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Saturday 17 April, 2021

Thirteen tabs open on my browser, two of which have been up for weeks now. Why, I wonder. Two beautifully designed and printed Emergence Magazines beside me on the table, an accompanying ‘practice book’ over there which inspires me to make my own. From where I’m sitting now I can see two bookshelves and imagine four more, three in the cabin and one upstairs in my morning room where I paint. One row of philosophy and poetry, another of fiction, a third much longer one about ecosystem, natural environments, ecologies. Mythology, storytelling, folk tales, art, maps and symbols – interpretations of the natural world. Four volumes of the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada.

Conversation Pieces pink sheet reconstruction; sugar and tray reference photos

The Norton Anthology of Western Music and other tomes like it are in a box, over there. They’re boxed because I needed to make room for books that explore Time. The books in the box are relics; we think differently now than when they were published. Many important things are missing from their pages, like music written and played by people who are not white men. This is an example of academic historic scaffolding that does not hold up – a one-legged stool.

Conversation Pieces silver sheet reconstruction photo: detail 4 panels, April 16

Notebooks with pens on every surface in my apartment – purple, green, royal blue, black, gold – all with drawings and writings, colourings and figurings, witnessings and energetic lines pointing and moving forward and up. Doesn’t matter where I sit, there’s a book and a pen there ready to catch a thought when it appears.

Out the kitchen window a female cardinal skips and chirps along the eavestrough, a little dance of worry. She and her partner are my alarm clock in the backyard tree every morning and I’m concerned now, too – that something has happened to him. Ah but there he is now, red and resplendent, supportive on the roof beside mine.

Conversation Pieces Silver Sheet reconstruction, corner view (silver appears dark)

We are in a third wave in Ontario now, and police have authority to stop me, ID me and fine me if they believe I’m in contravention of the new lockdown rules. I’ve spent my morning reading and listening to reports, and what appears to be true without any doubt is that Provincial Governments west of New Brunswick have failed to take the clear actions recommended to them by health experts, in favour of appearing to support the ‘economy’. Here’s a good rundown of that insight from a Justin Ling opinion piece published by MacLeans.

I am feeling real anger on behalf of all essential workers at grocery stores, Walmarts, meat processing plants, and Amazon warehouses who are getting Covid from their coworkers who cannot afford to stay home, because they do not receive paid sick leave. On behalf of all prison inmates, I am angry that even reasonable efforts to protect their health have not been made. On behalf of all physicians and healthcare workers who are facing the cost of all this in human lives, I am angry.

C.Pieces, Silversheet with late afternoon reflections, April 16

Once again my Friday list appears on a Saturday. They are now Saturday Lists.

2. Think about what these lists are for and why I write them. If I’m just buying in to the general pandemic-fueled anxiety-laced need to MAKE UP MORE THINGS TO DO, then stop it. Just stop.

5. Make a short video with my face in it, and whatever else comes to mind.

3. Read Emergence 1 and respond with drawings and one paragraph per article in the purple notebook.

1. Write to D. Ford and J. Trudeau to insist that they legislate paid sick leave immediately. Keep writing and insisting.

4. Find five reasons to smile, whenever you think of it and at least seven times every day.

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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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The Well

stare and stare at these paintings, make a choice to add paint, increase opacity, move a line, stare again and question and re-form my understanding of the work and my own approach to collaboration – what is changing?  why and how the change?  How can I follow – willingly submit to change myself, when I cannot see the future?

I started working with bells as a response to the great political divide of the Canadian Election. Alarmed, that we are so susceptible to fear-mongering, that we permit racists and bigots to rerpresent our country and run for parliament, that
I started working with bells as a response to the great political divide of the Canadian Election. Alarmed, that we are so susceptible to fear-mongering, that my country has turned so dark, that art, science and all religions but one – or two when convenient, have been muzzled by oil and money…

Always another voice that insists on clear answers, ‘What am I trying for here?  Does this work resonate outside of my little world?  What is my statement? If challenged, could I defend the value of this piece?  I don’t know. I’m only sometimes clear with my thinking.

But we chose change, and elected Justin Trudeau, who has been swift to change our course to one of mutual respect, of collaboration with first nations, of removing muzzles from scientists, building bridges between government and constituent, addressed climate change and invited representatives from each party, and across the country to Paris for the Climate Conference.
But we rose and chose something different by giving Justin Trudeau a majority.  He and the elected have been swift to change our course to one of mutual respect.  We gave a gender equal cabinet.  We will answer for our history with our First Nations. our Scientists, civil servants, citizens are encourages to engage, witness, and collaborate with the Government of Canada.  Trudeau has invited representatives from each party and to Paris for the Climate Conference.

Discernment = Self respect.  There is no other way to choose well than from a position of strength and humility, which is perhaps the greatest form of strength.  Always the painting is stronger, more alive than I.  Always it wants something I can barely imagine to happen.  My response is to simplify.  Simplify again.

Paris. Last night at least 127 people were killed and many more injured by a terrorist group. In Paris. The western world weeps and buckles down into fear: close the borders! Protect our own! But there are bombs also in Syria, in Bagdad, in Beiruit. We do not respond to these by changing our profile pictures in solidarity...
Paris. Last night at least 127 people were killed and many more injured by a terrorist group. In Paris. The western world weeps and buckles down into fear: close the borders! Protect our own! But there are bombs also in Syria, in Bagdad, in Beiruit. We do not respond to these by changing our profile pictures in solidarity…

I look up after pause moments (knitting a scarf with cables so I need to count:  perl three, knit three, perl three, four rows, then knit one, perl three, knit three.  It’s four feet long now…), and I notice that there is a pattern also in the drawings on each canvas.  The bells are progressively getting louder, their mouths wider…

You can add up the parts, But you won't have the sum, You can strike up the march, There is no drum. Every heart, every heart To love will come, But like a refugee. - L. Cohen, "Anthem"
You can add up the parts, But you won’t have the sum, You can strike up the march, There is no drum.  Every heart, every heart To love will come, But like a refugee. – L. Cohen, “Anthem”

We shall see where change takes us.  I go willingly.