Friday, March 31, 2006
1) Who is the last person you high-fived?
My dog; she shakes my paw whenever I ask and she’s good about high-fives too.
2) If you were drafted into a war, would you survive?
I’d never allow myself to be drafted into a war. If I joined the medical corps, I'd suffer hugely from PTSD, but that's the only area I'd go if absolutely forced. I don't think I'd do jail.
3) Do you sleep with the TV on?
I’ve never had a TV in my room. I need quietness and darkness to sleep, use earplugs actually.
4) Have you ever drunk milk straight out of the carton?
I may have once tried from a small carton; the milk on the edge of the waxed cardboard wasn’t very appetizing.
5) Have you ever won a spelling bee?
Never been in one; I’m not a great speller.
6) Have you ever been stung by a bee?
7) How fast can you type?
Probably around 60 wpm – not fast (self-taught typist, lots of mistakes).
8) Are you afraid of the dark?
Never been afraid of the dark, that I can recall. I love being wrapped in darkness.
9) What colour are your eyes?
Blue. With brown flecks around the pupils, I'm told.
10) Have you ever made out at a drive-in?
I’m sure I have. But we're going back a ways...
11) When is the last time you chose a bath over a shower?
A few nights ago – bubble bath, tealight candles all around the edges of the bathtub, beautiful.
12) Do you knock on wood?
Yes. Wood feels so good under the knuckles, grounding, earthy, wise.
13) Do you floss daily?
Every single day. But then I have to.
14) Can you hula hoop?
Yes, and it’s still fun. When I was seven I was the Hula Hoop Champion of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
15) Are you good at keeping secrets?
Yes. I completely forget what someone’s told me in confidence until I’m talking to them again.
16) What do you want for Christmas?
That’s a long way away.
17) Do you know the Muffin Man?
No. I'm not much of a Muffin Woman either.
18) Do you talk in your sleep?
I think I utter obscure phrases now and then.
19) Who wrote the book of love?
Rumi, oh, but there is no other poet who comes close to Rumi’s vision of love.
20) Have you ever flown a kite?
When I was a kid and lived in England for a bit we’d go to parks and fly kites. Not in Canada though.
21) Do you wish on your fallen lashes?
That’s a new one.
22) Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes and no. On personal terms, yes, hugely; in societal terms, no. So I try not to think in those terms...
23) How many people are on your contact list of your mobile?
Before I let the battery completely and utterly die? Perhaps six dozen; don’t know. Now? A handful.
24) Have you ever asked for a pony?
25) Plans for tomorrow?
Busy with writing.
26) Can you juggle?
I’ve tried, can do 2 things at a time for short snatches.
27) Are you missing someone now?
Yes. My son, who turns 19 this weekend. He's living at his Dad's in another city.
28) When was the last time you told someone I Love You?
Today. This morning.
29) And truly meant it?
30) How often do you drink?
Not often enough. I used to go through one box of red wine a month, a quarter of a glass every night, oh how teeny and fairy-like, my thimbles of wine. But they don't sell wine that way in Ontario (unlike BC with its mountains and camping) and it takes me too long to finish a bottle -:)
31) How are you feeling today?
Pressured. Artistically pressured. To create anything, a poem, a photopoem, a drawing, a dance, anything... to write that paper I have to write... to submit some abstracts for an upcoming conference (oh, deadline's today)-
32) What do you say too much?
33) Have you ever been suspended or expelled from school?
Sigh, no. I haven't lived enough have I?
34) What are you looking forward to?
I’m not sure if there’s anything in particular. More unfolding.
35) Have you ever crawled through a window?
Yes, last Summer when I was locked out of the house. I used the ladder from next door, climbed onto the roof over the kitchen and in through a bedroom window. It was a hot, humid, melting day, but I got in. My dog barked frenetically throughout.
36) Have you ever eaten dog food?
Yes – a few crumbs once of home-baked gourmet peanut butter dog treats. The Ikea recipe (whole wheat flour, wheat germ). It tasted like biscuit without the sugar.
