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Some days in your life mark endings, and for me, endings always seem to be synonymous with new beginnings.  It won’t work the other way around.  Yesterday marked my last visit to my psychiatrist.  Yup.  The only way to fight the stigma around mental illness is to blow it out of the water.  I’ve done it before on this blog, and God knows I’ve written poems about waiting rooms in hospitals, sitting next to people who were so much sicker than me, so that I remember thinking, “Well, it could be worse.  Major depressive disorder looks simpler than whatever that person has.”  It can be very scary, sitting in an out-patient psychiatric waiting room next to someone who is yelling and not making sense, especially when you don’t even care because your brain seems to have erased all emotion from you, so that your body doesn’t move unless you will it to, so that you can’t even make the skin on your face move into the semblance of a human expression.  When you’ve been to the brink of something that is more a void than a darkness, a place that is so much scarier than just darkness, then you know you need to try, once you’re well, to speak up.  It’s just the only way that stigma will ever really diminish.

Yesterday, walking into the Kirkwood site for the last time, I kept thinking, “When was the first time I was here?”  It was Fall 2008.  I was off work from teaching, on stress leave.  My mum had had a transmetatarsal amputation of her right foot, so I’d dropped her off at the Memorial site, along with my dad, so that she could have her foot assessed and debrided.  That happened once a week, in hopes that her foot would heal.  (It never did.)

While they were there, I went for my first psychiatrist’s appointment.  It had taken six months to be assigned to a specialist, while my family doctor tried me on various cocktails of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs.  None of them worked and they were switched too often so I ended up much sicker because of the variety of medications and dosages, all while waiting for a specialist.  These aren’t drugs you dilly dally with, especially when you talk of dizziness, vertigo, and headaches.

I remember feeling so ashamed, so much so that I couldn’t even look at him for the first six months. I remember the floor tile pattern and I remember feeling fat, stuffed into old jeans.  I didn’t want him to know that I had thought of erasing myself.  I knew it wasn’t right.  I knew I wasn’t well.  I remember staring at the floor, hunched over, not looking up and only ever mumbling answers.  I curled inwards.

He was friendly, older, a doctor whom my mum remembered working with back in the early to mid 60s when she was a psychiatric nurse.  So he was my dad’s age.  He knew about some of the older drugs, so he tried me on Remeron, which basically gave me back my life, but ended up taking me to 230 pounds within a few months.  (These drugs affect so much of how a human body functions, so side effects are common and must be tolerated if you want to pull yourself out of the void.  Sometimes you don’t even want to do that, because it can be so exhausting, to even manage to take breaths some days.  This is when you most probably need a specialist’s help, but will be too ill to ask for it.)

My psychiatrist has followed me for nine years, from the time I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  (I had been ill my entire life, I think, though, but no one had given it a name or helped me to slay the dragon.)  As he said yesterday, “You were so ill.  Do you know how ill you really were?”  I didn’t.  I do now and that’s mostly because of all the work I had to do to get well.  Once he sorted out dosages and types of meds, and found Remeron was the ‘winner,’ we walked through 2008-2012 together.  These were the four years when I took care of my parents as they died.  He told me later that I wouldn’t have been as ill if I had not been in the situation I was in, as the main caregiver for elderly parents and living in the same house, and I know that is true now, but I also know that I did what I did because I felt I owed it to them.  The biggest mistake I made was confusing love with duty, though, and that’s only something I now realize after just as many years of therapy.

For a while, I didn’t forgive myself for being sick.  I have always been hardest on myself.  I blamed myself.  It’s easier to blame yourself, to put yourself down and build up walls, when you refuse to learn what the lesson is.  For me, now, life is all about learning lessons.  Our most emotionally wrought up experiences, whether good or bad (and who’s to say which is which, really?) should be about learning.  There’s no point in chastising ourselves about words or actions or things we might have done differently a year or two ago.  Better that we move forward, learning from our mistakes.  It’s what Beckett said that I so love:  “Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”  You fall, you must get up.  You can’t just stay on the ground going “Help me.  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  You also can’t just say that you made a mistake and then berate yourself forever and steep in that awful marinade.  It doesn’t serve you well at all.  If you do that, then you let whatever it is that has a hold on you win, and you won’t move forward.  (It reminds me of the old Catholics who used to whip themselves as punishment…as if your own conscience wasn’t bad enough!)  You could miss out on other things because you’re too caught up in the past.  It’s a bit of a mind trap, really.   You can’t let it diminish you–whether it is a failed relationship, or a weakly structured story you’ve written, or an illness that haunts, like depression.  If you give in, you give up.  That’s not an option for me.

