Aberration, a poem

Winter, the air was as dry as unbuttered toast.
Ice formed from any moisture and hung onto any thread.
Children were bundled so if they fell
it would be face up
so they wouldn’t suffocate,
their identities unknowable behind scarves and hats pulled low.
Until a Chinook
when they threw off their stiff winter clothes
and ran in their socks and shirt sleeves
in yards of mud,
no, not ran, but hopped
like new little toads with tails abandoned,
this way and that,
with the randomness of joy.
And when it was over
they came home dressed in other children’s clothes.

I joined the Rusty Cast-Iron April Poetry Club, a closed club on Facebook for the month of April. I tried to write a poem every day. Some days I pulled old poems out of the moth balls and re-worked them. Honestly, it was really hard and time consuming. Whole mornings were taken up with my punching and kneading the raw dough! But it was an honest effort. I am going to post some of the ones I am happy with. NOT ONE A DAY, but maybe one once in a while. Thank you dear reader for you indulgence.

This was Day Five, I think the prompt was to write about a micro climate, which this is not, but it is about a climate aberration… We did experience something like this the first winter in Ottawa.

 

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About Oliver Schroer and Music as Inspiration

I started trying to write a poem previously called “Coasting” after watching a science program that showed the link between mankind’s developmental leaps and areas of great tectonic instability, (what would become lakes and coasts) the whole science of metallurgy literally bubbling out of the ground. The soil was often richer too as a result and so agriculture thrived and then communities formed. Trade and commerce followed as we pursed the ingredients needed to make metals and so requiring the development of new skills, boat building and new ways of living developed.

So the idea of LIFE being a coastline came to mind; Shorelines become places of departure and change but also our homes. Venturing out into the unknown was terrifying and exciting, the things of legends and ballads; Fear of Death at the heart of all our stories about the sea.

In Oliver’s own words:

“At the moment we pass through that portal, things rearrange themselves so thoroughly it cannot make any sense to us now. I have the feeling that, at the moment that I slip across, it will make ultimate sense. And I’m not going to look back.”

Listening to Field of Stars everything fell into place.

The greatest departure we can ever make is from life itself. But as we are of the earth, we still see the stars as we once saw the ocean, our next unknown, our next destination. Listening to him play “Field of Stars” I realized this was really what the poem was leading to, and how I would finish it with the tone I had wanted to convey. I never felt it was about the futility of life even though, “eccentric and wild-eyed” myself I have cried about it.  When I read more about him it felt like finding this piece of music was one of those events that sound like a clique, but nonetheless, was profound.

This is written by someone who saw his last concert:

““The first week I moved to Toronto I went alone to a random benefit concert for Oliver Schroer, a fiddler I had never heard of. He was dying of leukemia and needed money for an experimental treatment. His former students had flown in from the corners of Canada and put together an amazing impromptu show in a desperate effort to save his life. The place was packed.

Oliver was supposed to be at the hospital that night, but he snuck in toward the end of the eve, a frail sallow man in vibrant striped pjs, with a powerful frame, cheerful hands, and hulking Mongolian boots, such a striking visual contradiction. He was in the building for all of 15 minutes attended by a wild interweave of medical equipment and one very concerned-looking doctor, yet he managed to play a single song and see his friends before being rushed back. The doctor insisted that no one touch him. I remember thinking that must be hard.

This piece was played 3 feet in front of me by a man who had dedicated his whole life to music and knew it was likely he would never play another song; yet he had the fortune to play for his most desired and intimate audience. I felt so incredibly lucky to be witness to that. It was undoubtedly one of the most profoundly beautiful experiences of my life.

He died a few days later.

I bought the album, Camino and learned that the music had been composed during his 1,000 km walk along the Camino de Santiago, an ancient trail between France and Spain. With a portable recording studio, violin, and sleeping bag in his backpack he stopped in the churches to record what you hear.”

