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The first time I met Merilyn Simonds was at the Sage Hill Writing Experience in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, in the heat of July 2014. There were fields of canola and flax, and the threat of too many ticks. I was in a poetry colloquium with Ken Babstock, but writers gathered together at meals, as well as in the evening hours, and this meant that we met one another. Some of my most amazing friends have come from those ten days in the prairies.  We are geographically scattered across the country, but stay in close touch. You can bond in ten days, when it comes to writers who like to speak to other writers. I think this is because writers are intelligent, witty, creative, and fairly excellent conversationalists. It’s kind of magical when you make these soul connections, if you’re open to them.

We first spoke one night near the end of the ten days.  This was after seeing Merilyn dancing with her partner, Wayne, late one night, in the lounge that looks out over the beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley. (In the day time, you can see the fields and the sky seems alive with weather.  At night, the stars and the moon are bigger than anywhere else.  They hang in the sky like glass Christmas ornaments.)  I still remember that Merilyn was wearing a polka dot dress and that the two of them were obviously in love, swirling around the space gracefully, and lighting it up so that we were all in awe. I also remember thinking, “Wow. Now that’s the kind of love I’d like.” If you know the two of them, you’ll already know what I mean. It’s a grand partnership.  They radiate friendship, intellect, spontaneity, generosity of spirit, and love.  As writing mentors, well, their reputation is a bright one.  Find any writer in Canada who has encountered one of the two, or both, in a workshop setting, in some shape or another, and you’ll find someone who has learned something important about their own work.

After they were done dancing, we somehow spoke. Afterwards, we kept in touch, but I didn’t see Merilyn again until last May, when I was on Pelee Island for a writing retreat. She and Wayne were there at Spring Song, supporting Margaret Atwood’s work for the Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO). Then, last June when I went to the Alice Munro Festival in Wingham with two friends, we met again and I sat in on her historical fiction workshop because I was working on my first novel at the time.  I was also on the organizing committee for Wordstock, Sudbury’s literary festival, so I rather boldly asked if she and Wayne would consider coming up to Sudbury in November 2017.  She agreed. Since we first met, I’ve read her books, and have fallen in love with her writing. (My favourite is “The Holding,” in case anyone cares! 🙂 )

The first time I heard about Hugh Barclay was when my friend, Toronto performance poet, Tanya Neumeyer, gave me the gift of a tiny little book of poems and told me about her friend, Hugh. She spoke glowingly of him, of how much he loved the process of making books, from his consideration of choosing paper, or type of ink, or even how books should be bound or (in Tanya’s case!) folded. Here is the tiniest book of haiku poems I’ve ever seen.  Hugh’s name hovered in my mind for a few years, and then rose up again when I read Merilyn’s brilliant book, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels and the Lasting Impression of Books.FullSizeRender (1).jpg

I’ve been thinking about the shape of books a lot lately.  This is partly because I’ve recently read Diane Schoemperlen’s beautiful little chapbook from Woodbridge Farm Books.  There, again, I was sent to thinking about the texture of paper, and the care and thought it takes to choose font, and how people choose to bind handmade books.  Here’s an image of that lovely little essay, titled “One Thing Leads to Another: An Essay on Collage.”  My favourite part about this little book from Kingsville (outside the content of the brilliant essay, of course!) is the sweet, thoughtfully placed red string that ties itself with a perfect knot in the middle of the collection.  On a heart level of memory and experience, that little red thread and tiny knot reminds me of how my grandmother used to make me put my finger on a piece of ribbon, while I was helping her to wrap a box at Christmas when I was little, so that she could make a bow.  (She likely knew I was horrid at wrapping, so sticking my finger there couldn’t really mess up her work, which was always lovely, and she made me feel useful and slightly talented, so she didn’t crush my spirit!)

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These two little(r) books make me think of how beautiful things are not often in big fancy packages or wrappings.  They remind me to look for the tiny ripples of beauty in daily life.  I guess that’s why I’ve always been fond of small chapbooks of poetry, or even handmade paper journals.  They make me think of daisies (my favourite flower next to thistles) and not tulips or roses, which seem too waxy and perfect sometimes.  They make me think of taking one’s time, of knowing that crafting something carefully is worthwhile, especially in a world that doesn’t always think so…

Merilyn’s book is a love letter to book making.  Not only that, it is an honouring of the process and art of how a writer’s work becomes a final, physical product.  She writes about the history of paper, printing presses, and how inks have been made through history, and all through my reading of it, I can hear her voice in my head.  (I know.  It’s probably not good when you read and write about a work written by someone you know.  I can hear her voice as I read and that’s sort of lovely.  It’s conversational, inviting, and shows me how an excellent writer is almost always a stellar storyteller.  🙂 )

There is a discussion of how things have evolved, from print to e-readers like Kindle and Kobo.  I will say, right now, that I consider myself to be a bit of an anachronism.  I like old things.  Very old things.  I love antiques.  I love old books.  I love history and art.  If you put me in an art gallery, you have to mind me in case I lean in too closely to a piece of art.  I often feel like they magnetize me.  The same thing happens if you ask me to your house because I will go around touching walls, or bits of old doorways and windowsills.  I have often said, when I come across an old house I fancy, “Oh, I could marry this house.”  At first, people snicker, but then they realize I’m fairly serious.  Then they think, I’m sure, “Oh, God.  Who’s this woman, then?!  How quickly can we get her out?”  My favourite thing to do, though, when I go into a person’s house for the first time, is to look at the books in their bookcases.  I’m nosy.  Collected books will serve as a mirror to a person’s soul, I often think, so then I’ll be bent over and peering at what’s on the lowest shelf.  It’s usually the most interesting one!

Gutenberg’s Fingerprint doesn’t say that old is better than new, that print is better than pixels.  Instead, Simonds herself admits: “I suffer the anxiety of a culture in flux” and says that we are “caught in a paradigm shift.  Words are the constant, with paper on one shore, pixels on the other.”  I get the flux thing.  I had an e-reader on my iPad, and it was grand when I was traveling by plane, but it (too often) fell on my face or shoulder when I fell asleep reading in bed.  Books will, in my experience, cause less of a concussion when I’m reading at night.  🙂  I also have the worst eyesight known to humankind, so my eyes get too tired when I read on a screen.

