Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm?


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I seek privacy

I seek privacy while I taste these new things.  These ideas and thoughts that co-mingle inside my being, each one changing the colour and tone of the one before, sparking new thoughts in marvellous chemical reactivity. 

More like alchemy, it feels.  As though I’m levitated, it feels.

All of this internal, so I have few words – there are no words in fact, at this point, to describe the changes in me.  My feelings are volatile, powerful enough to do damage, and yet I know they must be felt as they are, acknowledged, contained, allowed to move.  I do not happily sit in conversation these days for fear I might erupt.  I’m sure people who don’t know me well think I’m the same as I was.

Artistic Citizenship (Elliott, 2017); Engaging in Community Music (Higgins &Willingham, 2017); Teaching to Transgress (Hooks, 1994); Pedagogy of Hope (Freire, 1992); I am Woman (Maracle, 1996); Unsettling Canada (Manuel, Derrickson, 2015); The Mother of all Questions (Solnit, 2017); Remixing the Classroom (Allsup, 2016); Success for All… (New Zealand – Rakena, 2015); Women’s Work, The First 20,000 Years (Wayland Barber, 1994); Klee Wyck (Carr, 1941); at least twenty mind-changing journal articles from all over the planet (1996 to 2017)…

For these ideas to take, they need to spark, and oh, but they are.  This is not a mental exercise, but a heart-based one. I’m not new to academics, but I have been away from the process for some decades, in which time I obtained some common sense about the way things work.  Heart first.  Then mind.

Then Voice.


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radically inclusive

Let’s say in a fit of wild enthusiasm you’ve made a generous statement about the music you love to play:

“Anyone can play in this band!  Come on over and jam with us!”

 

Word gets out because your music is fun so five new people show up to the next band rehearsal, in this order:

Geoff, a classically trained oboe player who’d like to try playing your drum kit

Ruby, a 12-year-old angry slam poet in a hoodie (no eye contact)

Mairy’s whistle-playin kitchen-jammin Uncle Pat

Pete’s mom Sherry, who sings twice weekly with the Sweet Adelines (so knows how it works)

Rico the PTSD’d army vet (in his wheelchair), who plays a mean harmonica

 

Your bandmates Eric the Ego (lead singer) and Tasteful Steve (guitar) are over there with their mouths open, staring at you in disbelief.  Your pal Sam (great bass player) is smirking through her inscrutable look and has shrugged, just now.

” Well.”, you think to yourself, “Um.”

But this is what makes you so good at what you do: you decide in that moment that this will become a band project, and ‘the band’ will rehearse as usual, but on another night. With a little finaegling, this makes the situation okay for everyone (indicated by a second shrug from Sam).

What ensues from there is perhaps one of the best, funkiest, tastiest most heartfelt art-records ever made, a massive collaborative process of laughing changes-of-mind & heart & music & life for everyone, including Eric (the less overblown), SuperTasteful Steve (the less serious), Sam (who sang at the Adelines’ last concert in full leathers), Geoff, Pat, Sherry and Rico, who now regularly go to slam nights with Ruby and her African-Canadian girlfriend.

Next Project?  How about an online thing linking Iqaluit midwives with spinners/weavers from Georgian Bay who then write songs with retired Mounted Police?  (Sam’s idea).

Bell Hooks would say….  Huzzah!

Paolo Friere would say…  Huzzah!

Lees Higgins and Willingham would say… Huzzah! Huzzah!

Rebecca Solnit would of course write a review of the entire mad thing for the Guardian, with exhaustive research that proves without a doubt that yes, inclusiveness requires great courage (and willingness to laugh at ourselves) but makes us all so much better.

 


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Rage like a mountain

There’s nothing new. But there is a new urgency I can’t ignore or discount – to do so would be futile, and frankly, cowardly.

It appears that I’ve come to a place of no return with critical parts of my life that have always been up for negotiation.

Like the movement of tectonic plates, a deep and radical shifting of my priorities.

I find myself, with some regularity these days, shaking with rage. I feel also, and at the same time a profound sense of deep and steady calm, no less intense and alive than the anger.  The word Ferocious comes to mind.

I have somehow expanded my capacity to contain Ferocity.

