CBC Radio Doc : The Other Side of the Glass

Someone was stabbed outside the bookstore window when I was working there years ago at Queen and Sherborne.

This was the first radio doc I ever made, and WOOOOH, was it a ride. Funny to listen to it now. CBC Radio OUT FRONT (which I went on to work for as Associate Producer, a couple of years later) wanted the teller of the story to be very present in the piece. I like the other voices SO much, I wish mine wasn’t so ‘present’. What amazing strangers I met wandering Queen Street while working at the bookstore. My greatest mentor to date, Steve Wadhmans, radio doc producer extraordinaire, held my hand for the editing process and taught me all about sound pictures and scenes. Greatest sound storyteller ever… from CBC, now retired and singing tenor in Victoria, BC.
Listen here:

CBC Radio DOC: IMICO and the Church of the Universe

This Radio Doc, made by myself and pal Marion Gruner was a popular feature documentary on CBC Radio. It features former foundry workers from the long defunct and now contaminated IMICO foundry in Guelph, Ontario, artists who squatted there, and the famous Reverend Wally Tucker who bought the land for a dollar to establish his Church of the Universe (The church uses marijuana as a sacrament and promotes nudity as a demonstration of human honesty).
Listen here:

I also made a fast short film with the audio from the interviews with the old foundry workers for Hidden Histories with the Guelph Film Festival. See here: Ghost: IMICO

Sound Painting with Jane Bunnett and Joe Sorbara

This video is a test for improvisor Jane Bunnett. I watched Joe Sorbara conduct a band of university Jazz music students using these full body gestures. He said it was a technique developed by Walter Thompson– Jane, famed improvisor who happened to be Improvisor In Residence at University of Guelph where he teaches, had never heard of it.. So she gave it a try for the first time and let me tape it. Watch this gestural conducting embodied through Joe’s hands and body and see how Jane reasons with noise. Dancing hands and sound. Editing: Nick Loess.
Watch it here.

More with Jane and Kids Ability? See KATY’s SONG

2-way: Childrens’ and Seniors’ Conversations (Radio program)

2-way: Children and Seniors’ Conversations is where Guelph kids, Grades 4-6 from Wellington Hall Academy, talk with Seniors from Riverside Glen Retirement Home about life, getting killed, dating, KFC, firecrackers, school, the best colours, best friends, lost friends, regrets and the afterlife.
The show is produced by Dawn Matheson.

The PROMO launch is WEDNESDAY June 7 at 3pm for 30 minutes…
Listen to it here:

then the full interviews run Thursdays at 2pm starting June 8 on CFRU.ca 93.3 in GUELPH for THREE consecutive Thursdays. I”ll archive them here as well, after they air.

I produced this program with the kids who learned how to interview (though, their candid questions were already tops), audio record and some even editing. Great recording help from Jenny Mitchell and her Mobile Studio, Andrea Pateveri, and Kim Logue from CFRU Radio. Thanks to Mrs Huntley and Steven Huntley from Wellington Hall, and Meghan Connelly from Riverside Glen!
Look at these darlings:

A Sense of Wonder Films at Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival

“A SENSE OF WONDER”

A Sense of Wonder is a collaborative project that seeks to cultivate creative, inclusive, and imaginative processes, which connect with and express d/Deaf culture through the convergence of art and social practice.

A Sense of Wonder is led by Guelph-based interdisciplinary artist Dawn Matheson in collaboration with d/Deaf and hard of hearing kids and youth from across Southern Ontario. In Wonder, the kids are the boss.

Commissioned by the Art Gallery of Guelph and supported by Ed Video Media Arts Centre, Wonder engages multimedia, performance, and video to provide access and insight into d/Deaf arts in an exploration of the presence of deafness over the absence of sound.

Fresh off, a stellar exhibit last year at Art Gallery of Guelph and a Downtown Guelph projection. A Sense of Wonder Videos were also screened at Toronto’s Hot Doc’s Cinema for the Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival!! WOWZA. WHAT an honour!
Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival

2018 will see one of the films featured in KW’s CAFKA art festival! Projected on Kitchener City Hall’s Cube!

