Thursday, March 17, 2005

On the life of a temp worker...

I've only taken 2 data entry jobs out of desperation ever. And I have discovered I go a little crazy doing them, and so will not accept anymore assignments like this again.

One was for the Real Estate Board, and they treated the team of us wonderfully with fresh coffee and a large tray of breakfast goodies every day, and an insistence on regular breaks, and they chatted with us at lunch, etc. It was a humanizing experience.

The company I left yesterday was the exact opposite.

While the women who I was helping were great, our 'supervisor' left much to be desired. She ordered us not to talk to each other when another temp was telling me that the bus she had been on the previous evening caught fire. She later took us into a private room and said we were not allowed to come in or leave even 5 minutes late or early, that we were being watched. When I finished a huge proof-reading/data entry job, the one I was 'hired' to do, and I did my portion in about a third of the time of everybody else's, and spot-checking my entries I didn't find a single mistake in my work, I went to the 'supervisor' and asked if I could leave. She said no, that the woman who I was helping still needed me. Then my temp agency found a receptionist/babysitting job at UBC for a day and a half, terrible pay, but an escape. I was told I couldn't leave, however.

Now I'm not a very good 'worker bee.' And I don't take kindly to being trapped. I began complaining to the folks sitting next to me about the "slave trade" of temp workers, how temp companies are like "pimps," how much money they make off us and how little they pay us, and the like, and whoever the 'mole' was, they ran upstairs and got the 'supervisor' who marched over to my desk and said, "You can leave now," and watched me pack up like she thought I would steal something, and when I asked why, she said, "You have a bad attitude." I could hardly stop smiling.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen am I going to write that article on temp jobs and the need for government regulation in this industry? I have discovered many of the companies that regularly use temps actually have a 'supervisor' who could be classified as an "authoritarian" personality and who takes pleasure in demeaning the women they have hired for "service." These 'supervisors' are also wasting huge amounts of their company's money with these hiring practices. But how else are they to dominate and humiliate workers without getting sued, fired or blacklisted?

Do I make it sound somewhat extreme? It isn't, believe me.

Why am I in this line of work in the first place? That's a long story. But one of my problems is that I get bored very quickly with monotonous work, and hence the variety of temp jobs suits me. I've worked all over Vancouver since I began this last September. The work I'm given, however, barely touches my skills, talents, education, ablilites, and I'm now looking at Government contract jobs that involve writing and web design, but how to break into that field?

Anyway, I must write an article on the life of the temp worker, though don't want to go about interviewing people (for obvious reasons), and wonder if I can write something very subjective - a first person account, an insider account - and sell it to a national newspaper? My main aim would be to shed light on this area of labour, and cause enough of an uproar to ultimately bring in government regulations so that people who are temping at least get a half decent cut of the salary paid for work that they do. Any thoughts anyone?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Earth Treasures

A Found Poem from Page 17 of Luminous Emptiness

Earth Treasures:
sacred images
ritual instruments
medicinal substances

Treasures to be found in temples, monuments, statues, mountains, rocks, trees, lakes, even the sky.

Of the texts, occasionally they were full length, but usually fragmentary --- a word or two encoded in symbolic script which may change mysteriously once it has been transcribed.

The treasures hidden in the world are triggers to reach subtle levels of mind. When a treaure is found and reveals its essence, it unlocks understanding, or the natural energies of enlightenmnet that compose the mind, where the teachings have always been concealed.

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Aren't artists revealers of the treasures?

Francesca Fremantle,
Luminous Emptiness (Shambhala, 2001). This story is about Padmasambhava who sought to preserve esoteric Tibetan Buddhist teachings for a safer time and so concealed them in the landscape, but perhaps we don't need an intercessory, surely the natural beauty and mystery of the world is treasure enough.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A wish...

The job, any job, holds itself as a tension in my life around which everything else has to revolve, perhaps that's why I do temp work, inbetween there is no job to worry about, and I can, if I am able to withstand the stress of financial worry, something that I am becoming better at, though it's taken years, focus on my own work again...

On another note, I've been in too many offices to mention, let alone recall, and have some ideas about how to architecturally design the workplace so that it facilitates the needs of the people who work there, how to humanize the workplace...

So I need an architect to work with, a business plan...

Will I get this wish?

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Spring Riot...

(An MP3 recording of this post may be found at: A Spring Riot...March 7, 2005.)

It's my birthday - & I'm wishing you the best day and year ever! I know it's not Spring where many of you live, so I'm sending you all the great, exuberant, fertile, creative energy of Spring! Hugs!!

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A Spring Riot, or a walk with my dog past the flowers down to the lake today...

The blossoming crocuses, vivid purples and white to draw the admiration of bees who come humming, colour so pure it dances in my eyes, and marigold-colored stamens reaching up inside the cups of petals; the wisteria, a spray of yellow falling over the hedge, a dowry veil sewn with sun collected stitches---and perhaps the point of this photograph is the rock face with the hole that the tiny garden snail climbs out of, from the dark into the light, its yellow twirls and black dotted shell exposed on the white fieldstone, or maybe it's down at the lake where the Mallard duck, iridescent green of the male's plumes sleek against his yellow beak, who contentedly floats, sleeping or diving for fish, when he's not chasing to mate a duck who looks soft and fluffy and coos in that particular way...oh, it's a spring riot.

(An album of 5 photographs, not laid out linearly, but superimposed, perhaps a little clumsily, yet more the way I remember the walk---the colour of the flowers, such artistry, and the floating gathering of ducks in their watery home...and that snail, who perhaps thinks it's hidden!)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

On the job woes...

