What happens when we don’t take responsibility for healing our own lives, and instead project our buried trauma out onto other people – our children, our families, our friends, our colleagues? 

What happens when we use all our energy in criticism and complaint, when we use charity and judgement as a way of maintaining privilege and superiority over ‘weaker-thans’?  When we use power like a gun and intelligence only to manipulate?  Is this not a way of describing blight?  Does this not weaken the entire system of life?  Weinstein.  Ghomeshi.  Trump.  Any person of any gender who identifies with embitterment, any person who inflicts their own still-festering injuries on others. 

So, at any point in our lives, each and every one of us, until we choose to do the work and grow up.

Mill Dam, Owen Sound. Fall 2014

What happens instead when we don’t accept diminishment, and instead use our considerable strength to knit together, to hold space for change, to join, to empower and build.  What happens to us.  What happens to the world.

Harriet Tubman.  Georgia O’Keefe.  Emily Carr.  Gord Downey.  Elizabeth Warren, who persists.

What happens when a small, any or multi gendered group gathers in the kitchen to wash, dry, put away dishes from the meal they made for 30 people? What happens when they gather to weed a garden, repair or build a quilt, build a house, make music, block out a play, collaborate on a project, get something done together…  the conversation knits and weaves, joins and clarifies, connects and strengthens.

It’s about the doing, but the doing isn’t the point.  The weaving, the connecting, the building, the sharing and comparing is the point.  The anchor of hearth, the rhythm of ritual, the resources of valued difference.

In this contemporary culture, many-gendered, magnificent embroiderers, quilters, designers and fabric artists have taken the diminuitive notion of ‘women’s work’ and transformed it into empowerment – an actual, functional, powerful approach to healing our homes and our bodies and building the world anew.  Artists and musicians, actors and writers are more and more equally represented by all cultures, all genders, who have empowered themselves to speak from their own power, to openly share their hard-won strength and dignity with us.  Does this not strengthen us all?  Is this not another way to describe nourishment?

Endurance, independence, perception, wisdom.  Strong opinions, well informed by context and shared with humility.  To do something valuable with one’s anger.

Not the pursuit of virtuosity as an identity, but for joy.  Not to claim then fight nasty to maintain one’s trumped-up value .

Instead, always to include, to hold space for. Powerfully.

The We, the Us, without the Them.  We, the ecosystem from which no living being is excluded.

This requires courage.

 

I once played a minor (non-musical) part on a Rolling Stones Tour – ‘Steel Wheels’ in the ’80s. I have a tour jacket, even, that boyfriends past have happily worn… and torn and stained. This comes up now because I wrote the blog title first.

It's true.
It’s true.

It’s still a good jacket, and I keep it to remind myself that I was there in my 20s, watching them play Sympathy for the Devil when Mick (atop a 20-storey stage tower) forgot the words…  I asked myself in that moment – Really? Really? How can you forget the words to THAT song?

There were many moments on the tour  (way more telling than that one) that turned me off the ‘Stones permanently.  For me it was like watching the end-play of 60’s dark side play out in industrial money-grabbing meanness – utterly devoid of relevance to the real world of human beings.  Hope you can forgive me all die-hard fans.  They’re a piece of history, granted, but I do not worship at that altar.

An almost-finished selfie painting of the waterfall I grew up with on the Niagara Escarpment.  I don't have words to describe for you how sacred this place is - not just to me, but ... just sacred.
An almost-finished selfie painting of the waterfall I grew up with on the Niagara Escarpment. I don’t have words to describe for you how sacred this place is – not just to me, but … just sacred.

Nothing worthwhile is accomplished without limitation, I believe.  This is not Protestant sensibility, but a law far older – we are not supposed to have every whim answered, every passing wish fulfilled.   There’s a muscle of ingenuity in the human brain that requires ‘lack of (……….)’ to work effectively.  Many folks default to complaint well before this happens, but if you can get beyond discomfort and engage ingenuity, you’re doing your job.

 

This is photo reference for "White", which is on the boards now
This is photo reference for “White”, which is on the boards now

#Selfie is a fine example of this.  I started the project as I was just entering the heavy spring concert season.  It was an impossible thing to commit to – fill the space at de Boer’s with art, write and hand-make a book, write and rehearse a performance art piece, and immerse my#self regularly in #Selfie online via social media.

…in 14 weeks, while working full time teaching, coaching, rehearsing and playing cello, planning 2 summer camps in art and music, and attending to those things not work-related, but oh so important…

I said yes because I knew I wanted to take a risk and do a show, and this was the only way to make that happen.  Ingenuity has had to kick in, big-time, especially in these past two weeks.

Photo reference for black canvas
Photo reference for black canvas

Here’s the thing, though –  throughout the 14 weeks, but especially in these last two, I have had great need for some things that could have stopped me in my tracks, were they not fulfilled.  No tripod, poor cashflow – a friend chips in half as a gift.  Low on essential materials only available in Toronto, no time to get there – Tim at the Colour Jar finds what I need in days.  Dangerously low on basic confidence and faith in myself some days, spinning my tires – someone says just the right thing (so grateful for this, every time) to kick my butt in a better direction.  I need pro help to sign on for the Performance piece, since we have next-to-no rehearsal time available – david sereda, Coco Love Alcorn, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Sandra Swannell and a few other incredibles say ‘Sure!’ with no hesitation.  I need social media ‘response’ material for the Book and the opening – eight people agree to put pen to paper and pitch in.  I’ve never even met some of them.

Here’s Brad Morely’s haiku, just in:

Narcissi beckon
in the light blue facebook pool
cam’ra bugs fly off

 

…you get what you need.

photo reference for Totem 1
photo reference for Totem 1

Paintings are due in three days.  They’ll get done.  Book and show have only next week – they’ll be fine.

See you there.