Hibiscus

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Hibiscus
Day 26 CV-19

The hibiscus lives downstairs. We bought it years and years ago. A tiny plant in the florist’s shop, we brought it home. When we placed it here, by the window, we were horrified to see it was covered with tiny spider mites. Gradually, in spite of all our efforts, it lost its flowers and then, one by one, its leaves. After Clare had magicked the spider mites away, she nourished that one last leaf. “If that goes, the plant goes,” she told me. “It cannot survive without leaves.” It took time and daily care and attention, true TLC, but a second leaf appeared, and then a third. Now, each winter, it puts out flowers and fills the room with joy and light.

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More important, in these dark times it fills us with hope and the knowledge that however bad things may appear to be, we can hang on, we can survive. We can be present in every second that we are given and that we can, and must, enjoy every moment to the full. Condemned to a certain death, our hibiscus survived to remind us of the miracle of life, for life is stronger than death, and hope is stronger than despair, and spring and summer are stronger than winter, even if it seems to be ‘our winter of discontent’.

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Creativity

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Creativity

When creative artists get together they talk and walk and hug and hold and discuss so many things, like how the creative spirit can inflate the body and send it soaring like a trial balloon, how listeners can be swept away by a magic vortex of voice, and how time and space can be suspended in the glories of creation that spin a web of forgetfulness around us and makes us disregard who and what we are as we forge new worlds.
Dark earth-spirits of love, want, and creation, hold us captive and drive us onward and inward until we give birth to that which was waiting patiently to be born, even though we never knew that the seed had been planted. “What is this?” we ask as we survey the new-born entity fresh on the page, held in the hands, suddenly full of life and breathing on its own, a thing of beauty, an essential being. It makes complete sense as we struggle to hold it as it grows and transforms from internally ours to eternally theirs, a product of our mind and body now belonging no longer to us but to the world beyond us.
We long to know its fate, to watch it as it walks along its path, its destiny now in its own hands. “What is it?” people ask as we stand still and know not what to tell them. Some sigh, some mutter ‘nice’, others just turn and walk away, lost in a self-created labyrinth of cul-de-sacs, dead end streets, and black, blind walls. Many go back to their two-thumbed clicking and surf the networks, bereft of the imagination to see and explore that which has been thrust fresh before them, this new-born babe beautiful in its swaddling clothes, a new creation.

Comment: The photograph … a geranium against the snow. Truth and beauty can survive even the hardest winters. As true creative artists we must be prepared to fight for our creative ideals. When the skies seem to be at their darkest (see my recent posts Poem from the Cree, Co-[vidi]-s and Outrageous Fortune) that is when we must strive to re-create the light, not just for ourselves, but for others as well.  

New Projects

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New Projects

 … how do you choose them, these new projects? Simple answer: I really don’t know. So much depends on you and your work habits. In my own case I have a back log of projects. I have been writing and creating for years. As a result I have a whole set of files that I can turn to and select from. Two novels, about fifty short stories organized into two or three as yet unpublished manuscripts, a couple of hundred poems, organized into three separate thematically organized manuscripts, a set of writings on facilitating creative writing …

Projects … do the work and then choose the order in which you will publish it. I look at the hollyhock that suddenly appeared last year in my garden. Do the work: the birds (in all probability) seeded it. The hard work: the hollyhock grew itself. I should add that my beloved nearly tore it out on the grounds that she didn’t recognize it and it looked like a weed. But she left it, and it grew into what it was meant to be: a hollyhock. One stalk. So many buds. We didn’t know which would blossom first. And it didn’t matter. One after anther they all blossomed. The hollyhock knew what it was doing [we didn’t]. It had belief and faith [we didn’t]. But we had hope.

The Hollyhock Project: This year the hollyhock has eight [yes, eight] different shoots. It’s no longer a single flower, it’s become a bush! It has also shed seeds further afield [I should really write abed, since they’re all in the same flower bed.] I wonder in what order they will blossom. It doesn’t matter really: I am just confident they will bloom. And the sunflowers have rooted below the bird feeders. They have their own projects and I know they will grow as and how they will. And the yucca has four shoots that will flower, how and why I just don’t know. But each flower has its project(s) and I am confident they will all flower and flourish.

My own projects: When June came in, I didn’t know what to do, nor did I know in what order to do it. Then Time-spirits came together. Geoff gave me some drawings and I chose one for the cover. I took the manuscript to the printers, got an estimate, and received a mock-up. The text had shifted in the transfer from computer to computer. My 70 page text had grown to 132 pages. I spent the next 72 hours rewriting everything, eliminating words, lines, poems, dropping the text back down to 70 pages. It is now published. I wondered what to do with the McAdam Railway Station poems. Geoff came to see me on Sunday, 23 June, and told me that he would be celebrating his birthday the following Friday. He also told me that the McAdam Railway Station would be unveiling his mural the following Sunday (June 30). The McAdam railway poems were published on Saturday, 29 June, and I took them to McAdam in time for the ceremony.

Trust: Trust yourself, trust your projects, trust the universal spirit [Northrup Frye’s Spiritus Mundi], under whichever name you acknowledge it). And remember, genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Put in the mileage, put in he hard work, believe, and trust. ¡Qué será, será! Whatever will be, will be.

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Comment: another golden oldie. I am trying to choose what new projects to start and which old projects to finish. A pleasant problem. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the prospect of a nice, snowy Canadian winter day. Best wishes and happy writing to all.

