I wake among the starlings, deep inside their morning discussion, which centres mostly on comings and goings. It’s a boisterous, cultural ballyhoodle, ritualized by the turning of the year. Starlings time their arrivals and departures here to the spring and fall equinox, just as we do our school years, our arts industry seasons, interesting. I adore starlings, always have. Their fall flight patterns – great clouds of them sharing one mind – are I think called murmurations. I hope I have that right, since that’s such a good and appropriate word.
The vast, over populated ship of daily life turns slowly. All events, micro choices, adjustments in thinking, new levels of perception are the increments of propulsion that churn it around the long curve of change. For me, September is the moment when I look up and realize that there is an unfamiliar horizon both ahead and behind – always a moment of new understanding, a realization of the weight and measure of the year just passed. Heavy, light, compressed, expanded – the strata of the whole year, visible in one stacked moment of time.
Bon Echo lies on a fault-line. The Group of Seven painted there, Walt Whitman wrote there at a time 100+ years ago when it was a cultural retreat for artists. Magnificent old grandfather cliffs rise as the result of a fault, and continue to rise each year. What an honour it was, to see and hear them.
Georgian Bay lies past the outer rim of the Michigan Bowl, the centre of which continues to sink every year, which in turn pushes the outer escarpment rim up, incrementally. Nobody knows why this is so – not a fault, but a very old and ongoing geological ‘event’ that began when this part of the world was an ocean. The rock that is pushed upward is in fact the bones of the sea creatures who swam here where I walk.
Faults and bowls and bones. Oceans of time in one tiny summer.
It cooled down enough to paint in the last week of August. We drove to Toronto and tasted friendship, then to Ottawa to install the fledged daughter into University, all in the space of five days.
The moment of stillness, of recognition that horizons have quite permanently changed stretches on, until we’ve had our fill of watching time, of bearing witness.
The starlings know. Comes a time, close to every fall equinox, when you leap off the branch and begin the work of a new season.
I can smell the gardenia from here. The late evening breeze that carries its fragrance brings Joni Mitchell and Billie Holiday too and we sit together on my back deck around a candle, watching the air move. They’re both smoking and for the first time since I quit seven years ago I’m tempted to light one up.
Because it’s them. Their voices, their choices taught me how to sing, what to sing about, why to sing. They teach me still, here around the candle. Their laughter is like thunder, then lightning.
So many ideas to explore, each one spinning off the one before as we throw our nets wide, gather what we find and bring it to table. As women do when it needs to happen, we cook the magic with these findings, tending to the glue that will pull a moment together into larger possibility. Into Event large enough for many or few. Event, which will mean change, which is growth, which, if done right will never be forgotten. We build and hold space together.
My incredible mother joins us, drawn to the alchemical centre. Joni and Billie know her, which doesn’t surprise me at all. “Honey, what TOOK you so long?”, (Billie, laughing like a crack in the sky). Mom has brought us a strange fruit, wondering, “You didn’t eat this, did you?” (Joni, like an eagle, like a snake in the grass). The dangerous thing is tucked and folded into the conversation, deepening it. Joni offers jungle in the dry season, Billie some Louisiana sweat, creaking on the porch. Mom smells the gardenia too, and smiles – she knows they don’t grow in Canada.
We watch the candlewax drip – gentle evening breeze art.
Into the watching silence comes an understanding of what pain is. What it’s for.
Billie hums softly, like the earth rumbling.
We hum with her, in four-part harmony, like heavy rain after a long drought.