Thought Trafficking

A Signal
May 16, 2011, 2:20 am
Filed under: between times, living, married life, outside, Toronto, wanderlust

It has truly been a long time.

I felt like I should write something because it has been a long time, and because there is rain outside that hungry little plants are drinking up. There were three marigolds up yesterday, ten this morning, twelve this afternoon. In the face of such fecundity, I ought to be able to offer a few words. Lots of things have changed since last February, but lots of things remain the same. For instance, I have learned to crochet and sew in the last 6 months, but I still haven’t finished knitting that massive green blanket. On the whole, then, there is balance.

The most frequent topic of discussion in our household (that was something I couldn’t have said last February!) has lately been “the future.” More specifically, what does it mean to know what you want? what does it mean to have direction? and what does it mean to be happy? I am, on the whole, very happy with intermittent periods of stress to help me appreciate that happiness. But if I have one design, I have six: I want to stay in a big city where I can walk everywhere; I want to live on a farm; I want to teach far away; I want to move closer to family. A few years ago, Jane correctly observed that it sucks more to have lots of good options. When there’s a bad option, or several, there is generally a clearer indication of which option you have to take at the time. I can’t remember if she was talking about ice cream or about life choices.

To come: something about living in Toronto; something about working as a doula/working at being a doula; something about things I’ve been making; a picture of that moose I wrote about in the last post.

Also, because I am ridiculously proud of the balcony garden that Basit and I planted a week ago, I have added a page called “Garden Journal.” I will try to confine my superlatives about Toronto soil and climate to that area.


Commandment #6: Thou shalt not be mean to a moose.
February 1, 2010, 6:39 am
Filed under: living, outside | Tags: , ,

It is grey – the world only comes in monochrome this week. The full wolf moon of January was completely obscured by an obtuse cloud-cover. In all of that grey, today offered spots of amazement: two moose and a great-horned owl.

This morning, sitting in the kitchen after breakfast, my companion started to yell: “OH! OH! OH! OH! OH! OH!” My confusion was quickly cleared up when he followed that up with: “MOOSE! MOOSE! TWO OF THEM!” There were two moose, a female and her calf, wandering up the driveway and into my backyard. After brief consultation, they used a snowbank to clear the fence into the neighbours’ yard, whereupon the mother jumped a second fence and the calf stayed in the yard, not quite tall enough.

Within minutes, there were two “Peace Officers” and their cars parked outside of the house, standing on the driveway, quickly followed by two individuals from Fish and Wildlife, plus their trucks. They milled about for over an hour, eventually shooting the calf with a tranquilizer gun, netting it, and hauling it carefully onto the back of one of the trucks. The mother was picked up in another neighbourhood.

It is a strange feeling, seeing two moose in your backyard. They are huge. Taller than fences, with spindly-looking legs, lanky with a clumsy gait. The snow has been falling steadily for days, and their two-toed prints seemed enormous in comparison with the tire tracks and bootprints. And what a shock for the animals. Suddenly the world you are wandering is sectioned off, blocked in the strangest places. Walls and fences and cars with only decorative trees in stark contrast to stands of poplars and open, rolling grasslands. The way is no longer clear, and street signs, pavement, imposed uniformity all seem hard and ridiculous when you look at it like that. And the sad thing is that I had forgotten that.

I had forgotten how sharp these contradictions were. I had forgotten how artificial this is, or despite a quiet awareness I wasn’t thinking about it enough. A world so awful in comparison that we have to tranquilize the animal and release them elsewhere to get them out of it: they are in danger in our world, and, if we aren’t smart about it, we are in danger because we don’t know how to act around these animals. Like tourists on the side of the highway to Jasper, who idle their cars and run towards the grazing wildlife. They are objects.

We must get used to the idea of recognizing hierophanies absolutely everywhere, in every area of psychological, economic, spiritual and social life. Indeed, we cannot be sure that there is anything–object, movement, psychological function, being or even game–that has not at some time in human history been somewhere transformed into a hierophany. It is a very different matter to find out why that particular thing should have become a hierophany, or should have stopped being one at any given moment. (Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, 11)

I cite this not to talk about or comment on religion, but as a brief comment on loss of meaning. How an animal, a plant, a tree, becomes an outsider to our context. Which plants can we eat? What can we build, and with what? The world makes less and less sense to us. All of the things sheltering and supporting us right now are at the same time dangers to us. Houses collapse. Pavement ruins watersheds. Etc. I don’t mean to be a tiresome old crank bemoaning the old ways, but seeing that huge moose loaded onto the back of a truck to be brought back to a place that it understood underscored the separateness of these worlds, the artifice of what we have. Not that artifice is always negative, but I can’t find the moderation.

I hope to be hopeful.

“Courting Forgetfulness”

It’s hard to know what sort of rough music

Could send our forgetfulness back into the ground,

From which the gravediggers pulled it years ago.

The first moment of the day we court forgetfulness.

Even when we are fully awake, a century can

Go by in the space of a single heartbeat.

The life we lose through forgetfulness resembles

The earth that sticks to the sides of plowshares

And the eggs the hen has abandoned in the woods.

A thousand gifts were given to us in the womb.

