Friday, November 01, 2019

Late, autumn.

The season of fire. Of darkness, and often, hopefully, perhaps, light in darkness.
Waxing moon of the thin veil. Of lanterns held aloft on sturdy twigs, shining gold. Of warm beeswax and cinnamon tea. Ancestral moon, Moon of the Baking Bread.

For My Son Noah, Ten Years Old by Robert Bly

Night and day arrive and day after day goes by,
and what is old remains old, and what is young remains
young and grows old,
and the lumber pile does not grow younger, nor the
weathered two-by-fours lose their darkness,
but the old tree goes on, the barn stands without help so
many years,
the advocate of darkness and night is not lost.

The horse swings around on one leg, steps, and turns,
the chicken flapping claws onto the roost, its wings whelping
and whalloping,
but what is primitive is not to be shot out into the night and
the dark.
And slowly the kind man comes closer, loses his rage, sits
down at table.

So I am proud only of those days that we pass in undivided
when you sit drawing, or making books, stapled, with
messages to the world...
or coloring a man with fire coming out of his hair.
Or we sit at a table, with small tea carefully poured;
so we pass our time together, calm and delighted.

Surely an autumn poem, right? Off to carefully pour myself a small tea.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

We need to do things differently

What I need to say is that a relative of mine came to work at the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School just a few months after Chanie had died out there in cold, trying to walk home.

What you need to know is that relative of mine didn't hear about Chanie. Just a few months after he'd run away from that place and died, trying to go home to be with his Mom and Dad. No one spoke his name. No one said "The other kids might need some extra support." No one said "We need to do things differently."

If you're wondering what it is that you can do, as a white person, as a settler on this land, to make things better (as I have), maybe this is part of it: listen to Indigenous voices. Really listen to the voices speaking right now. The stories being told right now. If you don't hear any: change your life, click follow, click unfollow on some others, go on Twitter, go to the library. (I'm happy to recommend some folks I've been learning from). As my friend Smokii said: "We need to support living Indigenous folks. Indigenous futures. Indigenous voices. Indigenous stories."

If you're wondering what it is you can do, as a white person, as a settler on this land, to make things better (as I have, many times), maybe this is part of it: look into the spaces between your family stories and find out the truth about your place in what is currently Canada. Look at the history and understand that it is your history.

Residential school is my history, too, and maybe it's yours? The history of residential school in my family is different than it is for the Wenjacks. The history of residential school in my family paid for good food and warm houses and post-secondary education and dentist appointments and horses and farms.

This isn't about guilt, it's about accountability. It's about paying attention to who tells the stories now. It's about paying attention to where the money goes now.

It's about saying "We need to do things differently."


This post was originally shared on Facebook, and was inspired by this post by Aylan Couchie about the Canadian government's funding of the Downie-Wenjack fund. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sliver moon solstice

A Winter Solstice Poem: 
“To go in the dark with the light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight.
And find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.”
 Wendell Berry

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What's wrong with saying all lives matter?

Photo by Gerry Lauzon

As a community, we're still waiting to hear from the Port Hope Police Association about their 'Blue Lives Matter' t-shirt campaign. If you don't know about it, click here to learn more.

While we wait, I thought I'd try to round up some answers to a question that's been asked a lot over the past few days: don't ALL lives matter?

The statement “black lives matter” is not an anti-white proposition. Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion.
The lives of all human beings matter. That's a universal ideal. BlackLivesMatter was founded and is lead by three inspiring Black women — Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrice Cullers— out of a desire to draw attention to the specific way Black lives in America are systemically undervalued. They've written about the movement's Herstory on the BLM website and about their experience of watching the language of their movement be changed and coopted.
We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways.  We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined.
And, to keep it real–it is appropriate and necessary to have strategy and action centered around Blackness without other non-Black communities of color, or White folks for that matter, needing to find a place and a way to center themselves within it.
Elsewhere I've read a few versions of the "dinner plate" analogy around the web, but this version from GeekAesthete on Reddit is winningly straightforward. 

A friend shared this terrific Storify feed, which gets right to the root of things from a White author's perspective.
I particularly identified with the last paragraph, where the author (appropriately @the_author_ on Twitter) talks about how relatively little backlash she's had compared to Black authors who address the same issues:
I think it's important to keep in mind how white privilege gives me a larger and safer opportunity to have this conversation without being excessively harassed - both highlighting the exact racism I'm discussing and the importance of having white people speak to one another when and how we can. 
I know that's the case for myself and many of the other women who've teamed up with me on this project, and I recognize that privilege.

I'm grateful to all who have asked tough questions, all who have shown openness, all who are asking questions. Please, everyone, keep sending and sharing your articles and stories (including to me). This process comes with growing pains and discomfort for many in our community and I want to acknowledge that. I believe we're working, together, toward a better community, a better Port Hope, a better Northumberland.

The way there from here is through dialogue, through education, through openness, and there's been a lot of that going on for the past few days. I know many of us look forward to welcoming the Port Hope Police Association into the conversation, to listen to what they have to say on these matters and to ask them our questions. In the meantime, we wait.