And finally, though it seems a bit of a conceit, the poem, AGAIN. It’s just that I don’t think I am the author as much as the cobbler, and maybe it’s not very good but it says something I thought I couldn’t say and now I’m just excited to say it. (Thank you for your indulgence). You can accuse me of defaulting to a sort of religious or spiritual delusion to answer the unknown. My punk youth would argue it is  a cop-out, but my old lady blues would admit she just doesn’t know and that makes room for everything we can imagine.

A Field of Stars to Light Your Way
There were the beaches of your youth
where you marked impossible feats in the cool
sand
that you tossed up in cartwheels,
piled up in castles
and burrowed under.
You built and destroyed and built again.
You shone with the dust of eons on your skin.
You
collected tales of seafaring folk,
like polished stones
that you shifted
in your pockets and carried home
Older, you watched the sky for storms.
You got a dog that barked at sea foam.
You never stayed long
then older still,
eccentric and wild-eyed
you climbed to the top of the cliffs,
and you cried:
“I lost everything here. Life was so hard.”
THE COAST with its cliffs jagged and worn
and rivers that spilled and mixed with the brine,
forests old before prophets were born,
all your kin, all your life, all your time,
all those who would have called you back
are gone and you’re
adrift
like a tiny raft lost in the ocean’s sway
alone beneath
a field of stars
a field of stars to light your way.

Polishing the Mirror

It was crowded. Two trains went by, out of service. Everyone looked straight ahead while a man further down facing perpendicular to the bulk of the crowd was yelling something political.

I decided to walk towards him. I’d been thinking about how scared people are now. Nobody is talking but there are ‘crazy people’ yelling all over the place. I didn’t know if he was one of them but I walked towards him passed all people with earbuds in, attached to iPods and smartphones listening to what they chose instead of this man yelling.

The train came before I got too far along the platform and I joined the throng getting on the train. I don’t know if he got onto another car. I put my earbuds in and selected the e-book I had downloaded from the library. It is called “Being Mortal”.

I wrote the above a long time ago. I was afraid. I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone up to him. Do people who yell in public places want to be heard? Do they even believe that they CAN be heard? But I was frightened and even a bit angry that he was subjecting us all to his ranting.

I am still learning how this machine that puts itself together as ME works and one of the cogs is anger, another is fear.

I have written many angry entries in journals and diaries and then made a ritual of blacking them out or deleting them. But I have missed the point of my own life in doing so because I was afraid my anger would turn me into a weapon, some sort of terrible uncontrollable force.

But I am not a weapon. A weapon is something you pick up to do harm to others. A human being is a Buddha whether or that human being is suffering due to contracted emotions, habitual behaviours or galling misunderstandings, regardless of whether or not they have realized it.

I like to think that I have always run from confrontation, but I have at times in my life become so angry that I have put myself in the path of confrontation even knowing I would probably suffer harm. But I was never a weapon and neither was the person who harmed me. It is a delusion to think that we can become weapons or targets or hammers or nails, but it is true we can suffer and cause suffering and in that state of congealed anger, pick up a weapon.

Anger comes as energy that can turn into action but if I try to delete it or deny it, the whole machinery of my being becomes stuck in all sorts of physical problems or worse, it gives rise to dangerous exchanges that benefit no one.

The purpose of Zen practice is to realize awake awareness as oneself and this includes being aware of anger and fear.

If we are aware we can make choices.

Being a student of Soto Zen Buddhism I can choose to direct that energy into compassionate action. If i recognize that I am afraid I can also recognize others who are fearful and in loosening its hold on myself open the possibility of the same for others. If I am angry, I can learn to see it arising and to appreciate its energy and learn how to direct it towards polishing the mirror, exerting myself to examine delusions and to realize compassion, to lean into actions that build instead of actions that destroy.