Last year, when I was at Banff for Lawrence Hill’s session on historical fiction, I met two writers from Calgary who also love the art of book making with a passion.  One is Monica Kidd, a writer who loves to experiment with typeface and letter presses.  The other is Sandra McIntyre, who is intrigued by Baskerville’s font, and his life.  There were nights of conversations about fonts out in Banff, too, that intrigued me, and I learned more about letter presses in those ten days than I had known in my entire life.  It’s funny to me, now, that I’ve had pieces of the book making process swirling around me in the last year or two.  And then I came to Gutenberg’s Fingerprint.  

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I love this book deeply.  It’s kept me reading rather steadily for the past few days, and with a number of things pressing down on me, including emergency vet visits and a bit of worry about trying to finish a manuscript of essays in the next two and a half weeks, it’s offered me respite and distraction.   This book, this week, has offered me a place where I can find some solace, delving headfirst into stories about how many kids first encounter printing with halves of raw potatoes that are etched out with designs and then dipped into primary colours of paint, or to stories around the history of the Gutenberg Bible, or to the history of parchment and how it’s linked to a “a narrative of conquest and invention.”

The thing I love most about it, though, is that it documents a dear friendship.  As someone who really doesn’t have much of a family anymore, my friends are that to me.  What Simonds does, throughout the narrative about making her book, The Paradise Project, is weave in a story of how people meet, and how both can share in the teaching and learning process, and how interconnected we can be on a soul level.  I love that.  It’s about depth—of friendship, of craft, of artistry.  (I know, too, that my friend Tanya feels the same way about Hugh, especially when I recall how her face lit up when she spoke to me about him, and how their friendship is so dear to her.)

This book is about making books, yes, but it’s about so much more.  Anyone who just sees the ‘parts’ of the process, really, is missing the beauty of Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, in my opinion.  It’s a love letter to books, to words, to paper, to the Muse, to taking time to revise, to craft things with care, but it’s even more so a love letter to how interconnected we all are…if we are open enough to see it…if we let our hearts go first, so that our heads just follow a little bit behind.  There’s the magic of it all.

peace,

k.

 

 

 

 

 

This is a tiny blog post, just large enough to house a link to the interview I had with Markus Schwabe on CBC Sudbury’s Morning North today.  The Raining Poetry Project is happening now, and the deadline is July 31st.

http://www.cbc.ca/1.4208363

Sudbury poets are asked to submit poems 140-characters or less (including spaces!) so that the pieces can be tweeted out on the Poet Laureate Twitter account (@SudburyPoet).  Between 5-10 poems will be chosen and placed around the downtown core in late August.  The poems will be on the sidewalks downtown through the fall rainy season (from late August until early November).

Don’t worry; everything is environmental and biodegradable.  The words will spring up from the pavement when it rains…and if it doesn’t rain, well, we’ll have a poetry hike in the fall and the poets can throw water balloons at their own poems!

Please consider submitting to this if you’re living in Greater Sudbury!

Thanks,

kim

🙂

My dad loved to garden.  He had a huge garden behind our big back yard.  Each year, he would till it, dressed in horrible beige work pants that ended up eternally stained by dirt.  As a child and teenager, it was my job (along with my sister’s) to bring him ice water (“Lots of ice, Kim!”) in a big Labatt’s glass beer tankard. He used to work for Labatt’s as a summer beer rep when I was a teenager and I recall going with him into the bush in Northern Ontario, visiting fishing camps to drop off ‘free stuff’ in a weirdly decorated Budweiser Jeep.  So, we had plenty of glass beer tankards at home.  Too many.

Anyway, I digress.  The garden.  He loved it.  We lived next to his parents, my really-quite-scary German grandfather and my nearly-erased-Irish/Scottish/English grandmother.  (They were terrifying, but that’s just not for this blog.  No point.  They’ll likely show up as twisted characters in a future novel or play, and I’ll likely go to hell afterwards, in true Irish Catholic fashion.)  My grandfather had the same sized garden as my dad’s.  Living at our house was like living at a commune or something, in terms of the vegetables that both Dad and Gramps grew.

Sometimes, I felt like an indentured servant, being forced to weed in the sun, plucking beans for blanching and freezing in late summer,  and later digging up potato hills and carrying too-big-bushel-baskets of creepy looking potatoes down into the fruit cellar in early fall.  I used to hate the smell of pickling, too, every fall, and I never fancied pickled relish on pork at Thanksgiving.  So horrid…but now I wonder if that’s because I associated the whole thing with the process of having been forced to weed all the time.  It may be, too, if I’m honest, that some of it had to do with my parents not having loads of money at the time.  I think now, when I look back, so much of the gathering of food, and preserving it, or freezing it, was about making it through the winter in an economical manner.

One year, I remember local kids stole vegetables from Gramp’s garden.  So, being an old school Southwestern Ontario German guy, he used to sit on a worn concrete compost bin late at night, waiting for the kids…with a rifle sitting across his lap.  Yeah.  He wasn’t a normal grandfather.  That’s clear enough, even in my memory now.

So, for Dad, I often think he made his garden to try and impress his own father, which was sort of sad, but sort of beautiful at the same time. Bittersweet, I suppose. They never struck me as being close, and I never saw a stitch of affection exchanged between them.  Old German men aren’t very kind, in my familial experience.  As I grew up, gardening held mixed messages.  My Dad, I think, may have started his grand experiment in horticulture to impress his own father, but it soon became a passion and deep love for him on a personal level.  He would light up with pride when he brought in a big bunch of Swiss Chard for supper.  The carrots he grew, well, I haven’t tasted carrots like those since I was a girl…and I miss that.

As kids, Stacy and I had to weed.  It was just expected.  No monetary allowances or bribery.  Just “you’re going to help weed tomorrow,” and I would go to bed thinking, as a fat girl with a staple in one hip, “Christ.  This is hell.”  I have always been pale skinned, too, so I hated weeding.  I would beg to go and weed near the fence, where there were trees.  I had shade there, and then, if I needed a break, I would daydream while looking up at the leaves in the tree.  I liked the way the sun moved through them, all gold-green and shadows rippling.

I don’t think I ever really impressed my father as a gardener, to be honest, because I wasn’t effective as a weeder.  Stacy was, but she was methodical and practical about it.  She was good at ‘wheeling and dealing,’ as Dad used to say.  I think she even, at some point, did strike up a business deal with Dad, for weeding purposes.  They both knew how to ‘do business.’  They had a close relationship, in my memory.  I was just too much in my head, I think, daydreaming or wishing I was Anne of Green Gables, wishing that I could have had a Matthew and Marilla of my own.  I don’t think either of my parents ever really ‘got me.’

