Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reflections on choices...

Why does the process of living entail choice-making? Ideally, shouldn't everything be accommodated? Isn't there room for all aspects? But evolution operates through choice. This way; not that. An increasing balanced complexity of unfolding. Thus we are creatures of choice. It's buried in our Biblical myths too. Free will, with a hidden clause: choose the 'right way' or suffer. So we make continual choices based on a wide range of criteria. I can be more of who I am here rather than there: this is a better fit for me; I am more useful here; I can better fulfill my ideals in service of this.

The underside of choice is rejection. Turning away from, shutting down, negating, shaking yourself free of. I leave this for that: that opportunity suits me better than this one- it could give me greater happiness, success, wealth.

We are always considering our choices, hoping they're the right ones, seeing if we can make better ones. People who have definable goals generally achieve more than those who don't. Mulling around 'looking' without knowing what you're looking for usually doesn't produce much of anything. It's better to establish priorities, short and long term goals, to make decisions. By making decisions, we move on. This, not that: whee, I'm on a trajectory...

But there are two problems with this 'mind-set'- the torment of regret over making 'a bad choice,' and being so worried about ramifications, consequences and what might or might not happen that one is unable to make any decisions at all, and so keep treading the same water, running on the same treadmill, arriving where you started from. Indecision as a result of fear is to my mind one of the worst dilemmas of all.

Then we never give ourselves fully to anything. We don't dive deeply, take chances, are absolutely alive to everything life can offer us. Perhaps this is what is known as 'the conventional life.' Taking the road well traveled - after all it seems safer.

Yet we are 'hot-beds of passion.' I've never spoken to a single person my whole life who wasn't simmering with desires, regrets, angers, joys, judgments, emotional memories under their beautiful surfaces. We are fiery beings, powerhouses of energy. All of us. In our happinesses and unhappinesses, our successes and failures, our desires and furies. We're competitive, ever-watchful of each other. Attempting to balance our need to cooperate lovingly and to come out ahead. And always cognizant of our bodies, their appetites, perhaps shaping ourselves through dieting or exercise, trying to hone and contain ourselves...

I'm feeling chatty today, it's very quiet in the middle of the Summer, so a reflective post. While I don't have to make any major life-path decisions currently, whenever I do I seem to choose the wild, tangled, lonely ways, the ones that are full of strange ecstasies and deep heartbreaks, visions and insecurity, finding and losing myself continually along the way. I seek out challenges. Is that why I'm an artist?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent Clouds
(click on image for larger version)

"Noctilucent Clouds," 2007, 14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4" x 9"; oils, India ink, on paper coated with acrylic matte medium; photo taken in bright sun (colours not bad on my iMac).

A lucent state of consciousness, my fingers thick with oil paint, spreading it quickly, curves, folds of the drapery, her ecstatic, graceful form, the broil of the night sky...

Do I sense what will emerge? I have to find the 'right moment' in the streams-of-consciousness to paint, and painting is always a fearful act where I throw my spiritual life on the line. And then it becomes accepting what emerges, and working with it.

This little piece has a specific purpose - to remind me of dance, movement, freedom, the sky.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Noctilucent Clouds - first wash of paint

Noctilucent Clouds

"Noctilucent Clouds," 2007; 14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4"x 9"; oils, india ink, paper, acyrlic matte medium.

14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4"x 9"; oils, india ink, paper, acyrlic matte medium

Sorry! I guess with flickr's new limits, this image is gone. You can view a page of Celestial Dancers at my website, however: Art & Writings of Brenda Clews/Celestial Dancers.

It took longer to photograph this little painting under the flourescent lights in the kitchen near midnight and to colour correct the image and upload it to flickr than it did to paint!

My fingers thick with oil paint spread the colour so quickly, me in a lucent state of consciousness barely aware... that calf of hers, the one she's holding herself aloft on, needs more shadow, today I can see that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Amatory Moment...

Dear Reader,

Amatory intoxication bursts all our stories. When we fall in love, we are not only in a state of lyricism, metaphor, joy, but we forgo narration, allegory, moral messages. Forgotten are the sermons we carry around with us of our lives and instead we sing the song of love, complicated, exhilarating, prey to a states of divine madness. It's not that we lose boundaries, but that we lose composure, surety, safety; we forgo the stories, the novel of our lives, for the poetry of the moment. Possession of the loved one cannot exist in the motion of love's excitement. The 'I' collapses into the 'Thou.' A state of enlightenment, surely, surely, this incantation of love.

How to be there, remain there, without owning, holding?

In the unknowingness.

Forever yours,


ps Inspired by what I read today, it all suddenly coalesqued as I poured through Kristeva's analysis of the lyricism and grace of the songs of courtly love, their idealism and joi, in the 14th c. and the movement into a verse of allegory and satire, of seduction, aggressiveness and realism in a chapter on "The Troubadours" in Tales of Love (Columbia, 1987) over a thick, rich cappuccino drizzled with honey and sprinkled with gratings of dark chocolate.

