My dad used to say
in the garden
is out yet
you can see
My dad used to say
in the garden
is out yet
you can see
I make exceptions for certain people.
And always birdsong.
But this morning I would welcome the company of a serious bird brain, someone who could tell me who’s singing from the top of every tree, following me with very obvious intent to serenade.
The sound is too big for a chickadee dee dee dee.
And it’s not a robin, or a cardinal (& so ends my song recognition repertoire).
A botanist would be handy too. I’d ask what is this shrub in pink bloom that every year I swear I’ll make a note to go back and find when it’s fruiting so I know what kind of shrub it is and then always forget to check…
But the only person I see is a guy standing at the creek, facing the morning sun, just standing there, and then he raises his arms in salutation.
I recognize the impulse.
And so I walk very quietly by…
Ten thousand years ago when summers were long and the sun shone every day, when you could play outside up and down the street after supper until the streetlights came on and the lawns had that almost-evening coolness that felt so good on bare legs and made a soft place to lie down and wonder how many leaves or blades of grass or grains of sand or snowflakes there were in the world and if numbers big enough had even been invented, when afternoons were lived on bicycles, beside the lake, or in trees, and long before your parents grew old, long before you even knew such a thing was possible, in the days when people were still called Mrs. whether they liked it or not — Mrs. Moes made some cookies and brought them over on a blue plate.
You had at least three at the picnic table with a glass of Koolaid (flavour forgotten) and your parents had coffee and your mother may have been a little miffed at how well those cookies were going down… it’s possible she said something like too buttery if you ask me… and when the plate was empty and washed and you were sent next door to return it to Mrs. Moes and to remember to say thank you…. you could hardly believe it when she smiled and said You’re very welcome and did not refill the plate.
Years and years later, in your twenties, you asked Mrs. Moes for the recipe for “those cookies that day” and she knew exactly what you meant and she recited the recipe to you right there as you scribbled down what she said.
Maybe you got something wrong because they didn’t turn out anything like you remembered. Or maybe the magic was in the blue plate or the surprise of the gift or the happy unlimited picnic table munching.
Did she ever ask you how they turned out?
Maybe. Maybe not. You don’t remember.
Did you ever make them again?
But you still have the recipe you scribbled that day.
Its purpose no longer to magic up a plate of possibly too buttery cookies, but as a portal to a time of cool nighttime lawns and numbers too big to imagine.
I’m not a joiner of things, not a clubbish person generally. This has always been the case, although when I was about ten I invented The Boogie Woogie Club and invited friends to join. Amazingly, on opening day, a few showed up in my parents’ basement where we sat around until someone… Kathleen Erickson possibly… said so what’s this club about… I mean what do we do?
Good question, Kathleen, I thought. But I didn’t have an answer. To this day I have no idea what the Boogie Woogie club was supposed to be or why I’d thought of starting it. I do remember seeing the words boogie woogie in a song title in one of my lesson books for accordion and, knowing me,
I probably just wanted to incorporate it… somewhere. A club with no purpose would have seemed as good as anything.
The club disbanded shortly after Kathleen’s unanswered question and we headed over to the school to do long jumps in the sand pits. Or similar.
Which more or less brings me to 2018.
Where I find myself part of another group, only this time I’m not the inventor (which bodes well for the group’s future).
Also, this group has that essential ingredient: a purpose.
The Wild Nellies is the result of two women having coffee one day and wondering what they could do to benefit the lives of other women, specifically women moving on from abusive relationships. What they landed on was the idea of women celebrating women through various disciplines — visual art, music, literature, sharing their own work or the work of someone that’s inspired or influenced them in some way. The event would be free, they decided, and held in one of the area’s most wonderful spaces, and all of it would be done to bring attention to the needs of a local women’s shelter.
That they take their name from Nellie McClung — writer, legislator, suffragist, activist, public speaker, one of Canada’s original feminists, and a member of The Famous Five, who met over tea to change the political shape of this country by having it declared (after extraordinary campaigning) that women were indeed ‘people’ — is most fitting and wonderful (not the least of which wonderfulness being the coffee/tea origins).
Women have always found ways around being invisible, of having no voice, of being ‘talked over’ and told to be quiet, that their passion and their interest in fairness is too ‘shrill’—
—Yet despite not having their voices listened to, and the sometimes even greater obstacles of being isolated, unable to speak the language, being penniless, afraid for their lives, or tied down with childcare, women continue to find ways to meet, to gather, to band together and bring about change for the betterment of not just themselves, but for all women, for community, the benefits of which ultimately reach beyond gender.
Which brings us to 2018 again.
And the announcement today of new legislation that requires employers in Ontario to pay all workers equal wages for equal work. While it has, for some time, been technically illegal to base wages on gender… until now it’s been okay to pay part-time workers less than full-time for the exact same job. And those part-time workers are often women.
It seems there’s no end of bits to take care of and so the tradition of women gathering continues.
Put the kettle on!
One of the the things I love best about Nellie McClung is that she used her fiction, her writing, as a springboard to discuss relevant issues of the day. This was unusual for a woman at the time. Women were meant to write about fluff and leave it at that.
And it’s what I love best about her namesakes, The Wild Nellies, who propose to do the same thing… use their art to bring attention to important issues.
I’m so happy to be a small part of their first ‘performance’ at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery on April 8th, along with eleven other women who will use their artistic voices to honour and celebrate the power of female creators in sculpture, film, theatre, illustration, literature, music and more, and in the process hopefully be part of that women’s domino effect that continues to try and make this pale blue dot a fairer, safer, and better place for us all.
Note: I have no problem at all making an exception to my otherwise anti-clubbishness ways for these chaps. Also, I think long-jumping might actually kill me at this point.
A side street off a main street.
A gravel driveway that curves left.
A mailbox, red flag down.
I notice it as I drive past at main street speed.
And in that split second
I remember you and me,
rows of strawberries,
laughing red fingered,
picking baskets of fruit,
early, early, early,
before the heat of another summer morning found us.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Happy seeing-with-heart day…
Other (not always) wordless friends:
The other morning the sunrise was all thin layers of acid tangerine and atomic yellow, like some psychedelic celestial torte.
Today, sunrise is invisible. The sky, stone grey. Nothing edible.
I read somewhere that the colours are an optical, not exactly illusion, but an effect created by various molecules in the atmosphere and their length and/or density and/or how they line up and/or etc. on any given day.
The point being that everything, it turns out — this rising and setting, the spinning and movements of planets — all goes on in exactly the same way every day, which means that—
—it’s only our vantage point
and therefore our perceptions—