I thought I had found the perfect job: reception at a small construction and design firm, 24 hrs a week, and I could choose the hours, through an agency, so a temp employee for 3 months, and then on permanent staff with an accompanying raise in hourly rate. It all looked good. Nice people. Quiet location. Typical office work, sorting years worth of papers into files, updating addresses, Xeroxing, dealing with couriers, that sort of thing. Mostly mindless jo-job work that didn’t require thought only thoroughness and care. Leaving me free to explore the ideas ranging through my mind, free to consider what to write next, to think about my art, my kids, my life...

So I picked afternoons. I would go in from noon to 5 every day, except Friday, when it would be for 4 hours. Everyone seemed amenable.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBut it was in an industrial area that is not serviced by buses except at rush hour. I hadn’t figured on the difficulty of getting there mid day into my plan. That hour and ten minute trip became more difficult as the weeks wore on. I got sick, too. There was the stress of catching a bus to get me to another bus that only ran every half hour; miss that bus on Marine Way and then I’m late getting into work.

So I went early every day and sat at what has to be the world’s worst bus stop. Oh, covered, yes, at least that, but not much use on rainy days when the splash coming from the trucks' enormous tires was worse than anything falling from the sky. And polluted and smelly. Huge trucks rumbling by without emission controls. And cold. I don’t know why that spot at Victoria and Marine Way is so cold, but it is. Sunless too. When I had bronchitis I could barely breath there; I would stand on the other side of the bus shelter, away from the fumes, trying to ingest whatever oxygen the hills of shrubs and trees were emitting. After the 5 minute bus ride, there was the 2.5 kilometer walk, down roads with more huge trucks careening, across that artery of pollution, Marine Way, again, where I sometimes feared for my life, literally-- those huge trucks and their crazy drivers crashing through the red pedestrian traffic light. Continuing on through a back road leading into the lot of a warehouse where boxcars were often stationed, being loaded or unloaded, and men looking at me in ways that didn't make me feel safe, especially with the private railroad land and thick bushes behind. And no matter how fast I walked, I was always 5 minutes late for work, something one of my bosses duly noted and held against me. I tried so hard to make it work, really I did.

The break-in did me in- I felt so helplessly far from my children due to the lack of bus service mid-day. And then last Thursday the Victoria Street bus broke down. I had to take the one behind it. And, as fast as I ran down the hill from Hastings to Marine Way, hurting my knees in the process, I saw my once-every-half-hour bus fly by. Drat. I was panting in the invisible but heavy pollution of that road and breathing hurt. I sat on the cold bench and waited, misery incarnate. A taxi – oh a solution to getting to the weary job on time, ran to the next road where he pulled in, jumped in, drove for maybe 4 minutes to Boundary Road, and the meter already said nearly $8.00 – and I wouldn't even make that much in the half hour I was trying to get to work for. I told the taxi driver to stop, to let me out, that I wasn't paying any more for the ride. And then I still had a hike to get to work, where I arrived 10 minutes late, and at the end of my tether.

I told my two bosses my tale of woe. And said that I cannot do the half day jaunt anymore, that the transit doesn't service this area, that I can only come in 3 full days a week. A bus comes into the area during rush hour. It takes me 35 minutes to get home. Over the period of a week, I would save 5 ½ hours of traveling time, a whole afternoon’s worth of time.

The next day I am told that I won’t be coming back, that they have called the agency and hired another woman to work half days.

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And it was my painting, my painting that has sat for 2 months, untouched, and which I looked at that morning, wishing, wishing, and so I know it was my muse that cut this job short for me, because it just wasn’t working, I need whole days to paint, and, while I could have had that at the beginning of this job, when they were open to flex hours, they got too used to having me there every day, and wouldn’t consider any options other than the one I had originally created.

Anyway, I was just a nameless woman who was hired to make coffee, do dishes, take out the garbage, answer the phone, xerox blueprints, pack a pouch of invoices and timesheets off to head office once a week, clean up an awful filing mess, update a list with addresses 4 and 5 years old (SuperPages came to my aid), chase after tardy submissions of bids on construction projects, they even took away the little ceramic heater that kept me warm, and no-one knew that I wrote, or painted, or took photographs, or have the equivalent of 3 degrees (two BAs, but from a university that doesn't grant double BAs, an MA minus the language requirement, an A student...sigh & ho hum, plus the graduate degrees I didn't finish-withdrawing from a PhD program in my mid-20s, the fiascos with Graduate Interdisciplinary Studies in the intervening years, etc. ho hum), or that I was capable of so much more than they could ever possibly imagine.

Yes, I was bored. But we could buy groceries every week without worry.

Now I have to finish that painting. Not sleep from the stress of financial worry. And find another temp job for next week so we can eat the week after.

I won’t miss that truck heavy highway one bit.


Dear Readers, I am usually not like this: Was I really pushed to my edge with this situation and was there there anything I could have done to make it work? Or am I simply PMSing?

Friday, March 04, 2005

On the evening of...

I'm travelling down a road that is travelling down a mountain. I think I'm flying because I'm not aware of a car around me. Yet I fly with the same slow care as if I were driving. It is night-time. The moon is embedded in the sky beyond the trees, a brilliant white light surrounded by misty clouds. I should be scared, but I'm not. There is an unearthly stillness everywhere, silent, empty, the trees appear almost painted in dark purple and blue colours with black bark. I fly quickly through the forest near the base of the mountain, and into a private roadway. It is too still; there are no animals. And a house, like any suburban house, wide and flat and large. I go right through the walls. Into a vacant sunken living room with beige couches and chairs that look soft and comfortable before a large brick fireplace that is unlit. Quickly down the hallway. And I fall into bed with you, you in your pajamas, striped white and blue soft cotton, dreaming of my visit, wrapping yourself around me contentedly.

SoundClick MP3 of this entry: March 4, 2004, 1:32 min

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The cherry trees earlier this evening while walking my dog...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Art of the Writerly Nap...

Many thanks to those who left pure poetry behind in my last post on creative process at Xanga and here. I have read, and re-read your comments, each one like a jewel that opens out the entire universe of each of you.