37) Can you handle the truth?
Yes, far more than I can handle dubious fabrications.
38) Do you like green eggs and ham?
Still haven’t figured out what this is!
39) Do you have any cool scars?
A smile-shaped scar on my right shin from running into a corner of corrugated metal roofing in Kafue National Game Park in Zambia at age four. We lived 200 hundred miles from the nearest town. So I didn’t get any stitches.
My five words were hard. I wanted to describe my life at present, my state of mind. But qualities are more fixed, stones in the sweeping current, places where you can safely put your feet as you cross. The five words feel vague and, oh, here they are: responsible, careful, creative, compassionate, sensual.
Prudy's response: "I know this woman pretty well, as I've read her closely for about as long as I've been on here and I've talked with her several times. I was surprised by her description and she's the first one to do so. There isn't anything this woman can't write. I prefer her in first person but she is stubborn. And I know I'm supposed to pick five words and then shut up but this one is going to take some time. She gets the most generous commenter award, I think we'd all agree. I once told her I waited for her to tell me what I'd written. When I first read her she was writing poetry. I think it became more prose poetry. Rich is what I called it. Then she started a book. Then she started doing Podcasts of essays and some of her poetry. The minute her voice hit the words they became jewels. What I liked just as much were the extemporaneous preludes she charmed us with, her voice lilting, laughing. I don't know why but I was surprised by her keen intellect and academic prowess. I think she must have toned it down for me:)
All along she'd been painting. She does amazing work with vibrant color and with subjects to my taste as she is similarly spiritual and sensual. Okay. Lyrical, brave, open, compassionate, joyful."
I have been so low these last days that this picked me up and I thank you, Pru. For being the friend you are...
You can leave five words to describe yourself here. I'll respond as best as I can.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Where your prayers are, hidden on the inside, invisible. Between you and your God, or the life force itself. Prayer is because of what continues. Prayer is not disruptive thought, fragmented living, but the song of it all. In the quietness of the intimacy of the holy.
a peace tree
where the wind moves
pieces of woven material
lanterns of love
And then I lifted myself, and it was bright.
And I saw them flutter
collected against a plum wall
a rainbow of ribbons, banners
prayer flags, lungta.
Weavings of spirit and meaning, desire and effort, care and consideration, and tears. Knot us, our dreams and hopes and those we love, together; please don't separate us...
Here is my prayer ribbon, gentle reminder to the great spiritual forces that I am here, needing too.
On trees all over the world, prayers for peace. I tie white prayer flags onto the trees out back. For all the wars, conflagrations, battles, arguments, violences.
I pray for inner peace.
To be knitted into my world; to be woven into the continuous strands of the sacred song that our prayers are.
Hold me tight.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Friday, March 24, 2006
This one's at 9am on May 6th, a Saturday morning:
Caregiving and Evolutionary Ethics: The guardians who undergird culture.
"For a moment, during their conversation, feeling the desperations they spoke of, the difficulties, she felt connected to millions of women over the globe who struggle with poverty, grief, racism, violence, but who keep going. Women who are the emotional centres for their families, who are anchors, who place food on the table miraculously out of almost nothing, who somehow dress their children, their spouses, themselves, who clean and maintain their homes, who work for menial wages, where they are essentially labourers, who never allow themselves to succumb to madness, or drugs, or a furious destruction of the world around them, who keep loving their families in profound ways. They grieve, yes, there is sadness, but they have hearts of compassion. It was here that she felt a bond with the strength of women throughout the ages. She knew she was alive, living in her generation, carrying the flame of continuous love through the marathon that history is, only because her foremothers had also carried it and passed it on. If mothering is a stable, conservative force, if that's what happens to women as they take on the responsibility and role of motherhood, then she was grateful for it. This was where there was meaning, the staying-with-it through everything, the power to endure, to continue." Brenda Clews, The Move.
