"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!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Pacing


There are mysteries winding through this world of ours that bow and arch just out of my reach. They hit the ground, change a thing, and then vault into the ether, leaving their handiwork for us to puzzle over. One of these mysteries messed with a friend of mine not too long ago and I have been pacing and trying to figure ever since. 

One minute, a fellow is primed and busy, and the next he has a hard disagreement with machinery. His familiar reality of the world and time tips into a completely new paradigm, confusing and gut-wrenchingly strange as he wakes into it. And here I am, at my desk watching the rain-soaked leaves of the trees nodding and shifting in the last thoughts of the evening sun. There he is, in the hospital room, rallying, but with a helluva fight on his hands; unfair on a herculean scale. He is surrounded by family. They are mighty, but also wonderfully soft; kind like he is. Damn it if there is anything I can figure to do.

I am on the outer edge of that family's social circle. I had only met the man twice. Everything about our meeting was strange, like it was important for some reason. To have been there on the day of the accident; to know that there was only a trickle of a few hours until the beginning of the biggest challenge of his life, bothers me, worries at me like some idea or a theory that I just can't see. I can't solve for x. I can't find the criminal. There is nothing to swing my sword at.

So I meditate, and I send my love to him and to the whole family, and I pace. I try to sort it out but it won't sort. I know others have been through similar scenarios but this is not the time. I don't want to hear of those. Maybe later, but right now, this is the one I am lost in. This is the only mystery I am trying to solve. I imagine most of his friends are twisting themselves in an effort to find an answer also.

Nothing for us but to wait. Still, I clench my jaw. I grab the sides of my head and in a flash, try to imagine what in hell he is going through at that very moment. I can't imagine. I can only sift through what I am learning about the world and myself from this, and continue to try to tap into that one good stream that connects us all to send him and his family everything that I can. It seems a pathetic gesture, but in the confines of time and healing, there is nothing else.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Me Now There Then


On a recent sunset ride, I heard the songs of spring frogs, males hollerin' for their honeys. It sent me back to when I was a kid on the farm. I remember hearing my father pulling into the driveway one evening, home from the city. I went out and saw him standing behind the car, the trunk open, his hands were on his hips and he was looking out towards the pond. I remember his shirt and tie, his brown suit pants and leather shoes. He was handsome, but troubled. He had something on his mind. I walked to the back of the car and saw a new bike lying in the grass, pink with white tires and a white banana seat, my size.  He didn't know how to give it to me and I didn't know how to take it, but I eventually pulled it to standing and rode it up and down the driveway for the rest of the evening. I listened to the frogs in the pond singing their hearts out.

It would be nice if the rules of reality were forgiving. It would be nice to be able to slide back in time on the sound of one of those frog songs, step through back into me at that time, knowing what I know now. I would put the bike down, thread my arms into my father's and ask him what was on his mind. I would do the same with my mother and get the two of them to open up and talk to each other. I would sit with them in the kitchen until the barriers got cracked and crumbled. I would help them navigate their awkwardness at vulnerability and we would begin a new, vibrant dynamic, loud and boisterous like those bloody frogs. As a result, my father would still be here. Both of them would still be living at the farm, the house renovated to let in gobs of light. They would be fiercely in demand by grandkids and good friends for nothing other than fun. They would have a goat or two and a passel of dogs that would cause trouble on the evenings when they would host a theatre group in the barn; their own Chautauqua. Mom would have swapped out her apartment upright for a proper grand piano. Dad would write and fish, and my heart wouldn't ache so much.




Friday, 2 June 2017

Carousel



The leaves are out on the big maple tree across the yard from my apartment. It's not a tree with a single, grand trunk, but two good ones, then limbs and branches continuing off of those. Its silhouette makes a compelling puzzle of the night sky; stars and planets winking at me through the breaks. The sky seems to rotate faster than you think. Of course, it's not the sky that's moving but the illusion is part of the show.  Each wink marks time as it threads through the tree, like fairy lights around a fast carousel. It is easy to dread this speed; easy to fret about what needs to be done as if it makes a difference, as if the constellations will change because you're worrying. 

It would be curious to hang on tight and accelerate the spin to see into the future, then back the ride up to the moment with the help of a reliable carni. But the thing I'm realizing is that the glory is in the reveal, the process. It demands getting yourself to a place where you can see and really be in the world as you maneuver through the quotidian tasks of the day. Then, and only then, can you experience the ineluctable discovery of the very thrill of you;

 YOU ARE THE PRIZE!  

Once you grok this, your life turns into the sensual, exhilarating experience it was meant to be. This doesn't mean that there is nothing but cotton candy from here-on-in, but there is less emptiness, less of a compulsion to simply make it through the day, become numb. 