My own comment in response to Toni Morrison's process has also grown, and I wonder if your articulations of your creative processes hasn't also wanted to become more detailed too...?

I am a napper. My idea of heaven on earth is an afternoon nap. Nothing could be finer. I cultivate nap time: have honed and honoured it. Oh, how I love that afternoon rest! Now that I work afternoons, well, there's after work, and there are still weekends! A napper not to be undone, I have turned the nap into an art.

It was a year or two back when I discovered the trick of writing while 'napping.'

What is a 'nap'? I rarely sleep. Usually I meditate first, this produces a much deeper and more satisfying nap. I sit against a small meditation chair that I place right on my bed facing the window. I recite a mantra over and over. This stills my mind. I fall into bliss emotionally.

As I go more deeply, I lie down, cover myself with a blanket, and let go. Everything spins and collides inward. I am acutely aware of the world around me. My body hums in stillness. There are no particular thoughts; the meditation has cleared them. I rest deeply, healingly. I fall in love again and again with the world. I forget that I have worries.

After 20 or 30 minutes, I re-emerge into the phenomenal world, my room, my dog perhaps lying nearby, thinking of what sort of treat I should have, usually it's cappuccino and chocolate.

When I am writing I 'nap,' but never disappear so fully, always being cognizant of the notebook on my lap. I drift in and out, scrawling words as quickly as I can write.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

How Do You Write Best...

Toni Morrison says: "I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark-it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come... Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It's not being in the light, it's being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense." From The Writer's Almanac, February 18, 2005.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMy best writing occurs when I am just coming out of a meditative nap. A place where I let go of everything---discovered this being lulled in a hammock strung across my tiny studio. I like to be lying down, with a notebook and a pencil on my lap, or my tiny pocket pc, something private, that only I can see, and drifting dreamily in and out of stillness. It is in this deeply relaxed state that images begin adding their vitality to what I am writing about... It is in this quiet state of mind that my imagination has most freedom... And I have learnt to trust the flow of words, even if they don't 'pull together'; when I come back later, I find nuggets in the tumble of jewels that I can take out, polish and wear...

How about you...? What state of mind do you find best for your creativity and how do you evoke that...?

What's your ritual as a writer?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

My first attempt at hosting audio - following the link in my last post to
SoundClick in Creative Commons. This is a poem, about 10 minutes long, and my computer doesn't play it too well - it buffers a lot. It was just an MP3 that I had on my computer...normally I would do much shorter ones of the poems that I post. If you have the patience, listen to a bit or all of it, and leave some feedback. Promise I won't post anything this long again!

It's a poem that interweaves a love story with a tantra on Yeshe Tsogyal, an 8th c. Queen of Tibet and founder of Tibetan Buddhist...

The Great Bliss Queen's Mansion of Flaming Bliss Copyright ©2003 by Brenda Clews

Oh, I put it under New Age since there isn't a category for poetry in their music styles.

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This is the book that first introduced me to Yeshe Tsogyal some years ago. I still dip into it when I need to be reminded of the ineffable mysteries of life...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Audio and Video Publishing Sites...

Trying to reconstruct notes from the Blogging Conference without the notes which froze on on my Pocket PC and disappeared when I did a soft reset...

My interests are in audio and video blogging, more to add the speaking and dancing of my poetry to the text than to portray my daily life in a running narrative.

As the only speaker I heard all day that referred to artists, his name? famous, I'm sure, though gone in my absent notes, whether he cares about artists or not was obfuscated in his talk, but he spoke about a very wealthy American man who does: Brewster Kahle, the founder of the presitgious Internet Archive, and the force behind the scanning of millions of books to become available to the public (Google is involved in this project too, I believe, but don't quote me!). Brewster Kahle has decided that artists don't have much money. Understatement!

So he is funding a site where filmakers, artists, videographers, musicians, poets, etc., will be able to post their work, and where it will be archived.

One of the problems is the cost of bandwidth and space. Audio and video files take up a lot of space. For the creative artist, space on this site will be free.

This site, and please correct me if I've got it wrong, is Open Media, the Global Home for Grassroots Media. The site should be fully operational later this year.

Another site recommended was Creative Commons. Here you can get your multi-media work published. Check it out.

I gotta run...

Wish I had them damn notes, she says, disappearing over the bandwidth (you know, the place where the sun rises and sets on the internet)...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

On Xanga and Blogger as writing sites...

What is the blogosphere? It's 31 million bloggers world-wide. That's
alot of writing. That's a movement. That's a social force. That's an upholder of literacy. And we thought the written word was going to die with the ushering in of the audio-video age. Were we wrong!

Audio and video blogging are coming, though. And then we could expect a total explosion in the medium.

We live in an era of self-expression. And we create our own reality shows out of our own lives with no producers or television studios to oversee us. How money can be made out of us is another question.

There was one man at the blogging conference who makes a living from his blog. His name is Chris Pirillo. Today I finally gave in and went to his site. His writing is good, but simple - nothing too complex there. And there are GoogleAds, which is where he makes the major portion of his income. The more hits he gets, the larger his monthly paycheck. What I noticed most prominently, however, is that his site, to my untrained tastes, resembled a General Store. Many links, many products advertised, with him as the genteel owner behind the counter with whom you chat a bit, only, in this blogland, it's mostly him who does the chatting, for he gets few comments. But that's okay. His site has 12,000 visits a month and generates enough income for him to travel all over North America to conferences like the one he spoke at last Saturday in Vancouver.

In fact, most of the folks there, the presenters, seemed more focussed on numbers and income than they did on the quality of writing. One lone voice in the audience asked a question about the artist who blogs, and it wasn't answered with much sensitivity or depth.

