Faith

It’s Sunday evening, the time I usually sit down in my office to tap out Monday’s post, stringing together impressions from the last week, often inspired by something I’ve read or heard. Classical choral music, hosted by one of the stellar announcers on my radio station, CKUA, and the purr of the space heater create an aural ambiance, and some needed warmth.

I’d thought I’d write my more-or-less annual “word for the year” post, wherein I sing the praises of having been introduced to the notion by a dear friend several years ago, then more recently shored up by a twelve-day discernment process hosted by Abbey of the Arts. Last year, in hindsight, I wrote about the prescience of having had HOME “arrive” as my 2020 word, given the onset of COVID which had all of us everywhere staying put for months on end. And that I’d arrived at NATURE as being most apt for 2021, given how much solace and settling I had found being in nature during these past nearly two years of Covid’s continued destabilization. This year FAITH came, inspired by reading something in my friend Shawna Lemay’s recently published wondrous novel, EVERYTHING AFFECTS EVERYONE. Already primed for signs and shimmers, I was alert when one of her characters, quoting Alan Watts, said:

“We must make here a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would ‘lief’ or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go.”

I’m not sure why or how, but reading those words on that brilliantly sunny but brutally cold morning between Christmas and New Year’s Day, while Annie napped beside me on “her” loveseat, grokked my word for 2022. I let go of sense making, meaning making, and trusted the thud of certainty that landed inside, having faith that FAITH it was, and FAITH it would be for 2022.

I have just finished preparing an early dinner for us – veal marsala, pasta with a mixed wild mushroom cream sauce, sautéed carrots, perfectly matched with the Amarone gifted from friends for Christmas – the ingredients purchased and menu heavily influenced by pranzo yesterday at the Italian Centre, where we again enjoyed our vino rosso with porchetta panino only served Saturdays. While sitting in the café sipping and chewing, watching a steady stream of folks order their espressos e dolces, I talked about what I most missed about this, hard to believe nearly two years’ living a covid-curtailed life: travelling abroad. That while I occasionally miss being out and about town with friends, I most deeply yearn for the new impressions that travelling brings me.

A great traveler…is a kind of introspective; as she covers the ground outwardly, so she advances fresh interpretations of herself inwardly.”

Lawrence Durell describing Freya Stark in Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998

I know I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping fresh those self interpretations here at home – walking with Annie, or during the Saturday Camino walks in the river valley, noticing the ever changing, ever constant beauty around me, and making photos and poetry from what shimmers; chronicling those impressions in my now second photo-journal of Covid life – my pre-determined final volume because at the rate we’re going, this could be another never ending story! Immersing in contemplative online learning programs and engaging in online poetry readings that inspire creative expression. Reading. My recent experiments in needle and hand work. Cooking. My biweekly circle gathering. Yes, through it all, even with grieving the loss of my professional life, and now nurturing a new one, as I reflect, I have navigated this time well. Still, I miss travelling.

And so I reminisced with him about the first time I ate a porchetta panino, at the little café in the piazzetta around the block from L’Accademia in Florence, as I waited my turn to see Michelangelo’s David. And then in Siena when we toured Tuscany and Rome together. Weaving up and down the cobblestoned streets, we suddenly found ourselves in front of the shop with the tell-tale pig sign and proscuitto legs, and scent of garlic and rosemary beckoning us in. Taking one to go, with a slice of panforte, it became a signature Sienese dinner that night in our room at the villa.

Waxing on, I told him that while there are vistas yet unseen I wished to experience – hopefully some with him, a less enthusiastic traveler – maybe due to my European roots and inexplicable fascination with Moorish design and culture, returning to countries I’ve already visited – Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco – held the most allure, to deepen those already etched impressions.

“the need for sacred beauty…we can only discover the real thing though deep observation, by the slow accretion of details”

Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998

Earlier this week my friend from Germany called, she with whom I lived the three months I travelled solo in Europe in 2011. “Come and stay with me for a few months,” she, recently retired and finding her footing, implored. If only it were that easy. And maybe it is, or soon will be, albeit with safeguards and precautions.

Perhaps that’s where faith comes in. Rings its bell quietly to remind me that one day, I’ll return to and visit anew, those places of my heart’s desire, to delve deeper into myself, by way of the world.

“Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys.”

Richard R. Niebuhr in Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Walking

“I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.”

