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particularities

I am not been feeling generous with humans of late. Maybe because I’ve read and signed and shared more petitions than I can count over the last week. Myanmar’s big-oil supported military shooting at citizens, Trans Canada Pipelines & TC Energy’s horribly distorted value systems, the fact that we only protect TEN PERCENT of our incredible boreal forest from loggers, who cut the equivalent of four hockey arenas EVERY DAY, Doug Ford’s bid to get more money for his election by selling the greenbelt to developers, the massive amounts of garbage left by Londoners released from lockdown… when, just when are we all going to grow up out of our collective stupidity?

I’m not calling you stupid, nor me. It’s US, together. WE allow all of this to continue.

There’s a new Canadian news service called The Breach. Entirely people-funded, launching this spring. They are determined to ask good, uncomfortable questions. I gave them money.

There are passionate, knowledgeable, remarkable people who have built grassroots lobby groups, people who understand where the political and financial pressure points are, who are collecting signatures and delivering petitions where they will count. These are the places I’ve signed and shared – my twitter feed, @KeiraMcArthur, is full of opportunities to do the same.

There’s more, but getting this much off my chest has lightened my being enough that I no longer feel like screaming bloody murder at next person who litters in Gage Park.

Thank you for reading through all the spit. The fact that you do really does count for me.

Have you noticed that the world is both smaller and larger in these pandemic times? I’m regularly in conversation with California and South Africa now, along with people from other continents, cultures and belief systems. I can check what the weather is like in Kyoto and Prague, whether it’s raining or snowing at Skara Brae in the Orkneys, and then continue with my chores… garbage out on the rain washed street past the chirping sparrows then respond to a text from LA, then turn the kettle on & after send a quick note to Johannesburg.

I eat a Mexican avocado, a Chilean plum. I wear a merino wool (Australian sheep) sweater made in China, shipped from the US. The gas in my car comes from the ground beneath the middle east, my coffee from Guatemala via the Kicking Horse Pass in BC.

A container ship blocks the Suez for a week, and 400 million dollars per hour in traded goods just… stops. More empty shelves.

Effects and counter effects. I came into this residency to change and deepen my work, which was never gonna happen if I wasn’t willing to change and deepen myself. Luckily a global pandemic, then, which brought with it some hard right turns, then some hard lefts, also some necessary full stops. Much buffeting and dissolving of old ego stories. I am not the person who arrived here in January of 2019.

The works shifts as the world does – how can it not? In purely material terms, working on six and seven foot canvases is no longer practical or sustainable. I have two on the go at the studio and three here in my apartment, but I’ve scrapped all big installation plans for now. Works on paper, which began in 2019 and grew through 2020 into a 2021 series of painting/drawings (Conversation Pieces – see posts with this tag) with crazy-wild shifting grounds – these have become my new pleasure and practice, each one a delight and a surprise. Small, intimate and mid-sized, they fit and shift in the changing light on walls between other things – much more practical.

And playful. I’m putting fruit stickers in some – Chile, Peru, South Africa, used stamps – Spain, Poland, USSR, in others.

Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, Resmaa Menakem, my friend and inspiration Marilyn Struthers and the entire conversation around intersectionality and post colonialism has turned me with slow, steady inevitability toward an exploration of my own indigenous roots in Scotland and Ireland. Back across the ocean I will go, through the commons and the old ways to find out more (when we are able to travel, which I hope will be in 2022). This will, no doubt, change and deepen me some more. Bring it on.

It’s these backdrop pieces that aim me toward a personal archaeology of my ancestors’ land, story, memory.
It feels very much as though they are expressions of an older part of me

Trees and water, water and trees. In 2020 I found myself studying the behaviour of my beloved Georgian Bay, while the world was in lockdown. My cabin there is in a forest, some of which is original growth that anchors the various levels of shore over the past eleven thousand years or so. I love that lake with my soul, and will always return to her to learn and give thanks. The Water Bodies project, and The Tree Story project are both alive and well in me, waiting patiently while I change and deepen enough to make something meaningful that honours the lake and the tree people I know and love.

The red-tailed hawk sails past my window on the spring thermals. I know where her nest is, among the trees on the escarpment cliff at the end of my street. I felt a need in this post to offer a snapshot of the particulars of place, purpose and context to you, a pause to breathe in the way everything connects us one to the other, whether it’s through garbage strewn and picked up, petitions signed and shared, tough questions asked, choices and artwork made.

Watch here and on Instagram, twitter, tumblr, fb and a new YouTube thing (in development now – why not?) for photos and stories from the new work. If you have a piece of wall for a twinkling piece of art capable of sparking a good conversation, there’ll be some easy ways to purchase it from me.

I’d be so honoured.

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Colour Pages #7: White

Veritas.

