rainy day people

 
I was writing with a group of women at the shelter recently.
DSC05240
I do this once a month; they call it a workshop, but really we’re just writing together.
DSC05247
I’m always amazed by what gets said on paper by people who aren’t always used to holding a pen.
DSC05242
Amazed also that in the middle of the madness that is currently their life, in the middle of everything they’re going through, have gone through for god knows how long, that they can write with such clarity, such honesty.
DSC05252
They’re surprised when I tell them their words are beautiful.
DSC05245
At first they don’t believe me and then, something happens, the magic of unlocking, of tapping into a part of themselves that so rarely gets out, the magic of being heard… and I can see something change and I know that it’s a tiny thing, but even that is big, because, even for just a while…
DSC05243
…they believe, they know,  that something about them is beautiful still.
DSC05244
“I hate the rain, but I love puddles.” ~ (shelter resident)

 

Advertisements

great full

 

This couch, these cats, this morning, my handwriting, breath, this page, that light, the sun waiting to rise, the way my mind wanders to pumpkin soup vs puree the moment I congratulate myself on achieving something close to a state of meditation, the backyard, the large hostas that need dividing, a bushel of garlic, fresh string beans, tomatoes in a silver bowl, friends for lunch, the wine last night, the olives and raw milk cheese and crumbs of baguette, the new tradition of running away at xmas (already exciting), the poem about Edmonton, the pillow of peace and a shoelace with feathers tied to either end, the Benjamina and the fern, the ferns outside, the way something smells both sweet and spicy under the honeysuckle arch but I can’t work out what—catmint?, the beautiful green success of the kale and spinach and chicory, the nasturtium leaves (in October!), the way the red dress hangs in the park and the boy who said to his mother after they stopped to read the sign on it: what if we get to 30,000? , that painting of oranges and a vase of yellow flowers, a laundry line, the homemade chairs on our porch, always enough toothpaste, these feet and these hands and the way Laura Smith sings about joy, that open window, these books, this tea, breath—I said breath already, right?

DSC03947

you say salon, i say pass the cheese ball

So I had a salon. In my living room. Which may be redundant.

Let’s just call it Writers in My Residence.
IMG_0102Bob Dylan came. He liked the samosas. IMG_0103I liked that I knew some people in six degrees of separation ways, but not really. It made for much to talk about. IMG_0104Sculptors and writers talking in the kitchen pleases me. IMG_0105Poets and painters talking in the front hall worries me. What are they plotting??? IMG_0106Here they are. Writers, artists of all stripes. Readers. Mostly readers. Word lovers. The best kinds of persons. Nestled in front of bright blue art by Rhonda Pearl.
IMG_0109Reading and listening. IMG_0110One reading is about Anne Wilkinson, a little known modernist poet who is now being more known through The Porcupine’s Quill ‘Essential Poet’s’ series and the good work of Ingrid Ruthig, editor of the The Essential Anne Wilkinson. IMG_0116Another reading is new fiction by Stuart Ross, followed by poetry from his new book Our Days in Vaudeville (Mansfield Press). Here, the omnipotent poet holds in his hand an errant firefly that had been terrorizing the living room for months.IMG_0118 We laughed.
IMG_0119 We were enraptured. (Enrapturized?)
IMG_0120We had food and drink and indoor sunshine.

Such is the power of words in enclosed spaces.

Big thanks to a beautiful bunch of participants for this beautiful night.

<><><>

jungian writing prompt

The instructions were simple. Describe—

My Ideal Dwelling:

Here is where I would not  want to live: in a dark narrow tunnel or cave with small windows and doors, the kind you get stuck in in dreams. I would not want to live in a desert or on the side of a very tall mountain, as in the alps. I would not want to live on a distant island or in a place with broadloom wall to wall. I would not want to live where the inside smelled unfresh, stale, dog-like.

A Walk:

I’m on a beach and in the distance a boat has dropped anchor and with binoculars I see the skipper, alone, eating a sandwich made of pumpernickel bread. I sit on the sand and the tide comes in as the boat leaves and then, jeans sandy and feet wet, I stand and leave to find the nearest deli and on my way there is a dog.

A Bear:

No, it’s not a dog, but a bear. I meet a bear. Black. And as usual I can’t remember whether to play dead or run so I decide to do neither. Instead, I engage the bear in conversation. I say Hello. And the bear grunts, shuffles its feet. I say about the boat and the skipper and how I’m off to find a deli and would he or she like to come along? It’s a she I realize and when she agrees I think how safe I feel to have the company of a friendly bear because for all I know the deli may be in a dicey part of town.

A River:

At the river the bear wades across and then turns and stands on its hind legs and one paw reaches out toward me. I start swimming and the bear smiles and I notice that the river isn’t so very deep and this makes me feel at ease with the whole situation. Once on the other side the bear walks through a forest of aspens and into a town and I follow.

A Cup:

On the ground, red and chipped and stained with tea and blueberries.

A Key:

Also on the ground. Under a clear plastic bag held down with a rock. I pick it up and wait for it to speak to me, to tell me what it unlocks. The bear, I notice, has found the deli, but the sign in the window says closed. Hmm….

A Door:

The key opens the door but inside is another door that says Keep Out. An elk kicks it down and inside that, a storage area where a party is being held. There are balloons and raccoon food. The walls are apple green and a guy—the guy from the boat—is there slicing bologna and rye and a line begins to form…

**

Written in Susan Musgrave’s workshop at the Kingston Lit Festival last month. 
The prompts were given one at a time, with a few minutes for writing, then the next prompt, and so on. According to Jung, done this way, each item represents
a different aspect.

