I went subterranean twelve weeks ago, maybe more.  Came up again two days ago, I think.  I know this because I found myself gardening yesterday.

DomsLilly

This was a tunnel of a place I’ve been in, a way into and through the deep, long list entitled Impossible-but-Necessary.  In twelve weeks strong and beautiful people died, shockingly, suddenly, and those of us who grieve them turned inward then slowly forward; old and treasured things were broken then transformed phoenix-like amid the mourning, the loss.  Boundaries were breached, injuries dealt and received, some old trusts betrayed and also new ones established without question.  Concerts were rehearsed and played; family homes sold and contents dispersed, others burned and the tenants embraced by this rich community. Long overdue letters were written and sent; 50-year careers ended; a 20-year-old vehicle sold for parts; the streets in the city opened and excavated in the great replacement of metal with plastic…

BackyardLawn

As the boxes were packed and the old things released into landfill sites, recycling depots, re-store Judy Collins sang who knows where the time goes? to help the tears come.

As the goodbyes were said after the stories were told, as the weeping hugs were shared, Kodaly’s solo cello sonata raged and softened and spoke …

As the solos were played and the painting delivered; as the portfolio was presented and the university applications sent, Cohen sang ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering…

Through all the overnight insomnia on the studio couch Joni sang dream on, dream on...

Forsythia

As we turned forward into spring, and green and growth, david sereda sings, you’re beautiful.  Be You.  Coco Love Alcorn sings We gather ’round when we can, and we let ourselves be true…  Tyler Wagler sings …out the doorway, ‘way we go.  Where you lead, I will follow … Kati Gleiser plays Rachmaninoff and then sings our beauty back to us.

As the pipes thawed, so did we.

 

Drippy Sunday morning; the world outside has shrunk …which appropriately rhymes with Funk, because Funk is precisely what I’m in.

… niggly, prickly snappish me with a million essential things to attend to but instead I chop a fridge full of vegetables and chicken into tiny tiny pieces, beat up a dozen eggs, fry severed onions into carbon, do five sets of loud dishes and answer every question with a maximum of two wedged-out words …

frontPorch_Jan2015

“Mom, can I have a hug?”

Grunt. “May I.”

“….Yes.”

FrontStepJan2015

I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.

While chopping onions I feel grim satisfaction at my power to slice through, to un-make a still-living thing.  While I feel this I think about art and manipulation and rage; growth and green and death which in turn makes more growth and green.

It is possible to smile though a clenched jaw.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn't take away, even though it was tagged.  I don't want to think about it.
buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn’t take away, even though it was tagged. I don’t want to think about it.

Of course we are all far too busy for real sanity – what did Norm Bell tell me at the afternoon TOM Gallery opening today… that our generation is the last that has experienced what we now think of as ‘down’ time. (Link to a review of Michael Harris’ book, The End of Absence – thanks Norm)

I do remember, in my bones, what it felt like to be empty of everything but the sky I gazed into, far away from any connection to the rest of humanity or it’s obligations or measurements of my time and effectiveness and function.

I remember the micro sound of a caterpillar chewing leaves beside my head – wondering what the sound was, discovering it’s origin then …wondering in a larger way that I could hear it at all, so small a thing…

BackPorchJan2015

I write from tomorrow about that volatile place I was in. It has taken me to my studio, where I wake to the clutter of promise, the smell of colour, the yearn and memory of cello.

I know what to do, when yesterday I did not [I will dig into paleontology and paint artifacts]. Yesterday in the storm of my own inexplicable rage I felt battered and almost violently unexplained.  At the gallery in a crowd of people I know well I felt awkward, too-strong and my words, like a pack of battling cousins came out sideways, fist or feet-first.  Yesterday it was next to impossible to find compassion.

I’ve read somewhere recently about the making of art that it comes from these places of unexplained pain, answers the pain through process, then tells the story.  This could be so, for those who must make art, must make, must … self-provoke?

I miss this.
I miss this.

I do love winter.  We get more beautiful winters here than anywhere else in this vast province, (larger than France and Spain, combined).  Perhaps it was the melting of the white into dirty brown that set me off unexpectedly, traversing the landscape through my own unstable lava fields.  I know I’ve been missing green, and gardening, but I strongly suspect that there’s more to my rancour than this.

I have a day in my studio to paint, to practise and to tick things off the long list.  Another tomorrow, then Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday afternoon we will travel to Toronto to visit with good friends, and on Saturday I will visit the Zoo, which is wonderfully peaceful in the wintertime.

I’ll say hello to the river otters for you,

river otter
river otter

Loved that concert on Saturday – what a beautiful piece!.  We are so lucky to have that venue here…

At my annual check-up, my Doctor referred to the  Vivaldi Gloria performance, which to me was five concerts and seven rehearsals ago. Each one of these has been marvelous – food for curiosity, stretch for skills, a jeweled strand of eternal moments …

treeHipCello

Meanwhile at home, we found a night in between all that to put the tree up with care, good humour.  This required a large degree of shared determination – that this WILL happen, no matter what work schedule demands.

The tree fell crashing to the floor the day after it went up…

Oh well, it happens.  We had too many glass decorations anyway…

It’s been that kind of approach to Christmas.

Tree_GlassAngelBall

Tricky time, this season, especially in a year of profound change.  We have not had a death to adjust to – a large pulsing place of Absence – but many of my good friends have lost mothers, dads, kids, grandchildren, friends, brothers.  I can feel the larger community shuddering with the effort of containing these losses with dignity and grace.

Though thankfully not as dire, we face our own new internal tender spots here too.  Death comes in many forms, and it’s name is change – one accepts this & shares this, or does not, choosing denial instead.  Each family is a country with it’s own cultural dances, tales and music, all learned by rote and later either challenged, updated, amended, revised – or not.

The holly and the ivy - a gift from family this year
The holly and the ivy – a gift from family this year

Our larger family is spread thinly – glue that has been there in years past has let go in places.  In the rituals that remain though there is deeper value felt, because of this.

I have answered a call in these past two days to slow myself down.  An instinctive urge to consider and observe what I love, right now, to recall what I admire and respect in people who are dear to me.  I have made some time to wander these things, name them in wonder, and make gifts of them.

Happy Christmas, all.