Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ruminating on 2008...

While I wait to go to Toronto Tam Tam, my favoured New Year event, and after having done many dishes left by my children, laundry, walked the dog in the frigid winter air, I find myself ruminating on the year that's just passing.

It was a year of shocking revelations for me. Yes, that characterizes 2008.

And a huge amount of work healing what those revelations revealed. It's been a tumultuous year in many respects. I feel as if I've spied the interior of Vesuvius. I hope I rose to the various crises with valour, goodness, respect and help, and things have certainly begun to even out now, but it's been rough going for sure. In that respect, the shock, and yes, denial, revulsion, horror, pain, grieving, all those negative responses, oh they are hard to express, but I am emotional, are not aspects of life I'd like to experience again, at least not to the extent that I have this past year.

I began the year in a contract job at a bank head office with people I loved, and was laid off, the recession already making itself evident as the US sub-prime began its collapse. Then I had another contract position at another bank answering technical emails all day, which was a little bit intelligent, and which I enjoyed, and again, working with wonderful people. Since that ended I haven't worked, which is hard, and takes its toll on the spirit, mind and body.

In November I wrote a novella of something like 57,000 words. I did a few paintings this year. And I began a venture into something I've wanted to explore for half a dozen years - videopoems. While I haven't yet produced anything I'm happy with, I am at least doing something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'll be taking a course on Digital Video Editing in January, and so this exploration will continue.

I haven't been involved with anyone this year since I've been reeling from what happened with the last one, a situation definitely among the "revelations." A couple of men have passed my way and expressed interest but I have to say nothing I would consider - all being married, and that doesn't interest me at all.

And in 2008 I crossed the threshold of menopause, and so am into my third great phase of life: that of the crone. I'm not yet sure about how I feel about it since there are many changes in my body that surprise me and which I wasn't aware would happen, but I accept it as readily as I did menses when that occured at the age of 13.

Both of my children are living with me, my daughter, who's 18, and my son, who's 21. We're very close, the three of us, in good and supportive ways. I am very glad I am able to be here for them because they've really needed that.

I'm sure there's more to this past year, but those were the highlights.

I joined Twitter, and Facebook. Both of which I enjoy. I saw way more movies this year, which was nice. I still have all of my old friends, am blessed in that way, plus some new ones.

It was a year of sweeping up the pieces, and sweeping them up, as calmly as possible, a year when I had to remain grounded and loving above all else, a year when I learnt not to reject what is difficult or painful, another year of living and loving.

In its own tumultuous way, 2008 was beautiful.

Wishing you the best for the year ahead...

Wishing you sparkle tonight, however you spend your New Year's, and a wish-granting great year ahead of success, inner joy and deep satisfaction.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ice Flowers

"These are the most fragile and the most magical responses to moisture and cold I have ever seen. When the planets align, humidity and temperature are just right; moisture leaves the plant and freezes, creating these intricate crystals. These formed on some Aster left in the meadow."

Photograph and quote by Brian Parsons, used with permission.

(Brian Parsons has been employed by The Holden Arboretum, which he describes as a great organization, for the past 31 years. He also lives on the grounds of an old estate that has a wide variety of gardens so has a tremendous diversity of life around him to photograph. [paraphrased from his website at flickr])

Ice Flowers

asters, flowers of enchantment
whose burning leaves scatter serpents,
talisman of love, and of patience,* blackened
by frost, yet the ice clings to you all night,
your crumpled flowers like clumped hearts in the frozen fields,
making halos, or wedding veils, or intricately carved
pages of divine letters on angels' wings

your flowers become butterflies of light
who've escaped their cocoons

this winter day

*in folklore

Saturday, December 27, 2008

fog rises through the blue evening, and everywhere pools of water, and the sounds of water, trickling, splashing, like a Tarkovsky movie
to the outside world it may look like nothing's happening, a woman resting, but I've melted into love

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Frost of Dancing Birds

Frost on the window of my grandparents house by roddh.

This photo of the frost on a window reminds me of dancing birds.

And dancing birds remind me of the return of the light in the darkness, Solstice, the festival of the trees, birth of the divine child, of the sun-god, rebirth of the spirit.

Sharing with you the image of the frost etched on the window that is dancing birds
celebrating the rebirth of the light...

Happiness, joy, good cheer, generosity, warmth, and laughter...

hugs, love Brenda
Toronto, Christmas Day, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Magnolia Stellata, a videopoem

brendaclews has shared a video with you on YouTube:

From my Botticelli Venus Suite of Poems, 'Magnolia Stellata' is the first poem. I am learning how to make videopoems and while this is a complete version of the poem there is a talk to accompany it that I haven't yet recorded but I share anyhow. I taped this on Solstice 2008. Hope you enjoy this rendition.

It was videotaped with an iMac 10.5.5 and edited in Final Cut Express 4.0.1.
This was filmed on, and for, Winter Solstice, though there seemed a glitch and I couldn't upload it to You Tube for a few days.

A little late, but ah well.

My daughter saw it and while she would prefer I cut the hair shaking at the end, she thinks it's my best videopoem to date.

That's praise!

Pre-amble to Magnolia Stellata - another attempt

No, this is not "a video." This is yet another attempt. I videotaped for nearly an hour today and will throw it all out. Posting a tiny clip just because.

I'm working at it; I'm not getting very far. There's another unsuccessful attempt that's better than this one that I may upload tomorrow, don't know yet.

I am learning that creating 'videopoems' is very hard to do!

I'd like to run the text as a line in the top third and have spent a good half hour looking to see how to do that without success!

Learn by doing - that's what this is!

Please forgive. (And the song, too. I'm not sure how to remove it, or if I can. It's from "Yumeji's Theme" on My Blueberry Nights.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Squall

When I arose this morning, it was dark. As I drew open the bedroom curtains, the world outside was still.

Not one flake swirling, perhaps it passed us by.

In the tiny kitchen, I put on the kettle, and while that came to a boil, measured freshly ground coffee into the Bodum, and put away dishes that were dry in the rack.

Then I went into the livingroom and opened the curtains of five windows.

Between opening the curtains on the one side of the apartment and the other, not five minutes apart, the kettle still coming to a boil, the sky was swirling with blinding snow.

The storm moves with a sharp line across the horizon.

Walking my dog, snow pants, coat collar covering cheeks, only my eyes exposed, the lashing snow stings my eyelids.

In the park, the dog and I chasing each other, there is a lone man in a large navy blue parka and khaki pants.

His arms swirl slowly, one after the other, like warm Pacific ocean waves rolling. His body sways.

In the squalling storm he is gently performing tai chi.

When I pass and smile and say he looks beautiful, those oceanic movements, he says, "A storm is a great time to practice. In Halifax, a whole group of us did tai chi during snow storms."

The store where I bought that nylon coat is gone and it's extremely hard to find 4-paw, underbelly-covered coats for mid- to large-sized dogs and so this one is patched with copious amounts of duct tape inside which holds it together! If she doesn't wear it when there's packing snow hundreds of little balls of snow stick to her fur and cause her to shiver and then I have to bath her carefully at home to melt them off.

Keesha looks a bit like a red rocket chewing on a stick, but you can see the tai chi gentleman in the distance.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pedro Páramo

Certain books change your life. While I can't say I fully understand the novel, Pedro Páramo, by the Mexican author, Juan Rulfo, having now finished it, yes, I am different. Literature has possibilities I didn't know of before reading this book. Published in 1955, it began a tradition of writing. Rulfo is called the father of the literature of magic realism in South America. In the novel, those who are living and those who have died interweave in haunting ways. Time moves backwards or forwards, you can hardly tell. Characters appear and disappear like wind; memories are everywhere in the air. Everyone's death is foretold again, and again. Put it on your list. A must read.

Preparing the Space

For days I've been trying to get a little free time to film a videopoem in the late afternoon sun, but kids are afoot. I've hung fabrics over the bookcases that line the livingroom, am working on composing this piece. No idea, of course, where it's going or how it will turn out. Everything hinges on the performance, and that can't be pre-determined.

It's a tiny apartment, and you can see that I need to tidy shelves from the "teleprompt' (homemade with a black magic marker and newsprint from the art store! It works. Though I have discovered I can turn a computer into a teleprompt - for free - and so can do that with the netbook or my daughter's laptop. Whew.)