As Bill Hicks said, "It's just a ride."

If you're head is down, mind toiling, seething, you're going to miss the best parts, plus...plus you'll probably drop your fucking ice cream.



Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Ascent



I am cycling up a winding hill. Deep into the first rising turn, a crow stands pecking at some prize, cocks his head to look at me like a wise-guy at a bar. He hops once, exuding more annoyance than fright as I approach, then he opens his glorious back, wings reaching with feathers like divine velvet armour in this late-day sun. He rises, angles high in the air in front of my bike, then slips to the grassy shoulder with no more strain than a sigh; a display of ease and finesse as if mocking my effort. Crow lifts off again and watches me continue up the grade while he swoops and twirls in the close forest, then sets down on the road ahead of me as if to say,

"See how easy this is with wings? See what I can do?"


I nod and laugh. My bike feels perfect, like it's a part of my body. I take in the sweet spring air and in this sacred moment, feel my heart fill, as if to say, 

"See how thrilling it is to be alive?  See how much love I have?"




Friday, 12 May 2017

Leroy


There is nothing better than good conversation. To sit with another and share ideas, thoughts without the dictatorial calibrations of time or any secondary agenda is rare and precious. I have noticed of late that we are often better at talking than listening, sometimes eager to unleash our own concerns like rice out of a sack without a spit of hesitation. And that's a shame. It's a shame because we are cheating ourselves out of the sacred experience of getting to know ourselves, of recognizing the soul that is ours in its naked truth responding to another, sheltered only by our belief and the intrinsic desire to be authentic. The thing is, this kind of discovery takes guts. Not everyone is ready, but when you are, and you go through it, you are keen to run into others. There is little else but the hope of this to summon the strength to throw back the sheets and test your shadow in the new day's sun. Everything else is tedious.


When I was a kid, we had large groups of people out to our farm. Few came from my father's corporate world. Most came from the Quaker part of our family life and were made up of myriad personalities seemingly separated by minute and monumental differences as the day is long.  As a kid, many of the people in our meeting made me want to yawn and roll my eyes. There was, however, one man who always stood out, whom I was always glad to see. His name was Leroy, emphasis on the second syllable. He was married to a lovely woman named Pearl, and the pair, though humble, had more class and spice than any other couple I could name.  Leroy was absolutely authentic, the real deal, and if you were in a conversation with him, you were too. He wore a straw hat in the summer, less to keep the sun off of his head than to prevent, I think, the sun from being outshone by his smile. Such a smile he had! To him, I was not a bother. He was interested in what I was up to. We would talk and he would laugh the most delightful laugh. Not a big belly laugh, but something lighter, as if he was a conduit of joy from the heavens. We would discuss all kinds of things, and when we parted, I felt special. I felt seen. I'm not sure how we would have met outside of the strangeness that was our farm.  Whatever the machinations behind it, I am grateful for our bond. He was like an angel sent to rescue me from losing my mind, from feeling invisible, like a spectre.

You don't have to connect deeply with everyone in the world. You can't. Some humans are sleepwalking, hardly aware of the tender heart beating inside of them. The grander swath, hopefully, is learning, growing, and stretching toward the goal of openness and the ability to sense the rich poetry of life: the deepest love, the most vibrant consideration of humanity, and the fired desire to care and caress.  The hard part, the risk, is committing to being open and vulnerable, but then knocking against another's armour: the closed body language, the words of defence and distance, and a self-righteous air worn like fancy tack on a parade horse. There is no grace in whittling away someone's worth. There is no power in declining an offer to be present and truthful. But it is hurtful. Traumatic, even. Behaviour likened to a bully. It's disappointing to have such an experience, especially from someone you've known for some time, but when you think back, you realize that you have stretched so much further. You have outgrown them and the need for armour. You have nothing to hide and everything to give. According to the way this poetry works, you DO have the difficult task of seeking out new souls in similar step. Hard to find this late in life, but the option to settle is, well, it's not an option. I do have a few good friends, helpful and supportive, but busy in their own lives. I look forward to running into that special one, that person who lights me up, where neither of us want to rush off to anything more important, because what is there that could be? 

I am grateful to have known Leroy. He bookended the start of the most charged parts of my life, strewn with beauty, hopeful narrative, and tragedy enough.  Surprisingly, now, I am grateful to have gone through the challenge of the past years, as dark and insurmountable as they seemed at different times. I couldn't be who I am with what I have to offer in any other way. So, when you're ready, you with your sacred soul, whomever you are, wherever you are, send up a flare! I'll make tea and we will have ourselves a long, luxuriously rambling conversation out in the sunshine.










Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Courage


One trick I have when walking into a challenging social situation is to pretend I am someone else. The someone depends on the situation. Usually, it's a fictional character. I don't do this all of the time. More often than not, I am me, but if there's a room full of challenging personalities, or some sort of overwhelming interaction in the works, I might reach back into a Cormac McCarthy novel and wind myself around one of his characters:

"Officer, I do agree I was moving with a certain marked intensity. Just tryin' to get clear of my history...keeps snappin' at my boots.  I reckon if I were to keep on, I would only run into the back end of it eventually. Here's my license and insurance."

Or Kathryn Hepburn:

 "You are an absolute gift! Cherish the energy you must have to speak so clearly and for such duration without hardly a breathe! Such a strong voice...clarifying the clarified so we are not left to the random, unbridled peace of our own thoughts.  What a waste that would be. Care for a toffee?"

There are, however, situations in our lives that demand the authentic us and nothing but. To venture in with anything other than our truth and vulnerability is to cheat ourselves and squander the opportunity to make ground in our struggle forward. I found myself, recently, laid bare, open and honest, having shrugged off the usual pleasantries and tired conversation that I now find suffocating. From deep, deep inside came words that should have been said well back in my history. I felt them coming. I stood down and let them come, all the while terrified. It was like an exorcism, something more powerful than me. Once the words were out, I stood amazed that I had said them. Stunned that I had had the courage, finally, to get this out, to demand another to be accountable. This would never have happened years ago, deep in that history, but I am not the person I used to be. Not even close.  

This event shook me. I felt like I had been in a fist fight. I was almost sick. I figured myself unravelling and tumbling into chaos, rolling towards my ultimate demise until an objective third party, wise, thoughtful, made the observation to the contrary. I had stepped up. I had done something new. This was a big deal for me. Very big. McCarthy could not have done this. Hepburn neither. This was pure me.

In the words of David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest), "The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you."

I do believe he was on to something...and I ain't done yet.






Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Angel


I spin out of the revolving door into an uppercut by a cold April wind. I take it, still dazed from an earlier battle; a day with a judgemental, condescending harpy in full-blown ego who sends my very soul to the wall. 

                    "Use your words," 

she says when I choke on part of a conversation. Subtle. Mean. Sums me up with,
 
         "Hmm. A Quaker raised on a farm!" 

in a throw-away, arrogant tune. It took all of my strength not to explode out of my chair and pin her by the throat against a shattered window...explain through clenched teeth that there is no scale from 1-to-10 for this rage that I have, and it didn't come from the Quakers. It came from Beefeater, darkness, unbearable heartbreak, and two cartridges from a shotgun. 

But I don't. I endure and behave. Now, hours later, I'm out on the street weighed down with my bags strapped over my shoulders, committed to continuing this fraud of contentment, of competence, taking random hits from wind and spatters of rain doled out like difficult blessings from a crazed priest. I walk up University. I can not bear the subway right now. I am constantly pushing my hair up out of my face and imagine that if I sat on a corner with a cup, nobody would think it strange. 

Outside of the hospital on my route, I notice a middle-aged man bent over near the curb fussing with a bundle of bags or maybe a bike. He is wearing old hospital scrub pants and a navy-blue bomber ski jacket with hood. He has a bandana around his greying, wild hair and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. His face is seasoned like a creased leather bus seat. I am ten feet away from him, trying to figure his story, when he turns to take a cursory look at me. He stops what he is doing and looks again, rests his hands on his thighs and in a voice betraying the scrape and grit of a hard life, says, 

            "You are so fucking beautiful." 

He stands and takes the cigarette out of his mouth, pivoting as I pass.
 
"You are...you are so fucking beautiful. You've got it. You've got everything...fucking beautiful..."

I keep moving but turn and smile at him. I make it clear that I am grateful, acknowledging him, pulling my hair out of my face again and walking backwards away from him. He is still talking but the wind scuttles his words. I wave and turn back towards my route. Something about him; his sincerity cloaked in whatever unknowable lunacy or struggle, timing as if sent. It wasn't like I was wearing a cocktail dress and heals. I had cowboy boots, jeans and a trench coat. 

So I take it. Keep walking. Slowly unclench my fists.






Friday, 14 April 2017

Cycling Clothes are Ridiculous


After my ride, a seat by the pond: cat tails blown on paper stalks, soon to lean out of the way for new green. Bird chatter. Pairs running sorties for nests:

"Honey I got that twig you wanted."

Wind sidling through the trees, dropping down to test the water and send new ripples across the surface.  Behind me, naked maples catching the sun's heat make a point of ignoring me.

"Eyes closed everyone. She'll go away. They all do...and what the hell is she wearing?"

I can hear the frenetic scurrying of squirrels:

"Hey. Someone took my fucking twig!"

"Relax. Would you relax? Have a nut."