It feels quite safe in a dangerous sort of way.  I’m mindful of a need for care.

While I read for my masters.  While I make buffalo stew.  While I use my chainsaw to cut firewood, practise new bow technique on my cello.  While I write, sew, draw, listen to Joni Mitchell and RVW Symphony number 9 for work and pleasure.

While I think about wise, strong people who have been denied a voice of their own for far, far too long.

It’s difficult to put my finger on the ‘why now’ of this.  I think that doesn’t matter.  It’s the thundercloud that matters.

I will do the things I do for better reasons. I’ll learn to do other things, because they need to be done.


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Black and White

Here’s something.  If you slow down a recording of crickets to the speed it would be if their lifespan was equal to humans, it sounds a lot like a human choir (link here).  Huh.

Another thing.  If you look at this global map of the wind, you can see where the wind that just pushed over the old window on your front porch came from.  You can zoom in and check out how fast it’s going and where it’s just been right now, anywhere in the world, the wind. (link here)

Huh.

 

This is like reading Paulo Friere (Brazil) on Education for Critical Consciousness and Theatre of the Oppressed, Patricia Leavy (Boston) on how Method Meets Art, and Shaun McNiff (Cambridge, MA) on Art as Research, Willingham and Higgins (Canada and UK) on Community Music practise.  I feel these thoughts on my skin like wind from three continents, four countries.

Same wind that’s stirring the trees.

And another:  two 18 volt, 3 amp lithium batteries can charge a chainsaw long enough to cut and collect firewood that will last for two days, run a circular saw and a power drill long enough to build a shelf and counter, with a little left to spare.  A Sherpa 100 lithium battery can keep a studio light going all day, charge phone and wifi device, with a little left over to top up a laptop battery.  If it’s sunny out, you can charge the Sherpa from solar panels, and the lithium battery charger from the Sherpa.  Heat from a tea candle can power the reading lamp beside me (invented and produced in Wiarton Ontario at Caframo) for 4-5 hours.

Not sure this is interesting to everyone, but it is to me.  When the water pipes beneath the street froze a few winters ago, I learned how much 16 litres of water weighed.  It was my maximum for carrying from supply building to car (50 yards).  I learned how to do a sink full of dishes with one cup of water.  I’m learning the same direct measurement realities now about energy and I’m fascinated, frankly.

All of this together, the sound of crickets slowed down, today’s fierce wind from Mexico, Paulo Friere’s, Patricia Leavy’s Shaun McNiff’s, Lees Willingham and Higgins’ thoughts intermingling here, the realities of available energy and time, heat and wellbeing – all of these things met this afternoon in a meditation with my thumbs in the playing of the Courante from Suite Number 1 of the Suites by cello, written in Austria by JS Bach in 1717-1723.  That’s the fourth continent, meeting in my thumbs.

I wouldn’t be writing any of this if my since zero years of age friend Marcus hadn’t challenged me to think in black and white, while taking pictures of my life, with no people and no captions for seven days straight (the first three here are in chronology, and then I just started looking at things differently and took more).

Huh.


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Shock and shift

What happens when we don’t take responsibility for healing our own lives, and instead project our buried trauma out onto other people – our children, our families, our friends, our colleagues? 

What happens when we use all our energy in criticism and complaint, when we use charity and judgement as a way of maintaining privilege and superiority over ‘weaker-thans’?  When we use power like a gun and intelligence only to manipulate?  Is this not a way of describing blight?  Does this not weaken the entire system of life?  Weinstein.  Ghomeshi.  Trump.  Any person of any gender who identifies with embitterment, any person who inflicts their own still-festering injuries on others. 

So, at any point in our lives, each and every one of us, until we choose to do the work and grow up.

Mill Dam, Owen Sound. Fall 2014

What happens instead when we don’t accept diminishment, and instead use our considerable strength to knit together, to hold space for change, to join, to empower and build.  What happens to us.  What happens to the world.

Harriet Tubman.  Georgia O’Keefe.  Emily Carr.  Gord Downey.  Elizabeth Warren, who persists.