Weeding:  I remember feeling like my skin was always on fire and I hated the sweat that would pour over the burn.  Back then, sunscreen wasn’t a thing.  I remember my mum and aunts always putting on baby oil, to get a tan, when we were at camp or at the lake.  Yeah.  That wasn’t clever.  I learned to just avoid the sun, tucking myself under a tree to read, or hiding in my room with a fan.  (I was a quiet girl, so sometimes I could make them forget I was even there…for a little while.)  The best you could hope for, if you were pale, ghostly, alabaster skinned me, is that there was a bottle of no-name aloe gel in the kitchen closet with the broken folding door.  Then the cheap summer lawn fabric of my Zeller’s nightgown would rub on my back and shoulders and I would just want to cry in pain at night.  Good times.  Not.

This was one side of gardening.

The other was what I saw at my great-aunts’ house, at 160 Kingsmount.  My great-grandfather had built the most beautiful garden.  On Canada Day, we all used to gather in that lush back yard and set off fireworks and sparklers.  Whenever I went to visit my great-aunts, I felt like they lived in a magical, sort of posh world.  You could step down into that grand garden and wander through shaded areas, or go to the very end, near the white picket fence, and pick the raspberries that hid next to the willow tree.  I loved that willow tree.  I used to go under there and think, “I wish I could just stay here and disappear.  Maybe no one will find me.”  I don’t really know what I was thinking as a girl.  Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m thinking as a woman.

I never knew my maternal great-grandparents.  They died almost twenty-five years before I was born, so I can only look at the photos of them now and wonder what they might have been like.  They’ve kind of become ghostlike characters in my first novel, completely fabricated in my mind.  My great-uncle, Tom Kelly, though, was in charge, as I was growing up, of the most amazing rock garden I’ve ever seen.  The land at the back of the house on Kingsmount dropped off sharply, so you went down flights of steps into the garden.  Tom built and maintained the most beautiful rock garden.  Through my childhood and teens, and early twenties, at parties there, all of my cousins would clamber over that thing, and then he would come out and give us all shit, so that we had to scramble down again, scolded and chastened.  It was, though, the best back yard to play hide and seek in…it really was.

I thought of Tom today when I was out in my back garden.  Last week, I did my front window boxes with my artist friend, Trish Stenabaugh.  We went to a nursery and spent time talking about, and choosing plants.  (I groped too many leaves and flowers that day.) Today, I went back to Southview and bought a whole slew of ground cover plants.  I especially loved buying the hens and chickens.  Tom stuffed those little suckers into every crevice possible in that old rock garden at 160 and I was always amazed by how they spread and seemed ancient.  They had come from Creighton, someone old in the family told me once.  They seemed to make the rock wall disappear, in a magical sort of way.

So.  Today, I spent a couple of hours pulling apart a section of my yard, the hill that leads up to my good neighbour’s fence.  I yanked out bits of maple trees sprouting, and stray bits of grass.  I found tiny bulbs of garlic plants, which someone must have planted years ago.  I left the moss and lichen, though.  For some inane sensory reason, I love to touch moss and lichen on rocky surfaces.  Have since I was a kid.  I love the way the rock feels so hot, and the moss or lichen feels warm, but almost cool in contrast to the rock.  I like that contrast, of how things up here in Sudbury’s northern landscape can seem harsh, but also just so beautiful and vulnerable at the same time.

Clambering over that rocky hill this afternoon, covered in sunscreen and glad for the tree shade, I kept thinking of what I’ve been doing over the last sixteen months or so.  It’s been a year of no fear, and an extension of that in the six and a half months of this year.  I’ve fallen in love with canoeing again, after many years of absence and a poor experience in my past.  I’ve taken up gardening, finding great solace in shoving my hands in the dirt and then having vegetables to gather.  I’ve lost enough weight that I feel comfortable enough in my body to swim again, to feel fluid, graceful, and strong in a northern lake.  I thought, today, stepping onto a rock, and then losing my footing, “So what, Kim?  So what?  You try something new.  You lose your footing, and you stumble, and you find your feet again.”  My whole philosophy of life has shifted in the last year and a half.  It’s a chrysalis making and breaking time.  It’s magical, and it’s terrifying, and it’s empowering to push through fear to find yourself in a new way.

After years of being too cerebral, I think, it’s like everything is whole now.  I’ve learned that you can be more than content with yourself, and your life, if you are grateful for the little things that show up every day.  I used to have to look for my tiny notes of thanks to the universe, but now they seem to swarm me on a daily basis. Gratitude glows…somehow.  So lovely.

Taking that rock hill apart today, and seeing what was underneath, served as a metaphor for my own physical and spiritual transformation.  Sometimes, I think, you need to go to very dark spaces to be able to see the light.  Some old dead Italian painters like da Vinci and Caravaggio used to call it ‘chiaroscuro,’ how light and dark work on canvas…and in a life.  I’m glad, now, that I’ve had such darkness in my life.  I wouldn’t be able to see the light if I hadn’t walked through the darkness.  It makes the light that much more beautiful.  The risks I take now, as a soul in a human body, wanting human experiences to grow my soul, I think, might seem small to other people, but to me they are the most massive risks I could ever take.  Hard to explain.

So.  The metaphor of the garden.  You pull apart something that has been covered over, made silent and hidden for too long, and then you see what’s underneath it all.  You think, “oh, that’s there, then. Such a surprise!” Then, you rebuild.  You create.  You blossom.

It’s not just about the shitty weeding chore anymore, for me.  It’s about coming into myself and recognizing the beauty of being so organic and holistic and raw inside.  It’s evolutionary.  It’s brilliant.  It’s like the lotus flower that you see somewhere in almost every yoga studio on the planet.

That little lotus flower had to rise up from the mud and muck, pushing up through the water to bloom.  It blooms out of darkness, reaching up to find the light.  It reminds me of my journey.  It reminds me of my canoe trip last Monday with my friend Jen, and how we went by a series of beautiful water lilies and I kept thinking of how beautiful they were, how mystical, how vulnerable, how ephemeral.

There’s something I’m learning about the mirage of certainty, about the illusion of ‘safety.’  It doesn’t exist. That lotus, or that water lily, needs to be open.  It needs to be vulnerable, and, in that action, of making itself vulnerable, it blooms.  As Anais Nin said, “…the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  I always liked that quotation.  Now, though, it rings true in my heart.