So yesterday, when I told my doctor that I needed to thank him for saving my life in 2008, when I had a sharp memory of wanting to step into traffic after a long day of caring for my bedridden mother and having no real emotional or medical support from anyone at all, he just shook his head. “No.  You did most of it.  You did so much hard work.”  It made me want to cry, really, because it’s still hard, thinking of how furiously I fought to live and survive, and now to be blooming.  I never imagined blooming, so it’s still a bit shocking most days.  People see me as lighter, but some of them haven’t seen me in ‘the dark.’  The contrast, I think, would shock them.

The last bout of illness was in Fall 2015, not so long ago.  It was work-induced anxiety and it paralyzed me.  With the depression, well, you can talk it out in therapy and use meds, but this anxiety caused me to have chest pains and that terrified me.  Then I needed to be medicated again, but this time I researched a med that wouldn’t make me balloon up again.  I couldn’t do it.  I’d already gone down from a size 18 to a 14 in three years, so I knew if I was on Remeron again, I would puff up without even blinking.  I found Cipralex, and we tried that, and it worked.  The thing about anxiety is that it doesn’t even have to be tied to something particular, does it?  It flummoxed me because I’m terribly cerebral and I always try to sort things out.

I’ve been off all psychiatric drugs since February 2016 and have been healthy.  My doctor has tried to discharge me for a year and a half.  I refused to let him let me go because I didn’t want to go through the same thing with another doctor.  I know the system is broken, so I wanted to keep him until he retired.  This is the month he retires.  (In the last year, we have met once a month and have talked of my work as a teacher, writing, and then sometimes have compared notes about Walter Scott and how Scotland and Ireland haunt me.  He always checks how I am by asking me to speak about things I love, including poetry and art.  Clever doctor, he is, knowing that I love to talk with other intelligent people, and how he can assess my well being through conversation.)

This “me being well” is a purposeful and intentional choice, with more hard work.  It means yoga and Zumba, and walking, and hiking, and careful weight loss, and meditating, and singing, and writing.  The writing, more than anything else, has lifted me back into myself.  It means eating well, forcing myself to be social when I’m perfectly fine with reading books in my tiny house, pushing against things that scare me, and learning to forgive myself.  It also means knowing that I don’t always have to be strong.  When you’re on your own, and you’ve been so sick, you need to take care of yourself.  No one else will.  Now, though, I’m more apt to reach out if I flounder or just need a friend to listen.  Otherwise, my days are mostly filled in silence, or chatting to the dogs, or listening to music.  It’s an existence that fosters my having to be strong for myself, and I know that isn’t always good…but it is what it is.

Saying goodbye to my doctor yesterday was hard.  Walking away from that hospital, though, felt right.  Lately, I’ve been dreaming of crows, gorgeous strong feathered wings, and open windows and doors.  These things happen when I write new pieces of poetry or plays. Right now, I’m working on a play about an autistic boy who is transfixed by feathers and birds, and angels.  Of course, it makes sense I have birds in my head, then.  🙂  The open windows and doors, well, I’m sure they’re archetypal images and metaphors.  Yesterday, I closed a door behind me in saying goodbye to the man who helped me to save myself, who helped me to learn how to forgive myself and be more vulnerable and less strong.  Today, I opened a new door, and I threw open the sashes of windows that might have been painted shut for years.  These are big things for me.  Big things.

Sometimes things fall apart…but then they reassemble themselves in the most beautiful of ways.  Today, driving south, I got lost in Leamington.  I always get lost.  It doesn’t matter where I am, or how often I Google Map things, I always end up somewhere else, but I always learn something new in the process.  Today, I got lost on a long road that runs through farms with fields full of tall corn.  Those fields made me think of my dad.  Then, on that same road, a sweep of barn swallows feathered across the sky above my car and I shouted out loud to myself, “Oh my God!  So beautiful!”  So.  It’s official.  I’m an adult, but I’m ten inside.  Everything is full of wonder.  Why shouldn’t it be?  When you’ve been in the darkness, light seems so much more bright, magical, and transformative.  I’m grateful for that.