Why I want to podcast (audioblog) is so that I can offer readings of my written poems. Why I want to videoblog is not so that I can bore you with tales of my life in poor light but because I would like to offer dance pieces where I perform my poetry.

Though blogging is a medium of disappearing posts, writing our lives disappears as quickly as we live them, I take my writing seriously, as most of us do, and my blog is where I experiment with different ways to write and post my efforts and receive invaluable feedback.

Blogging is one area in my life where I can creatively realize myself. It's also a place where I can offer support to other writers, and thus help them to foster the expression of their creativity too. What blogging has done for my writing is immense; but it's not just the writing and posting, it's the comments, the support of fellow writers, the community.

Which is why I love Xanga. In a sense, Xanga has created its own 'mini feed' in our subscriptions to each other; and by making commenting a 'members only' activity, fosters the possibility of a strong community of writers, I feel. For this I am grateful.

Yet I also feel a pull to be part of the larger blogging community. At my blogger site I went 'public' last night - it had been a private site. I added a site meter. And frankly, I don't know what it means that 30 people have visited, since there's not one comment. And where did they come from? Who are they?

One piece of advice that I would like to pass on, and from someone in the audience, is that if you want to build readership you just keep blogging, post frequently and, the guy said, in five years you'll be way ahead of where you are now...

Is that what serious writers do? Aren't we all serious writers here? Isn't this why we love our blogging site so much?

And the good news is that there is one major feed service that does recognize Xanga - Bloglines...though I tried to activate my account for about 3 weeks using different email addresses before contacting help, who activated it for me. At bloglines I can subscribe to people who blog at many different sites and read their most recent posts, as we do at Xanga.

One last question, HomerTheBrave in a comment on the mirror post of this one at my Xanga site wrote that Blogger/Blogspot is a publishing site; wheras Xanga is a blog site. Any comments?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Northern Voice Blogging Conference

How does it happen? I lost all of my notes and links from the
Northernvoice blogging conference. My Pocket PC file went strange, and then dissipated into something unreadable.

Suffice to say, it was an interesting day. Here is a link that collects some of the links at the conference:

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My main interests were in audio and video blogging, and in understanding why Xanga is the way it is.

I have lost the audiopod links, but they should be easy enough to find again. And there is a Yahoo group dedicated to video blogging, which, we learnt, is about 8 months old. In its infancy, but the potential is huge...what we will be able to record for our children and grandchildren. I know it's a bit overwhelming...I felt like lying down too (heh)...but she'll probably be videoblogging before she starts school...

On my Xanga issues, they're irresolvable. In the panel on promoting your website, I did ask a question about the "politics" between blog sites, only to find that everyone defends Google. I do too, but I'm not idealizing the service. Yes, Google doesn't read the "?" in Xanga's URLs to our sites and that's one reason why Xanga blogs don't show up in searches. Okay. I sat next to George, a woman who works at Flikr, the hot new photo service, and she said that Xanga does (or doesn't, I can't remember) use an APS feed, and so they can't connect (oh, and Flikr is a Vancouver company, Canadian, and only has about 10 employees...far out). And I was enamoured of the blog feeds I saw projected on screen, where you can subscribe to many blogs, getting instant updates when there are postings, only to find today, using, that Xanga blogs are not recognized, or even found. This is an RRS aggregator (see note at bottom) that searches through 8 million blogs instantly, the one that connected the US blogging world to a woman writing a blog in a hospital after the Tsunami, and we aren't there.

Can't we kindly ask Xanga to connect us to the rest of the blogging world? Or do we like being a community unto ourselves?

The oddest part was that when I googled myself today, for the very first time my Xanga showed up on the first page (scratches head bewilderingly). It's usually non-existent. I have a mirror post now at Blogger, which does enable a connection to the larger blogging world, for whatever it's worth (besides time).

I'll never leave Xanga, but, hey, Xanga, can't we have a more open relationship with the burgeoning blogging world!

"In the world of weblogs or "blogs", the term "feed"refers to a "RSS Feed" which is an XML based data format that allows a blog's contents to be accessed via another program. Since we were building a search engine for blogs, we made one that indexed "feeds" and the result was Feedster!"



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Delicate as a snowdrop
on a grave the season after.

Thin as a Spring White's wings
like bright, wet silk
the shed cocoon.

A prayer on the horizon at dawn


What does the snow feel as it falls and
melts into the rivulet
at my feet?


And the day came when the risk to remain tight
in the bud was more painful than the risk
it took to blossom.
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I turn,
and you who were gone
are there.

©2005 by Brenda Clews

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On the Way to Work, Valentine's Morning

Rushing down the road, slippery, sparkly ice pellets flattened underfoot, the sun that the camera records is not the sun that I see. The sun before me is rising, shining in the crisp morning air. This is the sun that wholly knows the world it illumines. This is the sun ushering the day into being. A sun bringing activity with it. The bustling world awakens before this sun. It is refreshing to see, but it signals the beginning of a long work day ahead. When I return in the evening, I shall whisper goodbye to that same sun on the other side of the sky, a sun which I never saw all day at my desk in the office where I currently work. Risking being late, I stop to take a picture.

I take a picture because I know the camera will see a glow of light, a brilliance that is white at the centre and radiates translucent rainbow hues until the landscape that we only see because of that light re-emerges around its edges. I know that the camera sees more innocently than I, who compose the scene I am walking through according to my perceptions, my memories of this path, these rocks, my destination ahead. The camera will compose the possibility of another story. The camera will see two paths converging, where I only see one.

Sometimes we need to take a picture of a scene to see what was really there.

Or at least another version of what was there.

I will remember the unusual and slippery coating of frosted ice. The camera will remember the magnificent light.

That light, as I look at the photo, connects me to a dream I once had, long ago, and so strongly it brings such longing with it...

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

On The Sweetness Of Being

You are unaware of the bliss pooling in your eyes. It but a flicker, yet I see it clearly.