Being vulnerable isn’t easy, being open is the absolute most hardest thing, especially if you’ve only ever been taught to hide and pull inside yourself, to make yourself smaller than you are,  to “turtle,” but when you risk being vulnerable…your heart…blooms…and then the landscape, the universe, the Creator, whatever it is…that force of energy…rushes in to let you know all risks, to be vulnerable, to pull down your own walls, are met with rewards we can’t even yet imagine.  How cool is that?

I think my grandfather would think I was mad, a heathen woman with bits of leaves stuck in her curly hair on a windy day.  I think my dad would smile, shake his head, and say, “Oh, Kimber…” and let the words drift off because I likely confused, frustrated, mystified, and delighted him all at once.  I think my uncle, Tom, would gather me into a hug and tell me that he’s proud of me.  For risking, for pulling down my own walls with blood on my hands and tears in my eyes, and for blooming…like a lotus out of muck, or like a little bit of Irish moss stuffed into a rocky crevice.  Survival is the first step, and then there’s the blooming…

peace,

k.

 

 

Here’s a link to the newest essay I’ve written.  It’s a reflective and personal narrative, I suppose you could say, which speaks about the role Mary Oliver’s work–both prose and poetry–plays in my life as a writer.

I think my deep love of landscape and the rhythms of the natural world, a love which is usually found outside of cities in my experience–down a gravel bush road, or on some island or another, or hiking, or canoeing, or sitting under a big tree–makes me feel comfortable with Oliver’s writings.

Anyway, if you’d like to read it, you can do so by clicking on this link and paying the many gendered mothers a visit.  🙂

Thanks to rob mclennan for his enthusiasm and kindness in publishing this piece.

peace,

k.

http://themanygenderedmothers.blogspot.ca/

I have always loved Heather Topp’s work. I’m no fancy schmancy art historian, as most of you will know, but I do love art, and, oh my, I so love hers. After I had what my late great-aunt, Maureen, would have called “a day,” I just felt I needed to immerse myself in the space and vibrant energy that is the Art Gallery of Sudbury. Creeping art posts on Twitter or spending hours on the sunroom floor flipping through my art books just wouldn’t budge the emotional grime and strange elasticity of the day, so I knew I needed to shift the energy that was bogging me down somehow. That’s when I knew I needed the gallery. It’s a place that’s dear to my heart. I’ve haunted it as a visitor and member for the last twenty odd years. It’s even where I met my first boyfriend. We were taking the same Canadian Art History course with Henry Best at Laurentian. There are stories there in the cosmic nature of the meeting between the two of us, but they’re best left for another day (or perhaps just forgotten and later written about in a play or novel).

I’ve loved Heather Topp’s work since I volunteered at the gallery back at university, and then, for a season, in my mid to late twenties when I worked there in communications and media. I remember meeting her and being so in awe of her presence. She wouldn’t likely remember me, but I remember her! 🙂 She struck me as a force of creativity, and I’m always so awestruck by people whose work I fancy, whether they are visual artists or writers. (Put me in front of Billy Collins, for instance, or Seamus Heaney, and I lose all sense. A fairly bright woman, well, I quickly dissolve into a stumbling red-faced mess of tongue-tied idiocy when I’m smitten with someone’s creative work. Seriously sad state of affairs. You can dress me up, but you can’t take me out. Sigh.)

What I loved most about her work, and still do, are the larger than life paper mache figures who stand in circles. The women are the ones who most strike me, and always have. I love their pendulous breasts, oversized feet, and rounded bellies. They remind me of the ancient Celtic goddess statues I’ve seen at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. Specifically, they remind me of the Sheela-na-gig statues and carvings that are found around Ireland, pagan statues which emphasise the female genitalia. They are ancient, pagan fertility symbols. In the medieval period, they likely were meant to serve as moral warnings against the “sins” of desire and sex. In the pre-Christian period, though, Sheela-na-gigs are more likely to have been whimsical (but powerful) celebrations of female sexuality, sensuality and fertility. For me, they have always symbolized the creative force that I try to channel as a writer, as a woman, as a soul.

Topp’s female statues emanate the essences of fertility, creativity, and a sort of ‘fuck you’ mentality. I especially love the ones who give you the finger as you walk around the circle. The best part of today happened when I was up in Gallery 2, and I put myself right in the middle of such a circle. The faces are blank ones, which fascinate me, but I am always amazed by the moose teeth that jut out from where their mouths might be. The figures transfix and delight me.

I often think about what it means to be a woman. (I’m one with a curvy form that must’ve been genetically passed down on my maternal Irish side with the hopeful intention that I would breed, just as they all had. I failed at that biological and familial expectation, but my creativity has given birth to itself in other ways, so that’s okay!) I think, too, about feminism, and about how women make themselves present in the world, and how we give voice to our experiences. I like that Topp’s work makes me think so deeply about what it means to be a woman (not a girl) and how it feels to take up space (happily and healthily so) in the world when you are a creative soul. Here are two beautiful photos of the figures I’m talking about.

When I stood in the middle of that circle upstairs today, I felt almost as if I’d been welcomed in, gathered into a circle of souls who might understand me. They seem sacred, as if–when you stand outside of that circle–you might be intruding on some ritual or ceremony. But, the moment you silently ask them to let you come inside that circle, to turn slowly to see each figure on their own, and then as part of a whole, they say ‘yes’ and ‘welcome,’ and you can finally exhale. It’s a sense of sisterhood or something ancient and rooted in the earth itself. I love that. I love that so much that I can’t find the words…

Another part of the exhibition that took my breath away, and surprised me in a whimsical way, included the series of India ink drawings on paper that open up the walls of Gallery 2. When I went upstairs and came to these black and white drawings, they just seemed so damn brilliant and intoxicating. I think I actually stood in front of the first one and said, out loud, “Oh my God.” It was that amazing. These “Lost Horizons,” a series of eight pieces from 2006, make you feel as if you’ve almost intruded on a chrysalis of creativity. You are pulled deeply into the images. Always, at the core, there are figures of women, haunting and weaving visual echoes from piece to piece. Hips, breasts, eyes, and hair are all gathered together in a way that speak to a sense of creation, of a gloriously mucky, almost visceral and ancient sensuality that makes you think “Yeah, this is what it’s about. I can see myself in there, but I can also see things that make me think being a woman is much more vast and mysterious than I can fathom, even being inside (and aware of) my own body, beauty, and sensuality.”

