Saturday, October 22, 2011

the kind of light

This month has been full of festivity, wonder and transition. And I'm so grateful.

Now that the celebrations have ended and my mind can turn to other things again, it turns to the season, with some mournfulness. Though there was a bed of leaves for a wedding aisle, wild and gorgeous colour on the Georgian Bay shoreline, the richness of a community campfire and the quiet light from a woodstove (in which I roasted a sole marshmallow), I feel that something is missing from my experience of autumn - that is, the harvest. Getting my hands dirty with pumpkin guts and "laying in" and preparing for the winter ahead.
There's still time, I'm sure of it.

Things I'm thinking of:
-bringing in the red raspberry leaves
-preserving some kale vinegar
-embracing gray days
-drinking hot tea
-wearing long johns
-tidying up the corners of this big little house
-parsing through the remnants of the beautiful party
-working on a new project with my sisters

Edit: I wrote that a few days ago, and perhaps I'm just posting it now because I'm feeling something of a sense of accomplishment. A few of us who are nearest and dearest have spent most of the weekend together, seeing fine music made at our local pub, walking, looking, tasting at the farmer's market and enjoying warmth and tea on the couch. In the meantime, my hands have been busy: kale, venison, baking, preserving. Welcome, autumn. Goodbye, autumn.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

night touches morning

I'm up in the place where night touches morning, and I can't decide whether to make granola or go back to bed.

I'm enjoying the change of seasons in this season of change. And for the moment, I'm just listening to the rain.

This is the time that comes before. I'll be here until I'm there.

Friday, July 01, 2011

marking the season

This amazing watercolour work by Poppy and Pinecone reminds me of squished strawberries. Watch for me in the Cobourg parade, along with the rest of SVFF.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

vernal equinox

I love this time of year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

found object

Found these two photos in a draft of this blog this afternoon, with little other information besides the tags: "family, Paris, photography." It was dated January 11, 2010.

The photos are indeed from Paris, a trip I took about a year and a half ago (time flies). The roses were grown in Rodin's garden. I didn't pay the few Euros extra to enter the house and, in fact, was little interested in the statues anyway. It was all about the flowers.

A little more than a week after my return from Europe, my grandfather had a stroke, and I spent the better part of a day alone in a curtained-off cubicle of an intensive care ward with him. At one point I pulled out some prints I'd been carrying around in my purse. We looked through them together and I attempted to narrate the scenes of Morroccan sunshine, Spanish food and yes, Parisian roses.

There's something about these roses, and their browned edges and autumn light.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the way in

One year ago today, I was boarding a little plane, to get to Toronto, to board a slightly larger plane, on which I flew to Ottawa, to travel to Iqaluit on a still larger plane, at which point, I was snowed in for 3 days in a lonely hotel room before boarding a little plane headed for Resolute Bay.

It's good to notice these dates, these signposts along the way marking how far I've come. It's good to turn around every once in a while to see where I've been, how I got here. Often the way back looks so different than it did on the way in.

I spent the better part of six months looking out from the same vantage point on the front steps of the hotel: south, to the Northwest Passage, to Griffith Island, and on a clear day, all the way to Somerset Island. When I joined a sewing class during my first few weeks in the North, it was this view that I pieced together out of felt. I'd never (yet) seen a polar bear, or a whale, so I created what I had seen— snow, ice, stratus clouds, landforms, watercolour horizons.

When I was in Halifax last fall, one of my closest friends—a brother in spirit— and I went for a long walk around the city, and wound up on a wooded point looking out to the open end of the harbour. We had tiny bottles of red wine, and we sat on a picnic table and talked and looked out over the water while the night crept in around us. I can still hear him singing as we watched a long white ocean liner coming in: "Look out mama, there's a white boat coming up the river."

A few weeks ago, I was on a rambling, backroads, Sunday afternoon road trip. We were up around Georgian Bay, in the Blue Mountains of the Niagara escarpment, near a tiny crossroads village called Raven. We tried to take a picture, but it's a fool's errand to try to capture something magical on a two-inch LCD screen. The view was of the drop of an old shore line, miles and miles from where the water starts today, the trees and houses and towns inclining towards the bay, covered in ice and snow, until a sudden line of blue signaled open water spreading out and out and out, further than we could see. With the blue of distance so deep below and the early spring clouds above, we could have touched the sky on a Sunday afternoon.