A seven hour drive today and I can’t feel my body.  That’s how tired I am.  Still, I drove out to the end of Point Pelee after I ate a quick supper.  I love it there.  Every time I am down in this area now, I go there on my own.  I always go out to the tip, so this time I was surprised to see it had all collapsed.  I thought, “God.  How has that happened? That pile of rocks out there, with the tree sticking up…I had a cup of tea there one Saturday afternoon last October after I visited the Detroit Institute of Art.  Now it’s rubble.”  It reminded me of how the crows in my backyard have been throwing their nests out of the maple tree.  They cast them off, caw over them like crazy fishwives, sweep down, and sometimes sort of swirl around them.  They, too, know that what sometimes looks like destruction, in how something falls apart, can mean a bright, new beginning.

After seeing the decimation of the tip of Point Pelee, a bit saddened by it all, I went to sit on my favourite beach.  (Most of this is simply because it has a beautiful name:  Black Willow.  The other part of it is that you can sit and be alone, and it stretches out forever.  I get a bit nervous about this now, about walking on my own in nature, because of a run-in I had at home with a bit of a scary person on one of my early morning walks in May down by the lake…so I’m less bold in walking on my own.  I need to be sure there are other people within shouting distance now.  I’m less naive and stupid about that after my unsettling experience this spring.)  So, there were other people there tonight, but I went off on my own so that I could listen to, and feel, Lake Erie.

I feel like I’m cheating on Lake Huron, but I love Lake Erie so much.  My favourite colour in the entire world is blue, and this lake paints itself with light and weather, as if it has moods that shift across its surface.  And it has such a grand voice, waves smashing and roaring.  It’s a bold lake.  Huron’s strong, too, but Erie has the birds I so love, and the trees.   The blues, though, are mixed with silver and gold and green, and sun.  It’s magic.  Then, when you close your eyes, you can feel the wind pushing at you, and then pulling at you, so you feel small.  Nothing matters then.  It’s only that you’re there, in the centre of the weather, in the centre of that lake’s great spirit, and it pulls out what you no longer need from deep inside of you, and then it casts it out (like the crow’s nests in my backyard tree) to make room for newness.

Who knows what the newness is, or what the next open door or window will bring, but half of the wonder of it is stepping through it all, into what’s next…and seeing what you’ll learn.  Even if you fall.

peace,

k.

 

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Today was hard, but beautifully so.  There have been many days like this in my life so far.  In fact, my life so far has been far from easy.  People looking in just recently might think it’s all grand, but that’s because I’ve fought through very dark places and spaces, tooth and nail as they say, so I fight even harder to see bits of light, and to honour them every day.  (I know…idealistic poet woman.  So sue me.  I don’t care.)

Today, we put up a part of one of my poems in the oncology and palliative care wing at Health Sciences North here in Sudbury.  It’s a place that is hard for me to visit.  The minute I step off onto the Fourth Floor of the North Tower, my heart beat quickens, I have flashbacks, and I feel as if my dad died just yesterday.  It’s that vivid, and that hard of a space for me to walk into, energetically speaking.  (I’m an empath, so I feel energy deeply…which is not something you necessarily want to have as a gift.  Energy ripples for me, and I have a photographic memory, so that doesn’t help either.)

I thought of my dad’s transfer from the South Tower to the North Tower, which occurred on Remembrance Day 2011.  I remember we watched the Ottawa service on the little rental tv together, him sighing and saying that he couldn’t believe he was dying, and me trying not to cry in front of him, ducking out to get him ice water from the patient and family lounge or saying that I needed to wash my hands in the patient bathroom so that I could gather myself and not let him see I was upset.  He was given a couple of weeks to live, but he lasted until December 28th.  (Both of my parents died at Christmas, which is why I have the worst time with all of December, and can only find solace when I’m alone in the bush, outside of Bobcaygeon, drinking white wine at night and setting a fire in the fireplace of the little flat I rent to write in.  I love the long winding roads, how the wind and snow sweeps across them, the trees that arch over me when I walk for miles and miles, and the fact that I don’t really have to speak out loud at all when I’m there, except when David and Denise ask me in for a supper or two to make sure I’m still alive.  🙂

