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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.

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I’m about to leave for a long-awaited trip to Lake Superior.  We’ll take the kayaks, a lovely new tent & good camping gear (the best wedding presents ever); the bikes, some tomatoes from the garden since the plants are now overflowing, books, cameras, and my own cluttered mind, in hopes that the latter can be washed clear in the cold cold waters of the Great Lake.

It’s like jumping off a cliff.

I think about what I’ll come home to with my clearer mind – a ‘before-and-after’ question.

I look around now and I see bags and clothes and recyclables, a painting that needs re-framing, trim for the interior windows on a chair, fireworks left over from Dom’s birthday, a set of bongos, three bats of roxl insulation, a huge bag of birdseed, hats and coats and bags – and that’s just the obvious layer.  Add a psychological one which in part will explain my mental clutter: each item is connected to an ongoing narrative – my gardening shirt from yesterday, which I will wear this evening while mowing the lawn; cardboard recyclables from food we’ve consumed, which we are hoarding for future woodfires; the painting I gave to Grant the first Christmas after we met of a frog (why a frog?) under a tree; the pile of trim made from cherry wood which was a posthumous gift from Grant’s highschool shop teacher; and on it goes.  Please note- the last two sentences are as unnecessarily long as our house is unnecessarily full of stuff. 

writing place of choice downstairs at home

None of these things are simple – some carry stories heavy with complexity – the roughly oval, green-striped rock, for example, which we brought back from Ireland.  In my mind it goes with a picture of Grant’s dad who is walking alone toward the ocean on Nicholson’s point, his coat billowing in the coastal onshore wind.  The entire family was on this trip back to find Nicholson roots in the North of Ireland, near Kilkeel and the Mournes.  We had a poignant, rich time that was full of laughter and discovery, and two months after we returned, my Father-in-law died suddenly from a heart attack.

taken by a kind passer-by in our rented house in Tipperary, near Nenagh, on the last day of our trip.

For me, the whole story of Bob is embedded in that rock, which nestles against another from Russia, and another from Dunaad in Scotland, and many many others, all holding connection to place – the French River, where we camped with my parents 8 years ago; black basalt from the shore (above); a piece of rubble from the great wall of China.  They rest together in a big wooden salad bowl on legs (another great wedding present), which likely will never be used for salad.

We’ve inherited furniture and plants – desks from McMeekin’s; a dresser that once belonged to my great-grandfather Keebler, who built the Circle Bar factory where my studio is; two christmas cacti-one from Grant’s maternal grandmother, and another from the paternal.  Both those ladies come with stories that could fill volumes.

More psychological clutter. We’re getting better at it, but, when we’re relaxing at home we see all the events, choices, labours, tasks and materials that went into putting the house here these past six years – and also what the next tasks, tools, labours & materials will be. Sometimes this is just not restful.

If I close my eyes, I can hear all the tales from all these things, this house, these posts & beams-  singing softly into the room – each with its own resonance and frequency.  It’s very very rich.

It can also be deafening.

Note from 2016:  I’ll have to do this trip on my own someday.  We didn’t make it to Superior, and the marriage was over by the next summer.  My life is MUCH less cluttered, now.