Looking at these images, I wonder if I should hang the painting you see by 'teleprompt' over the white sheets to the right of the chair? I'll try it tomorrow when I videotape. I thought to leave it white so I could project some other images on it, like Botticelli's Venus, or perhaps magnolia trees. If I videotape in the two dresses I thought of, and now with and without the painting, it's going to take awhile! And since I really don't know how to edit in Final Cut Express, ooh la!

In answer to that question, I work best alone, yes.

Wall Writing

This made me laugh, something I'm not doing much of these days. I didn't exactly lie, who isn't "involved"? Though in actual fact I'm not involved with anyone and live the life of a monk (or monk-ess).

Omar wrote on your Wall:

"in network am find u and feelling u like me am egyptian man if u want make relationship with me tell me"

Brenda wrote on Omar's Wall:

"that's beautiful, Omar, thank you, but I am already involved"

Omar wrote on your Wall:

"really am very mad about that am egyptian man and if u want make relation with me send ur answer"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Still-Life Composition of the Poinsettia

They float, clamour, collide, reach over each other, fold or open, radiate toward light.

A variegated mass of embodied thought. That greening poinsettia from last Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas on the wooden overhand of the large old oak desk that came from a used furniture store on the other side of the country. Yes, this helps.

Feel what I'm feeling. Though sometimes I don't like what I feel about something and so block it until it drops like a dead leaf.

Or it's stronger than my not liking and I must integrate it into the mass reaching for the light.

Landscape as Subjective Figure

perhaps the landscape isn't what we rest in, perhaps the landscape is a consequence of who we are

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bullion of Hearts

Imagine a love that cannot be tarnished,
not even by us.

We messed the beauty we had,
with our switchbacks.

I demonize you; you decry me as a crazed woman.
We wouldn't speak to each other; my fury unabated

You were a sleazy cheat; I was self-righteous, indignant.

What is this love that continues despite our resistance?

Surely not modern love, with its questionings, choices.

But some ancient love, as old as the gold sun itself,
primal, spiritual, enfolding its mystery.

What is a love that cannot fail itself?

And how can we trust it?

It is strange not to be fighting you
like a bad obsession, like an addiction to street drugs.

To accept your irrefutable, irrevocable
presence in my life.

The forever clause,
it's caught us

Friday, December 05, 2008

one of those 'perched days,' like the birds on branches outside, it's fine, feels on the brink of something important, an expectant day

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Coming Into the Station

It's strange coming to the end of a story that's insistently told itself every day for a month.

I'd like to go on, but it's finished. Oh, perhaps another night of writing, at most.

It's not sad to come to the end, though having evenings to do nothing will seem strange, almost indolent, excessively free, you know what I mean.

I may even start going to bed at a reasonable hour again, instead of 2 or 3am, and do away with the weekend sleepfests.

What can I say about it? I've had a writer's block for about a year and a half in that nothing has flowed easily in that long. Yes, I do feel writing's been released in me again and that feels good and wonderful. Writing is flowing, the block's released, and I don't care what caused it or didn't.

The story is strange in that it is not autobiographical at all and doesn't have huge depth or any of the writerly slants I like to give things I compose.

The first day I sat down and wrote, without any prior notion of what to write.

Each day was like this. In fact, the less pre-determined, the more spontaneous, the better. I cleared my mind as in meditation and wrote from a fresh place. Often what occured surprised me, yet seemed logical in terms of the story that was telling itself.

The story, now that's another aspect of this process. The story reminds me of those long, boring dreams we have, ones that take lots of dreamtime, and if we remember them, relating them goes on and on and really we see very little point to them. They are not 'major' dreams. They are ordinary, every day dreams. Our little adventures, the ones submerged in our minds beneath the big transformational dreams, beneath the big thoughts and important occurences of our lives. What I discovered from writing this book is that an awful lot of things go on just below the conscious threshold. We are infinitely rich beings on whom the world makes a huge impact.

Yeah, there 's a fair bit of Eros in it. But not nearly enough. And towards the end it dies out altogether, but then the main character got married and has a family and etcetera.

But it was juicy in the telling up to the settling down.

I'm going to race through it cleaning up glaring inconsistencies, grammar, excesses, and if you convince me you'd be interested, and were willing to share your thoughts on the composition, by email, then I may add you to a version for readers and/or collaborators (for the purpose of editing typos only) who've expressed an interest in the manuscript.

Monday, December 01, 2008

grey pearls

thin brown pods hang in clusters on branches collecting the grey rain in drops that fall like pearl grey necklaces to the ground

To Go or Not To Go

Almost finished the novella begun during National Novel Writing Month, whose finish line I passed last Wednesday. The book like a weight, now, with no deadline. So I decided no more than 6000 words, to be finished sometime Wednesday night.

I was going to go to the Toronto NaNoWriMo TGIF (thank god it's finished) celebration tonight, but it's cold and raining, and I never did connect with anyone else doing NaNo here. I could read a snatch for 2 minutes, which I did last time I went in 2005, but.....

Lazy, perhaps. And, oh, some of the writing read at that tgif was real bad, oh it was hilariously bad, deliberately bad, and everyone laughed as they were meant to.... but, oh. Bad.

Yes, I'm lazy.

And older than most of the Toronto NaNo participants who party. Last time I sat with a woman in my age range and she was a self-admitted alcoholic who was so drunk she swayed as she sat. It was hard to understand her since she was slurring her words. If I recall she had written about 3,000 words in total, but loved to party...

If I ever got my wherewithalls together to realize I'm gonna do NaNo and go to the Toronto NaNo launch party at the beginning of November, I might meet some fellow nutcases who actually drove themselves to write like maniacs for the month.

So, staying at home, lazily lounging...

And writing, finishing the loose, wordy draft.

Sigh, no partying for this lady tonight, work continues...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Belle de jour

Saw Belle de jour (1967) this evening at a Revue theatre with the beautiful Catherine Deneuve as a frustrated surgeon's wife who becomes a prostitute in the afternoons. Bunuel's film is deliciously ambiguous - the sequences, reality or fantasy/dream, we don't know, & perhaps in the end it doesn't matter. Deneuve a frigid doll with a wicked sex life.

Apparently Bunuel didn't know if the last scene was reality or dream either.

Will have to watch this one again in a year or two.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


After the effort of the last month to produce 50,000 coherent words, which I chose to do as 2,000 words a day, prefering to give myself a little leeway for the inevitable crises in daily living that occur or to finish early, both of which happened, and having crossed the finish line yesterday, I found I was truly exhausted today.

Yesterday I also managed to disable the wireless network and not having an hour or more to deal with technical assistance got a long internet cable out of the doldrums and plugged it into my computer to cross that NaNoWriMo finish line!

While I did attend Kaeja d'Dance's fundraiser last night, and showing of dance films by local students, and had tickets to Kaeja Mad Screen this evening, I had no energy. But my novella isn't finished! Instead of resting, I wrote my daily count. Another 2500 words! Crazy or what.

Now he's almost out of the mountain cave where condors nest having recovered his memory & I have to get him safely down & home... :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Official NaNoWriMo Winner

It's official. I am a NaNoWriMo winner - just logged in at 50,042 words, and still writing... whoopee.

Now off to Kaeja d'Dance.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Almost at the NaNoWriMo finish line...

My nights are spent avoiding then struggling to write, hours, agonizing, then bursts of a clicking keyboard as a new scene emerges, now at 46,658 words.

That's, so far, 223 double-spaced pages.

For someone who started NaNoWriMo on November 1st to break through a writer's block, it's an explosion of writing. And I'm actually not displeased with what's happened in the pages that have spun out during the past few weeks. It's a fascinating process, writing under a deadline.

I recommend it, along with the writing we do when inspired of course. Both are valuable.

I'm very tired, so time to turn off the computer.

'Night everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sleep for a Thousand Hours

Passed the 40,000 word mark . Only 10,000 words to go. Groan, Groan, Groan, Groan, Groan... ::wan smile from a NaNoWriMo moll::

When this is over, I'm going to sleep for a thousand hours.

Or years, whatever comes first.