Caregiving is a core ethical value. Unfortunately care of others, especially the most vulnerable and important for the future of 'the race,' children, often falls to women who are mothers, and who, one might say, because of this role, become the keepers of the continuous flame of evolution. Such processes as "natural selection" could not, I would argue, produce a highly complex species without the continuous care provided by women who take on the caregiving role, and so become, not just metaphorically but in a very real sense, 'guardians' who undergird the enterprise of culture. In this talk I will align caregiving with a discussion of evolutionary ethics and read a short selection from my unfinished novel, The Move.
Bio: Brenda Clews is a writer, artist, dancer and single mother living in Toronto. She has degrees in Fine Arts and English Literature from York, and an unfinished Interdisciplinary Studies thesis on the maternal body. She is currently writing an autobiographical novel about living in uncertainty, and about existing outside the dominant discourses, entitled, The Move.
This one's at 2:30 that afternoon:
The creative writing piece:
Towels hung on the door, an accidental spectrum
In these photopoems, I explore my daughter's relationship to her body. As a feminist and as a woman who struggled with bulimia many years ago as I came to terms with my own female body, it is hard to witness my daughter undergoing the same struggles. At 15 she is radiant as the sun who cannot see its own beauty. These prose poems explore the difficulties girls face with media and peer pressure to sculpt themselves into more perfect images of what is considered beautiful by the general culture.
I wrote to her... "Please use the same bio I sent with the other abstract. Am I aiming for 10-15 minutes of reading here?"
I've barely written anything. The first talk is 15-20 min, that's easy. The second panel seems to consist of only two of us, which means an hour and 15 minutes each! I had thought of writing 4 pieces, taking up 12 -15 minutes, so this is going to require some planning. I'll probably take a disc of my photopoesis pieces, or dig up some old work... though, oh dear, I can't. Lost in storage...
There are so many writers and poets and artists out there, how come this panel is so under-represented? The last time I joined a creative writing panel at one of these conferences, it was packed, with writers and audience, and we each got 10 minutes to read... some of those pieces were incredibly moving and became the highlight of the entire weekend.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Today I'm considering engagement. It's important. Sometimes you do things without really doing them. Meditation this last week has been difficult because I've done the meditation without really doing it. If you know what I mean. It's about engagement. In meditation and in my work. By focusing some good intent on my book, and even having it beside me while I sleep, seems to have re-charged my relationship to it. I finally have an ending, and not the one I expected, but it is congruent with the text. As I re-read, editing, how painful the narrative is. Yet with so many unfinished manuscripts and thesis's (two and two), bringing something to completion is of particular importance. That's a meditation in itself: the hexagram of completion.
Engagement isn't completion, they're two different processes with two different purposes. Engagement is being in the present, fully participating in whatever it is you're doing. Full focus; undivided attention; the complete synaesthesia possible for any particular connection. But engagement is needed for completion, especially when the mind wanders, creating posts on why we write in blogs and spending copious hours photoshopping a photo, recording a reading that didn't work until giving up and going for the sweetness of the yoga teacher's voice, ooh la, should I tell you that? Today the manuscript lies open before me, and have I spent as much a one second looking at it? I've had a breakfast of 12 grain bread and melted cheese, mugs of coffee, erased the grey in my hair with colour, showered, had curry for lunch already and it's not even noon!
I've hugged the dog lots, eaten grapes, wiped counters, done dishes, laundry, sent emails, considered all my relationships, focused on what I need at the present to continue, collected my life, you know the song.
Oh, did I tell you about the fresh strawberries, almost over-ripe, that you slice into a bowl and put a good-sized dollop of cream cheese on and sprinkle generously with raw sugar? In the microwave for 40 seconds, mix it all up, and it's almost like having cheesecake! Instantly, that is.