If there's no destination, you can't get lost.

Monday, July 30, 2007

If only, before...

On a bridge, as if on the Great Wall of China, before a wide green valley and drop into a canyon of rock, the Siberian shaman standing beside me, sharp blue eyes, neck thick with middle-age, threw out the line with the sinker on the end, small metallic piece like a tiny boomerang, and caught floating flocks of ghostly men in black. They are like children's Halloween puppets, black cloth pulled over a head of cotton batten and tied, empty bodies. A group of them appear, drifting in the air. I am alone, the line and sinker in my hand. While I'd watched him throw it out and the way it looped around and back corralling the ghosts in black cloth, causing them to fall into the deep rocky canyon below, I hadn't been shown how. As I looked at the sinker in my hand, the ghosts caught a woman and took her out over the precipitous drop, hovering about her as if she were a doll, and cut her long blue-black hair and sliced the back of her white neck, a thin line of blood, and I couldn't throw the hook and line without catching her and causing her to fall into the pit with the flock in black. I woke with guilt, shame. I'm not used to warfare but I should have flung the line out, at least tried, when I had a chance. Before, before they got her...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

ravishment of light

Ravishment of Light - listen to a recording

Or go to the Internet Archive page for this recording and listen there.

When I have more pieces I'll upload this tiny recording to my poetry reading website, Aural Pleasure, in the meantime I copied this over from a gmail email I'd sent to a friend. It's small -800k- and short -1:21min- for your enjoyment... xo


just playing... but I do want to see the movie,
Sunshine, not for the plot, which hasn't received great reviews, but for the images of the sun... and then, oh, perhaps this little piece will expand with light ::twinkle::

Thursday, July 26, 2007

At 28 years of age...

I now go on a 'treasure hunts' in the packed storage unit in the basement that will be a small studio whenever I can get help clearing it out... and find, oh, things that give me pause. Like these photo-booth photos at 28 years old, the only ones from that era, found in an old journal. This one in particular haunted me for about a weekend. I'm not sure who I was, or who I thought I'd be, or what I've become, but the fire is still there, though, ::grinning:: a little wrinkled now.

 BC 28 yrs - 700px

A couple more... the last one looks rather 'Pre-Raphaelite'- something I heard a fair bit in those days. Oh, it makes me laugh to remember!

BC  28 yrs - 1 - Four

(click on photos for larger versions)

Friday, July 20, 2007


In a moment words will appear from which everything unravels.

Or begin with an explosion of lace.

Lace that is white, or whitened with the sun's steaming. Looped, twisted, braided threads, sewn with sharp needles, shaped like a cutwork of leaf veins in the sky. Finely-woven stitches, not broken or lost. Florals in white; sun-rises in white; waves in white. Spider webs of lace floating, an organic garden of cotton and linen and silk.

How many fine stitches I see everywhere.

Seams of perfect clothing, backs, shoulders, arms, waists, hips, the tight stitching of form-fitting shoes, the interlapping folds of purses. Fabric. Like skin. Woven tightly or loosely. Draped, tucked, formed, fitted. The soft velvet of the armchair in the cafe in which I sit, rounded, plush.

Colours in swathes, patterned. Different attire for different scenarios. Layers of warmth or mere covering if it's cold or hot. Whether a garment can open or close or covers in one swoop. Pieces of cloth fitted to hold the shape of the wearer. Clothes that adhere, drape, flow for sitting, walking, sleeping, dancing.

Looms and sewing machines and bobbins. Billions of miles of thread around the world. Stitching, this way of composing, holding together, covering ourselves, these metaphors, textual narratives.

What if I don't want to take a stance? What if I don't want to weave a garment out of these threads? A story out of all the stories filling my mind? If "Narratives, or more precisely plots, synthesize reality," (Snaevarr) can I exist without telling a tale of myself to you, or even to myself?

The flow of language like clothing, fashions that encase shaping how we present ourselves. Can we be naked without the speaking that stitches the world together, seam by seam, reams of bolts of cloth, patternings?

What was lost in the scrap lace pile, discarded, worn-out, old, the remnants, unraveled in the tears and rips, bleached out by wear?

How do I hem these words so they don't fray?

Shawls of Shetland lace are knitted first in the middle and then out to the edges and is so fine it can be pulled through a wedding ring. Can we marry ourselves to words that knit us to ourselves, each other, the world?

Social customs inform the attire of any given era and shape the body, but does the weave of worsted wool or soft cotton follow the curves and hollows of the skin and shape the wearer?

Or are the words we clothe ourselves with what we hide under?

Presentation and fashion. The way I compose myself every day; every piece of writing. Gathering myself in this historical time, a product of my age.

All the stitches of the world held in syntactical rhythms of meaning, social fabrics.

