Monday, May 25, 2015

wide open






May opens wide

by Marge Piercy


The rain that came down last night
in sheets of shaken foil while thunder
trundled over the Bay and crooked
spears of lightning splintered trees

is rising now up stalks, lengthening
leaves that wave their new bright
banners tender as petals, seventeen
shades of green pushing into sun.

The soil feels sweet in my hands
as I push little marigolds in.
Bumblebees stir in the sour cherry
blossoms floating like pieces of moon

down to the red tulips beneath
the smooth barked tree where a red
squirrel chatters at my rescued tabby
who eyes him like a plate of lunch.


{source}




May has broken wide open, blossoming like mad. It's a bit surreal to begin the month with so much snow, and end it with this exuberant colour. To readjust our eyes to the seventeen (or more) shades of green.

This past week we planted many flowers in containers, and began to work on a bed in our garden, that was once full sun and now, mainly shade. We planted a few hostas, some bleeding hearts. So far it doesn't look like much, but when it does, I'll share some photos.

Meanwhile, every morning the camera comes with me on my walk. The feeling that I'm never quite capturing things is something I'm also dragging around lately. But I guess this is part of the practice, pushing through and working in spite of those feelings of dissatisfaction.




I've been waking up earlier than usual. Not necessarily intentionally. By 5am it's bright outside, and my eyes seem to fly open. I've beginning my mornings with Lydia Davis's Collected, which I've mentioned before, and have now also put on my recommended reading shelf (above).

Things said about her work: it's strange, unique, magnificent, understated, funny, surprising, sharp and ironic. All true.

For example:


Spring Spleen

by Lydia Davis

I am happy the leaves are growing so large so quickly.
    Soon they will hide the neighbour and her screaming child.




If you've ever set foot in my back yard, you'll know why this speaks so directly to me. At times I think our entire yard has been designed to shut out the neighbours, and there is one tree in particular that I cheer for every spring because it blocks the view, if not the nasally voice of the neighbour directly behind us. It's not so much the nasally tone that offends, but the know-it-all, condescending, lordly things that he utters. The things his wife endures.





So, in an effort to cheer myself up and shake up my photography practice, I isolated a bit of the bokeh from another photograph of a dandelion which hadn't the proper focus. 




Many strolls were taken through the nearby little forests. 






Ace is always happy to wander about in the trees. 




So I've been trying to challenge myself to capture views of the suburbs where I live. Below, we are coming out of the TUC or Transportation and Utility Corridor area and onto a main road which borders my neighbourhood.







Every year I marvel at the blossoming trees by the 7-Eleven. But trying to compose the scene in the camera confounds me. Not possible to fit everything in with the lens I use, I suppose.






Well. What have I been listening to? I've been working my way through various videos at NPR. This one for example. And this one, called, "Hard Work" by Christopher Paul Stelling. "I know my work is never done, 'til I can see the good in everyone."

The proofs have arrived for Rumi and the Red Handbag, and there's a relatively short window to get them back to my editor. But by now the book has been gone through so often, that I don't expect to find too terribly much. This is the stage that I print the thing off and hand it off to Rob, as well. He's not read it for ages and his fresh eyes will be excellent. It's also the stage where I get to write my acknowledgments page - fun - and also where I start completely freaking out with the realization there's no going back! There's no more big changes. This thing is   d o n e.

The book I most often referred to while I was writing RRH is The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector. I would love it if people had read this book before reading mine.







The other focus in our lives right now, of course, is Rob's 30th Anniversary show at the Douglas Udell Gallery on June 6th. I'm in the process of updating his website, and have a list of things to do before the big day. It's a really big deal for him/us - 30 years of painting. T H I R T Y !  And we're hoping for a lot of people to come and see the work and celebrate with us.






I recently had cause to take Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton off my bookshelf. It had been a while. Too long. What I like to do often when reading a journal/diary is to turn to the date that it currently is, or at least to the current month.

From May 25:

"The season is as changeable, fitful, and maddening as I am myself these days that are choked with too many demands and engagements. It is really a long time since I had what I think of as my 'real' life."

"Yesterday I managed to sow all the annuals, and to put in boxes of nicotiana, parsley, some columbine, and more pansies, fighting black flies that swarmed around my face the whole time. It was a relief to get it done, the worst spring job. Now for a while I can enjoy the garden as the great spring sequence proceeds. The daffodils are nearly over, but tulips and bleeding hearts have opened."







And again from Sarton's Journal:



May 28

"Sometimes wonderful presents arrive from nowhere. Yesterday an unknown sent me, out of the blue, a book called, Loneliness, by Clark E. Moustakas. I opened to this passage:  "I began to see that loneliness is neither good nor bad, but a point of intense and timeless awareness of the Self, a beginning which initiates totally new sensitivities and awarenesses, and which results in bringing a person deeply in touch with his own existence and in touch with others in a fundamental sense."








So much blossoming, how can we not follow suit?


“The words that make the rose bloom were also said to me.
The words told to the cypress to make it grow strong and straight.
The instructions whispered to the jasmine.
And whatever was said to the sugarcane to make it sweet.
And to the pomegranate flowers to make them blush.
The same thing is being said to me.”

- Rumi





















Most of the blossoms so far have been from around the 'hood. Other people's blossoms, you could say. But below, blossoms from the Evans cherry tree in my backyard, with Tibetan prayer flags. 















And lastly, a suburban capture, from a house a few blocks away from mine. Quite sweet don't you think?