Each pen and ink drawing demands that you stand there, awestruck, and that you look deeply to see the hidden things. There, in one piece, the skeletons of fish. And there, half of an apple, perhaps a reference to Eve in some biblical garden. Then, above that face, a two-headed bird that emerges with wings spread wide. It all speaks to how much of a mysterious universe might be inside one woman’s body and soul. The exhibition is empowering, curious and seductive, to say the least.

It’s a visual, intellectual, spiritual, artistic, and sensual experience. It’s a buffet, with courses clustered and offered up to the gallery goer. Here, a series of quirky stoneware statues in “No Trespassing” that peer out of wooden, boxy frames, and there, a bit of an old INCO sign that speaks to the mining company for which so many of our fathers and grandfathers worked. It made me think of my family history, on both sides. We often speak of how far Sudbury has come, and it has, and proudly so, but we can never forget that how much of what we are, city and soul, is rooted in the earth itself. Not all of us go underground to mine, but we all feel the ground when it shakes in a blast or rockburst.

“Livid Here” is a play on words, I imagine. Melissa, the staff member who stopped to chat with me this afternoon, explained it briefly. “Livid,” as in “lived here,” in Sudbury, in Northern Ontario, with organic works that seem to spring from some deep place of origin and birth. “Livid,” as in “I’m livid,” or “these things make me livid,” or “these things frustrate me.” Yes. Sudbury can be a place of great beauty, but it can also (at times) be a place of great frustration. People from away might only see a rough, rocky place, whereas people who live and create here artistically (in various artistic forms) would see the raw beauty underneath the surface. We’re all about mines, after all. It makes sense to me that some of us, as creatives, would be drawn to mining the metaphor of this place.

I would also say, today, after a frantic and divisive week in politics here in town, that I’m glad to hear of the funding that’s been given to offer the Art Gallery of Sudbury and the Greater Sudbury Public Library a new home in the downtown core. I think art and words go together. For me, it’s as natural as breathing, to put the two together, but that’s how I sense my way through the world. Always have. I’m hopeful, as a writer, that this bodes well for the arts in this town. We can’t forget the power of what art does–whether theatrical, visual, musical, or literary–within a community. I know people will always say we should fix a pothole, or make parking free in places where it isn’t, but the arts is about something bigger than just patching roads. The arts allow us to see something brighter and show us our human potential in creating things that lift us up. If we want to be more than ‘just a mining town,’ we need to invest in and support our artists. Without them, well, I can’t envision a place where I’d want to be.

I always think of one of my favourite Canadian poets, the late Bronwen Wallace, who used to say that she loved writing poetry because, for her, it revealed the extraordinary aspects that could be found in the ordinary rhythms of life. Yes. Oh, yes. That’s why I hope people can see the value of the arts in Greater Sudbury. Potholes, well, they will always be here. It’s a common, whining complaint, what with our northern winters and the frost heaving every spring, but the arts community isn’t about just filling holes. We need to have people realize that choosing to actively support the arts up here fills something much more crucial than a pothole. Supporting the arts creates culture and a vibrant place to live and work.

Now. If you’re looking for something to do in the next week, before this exhibition closes on July 9th, I’d suggest you pop over to the AGS and see “Livid Here.” Heather Topp is a brilliant Sudbury artist, and her creative contribution to our cultural history and atmosphere up here is beyond compare. You don’t want to miss this one. You’ll be kicking yourself if you do. Trust me. I may not have a fancy schmancy art degree, but I love art, and this show is one to see.

peace,
k.

This blog of mine offers me the space and place to reflect on how art weaves itself into my world, and how it intersects with poetry, literature, music, and memory, and offers me a heart’s anchor in my own life on a daily basis. Diane Schoemperlen’s essay, “One Thing Leads to Another,” centring on the art of collage, and dipping into the notion of how visual art and words go together so seamlessly, as beautifully and effortlessly as breathing even, is simply stunning. I’m sort of addicted to ekphrastic poetry, as most people who read my work (even this blog!) will know. I wrote ekphrastic poems before I even knew what they were all about. A bit daft, really, when I think back, but I should have known that I was drawn to visual art because I so desperately wanted to be an artist. (I still do, but that’s another story…and I’ve written about it all before, in one of my Bobcaygeon blogs from Christmas, so you can go digging through entries if you feel so compelled.)

For now, I find great joy in writing poems (and sometimes plays) that are inspired by the work of the artists I love. My favourites are Alex Colville, Georgia O’Keefe, Leonora Carrington, Mary Pratt, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Frida Kahlo, Nicola Slattery, John William Waterhouse (C’mon, “The Lady of Shalott?!” Love it!), William Turner, John Constable, alongside people like Whistler (I love his nocturnes), Hopper and Wyeth.  My deep love of First Nations, Metis and Inuit art, though, has its own roster of artists, including:  Leland Bell, James Simon, Kenojuak Ashevak (oh, her owls!), Daphne Odjig, Christi Belcourt, and Bill Reid.  The vibrant colours, beading, weaving, sculptures, and the stories behind all of these pieces speak to me in ways that other genres of art can’t.  I think, partially, that’s because I’m from up here, Northern Ontario.  It’s in me when I sit on the edge of Lake Nipissing on an early summer day, taking photos of rocks, my feet in water, surrounded by moss, ferns, and tall pines.  Landscape, for me, is ekphrastic, and this seems to only be intensifying as the year progresses.

Reading Schoemperlen’s essay today, I thought, “Oh, God. I hope to meet this woman some day. We would have a fine chat.” You see, I love how art can be tied to memory, and how photographs can string themselves together into a life’s memory, especially when people have gone on. Published by Grant Munroe, and as the inaugural publication for Woodbridge Farm Books of Kingsville, just outside of Windsor, this little chapbook is a joy to read and hold in your hands. The paper is textured and has a sense of presence, which is a big thing if you like to touch things, as I do. The most artfully elegant and thoughtfully poignant touch, though, is the red string that threads itself gracefully through the book, almost crossing its heart with a tiny knot between pages twelve and thirteen. The visual images that weave themselves into the text are lovely, too. This book is the kind of thing that you desperately want to read, but also don’t want to, because you know it will all be over too soon, and then you can only go and read it over and over again, late at night, wishing for more. That’s a good sign, I think, when you’re an avid reader. (I do this, too, with Gwendolyn MacEwen’s poems, or Neruda, or Rilke, or Yeats, or Heaney…when I can’t sleep. I usually end up with a book hitting me in the face and bouncing off a pillow or a nearby dog, but better a poetry book than an art book!)