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust, 2001

Text on Friday night from my friend: Are you planning on walking tomorrow? It’s supposed to be raining all day.

Me: Yes, I saw the forecast, and yes, I plan to walk. I made the commitment to myself to walk every stage, come rain, sun, sleet or snow. So, yes, I’ll be walking.

Friend: Thumbs up emoji

Text on Saturday morning – well before dawn – to my friend: Hmmmm, I’m reconsidering walking. It’s been raining all night, the forecast is for rain all day. I don’t want to get chilled and cold and sick. What about you?

Friend: I’m up and already dressed.

Me: Well, then…

Friend: We can always go, see if anyone else comes, and what’s happening.

Me: Good idea. Thumbs up emoji

“Go out and walk. That is the glory of life.”

Maira Kalman, My Favorite Things, 2014

So at 7:35 am I drove the short distance to the park for the 8:00 am rendezvous for Stage 7 of the local Camino de Edmonton, amazed at how much darker it was from a week ago, due to heavy cloud cover and the shortened days.  We’re now past the midway point, with twelve stages in total, ending the last Saturday in November at the city’s west end of the river valley, when my drive will be much further. A repeat of last year’s camino, now with the stages in reverse order, we’ve had glorious fall weather every weekend until now.

And there we were, ten of us hardy “peregrinos” ready to embrace the day, stepping through puddles, agreeing it would be a good day to test our gears’ waterproofness. Mine – boots, pants and jacket – failed miserably by the end of the 13.5 km circuit, my feet and quads wet to the skin. Once home, showered and dried, wet clothes laundered, boots aired, I began researching remedies and replacements. Several pairs of boots ordered, a couple of jacket styles eyed and waiting, hopefully, for a Black Friday sale (yup, those Arc’teryx jackets are an “investment” to quote my friend ), and waterproofing wash and spray purchased to renew the life of my pants.

“The pieces that I chose were based on one thing only — a gasp of DELIGHT.
Isn’t that the only way to curate a life? To live among things that make you gasp with delight?”

Maira Kalman, My Favorite Things, 2014

Every week I post pictures of the week’s walk on social media. Last week in response, another friend asked if I ever wrote about my “camino” experience, relaying how my posts brought to her mind the hauntingly beautiful composition, “camino,” by the late Canadian violinist, Oliver Schroer, created in May and June, 2004, as he walked one thousand kilometers of the Camino Frances, with his partner Elena, and two friends, Peter Coffman and Diane Laundy.

“In my back pack, I carried my violin like a wooden chalice, like my own precious relic, carefully packed in its reliquary of socks and underwear and waiting to work a miracle. My pack also contained a portable recording studio. When I found a church or cathedral that was acoustically enticing…and open…I played my violin and recorded in those spaces. I played some of my older fractal and spiritual pieces. I improvised a lot. Walking for weeks, new pieces came to me – one hill, one valley at a time. In two months, I played and recorded in twenty-five different churches…

…The music still sings on these recordings. The sense of place is strong here – pilgrims praying, children playing, birds, bells, footsteps, passing snatches of conversation, the sounds of the buildings themselves. Each space has it sown distinct character and resonance.”

Oliver Schroer, “camino” journal notes, 2005

My photographs are glimpses into the sense of place I encounter as I walk – “that magical stuff of ‘the moments inside the moments inside the moments.’” (Maira Kalman). What shimmers – audaciously or subtly – and has me gasp with delight, or stop and turn around to really take in the moment? What is different or the same this year, from when I walked the same stage last year? What memories are evoked, impressions stirred, conversations silently replayed, or spoken anew now?

“With the utmost love and attention the person who walks must study and observe every smallest living thing, be it a child, a dog, a fly, a butterfly, a sparrow, a worm, a flower, a man, a house, a tree, a hedge, a snail, a mouse, a cloud, a hill, a leaf, or no more than a poor discarded scrap of paper on which, perhaps, a dear good child at school has written his first clumsy letters.”

Henry Thoreau, The Walk, 1861

Last year walking, it was a friend’s question about what I did with my photos – having watched me pause many times that glorious Saturday, to frame the image and focus my camera, fall behind the group and then catch up – that planted the seed for creating a photo journal of how I experienced my life during the pandemic. The first volume of one hundred pages, from March to December, 2020, and now a second volume almost at capacity with three months of this year still to enter. Too, my husband suggested I make a photo book exclusively of my Camino photos in appreciation for the co-ordinator’s efforts in planning and hosting all thirteen stages last year. As our host didn’t follow along on social media, it was the first time he saw in its entirety the beauty of what he had envisioned and coordinated for us, through the beauty I had captured and created for him.