Is that why we want words to unfold in comfort from us? Wave-white words wedded. Words that aren't performative; that are dream-like, real.

Unraveling, I came to this, and I can't obscure it, truth, death, the words of the lover, and she who knits, knots, tapes, crochets, sews the world into being with her openwork, the lace maker.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Little Dancer Sketch


14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4"x 9"; india ink sketch on archival paper coated in acyrlic matte medium

How long ago did I do this little sketch? It must be months. I taped it to a small board and it's still awaiting a fast wash of paint. Since it'll only take 5 minutes to paint, perhaps it's that I have to be in the right 'zen' frame of mind to finish it?

And when is that going to happen?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Burning Star

Writing stopped its ceaseless flow and I don't know why. Something occurred in my interior life that jolted me severely and I lost the imaginal figure who fired my desire to write. I'm shifting, transforming, unable to see or know what's ahead. The shock remains. I am sundered, unsure. Is it that the star came too close?

But perhaps the point is the obscurity, confusion, incomprehension. Inside this burning star where I blindly feel exploding energy without graspable form.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


When I came back to writing, a simple image. Proustian, perhaps, but I shall let the lace unravel. It's taken me back to my grad school days, at the little apartment in the Annex area of Toronto I rented after the university year had begun and almost nothing was available.

t could begin with lace.

Lace that is white, or yellowed with the sun's steaming. Threads that are looped, twisted, braided, sewn with sharp needles, shaped like a cutwork of leaf veins in the sky. Finely-woven stitches, not broken or lost. Florals in white; sun-rises in white; waves in white. Spiderwebs of lace floating, an organic garden of cotton and linen and silk. Threads weaving the world...

That hangs over the door's casement glass.

On the hot Summer's night I pass the house that resembles the one that I remember.

The same brickwork, windows, placement on the land. Perhaps the orange lilies are descendants of the those when it was a boarding house and I lived in the kitchen become a bachelor apartment in the little room out back without insulation where I put my bed and had visions.

Upstairs the Vietnam vet who once a month shrieked for hours at the guerrillas in the napalm drenchings of his mind. He deserted what could never desert him. He became a Peeping Tom and I kept my curtains shut at night, long, deep burgundy red velvet curtains, redolent with smoke and cooking oils, that were there, perhaps, from the house's inception.


He only looked in the window once, at night, it was very dark, but I knew who it was. I was writing in a journal, non-stop writing that I did every spare moment. My hair was blonde and long and curly. When I lifted my knees on the couch to hold the book while I wrote there was an audible gasp -though I wore shorts- and he ran away. That was when I began keeping the long, dark velvet curtains shut, and I told a man who had lived in the house and who knew about the man who shouted at the air for hours every month or so and we agreed he was a bit crazy but harmless.

Once when I went upstairs to see the kitchen that my friend used his door was open and he was lying in the middle of his large bed without a shirt on, fat, big white belly and a fuzz of dark chest hair, tortured with memory, flashbacks, fury, the incendiary mess of the Vietnam war, a victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and he looked very hot, it was a Summer heat-wave, and sorrowful.

The look on his face at seeing me peering at him was a surprised interruption of an unending tangle of thoughts that always occupied him. Perhaps he received a government cheque every month and paid his rent and got drunk; perhaps that was when the shouting began.

It was like he was yelling at a commando, someone who didn't do what they should have done, or didn't look after everyone as they should have, an unending invective of recrimination, scattered words, repetitive, without coherency.

The whole house shook with his shouting. It was from a place of such deep pain no-one ever called the police. Or complained to the landlord. Canada was a safe haven from the American obsession with a pointless and horrific and endless war. It's hard to imagine that he felt we were taking care of him, but in our own way we were.

Of course, in those days, the door didn't have an exquisite, expensive layer of lace, it was bare.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pleasure and Happiness

"But if one begins by having pleasure, it is like knowing how to swim: one never forgets it." Helene Cixous

Now I wonder if the half an hour of "happiness" last night, and this morning, of allowing myself to feel as pure a joy as I could, which is not easy, wasn't an evocation of 'pleasure' rather than 'happiness.' I took great pleasure in the mystery and miracle of breath, body, experienced an inner ecstasy of being, of those I love, and the unfolding of my life and talents, indeed, for moments, this happened, but was it a sensual pleasure of loving life rather than deep happiness?

It was in the range of the orgasmic, that kind of ecstasy, but not localized or specific. It was like I let my brain produce all the high endorphins, neurotransmitters of ecstasy, and my mind was filled with light.

But happiness? I sought to allow what a full and complete happiness would be like. My seemingly huge issues and problems and worries kept nagging at the edges, but I was able to fully immerse or emerge in a field of pure joy for long moments and the minutes passed quickly.

I wonder what happiness is? I know what pleasure is, that indeed I do, but happiness?
Pleasure may be independent of life circumstance; happiness surely never is.

