on grief

thanks to Brenda Schmidt, the great Sask. poet (see blog, alone on a boreal stage), I read this posting by someone called Dr. Ursus, a physican/poet living somewhere in Canada.

http://drursus.blogspot.com/2008/09/what-i-tell-myself-sometimes.htm

a profound commentary on grief,

this year, grief has circled like a brown hawk above us, our family

– and why should we be different than any other family?  

I suppose our great challenge however, is that unlike most, we have a rather unique situation in that we lost our beloved 26 year old to the northern Pacific. we shall never see her again. nor her partner. 31 years of age. capable. good. strong. lovely. why do the good die young, we ask, or is it that we are all good at 26? or maybe it’s their very goodness that magnifies the loss? 

and how do we grieve when we will never know the date of their death? how they died? with just the wide sea as their witness? literally fallen off (or into) the face of the earth

and sometimes I wonder what they saw on that raw ocean that they became a part of, what truths, what revelation, or was it simply nothingness

and where does that leave us but to continue to live, to witness, to love, to sometimes just put one foot in front of the other…

a month ago, I attended one of our fallen soldier’s funeral. and it wasn’t the shiny brass buttons, the lone piper, the tenderness of his platoon mates as they hoisted his coffin onto their shoulders, kneeled gently so as not scrape his casket on the lintel as they entered the church, that touched me, though that was certainly moving. no, it was the NASCAR stickers peaking out from under the Canadian flag cinched tight around the box… that somehow in death, this soldier’s personality, humour, carried on…

 

we grieved our girl this summer. it was a hot, gorgeous blue sky day in August for which we had prepared for several weeks. flowers. food. notices. service. hymns. it should have been a wedding and not a funeral. it should have been… it should have been… there is Ursus’  “door of despair” opening for me in those three words…

in a parallel universe, maybe the wedding did happen, after all, we saw it in our minds that day – C. looking so beautiful, long dark curls… some of us even dreamed of her dress…

is this despair to imagine this? grief’s “torture”, as Ursus describes…
 

anyway, somehow we made it through the funeral (no body, no date, just nothingness and imagination), adjourned to the parents’ home and had one hell of a party… a musical family, we sang, played music, my daughter played fiddle, we ate, we drank, we laughed, we wept, we even did the bloody Chicken Dance (oh there’s that damn wedding image again) because it was one of our girl’s favourites… until 4 a.m.

for one night, we danced on death, saved our grief for all the tomorrows

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artists and the election and the Gov. Gen’s hubby

attended a Town Hall meeting put on by the local arts community who are all in a tizzy vis-a-vis cuts to arts funding and the perception of censorship by the current federal gov’t.

the meeting was a futile effort I’m afraid as it was a case of all in attendance singing the same melody (cliche tm)… the Greens, the NDP, the Libs. all in attendance, but no Conservatives – and honestly, who could blame them… I’m sure it makes far better sense to spend a Sunday night knocking on doors and kissing babies, than coming to a theatre just to get yelled at or possibly physically attacked (this is BC after all!)

for a bunch of creative artists, the whole endeavour was stunningly lacking in creativity. a panel of candidates and a panel of artists or arts organizers, 3 minutes each and debate. over a dozen speakers, we were a bit done in by speaker #8 or #9… for some reason, the arts community tm seems to think that if they use biz-speak, e.g. $8.3 billion to the GDP blah blah blah, that they will have more credibility… and the candidates on their part, droned on about how they will do this and this and this if this and this and this happens… yeesh, to think I missed a dinner with the in-laws for that…

anyway, I looked around at all the people dressed in black on stage and in the audience and counted fewer than ten people under the age of 40 and 0 people of the non-pale complexion (and we live in a city absolutely alive with 1st nations artists)… and maybe that’s an interesting bit of info right there… the +40 gang have grown up on grants while the -40 gang have pretty much got used to not receiving grants and have gone about their art using whatever they have at hand to make a living or ? from it… witness independent music artists… they’ve been recording and distributing their art for years and years… and how many of them have ever applied for gov’t funding? and what would their chances be at successfully receiving that funding considering who serves on selection committees and who are the usual recipients (and I have observed this across the disciplines)… 

anyway, this morning in the Globe and Mail a really interesting article on Jean-Daniel Lafond, the GG’s husband. a filmmaker, playwright, critic etc., he makes the following statements and I think he’s onto something…

 

“[Fundamentally], it’s a problem of education… We need to sensitize people to the importance of the arts. Don’t forget, culture is oxygen. we have to protect it [and spending on it] is not a waste of money. But it’s a dead end to make a confrontation between artists and politicians. The only possible end is demagoguery… It’s very safe for a politician to destroy culture. We have to go further with education…” and so on.

of course it’s easy to make statements… but hopefully GG hubby takes the time to get out there and mentor and present and sponsor and not just yack…

 

those are a few thoughts

the craftsman the poet

There are two men inside the artist, the poet and the craftsman. One is born a poet. One becomes a craftsman. Emile Zola

the old adage about performance being 10 per cent inspiration, 90 per cent perspiration, so true. this week back to dance class… technique, coaching, choreography, bata de cola, the latter looking so beautiful, so elegant, a skirt with 16 meters of fabric which the dancer must “fly”, all the while maintaining amazing posture, line, keep in compas… make it look natural/easy. 

so why do we practice such an esoteric art form? I’m not sure any of us can quite answer this… it’s our addiction/our passion… the thing that makes difficult times bearable and good times, amazing… it’s both a celebration and a salve.

easy? not at all. hard physical and mental work. years and years of practice that only now are beginning (and the operative is beginning) to pay off. 

all I know is that it makes me a better writer. a better human being. that the artform speaks to me on a very deep level. that without exception, my fellow dancers all have a story to tell. this is not hobby, this is not recreation, this is central to our lives. and that it takes a lifetime to begin even a tiny bit of mastery is not

daunting. Not one little bit. in fact, this is the gift.

 

oh and anyone worth her weight in flamenco will note the hands… more work needed. much more… so it goes…

doubleheader

yesterday, a doubleheader of the distinctly unfortunate kind – not one, but two friends’ obits in the local rag, the times-colonialist (yes, this city stuck in Empire I’m afraid). 

the first, a friend killed on his motorcyle on a placid, late summer early morning ride. 

a cup of coffee at a favourite spot, back on the bike to head home. no traffic. no rain. just nice straight road, the light of 7 a.m. august (soft/crumbling at the edges). an SUV from out of nowhere. too fast. done. and a coward that couldn’t even stop to look at what he had destroyed. now there’s an 11 year old out there without a father.

the next night another phone call. I didn’t return as it was too late and was still in shock. but bought the paper yesterday to read my friend’s obit and saw Jimmy’s. oh crap, now I know why G. called me and left an urgent “call me”. another gone. and Jimmy, always one to put a smile on my face. this kind of person, pure gold.

so last night. I prepared a feast. good food. wine. good company. laugh and cry. my daughter played her new fiddle – a beauty of Manitoba maple made by the great Metis fiddler John Arcand, one of our country’s national treasures. what else can we do in times like these?

and this morning. I pick up an old companion for sad times. E.B.White’s The Points of My Compass. Letters from the East, the West, the North, the South. “Dispatches of a self-appointed foreign correspondent who elected to stay home”. sure to cheer me. I unpacked it just last week, finally getting to boxes packed before we left for Edinburgh 4 years ago, and left in storage. unpacked and fortunately, mouseless.

so I’m off to mid-1950’s New England for the morning. Fred, the smelly dash-hound, the chickens, the storms off the Atlantic, the world before air conditioning, laptops, television actually…

little escapes in 5000 words or less.