What I love about Diane Schoemperlen’s work…is sort of endless. I’ve loved her writing for a long time. My favourite book is still, and probably always will be, Our Lady of the Lost and Found.  I remember reading it a while back and thinking of my Irish great aunts, The Kelly Girls. They used to gather late at night in the kitchen of the grand red brick house that my great-grandfather built, at 160 Kingsmount. I still remember one conversation about them being fascinated by any type of Marian mysteries (e.g. weeping statues, visitations, Lourdes and Fatima) and Medugorje when it first hit the news. I can’t remember how old I was, but I do remember that they were all sitting around that table, late at night, drinking their crappy instant coffee from badly crafted pottery mugs, their cigarettes billowing blue curls of smoke through the kitchen, and the conversation being heated.

Clare: “We should save up to go there. I’d like to see Our Lady. Imagine if she showed up while we were there?!” Maureen: “Wouldn’t you rather go to Ireland, see where the governess ran off with the gardener at Bunratty Castle? That’s family history! Or maybe visit the shrine at Knock?”  Clare: “Well, I mean, the sun dances in the sky at Medugorje. Wouldn’t we have a better chance of seeing Mary there?” Seriously. I think I remember it so vividly because it was so damn surreal. (I actually think Norah might have just left the room at some point with her mug of Ovaltine because I don’t recall her playing a big part in the conversation!)  🙂

They were devout Irish Catholic women. In their youth, they belonged to the so-called “Legion of Mary,” which seemed to me, when they talked about it in their last years, to be a bit of a cult, really. A bit over the top, if you ask me, but fun to listen in to them talking late at night, especially if they decided to spontaneously brew up Irish coffee with lots of Tullamore Dew. So, it was with that sort of cultural, familial background that I came to reading Schoemperlen’s Our Lady of the Lost and Found.  It was like entering into a hot bath full of lavender bath salts and Ivory soap.  That’s how much I love that book.  My childhood was lived in big old family houses that were liberally tagged with crucifixes over door frames, statues of Mary and Joseph stuffed into corners of book cases and china cabinets (where you would see them and try not to misbehave!) and spare plastic rosaries that were stuffed into bags in the top drawers of guest room dressers, in case anyone needed one in an emergency.   🙂

Reading this beautiful essay today, though, struck me. I love how Schoemperlen writes about photos, and finding them in odd places, and seeing how images can evoke memory, and how memory pulls at your heart and your mind. As a writer, that’s where I get a lot of stuff, really…mining family photos and old legends.  I have a friend and writing mentor who swears by it.  He always tells me, whenever I talk to him about my novel, “Kim, mine your family.  For God’s sake, most of them are dead, right? Perfect! Just write it!”  Yup. Rich material in there. Reading about Schoemperlen’s experience with Double Exposures, I thought of the photo that most haunts my imagination. It’s the one of my mum, being held by my great uncle, Brian Kelly, when he was home on leave from the war. My great-aunts, Clare, Maureen, and Norah, talked about how “your mum always had such a grand sense of balance,” and then showed me this photo, which has become iconic and mythic in my extended family.  It hangs in my little house, where I see it every day.

I’ve even written a poem, “Balancing Acts,” about it all, and how that house haunts me, and how she haunts me, even though I’ve forgotten how her voice sounded since she died, and how that in itself haunts me if I think too much about it…so I try not to.  My lost ones are like ghosts in my heart some days, but I’d rather have them there than nowhere at all.

Stylistically, I love echoes in poetic writing, whether it be in poems, plays, essays, or stories.  My friend, Sarah Gartshore, writes beautifully powerful plays about First Nations issues, and the thing that most draws me into her work is how she uses repetition and echoes to entrance her audience.  The lines that so beautifully do that here, in Schoemperlen’s “One Thing Leads to Another,” is the lovely little ripple of the title and of the line, “Please don’t ask me what it means.”  That struck me.  Yes.  When you have a busy, creative mind, and you’re intelligent, sometimes it’s hard to slow it all down.  You’re vaguely aware of how creativity works, I think, in how it comes upon you like a wave that moves up onto the shore of one of our Great Lakes, or how an ancient strand kisses the salt water of the Irish Sea in a rainstorm.  But, if you stop to sort it through in your head, well, it can be overwhelming.  Best to just let yourself go with it…at least for the first draft.  🙂

It’s a powerful force, creativity.  I very much like what Schoemperlen says about it, near the end of the piece, when she writes:  “I make these small collages to remember that creativity is an unlimited renewable resource, a joyful act of energy, adventure, and exploration…Create more, worry less.”  And then, finally, “Please don’t ask what it means.  I might say nothing at all.” I feel like that when I’m with friends who aren’t writers, or musicians, or painters, or actors.   My creative kindreds are the people I can most connect with, mostly because they get it.  They don’t need to have me explain how my mind works because, to them, well, their minds work in similar fashions. There’s comfort in that, finding your creative soul mates, even rooted here amidst the slag of Sudbury.

I’ve been dipping into Timothy Findley’s Inside Memory this week, in between trying to submit poems to literary journals, writing new scenes for my play, and marking culminating activities for my Grade 11s and 12s.  Tiff was my first writing mentor and I miss him.  So, when I miss him, and when I wish I could pick his brain, I pick up one of his books.  I can hear his voice in my head when I do that.  It centres me.  Roots me.  So, I found this little piece, which links to “One Thing Leads to Another.”  He writes, in his title essay, “It is a truth: a writer is a witness.  A witness of the present, a witness of the future, a witness of the past. Memory provides that witness with veracity.  Yes; even our memory of the future.”

In his essay, “Remembrance,” too, Tiff speaks of memory as ‘hope’ and ‘survival.’  I so love this.  I believe it.  It links to the notion that memory is rooted in personal experience, in the voices, scents, and touches of people you’ve loved and lost–whether through letting them go purposefully, or through them casting you off without a care, or through just drifting away from them in life, or by losing them through the finality of death; in the sounds of wind in the night trees; or rain on the roof in mid-June, on the night before Solstice; or in the geese that make themselves known when I walk at dawn on the edge of Lake Ramsey.  These are all pieces I could use in my own collage, I think.