Subtle shifting along the forest floor. Everyone knows what to do. 





Monday, 27 March 2017

Wrapped


I'm sitting in the audience waiting for an afternoon concert to get underway. There is a choir, and two dear friends are playing in the accompanying string chamber orchestra. The venue is a big old church, brimming with old church smell and the whispers of human endurance through historical political change. Then there's me: I've been angry lately; waking up and wanting to put my fist through a wall. Here, I'm sitting, constantly scanning my body, unclenching fists, relaxing shoulders, letting my jaw go so nobody notices. Everything seems like such an effort. 

                          The music starts. 

The one requirement of classical music is that you open yourself to it, let yourself be vulnerable. This music doesn't work if you use only your ears. Your heart's the thing. Otherwise it's like looking at a painting with your eyes closed. Open yourself up, the notes sift through your soul like the fire or caress of whatever story is being told.

                                  Like life.

So, I'm open and notes from Beethoven's Mass in C find their way in and settle me down. 

It feels good. For a moment, I am aware of where I am in space and time. I grab onto a note and wrap myself around it instead of letting it disappear up into the ether. I want it for myself. I want to use it as a weapon against this anger. Use it to pry open these fucking knots forcing me to ruminate over the unchangeable, the dealt hand. I'm trying to shake loose offhanded, arrogant comments that have made the last chunk of time like trying to travel on stilts while someone swings at them with a bat. Powerful. I am amazed at how powerful. 

                                  Words.


Why am I so damn angry? Why the desire to spit fire now?


 I feel empty. I feel like a sucker, like my tiny victories happen in the wrong arena after the crowd has left, but somehow this is supposed to be good enough. I should just run along now. No idea how long this scenario is going to last. It seems different than the others.  Deeper. Get the knots undone and use the freed rope to climb down to terra firma.



I'm holding onto this note for now. Its nuance makes the rest of the world seem ridiculous but without it I feel no grounding. I can't be the only one, but it sure as hell feels that way.










Friday, 24 March 2017

Energy Vampire



This past week I found myself having to spend time with two energy vampires. Fuck me. I'm still tired. Thinking of it a year from now will probably still make me tired.

                                  Jesus. 

I'm sure you've all experienced being preyed on by the energy vampire though the term may be new to you. I don't want to get all flakey here. I'm not secretly rounding up memberships for Ed's Chakra Shack. Talking about personal energy is a risk. Not everyone is keen on it but if you've been around one of these vampires you will know what I'm talking about. You feel yourself being deflated, sucked dry of any spark you had. 

It was awful:


  "What the hell is going on?" I asked myself. 

One minute I'm laughing, sharing stories, jokes with a bunch of guys over here, and the next, I'm standing talking to someone else in a hallway feeling like my insides are trying to roll themselves up and go home without me. My self-esteem, confidence and creativity have all called a cab. The person in the hallway? Energy vampire. Damn it. 

There is nothing they say that is terrible. They seem, initially, to be good people. There is nothing about them that overtly suggests that they might be dickheads. I don't think they even realize their vampirousness. I did notice, in both interactions this week (second one happened elsewhere) that neither vampire was comfortable in silence. I like silence; gobs of it. I am a fan of breathing, pondering and, I know it's crazy, but even pausing between sentences. These fuckers both mistook my silence as an invitation for them to talk. I found it necessary to fight the urge for me to scream and pull my lip over my head. It's hard to read the train schedule with your lip over your head so I endured.

It is unlikely I will ever meet these specific vampires again, but it could happen. Plus, in this sea of humanity, there is a good chance that I will run into another one, a new one, in an elevator, on a plane, running from armed republicans, you know, wherever life leads.

                          What do I do? 

How do I prevent them from draining me? Do I cover myself with gravy? Curl into a ball and roll into a corner? Punch a wall and then act like nothing happened? I'm not sure that there is a defence. Energy vampires are sneaky, subtle. Hard to pick one out of a crowd. Other than saying, "Excuse me, I have to leave because you suck," I think I have to consider them part of the landscape of humanity; annoying like highway construction, but not worth becoming a hermit. 

If you do have any ideas, let me know. I want to know, but right now I need a nap.



  



Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Weekend in Port Stanley



In all of this floundering, an opportunity to get a breath; a weekend in an old villa with ten people in mid-March: Painters, writers, photographers, two pilots, a communications expert, and two lovely young students.  The gathering, suggested and convened by Liz Kuzinski, a talented landscape and portrait artist. We are all tripping over ourselves to get there, packing, car pooling, navigating through capricious curtains of weather; sun one minute, then snow the next; the asshole wind shoving the van like a bully at recess.