Monday, May 18, 2015

want ad



Remember
That to have the eyes of an artist,
That can be enough,
The ear of a poet,
That can be enough.
The soul of a human
just pointed
in the direction of the divine,
that can be more than enough.
I tell you this to remind myself.
Every gesture is an act of creation.
Even empty spaces and silence
can be the wings and voices of angels.

- Michele Linfante












“The poet's job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.”

- Jane Kenyon





“I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget….

I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long walks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness….

I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine….

I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.” 


- Terry Tempest Williams, from Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert


Immediately after reading the above, I thought that there must be many writings that are something like this, because as writers we often need to clarify for ourselves why we are doing this often crazy seeming thing we do. Sure enough, I found "The I Write Because Project" blog. A very cool idea for a project.

Maybe this is a useful exercise for almost anyone, though, to remember why you're doing what you're doing. I knit because, or, I work at the library because, etc.






I have not always loved mornings. But mornings are now when I do most of my writing. (In my younger days I preferred to 'ignite the midnight petroleum' as Data on Star Trek once said).

A couple of poems by Denise Levertov about mornings:




The May Mornings 

by Denise Levertov

May mornings wear
light cashmere shawls of quietness,
brush back waterfalls of
burnished silk from
clear and round brows.
When we see them approaching
over lawns, trailing
dewdark shadows and footprints,
we remember, ah
yes, the May mornings,
how could we have forgotten,
what solace
it would be in the bitter violence
of fire then ice again we
apprehend – but
it seems the May mornings
are a presence known
only as they pass
light stepped, seriously smiling, bearing
each a leaflined basket
of wakening flowers.








The Love of Morning

by Denise Levertov

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves
back to the love of morning
after we've lain in the dark crying out
O God, save us from the horror . . . .

God has saved the world one more day
even with its leaden burden of human evil;
we wake to birdsong.
And if sunlight's gossamer lifts in its net
the weight of all that is solid,
our hearts, too, are lifted,
swung like laughing infants;

but on gray mornings,
all incident - our own hunger,
the dear tasks of continuance,
the footsteps before us in the earth's
beloved dust, leading the way - all,
is hard to love again
for we resent a summons
that disregards our sloth, and this
calls us, calls us.









“Is it possible to make a living by simply watching light? Monet did. Vermeer did. I believe Vincent did too. They painted light in order to witness the dance between revelation and concealment, exposure and darkness. Perhaps this is what I desire most, to sit and watch the shifting shadows cross the cliff face of sandstone or simply to walk parallel with a path of liquid light called the Colorado River. In the canyon country of southern Utah, these acts of attention are not merely the pastimes of artists, but daily work, work that matters to the whole community.

This living would include becoming a caretaker of silence, a connoisseur of stillness, a listener of wind where each dialect is not only heard but understood.”

- Terry Tempest Williams



How happy I would be if this were a job posting: wanted: caretaker of silence, connoisseur of stillness, observer of light.

Perhaps the ad would go on: lover of mornings, soul pointed in the direction of the divine, must be sensitive, enjoys solitude, meditation, looking at things, and long walks.

And in fact, I think the world would be a much better place if these jobs existed.






So, last week snow, and this week: blossoms.












Of course, along with new green leaves, lovely blossoms, come dandelions. Which I find quite cheering.












A couple of shots of the suburbs, above and below. 








And now it must be time for a little virtual teatime. I recently splurged on one of those 14 dollar milk frothing devices which has made my matcha tea ritual all that much nicer. 





So if we were drinking matcha tea together, I'd tell you that the cover for my novel coming out this fall, Rumi and the Red Handbag, is in the process of being finalized. The final edits are in, and next there will be a proofing, and after that the ARCs (advanced reader copies) will at some point magically appear. It's really quite an amazing process that a novel goes through to get to the moment when it's available in a bookstore. It's different from a book of poetry in a few ways, most notably in that a book of poetry would rarely be made into an ARC. (Maybe the super famous poets receive this treatment, I don't know). Probably this is obvious, but everything takes longer. Writing the book took longer, finding a publisher took longer, editing it, same. I'd written most of the book by the time we visited Amsterdam and the Museum of Bags and Purses in 2011. After I wrote the book I had a complete crisis of confidence or something, and just let it sit there for about a year before doing one last edit and sending it out. In the end, I suppose it's all unfolded as it should. I've found the perfect publisher (Palimpsest Press) for it, the perfect editor, and the book is going to be stunning. 







If we were having tea together, perhaps I'd show off these new bracelets I ordered from Modern Flower Child and which I'm crazy in love with.






I would also tell you about watching Mr. Turner. From a review in the Globe and Mail:

‘The man must be loved for his works; for his person is not striking nor his conversation brilliant,” the artist Edward Dayes said of his contemporary, J.M.W. Turner. Even his biographer, A.J. Finberg, writing in the 1930s, complained: “Turner is a very uninteresting man to write about.”

The acting was wonderful - Mr. Turner has not at all been portrayed as a Mr. Darcy, or a romantic figure in any way. (Nothing against Mr. Darcy of course). Refreshing though to see someone portrayed sympathetically enough but without varnish. Well worth watching.







This past week I think I deleted more photos than I've ever deleted in a week. Just couldn't quite get the feeling right, the light right. I kept returning to these mock plum blossoms, never completely satisfied. Last year's photos seem better. And yet, they're what I was able to capture.














These next two amused me - different settings on the camera showing Ace and his two toys - duck and fox. It's probably random, but it does seem as though he set them in the light, just so.






Lastly, some photos of the nature walk we took on mother's day, at Whitemud Creek, Rob, Chloe and me. The last one is me with my favourite type of tree - birch. 



























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