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.

Revolution

revolve.  One cupboard cleared, one old pine chest emptied, two rooms of six reconfigured. Three boxes of books off my shelves and into the car for passing forward, a trunk full of clothing for VV. Winter wear rediscovered, pared down, and stowed in one kist, guest blankets in the other.

I now have a better practice setup, a reading place where the views are interesting (for looking up from a thought in order to process it), and a comfortable desk in the western window for writing, with the trees right there. All the dusty corners have been cleared out; the dining room table is covered in swans.

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evolve. This is a thought I look up from and stare with, down Gage Avenue South. I’m thinking of what has brought me here.

It rains and rains in Hamilton. Purposeful rain, punctuated with flashes of white.  A constant big throaty rumble dominates all smaller sounds. Every so often a crash I flinch from, even snug in my enduring love for storms.

I laugh aloud, like a kid:  Thunderbird flies above us, immense, benevolent, alive. NOW.

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volution – a rolling or revolving motion; a spiral or twisted formation or object. A turn or twist about a centre.

It is well past midnight, but how can I possibly sleep through the crash and flash? Now splashes of lightning, but the rumble is distant. I can hear crickets, drips – tree frogs!? through the open windows – all of the windows are wide open.

My soul’s centre has always been the powerful, living breathing lady of Georgian Bay; my life continues to spiral around her. I imagine that the water now falling on Hamilton came from there – pulled up by the sun, pushed by the wind, dropped on this house, on the asphalt of Gage Street, on the ancient park trees I can feel the deep hum of, from here.

We are cleaner, clearer for this rain; we drink it down like a blessing.

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volition. A voluntary service, an offering of personal resources to support something valued. Yes. I will do this.

Such a subtle distinction, isn’t there, between obligation and volition. The former tends to beget resentment, the other gratitude. One is often inherited, the other deliberate, chosen, in a selfless moment. Makes me think of how some gifts are actually hooks. More like investments, with an uncomfortably undefined assumption of return. Is this in part why it can be so difficult, in general, to receive? Over time, too many manipulative, conditional offerings; best just to say No Thanks.

Thankfully, and perhaps increasingly other gifts – of time, energy, food, a roof, effort… are just what they are. Simple. Human, compassionate, generous. Drink it down with gratitude for this kind world, pay it forward when you can.

Gage Avenue is quiet in the wee hours, dripping and cricket-ed. I’m here quite deliberately, but what of my gifts? My offerings? I begin to think they are simpler than what I’ve believed them to be. That this is part of what I’m here to find out.

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ignition. The act or fact of igniting; state of being ignited. A means or device for igniting.

A phrase has been niggling – shall I call it an aphorism? What brought you here won’t take you there. While Marshall Goldsmith has been highly successful at dominating a google search for this thought (his book has popularized the idea, which he unpacks in bullet-point form for folks looking for life and career hacks), the concept is as old and as wise as the hills. As reassuringly complex.

In the last two weeks of August I stared at the lake as often as possible. Swam in it, played in it, paddled on it while holding this complexity quietly in my mind. I am not what I have learned. I am not what I do (the push of those things is what brought me here though. I’m in a good place, grateful I made that effort).

I’m what I can’t yet imagine understanding, what I can’t see from here. What draws me like a heartbeat. What moves me. Forward. In. Out. Through.

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cognition. The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. A result of this; a perception, sensation, notion, or intuition.

I’ve just walked down the street to the 24-hr corner store to get cream for coffee #2. Brought the umbrella I paid 5 euro for in Florence four months ago, didn’t need it. The whole world out there is rain-soaked & breathing.

Aha. The difference between inclusivity and inclusion. The latter is policy change (e.g. de-segregation), the former an action taken in full acknowledgement of the complexity and contradiction in any evolving situation. Policy does not change minds. Thoughtful, articulated action, does.

Aha. At its best Art is healthy connective tissue between other-than human beings and human beings, humans and humans. As mycelium connects plant life in a forest – information, nutrients, shared resources and understanding. Propaganda and pornography are toxic versions of this. They connect through extortion.

Aha…

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recognition. Coming to understand something clearly and distinctly. An acceptance (as of a claim) as true and valid.

I have the strongest sense that what I’m actually doing now is dismantling what I’ve learned – belief systems, artistic practices, cultural assumptions, a scaffolded understanding of the way things ‘work’. That beneath all the accumulated data of what I’ve learned about the world is a deeper, older world of what I’ve always known.

More like remembering than learning.

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Wordplay, then.

Revolve, evolve;  volution, volition.  Ignition, cognition; recognition.

= Revolution?

Research methods

This spring term has been spine-cracking difficult, not just because of the workload but because of what it’s transforming in me – a requirement of fulfilling what has been assigned:  Read the following ten books by next week; comment and engage in discussion online re same; define a research question and complete a lit review by the week after; build two presentations for the same two weeks 1. about narrative research 2. synopsis and discussion of a major thesis paper related to your subject….

…write a final Research Study Paper Proposal (35%) and hand it in by the end of June; change your mind about your own capacities for this work, now; imagine yourself as a much larger and more efficient person, now; sort out your philosophical and methodological tendencies; ask if you have any questions…

I come up for air to tuck into a quick poster design for a show at Leith Church in July. I realize as I make a poster using these photos that in July I get to rehearse, trade stories, laugh and cry with the persons in the photos.  Then we perform together. Who gets this in their life?!?!

poster draft, missing photo credits, and ticket information. Here is the former: Tom Thomson (Canadian 1877 – 1917), Soft Maple in Autumn, 1914. oil on plywood, 25.5 x 17.8 cm Collection of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario, gift of Louise (Thomson) Henry, sister of Tom Thomson, 1967, Photo credit: Michelle Wilson. Ann Michaels photo is ©2009 Marzena Pogrozaly; david sereda photo is © John Fearnall @ GoodNoise Photography. Also, you should come to this if you can. It will be more than magical.

I come up for air to meet my incredible lifelong friends at Summit Place retirement lodge where my dad is, and stumble through some challenging but lovely music. Little Fugue, Brandenburg III, Danny Boy.  Dad cries, as he always has when I play for him.  Another resident tells me afterwards that listening to us play blew the dust off his soul.

porcupine teenager, retreating after I asked him firmly to stop eating the plywood at the shore bothy. They kept coming for hours, until I firmly shooed his mama (HUGE) with a few stones, and brought all plywood inside, at 3am.

I come up for air and find myself waking at the shore, staring at an endless infinity of my friend, the Bay, who is so much a part of who I am

I come up for air and find myself playing Sibelius and the Bach Double in the midst of a high school orchestra in Meaford

I come up for air, blink my astonishment at the world, then dive back in to a deeper understanding of how much I don’t know, dive again for pearls of transformation.  Find my gills, drink humility again and again, knowing it is elixir.