We arrive and peel off our Zeitgeist armour at the door. The villa is comfortable, huge, and inviting like a favourite sweater. Knowing Liz, I am confident that I will be fond of her other invitees  and I am right. There is nobody I am hesitant to sit next to. The conversations throughout the weekend cover the wavering strengths and weaknesses of humanity, interspersed by long, therapeutic courses of laughter. One painter, Robin Grindley, has only to tilt his head and the rest of us are on the floor. On Saturday, we head out like a cartoon cloud with numerous feet sticking out the bottom. We explore the town, lacing our way through the shops despite the cold, arrogant wind coming off of Lake Erie. We run to watch as the lift-bridge raises and lets an ice-covered fishing boat through into the safe harbour.  Back to the house and an evening that fills with more people coming for dinner. I run into old friends of my family, a couple who had started an organic farm(Orchard Hill Farm) decades before it was the in-thing. This blows my mind.

The evening empties out into morning. We rouse, have breakfast, and linger, nobody keen to vacate. Time, the dictator, finally wins. We pack, load our van and leave the villa, but don't head straight home. One of the pilots is a volunteer with the Museum of Naval History in Port Burwell and has promised us a tour of the HMCS Ojibwa. How often do you get such an offer? Carl, our pilot, talks us through the sub, detailing the mechanism, the world scenario when the sub was in use, and the finesse required to live and work in such a rig. Me, I could not get over how little space there was. Hardly enough room to change your mind. I was floored at the engineering that went into this beast; a remarkable display of the ingenuity of man. I was also tremendously sad that all of this effort was sweated in order to fight a war against other humans. 

It should be noted that Carl, well over six feet, hit his head six times during the hour.

The weekend was over. I found it powerful, wonderfully unique in that the winter light and the vastness of the lake out the south window made it seem like the villa did not exist in real time or space. To be in a strange house, meeting people, running into old acquaintances, and then having a tour of a submarine, well, you'd think I was telling you about a dream I had.

Whatever it was, I was grateful for the break. 



Monday, 27 February 2017

Scenes



As frustrated as I am with life right now, I still take joy in the little scenes that happen when I am out in the world. Today I rose from a fitful, almost combative sleep in time to catch an early train into the city. I was grumpy and chewed my coffee with a certain disdain during the drive to the station. I waited on the platform with Trump amount of people; seemed like a million, might have been fifty, all sleepy, many screen-hobbled. All of us wondering what we were doing at the train when we should be down at the harbour where our ship would come in. The train is full. No seat for many of us. I didn't complain. I'm an adult.

I pretended to be lost in time and space, standing there with my gear on the floor at my feet and my hand on the closest steadying pole. I tried to get fascinated with the safety warnings running along the tops of the windows. I crouched to look out at the lake as we passed. I pretended not to notice the totally ridiculous photos that this one woman, seated near me, was looking at. You would not believe... We arrived at Union and detrained, me frustrated because I was still grumpy. It was as if I hadn't really taken a full breath yet and didn't exist completely. This was all a movie. Then finally...

You can call it fake joy and you can take that to town and wail, but the servers at the Starbucks this morning triggered in me the feeling of a good pulse. Vibrant, attentive, Off-Broadway flamboyant, they teamed up to take my money and give me coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and the trade-marked and, yes I know, fictional feeling of being part of something hip. Play along with me. I felt better. I chose a seat one space away from a slightly older woman. I sat and before I had finished my chow, a gangly kid in a hoody, patinaed in a sorry attempt at rough demeanour, asked me for spare change. Remember, I was feeling better. I was included in hipness. I gave him a buck. The kid thanked me and moaned his plea to the lady. Without hesitation, she summoned the voice of some vile character from perhaps a Stephen King novel and spitted,              


                    "Whadda YOU think?"


 

I assumed she had the breakfast-vitriol sandwich. I did not make eye contact but feel sure that I caught a glimpse of her head rotating. Our boy made fast steps away.

I finished eating, walked towards the main entrance and stopped to do up my coat. There were three important-looking construction workers wearing white helmets, standing, arms folded, low talking in short sentences out in the middle of the hallway. They seemed to be trying to solve something. I looked down and happened to see an allen key on the floor behind the seat next to the wall. I grabbed it and walked toward them holding the shiny "L" for them to see. 

"Looking for this?"
"What is it?"
"Allen key. You guys looked like you were missing something."

They stood and blinked for one beat, two beats. 

"It was supposed to be a joke. I figured you could finish the whole project now that you had this."

They relaxed, glad that I wasn't a lunatic. They laughed. I laughed. We laughed. There was much laughing. Fella on the end leaned over, 

"You can keep it!" 

"Excellent." I pocketed the key. "The day is mine!"