Don't I look like I'm writing maniacally, not having a life! Squirreled away, pounding the keyboard, reading glasses hugging the nose, hour after hour, night after night... sleep for a thousand hours, I say!

How's it going? Really and truly I can no longer call it 'erotic fiction.' Ah, well. I tried but ya know writing trash is difficult and beyond my capacities to keep up for any length of time.

Here's a snatch from tonight:

At HIL (House of Ill-Repute), Orsola and Mœdello sat at the great wooden table next to the kitchen surrounded by the five Madames and whoever else drifted in and out, various children of varying ages mostly. The Madames were dressed in old velvets and chiffons of deep and warm colours, dark purples and rose pinks, and some wore rhinestone beaded bandannas and they all wore dangly shiny costume jewelry from their ears and around their necks. They were more opulent than when they were younger, and exuded even more sensuality.

Perhaps it was the insular way the city had developed, the Bordello more-or-less aging with its original occupants. These were older women who laughed easily and who were comfortable with who they were, how they looked, in themselves; even if some might say they looked a little batty, to Orsola and Mœdello, they were colourful, warm and beautiful.

But it got worse in tonight's writing.

The Bordello was like an apothecary. A pantry at the back contained an array of herbal remedies, not just many bundles of dried herbs hung from the rafters and walls, but shelves of tinctures.

And then my rampant muse, oh! My rampant muse made an outrageous assertion.

For, besides being hookers, the old Madames were as knowledgeable as trained midwives.

While they laughed often, they were jovial women, particularly hearty laughter shook them when they said they were women from the ancient religion and were high priestesses who were sacred prostitutes, midwives and healers. Of course, no-one took such nonsense seriously.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Writing a 50,000 word novella in a month challenge continues...

The NaNoWriMo novella is progressing on schedule. I wrote till 2am last night, this is becoming normal, especially yesterday, a day of kid crises that were finally all resolved at midnight followed by two hours of intense writing, and then an hour to unwind. Slept from 3am-8am without waking, then onward with the day. Day after day of these hours and I do get rather tired, but I'll sleep late on the weekend and catch up. I should finish the 50,000 words five days early, and so I'm considering spending those five days on a 'clean-up' edit for consistency and spelling etc., I don't think it'll be possible to do a rewrite (at 10,000 words a day, uh uh - I'm |insane| but not that |insane|!)

Is it fun? Maybe the first hour was!

Since I have no predetermined plot, no outline, nor is it autobiographical, each day is fresh and a surprise to me. It's hard work, dragging this rather plain and ordinary story out of my imagination. I mean I started out trying to write trash but there's not a whole lot of trash in it, more long social conscience scenes with some erotic interludes, which I try to juice up, really I do, but I actually don't have much or any experience of the sort that I write about in some of the erotic interludes. Really imaginary! No matter, writing creates its own story. 

And I have been rearranging my apartment and it's beginning to come together, still a couple of corners of papers to sort - moving from a 3-bedroom house to a small 2-bedroom apartment continues to be challenging and I've given away or thrown out masses of stuff.

Been at it with my power drill too- hanging curtains, multiple coat hooks and kitchen shelves and masks and paintings, and now I have to finish two paintings that I've hung, so it's all good.

Tonight a Slovakian movie, Return of the Storks, part of the European Film Festival in Toronto.

Friday, November 14, 2008

(though my head is heavy and dull, made my word count, before midnight too. 28007 words now.)

Onward, NaNoWriMo!

Gak! 600 words more for today's 2k goal. Like pulling reeds out of quicksand! Or words out of the sludge of my brain tonight. Focus, write!

I passed the half-way mark yesterday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

(2:33min) Videopoetry: Magnolia Stellata, an attempt...

Claire Elek wrote:

"You're from another time Brenda..the time of troubadours, "mad" women, the Lady of Shallott, Ophelia.. I don't mean to suggest.. I just love your drama, your temperament, your authenticity.. Your poetry.. It should be in a beautiful box with flowers on it tied with a purple ribbon.. You made my day as I set out to teach small children.. You're a drop of fresh water in this world of hum drum.. thank you for being you..."


I love what you wrote, Claire! Ah, yes, let's be "mad" creative women, Sarah Bernhards & Isadora Duncans... through the weeks of taping this poem the versions just got sillier until this late one night.

Nov 12th

For weeks I have been trying to record a poem, Magnolia Stellata, in various outfits at various times of the day using either the built-in Webcam (as in this clip) or my older Canon GL2 video DV camera. I promised myself to post something, anything since I purchased equipment to produce videopoetry. Hence loading this little hilarious clip to Blogger. It's taken hours to produce, and there was no editing since I used a clip as is! Sigh. Probably I have a better clip, but NaNoWriMo awaits and it's already almost tomorrow.

Mostly the time was taken up with trying to deal with the background issues, which I resolved with a still worked on in Photoshop Elements and imported into Final Cut Express, and then the video made slightly transparent and cropped inside of. I chopped and cooked a chili, ginger, vegetable and pork stir-fry for my son during the time it took to render, and then render again.

The jammies? Oh, sigh. You know, and this isn't by way of excuse, I've lived in or near Chinese communities for many years, and in Vancouver how many dear Chinese folk were out in their pajamas after 9pm at night?

Look, there was the white nightgown Butoh-based dance video. Maybe I have a thing about sleep attire?

I share an enclave with a Chinese woman who's always in her pajamas. And my daughter (who's vegan) lives in hers, putting them on as soon as she comes home.

I got in the habit...

No Comparisons, no, no

If I think my NaNoWriMo's raunchy, I have a ways to go: "My Name is Juani," Spanish flick, won awards, upcoming European Union Film Festival in Toronto.

On my calendar, sigh.

Take notes.

Tibetan Prayer Flags in the Sky

Photograph by Maria Stenzel.

"Incense smoke clouds the air as sun streams through strings of prayer flags during New Year celebrations in Lhasa, Tibet. The fragrant smoke of juniper and artemisia is thought to be pleasing to the spirits of land and sky.

(Photo shot on assignment for, but not published in, "Tibet Embraces the New Year," January 2000, National Geographic magazine.)"

If you click on the image to see it full size you'll see how it is shot through prayer flags that are like colourful mantra beads in the sky.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

NaNoWriMo continues...

Reached 18,204 words now, becoming more social conscience, clearing out the old order & rebuilding society, ah NaNo freedom!- must stop, got to meet a friend.

I find a daily word goal works best- this year it's 2000 words a day, and thus far I've been meeting it. In the early morning I write 600-800 words, and in the late evening the remaining 1200 or so words to meet that day's target.

Find your rhythm, and go with it.

Branches of Dreams

ramos dos sonhos, 2008
técnica mista sobre papel, 100x70.

This pen and ink and ecoline drawing is by Pedro Madeira Pinto, a 36 year old artist in Lisbon, Portugal. Go to his blog, Desenhos De Pedro, to see more.

I wrote (at Facebook): "Somehow says everything to me about uniting the globe - can't say exactly why. I'd love to see this drawing as a poster for the United Nations. The child, the golden tree, our heritage, we are all on those branches. Tree of Life. Stunning image, Pedro."

He wrote: "thanks brenda.
we all have dreams in our minds. when life is hard our tree doesn't have many leaves, but still has that light that allows us to keep on dreaming. the boy in the drawing is a homeless kid that i knew in cabo verde who teaches me that our dreams must live no matter what.
this one is on my bedroom's wall!"

I wrote: "Dear Pedro, This drawing is burned in my consciousness and everywhere I turn I see it and it fills my eyes with tears of compassion and warms my heart because of the spirit in us that lights the way. The boy is someone I want to protect and yet his vision is strong and I bow down before him. How much would you charge for a print of this drawing? Thank you so much."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

In the Early Evening

I draw deep red curtains over the dimming remnants of fire opal in the sky as darkness sweeps over the continent I live on.

Excerpt from NaNoWriMo, on the process of writing

Dear Reader, I need not tell you what an unexpected afternoon of delight he had. We shall discover the details, for I am as curious as you, and after all this is a book of erotic fiction.

Though, dear reader, you understand that I but partially write the story of these characters. My idea had been for Ambra to discover his innocence and for he and her to spend a delightful night together as she indoctrinated him in the arts of love. Then I could have written of deep emotional love, of indissoluable bonding, and thereby written of the poetry of their souls.

