Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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Dark mornings

Before she went blind at age 42, she read tea leaves for signs of joy and trouble.

Through the subsequent five decades I watched, fascinated, when Grandma took her glass eyes out to clean them, as casually as I now clean my glasses.


For many of those eye-blind years she lived alone in house the size of the one I live in.  Every single thing in that house had precise place and function.  She could hear you think, and smell through walls.  Her scrying skills sharpened and she knew things before they happened. In this house, with these sharp senses she navigated meals, cleaning, laundry and dignified self-care with a sensibility that both astonished and empowered me.


Is this why I drink my first morning coffee in the darkness – to honour her five decades without light?

In part I think this is true.  I do often think of her as the first light whispers through the windows to ghost the doorway and glint the curve of my mug.



Light seeps in hushed like tiptoed joy.

Good morning, Jeannie Brown. You are welcome here.


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List of five

A rainy 5:20 am in the darkening northern hemisphere.  It is November 1.


I was lucky enough to be on the road every weekend last month, to and from Kingston, Toronto, Peterborough.  I drove through ridings filled with campaign signage, fields of shorn crops, hills of red and yellow trees, towns surrounded by housing developments and the occasional marsh, feeling grateful and tiny.  Skies full of bruised purple clouds shedding rain even as the slanted sun blazed through to set hill and valley aflame.  All night on super highways through a 386 kilometre downpour, I wondered at my strange need to always be not the fastest, but the first, even on slippery roads.

The beautiful front porch of the Peterborough house I stayed in

The beautiful front porch of the Peterborough house I stayed in

For the first hour, driving is thinking.  In the second hour mental chatter dissolves into a song of the land and the way through it.  By the third there is no-mind, by the fourth, lightness of being.  I hadn’t realized how small my world had become, before October’s road trips.  Thanksgiving, indeed.

coach house garden in old Kingston

coach house garden in old Kingston

Home on November 1 is a tunnel into winter.  I assess, I simplify, I clean up the past seven months and carefully file valuable things – deck chairs and tables, garden plants, kayak, things found on hikes, shared laughter, simple grief, great joy, humbling rage that left me stronger when it had passed.  It’s the inner garden we prepare to tend now, during and enduring the frozen months.  Experience is compost.

Rue flourished this summer. Beautiful plant right out of folktale

Rue flourished this summer. Beautiful plant right out of folktale

I draw and paint bells for a show in early December.  I dig through art history to find work that explores line, light and colour for a drawing course I’ll launch this fall and winter. I write and teach music in my studio, and plan for an open house in five weeks, while Canada reclaims her soul after a dark decade.  Me too.

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Perfection and 3-D printing

played and explained by Joanna Wronkowska


This reminds me of a man I will always love, though I’ll probably never meet:

Excerpt from ‘Anthem” by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring

forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack in everything –

That’s how the light gets in.


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in the dark of the moon

The clouds are pale indigo-violet, then a blustery bruised grey shot through with long warm lines of golden sunlight  and rich blue – this sets the red reds and the yellow yellows and the living greens in brilliant, stop-in-your-tracks collaboration.  I feel as though I’m watching the gods at play in a game where they best one another in acts of impossible beauty.

From far and away family gathers to roll around in the astonishing splendour of where and when we are together at the end of growth — so brief this year.  Together we stop in our tracks and wonder.  Then we move on, we joke, we sing, we cook, we eat, we drink – though it’s perhaps true that this year that none of us are left without feeling privately humbled by the world through which we’ve hiked.

Three days, then family leaves reluctant, less difficult, more compassionate maybe than last year, though it’s hard to say.  Then the wind whips up every leaf from it’s branch to dance it high like opera, like gregorian chanting for four days – then pitches each one down in its own time to serve as mulch for 2013.

The rain, the hail and the heavy heavy sky nightly calls the woodstove to warm, and we feel compelled willy-nilly to finish what was undone – to clear, stow away, cover up, rake and dig while we imagine the day soon come when we cannot.

We know this in our skins, just watching the feverish feeding birds and chipmunks.  We catch ourselves nodding up at the sky as though to a partner we know well who sends clear signal:

it will be a heavy winter.

An incredible January hike in 2009 – ice formed on the tops of all the trees along the north-facing shore of Georgian Bay. We were astonished, all of us.

There’s a part of me that’s eager.  The fast pace of things this year flows in my veins and there may be at last some time to slow down and warm up on the inside, to listen to the resonance of what has occurred, in this year the Mayans were so clear to note in stone.

…we hike in North Sydenham, while the ground shifts beneath us, which it always has done, and always will.

I do hope, wherever you are, that you feel just as deeply grateful for what’s right in front of you – including your own self.

This is dedicated, in part – in a large part – to Amanda Todd who died last week.

Hug from me, A.T.


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sandpaper language therapy

six am &  bright outside, as we approach midsummer.  It is beautiful, yes.  There are birds, yes.  I will garden this morning, yes.  But not now, damnit.

I am distracted by a nagging, irritating thorn that will burrow in deeper unless I pluck it out.  Immediately.

As of this past Thursday when my job was declared redundant, I have only two days of work left at my work.

crow wonders why this happened. (ink drawing by me)

This is fine, though a little shocking because of the supremely awkward way the change was presented, & highly inconvenient, because now I need to find an entirely new job after 19 months of devotion to what is now ‘redundant’ (quite often well beyond the call of duty).

Alright – there’s a good part of me that towers with rage.  This part of me could happily blast a hole in the heads of certain people with my mind, since I know they are a blight on humanity and should be removed, for all our sakes.  But I will not do this arrogant thing.

I had felt this coming in my bones, months ago.  I do understand what led to the decision, which is not personal, by any stretch, no matter how much my rage would have it so.  For these reasons I find it fairly easy to safely contain my anger with well-crafted humour when writing or speaking to people who just need to get through their day.    But there’s this thorn.

Since I received the news, it’s been a week of furied work as I prepare for the new person in the new position, and say goodbye to my colleagues (whom I truly love).  Down-time has been largely numb and stupid, with a bit of giddy bewilderment thrown in.  Fun, but not really pro-active. I do need to move on.

Finally, this morning, like an old root that had it’s trunk cut but feels the sun nevertheless, I reach to poetry, and begin to grow again.

I need Ted Hughes.

Crow::  From the Life and Songs of Crow (London:  Faber & Faber, 1970) is a book of poems that always grinds me back into (marvelously black) humour and honest self-deprecation, a brilliant knife-point that lances the illusion-bubble of human glory to reveal our marvelously arrogant, powerful insignificance.  Buy the book.  Then buy more of his books and read them all.

This is my thorn-removing therapy:  a great, long bath in sandpapered language.  I’m guaranteed to emerge raw and renewed.

Crow’s Fall

When Crow was white he decided the sun was too white.
He decided it glared much too whitely.
He decided to attack it and defeat it.

He got his strength flush and in full glitter.
He clawed and fluffed his rage up.
He aimed his beak direct at the sun’s centre.

He laughed himself to the centre of himself

And attacked.

At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,
Shadows flattened.

But the sun brightened-
It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.

He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black.

“Up there,” he managed,
“Where white is black and black is white, I won.”

I maybe don’t need to explain how this is appropriate.

Now having bathed in Crow and removed the thorn, I can now (croakingly) wish good health and enduring, positive, visionary energy to The Festival of Northern Lights Inc. Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers.  May you light up our darkest moments with imagination.