"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Sound Track

It's raining. I can hear it. I am listening, drawn to its perfect noise, like the sound track to a film noir movie. This rain, it slaps agains the paving stones underneath the downspout like a hand clap. It moves against the trees and the side of the building like pin-filled waves. It falls and drips over the yard light like honey. There is no law, no amendment for it. This rain follows no party, has no allegiance. It does not care for you. 

But that's a lie. 

Really, that is a lie.

Sunday, 20 November 2016


The wind rides through like a gang of 
Sharp thieves, shaking down the trees.

"Turn yer pockets out."

It blisters across the lawns,
Through the summer furniture left out,
Chairs upturned as if guests left in a hurry,
Noses into the corners and slides through the Fence,

Thorough, like a shadow.

It reeks of brittle edge,
Unrolls blankets of harsh change toward winter.

"Ain't to be trifled with."

Spends the day, hollerin' 'n spittin', 
Stuffing treasured remnants of the warm fall in 
Saddle bags, under hats, in torn pockets.

Someone, it's the grocer's kid, 
Hauls off on a green-broke mare,
Undetected, out the back lane,
No saddle and a quick-made bosal,

Hell-bent to summon spring.

Friday, 18 November 2016

 This Pause

There is poetry in us. All of us. It waits, gently biding its time, woven deep throughout the lengthening tapestry of our days, fuelled by our subtle senses that guide us along our human struggle. Then, a connection is made; there is a realization, an understanding, and up it comes in a moment. The format; size and shape is boundless, big as human thought. Over the last few years, I've found this source in Charlotte Hale's Gallery in Mirvish Village in Toronto. The gallery closed November 1st, a casualty of the coming Mirvish Village Development. In this ending I pause, and consider the shape of what was.

Charlotte Hale's Gallery (Charlotte Hale & Associates), 588 Markham Street, opened in December of 2013. Charlotte welcomed both world renowned, and new, emerging artists to come and hang their work on her gallery walls. She was focused and stubborn in her belief that good art was important and that there had to be a way to get this message across. There had to be a way, even in these difficult times, to gently rouse the general public to the sensuality of art; its ability to access the human heart and soul if allowed; to rouse the public to art's emotional power; a catalyst for drawing out something remarkable inside the viewer as they take part in the process simply by looking. She wasn't selling widgets. Charlotte was, in a way, trying to match people up with a different paradigm through sculpture, photography, and painting. An Herculean task. It was difficult.

But magic did happened as people came, both visitors, and regulars from the neighbourhood, and found themselves forming solid bonds with each other. For me, it was the conversations around the art that opened me up. It was the delight in meeting a new face that turned into a good friend. It was the joy in seeing the joy in another as we ran into each other. It was having the chance to interview so many in the Village for Gerald Pisarzowski's, The Mirvish Village People, and through that, to realize just how special the entire neighbourhood was.

I don't think I took it for granted. Charlotte and I often spoke about how wonderful Mirvish Village was, powered as it was by the artists and business owners: some eccentric, many charming, all unique. I felt, for the time that I was involved with the gallery, that I belonged. I felt I had earned my place there on my own merits,

... and, baby, it had been a long time since I had felt that.

I am sad that Charlotte's gallery is closed. I am sad that Mirvish Village, a thriving, vibrant artistic neighbourhood is being dumped for another tedious condo. But if this is the way things must go, I am, at least, tremendously grateful to have been a part of it. I have Charlotte, and a cadre of the loveliest people as my dear friends. They have all added their poetry to my tapestry, and it is lovely. 

In this pause, I think I am lucky, indeed.

Friday, 11 November 2016


I went to the Uxbridge Cenotaph for the Remembrance Day ceremony today. I admit that I had not gone for several years for the simple reason that it makes me cry. I don't mean, shedding a simple tear, but rather, sobbing; shoulders going, the whole thing. And it was always embarrassing because nobody else ever seemed to fall apart like me. But today I went because damn it it's been a terrible week and it was time for me to show up. 

I'm standing on the outer apron of the crowd and the ceremony starts. There are bagpipes and the trumpet(I managed, somehow to hold it together), and speeches and the poem. All the while I notice that the traffic lights, two sets of which I can clearly see, are working as if everything is normal. The road lights change from yellow, to red, to green, and there is the added arrow for the advanced green. For pedestrians, the crosswalk sign blinks up the all-powerful pixilated hand to dissuade anyone from crossing the road, then signals the all-clear with an outline of a walking human, a kind of nod to the Lite-Brite days. For extra safety, this screen switches to display the time you have left if you are making the journey across the road, or considering it.