But Ambra, on the brink of being written into the text as the woman who deflowered him, decided to meet with her rich lover and disappear.

I was surprised as you, dear reader, by her quick and complete exit.

It doesn't look like she's coming back either. I'm not sure where she's gone, or what happened to her. In this regard I, though the author, am as 'in the dark' as you, the reader.

Never mind. The story continues. It appears to be, more-or-less, writing itself. I have found any planning I do for what may happen next goes for naught. The characters have other ideas.

I'm learning in my daily life to forget that I am writing a novella since nothing I decide in terms of direction or character development happens that way.

Rather, it is as if the text decides its own direction moment to moment.

Things develop logically out of other things, but what happens to characters seems based on the inner logic of the story rather than my control of it.

Hence I shall relate Mœdello's afternoon at the Bordello, though you understand I, too, am entering the Bordello along with him; this writing has not been thought-through beforehand, there are no notes, or plot outlines, or even overall moral for the story.

Everything in this story is created in the moment.

Though I have unsuccessfully tried, no premeditated directions of any kind have been permitted by the writing itself. I sit before my computer, or my legs stretched out on the couch or bed, touch typing.

The writing tells its own tale.

No, I'm not "chaneling." Such a ludicrous notion!

It surprises me, what goes on in the subdued buried populations of my mind, where these characters roam close to a wild abandon to the senses, racous, on the edge of social decency. They are like dreams called forth through the act of writing without prescribed notions of what is to happen, or not happen.

What unfolds through these pages might embarrass me, but dreams are like that.

Relative of Lithops, or Living Stones

Botany Photo of the Day

"Plant Family / Families: Aizoaceae
Scientific Name and Author: Conophytum maughanii N.E. Br.
Name Location: cultivated in Altadena, California, USA"

"The genus Conophytum is closely related to the living stones, or Lithops. Both genera are in the Aizoaceae. Like the living stones, species of Conophytum generally produce two above-ground plump succulent leaves. In the picture above, the Conophytum maughanii specimen is breaking dormancy, revealing new wrinkly crimson leaves. Last year's bloom is also present in this photo as the shriveled projection between the leaves."

All I can say is, sexiest living stone I've ever seen!

Friday, November 07, 2008

First Wash

Painting with water-soluble oil pastels, a figure that became sinewy with flesh tones, reds, greens and tree-trunk browns, while listening to "Alex," my computer's best voice, reading a long piece of writing by a young friend...

Highlight the text to be read, hit the keys you've set up to start the text-to-speech recognition, and voilà! Free to work and listen to whatever you'd like in the big net-wide world.

Flame-Red Bushes

Walked to Kensington Market to shop, Indian Summer bluesky, carpets of crumpled gold, flame-red bushes, copper canopies of Maple, Linden...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

NaNoWriMo continues...

12,011 NaNoWriMo words, wrists hurt, story's raunchy but sad, made my daily word count, I did, sleep in peace now, till tomorrow's count...

Life under President Barack Obama

Click on this for a larger size. It seems spontaneous and not posed. It brought tears to my eyes this morning. This is how it should be.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Barack Obama

Way to go America! So proud of you, my dear American friends. You've elected a great statesman and leader to run your nation.

Here, in this little apartment in Toronto, Canada, tears & celebrations~ it's like a possibility we might have imagined a hundred or two hundred years into the future is happening now.

Phenomenal. Awesome. Truly GREAT.

A heavy mantle to carry, times are complex and difficult, but if anyone can do it, Barack Obama can.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote for Barack Obama

Let me tell you, if you Americanos don't vote Barack Obama for President we'll be happy to have him as our Prime Minister up here in Canada.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Fate of the Lhapa

In my four and a half years in the jungle in Zambia as a young child there was a Witch Doctor who I remember clearly. He has been with me all my life - though I had a strong feeling he passed on in 1997 - I went to my cottage alone and fasted (only water) for 3 days and helped him, his spirit on the journey to the Great Oneness.

My memories of him and his power and his work are entirely different to the New Age posturing of so called "Shamans." From my own tribal African vantage, I understand the difference between the pose and the reality. "Shaman" seems to me to be about power, and is sold as such in workshops and books and New Age CDs et al; whereas, the traditional Witch Doctor or Medicine Man or Woman is about healing, and it is a most difficult path of great responsibility for the chosen practitioner.

Last week, as part of a Planet Earth film festival, I saw the film this trailer advertises of three Tibetan Lhapa who are in their elder years living in a permanent refugee camp in Nepal who do this difficult work with illness and Spirit. They may not have heirs to their calling since the signs of Lhapa have not appeared in any of the younger generations in any of their families, which is why they requested a documentary to remember them and their work.

It is a beautiful little film, shot in natural light. The Lhapa are disarmingly open about the traditional Tibetan Medicine they are doctors of. The Lhapa hold nothing back in their sharing of their understanding of what they do, the processes involved. Perhaps to us it may seem superstitious, though we also in our Western medicine use a set of metaphors to explain bodily and psychic processes in terms of illness and cure and we should understand that they are only sets of metaphors and are no more or less valid than the ones the Tibetan Lhasa use to describe their treatments.

The Lhasa give themselves fully to the work they do; more than this, they give themselves over to the spiritual calling of the healing processes. It takes its toll on them; it is not an easy calling. That they live hard lives is quite evident, though they do not see themselves this way.

The Lhapa become gods while they heal, the deities enter them, this is an incredible sight to see. It's not about 'power' either. The Lhapa take no personal credit for the healings.

It is a difficult calling, to be a Medicine Man or Woman, and nothing at all like what New Age therapist types propose. There's no glamour in the true Medicine Way. You don't become more powerful and able to command life and those around you with your psychic force; rather than a display of special powers, the real Medicine man carries the heavy mantle of a healer who heals by exorcising disease, who takes on the ailment to expel it. Who continually works to understand the ways of the spirits in their interaction with the human and animal and plant worlds.

This is in striking contradistinction to advertisements I've seen for workshops and whatnot with New Age healers that appear perfunctory and rather imperious.

The sentences in these ads have a 'feel' of business talk and of someone who is an 'expert.' Yet I well know from exploring some of these offerings that an (often not very thorough or self-reflective) intellectual knowledge of various traditions doesn't thereby accord the moral and emotional wisdom that should accompany the teachings. Their aim is to convince others to spend money on their modes of healing, their workshops, their retreats. Healing is a game being sold.

Compare this to a Lhapa, whose kindness and compassion radiates, you can see that in the trailer, yet there is a humbleness that surely comes from not identifying with the healing forces. And for whom healing is a very real and difficult path that must take great moral courage to stay on.

But you, my gentle reader, know this better than I do.

When we read, we should be intensely alive: the writing "a ball of light in one's hand."
Ezra Pound

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NaNoWriMo 2008

Aiming for 2000 words/day, should reach 50,000 words before the end of the month or have a few days for crises'; NaNoWriMo is exuberant, hell, a way to drive yourself |insane|.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaNoWriMo begins...

Yes, I've begun NaNoWriMo - 402 words so far, only 49,598 to go! No plot, no outline, allow oneself to compose a story unplanned! Discover it as you go. Why not, I ask. Why not?

Is this fun? I don't know. I'm surprised too. Where this character came from, I have no idea. But here he is - Moedello. And onwards...

My site at NaNoWriMo is RubiesInCrystal.

I'm writing it on Google Docs (which some of you have heard me rave about). I'm sure I'll be posting bits on this blog throughout the month. The first beginning...

No beginning. Mœdello, I tell you this. Remove the concept of beginning. Everything develops out of something else. Coming into fruition or withering away, seeds set a long time back, perhaps when the universe developed out of something else. No ex nihilo.

Take off your monk's garbs, leave the Order. Forget the salvation of the timeline. Without beginning, there is no end.

It's a gentle truth. Whatever we are will become something else. We live in continuums. Going all the way back and all the way forward. Nothing is wasted and nothing lost.

Even black holes, which suck everything in, disappearing past the event line, the horizon of being. Which then evaporate. We think they're gone, information lost, trajectories lost, where there was is now nothing, impossible to conceive, inconceivable. Yet transforming, evaporating from disappearance.

