"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, 27 March 2017


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. 


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.

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.