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…
Although I haven’t worked in an office for years I still work office-ish hours.
So Fridays are very TGIF for me and this one in particular seemed in need of some goodness. A distraction, a need to play hookey, to get away from it all. Bird seed seemed the logical answer. So off I took myself to a nearby town where a source told me I could score some excellent Ethiopian nyger at the local feed shop.
I got twenty five pounds.
It was noon by then so I stayed for lunch. The first place I stopped didn’t want me to sit at a table by the window as I was just one person and that’s primo seating. So could I please move to another table at the back? No, as a matter of fact, no thank you… I do not care to sit at the worst table in a half filled room as penance for being a single diner.
Ta ta, said I.
And wandered down the street feeling oddly buoyant.
The next place I landed reminded me why things happen the way they do. Had the other folks been nicer I may have never have discovered this place, which not only said sit where you like — it was ten times busier, had a merry vibe, a shelf of books for reading not for decor, people actually seemed happy to see you and the food was out of this world delicious.
AND they had mussels… so………..
I read a cookbook about seasonal food.
Moral of the story — How being faced with the unkind or unjust can still have a good outcome if you put your heart into it, trust your gut, stand for what you believe in, and other bodily metaphors… and how fete-ing myself on Fridays might just become a thing.
Also moral of the story — It’s one way to remain sane.
I’m thinking of so many teachers on a morning when we woke to find we’d lost one of our best, one who taught through music and poetry, such gentle lessons… the kind that change us in ways that allow us to find the strength to build and change our world with compassion.
Have we made notes? Because it’s up to us now.
And I’m thinking about those who fought against the *isms* … Oh, to find a way of fighting without harming. Maybe that’s the hardest fight of all.
It’s not much, but I went out onto the main street of our tiny downtown and watched those men and women march to the cenotaph. Each year there are fewer gray heads but those still there always have the same look in their faces, their eyes…
At least not directly.
I’m there for the individuals, not the machine.
I’m there for the same reason I once stood at the side of the 401 while the car carrying the body of a boy home from Afghanistan passed and the crowd of people went silent and a mother and a father were somewhere doing god only knows what mothers and fathers do at times like that.
It’s not about condoning why people die, it’s about not being able to pretend they don’t.
And so every year since this one I try to make it to the parade and stand in silence, together with neighbours I don’t know, all of us there for probably very similar and yet different reasons.
Does it matter that there are different reasons?
Bonus: on the way back to my car this beautiful old man in a don’t-hit-me fluorescent vest, said hello in that way the very old have perfected as an art. One of those things we might have made better notes of… how to greet the neighbours we don’t know.
by Leonard Cohen
You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem
and you would hand it back to me.
A crescent of bright over my 6 a.m. house… the rest of the moon is muted but visible. A single star in the still black sky. The picture didn’t turn out.
Doesn’t matter, I can still see it, can still feel the 6 a.m. chill on my face.
Went back inside to make tea and sit in the darkness for a bit. Friday has a different feel, not as frantic… that welcome to the weekend vibe.
I thought about the week past and it was a lovely one too. Not that it didn’t have its glitches, like all weeks. Not that it was especially lovelier than any other week. It’s the thinking that makes it… and why some weeks are thought about and others aren’t who knows.
This one included a visit with an old friend who showed me a list she’d been keeping all summer. Whenever she picked tomatoes she’d note the day and the weight. Total: 18 lbs. from a single plant. It’s madness, right? she said. Tempted to answer possibly… but then no, there’s something important about lists, beautiful even. A way of noticing the details…
Another visit with a not so old friend, a happy surprise, the delight of chat.
The potatoes I’ve been digging up and boiling straightaway. There’s no other way to eat fresh-from-the-dirt spuds.
A cup of coconut milk matcha latte, which makes me sound like a prig but, honestly, I consume almost no priggish things. Except this. It started in summer at Starbucks (a place I almost never go except to meet a certain friend—please blame/thank her for this addiction). Anyway, the stuff is so delicious I ask every tea shop I visit now if they can make it. The results vary but that’s become not the point… if it turns out well, yay, but the best part, really, is that people are cheerfully game to give it a whirl and I love the collaborative approach that sometimes happens and how I end up happy no matter how the actual drink comes out.
Laundry weather one day. Rain the next. Balance.
The decision to paint a frame lemon yellow. The soon to be new home to a painting of green apples.
The chickadees and finches at the feeder that I can never get a clear shot of.
The colour out there.
The view from here.
Me on George the tawny horse with a butterscotch mane at the trail ride stables. I say to the trail guide, “Take one of just me and George… I want to put it in my office to look at every day.” George is magnificent and uninspired to moving too quickly. His whole raison d’etre being to follow the lead horse at a reasonable pace and sneak the occasional bit of greenery, which is often as I have no ability to use the reins and George knows this. We are happy together.
Kayla the trail guide. All blonde hair and freckles, a country lass unaware of her sweetness and the charm of her stories about being home-schooled and how she lives for horses, has five part-time jobs to keep one horse and how a horse will tell you what’s wrong with you, emotionally or physically, because if you spend enough time with it the horse takes on your problems and you can see yourself in them like a mirror.
Children in my house eating watermelon and jumping on a mini trampoline. Occasionally at the same time. To which I say: “No choking please… because
I am not in the mood today for children choking in my house.”
Tiny hands shoveling spoonfuls of peaches and ice cream.
Tiny hands picking fat blackberries. Also argument over how there isn’t an equal number of ripe ones for all three sets of hands.
Three orders of poutine at the beach. Most of which is eaten. None of which is mine. Mine is an order of fries.
Seagulls awaiting poutine.
Flip-flops flopping in the water. Until they’re nearly stolen by the lake and the better idea by the wearer of the flip-flops is that I carry them.
Skinny legged beach cartwheels. Dozens it seems, one sweeter than the next. Not mine, by the way. I have neither skinny legs nor ever been able to master the sweet cartwheel… only the kind that goes by a different description. After that, some other gymnastic moves that need only ribbons to make them an Olympic event. (Now there we have something I’m good at: ribbon dancing.)
Lad skipping stones. Correction. Lad trying to skip stones. Lads, I discover, aren’t especially amused when aunties come along and say Want me to show you how it’s done? And then do.
And other stones. Especially those as described in the wonderful Pinny in Summer, which is read aloud to the soundtrack of Lake Ontario waves. (Smiles all around when we find JUST THE PERFECT ONE.)
Cloud shaped like the skeleton of a rabbit. Sad but true.
A radiant palm holding five colours of beach glass: white, green, dark blue, brown and possibly yellow, or just pale pale brown. Either way, ridiculously exciting haul.
“Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.” —Gertrude Stein “To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.” — William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life (1899)
“The constant remaking of order out of chaos is what life is all about, even in the simplest domestic chores such as clearing the table and washing the dishes after a meal…but when it comes to the inner world, the world of feeling and thinking, many people leave the dishes unwashed for weeks so no wonder they feel ill and exhausted.” — May Sarton, Recovering “I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the mind.” — Einstein
“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” — William Blake
“The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.” — Yutang Lin
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” — Iris Murdoch “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.“ — Rainer Maria Rilke
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Gandhi
“I once thought it was not worth sitting down for a time as short as [ten minutes]; now I know differently and, if I have ten minutes, I use them, even if they bring only two lines, and it keeps the book alive.” —Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms
“Do not hurry; do not rest.” — Goethe
“Never hurry, never worry.” — Charlotte’s Web
Now go eat some chocolate. (see Iris Murdoch instruction above)