The sweetness of being.

Perhaps it is the sweet fresh juice of the apple trickling as you are biting. Or the perfect lace of snow on the branch. Or the sudden surprise of soft vivid irises reaching upwards. Or the scent of hyacinths in a summer breeze. Or the herald of choral clouds across the skyscape at sunset...

The sweetness of being, found in bliss.

The sweetness of being, the impetus to do, to be more than.

It is sensual, primal, almost visionary, the way bliss passes across us like a caress of warm sunlight.

And we, evolved, reservoirs of memory, mind, feeling, and sensation, who crawled out of the ocean eons ago and flew in light-footedness across the landscape and made alphabets out of everything.

Clay, metals, stones, quills, ink, parchment...

And our cornucopias of alphabets: like seeds in the fields growing our food; bricks forming the structures of our houses, cities, civilizations; minerals and metals upholding a superstructure of manufacture and energy; and our even breaking the codes of the alphabets of the molecules dancing and composing the universe...

Us filling our vast created cosmos with an interlacing calligraphy of alphabets, such sweetness of being.

You who come by, charms of bliss, having the radiance of angels, elixirs that we are barely aware of.

And I awoke this morning dreaming of calligraphies carved out of sunlight knowing that was it.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Tsunami...

The Tsunami...

In memory of all those who died in, and all those who lived through, the tsunami that struck the countries of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004.


In the deepness, a heaving of the earth. I am tensing, straining, the pressure too great. I am tearing, ripping, fragmenting. The gash is 600 miles long. There is thunder under the ocean as I heave and split. Frightened fish flee, their communities scattered. The water rushes over my plunging wound.

I am thrown off kilter in my revolution about the stars, a momentary faltering...


A sudden precipitous displacement of the ocean floor and I am falling, swirling, a lethal underwater waterfall.

The earth gives up her energy to the gashing waves. I am swelling, overflowing; there is nowhere to go but outwards. I am a deadly wave fleeing the rupture, my speed and breadth terrifying. I am churning with the energy of the earth's cry.


I am the shoreline and the people lining the beaches, holidaying, working, living, sleeping. I am the lands that the gigantic wave races towards. I am the unsuspecting, the innocent, the unprepared, the unguarded. The tremors of the earth are felt, but only the animals heed it. The animals, the elephants and tigers, wild dogs and birds, are all moving inland quickly: the rumbling earth, the rush of seawater in the ear, fearsome. An animal's instinct for self-preservation intact in the way the people lining the beach to watch the sucking out of the water, its disappearance at the horizon, aren't.

I am the children playing on the emptied expanse of beach. I am laughing at the sudden low tide, running on wet sand.


I am the tide that is drawing back to lash the land impeding the flow. I am the striking wall of water. I cannot stop. I am rushing at 500 miles an hour. I am many tons of force. And I cannot stop. I cannot abate the fury unleashed by the underwater earthquake, the crack on the ocean floor.

You in the heavens, hear me! I did not mean this destruction...

I surge towards the beach where the people are talking and watching.

I surge with the full force of nature towards an unprepared land.

There is no early warning system to broadcast far and wide my deadly coming. No-one flees.


I flood onto the beach, a great wide water dragon roaring, the children, the sun bathers, wash into me. I keep surging, my water filling with mud, churning, rushing into villages, buildings, hotels, houses, huts, cars, pouring over the land in unrelenting fury, dragging boats, cars, trees, the detritus of broken homes, bashing, tearing apart the world in floodwaters.

I draw back, leaving bodies littered on the sand like beached fish.


Then I am flowing forward again, I cannot stop; I hammer the land with tons of force, my swirling waters, rushing far inland, devastating the landscape. The dead and the wounded float everywhere in me. I hear the underwater screams of terror of those who are drowning calling for their loved ones. My salt water fills their lungs, intruding, squeezing out the air. Their bodies are battered. Those lucky and strong enough to swim with my furious currents are wounded by sharp bits of broken things. More die than survive.

I lash and subside, lash and subside, gradually losing my momentum, sliding back out to sea where I glitter under the hot sun, gently lapping as if I had never risen like furious thunder and drowned the land.


I am the mother who sees the wall of sea falling on the beach and runs to catch her toddlers. I am the mother whose children slip out of her desperate grasp, who is holding her breath underwater, who is screaming her children’s names silently in the wave throwing her inland like broken driftwood. I am the children’s terror, the children who will die in less than a minute as they cry, “Mama…”

I am all the desolate and broken children who listlessly survey the torn landscape looking for their fathers and mothers, their brothers and sisters…

I am the grieving of the living: the surviving wounded, some of whom will die from preventable gangrene; the ones gone mad with grief screaming at the sea to give back their families. I am the dead whose souls float over the arc of land by the ocean mourning the loss of their lives. I fly with the angels who have gathered in throngs to comfort those who walk in shock and grief…


In the inlets, bays, bodies bob, like swollen, broken mannequins. The land is strewn with bodies; the death count rising ever higher. Where the tsunami hit: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, Myanmar, Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Kenya. Whole islands have disappeared. Entire villages wiped out. Every country in the world has lost citizens.

I am the stench of decay everywhere.


And I am the love of a shocked and stunned world pouring in.

I am the aid pouring in: the able-bodied helpers, finding the dead, burying, cremating, packing identified bodies, parts of bodies, into body-bags for airflights to foreign lands; the food and blankets being handed out, supplies air dropped in remote regions. I am the forensics teams taking DNA, teeth for dental records, anything to positively identify the dead. For the living need to bring closure, and burial rights, to their loved ones.

I am the shelters that house the grieving homeless masses while the governments decide what to do; how far back from the sea to rebuild. I am the early warning system being installed in byoys bobbing on the ocean and speed detectors under the waves.