So many people discount things that aren’t big, showy, and superficial.  So many people neglect to look beneath the surface, to see where the real beauty and light is at, if you want to search to find it.  What I love about this little chapbook from Woodbridge Farm Books is that it reminds you physically, intellectually, and spiritually of what really matters:  Schoemperlen’s story here is a personal narrative of an artistic process, an ode to creativity, and a metaphor for life itself. Her writing speaks to how images, memory, and the passage of time can all collage themselves into a beautiful essay. The piece can speak volumes to anyone who opens their heart wide enough to hear it.  (If you’re really lucky, and the rain has wooed you, you’ll have read the words with open heart, heard them, and then felt them resonate deeply in your body.  Good literature should move you, shake you, reshape you.  This piece does all of that, for me.  I quite like its poetic soul, too.)

When I go off writing, on my own, in the middle of nowhere, I always take a few key books with me.  I take Richard Wagamese’s Embers, and two or three of Mary Oliver’s books of poems or essays, a few plays to study, some Yeats and Heaney of course, and now I’ll add this one to my pile when I go to Pelee Island in August to try to finish two plays that I’m working on this summer.  It’s that good, this little chapbook.

One thing does lead to another…so that the literal stuff becomes metaphorical magic:  like daisies in a chain, or words in a line, or lines in a stanza, or images on a canvas mixed with words.  They palimpsest themselves after a while, all layers of language, visual images and memories, but that collage–rooted in heart and mind–is what makes a life vibrant and bright.

peace, friends.

k.

 

 

 

 

I’ve written about how yoga has changed my life before. This is likely redundant. If you don’t want to read it, do me a favour and just don’t. I’m at a place in my life, these days, when I think “Well, if I’m not for you, that’s okay. I’m for me, and that’s way more interesting on a soul growth level, anyway.” So. If yoga doesn’t interest you, or evolution of self doesn’t interest you, then…”Off you go!”, as my friend Pat often says at work. 🙂

Last year was my self-proclaimed “year of no fear.” I’ve written about it here on this blog before, so it won’t come as a shock of any sort. It may even have inspired another friend or two to follow in the wake of my chaotic evolution. This year is my continuation. A sequel, perhaps. 🙂

This year is about chrysalis making and breaking–coming to the edge of transformation, and then realizing that you don’t know who or what you are anymore. You might not even be the same person you were in November or December. That’s where I’m at now. It’s pretty intense, mostly because it’s hard to recognize the hallmarks of self that used to be solid anchors. They just aren’t there anymore. That’s exciting. It’s means I’ve evolved.

So. Yoga. It’s been in my life, on and off, for about nine years. I started into it while I was off work, on heavy anti-depressants, and taking care of my mum as she was dying back in 2008. I had gained so much weight, all because of Remeron. The medication was the thing that saved my life, but it also made me gain about seventy or eighty pounds within a very short span of time. After my parents died, Mum in 2008 and Dad in late 2011, I restructured my life and set about losing the antidepressant weight gain. I lost about fifty pounds between early 2012 and 2015. That was good, but then I stabilized and hit a plateau. It happens when you take weight loss carefully, without rushing. You just sort of know that’s the way it will be. If you want the fat to stay off, then you need to take it slowly.

Last year, after a plateau of a couple of years, despite regular Zumba sessions, I sort of rededicated myself to getting the rest of the Remeron weight off my frame. I was healthy, off excessive amounts of anti-anxiety and sleep meds, and knew the weight needed to come off. Both of my parents had issues with heart disease and diabetes. They didn’t eat well, they drank too much, and they didn’t exercise. They were, really, poor role models for good overall health. It’s not their fault, though, and I don’t ever blame them. They did the best they could, in so many ways. I guess I’m thankful because I learned from them, in watching them suffer from poor health choices throughout their lives. I know I don’t want that because I watched them suffer for their poor choices. Their endings, which were horrific really, were totally avoidable.

So, last year, I intensified my approach. Since then, I think I’ve lost about another twenty or thirty pounds. I’m guessing, though. I don’t weigh myself. I only know that I feel healthier and stronger. I went from a size 18 in 2011 to a size 14 in 2015/16, to a size 12/10 now. Numbers, in terms of weight, don’t impress me much. Feeling strong, and knowing I’m healthy, is more about what I’m interested in. I intend to live a very long time, so that I can write a whole lot of really cool stories and poems! 🙂

I won’t lie, though. Last week, I went through my closet and put together three garbage bags of donated clothes. I hate spending money on myself, which is silly. Today, I wore something that was too big and I thought, “Why are you doing this? You have hidden for much too long.” But I still like this little lacy blouse, so I keep it. By September, it’ll be much too big and I’ll move on to a smaller size. But, for now, it’s fine under a blue cardigan for work.

Last week, I found a skirt I used to wear to my twenty-something poetry readings. I loved this skirt. That’s why I’ve kept it all these years. It is pale blue, reminiscent of sky, really, with wonderful ivory daisies scattered all over it. (Daisies are my favourite flower, so there was no way I would ever give it away. I’ve been saving it for a reason). It’s a skirt I wore when I was 26, when I was still a girl really, and when I was deeply (and stupidly & painfully) in love with a boy from Nova Scotia. I kept that skirt. It’s beautiful.

Last week, I tried it on. It fits. This, for me, is magical. It’s not at all about going back in time. I’m fine with age and time’s passing. It’s all an illusion anyway. I like where I am in my life, having had really crappy experiences that have made me stronger. I look about ten years younger than I actually am, and this is mostly (I think) because I am so pale and because I’m happily content because I’ve entered into reading and writing more fully as a way of life. I’ve also avoided the sun forever…and I’ve never worn tons of thick makeup or foundation. Good skin runs in my mum’s family, so I’m lucky that way. So. The skirt fit. What does that mean?

For me, it’s kind of like Cinderella’s shoe. It means that, in my head, I’m finally in a place where I’m as physically healthy as I was about nineteen years ago. That’s an accomplishment. I’m proud of it. Really, it isn’t about weight loss, although that’s part of it. To be honest, it’s likely much more about evolution, and shedding of skin. It’s about moving into yourself, and finding that you’re really at home there, content and flourishing.

