, with our cultural and personal tectonic shifts – puny in some ways, when you look through say, Commander Chris Hadfield’s eyes.  It’s telling, isn’t it, that we need to use terms like ‘the environment’, or ‘our natural resources’ to describe the planet, as though it’s outside of our bodies?

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There’s a southeast corner of my house where the fig tree grows new leaves, framed by two windows.  The easterly window hosts a christmas cactus with pale apricot blooms and the southerly window an amaryllis with eight deep red bells, just opening now.  I can see them unfold as I write.  Spring birds are busy outside; our two inside cats are glued to the windowseats, quivering with fascination.  A slight spring chill reminds me that my feet are bare.

Over all of this there’s a great, vast, pulsing stillness.  I drink it in through my pores, breathe it into my lungs, feel it quiver on my skin.