it’s the small stuff that connects us

 

From Welcome to the Hood,  a work in progress.

Glynnis is wearing pink cotton shorts, a striped tee shirt, support hose and brown sandals. Her toenails are painted red. She is only 56 but lives in a nursing home because she is epileptic with brain damage—the kind of brain damage that has rendered her almost childlike. She can’t function on her own. Or even walk. If I don’t visit for a week or two it takes her a minute to remember we’ve ever met. Her parents are close to ninety. Until recently she lived with them. She tells me all this, matter of factly. She thinks the nursing home isn’t a bad place but occasionally has issues with the oatmeal.

She likes colour. So do I. It’s what we talk about. The colour of everything. Look at the bird, I say as I wheel her past a cage in the sunroom, he’s such a beautiful bright blue. She laughs, says that’s not a bird. What is it then, I ask, and she looks at me, back at the cage, then at me again. It’s a bird!  she says, still laughing. I never know what part of her is confusion and what part is just plain smart-ass funny. I think she likes it that way.

I take her out to the courtyard where no one ever goes. Tables and chairs, umbrellas, gardens, a walking path, a bench under an ivy-covered trellis; it all makes for good optics when the inspectors come but in reality it’s too much trouble for the staff to move people outside. Instead they’re crowded around a TV screen near the nurses’ station. No one looks at the set. Most nod off. Some watch the comings and goings in the hall, others beg to be taken back to their rooms.

None of them has the slightest idea there’s a courtyard full of sunshine on the other side of perpetually drawn shades.

There’s a purple hibiscus bush that reminds Glynnis of one her mother has. Her mother’s garden is magnificent, she says, and then we pass a window where we see Marion in her room staring out at something. When she sees us she taps on the glass, points. Marion doesn’t talk much, mostly she sits alone in the dining room and counts her collection of plastic cutlery. But now, this tapping… I’ve never seen her so animated.

At first I can’t tell what she’s pointing at and this frustrates her, she points harder. Maybe she means the hibiscus. I point at the hibiscus. No, no, she shakes her head. I want to tell her to open the window, but it would be too complicated. She may not know how, it may not even open. I don’t want to frustrate her further. She hangs her head as if giving up, then looks at us again, makes a face, annoyed, sad, says something, points. Jab, jab, her finger tapping on the window, intent on getting her message across.

“What’s wrong with her?” Glynnis says.

“She’s trying to show us something.”

“Who cares.”

Glynnis wants to get going.

Marion keeps tapping.

Finally, I see what it is. A bird’s nest tucked into a niche in the trellis. I show Glynnis. She laughs, says her mother has a bird’s nest. Marion smiles, her whole face relaxes and as each of us, from three different vantage points, stare at the bits of grass and twigs, it occurs to me that in this split second of discovery we experience the wonder of this tiny thing in exactly the same way, with exactly the same joy. And in that fraction of a moment I see the connections between us and know that the differences are only an illusion.

closing time

 
It took the better part of two days to install.

Just over an hour to take down.

The weeks in between were a sheer loveliness of spending time with my own couches in a public space and meeting people and having conversations start out of the thin air of upholstery.

The woman who told me her grandparents were happy as clams all their livelong lives together and maybe not in small part because of the mickeys of hootch they kept down the sides of their respective armchairs.

Another who said her first couch was an old door on top of bricks (for legs) and a slab of foam with fabric wrapped around it and several pillows propped against the wall.

The couch someone had forgotten but suddenly remembered hauling from a curb in Whistler and how much they loved it for the year they lived there.

The people who left me postcards.

And the strangers who sat down and talked as though we were old pals.

The kid who told me that sleeping on a pullout feels like a vacation.

And the kids who came on the last day to play the lava game and the scavenger game and ran around looking for things in the photos… a fire hydrant, geese, a porch, leaves, a rock, curtains, stairs, a dog wearing sunglasses. I loved their names— Violet, Autumn, Pandora, Audrey, Lucas, Madeleine, Maxine, Susie… I’ve forgotten some, but not the boy with the glasses and the girl who was so painfully shy.

The friends who brought me greenteacoconutmilkmachalatte, and those who were there when wine was on offer. Friends who travelled a distance to see this show and those who couldn’t come but were there in spirit. (I felt that spirit!) To friends who gave up part of a Sunday afternoon to hear me talk about how underwear affected furniture design. And to friends I missed seeing… sorry I missed you! Thank you all for coming and making this experience exactly what I hoped it would be… a stirring of memory and invitation to story.

Above all, thanks to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and the amazing gift that is Gallery A, for allowing me and my orphaned furniture this time and space.

Putting rubbish to some good purpose is my whole thing, after all.

That, and writing mystery thrillers set in art galleries…

 
 

my life in laura smith songs

 

I love this post over at Commatology so I’m stealing the idea and I hope you do too.

It took me about seven seconds to decide on the music for this game because whether I realize it or not, Laura Smith’s words travel with me. And if not always the words, then the sentiments of land and sea and nature and our responsibility to the world and to each other and the idea of dreams and following them and having the courage to know you are all you need to be.

Also, there are references in her songs to things like goat skin drums and pennywhistles. Who would NOT want that living in their head??

In a nutshell, I like her music.

So the game is this: to answer the questions with the title of a song.

The titles can be from any albums belonging to one musician.

