Saturday, December 31, 2005

It was the strangest of years...

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Prodigal return...

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Festivities!

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Receiving is Giving

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

Digital camera gone awry

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

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

Any ideas on what's happened to the camera?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Master Text/MasterCard

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Move: Section #38 on seeds...

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

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Section #38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dreams, ah, no, nightmares...

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Lock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pressure/ Tendency
102.0 kPa

24 km

70 %

Wind Chill
-21 (-5 °F)

-16 °C

NNW 21 km/h

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Coffee Urn

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Changing the world one gift at a time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn't that just the nicest?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My daily practice...

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

Friday, December 09, 2005

Unconcealing the Concealed: Intercepted Lightbeam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Writing one's life...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a link to the first section of "The Move":

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A path of gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blog Against Racism Day

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

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Poem from my Singing Bowls of Horizons.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Authors Authoring Our Lives

"If, seated on high, amidst the authors of our destinies, we could read the book of our life. Which is written. Already written, finished. But we shall never know our story. We are only characters in it. And to think that there will be readers of our book. They will open it. And they'll make fun of the murkiness of our night. Says the author~" Helene Cixious, "Stigmata."

Nothing grand like positing a Divine other as author of our lives, or even ourselves: history is the author of our lives. History creates the book of our lives, where we only live as a character, and even then a character in what becomes our own story, a story that we can never fully know, either. If we remain anonymous bearers of history, our lack of individuality is our story. And nothing is ever 'settled,' the process of revision after revision continues. Perhaps history is an author who never finishes the story that is written and rewritten with each successive generation. There is no final Word, the author cannot be absolutist but only contextual, forever revising the book, the canon, made up of our individual transcripts where we are characters living in a story we can't ever fully know the design of.

I am a lady of hidden books, filing cabinet drawers of journals, piled up, copious writing through the years, and an abrupt end, sudden stopping. Slowly pushing into the stream of life, like here, where we all write our lives, thoughts, concerns, happenings, where we can overhear each other think, revealing those interior places, those places where we posit our lives against the anonymity of history, authoring ourselves in halting, flowing, coagulating, humorous, descriptive sentences of every kind, on every topic, a veritable cornucopia, our offerings. Writing into the future, yesterday's blog gone, like the news, an alphabetic rubble for the future historian to sift through. And some of our stories will remain, the fickle heart of history being what it is, for awhile, of our coming to writing. And then our lives will be placed in the context of. On this inky lonely night without my children, there is comfort in this, knowing that I cannot know the book of my life even while I am writing it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

From my novella-in-progress, "The Move"- sections 50 & 51. Click on the image for a larger, readable size. Suggestions are always welcomed.

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Section #50

A man who she met at a garden party, talked to all evening in his kitchen, and went dancing with late in the night at a bar with a jazz band and a toy railroad all the way round the ceiling with a tiny train chugging continuously, that new friend took her to the slough. She should have been packing. She wanted to meet his friend who lived in the wetlands on the Fraser River and wrote books by hand.

Walking on boards placed on the rich vegetation of the rain forest, a pathway opened into another world. She entered a lush and overgrown secret place where creativity flourished directly out of the imagination. Kaja, statuesque and beautiful, like a Germanic goddess, welcomed her. Tall, sensual, curly chestnut hair pulled up and tied, her legs bare and long in shorts, her green eyes shone with vibrancy and mystery. The magical world was her everyday reality. Kaja, and the friend with whom she had come, spent an evening a week sharing dinner and reading their writing to each other, or telling stories. Kaja was too self-conscious to read to a stranger that night, so she told a story.

It was the story of the creativity of life that swept up on the shores all around us, calling us to understanding. The cadences of her telling were visionary and spiritual and philosophic, the poetry of her words swayed on the river, in the air, across the tops of the trees, in the choral streaks of the sunset.

Everything in Kaja’s life had come through spiritual intercession. The cottage on stilts on the river that she lived in was a perfect writer’s cabin. It had appeared as an option that couldn’t be turned down when she asked for an ideal place to live and write. Her boyfriend’s work took him away for two weeks each month, giving her time to write. She worked part-time in special education, a job that fed both her body and her creativity. She had nurturing friends who supported her emotionally. She told story after story of her life where whatever she asked for came to her in profound ways. She said she had to be careful because it was almost too easy to conjure what she asked for.

Anyone would feel fortunate, as she had, to have sat, enraptured, listening to Kaja’s tales, their marvels, her understanding of the way things came to us, how we can shape our lives in ways we desire so that we may do whatever it is that calls to us deeply.

Section #51

A new way of living, or perhaps it is a very, very old way, was opening, it seemed, everywhere.

When things that you needed snapped into place, she could feel it like two grids connecting, two genes intersplicing.

It was easier to do through the medium of money, but money was a poor substitute for the deeper exchange that went on between us all, and of which we are often barely aware.

©2005 Brenda Clews

Friday, November 25, 2005

What am I most grateful for?

Having spent the greater part of my life serving others and trying to fit into, I don't know, their conceptions, or conceptions I had of their ideas of how I should be, I have to say I'm grateful for whatever intelligence and talent have clung to me through it all and sorry that I haven't honoured either but I am trying to rectify that. You all, in the blogosphere, are a big part of this process of coming-into-being...

I'm grateful for the flock of angels who fly with me every day; for feeling as if I can cope, that I am strong; for being able to learn from my experiences in a positive and healthy way; for not being bitter or pessimistic. I'm grateful for my ability to see and feel the world around me; I'm grateful for the brilliance in everything...

And for the delicate smile at the corners of my beautiful daughter's mouth when she tells me she got an almost perfect mark on a major project that she worked for weeks on (she dropped out of school & I ended up homeschooling, so this is good news indeed), the light in her eyes, her delightful petulances, and her laughter and hugs...

And for my gentle and generous son, who's living at his Dad's and who I miss, but who's come through a maelstrom, and who I'm very proud of...

And the soft acceptance of my dog, her soft curly ears, how she's just there, consistently, every day, sweet and huggy, how much fun she is to take for a romp in the park...

