Saturday, December 31, 2005

It was the strangest of years...

I'm writing a book on this crazy and unexpected year. It's over a hundred single-spaced pages, and there's more to go. Can I succinctly summarize? No.

Snow floats in delicate dance from a white sky. That I can see from my basement window. Had anyone told me I would be here a year ago, I would have laughed.

This year I packed myself away and started out, like the Tarot Fool, unburdened and fresh. I left Vancouver and returned to Toronto, without a house to move into, without a job. It continues to be a wild ride.

I am reconstructing my life slowly. And differently. Having left and returned gives everything a freshness. But I am not seeing the same way. People are somehow changed. It's like I can see more deeply, and am surprised by what I discover. No wonder he or she was so loyal! No wonder I always felt oddly hurt by him or her! Perhaps I couldn't see below surfaces before, and now I can. I'm negotiating my way through my resurrected life carefully. Christmas with my mother, normally almost more than I can bear, was surprisingly alright. Relationships with certain friends have fallen by the wayside, especially if they were money or status dependent, which I didn't know before, when I had a fairly large trendy house downtown, but which has become clear since. Relationships with other friends have become even closer. And these seem to be with those who have a larger wisdom about life, who truly come from the heart. Even my sense of this city has changed. I am situated differently and walk down into the core from a residential neighbourhood. Everywhere I go I find friendliness. But I'm not as immersed in this culture as I once was. It's like I'm non attached: I've been elsewhere, gained a knowledge of what it's like to leave everthing, of grieving that loss, and then returned to what was left to find it changed too. I'm an older and different woman now. Not as sparkly, I can feel that. My hair is brown, not blonde, and I am more subdued. Gentler. Moving slowly, as I reconstruct who I am in my various communities. I can never go back to the way I was, yet don't know who I am becoming. But I think it's going to be a whole lot better, happier, more trusting and more fragilely beautiful because I undid myself, let go of safety, of possessions, of all my assumptions and approaches to everything, and am in the process of creating a new life even as I am creating a new view of my world.

Many blessings to you all. Many thanks to those of you who have shared in my journey. May you have a most magnificent and happy New Year... xo

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Prodigal return...

I had one of the nicest Christmas' ever. Low key, but with my family, my two brothers and my mother, on the 25th, and then my two children, two neices and one nephew, and bothers, and mother, and doggy, she's welcome at my mother's, on the 26th. Two years away, and what was not enjoyable before, family tensions et al, are gone, washed away. Just quiet gratitude. The way it should be. And why is it that sometimes we have to nearly lose everything before we let ourselves in to what's there, appreciate what we have? Or is it that I was gone for 2 years, and they nearly lost me, and so are being appreciative of me? Whatever it might be, it was very nice and has left me feeling, well, happy.

I wrote in The Move: "The prodigal return. When what leaves comes back. We return again and again to our roots in our memories and our dreams. We never truly leave where we have come from. Our past lives on in us."

But it's more than that. When you go back to what you can never fully leave, it's changed, it's not the same. I am extremely lucky: it's much better.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Festivities!

Happy Holidays... and for those of you dreaming of a White Christmas. Whatever your family, &/or friend, rituals, however you celebrate the birth of the light, enjoy!

(borrowed the delightful White Christmas from Ken's site.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Receiving is Giving

I discoverd, looking at my sitemeter, that Freecycle Newswire linked to my post, A path of gifts. It was difficult writing, searingly honest- how fragile I am yet strong. But only strong in the sense of knowing that we give much to each other and it is through our love for each other that we blossom. How happy the giver of a gift can be when they see how wonderful what they have given is to the recipient. The art of receiving is as important as the art of giving. Loving kindness, support for each other, caring, helping, giving, receiving, surely this is what makes the world go round. The beauty of us. Finding that people really do care. Such plentitude in our hearts.

Digital camera gone awry

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What happened to my beautiful digital camera? It's 2 1/2 years old, was not dropped, just started doing this a few days ago- focus is gone, colour bleeds. While the effect is certainly interesting, I need a camera that works!

I have an extended warranty on it that's up next year; I am hoping Sony will cover the repair of this. How am I going to take photos over the festive season, or continue to create my photopoems without it?

