I took the e-file to Covey’s, the Printer on Prospect Street, Fredericton, on Monday. On Tuesday, Jared set up the files for printing, and I received the book on Thursday morning – nice and early. What an incredible turn around. The writing time-frame is interesting too. Geoff painted and posted. I wrote. The whole thing came together in less than a month. It just shows what inspiration, collaboration, and hard work can do. Here is a poem (# 17) from the book.
This year’s snow is not last year’s snow. Tell me, if you know, where did last year’s snowfall go?
These flowers you paint, they are not last year’s flowers.
Time flows and the world renews itself. It may seem the same, but it’s not. Nor are you the same. How could you be?
You too have renewed yourself, grown, like these flowers you paint, these flowers that will wither and perish to lie buried beneath fresh snow.
You cannot walk in the same river twice. Nor can you paint the same flower once it has withered and gone. The flowers you paint can never be the ones you painted before.
How do you frame this beaver pond, those paths, those woods? How do you know what to leave, what to choose? Where does light begin and darkness end?
Up and down: two dimensions. Easy. But where does depth come from? Or the tactility, the energy, water’s flow, that rush of breathless movement that transcends the painting’s stillness?
So many questions, so few answers. The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen is not a real hollyhock. Intertextuality, visible and verbal: this is a poem about a painting of a digital photograph of a hollyhock, a genuine flower that once upon a time flourished in my garden.
A still life, naturaleza muerta in Spanish, a nature morte in French, a dead nature, then, portrayed in paint and hung alive, on display, in this coffin’s wooden frame.
Comment: Back home in Wales, Christmas Day was for family and Boxing Day was for friends. I guess the same traditions still exist here in Island View. And what better friend than Geoff Slater? I met him in 2017 at the first KIRA residency and we have been friends ever since. We have worked on so many projects together: painting, creative workshops, videos, sound recordings, poetry, and short stories. He has illustrated several of my books, McAdam Railway Station, Tales from Tara, Scarecrow, and I have put some of his drawings to poetry, Twelve Days of Cat. Last, but by no means least, his painting of a hollyhock from my garden appears on the front cover of my latest poetry book, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature (Cyberwit, 2021). The title of the collection, incidentally, came from sundry discussions we had on the nature of art and the Prelude: On Reading and Writing Poetry (pp. 7-31), was written at his suggestion. Poems to Geoff can be found on pp. 43, 44, and 61-62 of The Nature of Art.
So, Boxing Day is for friends. And I dedicate it to Geoff Slater and all the many friends I have made in KIRA, Kingsbrae, and throughout my multiple meanderings through the realms of academia, coaching with the NCCP and the NBRU, researching in communities like the ACH, the AATSP, and the MLA, various editorial positions on academic journals like the IFR, BACH, STLHE Green Guides, STLHE Newsletter, La Perinola, AULA, CJSoTL, Canadian Modern Language Review, Calíope, translating for different associations, including the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in St. Joseph’s Convent, Avila, and volunteering with STLHE and the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. To all those friends out there, including my friends and e-friends in TWUC, the LCP, and the WFNB, and those on Facebook, my blog, and my online Skype and Zoom courses and meetings, plus, of course, those I know via Quick Brown Fox, you are not forgotten. Here, for you, on Boxing Day, is a hug or a wave of the hand and a great, big thank you for being there.
Selection of my books on the sea-shore at Holt’s Point.
“My walk each morning, rain or shine, feathers my black galoshes with dewy grass. There I would ramble through gated doors that kept out the world and sealed in my pen’s work for that day.
I often found myself sidetracked, exploring paths that led through flowerbeds, and up to my favorite sculptures. I paused to watch my fellow artists as they focused on chosen subjects unaware that I was eavesdropping.
Then silently, I would steal away along the well-trod path to my studio, pausing long enough to greet the llamas and baby goats. If I listen carefully I can still hear their bleating.
In wonder, every day, I climbed the steps of wood that led to my studio, opened the door, and turned to breathe in my good fortune. ‘What a blessed woman you are,’ I would tell myself before taking my place for hours on end at my desk, each moment, each stroke of the pen, each letter added to the growing lines on the page, a gift.”