Three little scenes, all in the space of thirty minutes. Three little connections made, except for angry Marge, that helped me ground and balance.  I realize that I am grateful for this more and more lately. Plus, I'm one allen key richer.





Saturday, 25 February 2017

Your Truth



I don't like the word, journey. I know that it's popular when describing life, but it gives me the impression of moving along at a sensible pace with a steamer ticket and a packed lunch. It makes me assume that proper plans were made and that naps were taken, hats worn. Path is too idyllic. I think of grassy hillocks and sheep. Trajectory is close but involves too smooth a curve; careful calculation right from the beginning to avoid wobble. And there's lots of wobble. It dawned on me that the words I was considering were all physical descriptors when what I want is  something to describe internal growth. What I am looking for is a word to describe the Dawning Of the Comprehension Of Self As Crucible For Your Unique and Sacred Truth:

                 DOCOSACFYUST for short.

Yes, I suppose I could use, inner growth, but that makes me picture a middle-aged man wearing a thick woollen turtleneck sitting in a therapist's office. Yawn.

The process is varied for everyone. You are born, and you hit the ground charged with carrying forward the DNA of your ancestors. The environment may, or may not be nurturing. You may, or may not experience the mirroring or attachment that triggers a ravenous appetite for involvement and agency. You may look around one day in the family kitchen and wonder who the fuck these people are and why can't they see that you're doing a brilliant headstand while finishing a sandwich. You somehow thrive but more in spite of your environment. Gradually, in between taking care of everybody, you begin to comprehend your self. This might take twenty years, or it might take forty and you find yourself running to try to catch up to where you feel you should be. This is when someone says to you that,

 God never gives you more than you can handle

and you wonder how long your jail term would be if you reached over and throttled them. Because you want to throttle them. Vigorously. There is something in your DNA that is moving you forward but still forcing you to chew knots. Then, after five decades of bullshit you finally feel that you're close to being a real person when Trump happens. Now as you are, and with this DOCOSACFYUST, you find the hate unleashed by Trump traumatic but you can't look away. There is something in your DNA that is forcing you to engage, to poke the badger. 

Nothing is certain: life, politics, fantastic parking spaces. You wonder what the point of it all is. What is this truth? You're exhausted. You haven't had olympic-level sex in too long. But something keeps you moving ahead towards the next knot: DOCOSACFYUST, or whatever the proper word is, and a deep down desire, a craving for someone to simply acknowledge that you're standing on your fucking head.





Monday, 30 January 2017

Your Character

Years ago, I had a job working for a film director(Ousama Rawi) in Toronto. I was hired as a gopher initially and busied myself completing tasks such as figuring out which door matched each key on a ring of a what seemed like hundreds, or sourcing a missing console radio button on one of the K-cars used for errands. Rawi seemed like a nice enough guy, but demanded deference from his employees. It was rumoured that his secretary had a paint chip that she had to match his coffee to in order to avoid his disappointment. Okay, so perhaps he was a handful, but he was respected in his field and still is as far as I know. There were few remarkable days in his employ except for one: 

On this day, Rawi requested that I drive him and two other staff members somewhere. I met them at the car and pulled my seatbelt on as the three of them climbed into the back seat. I drove the car out of the parking lot and followed his demands, navigating down Spadina and through a largely asian chunk of the city. Rawi and his staff started laughing and making fun of the asian people crossing the street in front of us, or gathered on the busy sidewalks in front of the shops. The comments coming from the back seat were appalling and juvenile. I listened, considered, and then decided not to fold, not to laugh along for the sake of fitting in. I decided to concentrate on driving and avoid any hint of showing approval of their remarks. I looked back at them in the rearview mirror and then ahead to the road. They kept at it for what seemed like a very long time before Rawi asked me to drive back to the studio. I thought it was odd that there seemed to be no destination, no point to the trip. We arrived back where we started and got out of the car. Rawi then, put his arm around me and brought me into the office. He introduced me to everyone and slowly, it dawned on me that the little car ride was a test. He wanted to see what kind of character I had. Would I laugh along at something completely inappropriate and disgraceful simply because someone in power was doling it out? He was curious, and sneaky but he got his answer. Rawi was very kind to me from that moment on and had the studio not closed, I'm sure I would still have a place there. 

I've been thinking of that day lately. Now, more than ever, I feel it's necessary not to fold, not to enable hatred by allowing the terrible sentiment delivered in the package of an offhanded joke. It's time to summon your good character to action. We are all being tested on a global scale.



Wednesday, 25 January 2017

That Light


When I was a kid, I was good at stuff: I could run, throw, ski, bike, and climb, and I could sing every  TV ad jingle. It never mattered though. I never once remember my parents marvelling at my speed or arboreal locomotion prowess. I admit that it's been a while and there is a possibility that I could misremember, but I think I would have remembered seeing either of my parents' glowing faces as I crossed a finish line. Instead, what I remember is, 

Come on, it's time to leave for Quaker Meeting.