Perhaps we are an evaporated black hole. The disappeared who are here, a living universe.

Drop your robes, Mœdello. Unstring your rosary in the garden. I am not a wanton woman tempting you.

I'm only writing this to discover time, the passing. Because I respect the time that our grammar weaves, teaching our minds generations after generations. Organizing our memories, too. Timelines. Enfolded complexities of living.

If I could understand where you're coming from I'd go there too.

Or perhaps only visit. Bringing my past to meet your future.

The horses were white and galloped powerfully, muscles and nostrils and flank hair and hooves. Were they in a pasture or were they a memory?

You came from Italian stock. From farmland. You gave up the soil for the dry run of Ecclesiastical words. Hearing, breathing the scriptures. Predictable shadows on the walls. Walking by pillars every day, upheld. Comfort in the predictability of the hours of the days that repeated themselves without interruption and were unlike the cycles of farming, dependent on the weather of the seasons and the market. When the rains stopped, the famines began. The horses died. It was cracked and dry.

You all went away, there was no food. The friar on the street of the city where you stood shivering took you in. The friar who offered you his robes. You were thin but he fed you and taught you to mime the sacraments with him.

It wasn't that you didn't believe what the Church offered.

I never said that.

Friday, October 31, 2008

veil of sky

whitened edges and solid infinity above, the clear, blue, serene sky,
this day when the veils between worlds thins

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nanowrimo this year?

With the impossibility writing has been presenting for me these last months, I wonder if joining Nanowrimo this year would be a good discipline and challenge?

The first year I began where I was, and let a story unfold. Of course the manuscript is huge and unwieldy! I've never edited it into something more reasonable. Though it's possible that the urge to do at least one complete rewrite will overtake one indolent day.

Nanowrimo begins Nov 1st - enough time to decide.

The first one began in a temp job matching files to original ledger entries in a vault at a funeral home in Vancouver. A natural title was Book of the Dead, and I incorporated a couple of other texts, the Egyptian and the Tibetan ones, into the writing.

That was fun, discovering each day what was to happen, and layering the text with references to other texts.

We build on ourselves.

I find it inspiring to be among those who are running their own writing races separately but together as a group - last year of the 100,000 who enrolled world-wide, 50,000 participants made it to the finish line.

It's interesting to reflect on my own Nanowrimo path. In 2004, "Book of the Dead," was more of a 'novel' and 50,000 words; in 2005 my writing was shifting to prose poetry and I wrote that year's in smaller numbered segments that I still haven't finished but it came in at 50,000 words and then I spent a few days reading it and deleted a third of the manuscript, never mind (the first pages can be found at my art website here); in 2006 my writing moved even more towards the poetry end of the spectrum and while I wrote "EnTrapped WOR|l|DS" in November of that year I didn't enroll it in Nanowrimo since it's only 17,266 words, and too short for the contest, but poetry's like that - though it is a completed manuscript, which made me happy.

I wonder where this one might start and what the writing style might be?

The Keys

If I take off my readers, can I write? A disjuncture between life and writing, or that I want to hide? Without seeing the keys or the screen. Write blind. Behind where words form. The words that shape reality even as I speak them.

Glide through the world of words with a dancer's ease. My body is a word, a gesture, a line scrawling across the horizon of time.

Am I purple, or aubergine? A curve of a back before a computer, hitting keys I can't see?

And how many mistakes before we get it right?

And how many times are the crystal glasses broken before we can---drink, see, touch?

It's cyclical, the years go on, some good, some bad. There is no will to it. Whatever you want to happen happens; you are a consequence of your past; and each day is a surprise thrown up by the fates of fortune.

When I sat down to write I knew nothing,
and less now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


water drizzles over slats
onto rocks

iron ivy
crawls over the lamp

I'm tired
of the restriction
of vulnerability, sensitivity,

walking in the warm,
light rain

before the seasonal cold
sets in

I look out through slats
hiding or revealing myself

or you do

rocks become water
that float away


Tired of protecting my knees when I dance, I didn't. For a number of weeks. Bending low, I used my knees, experienced the freedom of a fuller movement, bliss. My knees are now so sore I'm on Ibuprofen, which helps reduce the swelling, constantly and a prescription anti-inflammatory, as well as icing them fairly frequently. So this poem, the first I've attempted in what seems like a long time, was triggered by that, tired of the iron ivy on the lamp, not wanting to protect one's sensitivity, and whatever the emotional corollaries are, the rocks are water that float away.

ps I think I have a 'stretched' tendon, that it's just a regular sort of minor injury anyone who participates in sports or dance gets. Not serious and with a bit of pampering it'll heal fine.

But an interesting process in terms of our emotional proclivity for protection of our sensitivities.

[Okay, okay... last night I danced with my jingly silver belly dance belt over a black danskin at Tam Tam like a dervish. Shhhh...]

[No, no. I arrived late, 10:30pm or so, to a dark hot dance studio of drummers after seeing the Tibetan Lhapa documentary, changed into black sweats, danced, realized that there were only a few dancers, some as old as me, and so I put on the belly dance belt and let go, it was fun, I left around 12:30pm, some people thanked me for dancing, said it was beautiful, and walked home by myself, arriving home at maybe 1:30am; this pattern is normal, I go, dance, rarely join the group for food after. Arrive alone, leave alone. Now what that had to do with emotional corollaries, who knows.

It's all connected though, isn't it. :)]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Toronto Zombie Walk

Toronto Zombie Walk 2008 family in Trinity Bellwoods Park

Ahhh, now that's motherhood!

A great scene photographed by Roger Cullman during the Toronto Zombie Walk 2008 Postmortem. A Zombie Walk of a thousand-strong in Toronto yesterday emerging from Trinity Bellwoods Park. Which I missed! Oh, bomb! ZombieZoots! The march of the Zombies on the Zombie Walk passed by my apartment yesterday! Munching on brains, gore galore. The ghoulishly lively undead! Where was I?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

An intensely emotional film that explores and exposes family dynamics in ways you might not be prepared for; an ultimately healing film. I recommend it.

And the hot chocolate with whipped cream at the Starbucks buried in the IndigoChapters bookstore afterwards with your daughter with her newly dyed deep fuschia pink hair who has recently gone Vegan and so had tea with soy-milk before seeing her off on the bus where she was traveling to another city.

And the books you bought, finding yourself guiltily in the Philosophy section, where you always find yourself when everybody else reads fiction. You left the Tofu-cookery book behind since she convinced you by cell phone that she had bookmarked all those recipes on her laptop.

You carried Rachel with you for maybe 5 or 6 city blocks home to the madly lonely dog who became madly happy, thinking Anne Hathaway is really a superb actress, remember the "Screen Test" where she said that of all the ways she could have played Rachel she decided simply to try to make her real.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On to the next step...

My Costi employment counselor loved my idea for an independent business. Of course with clarification. I know I need to take some courses which unfortunately won't be covered and I'm not sure how I'll afford that. But a green light go to the next step: an orientation session at OSEB (Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program). I felt that life was almost possible as I emerged into the light of the Autumn day.


Appointment with a Costi employment counselor today to see if my idea for an independent business is viable.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Warnings by David Allen Sullivan

This came in The Writer's Almanac this morning. It's "found poetry" - had me hooting over my morning coffee. Sharing...


by David Allen Sullivan

A can of self-defense pepper spray says it may
irritate the eyes, while a bathroom heater says it's
not to be used in bathrooms. I collect warnings
the way I used to collect philosophy quotes.

Wittgenstein's There's no such thing
as clear milk
rubs shoulders with a box
of rat poison which has been found
to cause cancer in laboratory mice

Levinas' Language is a battering ram—
a sign that says the very fact of saying
is as inscrutable as the laser pointer's advice:
Do not look into laser with remaining eye.

Last week I boxed up the solemn row
of philosophy tomes and carted them down
to the used bookstore. The dolly read:
Not to be used to transport humans.

Did lawyers insist that the 13-inch wheel
on the wheelbarrow proclaim it's
not intended for highway use? Or that the
Curling iron is for external use only?

Abram says that realists render material
to give the reader the illusion of the ordinary
What would he make of Shin pads cannot protect
any part of the body they do not cover

I load boxes of books onto the counter. Flip
to a yellow-highlighted passage in Aristotle:
Whiteness which lasts for a long time is no whiter
than whiteness which lasts only a day.