Tonight, at yoga class, I just about lost my mind with joy. My teacher, Willa, who has taught me on and off for about seven years, had us do hip openers. I always dread these poses because I have a staple in one of my hips, from a childhood surgery which really crippled me for a year or two. I am always fearful of whether or not my hip will ‘stick.’ (Don’t laugh, please. It actually happens. When it does happen, well, it’s like someone is stabbing me in the hip socket with a knife and I can’t move until it decides to let me go. Sometimes, if it happens and there isn’t something to grab on to, well, it can be nasty and make me stumble or fall into someone. So not attractive…)

Tonight in class, we did Warrior 1 Pose. I love the Warrior series of poses. Always have. I love how elegant they feel, when you’re doing them on your mat. You stretch everything out, and you bend over yourself with a fluidity that I haven’t found in regular everyday life moments of physicality. You root down into your feet, fire up your leg muscles, and find that you are much stronger, and much more graceful, than you have ever given yourself credit for. I also love the story behind the Warrior poses. It’s not a simple love story and, to be honest, which love stories are simple anyway? (They rarely go as smoothly as they ought to according to novels or films!) You can look it up elsewhere (and it’s worth looking up because it’s dramatic and poetic!), but it’s the story of a love affair between Lord Shiva and his bride, Sati. From this story, we get the Warrior series of poses. I love all of them, but Warrior 1 lights me up from the inside out.

Warrior 1 makes me feel strong, powerful, beautiful, and graceful, all at the same time. Tonight, moving through its ebb and flow on the mat, like a wave on an ocean, I just thought “Man, I love this!” You see, when I started taking yoga, I was very very ill. Major depressive disorder will do that to you. I remember that I went to yoga to save myself. Literally. I was dealing with suicidal ideation then, bound down by caring for someone I loved when I shouldn’t really have been doing nursing tasks on my own. I wasn’t qualified; I was just a teacher and a sometimes poet woman. To get a small break from care taking, I went to yoga class twice a week. I know it saved me, in so many ways. But now, as a truly healthy person, three years out of the darkness and grief, yoga is different.

Having lost weight again this year, I can now bend over myself differently. When your belly disappears, you have more space to move around. Sounds strange, but it’s absolutely true. Rather than yoga feeling like a life preserver, or a flutter board, something to hold my head up above water, it has become a celebratory sort of affair every time I practice, whether in the studio at class, or if I’m in my sunroom on my own, doing a series of sun salutations while the dogs peer at me from under their eyebrows.

I couldn’t stop smiling during class tonight. I likely frightened other people on the mats around me. I felt like I was twelve. Tree pose made me light up. I still recall first learning it, years ago when I was very depressed and anxious, and hating how I was too overweight to balance well on my feet. I didn’t feel balanced, and I really wasn’t well mentally or physically. It’s no wonder I could never find my centre…

It seemed clear to me, tonight, when the balance was almost faultless and as easy and simple as breathing, that I have managed to rise above so many awful things in the last nine years. This new tree pose of mine is just fine. It is strongly rooted in the grounding of my feet on the floor. I’m balanced now, I thought. It’s so lovely. It’s fine. As Willa says, though, “When I ask you how you’re doing, don’t tell me that you’re ‘fine.’ You see, ‘fine’ is the other ‘f word.” She’s right. “Fine” is too simple. “Content,” yes. “Certain,” yes. “Confident,” yes. And this, too, is due to her class, and to Zumba, and to walking, and to meditating, and to writing, and to knowing what it feels like to find that “Sea of Tranquility” within yourself.

The “Sea of Tranquility” is the spot where, when you put your hands into prayer position in front of your chest, you can rest your thumbs against your chest. You can feel your own heart beat. You are fully connected, soul to body. It’s intense. When you hear its name at first, you’ll likely think of the moon and one of its seas. I like this allusion because it’s poetic…and I’m a poet. 🙂 Still, the “Sea of Tranquility” is also an acupressure point at the centre of a person’s breastbone. When you press on it, with your thumbs, as when they are in prayer position in yoga, you can actually quiet any agitation and promote relaxation. Try it; it works. 🙂

Finally, friggin’ Pigeon Pose. Here’s the thing: I have always had a love-hate relationship with Pigeon. Bastard. I love the way Pigeon looks. I can do it on one side, but, because of the staple in my left hip, I can only do it properly on one side. So, for years now, I have only ever done Pigeon Pose while on my back. It’s not as amazing as doing it sitting up. It’s a modification. For the longest time, I hated that. I could hear the voice inside my head putting me down, “Look at you. You can’t do Pigeon Pose because you’re all crippled up in that hip of yours.” (Sometimes, the same thing happens with “Happy Baby” pose..but that’s another story!) Tonight, though, for the first time in years, I didn’t care. I had done Warrior 1 and Tree Pose with great grace and strength. Screw Pigeon Pose! The voice inside, the one that used to put me down all the time, has gone now. Some other person is here now, and she doesn’t follow the old patterns or listen to the old voices that just harassed and berated her when she was frustrated.

Yesterday, during an animal totem meditation circle at school, for my First Nations, Metis, and Inuit literature course, I came to know that the hedgehog is my (current) totem animal. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been seeing dragonflies and crows all week long. I had thought I’d see one of those in my meditation, but no, the hedgehog trundled into my mind. (I thought of Mrs. Tiggywinkle, whom I loved as a child. Beatrix Potter was one of my most favourite authors before I was ten.) So. Hedgehog. When I looked up its totem meaning, I learned that the hedgehog is all about healing and resurrection. It’s a small animal, but it’s strong. If it gets hurt, it pulls in and puts out its quills, in self-defense. (I know I do that, and I know it’s a way to protect myself and keep myself from being too vulnerable. I call it ‘turtling,’ though. If I’m unsure of someone, if they somehow have hurt me, whether intentionally or unintentionally, I just pull in. I can’t help it. That way, I think to myself, they can’t hurt me again. I’ll be less vulnerable and build up some walls again for safety’s sake. The hedgehog, though, is strong and true to itself. It represents intuition and being sure of what it feels. A lot of its qualities speak to me, so maybe I am best represented by a hedgehog these days, even though dragonflies and crows seem to be making themselves known, too.

All this to say that yoga still teaches me so many valuable lessons. Every Thursday night at 7, I find myself completely at ease, sitting on a mat on Cedar Street, listening to Willa say things like, “Put your thumbs up against The Sea of Tranquility,” and I smile to myself, nod, and think, “Yes. That’s where I’m at now. Finally. Finally!”

peace, friends.
k.