Comment: This is a found poem, found in the sense that it doesn’t belong to me. I met Ginger at KIRA in August, 2019, and we became close friends. We have corresponded regularly since meeting and she has become one of the best beta readers I have ever had, open, fiercely, honest, knowledgeable, and challenging. This challenge for me ‘to be the best that I can be’ really does bring the best out of me as a writer.
A found poem: I found it in one of the e-mails Ginger sent. In it she described a typical day for her at Kingsbrae. Isolated from its e-mail prose, the lines shortened and the thoughts slightly re-arranged, it became this poem, Ginger’s poem, her poem. I offer it to her, as she offered her writing talents to me, openly and with great humility. It can be found in the section entitled Impressions of KIRA Artists on pages 66-67 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature (Cyberwit,2021, details to follow when available).
We met at St. Andrews, at low tide, on the underwater road. In secret we shared the closed, coded envelopes of thought, running fresh ideas through open minds.
Our words, brief vapor trails, gathered for a moment over Passamaquoddy, before drifting silently away. Canvas sails flapped white seagulls across the bay.
All seven seas rose before our eyes, brought in on a breeze’s wing. The flow of cold waters over warm sand cocooned us in a cloak-and-dagger mystery of mist.
We spun our spider-web dreams word by word, decking them out with the silver dew drops proximity brings. Characters’ voices, unattached to real people, floated by.
Verbal ghosts, shape-shifting, emerging from shadows, revealed new attitudes and twists, spoke briefly, filled us with visions of book- lives, unforgettable, but doomed, swift to fail.
Soft waves ascended rock, sand, mud, to wash away footprints, clues, all the sandcastle dreams we had constructed that afternoon, though a few still survive upon the printed page.
Comment: We, like the words we leave on the printed page, are survivors. Sometimes, when the seas rise high and our paths grow rough and hard to travel, we need a friend to reach out to us in our time of need. That friendship extends across differences and distances. Here, on the shores of time, we can meet and greet and share. Patos de diciembre, we can paddle together and give each other strength and comfort.
This poem appears on pages 64-65 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature, soon to be available at Cyberwit and Amazon. More details later.
What is it about generic greens, their power of growth, renewal, resurgence? In the Auberge, Moncton’s Hospice for cancer patients, sufferers wore green clothes, shirts, blouses, skirts, trousers. Green for recovery, for hope, for the persistent belief that nature mattered, more, that nature could be omnipotent, ubiquitous, everywhere around us. The patients planted a small garden, almost an allotment. They walked in it, sat beside it, watched the flowers grow, grew their own cells anew, hoped.
Exercises are easier, more fulfilling, when done in green surroundings. Go green for improved moods, better self- esteem, growth beyond the muscles of cold iron pumped indoors by hot, sweating bodies. Never underestimate the healing power of walking barefoot on grass, your toes curling into the early-morning coolness of fresh, new dew.
Focus your attention on the here and now. Forget the past. Let the future take care of itself. Your most important therapeutic tool is this moment of awareness when you and your world are one. Erase loneliness and isolation. Don’t pander to the pandemic. Talk to your plants. You may not think they’re listening, but they are. And you must listen to them too. Learn the languages of tree and shrub, of butterfly and bee, of Coneheads and Cape Daisies. Bask in beauty: sunflowers, hollyhocks. All will be well.
“Verde, que te quiero verde. / Green, how I love you green.” Federico García Lorca (!898-1936).
Comment: I have been discussing Mindfulness with several people recently. Whether it be the Covid-19 outbreaks or the necessity of staying apart from friends and family, some of my seem to have become more isolated and more introverted over the last couple of years. As a result, the theme of mindfulness has arisen, often spontaneously. So, this poem is dedicated to all of us who feel the need to live in the moment and to concentrate on the development of our inner growth and being. It is taken from my book The Nature of Art nd the Art of Nature (pp. 134-35), soon to be available on Amazon and at Cyberwit.net
How could one not give thanks for the bounties of Thanksgiving? Listening to Cross Country Check Up, last night, as I have done for the last 55 years, I was amazed at how people, some of them in dire circumstances, were able to find things for which to be thankful. I haven’t made a list of the things for which I am thankful and I certainly didn’t call in to the talk show to give my opinion, but let me think…
I am thankful for the beauty of the natural world. Just look at that sunrise! Yesterday we walked in Mactaquac and admired the beauty of the changing leaves. Migrating geese put on a display, taking off from the waters of the head pond, flying, then settling down again. We: I am grateful for the presence of my beloved, still beside me after all these years. I am grateful that we are together and that we are both of us able to walk and indulge in this province’s autumnal beauties.