A.A.'ers talk about the blinding glare
of the obvious: Objects in the mirror
are actually behind you
, Electric cattle prod
only to be used on animals, Warning: Knives are sharp.

What would I have done without: Remove infant
before folding for storage, Do not use hair dryer
while sleeping, Eating pet rocks may lead to broken
teeth, Do not use deodorant intimately?

Goodbye to all those sentences that sought
to puncture the illusory world-like the warning
on the polyester Halloween outfit for my son:
Batman costume will not enable you to fly.

"Warnings" by David Allen Sullivan from Strong-Armed Angels. © Hummingbird Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Videopoem: Vishnu on Chinese New Year's

Fun piece. A combination of poetry, painting, GarageBand jazz. A friend, Doug Carroll, & I were playing with my camera, Final Cut Express & GarageBand. A neophyte, I spent a further 6 hours editing. 2nd attempt at a videopoem, and the first one using Final Cut Express (which I'm learning by watching You Tube tutorials, see my playlists). Poem, "Vishnu on Chinese New Year's" (Dec, 2007), painting, "Women in Spring," (May, 2008). Many thanks!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An FCE Apple... :)

The footage comes from October 2nd, when I videotaped a 'poetry reading,' and it's taken this long to figure out how to import it from the DV camera into Final Cut Express, and then to take one tiny 37 second clip from the 16 minute video and freeze frame either end and add titles - a process of probably 5 hours after "capturing" the video itself. It would be so easy to do this in iMovie but I am determined to learn FCE since one can do vastly more with it. Last night, desperate, I spent an hour searching on-line for an affordable course on FCE in Toronto, finally emailing a friend who'd taken one through Continuing Ed at a local college last Winter, and he emailed back el pronto with the details and so I shall enroll for the January session. I can't imagine I'll manage to learn that much between now and then since my main source for learning is You Tube FCE tutorials. This entire silly little clip, which I post to let you know I am still flailing away here, was done following the directions of a few kindly You Tube posters.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On Criticism

If you have criticism to offer, offer it in a loving, supportive way. Give constructive feedback to help the other succeed rather than to point out what they did wrong. Sometimes people who love us give us the opportunity to hear rare truths that can improve our lives.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)

I saw Vanilla Sky some time ago, enjoyed it. Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), written and directed by Amenábar, the original Spanish film that Vanilla Sky was a re-make of, however, has shaken me. Intersplicing of love, betrayal, loss, anger, desire with an attempted murder/horrible scaring accident, dreaming, virtual reality, insanity, and the struggle to re-find the self and the real world from inside an illusion - it's a powerful tale.

When the actors can reveal the underlying emotional complexity of a story like this, as this cast does, in particular Noriega, it makes for theatre that crosses the bounds of 'on the screen' to us, our lives.

Seeing a younger Penélope was delightful too.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Vlog: about 7:11min of chitter chatter

If you read this on a RSS feed, don't hit "enclosure" because that'll start a download, just pop in to the site to view. I'm not uploading these little sessions to You Tube, they're not "serious" enough.

As the title says, more chitter chatter. Spent most of the afternoon draping my space in fabrics and recording a poetry reading and trashed the whole lot, ah well. Much to learn. This chat refers to that, and then goes off to discuss how meditation (for me) is nothing, all rather vague. But there it is.

Overexposed night scene, again. Have to do something about the lighting. But then I am middle-aged and the lighting is rather kind. As I do these videos I'm losing shame, it's true. Daylight is still too stark, and anyway who feels like chatting when the photons are pouring through the atmosphere in the masses they do during daylight?

Yes, I am wearing a red bra - the black one is drying on the rack hanging on the shower rod after being laundered earlier today. Normally I wear black with black, red with red, you understand. Gaffs.

The post I refer to in the vlog, which is a good post of substance (unlike mine) on Buddhist meditation is Dale's.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Playing with the Still Image

From Rubies In Crystal
That was fun to do in Photoshop Elements. I wonder how you do it in FinalCut Express, or can you? It was an overexposed black & white shot that I did about 50 things to, including the red colouring & cropping at an angle (without distorting the central image). The final photo is kind of fun, and a story could be woven from it. When my children were at a Waldorf School for the short time they were, I recall not only many puppet shows by the early grade teachers, but that the puppets had very minimal features or were faceless, and this was so the child could better imagine the character in the tale being told.
From Rubies In Crystal

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Wouldn't call this "a video" so much as how one might talk in a quiet conversation with a friend. Therefore, a vlog (video blog). Sparked by a discussion of 'change' in my dance class, reminiscences on my years of journaling leading me to feel that we only become more of who we are...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

(1:45sec) "White," Butoh-inspired dance-in-progress

This blog is a place where I keep my work, along with the progress of pieces. Here's a little Butoh-inspired dance piece in the process of...

Last night I stayed up till 3am composing piano notes in GarageBand to go with it, but had trouble synchronizing, also the notes were too busy in the middle. My first go with GarageBand, and I'm not a musician, so allowing my clumsiness to guide me.

Then I'd also like to overlay images since I found something that struck me on National Geographic this morning, but don't seem to be able to do it in iMovie. Should I go for broke and invest in FinalCut Express? Hopefully I can copy my old Photoshop Elements onto this computer and might be able to change transparencies to overlay that way.

In the Japanese aesthetic, art is always embodied in images of nature. This is true of Haiku as well as Butoh. I may or may not add the photo, but I'd like to have the technical capability to try it and see if it works.

Anyway, the uncut video. I have no idea what sort of poem will arise; perhaps it'll just be a single image. Who knows. Creating it as I go.

My 3rd attempt at a VideoDancePoem.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

(4:16) On Butoh-based Dance: A Saturday morning amble...

Discussing Butoh-based dance having just completed a 4 day workshop with Denise Fujiwara in Toronto, Canada.

Ok, so. My first iMac video on Butoh-based dance with a poem in my white flannel nightgown this morning.

Even before coffee. I leave as is. Though I did add the poem later this evening and you might have to increase the volume since, though I re-recorded a number of times much closer to the computer's built-in microphone than the original clip, I wasn't able to arrive at the same volume levels.

In the emptiness of the dancer everything comes to be. I hope I imparted this in my little experimental video. Sharing a recent experience which I am in the process of understanding.

Strange and surreal as it appears, the intensity of the dancers, intimacy, exposure, vulnerability are the core of Butoh.

YouTube URL here

Butoh Dancers

do not express but expose embodied emotion

in the Noh tradition of restraint

line of red belts on the kimonos

the dancers move towards us

as slowly as the moon bleeds through the sky

they are intermittently earth, water, fire, air

gone are the wild rhythms of their bodies

they are empty silk shells on the stage

who reveal their intimate selves

what is most human
our contradictory states

our warring, our longing, our loving

without the effort of thought

we who do not watch
or even witness

a performance

rather we complete
their process

of us

© 2008, Brenda Clews

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Four Hard Drives in as many weeks and counting...

Today my 3 month old Dell Inspiron laptop arrived back from a Dell Depot. Installed in it is a fourth hard drive, the fourth since the first one failed about mid-August, followed by the failure of the second one 3 days after it was installed, followed by the failure of the 3rd hard drive one hour into the four-hour Vista installation process. I see they have replaced the hard drive and the motherboard this time. I wonder if the laptop will actually work smoothly for the rest of its natural life?

I purchased my iMac nearly 6 years ago and it has run like a dream - never crashed, never had a virus. The most stable computer I have ever owned.

I had the laptop upgraded and configured for my daughter and it was always my intention to give it to her when I was able to afford the MacBook I really wanted.

My short foray into the PC world, however, is enough for me.

This woman is an Apple woman. An Apple woman this woman is.