If you haven't yet, please consider signing our petition requesting the Port Hope Police Association stop the sale of t-shirts bearing the slogan "Blue Lives Matter," and issue an apology acknowledging this error. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What happens when you call out the police association's Blue Lives Matter campaign in a small town

Canada - ON - Town of Port Hope Police (very old style)

Photo by Dave Conner
A few days ago, I saw a tweet from the police department in a small town a few miles from my home, the town where I grew up and where my son goes to school. The Port Hope Police announced that they would be fundraising by selling T-shirts bearing the slogan "Blue Lives Matter."
A day or so after that, I tweeted the police to let them know the slogan was an offensive appropriation of the language of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Then I sent an email. Then I created a petition.
The T-shirts will no longer be sold by the Police Department at the station, but the Police Association (a separate entity made up of the same people) continues to sell them.

Some other local women have joined the discussion and we're working together to come up with positive ways of moving forward as a whole community. We don't aim to be armchair critics. We do want to participate in the creative action of accountability and restoration that are part and parcel of a healthy community. We believe the best immediate steps are for the Port Hope Police Association to stop selling "Blue Lives Matter" t-shirts, and to apologize and acknowledge that this was an error.

While we wait, with hope, for that outcome, here's a window into life over the past few days.

Here's what happens when you call out a small town police association's "Blue Lives Matter" campaign:

-you emphasize your overall support of the police, over and over
-you get warned that they may refuse your 9-11 call, that they are "known for their thuggery"
-a local news site ignores your messages, and instead prints the Police Association's press release
-you are accused of starting a "morally superior media circus"
-when you ask the police spokesperson for contact information for the Police Association, he gives you a PO Box number in an email sent from his Blackberry
-a news article about the police defending their fundraiser is shared on a horrifically racist Twitter feed promoting the hashtag #BlackLiesMatter
-messages telling you to shut up pile up in your Facebook "Other" inbox
-you sweat and shake and you do the interview anyway
-you calculate how many times you're likely to need the police in the future, just in case
-you realize your own immense privilege
-you brainstorm new slogans, new fundraising ideas
-you find yourself introduced in a newspaper article as "a woman"
-you learn a lot about the women who founded the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and their guiding principles*
-trolls universally want you to "get a job"
-you hear through back channels that some of the force's police officers and high ranking town officials agree with you — but none will speak publicly
-a neighbour, a woman of colour, tells you "a small scared part of me believes they knew what they were doing, a scared part of me believes they don't care how I'd feel seeing them wear those shirts"
-you have a growing collection of hater message screen caps, just in case
-just before hanging up, a reporter says "What do I call you: 'Cobourg mother of one?'" and you reply "I actually have two kids" and he's gone before you think to add anything more
-a local newspaper journalist announces on live radio that people of colour and women are more likely to be hired in Canada than "anyone else"
-you send Beyonce GIFs
-in a step out of the ordinary, you lock your door at night
-the local appliance repair guy calls into the local radio station to ask why it's so dangerous for people to criticize anything to do with the police
-you hear "It's just three words on a T-shirt" more times than you can count
-another Ontario Police Chief calls to tell you he understands your concern and to extend support
-you receive a message from a local woman of colour who wants to "personally thank you"

Click here to read more, or to sign the petition (please!).

*Click here to read more about #BlackLivesMatter and their incredible guiding principles: "We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another."

Thursday, August 20, 2015


It is deep summer and the noon times are stock still and buzzing with the sound of insects and the afternoons are too long and the evenings are sticky until the sweat cools. The beach is a few blocks away, but the roads that lead there are paved black and so we stay in, hiding out.

While making supper, I leave the stove, stepping out into the strange haze-filtered yellow light to collect herbs. Basil, dill, mint, tarragon; all of them, for every meal. Peaches, corn. What more do we need to live on?

We escaped the heat and went to the East Coast, where a steady breeze blew and every night was right for a campfire. We lived in an orange tent under spruce trees for a few nights and my three year old fell asleep easily listening to Jerry Muskrat try to save the Smiling Pool and the baby's face was pale and round and cool and moon-like in the little snowsuit she slept in. During the day, we drove together in a rented mini-van, stopping at roadside farm markets and unpacking sandwiches from the cooler in the back.

Earlier this summer, my neighbour left a stack of books — six or seven at least, paperbacks, bestsellers — just inside the screen door at the back of our house. I'm on the last one. Despite the heat, summer's nearly over.

Online I've been reading Lily Stockman's dispatches for Vogue. "During the day I painted and tuned out the pornographers and set my sights on MFA programs, and at night I read Joan Didion and wondered, as I lay awake in the dark, if the man I loved would be killed in combat. Portrait of a marriage in wartime." Which, come to think of it, seem to be updated as often as this blog. So there.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

my heart it longs for something new

I'm taking a course that requires me to watch Before Sunset, the second in that talk-y, romantic Richard Linklater/Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy trilogy.

So I dutifully watched it, then watched Before Midnight, because I hadn't seen it yet. Then I watched a few Youtube scenes from Before Sunrise, the first film, and that's when I re-watched this scene, where Celine find's a Kath Bloom album in a Vienna record store, and she and Jesse cozy into a listening booth and listen to this amazing song.

Since then I've learned basically all that the Internet holds about Kath Bloom: a total forgotten gem who had a fairly short career in the early eighties, after which she mostly focused on child-raising, was re-discovered by Linklater and featured in the film in the mid-nineties, she released a new recording in 1999 and has been recording and touring periodically ever since. These songs are just so simple and lovely.

I don't know what is happening in this video, or why, really, but this SONG. So pared down, so achy.

In 2009, there was a tribute to her songs made called Loving Takes This Course (that title.) and it includes this cover by Scout Niblett, which is on repeat forever.

Kath Bloom, everyone. Kath Bloom.