I'm grateful for food in the fridge and a roof over my head; grateful for the bounty of the earth and a culture that allows me that; for the inky wash of dawn in the sky and the brightening the sun is bringing to the world. I'm grateful for all the men I've loved; for the beautiful friends I have. I'm grateful to be alive and healthy and brimming with a finally freed creativity; and for all the dark and desperate and lonely times because that enables me to see how fortunate I am to have so much love in my life. I'm grateful for how open my heart is. For how I am not afraid. I'm especially grateful for the coming blessings...

The ability to smile, to laugh. Most of all I'm grateful for love, the ability to love is everything, being loved is everything.

The sky is washed with clear light, it's going to be another stunningly beautiful day.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

To post or not to post?

Well, sending you to my website to read the first 11 pages was perhaps daunting, and who has the time? Many thanks to Jean and Laurieglynn for their very helpful comments! This section, from page 99, is perhaps not polished enough, and probably way too long to post as a blog entry. I'm not sure if I should leave it up or pull it. It's about the vast field of interconnections between us all and the many small miracles that happen continually in our lives. I think this section might be central to the theme of my novella-in-progress, The Move. It's perhaps a more theoretic section, and I think it has, I dunno, perhaps too Buddhist an edge to it (all that talk of no arrogance, although I don't actually say non attachment) that I have to scrub and polish out (it's non demoninational, though may have an underlying Buddhist philosophy, oh, heck, that's where I've learnt the most spiritually), and this section is in the midst of sections that are about happenings, events and that illustrate this way of describing gifts, coincidences, small miracles...

Strange luck, strange turns of events, strange eddies in the currents of time, like strange physics particles cohering in unexpected formations, were occurring in ways incongruent to the laws of cause and effect. The energy of a system wasn’t contained in the rationality of its whole, nor in the logical sum of its parts, not all of it. Perhaps there are pockets of other dimensions in this one, oscillating at even higher frequencies. Something like intersecting fields of frequencies crossing each other at nodal points where the pattern of events could take a different turn. Sometimes the fabric of space and time stretched, buckled, spread, allowed. Places where the light trickled richly and pooled. Where the visions were strongest. Where visions could become realized. Contact points where creative poolings occurred out of which magic arose as if from the mists which swirl over the waters of the deep. If you were in one of those places somehow things spawned. Cornucopias of wishes came true. Effortlessly; if you applied effort, or attempted to arrogate the processes, became arrogant, the entryway shut down, closed, moved elsewhere. These were gifts that only appeared through a process of gifting. It was not a doctrine, or definable by any system, religious, scientific or otherwise.

No-one could claim to own or control this process of interconnections. Patents couldn’t be taken out on it. It’s a network that’s larger than the continuum we think we exist in. It intersects with the space-time continuum of cause and effect. It enables crucial connections to be made.

Whether you call it co-incidence or the guidance of angels, it doesn’t matter.

What you did when a desire and its fulfillment intersected was up to you. What you want will appear, but it might not be what you wanted after all, or perhaps you didn’t recognize it as the fruition of your wishes, or perhaps the lapse between its appearance and your recognition was long enough to lose it. It’s important to be open to possibilities.

That’s where the sudden lightning flash of illumination will appear, as a possibility.

Finding what she was looking for, accidentally, wherever, happened so often she didn’t doubt the existence of a set of connections between us all that appear beyond the accepted communication channels. Finding what you were looking for, what you wished for, was no stranger than seeing yourself in a mirror, after all. You think you exist, and then you see yourself and it’s always a little strange and somehow magical that you are here at all.

As she sipped her hot, aromatic Earl Grey tea, its sweetness on her tongue, she continued to follow her train of thought. She wondered if trying to map this process, even poetically, would scare it away. Like psychic phenomenon, it was resistant to testing. Wish fulfillment was perhaps akin to hitting the jackpot, it would happen, but no-one could predict when or how much or who would be the winner. Only, we were all winners all the time, it was just a matter or recognizing that what you were asking for is being given to you.

For the co-ordinates of this larger system of connections to key in to your mental arena, your flux of thoughts and emotions, there has to be a real need. It doesn’t happen on a whim. It doesn’t happen if you don’t really need it. If you’re fine without what you think you want, then you won’t find anything. If you’re frustrated and finding things difficult and such and such a thing will help, then you will find it. When you’ve forgotten about it. Like magic. That’s the way it happens.

It happens and you can’t make it happen, but you cause it to happen, and when it does it seems like a small miracle.

The book of life is a book of miracles.

It is not about the suspension or violation of the laws of nature. It is about an added bonus to the stability of the world. Something that brings what is desired without shaking the foundations of your life. Parachuted in. Added to. Offered. Gifted. In the immediacy of the moment. As is. Without artifice, exploitation, ulterior motive, in the purity of the present.

It cannot be reduced to the normal processes of communication, or of the market of goods that flow back and forth. But it is a give and take. A call and a response. An offering of gifts to each other.

You will find what you are looking for if you stop looking for it; but first you have to want it, deeply.

It’s not that the energy is freed once you stop wanting, stop thinking about it, stop looking, though that is one way to teach yourself to let go. It’s like desire reaches a fevered pitch and spills over into a silence so rich it spawns whatever was being sought until it is shining before you. It’s a process of love. When you find what you are looking for, you feel profoundly loved.

The small miracles are to remind you that you are loved.

©2005 Brenda Clews

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

NaNoWriMo?! Oooh, yes, & now the work begins...