House = how we see ourselves

The Walk = direction in life

The Bear = how you react to trouble

The River = sex

The Cup = love

The Key = knowledge

The Door = death

Gee thanks, Carl.
Man_on_a_boat_between_Reni_and_Ismail_(60-ies)__(6193892221)courtesy of wiki commons

tour de blogs

I love a tour. And so I was especially pleased to be invited to join this mad literary romp, blog-style, where we answer a set of questions in our own merry way. Many thanks to the always madly wonderful Alice Zorn over at Rapunzel’s Hair for asking. Alice is the author of Arrhythmia, the short story collection, Ruins and Relics, and often translator of Grimms fairy tales.  Among other things, she blogs about her travels and her beloved Montreal neighbourhood, Pointe St. Charles. Her contribution to the game is here.

So… bon voyage, and here goes…

 

—What am I working on?

I tend to go through phases of working at more than one thing at a time. Currently I’m revising a few stories to send out, preparing a collection of essays and occasionally checking on the brine in which my novel manuscript is marinating… It often needs more salt.
IMG_4221
—How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It occurred to me recently that I’m not a good rule follower. Not because I’m a renegade or anything as quaint as that, but simply because I’m often not aware of the rules. And even when I manage to figure out what they are, I can hardly believe it: those are the rules??  I have a hard time talking with people who want to discuss trends. I have no idea *what* is popular. Nor do I want to belabour any knowing. I recently wrote a story from the perspective of a chair.
Chairs 004
—Why do I write what I do?

One of my interests is relationships, especially those within the constraints of family. I realize I’ve been watching various families all my life—my own of course and those that lived on my street as a kid; aunts and uncles that weren’t, or were; the families connected to friends as I grew up; the manufactured ones through marriage and children, or no marriage and no children, or some other configuration therein or thereof. I’m fascinated with the way roles are assumed and played out to various ends and for what reasons and how we judge it all… and how we pretend it doesn’t matter and how it matters so very much. I’m interested in what’s remembered and how in a family there’s nothing even close to a consensus of truth. My writing often pokes about in this tender territory, trying to make head or tail of things. Why??  Who the hell knows.
People 003 - Copy
—How does your writing process work?

A large part is thinking out loud. Also known as talking to myself. I run through scenes, interview myself, ask myself what is the point of such and such… what is the point???… until I either come up with a point or scrap the whole damn such and such. I write in a journal most mornings, about dreams and grocery lists initially, but eventually making my way to the day’s work and what I want to accomplish, which inevitably leads me back to the such and such and the point, and pretty soon I’m no longer writing but talking to myself…

Best places to work through a problem: in the car, on a walk, weeding the garden.
IMG_7059

~

The tour continues with Barbara Lambert, author of The Allegra Series,   A Message for Mr. Lazarus  and The Whirling Girl. And Maria Meindl, author of Outside the Box; Maria’s essay ‘Junior’ appears in the anthology The M Word. Thanks to both for bravely accepting this mission. Am looking forward to visiting their blogs in the coming weeks and will post links here.

Stops on the tour include:

Theodora Armstrong
Ali Bryan
Marilyn Bowering
Janie Chang
Jaime Forsythe
Susan Gillis
Jason Heroux
Cornelia Hoogland
Ellen S. Jaffe
Eve Joseph
Susan Juby
Anita Lahey
Barbara Lambert
Steve McOrmond
Maria Meindl
Sarah Mian
Elise Moser
Kathy Page
Julie Paul
Pearl Pirie
Shelagh Plunkett
Ryan Pratt
Jael Richardson
Devyani Salzman
Cassie Stocks
Ayelet Tsabari
Patricia Young
Julia Zarankin
Alice Zorn

welcome to my dream(s)

One of my favourite new discoveries—The Sketchbook Project.

Such a clever idea by the people at the Art House to share and promote various forms of art—and have fun doing it. Imagine.

Anyone can join for the price of a blank book, which is then ‘arted up’, sent to New York, digitalized, and then sent on a tour across North America with some very nice stops in the process, including both the MOCA and the LACMA in Los Angeles, Toronto’s Distillery District, Vancouver, Portland, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, and others, before returning to its permanent home on the shelves of the Brooklyn Art Library, where anyone can visit at any time.

Here’s a great little write up by Ashville BookWorks, in North Carolina, where the exhibit rolled through (in a custom built bookmobile) in March.

My contribution — I am Somewhere  — a collection of dreams (yes, mine) with illustrations in collage. (What else does one do with dreams?? And am I the only one who, when explaining a dream to a friend, begins with that vague sense of being “somewhere…” and if I am [the only such one], what do other people begin their dream-telling with? And if you don’t tell dreams, why not? And if you don’t dream… um, Freud has something to say about that; can’t remember what.)

Anyway, it was a great lark and I thoroughly enjoyed the two winter afternoons devoted to it. Nice to exercise a different muscle. And thank you, dear local library for your abundance of cast off magazines.

Here’s a sample of the madness:

**
I’m somewhere,
reading about owls
and how their wings
make no sound
(there is down involved in this magic)
and then I fall asleep and in my dream I dream about
owls flying in a line across
the sky… but my double dream state
doesn’t believe that they are really owls
even though their chubby cigar shape
is unmistakable.
They fly to the west (my left)
and then disappear bit by bit
in puffs of smoke
or clouds
or swirled air.
IMG_6594
More somewheres here.