Do I have 2 hours a day for my book? Of course I do. Now that I know the ending, I can focus the writing.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
How can I take the reader's perspective into account when I write? I write from excess, from overflow, from abundance, a plethora, a cyclone of words. Aren't we all on journeys, discovering our way as we go? Mine isn't a journey of logic, nor do I know the path or the map that'll finally result from it all. I don't have a specific set of interests to write about. Though I do favour prose poetry and exploring emotional landscapes. My lifewriting is often hidden in metaphors, obscured with fictions, offered as a tie-dyed garment of brightly coloured silk, fragile and soft as the morning sun, or as dense dark broadcloth heavy with grime and flung before you. For I don't know who you are. I can only guess. With your writing at your sites, in comments, I create a sense of you that is surely only a part of who you are. We dance together, oh, yes, we do this, in our writing, our interconnections, and it's fun, most enjoyable, but I wonder about the intersections, parallels, curvatures, and parabolas of our intertextual writing. We share our core values, deeper selves, revealing who we are in ways that we might not in social situations, we let each other overhear us, our soliloquys, yet we are always cognizant of each other, and each other's perspectives. We love the dialogues we have. Small sitting rooms for writers writing on writing, where the style of the saying counts, not just what is said. Let's share fine champagne and fresh strawberries and talk of art and literature and philosophy and each other's joys and travails with the perfection that a purely writerly existence affords. It's a luxury, living through words like this. We can be true to our most generous, loving selves. Posts fall like golden leaves, etched with our words, disappearing into the world, a world that is surely far richer for what we are sharing.
I write out of excess. I write because
I'm too full. Over-ripe. Spilling out.
The corset of silence too tight.
I write because I'm pregnant and have
to give birth.
It's the extravagance of living.
The fertility of words.
Because I carry around
a wild dictionary in my head.
Because of the aesthetics of expression,
how satisfying it is to compose, to share.
A thought, a heart motion, a poem, a gift.
From me, but to you.
Why do you write?
Monday, March 20, 2006
We hurt each other with rejection.
The force with which we can expel each other. Turning the other into an object of non-importance, an unwanted essence. The ability to savour, to honour, to love: the self, others, the world, damaged. But love doesn't happen in isolation. Maybe some have their lists of good and bad. But it's not that easy. It's not that this person, or people, state of mind, area of interest is safe, acceptable and all else needs to be distanced. Isn't that possession? And possessions can be lost. If they're people, they can leave; if they're belief systems or areas, we can become profoundly disenchanted. Then where are we? In angry rebuttal to the world that we clearly divided between acceptable and not. Between people who counted and those who didn't. Between an arbitrary definition of the good and the not-good. So what do we do? Do we cling more tightly to our safe constructed categories of who is and who isn't even when they might betray us, or do we give way and open out to the mystery that has no name, is amorphous, all-pervading, without judgement? A light that shines everywhere without discrimination. If we could spend one year of our lives not rejecting what would happen? Would it open out in magnificent ways, this ability to love?
Or would be we overwhelmed? Is the push-pull, rejection-acceptance, necessary for homeostasis, for balance?
Breathe in; breathe out.
As I tell my yoga students, make sure your in-breath and out-breath are equal - that what you take in and what you give out balance.
But. Push-pull. Wound-heal. Why do I do this? Is there no other way?
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels: Lo
Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels: Hi
I am with you like an angel. Can you feel kisses, a caress of breeze perhaps, or a sudden warmth that lightens your spirit? I hold you enfolded in my wings when you weep, inconsolable, disappointed. Can you sense a blessing of radiance about you? My wings, woven of sun and moonlight on veins like leaves. Surely you see their shimmer breaking through what separates us. You are my prayer, my vigil.
But I am an earthy woman who laughs, storms, cries, rants, pesters, and loves.
And I am unable to settle, come into being in one place, crystallize. Can I play in the garden palaces of the heart? And retire in solitude when the day is done, to rest?
Even as I sweep across the sky of your consciousness, a roseate sunset, mandala whorl of sun, the choral clouds, like a hymn, a sacred song, something ebullient and therefore holy, I am racing away into the night and disappearing.