It’s dark down there – difficult to see, to dig and keep digging.  At the bottom of it, when you get there, you find an understanding that changes the shape of your world.    LindenwoodtrailLookout

I’ve just watched a film about a young prosecutor with great natural integrity who is working in Frankfurt just after WWII.  He is drawn to dig for answers in places where his colleagues are oddly reluctant to go, specifically about what happened at a work camp in Poland.  What happened at Auschwitz is revealed to him through the stories of survivors and he realizes with growing horror that all 8000 soldiers who worked at the camp are complicit.  That everyone who knew what was happening, what had happened, and did nothing, was complicit.

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A culture which covertly rewards cruelty and entitlement to violence is a culture grievously sick.  It’s a culture of people who need desperately to examine and understand their own internal darkness.  It is us, our blood memory.

We are all of us in need of Truth, and then the reconciliation that leads to healing.

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Here’s an excerpt from a story I read on social media this morning, published by “A Mighty Girl” (an organization that collects such stories and offers them as empowerment to young people)

Twenty years ago today, Keshia Thomas was 18 years old when the KKK held a rally in her home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hundreds of protesters turned out to tell the white supremacist organization that they were not welcome in the progressive college town. At one point during the event, a man with a SS tattoo and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag ended up on the protesters’ side of the fence and a small group began to chase him. He was quickly knocked to the ground and kicked and hit with placard sticks.

As people began to shout, “Kill the Nazi,” the high school student, fearing that mob mentality had taken over, decided to act. Thomas threw herself on top of one of the men she had come to protest, protecting him from the blows, and told the crowd that you “can’t beat goodness into a person.” In discussing her motivation for this courageous act after the event, she stated, “Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘this isn’t right’… I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me… violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”

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Colour pages 1-6 are meditations on red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

White is made of all these colours, in balance.  Enlightenment.

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I offer that white is kindness – a simple act of compassion that can unravel any knot of negativity, ease pain, transform anger into forgiveness.  Firm, clear and clean, the white of compassion is a balm to the discolourment of pain.

"Sorrow", otherwise known as Mother Canada, from the memorial at Vimy Ridge
“Sorrow” from the memorial at Vimy Ridge

White is a still, safe, tender place where stories can be told, and heard.

It’s where we find the courage to heal ourselves.

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There and back again

It’s been such a long long time since I’ve allowed myself to feel the wonder of my own buoyancy.

A field of oats on off the sideroad where I drank my morning coffee
A field of oats on off the sideroad where I drank my morning coffee while my excellent bandmates slept..

Sing a B-flat major chord to the sun as it dips below the western horizon.  Play and snap and thunder through two sets of Charlie Glasspool’s excellent music with four excellent and complex human beings. Floating propelled on a big white boat that can open itself to kiss Tobermory and then South Bay Mouth, sharing people back and forth like fluid full of stories, food, art, and music.

Travel in Good Spirits, says the Chi-Cheemaun.  And we did.  There, and back again.

and another oat field, blue and shifting in the morning breeze, to the right.
…and another oat field, blue and shifting in the morning breeze, to the right.  At some point I forgot I was drinking coffee, and I drank the blue green of these fields instead.

Mostly my rehearsals are efficient things, scheduled between other things that need attention.  Like ritualized steps through the weeks they land precisely where they were planned – morsels of joy and the rich job of listening closely to make the right sound at the right time.  Twelve pieces learned and somewhat polished in two hours for a gig the next day.  Beginnings and endings.  Sheet music road maps are explored and memorized, fingerings and bowings, dynamics marked in (or chord progressions, lead lines, rhythmic textures , vocal harmony parts where and when).  Later you pull these out and play with an mp3 to embed them, and on the way to the gig play the mp3s over and over & think your way through your part…  I had three rehearsals like that this week – each of them highly rewarding of course, but quickly finished and on to the next thing.

Docking sign at Tobermory.  I liked the paint cracks from weather
Docking sign at Tobermory. I liked the paint cracks from weather

Sometimes it’s about more than getting the notes right, but there’s no time to explore the bigger philosophy, to feel and hear the deeper currents and learn to ride them with integrity, with sensitivity.  Rehearsal is over too quickly, too efficiently, and I carry a residue of missed opportunity through the day…

On rare occasions, though, there is time and a shared inclination to go deeper.  There was this week with us as we sang our way to the boat, on the boat, and back again into the next day.

Vessel

We stepped off the schedule planet, my friends and I, and onto planet possibility for an intense two days.  I can’t (and wouldn’t) speak for them, but I certainly know I am changed by it.  I feel like a child who has discovered a myriad of new ways to play with old toys.  Songs and solutions pop into my head while driving, while reading, immediately upon waking.  I can handle and deal with about twice the detail load, and I still have plenty time for wonder.

She opens herself ni the approach to Tobermory
She opens herself in the approach to Tobermory

What a simple thing, to change so much.

Stop, and play with like-minded people in a place of possibility for long enough to make it count.  And it will count.

 

Thanks you guys.  More, please.