50627/50000 wordsImage Hosted by

Okay, so the word count is 50627 by NaNoWriMo's unofficial count. Have I been writing up a storm? Nah. Oh, I've been sweating it, you have NO idea; I've been working with feverish incessant continuity, yes. I've been eating and sleeping this book. Lots of new writing, and lots of old writing. It's autobiographical in the 3rd person, go figure, and interweaves life and fiction, and so I've included many blog entries and emails as I tell the story of the last 8 months of my life. It's all been done in little blocks of writing that criss-cross each other, resonate against each other, dissent or assent, unfolding a story through events and metaphoric and symbolic images. There is huge, mungo HUGE editing to do. It all has to flow with a poetic voice, and that's not easy to create and maintain. I've got to put connectives in, discipline the narratorial voice into a consistent level, add the philosophical dimension of ambiguity and unknowingness while remaining grounded in love and trust, all that. I've done some of the editing/rewriting, buried under my hat wearing tiny spectacles on buses, subways, at the park while my dog wanders freely and without supervision to nibble leftovers on the grass, even in steaming water by the candle light of a dozen tiny tea lights spread along the side of the bathtub, and am satisfied with what's happening, but I have more sleepless weeks ahead of me ironing out this dance pagaent of uncertainties! I've made the word count, yes; I have a single-spaced 130 page manuscript that I didn't have before to work on. That's something to razzamatazz about, for sure. And that, my friends, is what NaNoWriMo is ultimately all about...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Has there been a breakdown of morality this century?

From an article in Arts & Letters today:

Whitney Harris: I am totally convinced that Adolf Hitler was only a name that symbolized the absolute and worldwide breakdown of morality in the 20th century. It started in 1914 with World War I when everyone killed everyone and no moral standards remained. Revenge was the order of the day and any excuse was permissible. And afterwards? What did the communists do in Russia? And the Japanese in China?

Sixty years ago on Sunday, the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial got under way to bring leading Nazis to justice. Whitney Harris was one of the principle figures for the prosecution.

Read the interview, "I Hadn't the Slightest Idea of the Scale of Genocide."

The other day I met an old aquantaince in the park. We were both walking our dogs; there was a light dusting of snow; I recognized her, even in her ankle length wool coat, by her handmade felt hat. Her son had taken a year off between high school and university and with some money he inherited travelled in Europe where he had many wonderful adventures. In Italy, however, he met a man at a train station who offered to buy him a coffee. When he came to, he realized he'd been raped. The man had put drugs into the coffee and taken him back to his apartment. The woman and her son met in Switzerland later that day, as they had planned, and when his mother found out what happened she went berserk, took him to the hospital for tests, and has helped him in every way she could to cope with this violation. She attributes the degree of callousness and usury of those who victimize others to the general breakdown of morality world-wide. Who can disagree?

Here is a riveting first-hand account of a survivor of the London Tube Bombings earlier this year: Rachael from North London, in a post entitled, Well, I watched the documentary. She writes extraordinarily well and with a poet's sensibility. To read an account like hers is unforgettable; it changes you, your understanding.

Is a lack of morality the main, fundamental, biggest underlying problem in the world today? Is that what causes such widescale violence and terrorism? Has there in fact been a breakdown of morality this century?

Widespread atrocities are not a unique phenonema to the 20th c at all; they go back to earliest recorded history with the invasions of the Indo-Europeans in the Ancient Middle East up to genocides like Rwanda. The only difference in this century is the deadliness of the weaponry and the scale of devastation made possible by our technology. The idea of imposing a morality could potentially become another type of "oppression." It's perhaps impossible to fathom a solution to the irrationality of violence other than to keep working at understanding it, and trying to prevent it.

I don't believe in absolute forces of good and evil; but I do think that there is a malaise, a death-wish, a despair underlying violence that musn't be succumbed to - that it's important to keep fighting that dissolution in our own lives, our little plots, in our own ways, through understanding, and through wanting other, safer alternatives in ours and everyone's lives.

Aggression is part of the human spirit. It's not going to go away. But there can be refusal to do things that are deliberately harmful to others, to be conscientious objectors.

This really is a huge topic...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On the problem of concepts of equality...

The central problem with the concept of equality is that it presupposes a unitary subject to which all other subjects must adhere. If that prime subject is a white, upper middle class male, as it is in Western European culture, then we can see it is extremely problematic for women and those from so-called 'minority' groups. Women, for instance, have babies. This makes women, and women's issues and needs, fundamentally different to that of the unitary male subject which underlies the notion of equality. It also makes the diverse needs of ethnic peoples problematic. If we are all to be the same, how can we celebrate our differences? Personally I favour Parity over Equality, parity being a system that allows equality in difference, that recognizes and respects difference, sexual difference being a fundamental aspect socially and which, under Equality Theory, prevents a woman from attaining true equality with her male co-workers, but under a political system of Parity would give cognizance to her potential needs as a mother should she wish to become one and remain in the work force. Parity in France has not only given women a legislated 50% entry at the political candidate registration level of politics, but enabled women to receive up to 2 years of maternal leave with benefits and a promise of a return to a job at the same level as she left. It may not be an ultimate solution to the difficulties a "two sex" world gives, nor to the problem of how to democratically define the concept of what a 'subject' of the state is, but it is somewhat better than that afforded by the essentially "one sex" model of equality. Reproductive issues are hugely problematic for equality theorists, and perhaps you can now understand a little of why...

I realize Parity hasn't worked all that well in France, vis-a-vis the riots over girls wearing headscarves in the classroom (where I see a unitary notion of the 'non-religious' subject operating), behind which is intolerance towards religious difference and discrimination, and a whole host of other problems in the Islamic groups in question, with high unemployment, etc. Or perhaps I'm seeing in it the same problem that Equality presents generally. This is the area which, when I start thinking about it, goes around and around in my head like a record stuck on one huge glitch...

Monday, November 14, 2005

From my current NaNoWriMo project, "The Move."

From my current NaNoWriMo project, "The Move."

AUDIO recording...(4:28min) I am rather 'melancholic' at the moment, and recorded this 4 times, eventually going with the first practice session... Oh, and I've used one of my own photographs too.

Lo-fi: Uncertainty…
Hi-fi: Uncertainty…
This is rather intense, but I can live with it (isn't that ultimately the only criteria?). The character is at a low point in the turning...