There is so much to be grateful for. Looking around reminds me of that. The past year has been one of impossible growth, and stretching, and learning, and parting, and joy. A lot of joy. Looking back at what may have been my best year yet, I feel ready for what's to come— though I can't see it yet.

Friday, April 01, 2011

hold on

I'm not much of a keeper.

I've moved a lot through my adult life, and things get left behind, they get dropped off at a Goodwill, they get given away. I've had to say goodbye to a few treasures (my favourite beaded moccasins from Big Trout Lake come to mind), and try to console myself with the memories. But for the most part, I walk on fairly unhindered by the physical trappings some people carry. My most recent move fit pretty nicely into about half the space of a regular size cargo van.

What I do keep, however, is a lot of paper. I have a letter sent to me in my first year at university from my baby sister. I have all the journals I've ever kept. I have sketchbooks going back to middle school. I have envelopes of film negatives and boxes of tack-holed photos from past bedroom walls and bulletin boards. There are old essay notes, hastily scribbled interview transcripts, there are the rough drafts of zines and comics I've made, or never finished.

Not to mention the digital records I have scattered between Google Documents and even incomplete drafts saved on this blog.

I went to see the MOMA-curated Tim Burton exhibit at the TIFF Lightbox, and it made me feel a little better.

Burton has held onto his creative work from as far back as high school. Every film he's worked on has required oodles of doodles, including pen sketches on napkins, watercolour mood pieces and oversized polaroid works.

Some of these are clearly recognizable—Jack, the Skeleton King from Nightmare Before Christmas, changed very little from conception to screen—while ideas went through many manifestations, while still more never did come to fruition.

The exhibit made me realize what I've slowly been learning over the course of my comics class this winter: the value of rough work. The roughs are where the ideas make their first jump from the mind to paper, and where colours and shapes (even, in a less literal sense, in writing) really start to take form.

They are an expression that tries to be free from the two crippling questions Lynda Barry identifies in her book What It Is: "Does it suck?" and "Is this good?"

When acknowledging that the work is rough, there is always an opportunity for the work to improve in further incarnations. For now, it's about getting the ideas, getting the feeling. There's time for careful work in the future—at this point it's broad strokes.

While I can't say that I expect to one day have some kind of a career retrospective, I'm going to keep holding on to the rough work. There's a lot of energy contained in those old scraps of paper.

Friday, March 04, 2011

In which we are left to our own devices

Today one of my favourite writers on one of my favourite sites wrote her farewell post, as she moves on to bigger and (hopefully) better things .

Molly Lambert may be the greatest writer on the internet, and maybe the greatest writer in America. She has an ability to identify not just what it is, but why it is, about life/emotions/art/culture/cities/eras/Fleetwood Mac. She is the master of high readings and writings of low culture, and of low readings and writings of high culture. She takes it all apart to put it back together.

Molly Lambert writes about Jack Nicholson's sexiness and lack thereof and she gives voice to the anxieties of being the sole female in a boys club, and she does so with precise wit and a true heart. She writes in the voice of a smart woman writing as a smart woman (as opposed to the latest trend of smart girls writing like dumb girls), and she writes it fun. She doesn't need to write sentences in all-caps because everything she says is meant to be heard.

Molly Lambert understands the internet because she's growing with it, and because she is making it. Molly Lambert understands America because she's growing with it, and because she is making it.

A couple of years ago, Molly Lambert commented on a post here, and told me I should think about writing for This Recording. I haven't taken her up on it, but that comment means as much to me as any other success I've had in my short time stringing words together.

Best of luck, Molly. Open up, everything's waiting for you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

taking a break from writing to write

I've been watching the calendar, and now I'm watching the clock, with a deadline fast approaching and my typing-fingers slowing. I thought about coming here to write something, to try to open up the dammed process, but I decided to work on something else with a slightly later deadline, and came across this great poem from Tanya Davis' blog.

It speaks the things that I'm trying to speak just perfectly. Maybe perfectly enough that I can get back to work.

taking a break from a poem to write a poem

I am working on a poem with a deadline and so all I want is chocolate
Or a hug or a shoulder rub or something to take my thoughts from it
Deadlines are nice, they are like momentary bosses,
But I am rebelling, this chair feels rigid, my bum wants off of it

Poems don't write themselves though
So... I gotta keep working.

