Seeds

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Seeds

As creative artists, we seek to leave seeds and plant seeds. Just one idea, seeding elsewhere authenticates us as artists and creators. Some seeds fall on stony ground, we know that. Others do not take immediately, but lie dormant for some time. Some, a few, a very few, a happy band of siblings. drop, root, and grow into the flowers we always wanted to create.

We must always have confidence in our seedlings. We must believe that they will survive, somehow, somewhere, in spite of the random nature of the universe. Write with that belief. Create with that belief. Be strong. believe. Even when others doubt you and, what is worse, you doubt yourself. Never doubt yourself.

My Hollyhock doesn’t doubt. It came from nowhere and gifted itself upon us. Now it has gifted us with pod after pod of wonderful seeds. Some will be lost. The squirrels, chipmunks, and mourning doves, not to mention the passerines, will get others. But some will survive, take root, and flourish, just like this one did.

Believe, my friends, believe. And never stop creating.

 

 

 

Light

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How these flowers change with the changing light. This is full daylight, with the sun to the south shining directly on the house.

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This is the evening light, with a low sun shining from the west straight along the footpath. I am always amazed by what Monet saw in his paintings of light as it fell at different times of the day on various objects. The cathedral face at Rouen is a prime example. Here, in my garden with the hollyhock, I see how its colours change, how texture alters, how different features become more salient at different times of day.

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Sometimes it is hard to believe it is the same flower. We were so surprised when we first saw it, that we nearly pulled it up, thinking it was a weed. Luckily, we didn’t, and it rewarded us with a summer long, now into fall, series of blossoms, not to mention a myriad seeds for next season. We have become quite good friends, this hollyhock and I and we talk together regularly. Sometimes the other plants get jealous, and you can see they have faded slightly, bewildered by  his glory.

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks

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We have never managed to grow a hollyhock before this summer, yet this one appeared from nowhere and quickly grew to more than eight feet tall. We didn’t plant it and we don’t know where it came from. Some little bird, maybe, on a migration journey from one garden to another. Who knows? What I do know is that these flowers are magnificent. This one has endured the summer’s heat, the occasional thunder storm, strong winds, and heavy rain. We had early frost in September, but it seemed to give the hollyhock strength and it blossomed on and on.

Right now, pine siskins and the occasional American goldfinch settle on our hollyhock and peck at the precious seed pods. Precious, because we have gathered some of the seeds, given others to a good friend, and offered some to the passerines who all too soon will be flying south. Those seeds we have kept we will plant. Hopefully, next year, we will have several of these beautiful plants growing in the garden.

The plant, incidentally, is more than ten feet in length. The vertical height is eight feet. Here, in this photo, it bends to touch its toes, hence the downward slant that it has taken.

GBH

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GBH

Grievous Bodily Harm to some, but to others, Great Blue Heron. I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder. How about Grand Beautiful Harmony? Awesome is an overused word, especially when it comes out as almost an expletive: awesome. Awesome haircut. Awesome meal. Awesome tie. Awesome photo. Awesome heron. Or just plain, old awesome! With an exclamation mark of course, and the air punched up from diaphragm and out through tight lips.

That said, certain moments do fill us with awe: an awe of the wild, of nature’s bounty and beauty, awe of the elements, the stillness of the fall pond, the subdued rifle crack when the great wings first open, or the echoing slap of the beaver tail striking flat on open waters. Poetry in motion: that sudden catch of the breath as the launch into the air makes our hearts, just for a moment, first stop, then beat more quickly.

Falling into Fall

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Falling into Fall

Not just Beaver at the Beaver Pond. Wonderful, this transition from end of summer to start of fall and look, there’s  a little pot of gold at rainbow’s end. By tomorrow, some tiny mouse will have gnawed the edges in search of sustenance. Meanwhile, this moment of perfection caught forever in the transient eye of the passing camera. Tread carefully when you walk these woods. Look everywhere, not just at the path ahead. But watch out for those tree roots. Their little hands will reach out and pull you down and you’ll roll in the already fallen leaves, an old man turned into a child once more. But oh, it’s so much harder to leap to your feet and run, run, run from shadows and the nightmare hands that haunt your dreams and reach out to grasp you.