In the uncertainty of every moment, where the fragile knowing rests on unknowing, how do we push through the collisions of the days? The overwhelming propensity of the world bears in on us. It is vast and unfathomable and mysterious and yet we must. Go into the darknesses and wrestle with the disappearing light, call the dancing angel back, carry what is ethereal and impossible to grasp. Is it always a question of light, bringing ourselves to consciousness? Of evolving into who we are. And of healing the splits, the wounds, the places where the shredding, that couldn’t. How to move from a state of deliquescence to the harmony of integration. Where the ground of being is apparent. When integration itself is only a process that is superceded by chaos, and another integration. Unless it all falls apart, that is. It is always falling apart and always staying together. Living without a shell burns.

Without defenses, without well worn responses, without any agendas to trick meaning or at least a coherency, what then? Crawling like an amoeba without the skin of its cell? Guts spill out. The nucleus is torn from its sacred sac. What is inside splayed over the field of vision. She may not carry the sack of herself like baggage across the landscape of firings and dangers and meltings of what encloses and keeps us safe.

Was any day easier than the one before? Implosions were going off in her mind at infrequent intervals. Memories were raping, denuding, leaving her breathless and torn. Her insides hurt. Her breath rasped and hurt. Perhaps anger was sliding through her brain cells like dark wisps of perturbations, little halcyons and tornadoes, jumbling up the past with the present, living in a storm.

It hurt, wet leaves on skin, where the green veins knit into her hand. “Bury us in the dung of light,” says Celan. Who she meets in the underworld, where it is growing over. I didn’t lose any in the crematoriums, but I am lost, hold me tight, Yorick, whose skull, a soliloquy in Hamlet’s vine entangled palm. The lifeline sparking.

Yet the sky was blindingly bright; the sun a combustion of blessings in the sky pouring benediction over her as she stood in its golden raiment. Last night the moon had yanked her from her enclosed thoughts and she saw how she was akin to insects crawling indeterminately over the globe that the moon shines indiscriminately on constantly. She and Kafka sang. Of trials and metamorphoses. The air windy, crisp and perfect for those shuttling like the Autumn leaves down the dark alley of fences and motion detector lights behind the houses that are rooted to the earth in their basements.

The days were falling on themselves. Diurnally turning day into night into day. Can this be the rhythm of the rising and falling, of the coming together and the splitting apart, of the fearless fathoming of the insouciant depths. Where the eyes blaze.

In a fury of love.

©2005 Brenda Clews

In the Uncertainty of Every Moment

From my current NaNoWriMo project, "Parchment of Roses."

AUDIO recording...(4:28min)

Lo-fi: Uncertainty…
Hi-fi: Uncertainty…
The character is at a low point in the turning...

In the uncertainty of every moment, where the fragile knowing rests on unknowing, how do we push through the collisions of the days? The overwhelming propensity of the world bears in on us. It is vast and unfathomable and mysterious and yet we must. Go into the darknesses and wrestle with the disappearing light, call the dancing angel back, carry what is ethereal and impossible to grasp. Is it always a question of light, bringing ourselves to consciousness? Of evolving into who we are. And of healing the splits, the wounds, the places where the shredding, that couldn’t. How to move from a state of deliquescence to the harmony of integration. Where the ground of being is apparent. When integration itself is only a process that is superceded by chaos, and another integration. Unless it all falls apart, that is. It is always falling apart and always staying together. Living without a shell burns.

Without defenses, without well worn responses, without any agendas to trick meaning or at least a coherency, what then? Crawling like an amoeba without the skin of its cell? Guts spill out. The nucleus is torn from its sacred sac. What is inside splayed over the field of vision. She may not carry the sack of herself like baggage across the landscape of firings and dangers and meltings of what encloses and keeps us safe.

Was any day easier than the one before? Implosions were going off in her mind at infrequent intervals. Memories were raping, denuding, leaving her breathless and torn. Her insides hurt. Her breath rasped and hurt. Perhaps anger was sliding through her brain cells like dark wisps of perturbations, little halcyons and tornadoes, jumbling up the past with the present, living in a storm.

It hurt, wet leaves on skin, where the green veins knit into her hand. “Bury us in the dung of light,” says Celan. Who she meets in the underworld, where it is growing over. I didn’t lose any in the crematoriums, but I am lost, hold me tight, Yorick, whose skull, a soliloquy in Hamlet’s vine entangled palm. The lifeline sparking.

Yet the sky was blindingly bright; the sun a combustion of blessings in the sky pouring benediction over her as she stood in its golden raiment. Last night the moon had yanked her from her enclosed thoughts and she saw how she was akin to insects crawling indeterminately over the globe that the moon shines indiscriminately on constantly. She and Kafka sang. Of trials and metamorphoses. The air windy, crisp and perfect for those shuttling like the Autumn leaves down the dark alley of fences and motion detector lights behind the houses that are rooted to the earth in their basements.

The days were falling on themselves. Diurnally turning day into night into day. Can this be the rhythm of the rising and falling, of the coming together and the splitting apart, of the fearless fathoming of the insouciant depths. Where the eyes blaze.

In a fury of love.
©2005 Brenda Clews

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Self-portrait on the edge of

I'm not sure whether to post this photopoem, its extreme Hamlet-like self-referentiality. When did I compose it? Maybe a month ago? When Kyra, my daughter, saw the photopoem where it is reproduced twice, she told me it was an awful picture of me, that it didn't look like me at all, that if she'd seen it she would never have guessed it was her mother, and absolutely not to post it. The eyes, yes, she she said that was the only part that looked like me. Take that off the computer screen, she said. My fierce little editor....

Yet, on this rainy cold and broke day, I return to it, wondering. My manuscript is being written, yes, the artist is alive, so is the mother, but for how long without a job? This portrait was composed on the edge of.

Even I don't know who that woman is. Even I have never seen her before. She must be a literary figment...

It clicks to a larger and readable size, but you probably already know that...

Which is not large enough for some readers, oh Blogger.

