Keirartworks's Blog

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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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Road Pizza Summer

Becalmed.  Deeply uncomfortable, since I expected forward movement.

 

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There’s nowhere to go but down, into the fathoms of unexplored shadowlands beneath my hull.  Heat stroke like a sluggishness drug, an IV drip drip to erode the well-focused plan until I only vaguely remember what, why, how…

Like road pizza I’m pissed off by this. I remember when I had bones, muscles and lungs that worked. It’s been weeks and weeks, flattened by heat, protecting the core of my good humour by rendering it invisible.  A possum pretending to be dead, but no – more like a coyote, trying like an idiot to fool the weather.

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And yet, I have deadlines.  I need to be there.  By then.  This is pre-scribed, written, indelibly.

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Queen.  Kate Bush.  MIA & A.R. Rahman, Johhny Clegg, anybody –  please: Help.  Loud help.

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Truly I’m not prone to panic.  But out of three months full of potential I have only a handful of days to answer Scribe with the good juice she needs in order to keep writing what happens NEXT.

My intention in the spring was to dance like Shiva through all misconceptions and inconsistencies, chop them with my many-fingered hands, and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Somehow this hot hot humid rainless summer folded me inside myself, where there’s not a great deal of room for dancing.

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Possum says, ‘Wait.  After sundown, go somewhere else.’

Sure, okay.  Down below, to look for pearls.  In Georgian Bay.

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Here’s the incredible thing.  Kicking and screaming my resistance to what needed to happen, I found them. Pearls.

huh.


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Solo

Snow is both light and heavy, slow and fast, visible and not.

It’s a season of contrast.

WinterRose

I live in a Canadian province that stretches from Windsor/Detroit (on a latitudinal par with Northern California) to Hudson’s Bay – a stretch between 42 and 57N; from carolinian forest to tundra – “Ontario is Canada’s second largest province, covering more than 1 million square kilometres (415,000 square miles) – an area larger than France and Spain combined”, reports my provincial government.

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Somehow, after exploring many other places on the planet, I became the sixth maternal generation to live in the one small town in this enormous province that gets the biggest annual snowfall (and rainfall).  Owen Sound is nestled at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, which defines the west shore of Great Lake Huron and the rocky eastern shore of Georgian Bay.  A note:  I identify more with Georgian Bay than with Huron, which is like a lukewarm bath to swim in when all I want is the rejuvenating shock of cold water.  GB is 80% the size of Lake Ontario, second-deepest of the world’s largest inland freshwater lakes, and is guarded by a hothead Anishnabe god called Kitchikewana.  He called me back here from far far away and I came.  For good reason.

Pic by Vita Cooper, friend and artist.  12 street from the river, where I spend most of my time....

Pic by Vita Cooper, friend and artist.  Just right of centre you can see a brick building – I’m writing this from the top floor of it.

The geneaology is important in a personal way.  But the effect of all this falling water, both frozen/ light and heavy/ wet – that has shaped me and my understanding of the world in a very profound manner.

I think differently, because of it.

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Snow, here, is peace.  The wind on our walls;  the vast plain of white outside our windows;  the deeply understood value of fire and warmth; the call to our belly muscles as we shovel ourselves out of a four-foot blanket of confinement – we live in a kind of shared solitude that makes things clear and simple.

In an ocean full of the salt of complaint, I exult in my good fortune – to be Here.

 

 

 

These days

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Delightful days, these.  In the grand pause of morning I can recall at least one, sometimes three marvelously shocking, transcendent moments for each day of this month – some mine, others I’ve witnessed.  Is this what you get when you jump into Georgian Bay at midnight on Nov 1?  If so I’ll make it annual.

The only painting I cannot sell the original of - inspired by Ted Huges' book "Crow", and painted after a near-death experience on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

The only painting I cannot sell the original of – inspired by Ted Huges’ book “Crow”, and painted in ten minutes after a life-threatening experience on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

We are alive in a rare time.

Perhaps I’m not the only one sensing this recent surge to collaborate with one another, to push the old boundaries of comfort, desire and suffering until a new level of release is achieved.  Tavener addressed it in his August interview (check the post before this one), Ted Hughes articulates it in a letter to his son (excerpted below) and if I look around me in close friends, family, colleagues I witness an active, sometimes urgently expressed willingness to … ‘turn and face the change’. Even, and maybe especially if there’s no clue as to what that IS.

my oldest friend Marcus' latest contribution to the ongoing conversation...

my oldest friend Marcus’ latest contribution to the ongoing conversation…

I found this at 6am this morning, written by one of my most favourite poets of all time – a writer brutal in his honesty, wild in his deprecating humour.  Share, share.

Ted Hughes, from a letter written circa 1985 to his Son Nicholas (it’s worth reading the entire text, and a brief contextual article)

….At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool — for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful. So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner. And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line — unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.

And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive — even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources — not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.

The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

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The deep rain

Even the loud old fridge is drowned out by straight-down-rain.  Not sheets and thunder and driving – but a rain that will drench us for days, soaking the soil, swelling the creeks, rising the shoreline of Georgian Bay above the sad sorry rocks that appeared this spring, covering their nakedness once again.  It is 12 minutes from midnight, and in this place water rules the world.