I offer you a guardian, a keeper of the flame of your heart, a high priestess who holds your innermost secrets, a temple to honour your prayers on love, but it's ephemeral, Akashic, in the place where everything is recorded, where what we are, our memories, our dreams, are held safe. Nothing you could hold onto, nothing at all.
I am here; but you cannot see me.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Monday, March 13, 2006
Saturday, March 11, 2006
If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often or don't really know each other) please post a comment and tell the story of a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory connecting you and me . It can be anything you want - good or bad ("good" is better for me, however) - BUT IT HAS TO BE FICTION. When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you!
I'd love to meet you all! Imagine stories for us...
Friday, March 10, 2006
Reflections on "Water," the film by Deepa Mehta
The women always framed in boxes, closed in, shuttered away.
The gigantic-limbed tree where the lovers meet like a blossoming, flow of the heart. She carries the light for him, visitation of a vision, where freedom may be, the candle she holds at her breast, the light of everything. She is a Religious painting of divinity, beautiful; Durga, Mary.
Ghandi who would free the enslaved of a rigid ideology. Riots and refusals in India for filming, for showing. Thirty one million widows today.
The widow is the virgin; beggar, or prostitute. Where acceptance, love is not possible. Who would not drown themselves? Who could not accept the warm caress of infinity in the waters when the ravaged heart beats like a wounded bird who's fallen out of its cage?
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Two dear friends took me for dinner at a superb Vietnamese restaurant, Ginger, on Yonge Street. They are both 'chanting buddies' from yoga. Jean and I did teacher training in 1995, and Moira was one of the first people to attend my classes and when I taught in my home she came for years. She belongs to a choir and has a wonderful voice and carried our chants. These two women came regularly to my house for about 5 years once a week for a two and a half hour "Long Chant," the one that has a seed syllable, or bij mantra, for each chakra, and we used to go, round after round, hour after hour, cleansing our memories, minds, hearts, emotions of whatever we were carrying. Afterward we ate chocolate poppyseed cake, a chai or yogi tea that had simmered throughout the chant, and laughed and laughed. I eventually moseyed into a moving meditation dance practice, Sweat Your Prayers, and left the rigorous yoga practice (except for my daily private meditation) but they kept on chanting. Jean, who is 62 and glows, does that woman glow, now hosts a Prayers for the Earth in her home once a month, and they do Long Chant, and an Adi Shakti, or Divine Mother chant, each once a month at the Ashram on Palmerston. I am going to try to make it to the Adi Shakti chant this Friday. They are such beautiful friends, how can I not go? The flowers, their bright ebullience, are a gift from Moira. The evening was a reunion and I don't think I've laughed so hard for over so many hours in a long time!
We hadn't seen each other since before I went to Vancouver, almost three years. I'm glad I'm back because having friends like these is worth everything.
On the way home my cell phone rang. It was my son wishing me a happy birthday, and he had a surprise too. He'd be coming to Toronto to see me, to stay for one night. I was fairly dancing down the streetlight lit streets I can tell you!
He arrived the next day, yesterday, we had a wonderful visit, and he took us to a movie I wanted to see, Water, and then to Future Bakery for cake and wine for me, and milk for him and his sister; he said with a glint, he'll be able to have a beer instead in a few weeks when he turns 19.
The warmth of friends and family, their generosity, what could make me feel more special?
It's been simple, but beautiful.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Anyway, it's my birthday, I'm supposed to celebrate this day that I was born 54 years ago, and I find I think of the wonderful celebrations my Dad had for me on this day, and I feel blessed and sad. My brother and his beautiful children dropped by on the weekend. My mother sent an email from South Africa where she's wintering. I've received a couple of emails from friends. Tonight two dear friends who I know through yoga, one of whom I did teacher training with, the other who came to my class for years, both of whom I've chanted with, are taking me out for dinner. I haven't seen them in about 3 years, so that'll be wonderful. I don't know if my daughter wants to do anything, we'll see.