Here is the text:

Self Portrait/Photopoem, Brenda Clews 2005 (self-reflexivity, the self produced in collision/collusion with the self)

[images here]

Is this the colour of the edge, where the light, eyes that, where it pours over, at the moment of, disappearing, that clarity, an obfuscated truth, the face, its waxy quality of lotus cream-colours, burnt auburn waves, emblazoning, meditating with open eyes, the gaze, un/self/conscious, always I take self-portraits on the edge of possible devastation, needing to see who I am... [the last 3 words bleeding into the larger portrait]

Bravely, or maybe secretively (since she's at school, the sweetie), I'm posting this as an echo to, some sort of personal response to, Jean's post on works the National Gallery in London on Self-Portraits; and Richard's post on Self-Portrait with photons in tandem with Jean's. Perhaps...that is; or perhaps those posts reminded me of this one buried in my hard drive.

How to fathom...

From The Move, my current writing project...

How to fathom the poetic metaphors of our lives? Where does art come from? What layers of our being do images arise out of? And how do they reveal our lives in their unfolding, and in what ways are they prophetic? It seems as if we already know the truths of our interactions with each other, and she is not sure how that is.

Her life was an artwork where a collection of images had clung to her.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Aviator blessed as Shefi, butterfly spirit...

A Mazahua Indian chief, "Margarito Sánchez Valdez, bathed the aviator in incense, wreathed his neck with marigolds and blessed him in the name of Shefi, a butterfly spirit, and Mysyohimi, the Mazahua's supreme deity."

The journey began "on Sept. 6, when Mr. Gutiérrez flew his ultralight, Papalotzin, an indigenous word for the monarch, over Niagara Falls with a cloud of butterflies beneath him."

From there he "traveled more than 4,375 miles from Montreal to Michoacán State, following the butterflies at low altitude. He logged more than 90 hours of flying over 72 days." Last Thursday, "Mr. Gutiérrez wheeled his ultralight plane painted like a monarch over the butterfly sanctuary...and brought it swooping in to land on a stretch of mountain highway."

His extraordinary journey made to publicize the plight of Monarch butterflies, who are vastly thinning in numbers, whose future as a species is precarious.

Image Hosted by

NYTimes Article: To Save Endangered Butterfly, Become a Butterfly, by James C. McKinley Jr.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Photos my daughter took today...

Image Hosted by
My daughter's into the digital camera (finally)... here's a merge of moi, from this afternoon, now how self indulgent is that? Nothing like those rich carpets of gold leaves... we are in an older neighbourhood with many beautiful trees, they are massive and wise and soothing, and often I reach out and touch their trunks, the knotted bark, and caress leaves as I pass by...
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All images ©2005 Kyra Clews

A NaNoWriMo month...

NaNoWriMo Progress MeterIf anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year would like one of these nifty counters for their website - I've put mine in my banner - go here: National Novel Writing Month Progress Meter. Last year I swear seeing the little pointer move incrementally around the dial kept me going until I jubilantly huffed across the finish line with 50,000 words on the last day... (this from a woman who's got many unfinished manuscripts littered about, pieces here and there, until, that is, NaNoWriMo, a marathon writing month when you join in with tens of thousands of other insane writers around the world and convince your muse to take the worded trek, and to travel with you, offering you ambrosia and nectar and good kicks in the butt when needed, writing a first draft of a book of novella length by the end of the month)...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Our Doggie...

Our dog, Keesha, taken today by my daughter (who doesn't like digital cameras, prefering the SLR, but, oh, Keesha was so cute...)

A writer's dog?... flaked out after a day of heavy writing? You can see our minimal conditions at present: yes, that is my desk, which is also my couch, and my bed (shhh, it's actually very comfortable).

Keesha is a purebred Springer Spaniel, not the show dog though, the one bred for hunters. She's very domesticated. Very cuddly, sleeps mostly, loves any kind of treat, dog treats, people treats, droppings from cats (where she keeps small children's sandboxes in the park clean to my discomfort), organic recycling bins, bones, and sticks are good to chew too. She never walks anywhere, but pulls whoever's walking her (usually me) like I was a toboggan and she was a sled dog. When she's off leash, which is mostly if we're not crossing too many roads, she races from house to house, or field to field, or bush to bush, sniffing and exploring. She's got it figured out in the park socially too, running over to the owners of other dogs to get a pat from them first, before playing with the dog, and usually even dogs that don't like other dogs like her. If a bunch of children come running or walking towards her she barks at them, mostly because they scare her. She'd never bite anyone, and wags her tail like she's auditioning for competing with windmills for making electricity when patted. She's been somewhat of a barker ever since Ralph in Grange Park though, Ralph was a barker, and Ralph's owner & I liked to talk, so we'd move away from them, and they'd keep happily barking for maybe an hour, and we'd laugh and chat ourselves (she was trying to get pregnant by her fireman ex-boyfriend at the time, who lived in another city and would arrive ready for the task, alas, she didn't beget). After she moved out West, Keesha kept barking, looking for another Ralph... which can be annoying, let me tell you. Lately she's abated a bit; maybe, finally, she's forgetting the fun she & Ralph had letting loose with their vocal chords. She's 5 years old. She has limited so many rental options for us, but we'd never give her up. Who else would there be to talk about stuff with? Any stuff, she doesn't mind. Who else is always there at 3 am when you're stressed and can't sleep and need a hug? She's smart enough to recognize a good number of words, follows me around like a loving toddler, is funny, sweet, adorable, and only occasionally irritating... she's actually taught me much about unconditional loving, holding still, being present. I couldn't imagine a life without animals...

3 - BOD (Book of the Dead), continuing the story...

Posting some sections of my NaNoWriMo novel, BOD (Book of the Dead) from last year. This time I'm including a little of the narrative of the woman's day-to-day life...

She checked the phone, and there was a message. It was from Jarret, "Hi, something's come up. I'm putting the children on the train. They have enough money for a taxi, so don't worry. They should be home around 6. I'll be back later, maybe tomorrow."

Nothing more, no explanation of why he wasn't coming home. She felt herself crumbling and began to cry. Why did women always cry when they felt overwhelmed or helpless? She cried deeply for a long time. It helped to release the tension inside. Where was her husband? Was the woman who had answered the phone really with him that morning? She sounded like a one night stand, since she didn't seem to know the name of the man she was with. Could it really have been her husband?