We lost hundreds during the forgetfulness of birth,

And we lost the old heaven on the first day of school.

Forgetfulness resembles the snow that weighs down

The fir boughs; behind our house you’ll find

A forest going on for hundreds of miles.

Robert, it’s to your credit that you remember

So many lines of Rilke, but the purpose of forgetfulness

Is to remember the last time we left this world.

(Robert Bly)

Noor spotted this. One day, I would like to have eyes as keen as hers.

Click on the picture for the full-size picture, and click again to zoom.

Goodnight, all.

November 14, 2009, 10:18 pm
Filed under: being selfish, between times, living | Tags: ,

My hair is once again long enough to hitch it up with a pencil or chopstick or the like. I will take the small milestones given me.

Shortbread in the oven and 10,000+ plus words in a document in front of me. The light in November is something I have not seen in a long time – something I remembered without really thinking about it specifically. I hope that every place I live has this, or that I remember to find it. Maybe what I have been missing are windows.

This made me start thinking about other things, mostly Brussels things: the time we each bought a package of cookies at the Del Haize and ate them all. The orange plastic patio furniture visible out of the kitchen window. The feeling of door handles, the variations of all the different kinds of stairs in that apartment, the time a friend tumbled down the stairs so hard that they left hideous bruises all over her elbows. Lighting a gas oven. What the terrain looked like flying into Norway. Things like that. These are the kinds of things that you think about when you are regrouping.

Later, I will thing about the treacherous first cement step leading down to the patio at the hot-water flat, and how Pantouffle purred while he was eating. Somewhere else again, and later, I will think of the sunlight in November through the thin branches of the lilac bush, and how it made them seem translucent.

Croyez que ce devrait être très beau
October 16, 2009, 3:05 am
Filed under: academese, living, outside, Reading | Tags: , ,


Snarfle 1

The sun peeked out at dusk, and the love I had for its reddish light falling on the blue spruce in a neighbour’s yard was overwhelming.

I agree with the following, but for different reasons than the reasons it was written for:

In the strange garden of effective existence, anything is the swan, that is, potential beauty, but nothing is the peacock that entirely spreads its fan.

-Yves Bonnefoy

(Made of reason because the reasons are my own)

“I could spend my entire life portraying such a landscape.”
September 18, 2009, 5:15 pm
Filed under: listening, living, music

The mailman is still wearing shorts, but it is coming on fall. Of course you know that; the equinox is in a few days.  The trees are breaking out in a kind of sunny yellow acne. And a bird just bounced off of the window and then skittered away and took off again, confused.

“Meanwhile, here we are, usually forgetful, occasionally aware.”

-Charles Le Gai Eaton

As if the picture of this guy wouldn’t predispose me to like his music:

At first I was wary of his voice, raspy and a little reedy. A couple of songs was enough to convince me, though.

Time to begin the long division
September 13, 2009, 12:18 am
Filed under: at fault, being selfish, living

Alberta takes me on physically. The water changes my hair; the air changes my skin; the space changes the way I want to move. These things I like. Living in different places we are full of possibilities, shedding snakes or moulting birds. We are free to rediscover old habits, if we choose. It isn’t a reinvention – the same beast is still underneath. Just re-decorating.

I have a problem with words. The cadence of English isn’t natural to me. As evidence: I mispronounce a great deal of words, words from biopic to archipelago (I say bi-AH-pic and arch-i-pel-AH-go), out loud, and even more in my head. Taxonomy, for instance, I think of as “taxi-NO-me”. Until I was in late elementary school, I thought that the word “item” was pronounced “in-team”. Don’t ask me where I got that from. It’s like there’s a rhythm there, but my heart is out of step. I feel like I’m skipping rope or playing to a metronome and I never quite make the entrance on time. Theories have been offered up – French immersion schooling at a young age or reading the word over and over again without saying it, but I don’t think that these are really adequate excuses. Plenty of others have cleared these same hurdles with enviable grace and style.

I am unable to pay attention to products, things produced, finished things, these days. My focus turns to the sound, the feeling of the instrument that produces. The weight of the piano keys, the Bb that won’t sound properly, the swish of the spinning wheel, scraping a wooden spoon on a bowl, listening to something over and over without being able to write about it. These things probably seem unconnected. Maybe this is paralysis; maybe not. I spent much of last year frustrated with the unending unraveling of a finished product, like an unhealthy obsession with one’s own digestive system. Now I’m trying to watch and listen, and it’s a terrible thing. The details are enough to crush you under their combined weight. Crush you lovingly, crush you with the sound of a clarinet against a voice or some fibre pulling away from your palm. Crush you under a word, the combination of two or three words, before you can turn them inside out to find out what they mean. Not that it isn’t valuable to be able to hold something up to a light, to learn to explain it. But to impose rhythm on what is raw, to pronounce awkward syllables with fluidity, to stitch it all up, it is also to be beholden to an expectation of sense, common or otherwise. Maybe I say all this to explain that I like the cookie dough better than the cookies.

Some days, I don’t want to know why it is I love what I love.

Some days, I don’t even want to finish my thought.

Yes I do need to know my place
August 2, 2009, 8:25 am
Filed under: between times, living, outside

Railroad tracks

evening folk