I wish I could just forget about my birthday, really. Grieving never ends, it's cyclical, and my birthday triggers memories of a time that's long past. My father died 22 years ago.
So, Dad, thanks for all those birthdays, for honouring me, my life, and I am trying hard to bring that within so that I can celebrate myself in all the ways you would have wished.
Photos: The top one was me at 3 months; the middle one is me at 20 in front of the maternity wing of the hospital where I was born in Sinoia, Zimbabwe; the last one is my Dad and I in 1980.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Saturday, March 04, 2006
My dog runs over the mounds, compacted ice crystals, our breath steaming. I dig my head deeper into my upturned collar, the wind sub-zero, seeing you on the underside of the dark sky.
I am wearing deerskin gloves and merino wool tights and snowpants and a tight jacket pulled up high. Two layers of fleece insulate me underneath.
The frigid air catches my nostrils as I walk, white plume of breath, my thoughts composing the rigid ice hills where your image lies, fragile, fractals of millions of snowflakes, in crystalline rock.
the underpasses of our lives,
the places we cross through.
Where the cities don't reach.
Where the highrises and cultural centres
and shopping concourses aren't.
The backsides of houses,
in the litter that collects in the tunnels.
Scraps of memories, fragments of thoughts.
I thought I found you on Cherry Beach
in sand like a dune twisted with flecks,
the edge of the water littered with overflow,
scraps, what's thrown overboard,
what washes up on the shore from
other shores winnowed by the waves.
Did I romanticize you?
I don't think so.
I saw your depths,
the broken double helixes,
the places where you re-thread
your thoughts again and again.
Where we replay
what was, what never was.
I want to blank out the obsessional
complusive areas of my brain. To be
We are incomprehensible to ourselves.
Beneath the flow of this constructed city,
soil, silt, rock, caverns of water,
the earth turning on its axis of magma,
the flow of a volatile consciousness.
Beneath the clutter, the mélange
the edges of our lives,
Friday, March 03, 2006
"To preserve the world's gloss."
When we make love, we "help
the world refresh its gloss."
But the "world is like the impression
left by the telling of a story."
Perhaps it is a story of love.
Or of us, who came into the world through
The first 4 lines found in Ka, pp.71-2.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
I wrote this at MB's site a moment ago, and wonder if it'll be one of those images that opens a whole cast of images; I miss the ease of writing prose poetry pieces, and am waiting for words that shape themselves to the metaphoric consciousness to return....
Those of you with feeds know that I'm an incessant editor; you shalln't then mind if I update this until a prose poetry piece has formed out of the initial image? (which is a bit melodramatic, I'll agree :)
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
MB and Ken have begun to respond, though I hope to hear more!
As the day goes on, I will add more to this post. For now, I would say love is:
That sacred place of the heart where you care for another's happiness and well being with a sense of permanence. Love is the deep caring, no matter what the outcome, because there is a serious intent beneath the surfaces that is trustworthy, reliable, strong, withstanding. Love is letting someone love you. It is easy with our children, this deep committment to love through all the joys and all the trials. I would put the strength of the mother-child bond at the heart of what I understand about love, because it is resilient, never-ending, deep, caring, strong, rather than the model of romantic love; in other words, the deepest love for me is familial, and romantic love is most pure and strong when it approaches the lifelong trust and comfort of the familial.
12:03pm. Ah, now, no, that doesn't work either. See Adriana Bliss's post on the mother as couch.
Not to throw out lovemaking with the baby and the bathwater! Romantic love, with its roots in courtly love, the adoration of the beloved from afar, is based all too often on illusions. What I mean, I think, is if romantic love could have the depth and continuity of familial love then it would be invincible. When I see this with couples who are as in love with each other 20 or 30 years on, that's what I think the miracle is. There's no separation of the muse from your partner. Romantic and familial love converge and nourish each other in spectacular ways.