It was nearly six o'clock. She went to the bathroom and washed her face. She put on some lipstick. She smoothed her dark curly hair back. She tried to look like she might normally. She heard the key turn in the door and went to it to greet her children.

"Hi Mom," they each said as they dumped their bags on the floor.

"Hi my honeys, how was your trip?"

"Great," they both mumbled and headed off in different directions, one to the kitchen, one to the bathroom. She heard a bath being poured. In the kitchen, her son was opening a bag of chips and holding a can of pop.

"Hey, it's dinner time, not snack time. Let's get pizza tonight."

"Ok, Ma," he munched as he talked. "Oh, yeah, Dad said to tell you he met a business contact and decided to arrange a meeting. They couldn't meet until tomorrow or something. He'll call later. He'll be home tomorrow night probably."

"Oh. He left such a short message I didn't understand what had happened. What," she said, changing the subject, "would you like on the pizza?"


She dialed the number of the pizza house, ordered, and went upstairs to her computer. Sitting there, mystified at the events of the day, she called her friend, Taim, and left a message asking to meet her for lunch the next day.

It was a quiet evening. She spent it sitting in the semi darkness of her office meditating.

Bones were certainly interesting. Within the organism, they provided the structure, the underpinning, the foundation that held the body together. Bones were living and were crucial. Yet to hold a bone, they never felt so important, so central, but light, almost too airy. They are what is most hidden, except for the teeth, and so to hold a human bone was a strange experience. To hold it knowing it was a thigh bone, of someone who died there. That this was all that remained.

Only our bones are left in the corridors of time that we have passed through, rattling on the floors…

Even our bones return to the soil, are ground up in the recycling of time, they just take longer.

It was a few days later, when the Police Station phoned and asked for her.

“Yes, it’s Shona Leicht.”

“M’am, you found the site where the bones lay?”

“In the cemetery, yes. Do you know who it was? Was it a woman? Or a man? It quite frightened me.”

“Well, the thing is, m’am, our department took a look at them, ran a few tests, and they seem to be quite old.”

“You mean they were there a long time? Can you trace them back to anyone missing?”

“Our department says there are a few more tests to make sure, but the bones appear to be at least one hundred to one hundred and fity years old.”


“That’s what I got written here. Seemed in good shape for bein’ that old to me.”

“That is very strange indeed, officer. Could there be a mistake?”

“Well, as I said, there’re a couple more tests, but it looks like they’re from maybe 1850 or 1900. Could’a been a pioneer even. Who knows.”

“Male or female.” She was trying to keep her voice steady.

“Female, older though, post-menopausal, cause there’s some osteoporosis around the hip joints.”

“Is there any indication of the cause of death, officer?”

“Funny you ask. I was asking our guy in Forensics, and he said there was nothing to indicate the cause of death, except maybe freezing.”


“Sorry, m’am?”

“Officer, I would like to give the bones of this woman a proper burial, and would like to know if I may have them? Or if I make arrangements at the funeral home, if they can be sent there for interment?”

“Don’t see a problem with that, if that’s what you want to do, m’am. I’ll have to get my supervisor’s signature, that’s all.”

“Should I pick them up? Or will you take them over?”

“We can take them over to the funeral home. It’s time to go out on patrol anyway.”

“Okay, I’ll call them. Thank you, officer.”

Then she called the funeral home and explained that the police would be by shortly with some bones that she had found in an unused and old part of the cemetery, and that she wanted to bury them properly. After some discussion, she chose a standard package, a single plot, the lower of a double depth grave, a vault and a simple coffin, and a simple marble slab on which they would engrave, "An unknown woman, who froze to death in 1850, in honour.” She said she would be there within the hour to pay for the burial. It was agreed that the burial would take place the next day in the morning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

2 - BOD (Book of the Dead), continuing the story...

Posting some sections of my NaNoWriMo novel, BOD (Book of the Dead) from last year. Some other things happen between what I posted yesterday and the continuation of the story here which leave her rather frazzled, one of which is a 'crank caller'...

The phone rang again, and absent-mindedly she answered it. “I have been trying to reach you for hours,” said a deep male voice. The connection wasn’t good and there was static on the line.
“What do you want? Why are you calling me?”
“I wanted to tell you that there is a body in the graveyard, in an old and untended section…”
She hung up the phone and began screaming, loudly, hoarsely, and then sobbing. When it rang again, she picked it up slowly, “What do you want?!”
“To tell you that it wasn’t a dream. An old, homeless woman died in the cemetery where you worked. Her body is still there. You must find it and give her a proper burial.”
The line went dead. Shona shivered deeply. She felt suddenly cold, a sense of dread overcoming her. If it were true, did she cause the old woman’s death by dreaming it? Or did she somehow tune into the experience? Why did she dream of a homeless woman freezing to death alone in an old cemetery and now she has been told by an anonymous caller that there is, in fact, such a body. She dressed quickly, locked the door behind her, got into her car and drove to the cemetery.

She passed shops and houses and parks on the way, and people walking on the sidewalks, driving in cars, in the buses, it seemed surreal this morning, this world, its activity, like ants in an anthill, carrying on our tasks, day after day, keeping everything going. Yet there was a spark, something indefinable, a joy to the whole moving, buzzing, profound venture that life is. She felt a tension between her angst and that joy as she sped towards the cemetery, parked, got out of her car, stood, began looking in all the directions, trying to sense which way to go.

Pulling her coat tightly around her, she began walking towards a forested area, in the far corner; it took three quarters of an hour to reach the copses of trees. The area was overgrown, unkept, had reverted back to wilderness. If there were gravestones, they had crumbled over time. She was moving through tall grasses, whitened with the frosting of the night before, for Winter was setting in early, and brushing her feet along the ground, looking for remnants of gravestones. She wasn't sure that this was part of the cemetery anymore. Her foot hit something, and she leaned down to look, but it was only a field stone. She kept walking. She closed her eyes, seeing if following an inclination other than sight might help. She walked, the day was warm, and she puzzled over the dream, since the woman had frozen to death. Her nostrils filled with an indescribable smell, not of decomposition, but something faintly perfumed, and she opened her eyes.