All of this is choreographed to move travellers through the intersection without incident, like an intricate dance. 

I stood there, watching the lights change, while listening to names being read out of soldiers who died in battle, meanwhile a bright sun, with warmth blazing through the cool November wind, warmed my face. I felt to be a human walking on the earth and the very idea, that there is


 seemed abstract and ridiculous... 

...because it's completely unnecessary.

 It is only because of arrogance that battles are fought. It is only a dictator flouting an ideology that suppresses or threatens others that sends the troops into battle. Some arrogant fuck-head widens the gap of inequality somewhere, because he's corrupt, insecure, or a posturing fuck-head with an overdeveloped reptilian brain and you have trouble. 

Initially, I was going to write,

Wouldn't it be nice to have traffic indictors guiding us in the rest of our lives,

but it dawned on me that that was not right. That was, in fact, the problem; the desire to wait for external indicators, for someone else to lead the charge. If, in our daily lives, we continue to stand around waiting for lagging signals from outside, we are lost, I feel. We have the ability to be tapped-in and guided by our own guts, our own hearts. When you see that your neighbour has no food or water and is living in a cardboard box,

                                                YOU KNOW.

You can sense that it's not right. You feel it inside. You don't need someone to tell you. You don't need a permit to help that person out. Or if that fuck head down the road decides to run for office and he hates everything and wants to pave the children,




Life is hard, and it can also be glorious. I believe that the truly glorious part comes when we connect with each other in an authentic, beautiful way, organically, without having to wait for lights.

Right now, there is an enormous fuck head in our midst. There is no other poetically perfect phrase for him. I believe that now is the time for all of us to show up, and piss him off by loving each other fiercely, no matter what. You know that's right. I know you can sense it. 

It's been a long, terrible, jarring week, and,

I love you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Processing Standing Rock and Trump

My experience in the Standing Rock Solidarity March was profound. It solidified the concept of community and the need for agency. It helped me to see hope. It helped me to feel that we can make headway. And I am no longer hesitant or squeamish about saying that we must


That used to make me uncomfortable.

 Used to.

Three days after the march, Trump wins the U.S. Presidential election and hate is back in style. Many of the civil rights milestones that we thought, or assumed, were set deep into the American foundation are at risk of being dislodged and laid bare, again.

But I'm in Canada. Why should I care? 

Not only because there are many Americans down there that I love dearly, but because I can feel the shudder of vitriol, like a razor-sharp wave passing easily over the border: We are compadres, them and us; with the whole world, actually. The results of this election felt similar to narrowly evading an attacker: It was traumatic. And I was left feeling that things will never be the same. I felt the need to fight to get my balance back, my calmness, my  belief in my place in all of this. I felt sick.

Trump is NOT what this world needs right now. 

We do NOT need to go back to an ice-cold,  judgementally fear-based agenda hell-bent on insular, non-inclusive attitudes towards


What we need is to be able to fiercely and energetically continue, and ramp-up, the discussions that were already underway, together; to re-set and expand on the liberal democracy that allows for the potential of tremendous human potential.  To work towards a more inclusive, greener framework that allows space for everyone to contribute to defining and solving the difficulties of managing our changing, shifting societal landscape. Its intent is equality instead of stratification. It does not support any ideas of suppression or arrogant belittling of any sector of the population. Such behaviour is juvenile and non-productive. Such is the behaviour of a stump-dumb bully. Or bullies.

I'm not denying the fact that there were problems. Absolutely not. The treatment of blacks by the police, the gun lobby, jobs, and the handling of refugees are just part of the list. 



...but TRUMP? 

Why would anyone want to go backwards? Why would we want stop-and-frisk to become constitutional? Or Roe Vrs. Wade to be repealed? Or climate change to be denied? Or...the gun lobby?  Think about this. The only reasons I can come up with are fear and ignorance 2.O. 

But here we are.

Now what do we do?

Well, get your cleats on.
Be fierce. 
Learn the facts. 
Get elected. 
Make the speech. 
Confront the tyrant. 
Embrace your family, AND your neighbours. 

Never assume, ever again,

 and be mindfully loving...  


Oh and in case you need a little refresher? 
Article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Article 2:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

That is all. Now, get to it.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Standing Rock: The End of Complicity? 