Any ideas on what's happened to the camera?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Master Text/MasterCard

I am dressed in a black suit, leather boots, my curls free but tamed by a conditioner. Lipstick outlines my ready smile. I answer the phone all day at a head office for MasterCard. At lunch I eat leftover tandoori curry in a vacant office and then travel in the mirrored, news-screened elevator down to a coffee shop to buy a lemon-coconut pastry. What am I doing here? The crowds of well-dressed business men and women. I am alien to this moneyed world. I walk through, carrying my pastry, watching like an anthropoligist studying strange creatures who are bulging with hidden aggession beneath cultured veneers of wool and leather, their preened and polished gleaming highlights decking the concourse like Christmas lights. It is the opposite of the third world country I come from; it is the far end of the spectrum politically for me. When I was numb after my marriage ended and couldn't be a college & university editor anymore, I started temping. What drove me into this world is unclear. Yet, alien as I feel, I am comfortable too. I know I look like everyone else. No-one would know how traitorous I am to the very world that undergirds our culture, keeping the flow of money rolling, supporting us all. Or am I? I open my Marguerite Duras library book, Two by Duras, to the words, "Don't be afraid."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Move: Section #38 on seeds...

From "The Move, " something to think about...

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Section #38

Everything begins as a seed. A future is contained in the seed: the full, flowering tree; the whole person exists in possibility. All the information that is needed is contained in the seed. With an adequate mixture of necessary ingredients, it will grow and flourish in all the ways it was meant to.

Perhaps relationships begin as seeds too. What they will ultimately become is contained in the beginning. The parameters are set, even if unconsciously so. Attitudes and expectations, the rhythms of the way it’ll unfold, are prescient at the beginning. If one knows how to read the flickers of intuitions, dream fragments, stray thoughts, then one might discern the possible directions of the relationship and whether it will be ultimately satisfying and endure or not.

Careful and diligent tending is only as good as the seed planted at the beginning.

How else to explain the strange coherencies of her stories and dream images and the turn of events at a crucial time, which would prevent their relationship from flowering, or even coming to be?

It seemed as if this line of the plot had been woven into the seed of their connection before they even discovered their desire for each other.

The twist in the plot line would tear apart what was only the fragile, tender beginning.

There would never be more than that; yet she would remain entangled as if in a fisherman’s net.

That was what the oracles of image and dream indicated and she wondered if it was possible to change the genetic structure of a relationship before the damage could occur.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dreams, ah, no, nightmares...

For a bit, who knows, I'm trying daily writing again... it'll be all over the place, though. Don't expect consistency in narrative, or the narratorial voice. Sometimes lifewriting, sometimes who knows.


In the cold, dark night I awake; the clock is flashing 2:03am. Sigh, why'd I awaken? Now I'll be awake for hours. It must have been a dream. What was I dreaming? I pull the two sleeping bags around me, the down one I wrap around myself inside the cloth one which is zipped up. I lie in a cocoon each night. Tonight I have woken perturbed. I think of the dream. And then I see the image. I must still be half asleep. I see an open cream-coloured photograph album on a dark sidewalk. The image suddenly zooms in. There is a photograph of a body on the sidewalk. Only her torso, her right breast, which is bare and splattered with blood. Everything is black and white except the splattering of blood. I don't see the wounding; I don't see what caused her death. I feel sick. Lie back down, what's that about? She's not me, too young. Worry. Worry. Then the cinemascope goes blank, and some white writing appears, as if on a blog site, and it's something about the children, what's hidden, and I'm feeling a churning in my gut and I don't know why. It's as if there are protected posts that I can't read, the children want to let me know that there's something I should know. I want to protect them, but I don't know against what. I feel helpless, on the other side of knowing, sensing trouble and danger through the blackness behind which what I need to know is protected from my sight. I get up, go to the bathroom, return to my tangles of covers, and fall asleep eventually, waking around 6 to get up for work. The dreams still haunting...

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Lock

It was one of those days. With the large coffee urn and a shoulder bag with a thermos mug of coffee & lunch, I rushed out into the frigid day and just missed the bus. By taking a different route, consisting of running a block, 2 buses and a streetcar, made it on time; but when I got there I found I'd forgotten my purse. The last time I forgot my purse was probably 35 years ago. Someone lent me a token to get home, otherwise I'd have been walking. The 30 cup coffee maker was well received.

