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An ethical line

To draw a line.

A simple line can identify both home and trespasser.

Political lines describe differences, places of meeting:  here and there, you and me, us and them.

Natural lines are always clear, but changing.  Shoreline, treeline, river, snake, stick, shadow.

“Snakeroot”, 6×6″, graphite and acrylic on paper, 1999. Sold

Lines can protect the sacred, the private, the personal from the public.  Open, traveling lines explore, closed ones separate, keep safe.

Implied lines blur understanding, strong ones describe structure.  Like ladders, scaffolding.

An ethical line supports both the one and the other.  If drawn with clear intention, such a line can offer a way through conflict to respect, reconciliation.

A good, quiet line, both firm and generous.  Provocatively simple.


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Research methods

This spring term has been spine-cracking difficult, not just because of the workload but because of what it’s transforming in me – a requirement of fulfilling what has been assigned:  Read the following ten books by next week; comment and engage in discussion online re same; define a research question and complete a lit review by the week after; build two presentations for the same two weeks 1. about narrative research 2. synopsis and discussion of a major thesis paper related to your subject….

…write a final Research Study Paper Proposal (35%) and hand it in by the end of June; change your mind about your own capacities for this work, now; imagine yourself as a much larger and more efficient person, now; sort out your philosophical and methodological tendencies; ask if you have any questions…

I come up for air to tuck into a quick poster design for a show at Leith Church in July. I realize as I make a poster using these photos that in July I get to rehearse, trade stories, laugh and cry with the persons in the photos.  Then we perform together. Who gets this in their life?!?!

poster draft, missing photo credits, and ticket information. Here is the former: Tom Thomson (Canadian 1877 – 1917), Soft Maple in Autumn, 1914. oil on plywood, 25.5 x 17.8 cm Collection of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario, gift of Louise (Thomson) Henry, sister of Tom Thomson, 1967, Photo credit: Michelle Wilson. Ann Michaels photo is ©2009 Marzena Pogrozaly; david sereda photo is © John Fearnall @ GoodNoise Photography. Also, you should come to this if you can. It will be more than magical.

I come up for air to meet my incredible lifelong friends at Summit Place retirement lodge where my dad is, and stumble through some challenging but lovely music. Little Fugue, Brandenburg III, Danny Boy.  Dad cries, as he always has when I play for him.  Another resident tells me afterwards that listening to us play blew the dust off his soul.

porcupine teenager, retreating after I asked him firmly to stop eating the plywood at the shore bothy. They kept coming for hours, until I firmly shooed his mama (HUGE) with a few stones, and brought all plywood inside, at 3am.

I come up for air and find myself waking at the shore, staring at an endless infinity of my friend, the Bay, who is so much a part of who I am

I come up for air and find myself playing Sibelius and the Bach Double in the midst of a high school orchestra in Meaford

I come up for air, blink my astonishment at the world, then dive back in to a deeper understanding of how much I don’t know, dive again for pearls of transformation.  Find my gills, drink humility again and again, knowing it is elixir.

 

 


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The trembling flowers of spring

A chickadee nests under the inside eave of the porch, which of course gentles the way I open and close my front door.  I hope to make friends with this family so that the anxiousness at comings and goings subsides for all concerned.  In any case, a new series of daily negotiations has begun.  I consider the exclusive use of my back door.

Flowers bloom trembling, huddled close to the April ground in the yard, in the garden that is choked with goutweed.  The garden that is soon to be dug out with great effort, lined with old carpet, and replenished with new soil, sans goutweed root.  The roses, delphiniums, peonies, holly, coneflower, clematis and rose of sharon will all be temporarily potted – bewildered, no doubt, to be sitting in my driveway.  More gentle negotiations.

Mice in my kitchen – alarmingly unafraid of me – all of whom I will need to kill (not gentle).  A cupboard door has come off it’s old hinges, the de-humidifiers now need daily emptying, storm windows will trade places with front porch chairs.  All of this is comforting, in between the soul-searching and the interminable litigious trials that all leave me feeling quite fragile.  I have the day off from school.

