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After the fall equinox, as the sun rises lower in the sky, its light becomes thin and pale, like a reflection of sunlight in a watercolour lake, but with its lower angle it penetrates deeper and deeper into the apartment. These dingy rooms, which all summer long were filled with shadows, finally attract the direct gaze of the sun. From the small southeast window it reaches all the way through the office and into the windowless kitchen, filling the warm inner sanctum of my home with a golden nimbus, as if a god of morning were about to appear.
I cleaned the kitchen last weekend and endeavoured to keep it so, because my daughter and daughter-in-law were expected to visit this weekend. A kitchen should evoke the archetypal hearth, a homely place where family convenes and interacts. My kitchen seems too tiny.
Last night I made something in the slow cooker for me and Danny: chicken thighs, carrot, red pepper, apricots, ginger, tobasco and coconut milk. It was ready when the girls arrived at 10:45 and Marian wanted some, too.
The four of us convened around the intimate table, storytelling and laughing. The chicken was yummy.
What is beauty? Marian, Kerri, Danny and I attended Nuit Blanch last night until 4 am. After seeing so many varying artistic expressions, I'm no closer to answering the question.
At Trinity College Chapel, a group had arranged an exhibit called "Procedures in a Time of Plague: rituals for human contact in pandemic times", where guests were invited to run remote control paxbots with inflated rubber gloves for arms around the floor of the church. The goal was to make high fives to "pass the peace" safely, using robots as proxy. The waving hands rendered the lifeless things endearingly hilarious.
I've been reading James Joyce's The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in which Stephen Dedalus translates and muses upon Thomas Aquinas' definition of beauty: "wholeness, balance and radiance," radiance the aura which installs an artwork in the imagination and allows it to enrich life's experience. Superficially the paxbots in Nuit Blanch weren't radiant, but the image and experience hangs in the mind just as a classic painting might. An incident of fun places a hook in the brain from which we may recall a lesson over and over: about peace toward others amid a culture of hysteria.
The beauty of people retains an aura in memory; people whose company we have enjoyed. It acquires a special warmth, like a slow fire crackling and glowing in a wood stove, filling the house of the soul on a lonely day.
I once had a love-at-first-sight experience. I was walking down a hall toward a meeting and glimpsed a man passing the doorway, inside the room. The sight of him shook me to the soles of my feet. I would soon fall in love with him and he would come to live with me for a while.
Last night at Out On The Shelf, Sarah said: "Look at the sky. I've never seen it so orange."
The sun was setting behind a brilliant vermillion veil. We went to the door. It was raining.
"There must be a rainbow somewhere," I said, and walked to look behind the building. Sure enough, there was a double rainbow.
When I walked home after Writers' Circle it was still raining softly but steadily. You'd expect an October rain to be cold, windy and unpleasant, but it wasn't. The air was still and dark. My Austrailian Outback hat kept my head dry.
The night I saw that man and fell in love with him, someone introduced us. It felt like my future coming across the room. I wanted to get with him, get to know him. We met for dinner a few nights later, then went and made love at a truck stop. He was a great hugger.
I told a friend of mine about him. "And he is handsome!" I declared.
Later, after they had met, I asked the friend, "Isn't he handsome?"
"Not really. Cute maybe."
In my eyes the lover was the most attractive man I had ever seen.
The radiance, which Thomas Aquinas and James Joyce discuss as an element of beauty, seems to suggest there is an objective, universal quality about certain objects empowering them to alter people's experiences.
The man I fell in love with had an aura about him visible to me, perhaps uniquely, but not to others. Even after we broke up, we saw What Dreams May Come together, and it gave me the feeling he was the love of my many lives, that our bond would extend beyond the grave. I don't feel that way anymore, but still, the relationship changed my life.
We're together for Thanksgiving: Marian and Kerri, Brenna, Danny and me. I'm most grateful for the existence of my daughters. They are so beautiful.
They are so different. It's fascinating to observe different aspects of myself, variations on a theme. That's why parents and children often annoy one another.
Marian (18) likes to talk. She is ravenous for information, intense, loving, demanding of herself and others. She inherited Mom's remarkable beauty.
Brenna (16) is quieter, more easy-going, but worries what people think, is vulnerable. When she opens up, she's an excellent storyteller with hilarious sense about how people behave.
The five of us went to see the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Das Rheingold live in high definition at the Scotiabank Theatre. It was directed by Robert Lepage. I had misgivings; his staging of The Damnation of Faust was awkward and distracting. Again he took ideas from Cirque du Soleil. This time the stark, magical set provided an intriguing backdrop to the cosmic brutality of the story. Baritone Eric Owens stole the show as the sympathetically anti-heroic dwarf, Alberich. This will be my first viewing of Richard Wagner's four-opera Ring Cycle, and it promises to be memorable.