We can profoundly enjoy the moment, savour the pleasure of a flower or a smile or the kindness of a heartwarming act, but the trajectory of our lives, our underlying contentment with our lives, our feelings of accomplishment, of being a vital part of thriving communities, does savouring the way the wind blows over the water on a languid Summer's day affect any of that?

Is there a difference between pleasure and deep inner happiness?

And yet I felt profoundly ecstatic when I let myself...

Sunday, June 03, 2007



"blindgaze," 2007, 32cm x 25cm (12.5" x 9.75"), oil on acrylic matte medium, india ink, paper.

Playing with a sketch from a lifedrawing session last Fall - perhaps not as fluid as my figures usually are, but I enjoyed melding colour... I had forgotten how sensual paint is, especially when spread by your fingers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pale as a Moonflower

Slow breath. Dark bulky sweatshirt, folds and creases rising and falling. Inside you are elsewhere. Floating where it's frayed. Trying to be where it doesn't matter, except it does. Electrodes taped to your chest and abdomen, I watch with the machines, count the depths of your breath. Most of the night I hold your hand, or rest my fingers by your arm. I never take my eyes off you, your closed eyes, the way you are distant and so very close. I understand the frailty; I wonder when a love of life will bloom like dawn across your consciousness. How did we come to this impasse, my love. How do we turn from it?

He is there, loving, bereaved, regretful, angry, guiding you through. Eventually he lies on the cold hospital floor, resting his aching body, while I keep watch. Unwavering my eyes never dimming. The love doesn't go out for an instant, not the whole night through, nor the next day as the watch continues. Unevenly breathing, heart rate fluctuating, I trace every motion on the monitor, its steady throb, the green cursive lines of your life on the screen.

You are a nexus of love to me, a fibrillation of love, your sweet and willful spirit. What pulled you to these depths, what despair swallowed you?

In the long, slow night I fill you with a radiance of healing. Strong warrior luminescence, but I see how the drug invades your mind, the way it overruns your brain like a parasite offering a light sparking like fool's gold, rendering you helpless. You lie prone, barely breathing, too nauseous to move, nearly insensate.

Do I count the minutes like prayer beads?

Each breath a gift, a reclamation of your stolen spirit.

Late the next day when you rise you are pale as a moonflower, slow and unsteady. How can I protect you from what claws at you from within?

When you are mesmerized by death how can I call you back from the underworld, dark realm of Hades?

Your lips are the colour of the narcissus Persephone plucked and followed like a red star into the gaping wound of the earth. You are too young and innocent for what has been thrust upon you.

You have gone with him now, and I pray you are both safe.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Spaghetti Straps are Verboten

Perhaps it's the scapula, or maybe it's the clavicle that's more dangerously libidinal. The scapula is a beautiful bone. A half white wing, a bone that billows over one edge like a wave, a molded piece of clay shaping into a musical instrument, a flute or a set of pan pipes. It's a bone caught in the moment of undulating. It arches from the spine in two melodies, the supraspinous fossa and infraspinous fossa, and the notes slide concavely. The upper part of the scapula is so thin as to be almost transparent. Is that why we can't show the shoulder's delicacy of skin? Or is it the delicate angles of the claviculae that arrest? I once met a woman whose criteria for dieting was until her clavicle bones showed in their sinewy slender grace. Is it the soft shadow of the cleft between the clavicles, or the rounded caput humeri of the humerus, the shoulder bone? Those pectoral girdles are certainly enticing. What drives men to distraction about a woman's bare shoulders that necessitates rules being created about covering them in the corporate world?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dance of the Solar Wind

"...behind thought I have a musical core. But even further back there's the beating heart. The deepest thought is, then, a beating heart." (Clarice Lispector, Stream of Life, 36)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Appearance of the Glass Blowers

Presently I am immersed, cannot appear clearly. Leaves unfurl in the Spring; who knows how they make the immovable movable, unwrap and flutter in the wind. Fresh, opalescent green. Discovering the sun for the first time, before the caterpillars come, or dry spells of Summer to dim their colour. I write blindly, onto a blank screen because the system can't keep up. The Windows 'hourglass' blinks furiously. It's trying to save me as I write, but so slowly that I write onto a white screen without words; in minutes they will appear. Is that me groping along the white pathway, waiting to appear? When will I, and how to, even in time-lapsed words that foreshadow.

Is love loving me in ways I cannot comprehend. I watch glass blowers, hand-held poles, in and out of the furnace, pure sand from the ancient ocean bed in the middle of the continent, melting silica, forged into light-filled opacity, interior glow, thickness of transparencies, an art. In the furious alembic, boiling at thousands of degrees, coming out to dip into colour, to swirl in a shape, pushed back in to melt for the setting. What experience is teaching, the unfolding of the path, understanding that can glow in the display case for the film that is showing me myself.