At the other end of the day, the same route of 2 buses and a streetcar took not half an hour but an hour.

The lock sticks. Well, it's almost had it, actually. You turn your key for ages and it half opens, and then finally, with twiggling and effort, the dead bolt slides back into its socket and you can get in to let out the dog who's been barking nonstop throughout.

My daughter let me in tonight. Her hair was still damp from a steamy shower, which was odd, because she never showers in the afternoon. And then she unfolded a story of attempts. I'm still shaken. She spent an hour in frigidly cold weather trying to get in. She was wearing sneakers. Her key, which doesn't fit in the front door, got stuck there when she tried to get in that way. She sat in a chair by the side of the house, her hood pulled low. She cried before telling herself to stop, no self-pity. She couldn't feel her feet. She felt tired and thought of sleeping. She finally decided to go to the Community Centre but found it noisily full of children. She came back, managed to get the key out of the front door and went to try the back door one more time.

The lock slid back. She was in. To a very rowsing welcome from the dog, who by now had berserkly barked for an hour.

You can imagine how insane I became when she told me the story. And how I related it to my landlord as soon as he stepped in the house. He went into shock too and has been apologizing all evening. He's getting the lock fixed tonight or tomorrow, has promised to be here when she gets home from school tomorrow since I'm working.

And then I went and bought her a small bag of Tim Horton's sugar donuts, her favourite... have her wrapped up in a comforter with a heating pad, and have put emergency money into her backpack that she is never to spend unless she has forgotten her key or can't get in, and then she's to go to the cafe at Loblaws and buy a hot chocolate and a pastry and do homework at one of the little tables... oh, and phone me. Yes, she must phone me.

That child of mine, who I love, oh who I love, is too dreamy. The two of us, I swear...


Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport 12 December 2005 6:00 PM EST

Mainly Clear
Mainly Clear
Temperature
-12 °C (10 °F)

Pressure/ Tendency
102.0 kPa

Visibility
24 km

Humidity
70 %

Wind Chill
-21 (-5 °F)

Dewpoint
-16 °C

Wind
NNW 21 km/h

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Coffee Urn

Freecycle Logo

Changing the world one gift at a time

In the past week or so I've worked a few days at a Community Services umbrella multi-service organization covering about 16 neighbourhoods of Toronto. Among the communities it serves, some stats stand out: its families are the largest in Metro, averaging about 4 -5 people; it has the highest proportion of single parent families; it has the highest rate of multiple-family households; it has one of the most densely populated areas of the city; as a landing place for new immigrants, it is the most multi-cultural area of the city; a disproportionate number of people live in apartment buildings of 5 stories or more; it has a high proportion of low-income families; there is high unemployment, and some of the areas rely largely on governement transfer payments; it has a high rate of homeless or transiently-housed people, and a high rate of people with mental health problems; there are a large number of food bank families in the region; it has a high proportion of seniors living within its borders. York Community Service has a dedicated, hardworking staff too- many of them are working this weekend to put donations of gifts together for needy families.

I've been working on a strategic report for them. The man who I'm working for is a professor at York University, where he teaches in Nursing. For the first time in all the years I've been temping I think someone read my resume. He's let me edit, not just copy edit, but rewrite where necessary. Then on Friday he asked me to draft a condolence letter on the death of the founder of a charity organization that supports the Community Service's Holiday Basket program. And when I ran out of work mid-afternoon, he asked some of his co-workers to let me write a few of their emails (nothing important), which was gratifying.

The pay, for a temp job, is not too bad, I'm enjoying work that is more along editorial lines (though it's still secretarial, don't get me wrong), it's not too far by bus, and I can handle the place ethically. The last requirement being extremely important for me to find any contentment in a place of work. I have to agree with their philosophy and what they're doing. Banks (with their credit card interest rates and general practices) just don't cut it, if you know what I mean.

It may turn into a more regular part-time job, I sure hope so. I need the money more than I can say. My household in storage is precariously wavering on a recent NSF cheque due to the bank withdrawing their service fee first, leaving me $1.60 overdrawn, and then bouncing the $500. cheque to the moving company. I've been in contact with the moving company, who I phoned immediately. Don't worry, I'll be yelling at the bank manager when I go in on Tuesday to get the $35.00 fee they charged me on top of the indignity. I've been with this bank for 30 years too (*fumes*), and they made a tidy sum off of me in mortgage loan payments for almost 20 years (*fumes* some more).