I am the love of the world pouring in, the millions of dollars pledged and raised and offered for survival, for reconstruction.

How can we comfort you? How can we help you? How can we show you our caring, concern, support, allegiance?

How can we ensure you, who are among the poorest peoples in the world, are never caught unaware again?


And I am the slow rebuilding, plank by plank, nail by nail, mortar and thatch and brick and glass, creating our habitat despite the fear of the sea, the memories of the lush paradise that was, will be, and until the ocean rushes from the earth’s rupturing, as tectonic plates slide one beneath the other, once more…


©2005 by Brenda Clews

Dec. 26 2004
yo u r :: h e l p :: c o u n t s!

red cross/
red crescent

network for good
artsen zonder grenzen
/medecins sans frontières

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Monday, September 06, 2004

An Alter...

How do you spiritually nourish yourself? One way, for me, is at my alter. For 25 years I have had alters of one kind or another. My alters have evolved over the years with me.

Initially, I was inspired by Catholic 'poustinias,' or prayer huts, and placed a small bamboo table in a tiny storage closet that I painted white with a gold ceiling and put mystical Jungian mandalas and some mystical Christian images on the walls and I used to go into my prayer room and pray or meditate or sometimes just cry. That was when I lived in Grad Residence. Later I lived in a condo and then a house. My alters shifted to objects as conduits of healing energies and my predilection to the Divine Feminine. Various crystals and incense holders and statuettes and semi-precious stones found their way onto my makeshift alters. When I had a cottage I used make alters by heaping sand into three foot high mounds and flattening the tops and putting shells and stones and feathers and sometimes incense in the sand. After a wind storm blew down some trees, I salvaged a double tree stump that my husband hauled home and on which I placed crystals and representations of the four elements, incense in sand, a shell with water, a candle, and fresh flowers as often as I could afford them. I taught yoga in my home then and my students often brought flowers for the alter too. After my marriage ended I rented out the top floor of my house, which was my room, shared my daughter's room, and had my desk in the kitchen, so I didn't have an official alter for years. My alter then was a quartz crystal ball from Brazil, figurines, Quan Yin holding a baby, Venus of Willendorf, Green Tara, special stones, mystical rainbow obsidian, rose quartz, blue lapis lazuli veined with copper, a large smooth flat stone glued with numerous cottage pebbles, a moonstone white and glistening with colour, glass crystal prisms in the window to catch the dancing sunlight, small quartz crystals scattered in amongst the books, and candles on deep blue glass and wrought iron spirals on my desk.

After I sold my house, moved to the West Coast and rented a three bedroom house, I was able to create an alter in a corner of my room. This alter is quite Tibetan Buddhist and Goddess. An oil painting of the Sri Yantra that I did as a meditation hangs on the wall, the bindu, or centre point, positioned exactly at eye level. The two small figures are Ch'en Rezig and White Tara, masculine and feminine Buddhas, imported from Nepal, their faces painted with real gold apparently- they are exquisitely beautiful. Everything is collected on a hand-carved wooden table from north Africa. At the side is a thick pole from my cottage, found on the beach and so smoothed by the motion of the water of the lake, wrapped in sheepskin and hung with a headdress of feathers. I have Native drums and rattles near, as well as Tibetan bells. My alter space is small, wedged between the wall and a circa 1920s mirrored oak cupboard, and I have to sit with my right knee bent, the left one on the floor- somehow exactly in the pose of Green Tara. Unfortunately I don't do my daily meditation at my alter because sitting like Green Tara for extended periods of time is not very comfortable. Each object on my alter contains years of precious memories and I love to caress them with a silk cloth as I dust them, keeping them clean and shiny.

What do I do at my alter? Why, I commune, of course. Sometimes I do rituals that I make up, or follow procedures from books, incantations and dream magick, entering into the vast and creative flow of universal energy. Mostly, though, at my alter I allow the meditation, the prayer, that life is to flow through me. As I sit, doing a Kundalini meditation, inviting the light of clarity in, images of the world move through my mind, often the suffering of those who I have read of in the news, the suffering of those I love, my own, and I cry, grieving. I ask many questions, always the endless questions, and receive answers intuitively, in feeling. And I am guided here, at my alter, when I need to understand something in my life or make decisions. At my alter I can be myself and can enter into my own deepness to find the wisdom that would be the best path to follow, even if tomorrow it changes. At my alter, I feel close to what is divine, close to everyone on the planet and to our earth itself, spiritually close to all I know and love. I ask for unconditional love and acceptance, and to be able to give these gifts to others. I am comforted, healed, made whole enough to continue on.

Ultimately we carry our alter with us. Many of my friends find comfort at the alter of their church or synagogue or mosque or temple during quiet times. Though it is wonderful to have a sacred space of your own. I hope everyone has a private alter, a reserved corner for special mementos, a garden you've nurtured, a special place in the woods to go and commune, or a tiny triangle in a city park with a tree through which to view the sky, even a bath of soft warm scented water with rose petals can serve as an alter space where you honour yourself and the radiance of life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Check out my site at Xanga...

Dear beautiful friend,

Check out my site at Xanga!

See you there, here, wherever~

warm bright blessings, Brenda

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Body's Song

His hands, his fingers, powerful, yet gentle, knowing the terrain of muscle and bone, following the contours of my body, the energy currents of cells that form and re-form ankle, knee, thigh, shoulder, chin. Slowly, kneading deeply, oil sliding between the flesh of palm over the flesh of body, he massages my back, the spine carrying messages from a profuse nervous system, where I feel the world feeling me, to the brain, an interwoven system intricate beyond comprehension. In the dance of the flow of the body, knots, whorls, angles and lines of pain appear sometimes as his fingers find dramas recorded in my body where I hold fear, grief, rage, and the pressure that he applies, and my wincing until I remember to breath deeply, to surrender, and then his fingers feeling the release of tension, and moving on as the dance between his hands and my body continues its, by moments, soothing, jarring, and deepening rhythms. My body and his hands are like a duet, the sensual flow of a shared meditation, as he glides from chest to belly to limb, massaging, creating a song of healing. He reads my body as a musical score, a site of memory, a terrain that holds the record of an entire life, a map to a soul. My body responds to his touch, opening, a flowing braille of energy patterns, as he guides the lifting of the burdens, whatever they may be, and facilitates a release into deep healing...