I thought, too, of how he said he saw my mum a few days before he died, telling me that she looked like Judy Garland, and was “gorgeeeeooouusss.”  (“Kim, she looks like she’s twenty five again! Maybe she found someone else…what if she found someone else over there?  In heaven?”)  So we had an hour long conversation one night, in a darkened room, about how I didn’t believe that could happen.  I used logic with him.  Why else would she be showing up in the palliative care room, I asked, if she didn’t fancy him at all anymore?!  She’d only just been gone four years, anyway.  She would’ve waited for him.   I knew it.  So he knew it, too, then, seeing how certain I was. He just smiled at me and said, “You know, you’re good at this…this spiritual and dying stuff.”  It was not, I must tell you, what I wanted to hear, but I just kissed him on the cheek, rubbed the top of his bald head, tucked him in before I left, and knew that I had the great privilege of being the person who would walk him to the doorway of heaven.  It was as far as I could go alongside him on his journey, but I know it was the most sacred experience we shared together.

So today was about honouring my dad.  It was, too, about honouring the journey that families go through.  Not all palliative care patients are comatose.  My dad wasn’t.  He was wide awake until the last minute.  (Of course, he was stubborn enough to wait to die until I went home for a break to feed the dogs…but I figure that’s because he didn’t want me to see him go in person.)  While he was stuck in a room that was bland and without art, I kept thinking, “I wish there was art in this room.” And then I would go into the lounge and see a stock Robert Bateman loon print and think, “God.  Another fucking loon.  I wish they had original art in here…”  Then, after Dad died, I sat on the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) at HSN for two years, advocating for the frail elderly and those with mental health issues (because I suffered with depression the entire time I cared for my parents in my thirties).  I also kept talking about wanting to put poetry and/or art up in the halls of 4North.  Nothing happened during my time on the PFAC, but my dream stuck with me.  I wanted to see it happen.

When I became poet laureate last year, I knew it had to be on my list of ‘most important’ things to do before you get kicked out and the next laureate comes in for a landing.  🙂  I spoke to my friend Martin Lees, who works at the hospital.  We had met in Fall 2015 through Playwrights’ Junction at the Sudbury Theatre Centre and I loved his dry wit and bright mind.  It’s never boring, having a conversation with Martin.  He had just done a paper on palliation and poetry, and, after he heard my idea about somehow finding a way to bring poetry into the hospital, he asked if I wanted to read it.  I loved it.  So, last year, when I became laureate, I sent him an email and said I’d like to see this happen.  We could use stanzas from all four poet laureates and put them in windows around the oncology and palliative care floor.  He was my best advocate inside the hospital system, organizing meetings with the appropriate people in administration and communications, and–when I felt like giving up–he kept sending messages with snappy sentences that made me think it might just come true…this little dream of mine.

I want to thank Martin for his help with this project, for having stuck with me through the sixteen month journey towards putting up that stanza this afternoon.  He’s a good man with a love of the arts, and a fine poet and playwright as well.  (His wife, Christy, too, is a brilliant English teacher, so I’m glad to know both of them.)

Now…how does lake swimming and canoeing fit into palliative care and poetry?  I can hear you from here, in the northeastern part of the province, wondering how they all connect.  To me, it’s about knowing that life includes death, and that death shows you how to live more fully and purposefully, if you let it.  You can’t push it away; you have to embrace it…consider it ‘sacred,’ and let it teach you the greatest lessons it has to offer.  That’s when your life will change…and out of darkness, light will emerge…even if you don’t think so right away.

On Sunday, I went to Manitoulin Island with my friend, Karen.  We went to Providence Bay, but it was windy and the water was cold, and I had my heart set on swimming in Lake Mindemoya.  Known as “The Old Woman” in Ojibway, it’s a lake I grew up next to, and it’s been in my heart ever since.  For years, my parents took my sister and I there for two weeks of summer holidays every August.  We rented a camp.  It had an outhouse.  (I still hate outhouses.)  So, after I burned the crap out of my knees on Sunday, even with sunscreen, we moved from Prov’s beautiful sand beach and found a tiny space on the edge of Mindemoya.  I thought I would cry.  You can walk out into Mindemoya for what seems like miles before you even begin to get close to having your shoulders covered.  It’s so beautiful and clear that you can see the bottom.  The shape of Treasure Island is omnipresent in the centre of the lake, and swimming there on Sunday felt like going home.