“…the genius of walking lies not in mechanically putting one foot in front of the other en route to a destination but in mastering the art of sauntering – which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. “

Henry Thoreau, The Walk, 1861

Since 2000 I’ve waxed and waned with the dream of walking a camino, ever since I read Shirley MacLaine’s memoir. She brought to mainstream consciousness the ancient pilgrimage through France and northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, today known as The Way, or Camino Frances, the same one walked by Oliver Schroer. There are many camino routes, ending at Santiago, or Italy’s Vatican, or through the forests and shrines of Japan. Last year, walking the Camino de Edmonton I learned that my way of walking is to saunter. I need to take my time to notice, to observe, to photograph, to hum a tune, sing a made-in-the-moment, soon-to-be-forgotten lyric. I enjoy conversation, and have had some delightful, edifying ones. And then what I notice – the shiny and the shimmer, the magic that suddenly catches my eye and speaks to my heart – shifts my attention.

And so, thinking more intentionally about a long distance “saunter” to Santiago, through Portugal, next year, the “easy walk” – taking several more days than the typical two week allocation – with ample time to rest and appreciate the ambiance of local villages, having my accommodations with breakfasts pre-booked, and luggage transferred, viscerally has me gasp with delight and settle my covid concerns. New impressions…the moments inside the moments…the magical stuff…the glory of life.

And hearing inside my heart, Oliver Schroer’s homage to the Camino de Santiago, “Field of Stars.” (Click the link to listen.)

“I went because I knew others who had gone, and the experience filled them with wonder.”

Peter Coffman, Camino, 2017

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Purple Asters and Goldenrod

my beloved Niagara River

The last time I posted we were on our way to Niagara to visit our families, the first time in two years. Packing was straightforward, though after forgetting my must-take-daily medication when we drove the few hours west to Jasper in June, I was particularly attentive realizing I was out of practice, that my systems honed with packing a dozen times a year for the last decade needed dusting off. The airport parking lot was full, evidence that while this was our first flight in ages, many were travelling. I’d bought breakfast sandwiches the day before, unsure what, if anything would be open at 6:00 am. While quiet, I was delighted that my favourite Italian food counter was open to get the best coffee in the airport. Piping hot, I sipped while eating my sandwich, looking forward to leisurely drinking the rest once seated on the plane. That proved foolish. Face masks, enhanced with shields made near impossible drinking coffee, let alone anything else. So those Italian deli sandwiches I’d also bought the day before would have to wait for the car ride.

While Ontario and eastern Canada are renowned for spectacular autumn colours, our arrival was several weeks early, so only the sumac and occasional maple blushed red. But the purple asters partnered with goldenrod were abundant in ditches and fields and on the banks of the creek, each siting evoking Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass.

As I’d anticipated, changes were apparent in our families, both young and old. Children who were infants and toddlers when we’d last visited were naturally wary, needing time to warm up to their “come from away” aunt and uncle. But time with the young adult nieces and nephews and their partners, and our parents felt like yesterday, as we fell into easy conversation and catching up.

sunrise on the Niagara

That Saturday I missed my weekly Camino de Edmonton, a repeat of last year’s multi-stage, multi kilometer walk along Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River. The weather finally cleared so I dressed to make my ritual walk along my beloved Niagara River, a Camino de Niagara. A chance conversation with my high school friend and her husband, a walk through the cemetery to “visit” my Oma and chosen namesake aunt and notice who in my absence had since passed. Years ago, when my Oma died, and her ashes were put in the granite columbarium, I purchased the slot beside her, with room enough for two, and while not quite a river view, close enough. Funny thing how that purchase always brings a smile, it being one of my best investments, bringing peace of mind knowing I have my final resting place. Hmmmm, whatever that actually means…

the old pine on the river bank at sunrise

Driving away from my parents’ home to follow the river north to the falls, I wondered, as I do more often now that I and they are older, “Will we see each other again?” “When will I next return, to whom, and under what circumstances?” I don’t belabor it. I can’t. It’s as pragmatic as my mother wondering will she live to see the us and the world through to the other side of Covid. It simply is what it is, a truth of our lives. Like the curious affinity of purple asters for goldenrod.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Finding A Way

Maybe I have been languishing a bit. It’s been a month since I last wrote here. While most Fridays I’ve managed to post my photo and poem features, sometimes offering a bit of explanation as to why this poem now, I haven’t had the jam to write much else on this platform.