Before her was a white gravestone, buried in the underbrush, half of it crumbled, and she leaned down and felt it with her fingers. She drew back, it had the feel she recalled from her dream. For awhile she simply stood, her eyes shut, swaying in the morning breeze, her mind silent, poised for what was coming next. When she felt ready she opened them and walked to the other side of the gravestone, looking for the body.

There was nothing. Only tall grasses bending under their own weight. Now what? She walked around the area, looking, but not wanting to look. It was difficult. Her foot touched something hard and she bent down to see what it was and saw a whiteness and found herself becoming dizzy.

Her fingers reached for it. She touched it, feeling the smooth calicified length. She picked it up. As she held it, a life came swirling back to her. The burden of a life came swirling into her heart and mind. She felt overwhelmed by the tragedy of this life, its loss, its loneliness, its abandonment. This person had lost everything, and died here, without anyone knowing or caring. What if it were the goddess herself whose bones had lain here for an eternity, awaiting care? Wasn't even an old and ill homeless woman a goddess? Worthy of dignity at death? She stood in the cold wind and felt anger rise in her chest. "I am here now!" she shouted defiantly to the sky and the trees and the birds and the animals hidden in the leaves and in the forest, but she was speaking to a whole culture that left its old and ill and lonely to die in such ways. "You will be buried properly!"

She turned, with the bone in her hand, and walked back to her car. She drove to the nearest police station and walked in and placed the bone on the counter and said to the officer on duty, "I found this in the cemetery, in an old part. It is obviously human. Can you run a check on it, and please let me take the police to where I found it."

The officer looked at her suspiciously. He reached under the counter for a clipboard and some forms. They went into a small office, and he wrote down everything she told him about going for a walk in the cemetery and finding the bone in an obscure and overgrown corner.

After he had finished taking her statement, he left the room, and returned with two other policemen. The funeral home had been alerted and the manager of the grounds was waiting for them when they arrived. She led the small troup of men across the fields of gravestones towards the forest; at the edge of the wall of trees, she pointed to the gravestone in the underbrush and said that was where she had tripped on the bone.

The police cordoned off the area and began carefully searching. After a couple of hours of watching them scour the area, finding bones and carefully placing them in marked bags, she decided to go home. They said they would call her as soon as they learnt anything about the remains.

At home, she lay down, dizzy and exhausted. The scene was still swirling in her mind, as was her dream of a few nights ago. It was so real as to be surreal. Everything made sense, and nothing made sense. She was confused and yet it seemed as if everything was perfectly sensible. She couldn't encompass the fear and relief she felt at finding, not a dead woman, as she had expected, but calcified bones. She wondered what the forensic department would uncover about her death.

Monday, October 31, 2005

1 - From BOD (Book of the Dead), for Halloween...

For Halloween, some pages from my NaNoWriMo novel last year, "The Book of the Dead," and I did post this section last year, and will add 3 more sections of this story over the next couple of days...

Her fingers and toes began to grow warm, tingling, even as they were freezing. She is losing feeling in them. She cannot move her toes, nor her fingers. They do not feel like they are part of her. Her legs feel numb. She tries to roll, and cannot move. Her cheeks, exposed, are like stone slabs, weighted and heavy on her face, etched with ice, and then she no longer feels her cheeks or nose or chin or eyes. She can't open her eyes. They are encrusted. It feels as if her scalp has been pulled off her head, a terrifying feeling, and then nothing. Her skin feels like a shell, an exoskeleton, but soon she can't feel the ice her body is ensheathed in anymore. She is still breathing, slowly, painfully. Breathing is laboured, like a huge weight is pushing down on her chest, and she coughs and tastes blood against her tongue. The warmth inside her is dissipating. It is like the oven inside is turned off. She knows she is freezing to death and no longer cares. It is quiet, peaceful, her mind slowing, becoming numb, thought processes barely flickering across a withdrawing consciousness. It is empty and alone, this final passage. She can no more will herself out of it than she could will herself not to be born once labour had begun. In the last moments of her life, she utters through frozen lips, 'I am ready...look after my loved ones...'

And then she was gone.

She was gone into the vast beyond. Into the great nothing, the void, what cannot be yet always is.

She was a soul floating in the dark heavens away from the world. She was an angel fleeing the broken world, the corruption and battles and wars of everyday life. She was a soft flower taking her essence across the vast expanse. She was a tear on the face of existence weeping and being swept away. She was one of billions who have passed this way and gone into the beyond. She was sinking into the earth from whence she came. Her body already decomposing even in its frozen state. Her excrescence ripe for the vultures and the bugs and the worms. Her body, its life energy gone, for composting. She was forgotten in a forgotten graveyard. No-one would find her body; for no-one walked that way anymore. The animals and the insects would feast on her remains until only her bones remained to lie in the grass when the warmer weather came.

When the sun broke across the sky at dawn, rising as a red phoenix between the trees where she lay, she opened her eyes and looked about her. Her nightmares were getting worse, though she hadn't woken from this one before it played itself out. Usually you wake in fear before you die, but she had kept dreaming her death until she had been flung to the far reaches of the universe, until she had seen the dark void and the clear light, until she had disappeared into nothing and felt herself as presence everywhere.

She had been working with lucid dreaming for some time...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

One Hundred Million Sperm A Day

The original drawing, albiet with photoshop lighting, from a drop-in, non-instructional lifedrawing session at the Toronto School of Art.

100 Million Sperm A Day

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100 Million Sperm A Day, ink, pencil on paper, text a digital layer, 11"x14", ©2005 Brenda Clews

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sassure and the biological referent...

(Update: added a sketch drawn not on paper but with a stylus and tablet on a screen from a few years ago when I was writing a paper for another ARM conference... there's a counterpoint interplay and vision between the two images that I hope is evident.)