I'm going for the 24" iMac with a tax credit from some years back & trusting that I will have a job soon. I lost quite a bit of work when the first Dell hard drive failed and that's painful. My old iMac hasn't developed any ticks but I can't, for instance, print a PDF file from it anymore, and many of my bills are electronic now. Most of the keys on the keyboard have to be pressed multiple times when writing; the mouse died some time ago & my daughter and I share an old PC mouse. Replacing the OS on such an old computer and purchasing a new keyboard and mouse is hardly worth the money. I am afraid such an old machine will suddenly crash and I'll lose years of work and my daughter will lose her entire iTunes library. We'll grieve for years. I know I should buy a portable hard drive as backup but being out of work, money is tight. Yet there is enough for the purchase of a new computer, just. Through a simple wire we can transfer everything on the old iMac to the new iMac. Plus we get to keep the darling, dear old machine, it's one of the ones with a white half moon base, a pregnant feminine shape to me, for browsing. I wish I'd kept it under a dust cover all these years, I had no idea it was such a survivor. Who knows, it may run beautifully until it becomes a classy antique.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the air that I breathe out carries me with it,
the air that I breathe in
brings me back

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Red Balloon

Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon)
Albert Lamorisse, France, 1956 34 min

A red balloon with a life of its own follows a little boy around the streets of Paris. Winner of the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, despite almost no dialog spoken in the film.

The Flight of the Red Balloon

Le Voyage Du Balloon Rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon)
Hou Hsiao-hsien, France, 2008 113 min

A little boy and his baby-sitter inhabit the same imaginary world: through their adventures they are followed by a strange red balloon. Directed by celebrated Taiwanese New Wave director Hou Hsiao-hsien who captures the magic of the mysterious balloon often through an elegant use of the reflection of mirrors and glass.

A more thorough synopsis of the film here.

May be spoilers, not sure. I sought to write something that would enhance your viewing if you saw these films. I explore the red balloon as poetic image. Not a film review; rather the way my thoughts of the movie hovered and swam in the air like the red balloon.

The Red Balloon, the 1956 nearly silent film by Albert Lamorisse is stark poetry. The balloon and the child. Both buoyant and fragile, moving into an expanding world and trusting. The film is the motion of the child through the streets of an older Paris; like the balloon, we rarely see him in interiors, and when we do it is looking out of windows to the light where the balloon hovers with him. Of course jealousy and envy arise and the boys who want the power of the red balloon that the chosen boy has, and ultimately the slow deflation of the balloon by catapult. When all the balloons in Paris rise and congregate like a flock with the grieving boy who has lost his red balloon, he flies over the city held by them, a Chagall painting.

Flight of the Red Balloon, the 2008 film by Hou Hsiao-hsien, in part a tribute, begins with a balloon that echoes the balloon from the original film. A poem within a poem. The balloon hovers around the boy in the new film, though no-one but the audience sees this.

The balloon has been called a symbol of the imagination yet for me it cannot be this.

It's a relationship. As if you rubbed the balloon on your sweater, it would stick to you. The balloon is loyal like a puppy. It follows, hovers, allows itself to be seen only by who should see it.

The balloon is like a vision, fragile, buoyant and red. Or an apple, the beginning of the alphabet and the wisdom the fall from the Garden of Eden initiates.

It is a piece of man-made rubber inflated with helium but loses that property.

The red sphere dances in the sky, being a balloon that becomes a stave in a musical score, an image in a poem, a rich round colour in a painter's palette. It is the spinning globe of red that is the life force.

The red balloon is the magic of what floats.

If we follow what floats we will understand the symbol of the red balloon in the film.

The red balloon is a sun in the sky.

It's happy.

It's locked out. The red balloon is untethered, free to fly in the wind, to fly up into space.

The red balloon is the boy's heart which it invisibly ties itself to. The red balloon comes to comfort the boy in his loneliness, his bravery in living the independent life expected of him. The boy travels from home to school and back again in Paris, alone, the red balloon following.

There is a poignancy, a tenderness to the comfort the large red balloon and the boy offer each other, the white string of the balloon like an umbilical chord to hope.

Whoever holds the red balloon in the film, or the wires attached to it is made invisible as the balloon hovers near the boy, only the pure relationship remains.

In Flight of the Red Balloon, the film-student nanny of the boy is filming a film of the red balloon but never sees the one following her care outside the window, as if she is a grown Wendy who cannot see Peter Pan's Neverland of eternal childhood dancing on the windowsill.

The red balloon rises and falls on the walls outside the boy's room like breath. Sometimes the red balloon slides glancing over a graffiti representation of a red balloon as life and art interweave, as they do everywhere in the film.

The matriarch of the film, of the house, which was her mother's before her, and the mother of the child is a puppeteer, or rather the powerful voice of the woman in the puppet show. Everywhere in the film we see puppets, snippets of a show of mythic proportions and great passion (based on the Yuan Dynasty story of Zhang Yu and his beloved, Qiong Lian.) Archetypal forces are at play under the weave of characters and narrative of the film, in the domestic dramas and interweaving of cultures, French and Taiwanese (the film by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien), the struggles of the artists represented in the film in all their variety, from the successful puppeteers (the mother, Suzanne (Juliette Binoche), who financially supports the household), to the film student of film, Song Fang (played by herself), who stays with the boy, Simon (Simon Iteaneau), after school, to the writer and his girlfriend who live on the second floor without paying rent, to Suzanne's boyfriend who is absent in Montreal writing a novel, to the teacher at the end teaching the children how to look at the painting of the child with the red balloon from an aerial perspective, from the balloon's perspective.

While Hou Hsiao-hsien provided the general scenarios of the film and the background story to the actors, they created the dialogue and the movement. The domestic scenes feel real and contrast with the poetry interweaving the film like the balloon floating about the windows and walls outside, held by desire yet subject to the rhythms of air, a moving notation.

The balloon always behind dusty old windows, in mirrors, at the edge of the pictorial frame, never graspable. So subtle as to be missed by all but the boy and the film director who guides the audience's vision to its close red roundness.

In the slightly nostalgic and poignant feeling of the film, the red balloon is held by the warmth of our hearts to us.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Painting Nook

In Painting Nook

woke this morning with a sense of joy as I cannot express, something that hasn't happened in a long time, such relief so welcomeIn the painting nook

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In the middle of August in the Summer of 2008

Perhaps there were different ways of understanding, parallel paths of interpretation and it was impossible to pick which was more real.
Or you could let your feelings emerge in meditation, the sadness, sorrow, rage, lust, tenderness, love.
First one, and then the other seemed likely.
But, no, it was more like a kaleidoscope of turbulent thoughts and chaotic feelings.
Perhaps they were lassos you were flinging from each hand, sometimes they swung wildly divergently, sometimes they entangled.
The problem was there was no strategy, or even a map of where we were.
Or probably you didn't swing anything and the parallel ways of understanding were the metaphor I was most comfortable with.

I couldn't decide, on the long walk grocery shopping that day which path more accurately represented your feelings, or mine, or what happened.
Or when I lay at the beach on the hot day imagining Ferris wheels of kaleidoscopes where everything impinged on everything else.

It was an embarrassing situation from which you fled. Discovery of the truth was the last thing you wanted.
Nothing made sense.
But what was the truth?
What is truth?
Parallel paths; I can't decide which.
Rather, multiple lines like tangled tackle.
One interpretation, the cavalier one, you'd prefer; the other a deeper more vulnerable one you'd prefer hidden.

I can't live in your heart to know definitively. I imagine you yourself don't fully know either. We're hanging somewhere between spiritual truth and illusion. The illusion you'd rather cast hides what?

Probably it was the more hidden truth and it held a power over you that disturbed you greatly because to follow that path would change your perception of freedom irrevocably.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

with all the fans off last night wake to the press of heat sun streaming through veils of leaves

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Me as an Audience Extra

The last year has been one of the most difficult years of my life. While I cannot share much of what has happened, the good news is that I am still going. Sometimes I'm not sure how.

At the end of May my last contract position ended and since then I have been officially unemployed, a disempowering experience to say the least.

Anyhow, for a new experience last Friday I was an 'audience extra' at Market Call Tonight on BNN. Here's a clip of me asking a question, something I make myself do whenever I attend a seminar. Okay, I don't know a lot about the stock market, but I realized that I know more than I thought I did.

By all means watch the whole show, Ross Healy's viewpoints are interesting. If you want to see yours truly, a little nervous (could have done with some of those beta blockers, laughs) go to 7:25 on this clip (after the ads) for about 2 minutes to hear his full answer.