I have been writing. A couple of pieces for EdmontonEats (that sweet official writing gig), magazine submissions, poetry contests, and an application to an online summer writing session where, if accepted, I want to learn what it means to be a writer and hone my skills. Cover letters, bio notes, project proposals. At times I feel daunted by the newness of it all, and too, with the solitary, at times lonely space in which I am crafting this new identity, word by word. And it comes.

I thought about writing a piece describing last month’s felling of our Willow. I would have titled it “Beloved Willow Be Gone,” for in eight hours, with a three person crew of master arborists roping, climbing, cutting, grinding, and carrying, that magnificent fifty year old tree was no more. I now see too much of the backsides of garages, sheds and houses, and feel exposed unlike ever before during the near forty years we’ve lived here. But I do see an expanse of sky unlike I’ve ever seen, and we have more sun in the morning, making coffee on the deck a lovely start to the day. Winds have blown very strong many days since, and I am relieved not to wonder and worry would Willow finally give way, crashing into those garages, sheds and houses. Soon the stump will be ground and we’ll plant a new tree…a Mayday with its signature prairie spring perfume and white wedding bouquet blossoms…a quick growing canopy that will eventually begin to fill the still, stark void.

I simply didn’t have the gumption to write more than my “four word sad story” about the recent “discovery” of hundreds of unmarked indigenous children’s graves on the grounds of a residential school. The original reported number, 215, is now over 1000 after other grounds were explored, and is expected to rise significantly as all school sites across Canada are examined. My country’s dark secrets are literally being unearthed and coming to light. It is time, long overdue. I knew my words would be trite and so commit to listening, learning, and being open to being disturbed into wise and respectful action.

National Indigenous Day Celebrations, Jasper, Alberta

And then there’s the pandemic which, by the sounds of it, might become history next month, which is only a few days away. My province is intent to remove all safety measures come July 1st. Other provinces are following suit sooner than later. Vaccinations feel like a “get out of jail” pass. And while I’ve received both shots, I’m hesitant, skeptical even with this abrupt and arbitrary “end” while cities around the world are going back into lockdown as more virulent variants take hold.

Last week we drove to the mountains for a few days. Our first trip since this all began last March. Sitting on the dock our first evening, a balmy summer solstice, I felt myself decompress with every sigh, releasing months of anxiety and uncertainty. I imagined Nature having a mighty big job ahead as she transmutes everything released by people letting go of all we’ve carried these many months. But I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.

Every week I receive a wonderful letter, The Pause, written by poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, giving insight into the coming week’s On Being podcasts. This week, he describes the conversation Krista Tippett has with Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows about their new translation of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. You know I’m a Padraig fan, quoting him here often. Once again, his words resonate and offer me a fitting conclusion to my meanderings today:

“The world — as it is envisaged in Rilke’s letters — is not a tame place. It is filled with pain and potential; joy and separation; war and wonder. These are not meant to be easy companions, and this is part of the marrow of the letters to a young poet: find a way to hold yourself while being in the world that is around you.”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Today

TODAY

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

– Mary Oliver –

“I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.” – How this line resonates. A week ago I learned about a live stream virtual travel tour company and have been literally around the world, in real time, sitting still. Paris and Lyon, Florence, Venice and Pisa, Cusco, the desert in Dubai, Dubrovnik, Istanbul – 30, 45 and 60 minute tours hosted by professional guides on a “pay what you will” tip basis. I take photos “postcards”, ask questions, and delight in this remarkable use of technology that is providing a livelihood for guides, and “green” travel for me. One of the guides, Mike from Peru, shared the unforeseen, but countless benefits of this “pivot” for him, his company and community, making it all the more worthwhile. It’s been a door back into the world and the people living in it.

Roses in Winter

“Must be brain freeze,” I just tapped out to a friend, as I’m late again for this week’s post.