I thought of times spent with my parents, sister, and with my cousins, David and Tara, and my aunt and uncle, Rosalind and Terry.  I remembered games of Monopoly, and sunburns that hurt me terribly, popsicles that melted and stained my hands purple, and late nights with moths, as well as nights under stars, running all the way from the back sauna down to the lake, to swim.  Those were the kind of nights when it felt like you were swimming amidst the stars…because the lake water was so calm.   Swimming there again on Sunday afternoon, floating on my back and looking up at the clouds, I felt like I was little again, time traveling.  But, then, you know that you’ve lost so many people…and you can’t get them back…not really.  They only live in my memory now.  (For a moment, though, they were all there again…)

Yesterday, I went canoeing with my friend Jen, out in Killarney Provincial Park.  We set out down a little creek and then entered into Huron, part of the North Channel.  (Today at the hospital, Martin chided me.  “That’s not safe, you know.  That water is rough.” Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m a novice and was a bit naive about the water conditions. We watched the wind warnings, though, and Jen is an experienced canoeist, so I never feel I’m at risk when I paddle with her.)

I think I said this about one hundred times to Jen yesterday.  “Oh, my God.  I can die now. This might be the most perfect day I’ve ever had!”  (She likes that I’m so enthusiastic about canoeing.  I know I’m exuberant.  I just feel like every new thing is exciting and something to crow about.)  The moment we left the creek and started out into the lake, and the beautiful islands, rocks, and trees came into view, though, I thought I would start to cry.  I told her so, too.  “My God…I feel like I’m canoeing inside a Group of Seven painting!”  Then, when we landed on a few islands to eat lunch and swim, I thought I was in heaven.  If you think canoeing inside a Group of Seven painting is exciting, you need to try swimming into one.  Every time you come up for a breath of air, you think “How is this happening?  How can I be so lucky, to be swimming here, in amidst this beauty?”

Someone told me last year, after just having met me, that I seemed ‘young.’  It wasn’t a nice comment.  It hurt.  It wasn’t well delivered.  She kept looking at me as if I were a specimen to be sorted out, dissected.  “Are you really in your forties?  You seem younger…too ‘new,’ too trusting.”  My friend Kathleen, a poet from out west, sent me a note on Facebook telling me that it wasn’t a bad thing, to be filled with wonder.  I don’t care anymore.  If being full of wonder is odd, then I’ll own it.  The world is brighter, for me, because of the way I view and live in  it…and my closest friends don’t seem to mind at all. They’re the only ones who matter now, anyway.

I used to swim when I was a little girl.  Then I got really fat and really depressed.  Then I erased myself.  Then I took care of everyone else….except for me.  I don’t regret having cared for my parents.  I’ll never regret that.  I’m sad, though, that I lost a decade and a bit of my life, and that I confused duty with love.  But I know now that love must be something lighter than duty, more effervescent and giving.  I may never find that kind of love, too, and I’m okay with that.  I’m not simple….or maybe I’m too simple.  Not sure.  I’ll still live in wonder…and I’ll still love the smallest, most obscure things in a day’s passage.  It’s just how I work…

I don’t care about money (except for paying bills).  I don’t want material things.  I have everything I’ll ever need now….except for books….I’ll always buy more books…and maybe art.  🙂  I care about my health, my friends, my dogs, and how we can make the places we live better through harnessing art (both visual and literary) in creative and unique ways.  I know I’m odd, eccentric, out of the ordinary.  But I also know (finally) that it’s a gift I’ve been given, something to be cherished, and not something to be embarrassed about.  When you finally learn that you need to take care of yourself before you can care fully for others, you learn the most amazing lessons…and I’m hoping that I keep on learning until I die.

I miss my dad horribly.  Today, I missed him even more.  Walking by Room 4635 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I haven’t been past that door in five and a half years.  Looking in, I had flashbacks of moments, most dark and sad, but some full of light and laughter. My dad taught me my greatest lessons as he was dying…and it changed me. Now, well, I don’t know that he’d recognize me…canoeing on the shores of Great Lakes, fit, athletic and happy, jumping off rocks into cold water, traveling, writing, gardening (not as well as he ever did) and exploring.  (Truth be told, I don’t recognize myself these days, either…and it’s kind of lovely and exciting, to feel new and fresh.)  He would, I hope, be proud.  He would, I hope, be happy to see me content and healthy and strong.

Parents, you see, aren’t forever…and some of us lose them earlier than others…so, if you have one or two of your own, try to see them, speak with them, love them, learn from them (even when they frustrate you),  and savour your families.  Sometimes, you lose them, more quickly than you can imagine…and then you’re constantly longing for the unconditional love you’ve lost.