Dawn Matheson is now working at EC Drury School for the Deaf’s Grade 11 and 12 media studies class coming up with new works for YEAR TWO. Thanks to Ontario Arts Council Artist in Education Grant!

4 films in total were created as part of YEAR ONE of Dawn Matheson’s A Sense of Wonder collaboration with d/Deaf youth throughout Ontario.
-We’ve run around in the forest with GO PRO cameras making movies at The Guelph Outdoor School (IF A TREE FALLS)

-We’ve felt music wearing vibration vests: put our heads in tubas, hugged double basses in FEELS LIKE MUSIC (You will experience the vibration vests at the exhibition!)

Video Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-SUssd6WXI&feature=youtu.be

-The Grade 6,7,8 Deaf Plus class from Drury School teaches ASL in ALL TOGETHER NOW


-And a 9-year-old Guelph girl performs an ASL interpretation of e.e. cummings’ stunning poem [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in] in an outdoor projection downtown

International Malleable Iron Company, Guelph

I had re-ignited my interest in Radio Doc with my broadcast of Allen in the summer (‘Who Is Allen’ on CBC)
Started listening to old CBC Docs and came upon one Marion Gruner and I made years ago– so many GUELPH voices, and on land that has STILL never been developed and still contaminated: IMICO, in the ward.
So many reincarnations and creative use: Hempire Village, the most imaginative– Good old Wally Tucker and the Church of the Universe.
And voices long gone of foundry workers.
I’ve taken some of the audio to remix into a short film screening with Hidden Histories/ Guelph Film Festival​ but the audio from it is still so precious.
Here is info on the remixed film screenings in NOVEMBER in Guelph as part of The Guelph Film Festival: Hidden Histories

And here is the radio piece- definitely worth a listen.

CBC Radio Doc “Who Is Allan” airs July 1 and 2.

Who is Allan, a radio documentary I produced for CBC Radio kicked off the summer season a couple years ago on Canada Day. It tells the story of the stories people made up about a man they didn’t understand: Allan, a seemingly educated, sophisticated man who appears homeless, well-known to many in his community of Guelph, Ontario. What’s his real story? And what are all the myths?
“Since fear and social norms often forbid us to ask a stranger questions, people have made up stories to try to understand how Allan came to be. Often great big dramatic stories! In this doc, I seek out those stories, then ask Allen himself for his ‘real’ story.”

Listen here:

And Here’s a little blurb the local paper wrote:

CBC Radio to feature Guelph producer’s documentary on Canada Day
Guelph Mercury
By Mercury staff

GUELPH — A radio documentary by multimedia journalist Dawn Matheson will bring a story about Guelph to people across the country on Canada Day.

The story of a longtime Guelph character known as Allen will kick off CBC’s national Summer Radio Season on Canada Day as part of a new program called The Doc Project.

Matheson’s radio documentary, titled “Who is Allen?,” will air on Canada Day, July 1 at 7:30 p.m. and be repeated Thursday at 9:30 a.m. on CBC Radio One.

Matheson was one of about 20 producers chosen in a countrywide call to create radio documentary for CBC in a ‘boot camp’ held in Toronto over the past winter.

The documentary, featuring dozens of Guelph residents and Allen himself, explores the nature of story creation, Matheson says.

“Allen is a well-known figure on Guelph’s streets for the past 35 years, but most don’t really know him,” she says. “He appears to be a lonely mystery with a long tangled beard and torn clothing happily reading the New York Times at Guelph’s Welcome In drop-in centre, park benches throughout downtown and many cafes.

“Many Guelphites assume he is homeless, or that a tragedy has struck him to put him out on the streets. Others say the very literate Allen is a professor performing an elaborate social experiment. Nonetheless, he has fascinated the townsfolk for years, including me,” Matheson says.

“Since fear and social norms often forbid us to ask a stranger questions, people have made up stories to try to understand how Allen came to be. Often great big dramatic stories! In this doc, I seek out those stories, then ask Allen himself for his ‘real’ story.”