It. Is. Cold. An Arctic vortex has descended upon the prairies. Years ago, I recall my city’s well-loved and highly respected meteorologist calling it “the dreaded of all meteorological phenomena: the Siberian High.” Sunshine and signature Alberta blue skies, but with wind blowing steady, take those already frigid temperatures well below zero – centigrade or Fahrenheit – and drop them at least another ten, dangerous degrees. Since the weekend, weather apps have shown red banners and yellow exclamation points and maps show red across the entire province.

But last Thursday, in advance of its arrival, we waxed up the skies and went out to our local provincial park, Blackfoot-Waskahegan, for some easy-going cross-country skiing. As it had been several years since I’d been on the trails, we took a practice run the week before in the new-this-year tracks set on the golf course. Quiet except for the scratch of the skies on snow, my breathing, the squawking and chirping magpies and chickadees, it was heaven sent, though for now, on pause.

Sunday, dressed warmly in a fleece lined wool toque, down parka, gortex snow pants, shearling boots and new “extreme cold” Hesta mitts, I met many folks on the paths, similarly bundled, each enjoying our daily walks in the sunshine. An hour later, the mitts standing up to their reputation, my hands were sweating. The wind blew in that evening, and now even Annie, ever ready to brave the elements – except rain – is less than enthusiastic to be outside. She’s conceded to wearing her boots again with her stylish coat, and we manage a walk around the block. But she didn’t hesitate or pull the other way when I turned down the street headed home. Yesterday after sending her indoors, I took on clearing the sidewalk and driveway of hard packed snow. Got nearly 10,000 steps with it all. That sunshine is a powerful draw. But right this moment, in a day just beginning to clear, she’s napping on her cushion by the space heater as I write.

A year ago today, we were making our way to Sevilla for a winter sojourn in Andalusia. Right about now we were napping in a cozy sleep pod at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Later in the afternoon, we’d catch our flight to Sevilla, check into our hotel, and enjoy our first of many “al fresco” Spanish tapas. Smoky olives, sweet red vermut on ice, grilled octopus.

Ahhhh memory. “The power to gather roses in Winter.”

During the next few weeks, to mark the occasion I’ll mix an Americano cocktail (first enjoyed during my first visit to Andalusia in 2017) with a slice of orange (not Sevillian, too bitter), chew on Spanish olives, and “gather roses” as I wander across the pages of my journal and photo book from last year’s last trip before the pandemic.

And now, after finishing this post, I’ll check to see if a walk is doable.  And then, inspired by returning to reading Melanie Falick’s beautiful story of hand makers and DIYers, Making a Life, I’ll continue embellishing the sweater I knitted a few years back. Worked from a pattern I’d rejigged, with very fine lacy yarn – a silk mohair blend – it’s rife with mis-takes and mis-stitches, too big, and too disappointing after numerous tear-outs and restarts. After taking it out from hiding a few months ago, glancing at it every now and then, holding lightly what and how to proceed, last night I took needle and thread and using a running straight stitch, took in the sides and arms in an exposed French seam. I roll hemmed the entire sweater, again using a straight stitch, letting it show. Then, with a skein of similarly spun yarn from a sweater my mother made for me years ago, I’m running it though those uneven ladders to bring in texture and colour. A true “wabi sabi” creation, using what’s imperfect with what’s on hand, to make beautiful.

Like the little water colour I did while attending a conference last Saturday on Medieval Pilgrimages. Bored with the academic posturing and paper reading, and needing distraction to sort and discern what was of value for me, I adhered to the principles of intuitive painting – no premeditation, design, or meaning – and simply worked with colour and stroke. And then, almost as an afterthought, used a fine black pen to outline the shapes that emerged. Delightful, colourful, nonsensical.

“Ways to trust one’s own wisdom
to bless the imperfections
to see and make apparent the inherent beauty
to smell crimson roses
even in Winter
when her blizzards blow and blind.”

KW

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Start Close In

Start Close In

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

– David Whyte –
 River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Closer to Home

Thinking about this week’s post came from a few rambling experiences finally resting on the need and practicality of being closer to home.