Several times this week I thought:
what if I quit?
what if I give this up and move to the hills
become really good at making soup and seeking thrills
and I mean slow thrills, like slow food, like snow falls and all I do
is watch it
Sounds kind of awesome

Oh, but I would tire of that, too
or moan and complain about my hard lot, all of my to-do's

The thing is, life won't be easy
thankfully, else I would whine about being bored
but life could be simple, no matter poetry or other chores
Take a breath and go forward

But, really, if I finish this assignment on time will you come over and reward me?
A massage for my hands that are cold and from this computer all narly
Stories of what you do so I can leave my bubble, feel more a part of things
Feel more hardy from a moment spent close to your heartstrings?

Blogs are kinda like poems
Futile, and yet important
for reasons I don't know
and I'm not much of an explorer
and so I probably won't
Not a lawyer, not a light heart with a good joke

If my purpose is to connect words and let them out
then I won't concern myself with what's the point, what's it about
I took a break from a poem to write a poem, I think that has its own story to tell

—Tanya Davis

Friday, February 18, 2011


I just got some prints back from some disposable cameras I was playing around with in the fall. I'm in love with the quirks and the graininess and the colours. Or maybe I'm just in love with that sunshine.

Here's some treats from my late-fall trip to Halifax. Mostly various types of treetops.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

drawing words

I'm taking a class at OCAD called "Comics and Graphic Novels" this winter, for the purpose of my own entertainment (I was a little hung up about having a "purpose" for signing up for the class, but then a friend mentioned that she was thinking of taking piano lessons, and it occurred to me that I'd never ask her "WHY are you taking piano lessons?" And indeed, no one has asked me WHY I'm taking a comics class yet, so maybe it's all in my head).

The instructor is Fiona Smyth, who is perhaps best known in Toronto for painting the signs at Sneaky Dees in the early 90s. She's also just published her first graphic novel, a futuristic story for young adults, called The Never Weres (she showed us some of her linears and roughs for this project - super exciting stuff).

One of the very best outcomes of this class so far is my new-found obsession with Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy comics. Luckily, there's a Tumblr for that.

PS. The only part of Canada Reads I happened to hear this week was the 5 or 10 minutes during which Jeff Lemire's Essex County was eliminated, mainly because the judges seemed to think that comics/graphic novels don't improve literacy. I really just don't even have it in me to rant about this.

That said, Essex County won the People's Choice poll with over 50% of the votes -- the people have spoken, in favour of comics!

PPS. Up top's the result of my first assignment for the class. This one here's a most recent rough/linear of a little thing I'm working on based on the farmer's market at the Evergreen Brickworks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Some of the best blessings of existence

I am the delighted (gleeful, even) recipient of the world's most beautiful early Valentine: the complete works of Jane Austen, bound in cherry red, printed in 1975. Gorgeous, right?

"I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve." Or so said Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, anyway.

*Also, the title of this post is the opening line in Emma. Come to think of it, that'll be the first one I read.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

For reals, though.

Due to my preferred costume, I seem to get a lot of remarks referring to my habit as some kind of religious statement. Questions like "How are your sister-wives?" and suggested affiliations with the Amish and the like.

In the interest of defending my own style choices, while also redeeming the reputations of the faithful, I'd like to present an alternative inspiration: the Waltons.

The long-running 1970s television series about a big ol' poor-in-money, rich-in-love family living at the bottom of a mountain in 1930s Virigina is pretty much right up my alley. We have rustic living, rural sensibilities, beautiful scenery -- all through the lens of the '70s prairie-revival.

Items of note:
  • barefeet with overalls
  • pinafore aprons
  • Mary Ellen's straw hat
  • suspenders
  • so. much. gingham.
  • braids and pigtails
  • screen doors
  • liberty print like it's going out of style (I assure you, it is not)

What's not to love?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

9 eyes.

On his website, Montreal artist Jon Rafman posts strange and interesting Google Street View images, a collection of the humourous and heartbreaking and everything else that make the human experience what it is. I think what makes the images different from traditional street photography is that the images are taken by a roaming vehicle on behalf of a behemoth corporation. There's a kind of robotic element of the method—cataloguing everything, framing nothing. By assembling these photos, Rafman gives some meaning to the scenes captured by reinvigorating the images with the power (via curation) of a human eye. I can see it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

new year, old friends

Photo by the gifted and wonderful Margaret Mulligan on the evening of December 31, 2010.