Dear Body (inspired by a poster on How To Get A Bikini Body and a video by Frazey Ford)

(Had to write this fast and post immediately, for, otherwise, it would never have been written…)

Dear Body,

You’ve always been so good to me. I see that now.

You gave me legs that ran fast in grade school track, and hips that could ride a horse, wrists that flicked basketballs into nets, bare feet that climbed the tallest trees in our neighbourhood.

It’s you who I should be thanking for following my obsessively choreographed dance moves I saw reflected back to me in my parent’s bay window.
But me and the window reflection were the only audience members. You see, while you did mostly what I asked, you didn’t listen to me for the things I told you were the most important.

I asked you to be skinnier, taller, and more beautiful. I mean, you weren’t terrible, but you certainly weren’t good enough. You embarrassed me. So I had to punish you with shame, starve you, pluck your hairs out, and keep you in on Friday nights. Even wish you away. You were ruining my life.

I remember hours studying Seventeen Magazine, memorizing every detail on how to make your eyes bigger, your hair straighter, your thighs smaller, your legs longer, your boobs bigger. Why didn’t you get it?

My dad, a world explorer, a lover of ideas and culture and history, would look at me and wonder, why all this time spent on that? He’d hold up The National Geographic and say “Look, pyramids!” He didn’t get it either. What did he know?

And remember when tans were in? I sunburned you so badly that you blistered. And you still wouldn’t hold the colour for long.
You didn’t look good in the clothes I liked either, so I had to wear other clothes, big things that covered you up or things with stripes that made you look smaller than you were. A little smoke and mirrors to distract others from seeing the real you.
Don’t blame me, I had to hide you. I was ashamed of you.

It took me to middle age to realize all the harm I put you through. All in the name of some idea of a single perfect body. Somebody else’s body— who probably doesn’t like her body either.

Today, when I saw that funny little poster on “How To Get a Bikini Body,” you called me out. Yes, I got the message. You are already the body for me. I hadn’t noticed that. Oh, how could I have done this to you for so long? I have so much sadness for you. And for me. And for all that lost time, that hurt, that hatred. So much waste.

bikini body

I’m so sorry I was embarrassed of you, body. I’m sorry I pushed you away. I hope it is not too late for forgiveness. For some reconciliation? I hope you’ll still have me. You really are good just how you are. I love you.

(Just don’t dare go and age on me now. I’ll try to be gentle with you if you do.)

Here is a gift to us. (I wish this video was around when I was a teen. But I’m grateful for having it now.) So beautiful and free– featuring Frazey Ford joined by many women living well in their bodies: Frazey Ford DONE

The Super Adventurers!! take flight.

From my last post (Super Adventurers!!), you’ll remember that I promised to report back on our first day adventuring into project-directed learning (also called learner-directed) with the idea for August to pick the topic and for us to build some learnin’ around it.
Since we start our flexi-schooling days out at the Guelph Lake Nature Centre watching the birds (see my last post: Morning Bird Call ), it will be no surprise that August picked…

Flight!

Here’s a video showing just how she came up with the theme. See how the mind engages once set free?

We took our cues from the master pilots, them birds, and began to assemble materials based on their magical flying apparatus: their wings.

AUGUST: “They have to be light.”
DAWN: “In fact, bird bones are hollow.”

August found reeds (hollow and light) and some long grasses down at the dam. The dollar store took care of the tissue paper and the feathers. From there we went to the library and piled up on planes, fast birds, flightless birds, Amelia Earhart (girl power, wherever we can!), war planes and some fun fictional picture books for the imagination.
(I made a mental note of finding my old copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull for nighttime reading.)
P1120479

P1120488

P1120495

August: “Peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world! More fast than the Cheetah.”
(We learned this from Guelph’s own awesome Bird programme Wild Ontario at our very favourite thing: Nature Guelph
AUGUST: “No. I learned it before that from Nathan and Miranda at the park.”

Then, we called in our special speaker, Captain Matheson.
August: “You mean Grandpa.”
Yes, my dad is a pilot- former bush pilot turned commercial jumbo jet pilot and all around plane geek.

P1120500

P1120517

August: “Pilot bunny would fly. He’s small and it was almost Easter.”