 Chief Stacey LaForme, Mississauga's of the New
Credit First Nation.  Photo: John Davidson, 2016

I attended Toronto's Standing Up with Standing Rock: Solidarity March on November 5th. I was not sure what to expect. I had been following the North Dakota Access Pipeline Protest (NDAPL) on social media (because mainstream media coverage has been shamefully timid) and felt moved to participate in this march. 

I mean really moved. Like I could not look at myself in the mirror if I didn't attend.

The march, along with others throughout North America, was organized to peacefully support the Sioux Nation in North Dakota, joined now by tribes from around the world, protesting Energy Transfer's pipeline as it threatens to bludgeon its way, uninvited, through native treaty lands including sacred burial sites and then under the Missouri River, the community's water source. The appalling behaviour of the militarized police force-on-steroids against the peaceful, prayerful efforts of the native community to simply protect its water and sacred sites, is mind boggling. 

The fact that the pipeline route was shifted from the mostly-white town of Bismarck, due to their concerns about potential pipeline leaks, to the Dakota Access land is brazenly insulting and racist.



So, yes, I wanted to show my support because I can't stand this anymore.

                                                     Photo: John Davidson, 2016

My photographer friend and I showed up an hour early for the event and were worried that attendance might be slim. By the time the event started, there was little room to maneuver. There was a significant gathering estimated at close to four-thousand people; a vibrant show of support.

                 Suzanne Smoke. Sinew Kwe, Golden Eagle Woman,
                                Medicine Clan from Alderville First Nation, Mississauga's
                                of Rice Lake.   
                                                                   Photo: John Davidson, 2016

Several speakers opened the event. They spoke of the fact that this march was not about hate, but only love. 

"This march is peaceful. It's going to exude so much love!" ~Elder Pauline Shirt, of the Plains Cree, Red-Tail Hawk Clan. 

There were descriptions of the ties and responsibility that we all have to the water and the earth. There was a speech about the power and importance of women and their likeness to mother earth. There was a poem about the sacred trust that is our treaty to care for the planet. And there was continuous praise for the Water Protectors, the natives facing the police and enduring at Standing Rock.

There was the smell of sage burning, and the heart-thumping sounds of the drummers on their own and with song.

                                    Elders, including Pauline Shirt of Plains Cree, Red-
                                    Tail Hawk Clan, supporter of Toronto Aboriginal 

                                                         Photo: John Davidson, 2016

The march began, led by a group of elders. I was helping my photographer friend shoot without bumping into people so I got to watch from the sidelines. I saw a strong native community woven among others of all colours and persuasions. There were children. There were grandparents. There were homemade, and printed signs. There were drums and rattles. There was sage. And hope...

                                                        Photo: John Davidson, 2016

To say that this Toronto march was a peaceful event is like saying that Louis Armstrong was entertaining; it falls anemically short. From the opening speaker to the final circle dance at Nathan Phillips Square, I felt a powerful, almost overwhelming positive energy...

                                                         Photo: John Davidson, 2016

                              Love, really.

I joined the circle dance at the square. This involved a line of people holding hands that was so long, it circled the square twice. We moved to the sounds of the drummers. I didn't know my hand-mates, but we talked as if we were friends. We talked about how powerful the drumming was. We smiled. We hooted and clapped as the circle drew tighter around the centre. I felt energized and more emotionally in-tune than I have in a long time. You get that many people together, opening their hearts and praying for change, and it's probably difficult to avoid such a feeling.

                                                             Photo: John Davidson, 2016

The oppression that the native community has had to endure is unforgivable, here in Canada as well as, well, the world-over, and yet...AND YET, its members are graciously confronting the intrusion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, 

the Black Snake, 

with non-violence. This show of bravery and dedication to the earth, contrasted with the line of police-thugs who are intimidating and harming on behalf of a private oil company, illustrates clearly how bad things have become. 

                                                           Photo: John Davidson, 2016

If we are smart, we will join in and take the native lead, making our water and the earth our priority over irresponsible extraction and greed. I see this as the only possibility we have of leaving a habitable, beautiful planet for our children.

Loretta McDonald, Charlotte Hale

Photo: John Davidson, 2016



I hope this is the beginning of change; the end of complicity. 

                                                 Gwendolyn Grey: Water Lady

                                                                       Photo: John Davidson, 2016

I hope this is the beginning of a wave of shifting ideology about what it means to be a human on this planet.

                                              Loretta McDonald
                      Photo: John Davidson, 2016



                                  I hope. 

I was honoured to be a part of the Standing Rock Solidarity March and I support NDAPL. I want change.