My Life in Laura Smith Songs—
  1.  Are you male or female? I’m a Beauty.
  2.  Describe yourself: My Gate’s Wide Open
  3.  How do you feel about yourself?: I Built a Boat
  4.  Describe your ex: Faceless Wonder
  5.  Describe your current romantic situation: Shade of your Love
  6.  Describe your current location: Safe Home Sweet Light
  7.  Describe where you want to be: Horses and Plough
  8.  Your best friend is: Tell the Truth
  9.  Your favourite colour is: Gypsy Dream
  10.  You know that: It’s a Personal Thing
  11.  What’s the weather: Elemental
  12.  If your life was a TV show what would it be called?: Shore Lines
  13.  What is life to you?: Inspiration
  14.  What is the best advice you have to give?: Clean Up Your Own Backyard
  15.  If you could change your name what would you change it to? Jordy

 

you can take me anywhere but you can’t dress me up

 
 
I was once invited to a costume party I didn’t want to go to but under pressure grudgingly agreed and at the last minute—literally minutes before we went out the door—I cut a hole in a white sheet and wore it like a poncho. No one at the party seemed to know I was supposed to be an angel. Where’s your halo, they said? Where’s your wings??

Details.

I don’t like costume parties. I find them uncomfortable for many reasons, not the least of which is that the whole point of the dressing up is to attract attention, which is counter to what I usually aim for at gatherings, i.e. to quietly blend in with the cheese table. It’s not that I’m anti-social. I’ll meet you for lunch in a heartbeat; it’s crowds of people not talking about anything that cheeses me off.

A scenario only made worse in togas and sailor suits.

But it’s not just that, there’s something else weird. Like clown-weirdness.

That said, here I am, invited to another costume thing. One where I will know almost no one. Theme: western. At least there’s that… I can wear jeans. And a simple shirt. And, lest anyone say I don’t have the right spirit for these things (which of course I don’t), I’d like the record to show that I went to Value Village and found a hat with a string under the chin and a black and white neckerchief.

I draw the line at boots.

I think this one’s pretty obvious right?

I’m the Birkenstock Cowboy.

[cue the music]

 

 

 

 

at the train station

 

The five year old whose dad says “Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute,”  and leaves his kid kneeling on a bench surrounded by backpacks and bags and the kid stares in the direction of the washrooms like a puppy until he comes back.
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The teenage boys who fist pump goodbye like it’s nothing. The face on the one that stays.

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The lads that take pictures with real cameras with real lenses.

dsc08769The three young women whose minds explode when they see each other. Their smiles.

 

discuss

 
Why did the green program start with blue boxes?

Why is the Canadian Tire logo a triangle?

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Why is men’s and boy’s clothing made to fit so much looser than girls’ and women’s?

And can someone please design a better bathing suit…

Why does no one know the name of the first person who survived going over Niagara Falls in a barrel?

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On the subject of  pink and blue:

“There’s one famous study showing that women treated the exact same babies differently depending on whether they were dressed in pink or blue. If the clothes were blue they assumed it was a boy, played more physical games with them and encouraged them to play with a squeaky hammer, whereas they would gently soothe the baby dressed in pink and choose a doll for them to play with.”   Valid point or bollocks?

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Why do we need three title options for women: Ms., Miss  and Mrs. and only one for men?

Why does *he* always drive?

What are there more of:  snowflakes, grains of sand or blades of grass?

Is the book always better than the novel? Examples?

How best to handle the guy in the next seat who doesn’t realize his ‘space’ is only as wide as his legs unspread… without turning it into a ‘thing’ that ruins your movie/play/flight/bus ride?

Why is there no Toddlers and Tiaras for boys?

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How do ducks keep their feet warm in winter?

Why is there no major religion where women are the leaders?

How is it possible for a work of literary fiction to be in such dire need of editing and still go on to win awards?

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If I’m right (as I most definitely am) and you’re right (as you most definitely are), who’s right?
 
 

tell me about your walk

 
Tell me the beautiful bits, things I might not see if I walked where you walk.

dsc08625_1 Because we need to see beauty more than ever.

More than ever.

And through the eyes of each other.

dsc08623So tell me about a poem that came to you one day as you looked at this scene or that one and how it made you go home and count your blessings.

dsc08642And how this tree or that corner or this bench makes you remember a friend and a conversation about bread.

dsc08650Tell me about trees taken down with saws and others taken down with teeth. And tell me: where is the dam?  (Also:  where is a naturalist when you need one to explain where is the dam?)

dsc08629dsc08648 dsc08635Tell me about the sound of birds you can’t see and about a loved one who is flying across the ocean at this very moment, homeward.

dsc08622_1dsc08661Tell me about the litter you pick up or don’t pick up and about the bike you once found abandoned in the woods just there and how you wonder where abandoned bikes go… and why ducks’ feet don’t get cold.

dsc08652 dsc08638 Tell me about the neighbourhood stray.

How he appeared at the window one day when your cat was sitting on the sill and they both nearly scared each other to death and how neither of them have gone anywhere near that window since.

dsc08659Tell me about the brim of your hat and how you tilt it upwards because you want to let every drop of vitamin D into your eyes.

And the splash of red you see in a bush, which you assume is another Timmy’s cup and when you get closer you see that it’s not litter but a bird.

dsc08654Tell me about the man doing tai chi in the park and how you’re grateful for all the goodness he’s putting into the air. And how in the very same park someone left a hoover and a giant bag of household garbage.

dsc08657dsc08627Tell me why you walk.

dsc08651Tell me it’s to clear your mind, to remind yourself there’s more than madness in the world. Tell me it helps you see that despite all the anger, fear and hate, there’s no value in anger, fear or hate because that’s not how things work, that’s not the essence of what we are.

Despite all appearances, that’s not the essence of what we are.

Tell me you walk to refuel because refueling is necessary… because this isn’t a time for idleness.

Tell me you walk because there is so much beauty.

And so much work to do.