Or you. Whoever you are. That I cannot know. What your secret of unfurling is.

On this quiet, cool day, buds are pushing inside, like tiny, green, scrunched wrapping papers. And flowers will unfurl from my head: a flower woman, lying under the earth which is wrapping and unwrapping me. The furnace of sun. In the interior, on the dry ocean bed with the pure sand, its perfection for melting into glass. No, I didn't step onto a shore strewn with tiny natural glass bits but it moved through my vision and fell in beads glittering on the beach. Alchemies of light. To embed light in the density of earth. The earth becomes light through the shining, the way you shine through me like the sun shines through the crystal blown by the glass blowers holding the melting.

Can I become the glass through which you look illumining the world with your light?

Even typing these words that cannot see until they appear?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Reconnection with what is familiar. Like deja vu, only not the strangeness of the unexpected familiarity of a memory that doesn't exist. Rather reconnecting to memories evoked by what has accompanied one through years of living. Scratched perhaps, a little tacky, needing refinishing, but redolent with the past.

As I unpack, my past unfolds before me like one of those cut-out stand-up books of children's illustrations. From each page something springs forth that's newly found. It might be as simple as my Tibetan-patterned duvet or as complex as a filing cabinet of old journals.

The distant rocking of the subway coming into the station in the earth below is like a dim thunder traveling through the soil into my bones. It's simultaneously a rocking, comforting sound and electric. If I am sleepwalking through the days it's because I'm mesmerized by the dream that life is.

It's not just unpacking my household but a voice from the past that's shaken me from the insomnabulism of settling into sameness. I'm re-entering who I am as a different person.

Writing is like scrying, perceiving the deeper truths. I could throw alphabets like yarrow stalks into the air and see how they land, or toss Tarot cards with their symbolism over the bed, or my Chinese coins with their holes in the centre six times and read the prognosis of the I Ching, or hold my blue lapis lazuli pendulum with its fine gold veins by its silver chain and see which way it swings when I ask the secret questions.

We have fiction because life would be far too strange without fabrication.

I survey my boxes of books and clothes and furniture and writing and paintings and am stunned that I still have everything.

How does what we thought was lost become found?

Is reunion a reciprocity that is inherent in existence? Not just breaking apart, the entropy, but 'coming together' itself as a process. When what is familiar returns to its original relation. Or is it that I cannot lose what's mine? I am surrounded by what I have collected. And with this collection comes an identity that I was shorn of when I had nothing.

It's miraculous, yes, but also about reception and acceptance.

We know time and space bend. Was it always curving so that while we thought we were traveling apart we were actually flying towards each other?

I don't mean to speak in riddles, but with reconnections and reunions on different levels I am reverberating in the strangeness of familiarity.

What was past becomes future. Time and space nestle within their own mysteries. I find my past opening like Chinese boxes as I magically find the trail that led to here.

Memory becomes living heritage and I feel I am bequeathed such gifts by a younger self. How to fathom the depth of the love of this deeper reunion?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Shapes of the Phantasmagoric World

I couldn't bear the incoherencies. I wanted writing to fall neatly over the world like a well-made garment, to drape, with tucks and darts, flowing and fitted. But only stitches, bare basting.

Then your visionary eyes, blue like the sunlit sky of the ocean where you fly, composed of brilliant blue light. It's all I can see of you, nothing else remains.

I couldn't establish which seam of thought to follow. It became filled with complexity. Though the simple euphoria of being still existed. How long would I stay where I was? Updating Excel files was a type of work that left me time to write discreetly. Not secretive exactly, but hidden. I don't think anyone cared why the honeybees were abandoning their hives.

Huge chocolate-dipped strawberries, a slice of white cake layered with whipped cream icing lying on its side on the plate, everything dusted with icing sugar, confectionery moments of an office birthday. And fat peonies with rays like white suns, elegant purple irises, labic pink roses, lots of green foliage, bouquet of celebration in a clear glass vase.

A warm, continuous block of radiant energy pours through the window's glass. It adheres to the straight lines of the steel frame but wraps me in a duvet of light. I nap in the sunlight at the food court. This view of sun falling down concrete stairs, rare in the office complex, basking.

Despite the euphoria, the way events take their own momentum once you started the motion, how organized it was, I was ignoring the deep and unsettling crisis that moving is. I knew by the unconscious behaviour of my body, its bleeding, its red tides.

Stress releases deep, unsettling sediments, the systems of the body run awry, raging flow of hormones as I near menopause. While Muslim women pay French doctors to have their hymens re-sewn.

The world moves in on me. My nights spent moving, unpacking, exhausted, muscle-aching, but high, ecstatic. Eyes tear in gratitude. Impossibilities become possible.

My back aches with a pulled muscle and every four hours I take extra strength Ibuprofen. My belly is full of thunder, but the bleeding stops and desire resumes itself in writing.