Bridging Transformations

In the time of transformation, what bridges the gap between what is disappearing and what is coming to be?

What do we leave behind to cross?

Who are we to meet?

As we transform, what are we bridging in ourselves?

I found these questions scrawled in my notebook. Surely that day in late August I had something specific in mind. Perhaps I had just seen the video clips for the movie, Man on Wire, of Philippe Petit's dream to walk on a tightrope between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center, and who did it in 1974. Twenty-seven years before their destruction, his delicate dance of balance across the strung edge of death bridged his dream to its realization.

Or perhaps I was considering the Oracle of the Hunab Ku, number 36: Bridge.

What bridges the crossing for you?

What are you crossing from,
and where are you going?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Discus Thrower

Discus Thrower

Discus Thrower, ©Brenda Clews 2008, oil pastel on paper, 13" x 17", 33cm x 43cm (click on image for larger size)

Began by playing with some new oil pastels while watching a movie, abstract at first rubbing and painting the soluble colours but I'm a figurative artist and so overlaid them with a guy inspired by the famous Ancient Greek Discus Thrower, in turn obviously inspired by the Olympics that I watched obsessively for two weeks. It is amazing how our experiences come through in our art. As I outlined him, first putting in and then removing an arm to give him a paradoxical angle whereby he can appear to be facing the viewer or with his back to us, depending on the light -squint & you'll see him from behind, look and you'll see the barest representation of a face to incline you to think he is facing us- I thought, to me he represents a 'force of nature.'

In my recent paintings I have chosen to work slowly with an eye to detail; this, by contrast, was an explosion.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clustering the Night Sky

A star system that spins around its black holes. Twinkling nexus of neurons. Why do I breathe or lie here wondering why I am. Or you.

No, I don't wish to explain mystery. I like the strangeness of life, knowing we are real even as we part from our bodily images in our imagination of being.

I follow the lines of your body with my fingers of light. Lines that limn memories of you, you haven't lain with me for a long time.

In the masses of stars how did we find and then lose each other?

Do I carry a simulation of you, you are so real beside me? Mirrors of the past reflecting in the present. Neurons traveling the gaps in time.

Or are you here, thrown into my arms by the electricity of what is conscious, our connection beyond time and space.

In the strangeness, clarity.

Night after night I roll into your warmth imagined beside me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Women In Summer

If anyone knows the code to reverse the order of a Flikr slideshow I'd appreciate it. It's currently running backwards, from finished painting through all the stages to the drawing, which is a bit awkward. Women In Summer, I'm happy to say, is finished.

(Clicking any of the images will stop the slideshow and provide more of the info I included for the picture.)

Also, I've grouped this series on one page by the tag, WomenInSummer, at Flickr, here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Dancer Who Turns

Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you are NOW - at this very moment
using more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most would see the dancer turning counter-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

Please consider what neuro scientists have discovered
through careful research:

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Copied from a comment by Ken Grisnak, Aug 16, 2008, at a blog post, Losing Your Religion, Part I, by Ann M. (image reader).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Race of the Medals of Fortune

(This is rather long, & loose, what I wrote while watching the race live on my computer through CBC streaming without commentators - I could hear the rain and the distant cheering of small groups of people as the runners streamed past, the breath of the camera crew and the breath of the runners, their feet pattering the pavement kilometer after kilometer - I posted this piece because it's current though would rather have sat with it a bit longer to tighten the phrasing and bring out the race as metaphor.)

the women, running

they look like they're in pain

in pain, yet with runner's high

it won't let them stop
desire and the power of their bodies

she leaves the packs of women
everyone runs in packs, occasional loners
falling behind to the oncoming pack or streaming ahead to the next one

does she feel her winged feet touch the pavement?
can she hear the onlookers straggled in the rain along the avenues cheering?
does she see the multitude of cameras following beside, in front, whirring overhead?
does she know where she is? or has she forgotten?
perhaps what lights her blue eyes, framed by Botticelli curls caught back
is her lover who she is running to
her husband her trainer, their child, her country, us
who wait in the Olympic flame

she is running for her life

the others, thin-bodied svelte athletes, muscle-flat stomachs, smooth pelvis’
shaped legs, not heavily muscled but sinewy
and the ubiquitous knees, joints rising and falling, rising and falling
elbows back and forth
breath in and out
steady beat of feet on the tarmac
little two piece bathing suits, pasted over their chests their number, and country
and the ever-white sneakers of the marathon runner

running through central Beijing
from Tiananmen Square past the Temple of Heaven
the Forbidden City and the National Theatre
passing the trees of the boulevard
the concrete enclosed river
the office towers
the closed factories
along the nearly empty wet streets
past obliquely collected crowds waving and cheering them on
the women running
rasping breath
thudding feet

they become landscape streaming

they are angels running past us

sweaty athletes close to collapse
on the flagstones through the grounds of Qinhua University
near the Summer Palace, on and on
camera lenses flecked with water

where do you centre your gravity? in your knees, rising and falling
in your belly with the forward momentum
where the energy is?
how to pace yourself so you don't burn out before the end?
when do you open your stride
and go

she holds nothing back
she endures

in the lead
she is the leader

there she is, #2716
passing the stands for the runners, each country waiting with mineral salts in water
blue two-piece track suit
with yellow side bars
fair hair,
eyes blue as the skies of the Romanian farm she grew up on

she is so far ahead
there is only one car following her, one camera
to watch her

it is silent around her

how far are they from the Bird's Nest, the stadium where a hundred thousand wait?
where it will roar when they enter
in packs

except for the lone winner

who is compelled to run
through the pain of her limbs
who is elated
running over
the clouds of Olympia

she is the breath of her feet

she is gold

Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania at age 38 on August 16, 2008 won the Women’s 40 Km Marathon at the Olympics in Beijing, China with a time of 2:26:44. She is the oldest Olympic marathon winner and stands 5'2" (1.6m) at 106 bare pounds (48 kg).

Women's Marathon gold claimed by Tomescu
Constantina Tomescu crossing the finish line of Women's Marathon. (Photo Credit:Guo Dayue/Xinhua) Photo from Beijing

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sailor's Delight

the sky is yellow with rain

it hasn't stopped raining all Summer

the wet sky is
stained with rain

I rewrite and wash
my life

the pitter patter of mantra, or tears
sheets of rain

then I saw fashion colours for this Fall
are amythyst and burnt orange

like the fresh clean billows blowing in the sky
suddenly at sunset

Friday, August 15, 2008

finding the moon

round light that is the moon
gliding, a psychic eye in the sky
before lightning drowns it
with falling water

water of the moon floats over me

water of the moon is a dry seabed
on the spin of rock in the sky
that swings round
and around us
pulling the

as I am pulled to you

envisioning what always was
but can never be

and then becomes
when the shroud of purple cloud
drifts clearing our hearts
luminescent crystal ball

moon is round

spiritual truth and illusion
one vision

tonight we find
we are found

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Liquid Metal


falling through space without landing, or flying

into an eclipse, deliberate blotting out
the darkening of the sky
denials of our feelings
for each


writing kept us from recognizing

the fissures


how we hurt each other


fiery strands of interrelated passions
memories, motives, what happened
what didn't, the suspicions
times of deep connections
pulsing at varying speeds
in varying directions
hooking up here
& there exploding


like the heart


the moon glides
releasing the sun


we chip away anger
a brittle ceramic mold
on the gold

of love

forged in our fire of desperation

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Birds Wings

Images of the world. Under a chestnut tree with your dog reading Ondaatje, a superb writer, watching for the police lest they catch you unleashed, a musician on a bench who put his book down and lifted his guitar from its case on the ground and began strumming though you are too far to hear, on the pale-striped green and blue fleece blanket with the nylon underside from Vancouver where it's generally wetter though we've had record rains in Toronto this year, sipping a mug of fresh French-press espresso coffee with cream, rocking a little in a camping chair, your iPod nano beside you unused, your hair clipped back, a black camisole and comfortable thin cotton khaki shorts, and such green as this city never sees by mid-Summer, usually the grass has brown patches, unaccompanied by your invited kids who couldn't conceive of anything more boring than sitting on a blanket in the park up the road on a hot sunny day, and you're content amidst these images of your world, the breeze that flutters like birds' wings.

'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 ...