Anyway, on a happier note, as you know, I belong to Freecycle, and last night an offer came through of a new 30 cup coffee urn/percolator that the person wanted to go to a charity organization. I immediately wrote back about York Community Services. And he chose me due to my enthusiasm! My ex will pick it up when he brings my daughter home tonight (extremely unusual, that he'd do that), and I can take it into work with me tomorrow.

A gift for the Community Services Centre, for functions, for offering coffee to people and families who come in.

Isn't that just the nicest?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My daily practice...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSince 1995 I've been a Certified Kundalini Yoga instructor. I looked online for the meditation I've done daily for 11 years, the Dhrib Dhristi Lochina Karma Kriya, and found it at two sites: one closer to Yogi Bhajan's version, and one geared to a Western yoga market. I've separated it from any guru worship. Usually it's 15 min a day, sometimes followed by silently focusing on the breath for an equal time, or more usually with a rest after, and once a month I do a 2 1/2 hour sitting. It has had a profound effect on my sense of ethic, of understanding that there are consequences to any action that you take. I understand the concept of reverberation through this meditation. Beyond that, it's an ally, a friend, my daily comfort and teacher. Thought I'd share my practice... *hugs xo

Friday, December 09, 2005

Unconcealing the Concealed: Intercepted Lightbeam

Hmnn, in the midst of editing The Move, a pause which I offer for you to ponder:

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Unconcealing the concealed, hidden, repressed, as a light beam carrying coded information is intercepted and changed, revealing its interception, because the interception itself remains as a record in the light, so unconcealing the concealed changes it.

What if the pathway of language were like a beam of light carrying coded information, and our attempt to understand what is being conveyed changes what is being conveyed because of our presence in the pathway?

What if I were telling you a secret, and, in your hearing my previously hidden secret, your listening intercepted the narratorial structure of that secret, and changed what I thought I was conveying through it?

What if there are no absolutes, and everything is relative, and it's all a matter of perspective?

Would actual memory exist, or only our perceptions of what we remember, that are being changed by our re-remembering, which are like interceptions in our own pathways?

What I mean is, if we're all intricately delicately coded light beams shining, can we shine through each other and make each other appear? Or appear to appear, perception being what it is...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Writing one's life...

I have a compilation of a lot of bits of writing for my NaNo this year. It's a semi-autobiographical book in small sections that incline towards prose poetry. It's called "The Move" and explores what it means to live without security, grounding, a home. And the discoveries in it are quite profound. It's like there is the world structured by capitalism, an economic grid, where we work, buy what we need, etc. A demand and supply model. What the protagonist discovers is a larger deeper network between people, one that seems to work through 'call' and 'response.' That there's an almost telepathic connection between us all. And that we are in a network of interconnections and are supported simply by being here. Of course I want to get all soppy and say that love is the underlying energy and that we're all cared about, but have to consider how to convey that without sounding didactic...

I'm writing it in the 3rd person because it's, well ya know, too raw. But later I may switch it all to the first person and call it a memoir, who knows. It's a strange place to be, where I am. Here's a photo of the house I owned for 19 years, but sold in 2003, in the heart of downtown Toronto in a very trendy area. It's the slate blue-green house with the tree. My children were both born in the front bedroom on the second floor. The top floor was my study/studio, until I had to rent it out after my marriage ended. There is history; there's always history. Do I feel like I've fallen? Not really. Though others who knew me back then might think so. I'm still the same person. And, the oddest thing, even with almost nothing, it amazes me how stable I feel in so many ways.

Was it because I finally chose the path of the artist? And let go of the academic path? Is that why the spiral down? Or did I want to discover this place where I am, without any support, to see what I'm really made of?

Sometimes I think I'm very confused, and other times I think I've never had such clarity.

Anyway, today I can either travel a long way to get my daughter an exercise bike from a Craigslist contact (for her birthday, but it would require my 82 year old mother, who would have to drive me out there & back downtown, not a good idea), or go to a coffee shop and try to write or organize what I have (though it's turned cold and I need warm gloves & shouldn't spend money on coffee, sigh). So, hmnn... choices, huh.

I'm meeting another Freecycle member later this afternoon who's giving me a refurbished but unopened HP Laserjet II toner cartridge for my ancient workhorse of a printer, what a gift!