I am grateful for faithful friends. I will not name them all. If I did, this blog would never be finished. This morning, an e-mail from Geoff Slater, whose paintings and drawings have often appeared on the blog, spoke of the nature of ritual and how we use it. He spoke of external rituals and how, during times like these, when our normal lives are upside down, we lose the ability to follow our external rituals. This may cause dismay and a loss of stability to many. However, he also reminded me that we, as practicing artists, have established our own internal rituals. These keep us going in the difficult times, for they are always there to fall back on. Following his line of thought, I explored my own daily rituals, the ones that have kept me going throughout Covid-19. Thank you, Geoff, for those ideas and for your long-term friendship.
I am grateful for the initial offer, from the University of Toronto, to come to Canada to study all those years ago. Canada gave me a chance to challenge my established rituals and to build and shape new ones that were more suitable to my inner being, a being that I had kept well hidden from the Masters of the Universe who limited my creativity, and ruled the rituals of my Boarding schools and my undergraduate studies. Above all, I am grateful for that rich, inner world of creativity and dream and I am doubly grateful for those who have allowed me and encouraged me to express it and set it down for others to share.
So, Thanksgiving Day: a day on which to give thanks for all the blessings that are in our lives, large and small. Sure, times are tough. Sure, we could all do with more money. Sure, we could go on and on about our wants and needs. But today my want and my need is to give thanks for who, what, where, when and why I am. As my friend Norman Levine once wrote: Canada Made Me.
Meditations on Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
Modes of limited transitions, moods of time tapped in time to time’s rhythmic piano.
Scales fall from the listener’s eyes. A transitory awakening, this glimpse of the composer’s vision, each note a new version extracted from abstracts perceived in color, each note a hue, and chords a rainbow spectrum of light glimpsed darkly through a raindrop’s lens.
Birdsong and sunshine. Notes perched on the matinal branch, each in tune with the other, at times discordant, yet the morning chorus diluting the day with the liquidity of light and sound.
Teddy Bears’ Nit-Pick Friday Fiction 27 August 2021
“So, Teddy, how did we all end up in here like this?”
“Kicked him out, she did, just like that, Freddy. Told him to sleep in the spare bedroom. She couldn’t take it any more. She couldn’t sleep. He had to go. It was the diuretic that did it, mind, the diuretic. After the radiation treatment, they gave him hormone injections, told him he’d put on ten to fifteen per cent of his current body weight, but not to worry. It was quite natural. It was the hormones, see? He told me all about it. Told me how he used to stand on the bathroom scales without a care in his heart. Watched his weight rise, five per cent, ten per cent, fifteen per cent. When he reached twenty per cent, he started to worry. Swollen ankles. Swollen knees. At twenty-five per cent, he was really worried. Socks no longer fitted. Couldn’t put on his shoes. Couldn’t bend to tie his laces. Had to wear sandals and slip-ons. At thirty per cent, he started to cry. He told me he was ugly, so ugly. He was down to one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals that fitted. He went to the pharmacy. The pharmacist took one look at his feet and gave him a long list of Latin names. Told him he’d need a prescription, from his doctor, to get pressure socks, and medical shoes that would help him walk. ‘It’s the feet, see, the feet,’ the pharmacist told him. ‘Once they start to swell, you’re in big trouble. There’s nothing we can do. Go see your doctor.’ ‘I’ve seen the doctor.’ ‘Go see him again.’ So he did. Told me he broke down crying when he entered the surgery. ‘I’m down to one pair of shoes. You’ve got to do something, doc.’ So the doctor wrote him out a prescription for pressure socks, medical shoes, appointment with a psycho-something, attendance at a clinic, everything the doc thought he needed. Then, just as he was about to leave, the doc stopped him. ‘Hang on a sec,’ doc said. Sat at the desk. Checked the computer. Wrote out another prescription. ‘New tablets,’ he said. ‘Take these brown ones. Stop taking those white ones.’ He went away happy. Stopped at the pharmacy. Got the new pills. Went home. Took them. And straight away started to pee. Told me he’d peed all day and then I watched him as he peed all night. Every 15 minutes. That’s when the missus kicked him out of bed. ‘Go. Sleep in the spare room,’ she said. ‘You’re peeing every fifteen minutes. I can’t sleep anymore. I can’t stand it. And take that teddy bear with you.’ So he went. Grabbed me, his faithful Teddy Bear, tucked me under his arm, and we went to the spare room with its cold, lonely bed. Except he had me, his Ted. Lost four pound that first night. Twelve pound the first week. Twenty pound the first month. ‘Ted,’ he said to me one morning, ‘I feel good. Time for us to go back to the old bed.’ We tried. But the missus wouldn’t let us back in. He’s looking pretty good now. Back down to ten per cent body weight up. Says he can live with that. Likes sleeping with all his Teddy bears he tells me. Says we don’t snore. Unlike that missus of his. It’s the first anniversary next week. He told me to gather all the bears, Rosie, and Blanche, and you, and Blueberry, and Basil of course. And that French bear, Pierre. ‘We’re going to have a midnight dormitory feast and a Teddy Bears’ Nit-Pick.’ Sorry Fred, I don’t know what the missus is going to say about that.”
Dance of the Spheres Thursday Thoughts 26 August 2021
I thought for a moment that, yes,
I was an angel and I was dancing
on a pinhead with so many other
angels, and all of us butterflies
spreading our wings with their peacock
eyes radiant with joy and tears spark
-ling in time to the music that wanders
up and down and around with inscrutable
figures held spell-bound in a magic moment
… and I still feel that pulsing in my head,
that swept up, heart stopping sensation
when the heavens opened and the eternal
choir raised us up from the earth, all
earthbound connections severed and all
of us held safe in an Almighty hand.
Comment: This poem is from my book A Cancer Chronicle (2017) where it is published under the title Sewing Circle. While in the Auberge Monsieur Henri Cormier, in Moncton, undergoing treatment, I joined the quilting group. What fun, one anglophone man learning French from, a dozen Acadian women. What fun: and yes, I did learn a tremendous amount about so many things, including the peace, mindfulness, and inner concentration of sewing and quilting.
A Cancer Chronicle The verse-story of one man’s journey Click on the link below to purchase this book
Spotify Remember to scroll down to the correct episode.
The Origin of the World Gustave Courbet L’Origine du monde
The origin of the world and where I came from, her deep, moist cave that cast me from dark to light. She loved me, she said, depriving me of her warmth, leaving me to go back to her lover, loving him more.
Was it guilt that drove her to drinking whisky? A forty-ouncer a day at the end, sometimes more. She would wake in the night, wander the house, banging against chairs, tables, walls, and doors.
She ran up bills in local shops, and the keepers would dun me for the money she owed. She also borrowed cash and some days her fingers were bare. She left pawn shop IOUs on the table and I drove
into town to redeem her rings. Once, in a drunken frenzy, she cursed her only child. A mother’s curse is a terrible thing. Living albatross, it claws lungs and heart. Its weight drove me to the bottle. I too sought oblivion.
Joy came when blackness descended, the albatross flew, amniotic waters rocked me in warmth and comfort, and my body’s boat floated once again on an endless sea. Reborn each day, mornings cast me back from dark to light.
Comment: Here is the link to the DiversityTV reading of The Origin of the World. The Origin of the World begins at 28.40. I will attach my own reading from Spotify, just as soon as I complete it. I always find it fascinating to compare the way others read with the way I do. meanwhile, I would like to thank Alexandro Botelho for his invitation for me to participate in his DiversityTV show. I enjoyed his reading very much and I wish him all success with this venture.