I read, I putter, I sleep, wake, read, write…

the flags in february, laid out to be sewn

a 21-line prayer poem, 7 from a child, 7 a young woman, 7 an elder one.  each will be sewn onto an embroidered, hand-printed windhorse prayer flag.  Reds and oranges.  Yellows and greens.  Blues and purples.

 

I glue swarovsky crystals onto hand-made square nails, then bind those onto stretched batik fabric with coloured thread.  I sew my wedding ring there too – pulled by red threads from all directions.  I realize I want to sew it into almost-invisibility.  Add a piece of my old sloppy shirt, stone beads, glass beads to form the shape of a hand out of fairy tale.  Red, blue, yellow and green at the tip of each sparkling finger.

The under-narrative of women’s work runs deep.  I think of this as I find myself counting each stitch aloud.

Familiar

It will all take longer

delays upon delays

upon denial upon fear

upon betrayals that mutter their toxic deep

deep deep in old wounds.

I do not think it’s about me any more.

Was it ever.

It’s about the planets turning

the seasons, the wheel, the fool, who,

blithely unaware of his purpose,

strolls smiling the ever-moment.

Likely a chronic pot-smoker, that fool.

August 18, 2016/April 19, 2017

klm

 


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Little Book

The red book records the odd.

The black one, scars.

The green, intent

The blue, fancy

The yellow is a large sieve

to catch memory for story glue. but

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in a private, cathartic moment

They will all burn.

This is not a world

that is kind to things

sorted and filed in this way.

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In one it is recorded:

I do reject hope.

I hold passion away from my body,

measure trust like a miser,

like a miser, take great care

with my accountabilities.

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The little books know.

There is no family, no truth,

no gift freely given.

This is who we are.  Nevertheless

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I am not dead yet.

Through these Mean Times

I shall continue to search for,

find, and make art.

Little Book, Jan 26/April 11, 2017, studio (house)
KLM

A Note:  This poem was written at a dark time, in a long moment of self-observation.   I refer to this in a recent post called The Far Horizon – a time when I found myself sifting through the broken things – beloved house gone, beloved studio gone, beloved places now pawns in a power-play not of my choosing, family torn apart, living deep inside poverty with my financial resources withheld, lawyers who forgot critical information, mismanaged files, set their own agendas, people once dear to me now like bullies who pout their entitlement, present their victimhood to the world while they sucker punch the whipping boy or the concubine, kick the chained dog. Shock after shock after shock.

How does the human spirit survive catastrophe and rebuild?  Turn from toxic identification with the badness of life into a place of curiosity and ingenuity?  Choose to let go, heal up and move on?  Our history is full of fine examples – I suspect that this happens at least once every second on planet earth – it’s what we do.

For me it has always been the making of art and the writing of journals.  Get it out of me and onto a page, a canvas, and then let it go.  In January of last year I read through and pitched journals from 20 years – a cathartic burning, a profound release of attachment to old pains.  On the other side of that is genuine strength, genuine laughter.  It’s good to stand your ground.


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An epiphany

If you’re not feeling nice, why act nicely?  It just gives people the wrong impression.

I like this.

table of lamps and candles

I’ve been taught something quite different from this idea.  It’s only dawning on me now how niceness can distort.  Being civil and considerate, acting with kindness – I get.  There’s something clean and mutually respectful about those choices in behaviour.

Nice, though, when you’re not feeling it.  When you examine the results, they’re never good.

In a year-old effort to consciously rid my behaviour of anything that even hints at passive aggression I’ve arrived here.  This week alone I’ve observed myself behaving nicely because I was bored in a conversation, another time nice because I was nervous.  Another time nice because I was intimidated and lost my opinion so therefore my real voice.  Curious, I tried several times to be nice as an expression of … niceness, but this always turned into an act of kindness.

Nice is a default for me, then.  Perhaps nice is also a smokescreen.

In any case, it has become apparent that I hide behind my niceness, which is rude.