In response to the last post, entitled, "Passion, like a flame... or a semiotics of sexuality, or an anatomy of desire..." A little something on semiotic theory...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHi everyone- I'm not saying that we as individuals want or don't want to have children, or even think about them if we're past child-bearing age, not at all, only that that biological reality is there in heterosexual unions in ways that aren't in homosexual unions.

So it can be looked at semiotically in Sassure's sense, where the "referent" is an object in the world, or a relation to the material world, rather than a concept of it. Sassure's work as a linquist revolved around signs. The sign is created by a signifier (material or physical form of the sign) and the signified (the concept it represents, its content). He applied these concepts to linguistic terms, to words.

The word "sex" is the signifier, and what it means to each of us is the signified.

That's pretty easy. Sex is a sign. Albiet a potent one.

In heterosexual sex there is a referent to the world in a way that is absent from same sex sex. It's a biological referent. It operates as a referent in potentia or as actuality or what is forgone or even as memory. Because it's there, I am suggesting that the anatomy of desire itself, its semiotic configuration, is different for a heterosexual person than a homosexual one.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd then I'm interested in what ways this plays out in culture. But it gets very complicated. I come to this through my work on why the maternal body is problematic not just in our culture but in feminist theory. Where the triad is not really accepted, nor is sexual difference. I'm a sexual difference feminist, in the European sense; rather than a North American feminist in the equality sense (meaning I don't want to adhere to a 'one-sex' model of equality that doesn't recognize my maternal body, its monthly cycles, the children I'm raising, the hormonal fury of menopause). And I need to do this in a non-essentialist way too.

I can see from Suzanne's comment here, and the comments I received at my other site, that I have a long way to go on clarifying what I am trying to say! There is a discussion going on in my post at Xanga, which you can look at here if you wish.

You are all helping me so much on this path, an area I've been exploring in painting, poetry and theory for almost 2 decades now....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Passion, like a flame... a semiotics of sexuality, an anatomy of desire

From the September drop-in non-instructional lifedrawing session with the male model:

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"Passion, like a flame..." ink, pencil on paper, text a photoshop layer, 11" x 14", ©Brenda Clews, 2005.

The drawing, when I'd finished it, seemed to speak about homosexual love, queer love, same-sex desire. The way it entraps, because of the culture, the struggle with it. For someone gay, it's not just, 'Are they potentially interested,' but, 'Are they gay, or could they be, too' - a double question. So he is... pulling back, thinking, yet crouched, his body alive with desire, his libido flowing towards the object of his desire. Whether who he desires is even aware of him is not indicated in the drawing.

As I worked on the drawing, I started thinking about whether sexual orientation configures the experience of desire. This profile of desire has no procreational element in it; it's pure sexual desire. Meaning it's different to heterosexual desire where there is a potential conception and a potential responsibility. Where, because a child could be created, the weight of love is different.

In heterosexual love, there is always a referent to potential conception. It's a referent that is absent from queer love, where desire is simply desire, without the consequence of a third, a child, being born. Desire is always a dyad; never a trinity. This makes the act of desiring the other different, surely. Not better or worse, only that sexual desire and its potential consequences is crucially different in hetero and homo bodies.

A semiotics of sexuality, an anatomy of desire... I am playing with these terms: sexuality, with its referent to a third in potentia or as actuality or what is forgone or even as memory, as a triad (hetero); where the referent is non-existent, which configures desire differently, as a dyad (gay); and, excuse the play on words, and serious philosophic concepts, and my giggles, perhaps as a monad (masturbation). When we pleasure ourselves there is no biological referent either.

Each line of the drawing, a deepening of understanding. Our culture has its foundation in Ancient Greek thought, where the dominant, founding class was gay, and one wonders on the paradigm of man alone - a solitary male God, a patristic culture, a 'one sex' model politically - elements which are still with us thousands of years later, comes out of an essentially dyad relationship to the other.

Where desire is only between two, and there is never a spectral third...

(Surely we all have elements of each.)

Will I ever understand why the mother's body is so problematic in Western thought and culture? For it is.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

ARM Conference today...

I am at an Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) conference at York University this weekend.

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Good thing I finally splurged on an internet connection - I thought the conference was next weekend, and so missed 2 days of it! I volunteered yesterday, and sold journals...

More about these amazing conferences later, gotta run...
Update: When you're working, you don't get to go to many panels. My view of the conference therefore very limited. It's mostly in the chatting between panels where I meet wonderful women doing most interesting work. But over-riding everything is a flow of mother-love, acceptance of each other, nurturance. It's hard to explain how fulfilling these conferences are emotionally. It could be Andrea O'Reilly too, who founded ARM, who's got a fun social side, heck, she's a party person, and not just a prolific writer of books, of which she publishes at least one a year. Leaders really do put their individual stamps on groups. ARM conferences are warm, supportive and with an array of brilliant women doing fascinating research and analysis on the oldest institution of all: motherhood.

This year I finally met Judith Stadtman Tucker, who runs the best site on socially conscious mothering, on "social, cultural, economic and political issues that impact the well-being of mothers. MMOs purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse for reporting and resources that support social change. Its intention is to promote economic and social justice for mothers and others who do the caring work of our society": Mothers Movement Online. Judith and I had an incredible conversation on subjectivity, batting back and forth ideas on parity and equality theories, with her coming to rest at an ethic of care. That care is the way through the difficulties mothering presents to the 'one sex' model of subjectivity and equality in modern democracy, and to its becoming a force for social change.

Do I agree? I have to think long and hard on that one as I read some books she's recommended. I mean it was a position I took willingly a few years ago, almost as a battle cry when I was exploring the literature on the Mothers of Argentina and their effect on the junta's disappearing of people, the loss of their children; by bravely making their grieving and their anger public, they were able to effect change. Based on examples of what mothers can do, perhaps the compassion and care of normative mothering is the way through the dilemma of modern culture. ARM is doing a conference on Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice next May. That will help me to deepen my understanding of this concept as it is being explored by feminist theorists currently.

'Pull Down the Northern Lights for Chandeliers,' Zoom video August 20, 2020

   "I'd dance to death to evoke it." "Who in me writes?" It was a rich, varied poetry evening where we read, talked ...