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Cabin Stories 2020: the lake

March 31, Hamilton, Ontario

As I drive through the rain from there to here I see rainbow auras over everything – trees, fields, barns, mailboxes, road. It’s good to be out, to be in that odd state of stillness and movement that is distance driving. The trip north does its work – gets me out of the loop of statistics and analyses – death curves, stock market dives, lists of and check-ins with people I love, scrabble with strangers who can’t sleep, either.

I’m glad I have a chainsaw, though using it exhausts me. I have named her Catharsis.

Glad I have a woodstove too, that the cabin is small enough to heat in a moment, that there’s hardly any wifi there to speak of.

In the new day there I am content to go down and open up the bothy (without touching anything but the door handle, which I clean) for family to use when they come, in ones and twos. I sit on a rock and throw other rocks back into the lake that pushed them onto the deck, into the firepit, over the stone steps down. One rock at a time, each of them different.

This one, I keep.

I’m not the same size or shape as the woman who lived in the cabin for six months, twenty months ago, and I feel the truth of this through my evening read. My work, that shifts and changes as the world does, calls me to shift and change with it, though I don’t yet know what shape it will take. So many of us, in this place of not yet knowing.

I sleep two nights in the lullaby of waves on shore and spring warblers, then leave through the morning thunderstorm. The deep healing balm of fire and ice and water and air and rock. The friendship of trees who know me well. These I bring away with me. I leave nuts for the critters.

Hamilton now, in another wet morning.

A radical re-write my Canada Council grant before the deadline next week. Studio work, albeit at a snail’s pace as I adjust to the tectonic shifts. Cards drawn and mailed to those I love, and those loved by others who have requested I write. Furniture shifted around to make this lovely rented place more work savvy.

In week three of self-isolation I’ve connected with people I know and love from each of my 5.5 decades of life – SUCH a joy. Our lives have shrunk to just US in our spaces, together while apart. It strikes me that we are all suddenly in the business of attending to what home is, and who we are, in it. And who we are not. It’s a rather tough lesson in trust. Faith, too.

Must be hell on the narcissists.

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Peace

The beautiful winds. They picked me up out of sleep, made my first coffee then tucked me in for the morning write in front of the eastern window.

A quick scan of the news has filled me with wonder – we all are navigating this new call for quarantine, for self-care, in isolation. Museums close, the stock market takes a dive and stays there even after Mister Trump tweets a correction. Sophie, wife of Justin has tested positive and so our Prime Minister will self-isolate for two weeks. Schools are now closed for three weeks. The band shows up because music always happens, and plays to ten, instead of 100.

Canada has counted 150 cases so far and one of these is in Hamilton, though of course there will be more. The Ontario doctor who specializes in infectious diseases says that he was scared by Sars, but is not by Covid-19. What scares him is our fear and panic.

Humans are marvelously inventive beings. We can of course devise sensible, meaningful ways to connect, amidst the quarantine and isolation.

Mia the cat stays at the window, mesmerized by the spring birds who flit past. The purple and gold clouds scudd overhead as though the speed of the morning is pushed forward in time-lapse. The winter-bare tree tops dance and sway, while the wind whistles in through my open western window.

The world is a beautiful place. While the wind swirls, while the trees dance and the sunlight flashes through traveling clouds I find myself smiling. Peace.

I appreciate the feel of foamy soap on my hands, enjoy the gurgle of water down the drain. I’m writing letters and will send them by snail mail. I’m reading books, drawing and visiting friends I’ve not seen for decades – we can wash our hands together; there will be laughter. I’m taking my amazing young nephew out for breakfast too. We’ll make a game out of not touching our hands to our faces.

Happily my portrait work and research continue without impediment. There are some for whom this is not so, and my heart goes out to you. I hope you can find some simple joys to ease the worry.

We’ll sort this out, folks. Sensibly and with love. In the meantime, let’s find ways to actively love one another.

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The Stories come seeking

Stories that want to be told come in through the eastern window in the morning, or sometimes down onto the roof with the rain.

There’s a beautiful one that follows me everywhere I go now, about the water that washes the eastern shore on Georgian Bay and how that is like, and also not like the ocean that kisses and smashes and chortles the eastern shores of the Shetland Islands. This story is long like a river that runs deep then dives deeper, to run beneath the desert.

There’s another about trumpeter Swans who were many, then few, then gone for a hundred years, hunted into oblivion by europeans. Now the imprint of those wild ones on the land teaches the new, tame ones how to be who they are. The tame ones teach the humans to be …better.

There are the stories a Mother Tree whispers to me – the one that once grew right here, the beating heart of the great breathing forest that lived – lives! she says – along the flanks of Lake Ontario, sheltered by the arms of the limestone escarpment.

They come in the window and through the roof with pictures and sounds to show me. Listen. Can you hear this? Can you see how this is, how it connects with that? Look at this marvel! Listen.

And so I get to work, and write. Draw containments for these, paint them, sing them, play them.

I’ve just sent two applications in to Banff Centre for the Arts for month long residencies this year, timed after my commission work has been completed and distributed with love.

What I’ll build at the Banff residency is a visual language that matches the stories that come in, asking to be told. I’ll work with colour, water, gravity, resist, paper and time. The musical language will develop too – downstairs in the room I’ve made for it, in car rides between here and my cabin, and on the road between here and Banff this summer and early fall.

That Banff Centre will of course choose to invite me or not; I’ll know by May. If not Banff, then from a back yard studio in Vernon, or a cabin on Lake Superior. From the blue artist’s studio at the edge of the ocean in the Shetland Islands. Either way, the stories will be told, and I will find a visual and musical language for them. This is the road I’ve chosen.

I will need help. I can’t tell the stories the way they’re asking to be told, without readers, without input, without research and connection, without funding assistance. Without performance venues, walls to hang the work on, other artists to work with and pay with respect, audiences to sing the music with. Without a family of collaborators.

Become a Patron

This is a link to my Patreon site, where you’ll find some options for collaboration with me and these stories. Benefits, too, as sincere tokens of my appreciation and love. If you join me as a patron, I will take you with me on the road, into the studio, the residencies, the water, the forests. Your story will mingle and connect with these ones, and you will be included in the books, songs and paintings that will be made. You will have my rich and enduring gratitude and love.

Most of the content on this website will continue to be free. I’ve been writing here for ten years and many life changes, and I love the connection it provides. Please consider, though, that this space takes great time and effort to build, develop, evolve, enrich. If you feel inclined to support this, even for the cost of a good coffee every month, the space and the work I do will only get better.

I am and will continue to be eternally grateful for your collaboration and support. Nothing in this world happens in isolation; we’re all in this together.