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Clarifying the spirit...

When I exercise I cleanse my jumble of frustration, difficulty, sadness, worry, exhaustion. Exercise clarifies my spirit so that I am able to perceive the bright and sparkling energy of the world that we each share in.

Can I universalize? The process of exercising purifies, cleanses, releases what is holding heavy on us. It helps us to attain our goals, hopes, dreams, because we know we have the strength and the will, the discipline, and learn this from our sustained effort in our exercise. It isn’t easy to hold camel pose for 3 minutes, jog for 5 km., do a flowing dawn greeting of Tai Chi, dance hard for an hour. We can relate this willful sustaining to other parts of our lives and do what we most want to do — we generate energy for transformation while exercising. Exercising releases energy for whatever we wish it for ...

By circumstance rather than by design, I now frequent a gym. I like working at my own pace, systematically, on areas of my body, and being part of a larger group of people also systematically pushing their limits ... young, old, muscular, beginner, of whatever belief system, it doesn’t matter, all working hard in our sectors ... only perhaps connecting by a wan smile through the sweat ... and everyone's effort-full bodies, in motion, leoline or lumpy, smooth or wrinkled, all beautiful to behold, the pitch-full effort, the vulnerability, the creases of effort across the face, something about the indomitable spirit in each of us ...

It's like giving birth, painful, hard, excruciating, but it will come to an end, in 10 more minutes, when you can get off the Cross Trainer, or at the final count of 20 you can put down the weights, knowing you're building inner strength through this effort. We each have our private routines, our hurdles, and we hurl ourselves through them knowing we will ultimately feel incredible. Afterwards we are renewed, shining brightly, and move into the remainder of the day humming with our newborn selves.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Trout Lake, Vancouver

Sometimes the lake is white.
When the sky is thick with white cloud and the sun is high, so that shadowless light pours over us, the lake flows white to its edges.
Today it was glass-clear under the gentle rain, not reflecting anything.
Most often it is a mirror of varying shades of blue, from the clear sky, and green, from the trees and bushes about its borders.
I like to watch the direction of the waves from the window where I workout, sweating, a reminder, like a spiritual release, of the tension of the body.
Mostly the waves flow westward; it is special when they flow eastwards.
It is a small lake with a duck population, a few kingfishers, and a dog beach with numerous swimming and barking and frolicsome dogs.
At the other end, hidden, is a beach for people with logs to rest against and thick white sand.
From my view, my eye follows a deep maroon-leaved cherry tree, a birch tree with its bark like parchment, a perfectly shaped festive pine tree, and graceful willows like ancient river gods on the way to the lake, the trees framing the water through the space between us.
Everyday the lake is a meditation: the grass and the trees and the birds and dogs and the people, and the water.
The lake offers a glimpse of fresh, flowing beauty, and of what is unchanging, though I could not tell you about what is unchanging, only that today the lake was glass-clear.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

from my current work...

Landing, implanting, and burrowing: are these motions of our embryonic selves not the processes of our lives?

Everything, a whole future life, hinges on this moment of contact.

It is a lunar surface only because it is dark and dreamlike. Our first home, and we enter it with a 'universal password' that suppresses our genetic markers so that our mother's immune system will accept us, who her body awaits, has always awaited.

Her body has been primed for our signal, long before she was even born, the receptors for our entrance were instilled within her warm and moist and soft and nourishing interior.

She knows we are here. We are in deep communion.

On our voyage into life, we have been a fertilized egg, a zygote, a morula, a blastocyst, and now, an embryo, and, in two months, a foetus, and, when we are born, a baby.

The end of this journey only the beginning.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Sacred lines...

'This precious human body is a stem of gold.' -Lady of the Lotus Born (Shambala, 1999)

What can I say? I cannot add to or subtract from the thought and its expression. It comes from a translation of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist poem that is rich with tantric imagery.

'This precious human body is a stem of gold.'

I feel like the most exquisite and precious finely-wrought jewelry. I feel like a stem on a thousand petalled lotus, an image of enlightenment. I feel fragile and precious and like a swaying stem of gold in the wind. I feel like the stem on a goblet of gold pouring wine into your sweet lips. You are fragile and precious and pricelessly beautiful. A great artist crafted you.

Your precious human body is a stem of gold…

Can I lay down now and weep over the beauty of this simple line?

'This precious human body is a stem of gold.'

I read it again, silent in reverie. What is it about this line that moves me so? It takes me on vistas beyond imagining. I see reeds of the Nile and Egyptian princesses, and gold veins in the mountains of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhist queens, and the delicate filigree of the Renaissance artist with his rich mythologies, I see the Communion Cup and the Pagan Chalice of old, I see the intricate interlacings of Celtic motifs, I see sensitivity in the world, I see honouring the delicate system of gold that we are, our bodies flowing with gold light, and I am silenced by this line.