 Ugh. This sentence, usually hollered up by my father early on Sunday morning would send my brain down into its file room to try come up with an excuse that would relieve me of my having to attend:

I can't come. I've suddenly gone blind.
My legs are both broken.
I have a Journey song stuck in my head.

Quakers, for those of you figuring that I am made of oatmeal, is a religion basically about not being a dick to each other.  The premise is that there is the spirit of God in everyone, or the light as we call it. In consideration of this, Quaker Meeting has no minister. Everyone has a direct line so you can stand and gripe directly. Quakers are pacifists, and are accepting of other religions and races, because, light. The problem was that, for years, I was the only regularly attending kid in our meeting. One kid is not enough for Sunday school so I had to sit with the adults on the pews for the hour and listen to them drone on about Vietnam, El Salvador, or whatever the world had offered up for its violent, oppressive whim at the time. I found it to be excruciating. What exacerbated my frustration exponentially was the imbalanced focus at home. I could not understand why my father never went golfing or fishing like other people. He would come home from the city and help out in the barn or the fields, but he would talk to himself, mutter the whole time. I never saw him spend a whole day goofy and excited. We had an argument, he and I, one day. It was, I think, the only one. He was sotted, and sad about children of war somewhere and I had had enough. I wanted attention, you know, like a member of the family. So we yelled at each other for a few minutes, both standing at opposite ends of the house. It never took. I remember driving into town later that year, and seeing a man, by himself, with a placard, marching for El Salvador. It was my dad. I was horrified. I'm ashamed now to say that I was embarrassed.

Now I totally get it. 

Now with the Trump administration I can hardly function. I fear for the planet and humanity. Time has taken on a surreal feeling, braced to some extent by the women's march. I was grateful to have been one of the 60,000 people marching in Toronto and more around the world. It helped. But my diligent attempt at a balanced life has tipped. Now I am reeling at steps taken in Washington. I feel fiercely moved to reach back and draw forth my Quaker roots, no matter what kind of anger, change and struggle they fed on during my life up to now. They are, I'm glad to say, still solid. 

I am gut-dropped frustrated that in this age, 2017, some think it's okay to behave like a condescending dick towards others. Plus, the very idea of treating the planet as nothing more than an expendable way to make money, to me, heart-wrenching. Unforgivable. Astoundingly arrogant.



The comedian Bill Hicks said in regard to life,
It's just a ride. 

This is as much a perspective for us as it is for the Trump administration. None of the hate and posturing is necessary. Why on earth are they compelled to make the ride so shitty? Why are they so blind, keeping their lights so dim? Why not make the planet a great place for everyone? 

It could be so great!

I can't figure it out. I can hardly breathe. And I would give anything to go back, right now, and sit in meeting with my father again. I would do that in a heartbeat. No Journey songs. No excuses. Because I could use some kind of grounding to help figure out how to navigate this insanity right now and keep my own little flickering light burning.





Saturday, 14 January 2017

Going Forward



My favourite word, next to, shenanigans, and maybe obfuscate (which sounds like a sport), is the word gracious. Gracious, is defined as to describe someone who is marked by kindness and courtesy with some tact and delicacy thrown in. It requires a certain presence, an inner stillness and the rare ability to connect, listen and not judge. 

Tall shoes. 

The word came to me this morning, while mulling over this Trumpian dystopia we are all faced with. It seems that the world is losing its mind over him, and justifiably so. I won't go into the details of his petulant need to bully. You already know about that. But I can't think of a better way to anchor our efforts to maintain our integrity going forward than to be gracious in everything we do. Everything. This does not mean abiding, or being the least bit complacent. This does not mean escaping, becoming insular and self-serving. This means catching those throw-away comments, denigrative remarks made in jest and gently hauling them up onto the proverbial carpet. This means getting the conversation going but with grace. 

"What are your thoughts?" "That's an interesting viewpoint. What made you decide that?" 

Through personal experience, I've found that this process, completely non-judgemental and non-confrontational, serves to draw the person into reframing their perspective. Simply by hearing their own words(therapy) they can discover a problem or a struggle that they never realized that they had. You become the facilitator. The easiest scenario to start from is when someone says, 


   Well, there's nothing we can do about it.



That's the insidious anthem of the complacent. Really, it's the easiest opener of all. Start with the sacredness of our human connection and go from there. You've got this. Just be gracious. You can't lose.