Butterflies

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Butterflies

Here today and gone tomorrow. Ephemeral. Like all of us ‘poor creatures, born to die’ (as Dylan Thomas once wrote in Under Milkwood). It seems strange to look back on last summer’s photos and to remember that yes, they were here, those butterflies. Outside the window. Perching on the flowers. Showing their varied colors. Alive. Vibrant. Raising and lowering their wings.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I wore a grey suit and lived in a concrete, four-walled cell that they called an office, I was asked if I would edit a new journal for one of the institutions with which I was involved. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘That would be great.’ ‘We’ll need you to submit a title and a theme,’ they said. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Of course I will.’

I thought about many things: titles, themes, topics, writers … Then I thought about other journals with which I had been involved in various capacities. Then I considered walking in the footsteps of the Journal of Higher Education with all of its cutting-edge articles and high-powered inspiration. I breathed a sigh of frustration, then of relief. ‘Got it,’ I said, and the Journal of Lower Expectations was born.

Alas, it was a butterfly that never spread its wings. ‘Your services will not be needed,’ came the curt reply when I submitted the title.

Think about it: a couple of years back, there were no bees in the garden: CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). Last year, there were no birds. The feeders stood empty, and bird flu was the cry on everyone’s lips and the plague on every bird’s beak. Ephemeral. Butterflies on a rock. Australia burns and people are rescued from the beaches where they have taken refuge in the sea. Everyone, everywhere, now needs to live with lower expectations.

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Butterflies and birds and bees: will they be back next summer? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But then, I am a true agnostic. I have no scientific background worth speaking of and neither ax no knife to grind on this topic. I genuinely do not know where we are heading. But I believe least those who protest most, especially when they bluster and bluff and try to pull the cocoon of disbelief over my eyes by shouting loudly their point of view. I have eyes. I can see, even if there are no butterflies, birds, or bees to be seen. Alas: I can still see and suffer their absence.

Please
will ye no come back again?”
Poor kangaroos, kookaburras, koalas,
wallabies and platypus ducks.

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We will miss you so much if you any of you,
let alone all of you,
along with the butterflies, birds, and bees,
go AWOL.

Going, going …

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Going, going …

… and soon they’ll all be gone, save for the lucky ones that Clare gathers and sticks in pots to winter over in the house-warmth. Over the coming months, if you visit us, you’ll find these flowers in corners, on tables, in places that are touched by the low winter sun. Clare keeps lots of geraniums and they do winter over very well. She makes a selection of colors and then places them in sunlit spots. They bring color and light to the darkest days and help keep winter at bay. They are also great to photograph against snows and crows, and I often use their window reflections in my indoor photography.

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Here are some red and white geraniums getting their last touch of fall sunshine as they cling to the back porch.

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This little group await their fall prune. Clare will trim them down and then bring them in. They will be slightly dormant for a while and then start to flourish once again. By the time next spring comes round, they will be ready for their outdoor adventures, a day at a time, back in overnight, and nursed and nurtured until they are ready for their full summer blossom.

It’s Thanksgiving this weekend, so a Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may you all have flowers to brighten your life and bring you some beauty and peace.

 

 

Humming Birds

 

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Humming Birds

Do humming birds hum? Of course they do. Well, mine do anyway. Here is my drawing of them, humming their way across the page. Miracles of nature, they are, caught with their wings in slow motion, and listen to them as they hum. I think they are humming the ‘Song of Joy’ from Beethoven’s Ninth. They certainly are joyful creatures. And, speaking f joyful creatures, look at this photo.

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An uninvited breakfast guest, this little guy has been measuring up the picnic table on our back porch for several days now. He is having fun.

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He reminds me of my dentist, probing my mouth with his toothpick as he searches for cavities. The tiniest excuse and out comes the drill and away he goes, enlarging the hole, and digging down for his pirate treasure. I told him one day that if he found oil down there, all that drilling, I hoped he’d share it with me. I don’t think he was amused.

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Ah well, we can’t win them all. But it certainly is a busy time of year for all those little creatures preparing themselves for the winter to come. The hummingbirds have gone, incidentally, and I must make do now with drawings of them. The woodpeckers are still with us and will winter over. The geese are gathering at Mactaquac and will soon be winging their way south. The land will soon fall silent and then Fall will be over and winter with all its snowy finery will be upon us. I look forward to that too. Meanwhile, summer lingers on, but only in my memory.

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Shower (A Selfie)

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Shower
(A Selfie)

I smell. I whiff. I gloriously stink.
My arms, my feet, my crotch, reek with beauty.
This is me. I am still alive. I’m rank.
The time has come, the Walrus said, to take
a shower. I strip. I weigh. I obey.

Hot water streams. Bathroom steams up. I draw
faces on grey glass, smiling, glum. Soft soap
works its miracle turning Japanese
nylon into a rough body cloth that
rubs and cajoles all putrid dirt away.

Butterfly from its chrysalis, I step
from the shower, sniff with caution, and stench
no more. I am clean. I no longer pong.
My body has been taken over by
perfumes no longer mine. Who am I now?

I am no more myself. I am no more
my own gorgeous underarm muscular
ripeness. I have left my odor circling
in the soap suds and drifting down the drain.
What a pain. It will take me a week or
more to start smelling like myself again.

Comment: The cartoon is today’s effort. I looked out of the window and saw all the garden plants with ‘no particular place to go’ and that’s how it is sometimes, especially at this time of year, the summer behind, us fall present , and the winter ahead. We are left with the tiding up, the readying for next year, a sense of sorrow, and a feeling of hope that yes, the garden will return and yes, we will be here to witness it.

So, what are the figures in my cartoon saying to each other? Well, they have been reading the wise words of my olde friend, Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself,” he told them, ” everybody else is taken.” What are they you ask? They are themselves, as I am myself, and you are yourself, and yes, I am very happy to be who I am. And of course, everybody else is taken, so who and what is there left for us to be?