On writing haiku, Jane Reichhold points out even "the ugly has something beautiful in it." While the aim of writing tanka poems is to exclude the ugly, the aim of haiku is to write beautifully about common things.
Broken things may be beautiful precisely because of imperfections, and how they came to be shattered.
It's true of people, too. Artists know inspiration and power comes from damage and pain. Experienced lovers know a person's brokenness and vulnerability may be a point of attraction.
They say God is perfect, but I've noticed serious flaws. No wonder people are drawn to faith.
Danny and I watched Micmacs (2009) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie). It tells the story of a team of misfits living in a secret lair under a garbage dump. They resourcefully create fantastic tools, toys and sculptures out of junk.
The central character, Bazil, was orphaned after his father was killed by a mine, and years later he has a bullet lodged in his brain during a freak drive-by shooting. When Bazil joins the family in the dump, they set out to destroy the two arms dealers who made the mine and bullet.
Beauty in broken things.
I've been working with red oak. We're building the main case for the new organ for Guardian Angels Parish in Vancouver.
The larger pedal case was constructed with tulip poplar, a softer wood, which has been painted white. Poplar cuts like butter.
The main case sits in front. Red oak is harder. You must handle the raw lumber with gloves, because it's splintery. It's more resistant to tools. You have to be careful drill bits don't overheat. Once cut and planed the wood presents a clear surface with attractive grain almost like stone. It will be given a clear finish.
It had been raining when I walked up to the Red Brick Café to meet a writer friend. When I came out, the rain had stopped but the streets were shiny. I shook out my umbrella preparing to fold it up, then plugged the ear buds into my cell phone and dialed Danny for a chat. Walking along and talking, I absently opened the umbrella even though it wasn't raining. I noticed and closed it. Within moments, the rain resumed and I had to open it again. the rain fell straight in mild, calm air. I was comfortable under cover.
I am a colour pig. The more colour I can include in a project or activity, the better. My current weaving project involves a random warp with two background colours and individual strands of leftover yarn. My two favourite computer games, Catan - Cities and Knights, and Civilization III, which I play before bed every night, are colourful, which undoubtedly is why I like playing them so much.
My current knitting project is a blanket made of various grey-toned yarns Danny brought from the Shetland Islands. It's lovely, but I can hardly wait to finish and move onto something else.
After work I walked downtown to pick up groceries. Afternoon sunlight slanted through the tall maples surrounding Church of Our Lady, lighting them like a halo. Red vines stood out against the grey wall of the train overpass. Shops along Carden Street were brightly painted with murals of hockey players and so on. People walked up and down the hill in singles and pairs. The world was radiant and I was going out to do errands, not because I had to, but because I was full of vigour and desire to live my life. I was swimming with the current.
I made Aunt Kay's pumpkin bread to take as a snack to Rainbow Knitters yesterday. It is absolutely delicious, but I hadn't bothered with the recipe since going gluten-free almost two years ago. Finally I experimented with an alternative flour mixture of sorghum, brown rice, tapioca and almond meal. Fortunately it makes three loaves, because Danny and I can't resist snacking endlessly.
Farmers' Market has shifted its emphasis from summer fruit to new apples and root vegetables. The banks of baskets laid out in the sun still look colourful and glorious. Fall is the time to contemplate culinary adventures.
Danny and I took in Guelph Studio Tour yesterday afternoon. We visited the homes of some of my favourite local artists: printmaker Marg Peter, quilt artist Marilyn Clarke, and clay sculptor Ellen Jewett. But when I walked into a room and discovered the paintings of David Caesar, I was transported somewhere.
His pictures portray nature in a way reminiscent of Robert Bateman, usually large birds such as hawks and crows, but evoke a sense of severity and austerity. I told him his style reminded me of a Sibelius symphony. I purchased a print of his painting of a barred owl.
I have begun a very small art collection occupying one wall of my living room. It began with some money Mom gave me shortly before she died. I purchased a painting by Sona Mincoff and a quilt by Lorraine Roy. Later I bought a small quilt piece by Marilyn Clarke at a silent auction. I've included one of my own drawings and a Robert Bateman print my parents gave me years ago.
I'm attracted to rich colours and textures and flowing lines. Some people prefer hard edges of glass and metal, but I prefer textures one finds in a forest.
It was a day of dramatic skies, golden threadbare branches sun-etched against dark clouds.
I was fascinated, moved and disturbed by stories from the Colonel Russell Williams case. Why do his victims lose their right to privacy in death? For myself, I'm glad to hear these stories. We are part of a society in which innocent people are inherently unsafe, and we owe it to them to stand by them and share the terrible, lonely experiences of their final hours.
Walking up the hill after work, surrounded by peace and sunlight, I thought: "This is also part of life."