It wasn't that writing could not occur; it was that no point had occurred. It was from the point of no-point that the writing came, weaving its way from the centre of a spiral in linear circles.

Is it that I bear no apparent relation to myself?

What translates my sensory information into you? With your eyes that are lit from within. That I remember from memory. Sometimes I see the pathways that you passed through, like the embroideries of jets in the sky that have been sewn in smoke.

In the deep interiority, alternatives are indistinguishable.

Or am I only interfering with myself, like the photons in the quantum eraser?

Do I contradict the identity I want to project, leaving a disabling sense of being exposed, when I blush, or stitching words together, write?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A gentle and quiet euphoria

Every morning I awake in the unfolding petals of my beautiful life, my head cushioned on a soft down pillow, and I let go of everything except the ecstasy of living. Perhaps it's years of meditation, but slipping out of the slipstream of thoughts, letting anxiety go, isn't hard. Being in the joy of living, the breath, the beating heart. At night I try to go to sleep in the same state, relieved of my life so I can embrace and affirm it. I am in love, of course I am in love. How could I not be?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Writing Renews Itself

Impasse with writing. Editing bits of, and only on whim, the last 4 books I've drafted. Considering structure, flow patterns, what the passage might be like for a reader. How much I wish to reveal and conceal of my life. What sorts of connectives and links the story of the stories needs. If it feels intuitively right, I go with it; otherwise, I keep working, trying different image patterns, polishing.

The flow patterns of the people walking past that I sit and watch from a bench in the underground concourse tunnels. Converging motion of intention. Routes. Auto-locomotion of the body, legs and limbs. The women in their high heels seem crippled in their motion, though they compensate for the tilt forwards, the way it bends the spine forcing it to balance to an unnatural gravity.
Brenda ClewsWhen I dance I can't wear heels. Bare feet is what I like best, and a black danceskin, and a small skirt - a silk sarong or large flowing scarf to tie around my hips. Maximal freedom.

Sometimes with dancing I become tired of my range of movement, feeling that I've explored that particular phase fully. Every phase includes all the previous ones, so the overall range is larger now, and each new phase lasts longer than its predecessors, but I still reach impasse. It gets heavy, onerous. The same range of motions. Nothing new. And then I stop dancing. Wind becomes stone. Bright sun on fields retreats into a cave. I curl into myself. Months go by, sometimes a year. When I begin again to dance it is like a new person being reborn. The way my body stretches into new motions and new interpretations of life's interweaving tapestries is often surprising to me. There is a new phase to explore, and it is joyous.

I've written upside down and inside out and in every imaginable permutation of the present phase of the way I string words together. I've stretched as far as I can in this lexicon and syntax and grammar and particular image patterns and sets of theoretical concerns. I feel like I'm tracing old maps. So I tinker with editing my manuscripts. This is how I spend my writing time now, and it is useful and good, cultivating and honing, while I wait to see how writing renews itself in a new phase.

These are only working titles, and could change. Instead of doing a PhD, this is how I've spent the past few years. Living on temp work and a little child support, seeing my children through their teen years. There are paintings too, but here's my little list of writings:

  • This Way of Falling Into What Is Receiving Us - 1986-2007 - about 100 pages, including paintings and dance
  • Book of the Dead - 2004 - about 50,000 words
  • The Move - 2005 - about 50,000 words
  • EnTrapped WOR|l|DS - 2006 - about 20,000 words
  • Poetry - 2003-2007 - about 50 pages, or more, including photopoems
  • Mountain of Seeds - 2007 - in progress, about 10,000 words
    • On the Strange Coherencies of a Life

      What of what hasn't happened yet?

      I want to write this story, the story of what hadn't happened but then did, but I surely cannot impart the sense of strangeness and wonder it elicited. Still, I shake my head in surprise.

      When I returned to Toronto in 2005 I came without a job or a place to stay. All my household goods were stored by the moving company in Mississauga. For the first two months I stayed with an acquaintance. My compass spun wildly. Everything was open. The only magnetic centre was the school my daughter wished to attend, and for that we had to be in area and from out of province, since enrollment was over capacity. I did a specifically focused extended mediation on where I would live (meditation a significant part of my daily life for 13 years now). Because I don't want to reveal exact whereabouts, let me call it Albion, after Blake's 'primordial man' from his prophetic books. In the meditation it came that I would live on Albion Ave. That is a very expensive area, but there is a lot of student housing, too, so perhaps an older apartment in one of the large houses? My dog and I walked up and down that street over and over that Summer as I tried to fathom where the meditation and reality might meet. All that came of it was communing with some fabulous old oak trees and a sense of which side of the street it would be and what specific block it would be.

      In an email on the 29th of August, 2005, I wrote:

      "Albion figuring so prominently in my psychic life at present, that's unruly... it's been so insistent that I've been looking for accommodation on a street in Toronto called Albion Ave... how strange that you mention this word... I've been waking up and going to sleep with "Albion," and walking up and down the street here that bears that name, being one with the massive old trees, wondering what the pull is, what it means, why this word is so prominent in my consciousness... hmnnn...."