What happens when a small, any or multi gendered group gathers in the kitchen to wash, dry, put away dishes from the meal they made for 30 people? What happens when they gather to weed a garden, repair or build a quilt, build a house, make music, block out a play, collaborate on a project, get something done together…  the conversation knits and weaves, joins and clarifies, connects and strengthens.

It’s about the doing, but the doing isn’t the point.  The weaving, the connecting, the building, the sharing and comparing is the point.  The anchor of hearth, the rhythm of ritual, the resources of valued difference.

In this contemporary culture, many-gendered, magnificent embroiderers, quilters, designers and fabric artists have taken the diminuitive notion of ‘women’s work’ and transformed it into empowerment – an actual, functional, powerful approach to healing our homes and our bodies and building the world anew.  Artists and musicians, actors and writers are more and more equally represented by all cultures, all genders, who have empowered themselves to speak from their own power, to openly share their hard-won strength and dignity with us.  Does this not strengthen us all?  Is this not another way to describe nourishment?

Endurance, independence, perception, wisdom.  Strong opinions, well informed by context and shared with humility.  To do something valuable with one’s anger.

Not the pursuit of virtuosity as an identity, but for joy.  Not to claim then fight nasty to maintain one’s trumped-up value .

Instead, always to include, to hold space for. Powerfully.

The We, the Us, without the Them.  We, the ecosystem from which no living being is excluded.

This requires courage.

 


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Dark mornings

Before she went blind at age 42, she read tea leaves for signs of joy and trouble.

Through the subsequent five decades I watched, fascinated, when Grandma took her glass eyes out to clean them, as casually as I now clean my glasses.

 

For many of those eye-blind years she lived alone in house the size of the one I live in.  Every single thing in that house had precise place and function.  She could hear you think, and smell through walls.  Her scrying skills sharpened and she knew things before they happened. In this house, with these sharp senses she navigated meals, cleaning, laundry and dignified self-care with a sensibility that both astonished and empowered me.

 

Is this why I drink my first morning coffee in the darkness – to honour her five decades without light?

In part I think this is true.  I do often think of her as the first light whispers through the windows to ghost the doorway and glint the curve of my mug.

 

 

Light seeps in hushed like tiptoed joy.

Good morning, Jeannie Brown. You are welcome here.

 


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internal inquiry into a considered response

There’s no other way to heal, I think.

I’ve read this many times.  It is lodged in my blood now, where it often sings me awake at night, sometimes until dawn.  It is in my belly too, still mostly undigestible.

The difficulty lies in the difference between what my heart reads and what my head understands.  Or maybe that’s where the difficulty lies. I’m not sure yet.

We learn battle-readiness, to defend our tender new-budded truths.  We are misinterpreted; this can break our hearts.  We misconstrue, often to preserve the rightness of blame, the righteousness of feeling hard done by; this will initially comfort and inevitably constrict.  In the end the effect is the same:  diminishment and poverty. 

I can’t name all of the possible alternative choices, but they are known by their effect: gratitude, openness, expansion.  Love.

Oh, the bluster and the poverty of me!  As though what sparks my interest should dominate all else, till there’s no breath left in the room, and the small simple beautiful thoughts creep away to hide their perfect nakedness.  Lest they get burned by the mocking loud, the snorting judgement, the braying, betraying complaining whine.

I don’t regret this bluster- it has been an important tool for survival these many years.  I do amend it now that I’m out of survival mode:  more heed paid to the exquisitely naked, small simple thoughts.  The tiny observances, the two-way conversations held safely in trust.  All the time in the world to listen well, with love.

It is one of those nights – my blood sings me awake at 3am and now dawn sits pregnant in the east.  Sheets and sheets of luxurious rain cool street and soil after weeks of heat too strong for the season.  I am grateful for the known comfort of this natural balance, counterpoint to my tender-sore conundrum. 

What to do?  I ask the morning, as she emerges. 

In response, the rich rain sings of gravity, release, surrender.  

Family. We are family.  I have no good answer to this difficulty, for how can I be who I am not, even if who I am offends so?

So. Let the rain and the tears fall where they may, in gravity, release, and peaceful surrender.  May the good answers come over time like waves on the shore, with no urgency. Small and simple, held safely in trust.