Monday, 9 January 2017

Broken Plate

While house sitting, I broke a plate. I notified the house owners this way:



I have broken a plate. Pick one:

Hemingway:

She finished her dinner standing in the kitchen. The sun had set. It was a cold, gun-metal grey day that she was glad was done. She was not partial to any particular part of it. She set the plate down, olive oil shining on it; the only addition to the knot of spaghetti she had made for herself. She began cleaning up. The plate broke. The day ended. No fish.



F. Scott Fitzgerald:

She finished her dinner, oddly, by herself, standing in the kitchen, one hip shot against the island. She toyed with the loops of pasta knotted on her plate. She heard the wind howl up and pass outside, like nails against nylon. The sun, almost timid in this cold, hardly rose, at least not like the julep-prone summer. Those days when the summer breezes lifted the sheers like angels in song and flight! She finished her meal and began fiddling with cleaning something. She wasn’t sure how that worked. She was never comfortable in a kitchen, but here she was. She twisted one of the water taps on and then, as she watched the water pooling in the sink, she reached back to grab her dinner plate. There was the slightest tap and then the plate fell in pieces. It fell. In pieces. She turned and looked at it. The sink filled. 



Cormac McCarthy:

In this world everything breaks. It is only time that marks the history of the event. A heart broken is the only breakable that can be hidden and yet it is the most painful. Everything else leaves a mark, a clue: Cattle through a fence, a busted femur from the fall off of a green broke horse or the bullet hole from a rusted 22 fired at the last moment in a drunken bar brawl. It was nice to have peace for a change. It was nice to be able to stand and eat without smoke from a campfire burning her eyes whenever the wind felt compelled. She stood and ate watching the birds through the glass window puffed up to twice their size in this cold. She stopped, took her guns off and set them on the counter in the laundry room away from her then walked back and finished her dinner. She chuckled and pulled a barb of black locust from her hair.

 “Magine havin’ a room jus for laundry,” she thought out loud. 

The sun eased down off of the day and the light with it. She finished her meal and set to washing up. There was no sand around to get the food off of her plate but there was a sink and a spigot. She fiddled with the toggle until water came not without protest. She watched it then pushed her hat back on her head. How this water came she had no idea. She turned and without thinking grabbed her plate. There and then in the space of a shot it broke. It sat there on the wooden island in pieces. The edges were raw and showed white like bone or teeth. She spit.

“Damn it. Ain’t a girl got no ability beyond what she’s had to put up with? Cain’t I be careful at all?”

She threw her hat off of her head. 

“Do I gotta break everthin’ I likes?”






Friday, 6 January 2017

Heavy Late Bombardment

 It is the scale that is troubling. My efforts to take it all in, really see it are exhausting; a relentless challenge always bounded by time. It bothers me, while I'm thinking, that time is passing. I must think faster to keep up. If time would stop, if I could do my thinking between the seconds so I would have the minutes and hours to piece together what I discovered, I wouldn't be so frustrated. But this damn scale of things...



I'm trying to piece together, or, make sense of, God and the universe. Right now, I don't believe in God. If he exists, I think he's an asshole. And I will gladly step outside with him if he's got a problem with my name-calling (I work out a lot. So I got that going for me...). Then, the universe and the fact that we won the lottery when it came to the earth. Any closer to the sun and we would be...you have to understand this:



 This earth is the only one around within parking distance. It started as dust and ice crystals four and a half billion years ago.  

Go outside and put your hands on the ground and think about that. 

                 WE ARE BONKERS LUCKY.


Yet we're treating this precious orb like something we can replace with a trip to the mall. Or Cost-co.

I've lost you already. You've heard this before.

Scale again. More pacing. What the hell?

While I don't think that the biblical God exists (You know, that bible held up in defiance by the hateful?), I do think there is something. Maybe it's laced into the dark energy wafting around, permeated by neutrino's, protected from radiation by the earth's magnetic shield. I don't know. But I felt it when I was in love. And I feel it when I listen to music. It's a delicate, but fierce power unlike anything else. It is profound; makes us authentic. You can't feel it and not be changed. This is the substantial framework of our humanity: our connection.

Piecing this together...

Basically...(would you stop with the clock already?) I feel that this deep, sacred connection as humans is being assaulted by the shallow, attitudes of the incoming American government. Gains made in outreach and inclusion that had the potential to pick up momentum towards a remarkably productive and cohesive society may have influenced the rest of the world into finally getting over the needless oppression and judgement stalling progress. But all of this is under threat to be shredded. The cotter pins have been pulled. People don't matter unless they're shareholders.

And the earth? Well, how much time is left now?


 I keep trying to think of the right words to bring about sanity. I keep trying to come up with a process to shift ideologies around oppression and judgement, to stop us from sliding backwards, being complacent. I go to bed at night hoping that I will have a dream that will explain it all. 

Time. Time. Time.


 Damn.