Lifting a page from the books of some friends, we’ve taken a couple of day trips to see some local sights, obscure and otherwise. Like most folks these days, we’ve opted for the “staycation,” sticking closer to home, not yet venturing far enough for an overnight accommodation. While the mountains call, from what we hear people are flocking in droves to Jasper, Banff and Canmore, so we’ll hold off until…. Plus, we didn’t want to kennel Annie. She’s been such a stalwart companion these months, relying on us as much as we her for a steady supply of love and attention. We just didn’t have the heart to leave her cooped up with strangers. And being on leash, the only way in the mountains, gets pretty frustrating with so much wild scent around. After all, she’s a bird dog. Scenting, hunting, stalking and pointing are her nature.

So a drive east down a prairie highway to Viking, a right turn south across the rolling pastures and freshly cut hay fields, up the hill to a white fence enclosing the two Viking Ribstones. An ancient aboriginal site, now adorned with colourful prayer cloths, these large quarzite boulders were carved thousands of years ago to resemble the ribcages of the revered bison, the main source of sustenance for the plains people.

Last week, north and east to Metis Crossing, we spent another few hot, sunny hours enjoying the quiet of this cultural interpretative centre along the shores of the North Saskatchewan River. Bison sausage with saskatoon relish, bannock with fresh rhubarb jelly and saskatoon lemonade were in keeping with history and today’s garden harvest. Flowers grew in abundance.

A stop en route at the Skaro Grotto.

I’d like for us to make a further trek south towards Rosebud and Blackfoot Crossing. That landscape of treeless, golden high prairie cut by deep coulees green with willow and cottonwood, set against an endless horizon of blue begs acknowledgement that it, too, is as magnificent as the mountains. An acknowledgement I’m only too willing to give, though it would be a long day.

This weekend would have been the 40th anniversary of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. It, like every other festival in Alberta and large gatherings around the world, was cancelled due to the pandemic. Here, every summer weekend we watch rodeos, listen to music of every genre, see theatre at the famous Fringe festival, revel in parades and gatherings celebrating culture and heritage. We mark our all too short summer with one or several of these “must attends.” It’s helps us get through winters that go on and on. All weekend my radio station, CKUA, an ardent supporter of Alberta culture, featured music and interviews from past years’ performers, while the Festival commissioned a full-length film feature, The Hill, to stream and hosted over fifty videos of past performances. As beautiful the efforts to be on “the hill at home,” as I drove past the festival site early Saturday morning, a time when any other year I’d see orange vested volunteers managing traffic, I felt a bit bereft and wondered, when, if ever, would, what has been called North America’s finest folk festival, return. I recalled having had my first pandemic meltdown, weeping the morning I heard it, and my go to, the Canmore Folk Festival, had been cancelled. The ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning of grief. That day it came closer to home and landed on my doorstep.

Yesterday I zoomed in on a conversation hosted by Melanie Falik, author of the recently published Making A Life: Working By Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live. A few hundred people from around the world, mostly knitters, listened along. As a kind of checkout, we were invited to type in the chat box one project we’d start this week. I got to thinking that for the past week or so I’d been saying out loud that I needed a project. Something I could sink my teeth into. Something on which to focus my ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning energy. Something besides cooking that would engage my curiosity and creativity.

The photo books from this past year’s trips are done. I’m writing a bit. I’m still committed to not learning how to bake sourdough bread, nor grow a garden (hell, I’m having enough of a time picking slugs off my flowers, and we love the bounty from our bi-weekly CSA, thank you). Like most knitters, though I blush to call myself such, I have a started sweater in a bag and a few patterns and skeins waiting in the bin. But I hardly need more sweaters, or scarves, or shawls, even if Friday’s sudden cold weather reminds me what’s coming.

No, what I realized, as I knitted together these recent bits of my life, was that the dreams I’d been keeping, hoping to sustain me through these days of uncertainty and change, were too far out of reach. I knew I couldn’t hold my breath as long as it would take, if ever, to return to the folk festival as I had known it, or to Morocco as I’d planned for this September. I realized I needed to dream closer to home.

I have no idea what dream or project. Not yet.
But I feel a smile inside and out as I begin to wonder and feel those energies shimmer, swirl and coalesce.

With love and kindest regards.

Good to Remember

Memories of traveling to Newfoundland five years ago were evoked this week, thanks to photos I’d posted on Face Book coming back to remind me, and viewing the beautifully shot episode “Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island.” I didn’t get to Fogo Island then. Hadn’t even known about it. But it’s been on my list since, and visiting may come sooner than later as international travel might now be a thing of the past.

