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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.


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A reciprocal boat

Sometimes the boat NEEDS to sink, little miss willpower.  Sometimes it’s just time to release Her.

Boats are practical things that keep you afloat on water, carry what you need for a journey, bring back what you harvest.  They are all female.

Boats are dreams, freedoms, passions, yearnings. They are shared, protected, obvious solitudes.  In them you can aim yourself to the far horizon, traverse the foreign deep and sing the sky.  They cradle in a soft wind, scream in heavy weather.

Without exception, boats require maintenance. Care.

A reciprocal boat carries two, each with her baggage, each with his wounds which, if utilized correctly can transform into oars, a sail.  A tiller, a keel even, to stabilize a fragile idea in rough weather.  Ingenuity is required, shared goals, a willingness to do all the work made necessary by journey.  If one refuses to bail while the other catches the wind, forgets to balance the agreement of labour and care, well then there is no crew, and the boat, She knows it. If there’s no crew to attend to the moment, then eventually, inevitably, down She goes, in sad, sorry relief.

That one sank four years ago, on September 3, 2013. In the course of that time I’ve sung her Her to peace in honour of her ten years of service. Despite a poor crew.

There are fair weather boats, full of jolly shout and sun.  These are white white above but deep and heavy below with a labouring few who may never be seen.  These know Her engines, Her faults, Her upper deck requirements and tend them, cursing the dark.  Below the cursings, deeper still in the hull are dungeons where the scapegoats molder, banished for being born out of place.  Light above, heavy below, She knows full well she cannot be sustained, but grinds the tending souls to breaking point in any case, for the sake of Show.

One like that finally sank three years ago, in long, slow stages.  I watched her break apart and go under, still raging.

It was not beautiful, or poignant.

The boats still out there are better made; They need maintenance at dock, newer crew, so in They come, a float of dignity and good lines, for repair and Captains who understand the weather, yearn for the horizon.

Still others wait ready, clean holds full of nourishment and good sense.

Me, I’ve found safe harbour. Deeply grateful for the peace after the storms.  I repair, rebuild and absorb new information here, I check the shore for the next journey.

I’ll know Her when I see Her; we’ll sail when the wind is right.

 

 


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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.