      Nothing on Albion, but I found an affordable apartment just inside the school cache area that worked for us, moved in with two suitcases of Summer clothes and my computer (which I had sent by UPS separately), found everything we needed came to us (which was miraculous in its own small way), created a small lodging that never really became a home but sufficed, missed my son who was now living with his Dad, and puzzled over the Albion Ave intuition. And I've often walked on that street and felt rather silly, me and my 'intuitions.' I do get carried away.

      Meanwhile, I was fighting with the moving company, who nearly doubled the monthly cost of storage from what they had agreed on in Vancouver to when my household goods arrived in Mississauga, and I had refused to pay them anything at all. I was also writing "The Move," about the uncertainty I was living in. At one point I thought I had lost everything, clothes, furniture, books, all my writing and paintings. When I let go of the need to hold onto my 'stuff' I found I was able to negotiate with the moving company. We eventually agreed on the original monthly amount and so I paid them a lump sum for the year that my goods had been in storage with them and my brothers and children and I moved everything from Mississauga to a storage company about 10 minutes from where I live. For the last 6 months I have been looking for better accommodation, to have a home again.

      Nothing. It began to give me a daily headache, the looking. The Winter went by. Nothing quite right appeared. Some definite possibilities, but a 'no dogs' policy, or a tenant who decided not to move after all, those kinds of things happened. I was ready to give up. I ended up with an agency due to fatigue with the process of looking at screens and screens of ads daily. A unit came up not far from where we are living now, and while it was adequate, it wasn't quite right, but I was resigned to taking it. We had to move to a larger space.

      Last Monday I went in to sign the lease when the office opened so I wouldn't miss too much time from work. As I talked to the rental coordinator, he mentioned that another unit had just become available, and it was unusual since people rarely moved from this building. It cost a little more since it's electric heat, but he said the location might work very well for my daughter's school.

      Where is the unit?

      You guessed it.

      Albion Avenue.

      I signed the lease without seeing the apartment. That's how deeply I trust intuition. When my daughter and I looked at it later that evening we were quite happy with it. The bedrooms are very small, but there is light and enough space and the location is perfect. It'll be a good space for working, writing, painting, and for living, I can feel that. It's on the side of the street that my intuition indicated in 2005, and a stone's throw from a cafe that I 'saw' us eating breakfast at...

      Last night I took my dog to the small townhouse and said to her, "Home..." She sniffed the door and looked slightly puzzled but happy. Sort of like me. And then I thanked every one of the massive old oak trees as we walked up the street that we will soon be calling home.

      Thursday, April 12, 2007

      Heart Tones

      My heartbeat woke me. My pillow soft, the darkness of the cold Spring night, beneath covers, warm, hours of luxury to think, imagine, slip into underlying streams of thought, fascinated by wondering, exploring routes and trajectories, ideas and sensations, memories and future possibilities, yet sleep is crucial, work tomorrow, and so a mantra over and over, for stillness, to locate the cliff-edge of drowsiness, to fall into it. Why is it so loud, this beating? Blood filling with oxygen, the network of arteries, arterioles, capillaries and veins. Diastole and systole. I hear it in my left ear drum. It pulses, throbs with a steady beat. Pluck out the earplug. The clock ticks too loudly; my dog snores slightly. Squeeze the foam and push it back into orifice of ear. The steady thumping of a sea of blood thrown like a metronome against my inner ear. Usually I can't fall asleep on my left side because my heartbeat is too loud. But the thuds of heartbeat are loud no matter what side I lie on. How am I to dim the sound when it is inside me? All night, my beating heart keeps me awake.

      At 5am I rose, let the dog out, made coffee, cooked sausages, eggs and toasted a bit of pumpernickel bagel. I read an email that caused me to Google Rilke, read some of his poetry and part of one of the Letters to a Young Poet. I imagined living at Chateau de Muzot, a small stone tower, where Rilke finished the Duino Elegies. How he carried them like a long delayed pregnancy, until, finally, they poured onto the page. Then I wondered if wax in my eardrum was causing a sensitivity to the inner sound of my beating body. I rose from Rilke to look for the Clary Sage oil. On the shelf of chaotic items, reading glasses, lip balm, books, papers, Tarot cards, sable paint brushes, I find it, tip my head, let some drops slide in to massage the ear drum. The pounding of blood through the heart is muted, distant, normal.

      Later when I consider what to write, I remember the heartbeat in the night that kept me awake. Muscular organ of renewal. Ventricles and passageways. Central chamber for the maintenance of everything.

      How do I approach it. Mortality, the thundering heart.
      Qualia, or the subjective response to sensations of the body, is the subject of this piece on the heart.