Grandpa taught us about the 4 forces of flight.
August: “He got a piece of paper and he blew on the top and it went up!”
Something to do with the fast-moving air having less pressure, and the still air below more pressure so it pushes the paper up. That’s why wings are designed for air to move faster over the top.
P1120504

P1120506

August: “Then we went to the park and tested out the wing thing. At first, it fell. Then, bunny flew!”
Dawn: “Grandpa said it needed a tail for balance so it wouldn’t topple over.”
August: “And for it to go straight.”
P1120523

P1120526

All in all, August said: “My favorite part was making the wings. I like birds. I wish I could fly.”

The Super Adventurers!!!

P1120600
Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If [she’s] not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at [her] head and calling it eating.
Katrina Gutleben

August has decided on a name for our flexi-homeschooling day.
THE SUPER ADVENTURERS!!!
Decided isn’t quite the right word, as, like with many kids, she hurled out the superamazingawesome adjectives without much apparent deciphering (like her team name– the Amazing Forever Winners Ever!!!).
I like how she made us (mom and kid team) the subject rather than the activity (homeschooling). This is accurate since we do make or break the day together, and the word choice sure is optimistic (her), which is needed for those of us whose little minds worry about things (me).
We have other news, too. We first based our day around work sent home by August’s teacher (see my last blog pos “I’m a Flexi-Homeschooler”) but, that desk work was the source of much struggle (Booooring!!, according to August) plus the work sent home began to peter out anyhow (teacher has enough to do, understandably).
So, we decided to approach our day in our own way. This is a luxury I am happy to take, as mentioned in the previous blog post: not every parent can take a day a week of unpaid work, and not every teacher gets to work one-one-one with a kid. Might as well make the best of whats we’ze gots.
I do a lot of research (into everything), most often while in the bath with a glass of wine, which is where I was last Tuesday night worrying on the eve of our weekly Super Adventurers’ day. Listening to a few podcasts on UNSCHOOLING, I found the approach to be really liberating. Why not make learning easier by starting with things Gussie (August) actually wants to learn about? To get really radical, how ’bout trusting August? I mean kids are born with such a desire to learn about things– with ALL of their senses– that they eat them.
The added advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require me– who’s first job is to parent– to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher. She didn’t really like me like that, I’d discovered.
Instead, I would facilitate her interests, muster up all the creativity and possibility I could (which made things super fun for me!). This way, we get to learn together, using our curiosity as our drive with the old idea of life as curriculum; world as classroom. Now that sounds brave, much more worthy of the Super Adventurers!!!
It doesn’t mean abandoning conventional schooling altogether- we will fit in curriculum items without even noticing– as they arise and on an on-demand basis.
The next morn’, as we’ve done all along, August and I started our day at Guelph Lake Nature Centre, watching the birds at the feeder by the lake. I asked her to pick a topic, and we flew from there…
Subscribe to read my next post (with pics, video and an entry from Gussie) to see how our super adventuring went!

Hold onto your kids: I’m a Flexi-Homeschooler!

Christian? Nope. Hippy? Nope. Unschooler? Nope. Let me tell you about it.P1120261

I’m doing this thing on Wednesdays, and, oooh, has it been ridiculously lovely for August and I. One day at home, mid-week: a day that is equal parts recovery, connection and inspiration.

I could spend this post explaining all the reasons behind it but let’s just say that August has landed in a wild Grade 2 classroom (meaning much of the day is spent on discipline over inspiration) with a new teacher who hasn’t quite got a handle on the gang, rendering August a sudden school hater. I wouldn’t suggest this for all kids—this is situational and manageable for us. (My son, for example, is just where he needs and wants to be in his Grade 6 class.)

I realize this is a great privilege. Not every parent can take a day a week of unpaid work (there are trade offs: for example, our car is held together by duct tape, our family doesn’t do new clothes, and Santa leaves Value Village gift certificates- which works great by us), but since I find myself freewheeling freelancing again (anybody got ten bucks?) I felt lucky to be able take on a homeschooling day.

And, oooh, is it fun getting to know my 7-year-old this way. (Don’t kid yourself though, it is work, paid or not.)