I love to lose myself in a stream of words, where I can set aside any struggle for meaning and dive into the sweet silver embrace of nonsense. Sometimes words feel like a burst of nerve energy, a sleek pain along the edge of consciousness, like lightning on the horizon or a slight slip of a fingertip along a razor blade. It draws blood from the skin of the soul, but it's evidence of a deeper life flowing through the heart and lungs, drawing oxygen into the mind and expelling waste gases into the surrounding environment. It's a vital expression.
My writing partner, Sarah, makes delicious vegetarian meals for herself and Michele. We were supposed to meet at the Red Brick Café last night but she lured me to her home with the offer of pear compote. She had also made an apple carrot salad with a bit of creamy dressing, and a casserole with rice, spinach, garlic and cheese. I tried the salad, but regretted not tasting the casserole. Something about simple, tasty food adds richness to a gathering of friends. I intend to start planning and preparing healthier meals this fall, and could take a lesson from Sarah.
I went to an anti-colonial Thanksgiving potluck with guest speakers from indigenous communities. Most attendants were young white anti-capitalists.
Three young Mohawk and Algonquian women told us they would not choose to meet this way. The format of guest speakers addressing a silent audience is a colonial idea. They would prefer to meet in a circle, and asked us to go instead to their community and meet them on their terms. They spoke passionately of their desire for universal transformation. The young, articulate woman whose English name is Lindsay had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
I'd gone to the dinner with my friend, Lori, and she was an organizer, so I ended up sitting alone during dinner. A young man came, introduced himself and sat down across from me. "You look like the kind of person who likes to go hiking," he said. Conversation ensued.
I used to be attracted to older men; their maturity I suppose. Now that I have my own maturity of sorts, I'm more often attracted to younger men, who exhibit a kind of graceful, vigorous beauty I will never possess. This is a romantic desire for intimate connection, not lust.
I arrived with two companions at Hawk Cliff at 9:45. It had poured rain all night, just letting up enough at dawn to allow our excursion a chance of success. We went to see hawk migration. When we reached the cliff, the sky had cleared enough for the sun to shine as through a grey tunnel, paving a pearly path across Lake Erie. As the sky continued to clear, a balmy breeze came off the lake, heat shimmered above the sandy cliffs, and butterfly pairs rose from the goldenrod. It was a radiant day. We didn't see many hawks.
Yesterday I was charged and excited about the idea of going back to school to become an educator. Brock University offers a program in Adult Education that can be completed part-time and online.
This morning the excitement has worn off. I have that familiar weary feeling. I just want to go back to bed.
I try caressing my forearms, a simple gesture of kindness toward self. It isn't as good as having someone else here to touch and hold me, but it stimulates a faint glow of comfort in my skin.
I am glad it's a short work day.
In the mornings when I go down to the street, I have to sweep yellow maple leaves off the windshield. It's a minor inconvenience compared to scraping ice. We have had only three mornings of frost so far. The leaves remain crisp and supple. Why do they yield to the imperative to fall? They gather in heaps along the gutter, complicating the trick of finding a place to park after work. I'm tempted to leave the leaves on the car in the morning, like "just married" decorations. They tell the world I can't be bothered with a three-car garage.
Apart from the listlessness on Tuesday morning, my energy and enthusiasm has continued unabated this week. I wake up thinking about my new venture. During the commute to and from Fergus, rather than listening to CBC as I usually do, I want silence so I can think about plans, story ideas.
I was sitting in the car at a red light at the corner of Norfolk and Speedvale. Every time a car passed through the intersection, my headlights reflected off the body, just a flash, sometimes clear, sometimes diffuse.
Everyone I talk to reflects back a different image of me.
Contemplating a career in nature writing and education, I've awakened a sense of purpose. Writing is nothing nothing new, and I've felt passionate connection to nature all my life. But waking each morning with plans in my head is novel and invigorating.
I can't find adequate grounds for self-confidence; the only way is to trick myself. I must believe in something. This is why people believe in God. The alternative terrifies them.
Last night on the way home from the café, the streets shone with wet. The neon sign in a deli window blazed a message for me: "open".
On Mom's side I was one of 19 grandchildren. Most were within two years of my age. On Boxing Day the families would all gather at my grandparents' house to exchange gifts.
Older cousins Cathy and Brenda would herd all the little kids into the alcove under the basement stairs and tell us horror stories they had learned at camp, with titles like "Thump, Drag" and "Drip Drip".
The fine art of storytelling has fallen by the wayside. We're too absorbed in the truth to consider myth, and too distracted by the images from technology to bother with deep creativity.
I don't know where this shift in energy is coming from, but it is most welcome. It's hard to evaluate cause and effect. Is it easier to interact socially because I have more energy, or do I have more energy as a consequence of pushing myself out of comfort zones? I suspect the former is true, and that the benefit comes from regular consumption of Omega-3s, vitamin D and vitamin B-complex. It's amazing.
Yesterday I made a reconnaissance walk to find a "sit spot", a place outdoors where I can engage daily with nature on a deeper level.
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