That trip, with its magnificent vistas of land, sea and sky, awakened a deep love for the wild and inspired words that remarkably won me a writing contest sponsored by the tour company.

It’s been good during these my fallow days – when the only vistas I’m seeing are those in my back yard and community, and the only words that come are few and far between – to remember back then, to trust in now.

Seeing Newfoundland in Six Vignettes

I
The Table Lands, Gros Morne
June 20, 2015

The vastness of this Island’s spirit,
holding the Earth’s very own heart
exposed to all the elements.

A paradox of deep beauty,
magnificence and awe,
with a cutting desperation for
survival.

A people who, fierce and proud –
despite what we mainlanders think –
know what matters.

This mater.

This Mother.

Earth.

II
Woody Point, Gros Morne
Early Sunday Summer Solstice Morn
June 21, 2015

A Bonne Bay full of Sun on this
Sacred Sunday Summer Solstice morn.

Shhhh…
the only sounds…

A choir of birds.
Robin singing, thrilling, trilling.
Black Crow cawing.
Meadow Lark warbling.
Red winged Blackbird wooing.

Blood red blossoms about to burst forth on
the front yard crab apple tree.

Water softly lapping on the stony shore.

Locals sitting on their front porch stoops,
sipping coffee,
smoking the day’s first cigarette.

The “from aways” their laughter and chatter
break the spell.

I stand on yet another threshold
looking for the middle way.

III
Norris Point, Gros Morne
Our Summer Solstice Prayer
June 21, 2015

Intention held in the hearts and minds of twelve women
wild to witness the whale,
grand dame of our species.

A blow…once, twice
seen along the rock and tree faced cliff.

Colour full kayaks skim the surface,
carry us Home.

Our hands drum the chant of welcome,
invoking her wisdom, calling her in.

A tail sighted…once, twice
breaking though the glassy bay.

A sudden breach.

Our collective Heart leaps with
the closeness of her show.

A prayer received and delivered.

IV
Woody Point, Gros Morne
Last Breakfast at the Granite Cafe
June 22, 2015

“I’d be nervous all the time,” explains the sweet young server
(can’t be more than twenty-two,
eyebrow piercing twinkles a delicate blue,
matches her eyes),
sharing a bit about her baby girl,
why she’ll stay put on Woody Point,
where the closest traffic light is in Corner Brook,
so Adrianna can run
free.

V
Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne
June 22, 2015

At last.

That long-awaited landscape.
The one I first saw on TV.
You know, the one that grabbed my Heart and fired my Imagination.
The one with the cliffs.

“I’d like to go there one day.”

So what fired the Imagination of those ancient mariners?
The ones whose fjords evoke
the very one I’m travelling down
right now?

VI
Long Time Home
L’Anse aux Meadows and Home
July 7, 2015

Two days travelling then waiting.  Anticipation grows with the wish to be settled back home.  Thankful all uneventful, as a day later, and for several more, re-routing, premature landings, delays, all in response to bomb threats
on my airline.

 The world’s madness – is it more than ever, or the consequence of instantaneous connection – hits my consciousness broadside, closer to home.

And what of those ancient mariners and the many days’ and weeks’ and months’ anticipation and sailing across the ocean? 
What bold imagination and steel-hearted courage, madness even, drove them from their Nordic homeland to what we now call Iceland, Greenland?
And then further south, to be the first of their kind, my kind, to settle on this, my home and native land?

L’Anse aux Meadows, the very tip of Newfoundland’s northern most shore. 
One thousand years ago.  We now know centuries before the likes of men we call Cabot, Columbus, Cartier.

When I recall the day I disembarked from the van, set foot on and looked out over that first “from away settlement,” over the bare expanse of naked land and sea and sky – cold and windy and grey and raining – I can hardly imagine, in a thousand years, their first reaction to seeing and setting foot. 
Unless I search in my own DNA and evoke that of my father’s,
when he first saw, from the ship carrying him across the ocean
from post-war Germany, and set foot on the land that he would claim
and make home, that day over a mid-century ago.

Dance

Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

– Rumi –
translated by Coleman Barks in The Essential Rumi, 1995

_______

Sweet synchronicity – no sooner had I written this post when I heard a musical interpretation of these verses. Composer Anna Clyne created an orchestral arrangement featuring the cello, titled DANCE. Listen to the fourth movement, “in your blood,” with cellist Inbal Segev and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

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