I am not an elementary teacher nor do I want to be one… I do teach in other areas for my work, plus I am a relentless learner, full of curiosity and questioning– qualities I don’t see prevailing in the public school system. I also speak French, which, in order to keep continuity with her time in class (4 days French Immersion) this was essential to maintain.

It was important to me to work as a team with the teacher and principal, and that August be made well aware of this mutually respectful endeavour. It is hard to argue with one-on-one learning where I can hone in on August’s areas of need (she has fallen behind in the class chaos).

Here’s how our home day unfolds.

We get Trygve (11) off to school (SUCKER!) then start our day with a hug and an intention. Mine is usually patience; August’s is usually having fun.

We use a chalkboard to write out things we need to get done (the learnin’) and things we want to get done (the adventure!). August’s teacher provides us with a homework package of things to complete (from her day plan) and we create the rest. The day is full of the ‘at desk’ essentials (usually writing assignments and math) but includes lots of hands-on adventure (building geometric shapes, treasure hunts, dance breaks, making healthy snacks, outdoor learning at our river fort (the Duck Den), art, story writing, skating, documentary watching and old people visiting…) I learn just as much as August does.

P1120257

Anyhow, it isn’t a big undertaking as it is only one day (hats off to you fulltimer homeschoolers) but our flexi-schooling has a big impact on both of us.
(If you like this post, please subscribe at right for more)

The BIG HEARTS project

Every once in a while somebody– and that somebody is often me– pines for a Good News Chanel to counter all the regular news which happens to be bad news.

What makes bad news more newsworthy than good news? What is worth more?

I know some of you will say to me “Hey, you in your privileged little world. You who think you are unaffected by all the suffering everywhere when really so much of that suffering happens so that you can go on shop shop shopping and cappuccinoing and watching your shows. You want to block out all of that misery and turn the happy music up.”

Well, no, that isn’t what I’m suggesting. I actually believe it is unfair to showcase merely the bad news when there, too, is joy, beauty and good stories everywhere. It isn’t honest to paint a culture or a people or an individual as all one thing. That type of representation others others, and perpetuates stereotypes and pushes the extremes of what we feel safe in calling ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ when really it is just different than what we are used to.

I was bummed out lying on the couch one morning, when this little sprite brought me a gift to lift my spirits: the old underwear on the head, a surefire heart warmer.
I was bummed out lying on the couch one morning when this little sprite brought me a gift to lift my spirits: the old underwear-on-the-head, a surefire heart warmer.

Even if this is just for me (Winter is coming, I’m going to need this) I want to spend a little time with the bits of beauty and kind-heartedness that is everywhere. I thought we could collect stories and photos of generous act of caring for each other and hold onto them for a few minutes a day.

Here you are again, now saying, “Hey, there are tonnes of people already documenting this. This is nothing new. Look at this link here.” Well, I know that. Nothing is ever new, just new arrangements and forms. But everyone should be able to be a part of a process themselves, not just of a product. There is room for all of this and that.

So, if you, too, want to see little of these bits of beauty, and feel some softness in your heart, or you want to spend some time looking for these acts of THE BIG HEARTS yourself, share what you find with me from far and wide– from the expected to the completely unexpected. Email me and I’ll upload. Maybe we can even make a little website if we gather enough BIG HEART stories.

Wouldn’t it be neat if you and I started doing these types of BIG HEARTed actions, too?

Dawn

 

 

Just beyond this wild forest and moory wetland, over those fields of cultivated gardens, is the Walmart. Almost A Hermit.

The Hermitage at Ignatius, Guelph. View from the trail.
The Hermitage at Ignatius, Guelph. View from the trail.

The toilet always sets the tone. Smell– the first sense to emerge, even in utero– is our most dominant and most neglected receptor (except when the smell is impossible to ignore, then it reigns supreme). The hermitage loo wafted cedar and fresh air, slug and earth. Toilet paper rolled tight inside a Tupperwear; shovel and bucket of cedar chips smother the waste. Basic needs met, and beyond: a moon-shaped sunbeam glowed white on the back wall. Even a view, if one dared to leave the door open, which I did.