But to ignore or suppress fear and anger rather than taking each moment of recognition as an opportunity is an impediment and can only lead to more suffering. (This can be applied to all emotions that cause us to hide or become deluded as in  “Love Hurts”, love that is misdirected or misunderstood.)

So I will endeavour to be aware of what I would rather not realize within myself and not let anything fester or congeal into a sense of problem that gains momentum.

And even in realizing all of the above, I must sit zazen, every day and not fall into thinking that dust will no longer accumulate on the mirror.

And even after all that:

https://youtu.be/8T-Z1WoFXkk

This Holiday Season was Brutal!

Some years I manage all sorts of crafty things for decorations and gifts. This year I had hoped to finish one little dress for one little granddaughter but illness, loss and general malaise knocked the stuffing out of me.

Nothing lasts forever, not even illness so thanks to the wonderful anti-biotics that addressed a bronchial infection and the joy of spending time with children and poetry lovers and artists I have rallied and finished the wee dress.  The good news is she is getting longer, not wider so this will fit her for a while!

mjdress

The fabric is linen and the pattern was Burda 9772

 

Dream a Little Dream of Me

Next week I am going to meet a lawyer and get my will done and stamped or whatever. I gave up trying to do it on the cheap. I almost choked on a cough drop when I was sick and thought “geez I need to get my will in order”. That would be about the dumbest way to die I can think of. Everybody still goes on about Momma Cass choking on a ham sandwich, I mean, SHE WAS BRILLIANT and yet that’s what they remember.

I am not brilliant but seriously, I need to get my ducks in a row.

I still miss my friend Sandy but I am no longer in total pain. I am slowly working on building up my strength and trying to set goals (that don’t cost money). There will be plenty of expenses this year and it looks like the bastard they elected for Premier here has nixed the company that gave me work.

I shovelled a bit of the driveway and built a fort with my grandson. (It has been COLD here in the North!) These are fun and good exercise, okay the shovelling the driveway maybe not so much but a good work out nonetheless. Today I will try climbing over snow piles to get to the bus stop! What fun!

I love Mama Cass’s voice and this song really is hers. I have also decided I want it played if anyone cobbles together a funeral or wake when I go. Just the link. I don’t know if it will work. Give it a try or just go to Youtube and search Mama Cass.
https://youtu.be/1-AxpbrFrZo

I saw the Mama’s and Papa’s at a roadhouse sort of club between Toronto and Stratford Ontario, in maybe the year 1987. Mama Cass was gone and they had Spanky (Elaine McFarlane) singing her parts and Mackenzie Phillips singing her mother’s parts. My friend was a bartender there and she got me in for free. I got to go backstage and meet them. Underwhelming and if I were into gossip maybe interesting but the music was lovely.  (The sweetness of the music hid the serious drug addictions going on).

Sandy

  • My friend Sandy died on December 29, 2018.
  • My grandson turned three on the 27th.
  • Sandy and I had in common a grandson and a granddaughter.
  • The grandson’s birthday party was yesterday on the 30th.
  • Sandy’s funeral will be on January 12th.
  • We are all of us, living and dead on the third planet from the sun in a galaxy on the outer edge of the Milky Way; Though we hardly ever think about it.

Our grandson’s birthday party was at one of those community spaces you can rent. It was wild and crazy, kids running around shrieking. It put me in mind of how human beings at a certain age can be dropped into a group and create culture and language and despite differing vocabularies and maybe appearances “fit in” by just joining the fray. As they went screeching about I thought of them rushing through the tall grass to flush out foul or careening to an undiscovered country while chasing something, or fleeing something.

So, I find myself, in all my sadness and in all my joy, thinking:

What blame is there in this life when we are all tumbling through space and time only trying to find a hand to hold?

But also:

What praise is there when all our consequences are rendered into nothingness except for this:

We have loved and been loved.

nick's 32 b'day 022

In a Twinkling

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

From Maya Angelou’s A Brave and Startling Truth

Wishing you all peace in the New Year.