Here's a link to the first section of "The Move":
http://brendaclews.com/id5.html

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A path of gifts

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA few of you have asked how I'm doing. Finally the words are coming...

Let me preface by saying that I arrived in Toronto August 1st with two suitcases of summer clothes. Without work for 4 months, any government assistance or charity, somehow I have managed to put together a small home for my daughter and I. How this has happened amazes me. It's a path of gifts, of many small miracles.

Money is the very strangest thing of all. I literally have almost nothing. I don't have what I have collected over a lifetime, nor can buy what we need. With that route denied, how things have been coming to me astounds me. Oh, Freecycle™ is amazing; so is my neighbourhood. Little things, I needed a plastic drainer for a dish rack & found one yesterday; I needed a shopping cart (3 in storage, nothing to use), found an old rusted but perfectly serviceable one; needed a printer for my daughter's long Civic's project, was given one by a Freecycle™ member, and she got 144/145 on it; needed a Winter coat, found an Eddie Bauer down coat for $15. at ValuVillage, when I went to pickup a internet cable from another Freecycle member, & my son agreed to give it to me as a Christmas present; we were sleeping on thin plastic camping mats, and over the weeks I found a queen-sized and a 2 twin foam mattresses, all in good shape, and ultra cheap sheets from Wal-Mart; we were eating off 2 plastic plates from a friend's camping gear, and a Freecycle member gave us a slightly chipped but utterly beautiful 4 place setting dish set; I needed an electric broom, sweeping wasn't cleaning our small space well enough, and found one, clean, cord wrapped neatly around it, with some attachments, waiting for me as if was a gift; and on & on. Precisely what I need I find. I rub my eyes in utter amazement. You can have no idea. When I look about me, at the gifts of friends, Freecycle™, and 'finds,' I realize I have created a small home out of nothing. It's stone soup. I didn't know I was such a staunch survivor. But I am.

Even the basement apartment in which we are living was a find, not only the interior space, but it's in a genuinely loving home that is a balm to my ravaged edges, and which I am deeply appreciative of. Still, I do recognize that what keeps me here rather than on the street is a fragile line. My 3-bedroom household is in storage. Even with continued threats from my ex over cutting the little bit of child support, it trickles in and the rent gets paid every month, and some emergency money from my son paid the storage fees right on the edge of everything we own being auctioned off last week. All our photographs, mementos, books, clothes, furniture. All my paintings, and all the writing I've done through the years. Almost gone, but for a last minute reprieve. It's been like that. Living on the edge. Figuratively and literally.

I think about these things as I walk the hour and 20 minutes it takes each way to a Wal-Mart where milk is $3.77 instead of $5.50 as it is at all the supermarkets around here, and somehow manage to feed myself and my daughter on next to nothing at Wal-Mart and No Frills (which I never ever shopped at before, especially Wal-Mart with its closing a store in Quebec that was forming a union, and its child labour issues, and it's employment practices in general, but, oh). When the coffers are empty, my brother will unexpectedly press some bills into my hand, or my son (who's living at his Dad's) will deposit something into my account from his minimum wage part-time job at a supermarket (I weep at their generosity); just today, all options exhausted, a clerical temp job for two days appeared, which will feed us for 2 weeks, if we are careful.

It's a most strange existence, this. There is no luxury, not even a comfortable chair, let alone a couch to curl up in (oh, a perfect one came to me, but we couldn't get it down the narrow stairwell). Still we maintain ourselves. And I'm learning about trust. That's the key, I think. Life is an odd affair. But keep loving and trusting. Where am I going with all this? I didn't intend to write a 'tell all' post. Even I find the description of my present life rather shocking. But then, again, I am working on uncertainty and trust, which is a theme of my novel, "The Move," and now on grounding, settling, housing, coming into oneself... and so I wonder if my dream of owning a house that is large enough for my kids and I will also come true. We do move in the direction of our dreams, don't we? Aren't we the directors of our lives? Don't we create our lives as we live them? We'll see, we'll see.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blog Against Racism Day

Yesterday was Blog Against Racism Day. You can still participate by leaving the URL to your blog against racism at the post by Chris Clark where they are being collected. Click on the active link above.

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Poem from my Singing Bowls of Horizons.