 

Life-Long Learning

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Life-Long Learning
KIRA & Kingsbrae Gardens

It’s hard to believe I could be back with my friends at KIRA & Kingsbrae by the end of next month. What an honor and a pleasure to be invited to help facilitate the first KIRA Boutique Retreat on Creative Writing. Geoff, Jeremy, and me … we will make a truly creative dream team. We are working out the details as I type this.

My task will be to work with poets and short-story writers. I have just successfully completed two online courses from the School of Creative Writing at the University of Toronto, my  Canadian Alma Mater (MA, PhD). Kerry-Lee Powell offered the first course: Writing Short Fiction II, while the second course, Poetry II, found me studying with Sachiko Murakami.

Life-long learning is so important. Over my life, I am not that old at seventy-four, I have learned that it is the ability to change, to adapt, to learn new things, that marks us out as creative people. Since my escape from imprisonment in the Ivory Tower of Academia (aka retirement), I have ventured into several new worlds, including that of online learning. My two most recent online courses from U of T now stand alongside an online course from Humber College on novel writing. Alas, this course did more to confirm that I wasn’t really a novelist at heart. As we live, we learn. I have now laid aside my three embryo novels to concentrate on my stronger areas: poetry and short stories.

Along with these online courses, I have been through the give (offering) and take (participating) of multiple creative writing workshops. So much knowledge gained. I have also enjoyed several positions as academic editor, associate editor, editorial board member, of multiple national and international publications, in English, French, and Spanish. In each of these new adventures, there was so much to learn.

Now I have the chance to return some of that acquired and accumulated knowledge to others who, like me wish to practice their life-long-learning skills. The unique KIRA combination of conversations, selected workshops, one-on-one talks, round-the-table discussions, evening talks, and readings will open many horizons to writers old and new, and not least to myself. As I live, I learn.

Round-the-table discussions: The Spanish have a wonderful term for this, de sobremesa. This refers to the discussions that take place, around the dining table, when the meal is done and everyone is comfortable in each other’s company and multiple conversations flow.

As for KIRA itself, I look forward to returning to my conversations with the land, the sea, the flowers, the birds, the statues, the alpacas … I love talking to them in Spanish … and the rowdy, old peacock who squawks his joy at evening, when the sun goes down. And don’t forget those Indian Runner Ducks: Beatrix Potter talked to them … and so did I … in fact, in Beatrix Potter’s case, one of her own Runner Ducks, possibly a distant cousin to those at Kingsbrae Gardens, became better known as Jemima Puddleduck. Who knows? Between poetry and painting, you too may find your own version of Jemima PuddleduckPaco the Alpaca, perhaps?

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KIRA: The three standing stones, though I think of them as talking statues. I stood in the middle between them, closed my eyes, opened my mind, and listened to the magic as the breeze blew through them and sang secret songs to the music of their stone flutes. They filled me  with the sound of their ancient voices, their poems and stories, the magical mysteries of their myths. Come and visit and I’ll show you how to stand still and listen to what the stones have to say. When you allow that poetry to flow through you, you’ll never suffer from writer’s block again!

Dandelion Flowers

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Dandelion Flowers

My flowers fly bright flags as if trooping their colors
for Her Majesty, the Queen of England. They drink water
dosed with chemicals to keep them healthy and alive,
refusing to fade, flourishing in their vase on the table.

They withstand both sunshine and shade, neither wilting
nor fainting under the hot summer sun. In this house
there dwells no queen, just a domestic pussy cat
called Princess Squiffy who knows she may look at a Queen.

“Your Majesty,” say Cape Daisies as the pussy cat passes.
“Ma’am,” say Peonies and Pansies, bending knees, bobbing heads.
Outside my window, the garden fills up with onlookers,
still green Tomatoes, Clematis, and a tall Hollyhock.

A multitude of weeds crowds onto the lawn. Dandelions
standing splendiferous, waiting to take plebeian selfies,
for plebs, they are, vox populi, people’s voice, people’s choice.

Some ancient god must have loved them very much,
for they are ubiquitous, and totally indestructible.
That said, you must never trust them in your flower bed.