'This precious human body is a stem of gold' …

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Celebrating Peace: Venus Transit, 2004

A huge burning sphere, like a god, and like a god, holding a planetary system close, with life on ours, and a planet of gases passes between the combustion of nuclear fission and us. It is what we have named the planet of love, and she is like a tiny dot. Does she sing her way across the face of the sun, or does she run from tangent to tangent under the watchful eye of the world watching her make her transit? She is charged with transforming each life with harmonic surges and is to usher in world peace and create prosperous influences for everyone. There are parties all over the world celebrating her gift to us, the gift she gives by orbiting across the immense face of the sun as a tiny shadowed saviour. When will we turn our sights from divine intervention bringing peace to our world to our actual world? And be peacefully active/actively peaceful/peace activists? How can we hope to stop the wars and the deaths and the pain and the suffering by watching vainly out of our tiny, shielded telescopes? Venus' passage over the sun, a wonder to behold, a rare event not witnessed for three generations, but honour your time here, my friends, and let her go in peace.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Riotous Weaving

A weaving of glossy vines, fat leaves shaped like hearts, and the flowers of the morning glory, delicate yellow and orange bursts, cascade over the entranceway, snake around tree trunks, grow thick over the fences. Dandelions sprout everywhere, crowds of buttercups cup open to the light. Pink wild roses draw bees in to their ecstasy. It is a thriving mess. Reminders of a memory grown thick with overgrowth and in need of pruning. What is this way of clarifying the mind? Of sweeping the garden clean? I would rather the tangled underbrush and profusion of weeds and plants than a manicured mind no matter how appealing it seems. Perhaps it's the African jungle of my childhood, and memories of the cadences of growth, riotous all around, and free to be invasive, holy, repulsive, beautiful, rooted in rich soil, symphonic under the sun. Let it run rampant, my memory, my heirloom.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Reading Is Writing

Reading is a form of writing. As I creatively interpret what I am reading, I have a special gold-tipped technical pencil that has accompanied me through many books over many years, underlining what I love or what strikes me, writing notes in the margins, and on re-reading, writing more notes. Writing along with what I’m reading is an outering of the inner process of re-creating and re-interpreting an author's writing. Reading is as creative an act as writing is. At their best, both are happy hard work. And I don't just mean critically reading, I mean deeply reading, with the mind and the heart. If I have a book on my shelf without a mark in it, it’s like it wasn’t inspiring or thought-provoking, didn’t require the writing that the best reading is.

Reading on the NET takes away the ability to write what you're reading because you can't write on the screen; it is not like a page. Hence it's more like endlessly scanning articles, news reports, discussion group emails, e-books that you can print or copy over to files, but who does that regularly enough?

What we need is a way to automatically save writing that we love, or are intrigued by, or captivated by, or angered by, or inspired by, easily, with the press of a key, and the ability to underline, make notes in the margins, to write what we are reading.

I love the memories that my books are -- not only what they are about, but of my own journey through them, traced out in those penciled lines, scribbled comments, stars, and exclamations...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Earth Is Teeming With Becoming

The spinning globe where we live, move, have our being is a highly creative planet. Consider the diversity of plant life, of animal life, the complex balances of our atmosphere. Let images of it drift through your mind: green leaves, flowers, trees, roots, soil, earth, rocks, sand, water, creatures small and large on desert, mountain, plain, valley, in the ocean, on land, in the air, and people, filling, covering the globe, of every race and type, in all environments, a flowing, interweaving complexity of forms, of intelligences, of evolution.

The earth is teeming with becoming.

Earth isn't striving to become invisible, to become spirit. Earth is a great artist, forever creating new forms out of old. How about thinking like this: spirit is life-force, purely, simply, which exists in abundance and is not a product of a separate divine substance; rather we are an 'emergent consciousness,' growing out of the unending dancing and singing of the fundamental units of matter of which we, and everything, is composed.

Nestled as we are here, in the starry sky, under our sun's blessing.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Threshold That Travels With You

On the threshold, between, juxtaposed, straddled, the one and the other, the place of seeing, from whence to where, a doorway stood at, always open, the border, the crossing never crossed, waiting, moving with the threshold as it hovers over horizon after horizon, new vistas, old habits, new experiences, memories, all framing the doorway I forever travel through.

Today, with soft laughter, the doorway has grown thick with vines and jewels, birds nest in the leaves, feathers float over the step, spread like a carpet welcoming you.

I place jewels in your hair, ruby, diamond, sapphire, amethyst, and power feathers, and dance the dance of the threshold with you, the one and the other, stamping our feet, waving our arms, enjoying the moment between, our merry madness echoing across the streets, the fields, the mountains, and over the ocean.

We fly with our thresholds, carrying the next moment with us, when it will all tumble into place, at last, understanding, fully realized, the salt air crisp against our nostrils, our cheeks lit, our hair streaming, the panorama of colours at dusk fiery on the edge of the evening as it rushes on.

*"You" is always you, my reader, who is creating this writing by reading it...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Our relationship with ourself, softly, softly...

Today, it's go ... softly, without resistance, softly, without worry, softly, without thought for anything but the sensitivity around me, the delicate balances, the nuance, everywhere, everyone I see, the dozens and dozens of people I brush past, softly ... I see how hard you are trying, I see how much effort you put into living, loving, stiving, looking after yourself, your family, your work, your friends, your life ... softly, I witness you, perhaps I am in the line behind you at the grocer's, watching your back, your graceful movement as you lift items from the cart to the counter, your energy of survival delicate but strong, and we smile at each other, before moving on ... all day, the soft smiles with my children, aquaintances, strangers ... a treat of almost pure chocolate on the way home in the train, and even the mountains a haze of indigo velvety in the distance jagged against a gently darkening sky ... in the softest way, I say this to you.

Monday, May 31, 2004

This Is What My Blog Is About

Krishnamurti says, "You cannot depend on anybody. There is no guide, no teacher, no authority. There is only you -- your relationship with others and the world -- there is nothing else." (Not even Krishnamurti.)

This is what my blog is about. Only our relationship with ourselves, each other, the world. There is nothing else. If it doesn't happen here, in these relationships, it happens nowhere.

Only the power of the connection, I must remember to remember to tell you that. And that you are your own teacher. The first and final affirmation: "I am that I am."

I can't travel into what is disappearing any further than this.