      Tuesday, April 10, 2007

      A Bouquet of Unopened Bulbs

      A woman walks across the square holding in both arms a large bouquet of unopened bulbs, the top of the clear cellophane wrap in which they are encased is unfurled and open. Like wet paint strokes, the brush flat and full of green paint at the base of the bulb and thinning to a point, dozens, or more. One could not know from across the way, sipping afternoon tea. The imagination looks for corollaries: domes of Persian temples, fat and ready to open; sepals the colour of Green Tara; or Celtic sidhe, mounds, hills, where the fairy folk live who love beauty and wealth, fertile, magical, of the realm of promise.

      In the resurfacing of the Zocalo in Mexico City in 1790, Antonio de Leon y Gama discovered the greatest archaeological find of 18th century Mexico. Twin stones. A statue of Coatlicue (she of the feathered skirt of serpents) and the Great Aztec Sun Stone.

      She is Teteo Inan, Mother of the Gods.

      For centuries prior to finding her, Mexicans laid flowers on the square for the Mother of the Earth. She was never lost, only hidden.

      I'm writing to you as if I were tearing the snarled roots of a colossal tree from the depths of the earth, and those roots were like powerful tentacles, like the voluminous nude bodies of strong women wrapped in serpents and carnal desires of realization.1
      Because the tourists who are in the news were kidnapped in the Danakil Depression it blisters the rotunda in which I sit, and I am twisted in the stunted roots of the dragon trees with broad-leaves and a stout trunks in the lowest place on earth. A festering place, 371 feet below sea level, lava oozing upwards, continuous fissures and hundreds of earthquakes each year, sulphuric pools, salt flats and salty lakes, unblinking sun, a scant few inches of rain a year, highs of 50C in the dry season.

      Slow currents under the lithosphere, at the centre of a triple junction fault in the Great Rift Valley of Africa, with a seafloor spreading centre, moving at the rate of 1-2cm a year, Dankalia will submerge into a new sea in 10 million years.

      How can the woman with the unopened flowers in her arms walk on a floor of lava? Magma wells up from the mantle, bones from the necklace of Coatlicue emerge as Australopithicus afarensis. She comes from under the earth. They find her in a gully in bits. She is a sky dancing with diamonds.

      Can I dance with a hominid with one hip, a sacrum, a rib cage, a lumbar, a humerus, a femoral cranium? She is 3 feet 8 inches tall, 65 lbs and 3.2 million years old. She looks like a chimpanzee but walks upright. Lucy is a connecting link in the evolutionary story, and she was found in 1974 by two anthropologists, Johansen and Gray, near the Awash River, near the hot fields of basalt.

      Buried earth mothers of the earth.

      The shiny basalt floor of the rotunda heats and cracks as white-enamelled cast iron tables fall. I lay myself on the earth and lay the fresh, green, living, vibrant closed buds before me and they burst into multi-coloured bloom.

      1Clarice Lispector, The Stream of Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,1989), p.13.

      Monday, April 09, 2007


      You have no idea who you are. Razed, skinned, muscles exposed, then stripped to the bone. Marrow beating inside the sheath where you melt. Reorientation of neuronal patterns, old connections gutted as you renovate yourself from within. When the new circuits activate and energy flows, your thoughts aren't the same. A richer depth, a deeper resonance. You're more complete. New perceptions of the world and your relationships unfold like visionary wings inside your chrysalis. One day I'll see you gliding over the plains, an angel.

      Tuesday, April 03, 2007

      A Creation Story

      The Creation of Adam is a fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti circa 1511.

      Otherwise it would all happen at once. Our births, lives, deaths. In an instant, a tableau of everything. Time slows it, lineates it, notches it. We experience ourselves event by event. We attempt to feel the fullness of the great expanse in our awareness of the moment, pure, insightful.

      Time is a way of perceiving: measuring our lives, our moments of meeting, that we age. We are time travelers touching each other as we pass by. We know the wholeness of which we are a part; we reach for each other, our feather-soft breaths.

      Is time an interpretation carved out of the undifferentiated? And space a way to spread it out, a place to live? The way we are separated in our individual beings. How our egos map the terrain of the unknown. Ropes we grab to cross the ocean of raw life. Without fixing ourselves in time and space, as coordinates, would it fly apart?

      My pathway to you who are reading this was always known. Who you are is inherent in the writing. Destiny is not predetermined but the unfolding of the moment in the wholeness of everything that has or will ever exist. Does it spin on the tip of Zeno's Arrow?

      In my image-creating mind, time is the crumbling sand beneath my bare feet as the ocean pulls it away.

      Time is the rhythm of each day, activity by activity. At night, fatigued, we let go.

      In meditation, I knew I'd left time; not a euphoria of timelessness witnessing the flow of time, but absence, non-being, not in the learned experience of time.

      Perhaps death is a closure of time, where it ceases.

      Time is the energy I have

      for living.