That kind of love, well, it doesn’t come around very often…and it’s to be cherished and cared for…

peace,

k.

 

 

 

I know.  It’s not a subtle title.  I can’t sleep.  I can’t stop moving.  This has been on my mind for a while now.  I’ve tried distracting myself with other things:  reading, writing, listening to music, walking with my dogs.  None of it works.  The restlessness is lodged deep inside my heart.  I can only imagine that there are others out there who feel the same way, as if they are watching someone drown, and not knowing how to reach out and help.  A restlessness and a helplessness.  But there has to be something.

These Northern Ontario suicides up in Pikangikum First Nation, about 100 km northwest of Red Lake, are heart breaking.  Two twelve year old children died on the Canada Day weekend.  A fifteen year old girl from Nibinamik died on the Tuesday following that weekend.  A twenty-one year old man from Fort Severn First Nation died in Thunder Bay the day after that.  A report posted on CBC Thunder Bay’s website says that there have been eighteen suicides within the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s territory since January 1, 2017.  Eighteen.

I keep wondering:  if there were eighteen suicides in any other region or city in Southern Ontario, or any other bigger, urban centres, would there be such silence?  Yes, there are the few stories that cross social media platforms.  Yes, there are tweets of protests and some Facebook shares.  Do people in the southern parts of the province know, or care, about what’s happening further north?

I live in Sudbury, which is in Northeastern Ontario.  It’s far from Thunder Bay, which is in Northwestern Ontario.  The two cities are eleven hours apart, by car.  Pikangikum is further north than Thunder Bay.  There isn’t a year-round road.  There’s a winter road, and then the rest of the year, people reach the community via a mixture of boat, car, and plane. This is the raw and real northern geography of this great land.

If you look at a map of Canada, and you see where Sudbury and Thunder Bay are located, then you’ll see, if you look further north, how vast those distances are, heading up towards Hudson Bay. That’s the vast distance we’re talking about when we talk about Northern Ontario.  It’s much more vast than people from the south know and, maybe, just maybe, it’s more easily forgettable.  Maybe that explains it.  But it doesn’t make it right.  It never will.

I can’t stop thinking about this.  I don’t have kids of my own, so my students are my kids.  I’m a secondary school teacher, so I’m well versed in how mental health issues can torment teens and young adults.  As educators, we are trained to be mindful of our students’ behaviours.  We know they suffer, even if they learn how to try and hide it.  Working at an all-girls’ school, I’ve learned to watch and listen carefully.  I’m sure all teachers have, regardless of whether they teach at a co-ed or single-gendered school, learned how to spot worrisome spikes in anxiety and depression.

You watch to see if your students avoid making eye contact (because they know you’re smart and you care), whether or not they seem too sleepy (in case they are having family issues), or if they cry easily (or not easily enough), or if they are too slim (in case they aren’t eating properly, whether because of poverty or because of eating disorders), or if they seem to curl up into themselves both physically and emotionally in class.  You can tell, too, sometimes (but not always) if someone is cutting or harming themselves.  They’ll be the kids who tug their sweaters down over their wrists, so that their hands and fingers stick out a bit more obviously than they should.  They might wrap their arms around their torso, as if they wish they could give themselves a hug, or else just try and disappear.

You know, too, though, that some kids are experts at hiding their pain.  Sometimes, the ones you think aren’t in crisis actually are.  They may be the best of multi-taskers, the smiliest of faces, the most welcoming and trying to please you as their teacher, and even the ones with the very highest grades.  Sometimes, just sometimes, they are also the ones at risk.  It’s not an easy thing to distinguish, to suss out who is at risk and who isn’t, but I know that it’s been made even more difficult for my colleagues in the far north because there is a discrepancy in funding between southern and northern schools in this province.

If you were to begin by visiting a classroom in a Toronto school and then continue on up the highways of this province, on a tour of sorts, I’m more than certain you’d see differences and even harsh discrepancies.  You might see smaller libraries (or libraries that used to be libraries but are now empty, without books), or you might see outdated text books, or you might see fewer Smart Boards or laptops.  There might be issues with Internet connections.  There might be issues with trying to retain teachers in far northern communities, even if you pay them isolation pay, because sometimes there isn’t enough emotional support for the teachers themselves.  (And, yes, you can have culture shock within the borders of a country as vast and ‘modern’ as Canada.)

