Category Archives: Art

Surprise memory, surprise visits

Near the end of my lunchtime walk around Parliament Hill last week, I felt called to take a closer look at a monument I had passed many times but never really looked at.

 

The gold sphere balancing as if by magic on the edge of a white stone wall grabs the attention.

I had to see what that balancing act was all about. I crossed a small bridge to a piece of land that juts out into the Ottawa River. The first thing I noticed was a shallow wall into which the names of Canadian naval vessels had been carved. My brother served in the Royal Canadian Navy on the HMCS Terra Nova, so I took a picture of the engraved name.

From my new angle on Richmond Landing, with Parliament Hill in the background, I got a different perspective. From there I could see the naval overtones of the prow of a ship, ocean waves, and the gold orb as the sun. 

 

Up close I could read the Navy motto: Ready, Aye, Ready.

I stood there and wondered how it was that I never knew about The Royal Canadian Navy Monument, something that has a personal connection for me. I wondered, “Why did it come to my attention today?”

I thought about the date and realized it was the anniversary of a surprise visit I made to Halifax, NS to welcome my brother and his ship home for the first Persian Gulf War. He had no family in the area, so he didn’t expect anyone to be there when the ship pulled in. Surprise!

My brother’s ashes were committed to the deep six years ago, but I felt he had paid me a surprise visit in return.

Surprising my brother in Halifax, 1991.

 

 

 

 

Following the urge to be artists, or how we can astonish ourselves

I felt I had to follow up my previous blog about the never-ending story with this post on a similar theme.

I was a pre-school playgroup leader for a time when my children were young. For each day’s session I prepared a craft for the kids. I cut out all the bits and pieces so I could give each child with exactly the same materials. I made a sample of the craft so I could hold it up for all to see.

“This is what we’re making,” I said before setting them lose to create.

If there were 15 kids in the group, at the end there would be 15 completely different crafts.

I admired (and envied) how freely those children followed their artist souls and created without apprehensions about what other people might think. I loved how they danced with excitement with their finished products in hand, no matter what they looked like.

A workshop at the writers’ conference I attended recently reminded me of this.

In the workshop led by Cordelia Strube  we worked together to come up with a particular set of circumstances and characters, and then we each wrote individually for about 20 minutes. After the time was up we shared our work.

If there were 20 of us in the group, there were 20 completely different stories.

Once handed the common building materials, each of us scanned them to see what resonated with us individually. We attacked the story from starting points and viewpoints that felt right to us.

Writers in a workshop setting strive to be like those children doing crafts: honouring our artist souls and opening to inspiration, ideas and images, unimpeded by barriers and apprehensions. When we succeed at this, the work we come up with amazes us—shocks us, even—because it’s better than anything we could have foreseen in advance, with all our adult barriers in place.

When we get out of the way of our artist soul, the spirit of the work is good. True.

Astonishing, every time.

 

The music of the universe

Have you ever noticed that when a sports team celebrates a spectacular play or a big win they gather in a group and jump up and down in a rhythm that matches that of every other sports team celebrating a spectacular play or big win, no matter where or when it happens in the world?

Baseball players jumping around the walk-off home run hitter, soccer teams jumping around the penalty shot goal kicker, football linebackers jumping around the winning touchdown receiver—they all jump up and down in the same rhythm.

It’s the Big Win Beat.

April is National Poetry Month so my mind turned to rhythms, and  thinking about rhythm led me to ponder baseball/soccer/football team jumpers, and sports teams made me ponder the music of the universe.

Anna Maria Island beach

The rhythmic sound of ocean waves

Rhythmic vibrations, like chirping crickets, cars travelling on a gravel road, cicadas piping in, cardinals calling to each other, car doors slamming, winds howling . . .

Discordant sounds we want to write out of our daily life symphony—a Sea-Doo on a quiet lake, a frantic child’s cry, bombs . . .

Do we all subconsciously live by this rhythm? Do we all adjust our actions to it? Are we picking up music from the atmosphere like the child in August Rush?

Is that what leads us to poetry?

I don’t know the answer, I’m musing so you can muse along with me—rhythmically, not discordantly.


April 27 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. People are encouraged to pick a poem, carry it with them through the day and share it with others.

Find out more here: http://poets.ca/pocketpoem/


My poem will be one written by my much-missed friend Bruce Henderson, who had to learn how important it is to receive gifts from other graciously.

GRACE OF THE GOOD GIVEE

Bring me your gifts,
I will be strong,
strong enough to take them.
Yes, I have room for your gifts,
in my hands, in my home, in my heart,
I welcome you in—to my infinite yin.
There is a time to give
and a time to get,
and every Giver needs a Good Givee.
I am ready to accept,
to receive your loving kindness;
the warm message of your gifts.
In joy we will celebrate
the power of your act.
When you reach out
I will not try to run away.
Come spirit,
grant me the grace of the Good Givee.

©Bruce Henderson 2010

 

The biology of story: Pick up, listen, restore

I spent the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Hundreds of writers from across the country gathered at the Harbourfront Centre to share ideas, learn from each other and evolve as writers.

Are you surprised I chose to attend a session entitled “The Biology of Story”? 

At the session, Amnon Buchbinder, associate professor of screenwriting at York University, talked about the “interactive documentary” he created to explore the idea of stories as living things.

Buchbinder’s documentary, found at www.biologyofstory.com, outlines three principles.

1. A story is a living thing

“A story will choose to be with you, but you have to choose to pick up the story.” —Nigaan James Sinclair

If you want to drive a writer crazy, ask them, “Where do you get your ideas?” You might hear something like “Out of the clear blue sky.” Perhaps it’s a matter of writers choosing to pick up the stories—those living beings—that come to them.

Watch: Stories are living beings. Period

2. Living is a story thing.

“Listen and you will see your own story will speak to you.” —Jean Pierre Makosso

Do you drift aimlessly from one event to another in your life? Are you listening for what your story—living being that it is—has to tell you?

Watch: Listen and your story will speak to you.

3. Not all narratives are stories.

“A real story is the possibility of restoring the world.” —Deena Metzger

Buchbinder writes: “We live in a world crowded with narratives. Many of them lack key properties of story. This accounts for the lifeless and/or destructive forms that some narratives take.”

Watch: Stories are about wholeness

Buchbinder’s documentary encourages us to pick up the stories that come to us, to listen for what our own stories have to say, and to work with those stories to restore the world.

I just sent you a story. Pick it up, listen, restore. 

Zero: Nothing and everything

“Zero gets to represent something and nothing” —from The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music by Victor L. Wooten

zeroVictor Wooten’s fantastic book leads me to write about zero.

Zero means nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.

Place it to the right of the number 1 though, and all of a sudden you have ten times that number. The zero magically creates something more.  Keep adding zeroes and you can create all the way up to . . . infinity.

Nothingness used to create infinity. Huh. Sounds sort of God-like to me.

Something to ponder.

“Zero is like space. . . . A scientist looks close enough at an atom and what does he find? Space! . . . Space can be seen as the birthplace of all things.”

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I recommend The Music Lesson. Reading that will make you think!