Last Bell, 2016

My default niceness also gives others the impression that I am nice.

Ew.  Like mezzo piano.  30% grey.  A picket fence.  A hallmark card.

My poetry isn’t nice.

I need to re-think my behaviour.

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Bitch.

I’ve denied you good purchase longtime

to my detriment

your hard instinct for closure

your abrupt, disruptive

your not-nice.

Witch.

I can feel you

inside my belly,

Drumming your Know.

Your Know Drum more becomes

the weft and warp of my song.

More. More.

Crone.

You grip my neck

like the carnivore you are

twist it in the shake

that will break my love

for the past

for sentiment

for soft truths.

Those won’t do.

These new truths are hard.

these blades samurai-sharp

this warning bell held aloft, ready

I grip the rim, white-knuckled.

Skin.

The outer me erupts

in antagonized boils,

swell to seep

weeping

Skin.

My containment.

The outer package of

muse love, milf-love,

tantalize, mythologize

my untouchable, touchable skin.

Skin as articulate now

as it wasn’t then,

so tuned when I was younger

to a man’s finger

to his hands, his thrust

Only then would it speak

only then could I hear it.

Now it names Sunlight

the brush and cover of hair

the shocking envelope of lake water

a draft of air, a blanket

my Crone skin

hears sound

feels ache

knows exuberance

craves beauty

yearns for peace.

Crone.

You call me home hard.

klm  19 April 2016/March 2017


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The Far Horizon

We are what we imagine in ourselves.

In this moment, though, my imagination is a dull grey. It trudges with jaw set to endurance mode.  Wings furled behind dragging in the mud – too much damned effort to get off the ground.

Pretty River Valley, Simcoe

Is it me that’s too heavy, or the current …vicissitudes?  My experiment in taking extended breaks from technology devices has taught me that at least part of the heaviness is the result of my lack of electronic discernment. I feel numb after I’ve been connected to the internet or to my phone for too long, which for me appears to be any longer than 10 minutes.  If I get sucked in for more than that I become disengaged with the focus and rhythm of the day I’ve taken such pains to design.  Heavy & flightless.

I don’t count journal, blog or poetry writing in this. When I keep my focus on those things I’m entirely engaged with my internal and external environment. I’m an air balloon kept aloft by curiosity.

a particularly compelling drawing in our room at the inn.

I know full well, though, that it’s not just electronic devices that have been leaving me regularly flattened.  In ways that run well below daily radar I’ve been buried by and in stories that are not my own for a full decade. Inch by inch this spring I’ve been crawling out from under bad faith agreements and betrayals of trust that have taught me over and over again the value of standing my ground. I’ve watched my family torn apart by toxicity, lived in self-exile from things and people I love, and have been pressed into the kind of poverty that erodes one’s soul because I chose to point out the elephant in the room.  At no point have I felt like a victim, nor am I blameless, but it’s been a long long haul.  Wings dragging behind in the mud.

We are what we imagine…

As happens when long and taxing engagements near their end, my body begins to release all the intensity I’ve held down all these years in order to function through my days.  Turns out this is a long and unpredictable process.  Some mornings I wake in the grip of recall – living a trauma again so I can finally and firmly put it to rest.  A howling neck, an aching thigh muscle, the distinct sensation of an object buried in the middle of my back, slowly working its way out.  A growing kindness in my self, toward my self.

Slowly so very slowly each contentious issue reveals its nugget of understanding.  I visit regularly with the family I do have contact with, we make a point of sharing the progression of days, thoughts, and changes together, dancing with trust.  I’ve learned to drastically pare back my lifestyle so that I can mostly manage rent, school fees, food and gas while at the same time working smarter, so that my working hours-income ratio is better (so empowering!).  I exult in the mind expanding experience of the masters I’ve one-third finished, the growing conviction that what I’m learning is powerful, game-changing stuff. I know it will lead to work that has value well beyond what I can see from here.

What we imagine 

Allen Gardens, Toronto. March 2017.

…is what we become.