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After days and days of standing sweat this is the moment we’ve felt was coming. Come it has, all the way from the Rockies and the Purcells.  This same deep rain has fallen down through the foothills of Alberta into the basements of Calgary houses which are now buried in the mud and the death of water, their downstairs dens & offices rendered useless, their keepsakes now garbage-bin bound with the reminder: nothing is forever.

Three vast Canadian Provinces to the east, we are nowhere near a floodplain. Our houses are built on the bones of ancient sea creatures, layer upon layer of them still pushing up through the soil along the northeasterly curve of the Michigan Bowl. Half a mile to the east of this table lies the cold and deep of Georgian Bay, fed by a thousand thousand rivers, swelling now in ever-generous acceptance of more and more and more.  Here, we are nourished by the same deep rain.

This rain comes from God – from a place where the details of human life have no meaning.  This rain, heavy on our metal roof and our gardens is the consistent, inexorable kind of rain that erodes illusion and denial, lays bare the bones inside of a feeling.  What is laid bare becomes an honest offering on the altar of Acceptance:  Ah. I see, now.

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I’m almost crosseyed with tiredness after a long long day of listening to music, tweaking arts business strategies, watching baton twirlers, karaoke tweens, future head boys (also a few who could command world change but opt instead for just pitching in to the school talent show for now until they’re good and ready to save us all) – teach, rehearse, promote, schedule, rehearse, cajole, listen, play, insist, back off, stifle two yawns, spark a few ideas, accept two challenging projects, steer clear of others….  a day in the life of all who work in the vast, unquantifiable ocean of The Arts.  Always satisfying, sometimes enthralling, mostly just alot of good, clean, decent work.

The idea that diverted me from the sleep I should be rolling in right now hovers around the concept of muscle memory.

In the process of teaching the fingers of my left hand to think differently so that I can play the fast bits of the Faure Elegie,  I’ve learned that my mind has also developed deep muscled habits that no longer serve well.  Several of these were paths laid first in my childhood, and are now like canyons…

Ah.  Yes I see, now.  To change my mind – this will take a great deal of steady steady work.

So, tonight in the deep dark rain I stand before the Altar of Acceptance, and on it I offer my love –  for the terrible, astonishing beauty of Change.


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The day before Sandy

The wind is powerful today, even here.

Sudden southeasterlies are brutal and mean, knifing through whatever pitiful layers of outerwear I have:  Go in – NOW.  Find warmth.  Survive.  My God.  If it’s like this here, it must be utter chaos over the northeastern United States.

For reference, and thanks to The Ottawa Citizen and Google maps. more maps here:
http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2012/10/29/interactive-graphics-hurricane-sandy-storm-track-maps-2/

The sky’s heavy with blue-gray clouds pushed relentlessly backwards over bare whipping branches, roiling pine and cedar.  There is no place, no thing that is still outside.

The chestnut tree bends and flaps a final brilliant yellow,  asters glow their brave singing violet to the bruised sky.

I feel a deep, rumbling snarl rise in my gullet in answer to the harshness of this, as if I’m defending my home and young against a dangerous territorial threat.  So I bundle up my snarling gullet and stand defiant on the edge of the escarpment, belly, chest and face to southeast.

From here I can see the normally peaceful lee side of Owen Sound whipped from an indigo centre to a pounding froth – as though it’s suddenly remembered how to kill.

It’s good – to be reminded how small we are, on this planet.


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in the dark of the moon

The clouds are pale indigo-violet, then a blustery bruised grey shot through with long warm lines of golden sunlight  and rich blue – this sets the red reds and the yellow yellows and the living greens in brilliant, stop-in-your-tracks collaboration.  I feel as though I’m watching the gods at play in a game where they best one another in acts of impossible beauty.

From far and away family gathers to roll around in the astonishing splendour of where and when we are together at the end of growth — so brief this year.  Together we stop in our tracks and wonder.  Then we move on, we joke, we sing, we cook, we eat, we drink – though it’s perhaps true that this year that none of us are left without feeling privately humbled by the world through which we’ve hiked.

Three days, then family leaves reluctant, less difficult, more compassionate maybe than last year, though it’s hard to say.  Then the wind whips up every leaf from it’s branch to dance it high like opera, like gregorian chanting for four days – then pitches each one down in its own time to serve as mulch for 2013.

The rain, the hail and the heavy heavy sky nightly calls the woodstove to warm, and we feel compelled willy-nilly to finish what was undone – to clear, stow away, cover up, rake and dig while we imagine the day soon come when we cannot.

We know this in our skins, just watching the feverish feeding birds and chipmunks.  We catch ourselves nodding up at the sky as though to a partner we know well who sends clear signal:

it will be a heavy winter.

An incredible January hike in 2009 – ice formed on the tops of all the trees along the north-facing shore of Georgian Bay. We were astonished, all of us.

There’s a part of me that’s eager.  The fast pace of things this year flows in my veins and there may be at last some time to slow down and warm up on the inside, to listen to the resonance of what has occurred, in this year the Mayans were so clear to note in stone.

…we hike in North Sydenham, while the ground shifts beneath us, which it always has done, and always will.

I do hope, wherever you are, that you feel just as deeply grateful for what’s right in front of you – including your own self.

This is dedicated, in part – in a large part – to Amanda Todd who died last week.

Hug from me, A.T.

K