The fuss about Canada 150 bothered me.  It still does.  I’m not Indigenous.  I know I carry and embody white privilege.  I know, even, that I probably shouldn’t even voice my opinion in some cases.  But I can’t not speak.  I can’t bear to see more media reports of kids killing themselves in far northern reserves and communities.  I can’t imagine eighteen of my kids just disappearing like that, and no one blinking an eye.  For a minute or two, in social media land, there’s a ripple effect, a wave that disturbs the reader of an article, and then, I think, the ripple evens out and the water is calm, so people forget, or perhaps just don’t want to admit it’s an issue.

Today, I read an article that says Ontario has announced funding for twenty new full-time mental health workers for Pikangikum First Nations.  About 380 people in the community are seeking counselling.  Of course they are.  Eighteen people have just killed themselves since January of this year.  Of course they are.  They are crying out for help.  Right now, there are only eight mental health workers up in Pikangikum.  Eight.  How would that work, in Toronto, or Windsor, or London, if eighteen people killed themselves? Would that be acceptable?

There are meetings in Ottawa this week, including Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who is the head of an organization that represents 49 communities across Northern Ontario.  This is good, I suppose.  I worry, though.  For years now, as someone who has lived in Sudbury for most of my life, I can think of having always heard on the CBC how the flooding in Kashechewan and Attawapiskat displaces people every spring.  So, each year, the floods happen.  Each year, people are displaced.  Each year, the same thing happens, over and over and over again.  For years.  For decades.  And, each year, it splashes across the media, and then disappears like a “little ripple” into a calming lake.  It’s more like a form of erasure and racism, I think.  The “little ripple” upsets people.  It makes them think about how this province, this country, has some deep and hard work to do if it wants to talk about truth and reconciliation with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.  It jars them so they’d rather turn away and look at the pretty shoreline of the lake than see what the “little ripple” is doing on the surface of the water.

Here’s the thing:  the “little ripple” is actually a massive problem.  The issues of flooding, unsafe drinking water which results in boil water advisories all the time, the poor health care systems in northern reserves and communities, and the unsafe schools for children, all of this is hardly a “little ripple.”  It’s more like a tsunami.

I’m thinking of how the children have spoken up.  As a teacher, my students are drawn to the brave work of Shannen Koostachin, who fought so valiantly for safe and equitable schools in Attawapiskat.   They think highly of Autumn Peltier, from Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island, who speaks up for the rights of water.  They relate to people their own age.  They ask me, as their teacher, “Miss, why is this still allowed to happen?  Weren’t the residential schools horrible enough?  What can we do?”  I only ever say what I think and believe is true, and I always say that I don’t know the answers to all of their questions.  I never lie to my students, or to myself or others for that matter.

I tell my girls that we can speak about things, we can raise awareness, and we can share what we learn with our families and friends.  This year, they told me that, after reading Richard Wagamese’s novel, Indian Horse, they told their parents about residential schools, and then were shocked when their parents hadn’t known the truth of Canada’s full history.  These young people, in elementary and secondary school now, are, I think, the ones who will carry the notion of reconciliation forward in a real and concerted manner.  They are incensed, but frustrated.  They don’t know what to do to change their country for the better.  They only know it isn’t right.

What I do know is that these suicides are not acceptable.  I don’t know how to fix it, but I have an idea.  I don’t think these band-aid solutions, of sending up a certain number of full-time mental health workers, will work for the long term.  It may help for a while, and I pray it does.  I do.  But…and I think I might be right, sadly, if it works in the way that the flooding and evacuation ‘works’ every year in Kash and Attawapiskat, then, I’m afraid it won’t be effective.  Longer term solutions need to be implemented.

I love the work of Richard Wagamese.  In One Story, One Song, he writes: “Suicide hurts everyone.  For Native people in Canada, it’s an epidemic.  On some reserves, the rate of youth suicide is horrendous, and there’s incredible agony for those left behind.”  He also says that, “every needless death lessens us and diminishes our light.”

Yes.  So.  Tonight, I’m thinking of the families of those eighteen people who have been lost since January of this year.  I’m thinking of the four young people who, this very month, have killed themselves.  There must have been such deep pain for them and that saddens me so deeply.  In Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, Richard Wagamese says, “the truth is that we are one body moving through time together.”

We are all connected.  We can’t forget it.  So, if even one falls, all of us should feel it deeply.  I do.  I do.

peace,

k.

 

 

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/