P1110436

These three days would be simple.  I’m here for the bountiful nothing. The bountiful nothing of all that grows and languishes all around and in me, too.  Apples reddening on the boughs; field flowers drying to a grey. Spider webs assembled and disassembled. Just things changing form.

P1110427

P1110392

P1110400

I would write, walk, sleep, write, walk, sleep with just me. I came here to get away from you.

P1110506

P1110404

I foraged for dandelions and wild edibles, ate an apple from the orchard floor, drank a jar of Chantalle’s juiced greens from a tin cup with a simple message.

P1110476

P1110536

I loved my alone time. For about a half-day.

You were everywhere– you, who came before me, now dead and alive (your private notes of hope and fear you left in the drawer of the writing desk (I read them one hundred times, resisted correcting your spelling errors), your pamphlets on ecology and spirituality and all your dreams as stewards of this land from decades before, your chocolate you left on the ledge above the camp stove, with an expiring date circled (you care about me) and the chair you placed at the perfect spot for the morning sun.)

P1110406

P1110409

P1110411

You, just beyond the wildness of here: you, filling your cart with bananas and deli meat; you, parking your cart outside the washroom while you pee; you, scolding your child as you shop at the Walmart over there in that wildness across this field.  You are here, too, sharing this same sunrise.

 

We travel when we sleep.

I walk while my body sleeps. Some die, others fly. Lucky ones make love.
The mind and body do their natural divide. The body mind. My spell check separates those two words as I type, though the philosophy that interests me most invites me to experience the bodymind as one. I do wake up exhausted after those active dreams. Maybe the body is doing the work inert?

I have two re-occurring walking dreams; both involve wild body exploration in an urban setting. Re-occuring dreams are extra surreal since they involve a subconscious memory of a subconscious memory. (I am not on acid.)

P1110470

I’ll tell you one here that takes place in a city I call, when awake, Vancouver. The place has no name for itself when asleep. (As in all dreams, things are recognizable yet totally strange. Change, the only constant. “You were my mother and then, all of a sudden, Ronald MacDonald.”)

I am always North-bound floating my way upwards from a mash of other dreams when I arrive here where ocean comes up hard against the land. There’s that steep cliff-edge trail I know I have to climb. Climb and climb, circling the evermore activity below: the livers living their lives on boats, on land, at beer, in detox. I have travelled the path ahead so many times, I’m impatient. I skip some and force the narrow turns moving through other dreaming nobodies without care (see-through nobodies, as if players in an online video game, their invisible operators at distant keyboards dreaming their dreams). Yes, there’s the old cave where a cloud lives, the little rest station and the half-rabbit, the witch who chases me with a Bic lighter, but I will eventually make it to the sandy valleyland flooded with a blue lake. See that small beach there? My brother will be appearing soon to picnic, which I know every time I pass, yet I have never awaited his arrival. I have to get to the narrow spit that must be walked barefoot in sand so hot it hurts and pleasures, so deep that I am fatigued and fuzzy and staggering when I at last fall into the sand joined by a sudden marsh of cattails and chirps, room enough alone for my face-down sprawled-out body, naked now, ecstatic.
That is the drive that gets me here. I am the last existing human in a last beautiful place. A dream place, a hazy eternal forever place, a terrifyingly lonely place that I covet and fear. It feels terribly close to Truth. Something so familiar but so fantastical. I have never been here in real life, right? Yet I know it. Nothing comes from nothing.
Is it the end of life, afterlife? In waking time, I believe it is. I wonder if I will keep visiting the North Vancouver Spit until I am once and for all comfortable there, once I’ve finally created the significance of what I think my life is meant to have, once I’ve come to terms with me, and you and all of the things in wake time.
Without this comfort, the company I keep turns cold. I feel finished, trapped in a terrible freedom. I don’t want to be this free. The panic pounds  as I try to get out of my dream, to burst open my eyes to return to wake time. I am stoned and desperate to get sober, to wear off the now-unwelcome high, but the sun, the heavy haze weighing on my body, the heavens have me in a sleeper hold. The water is rising, kissing my toes, wetting my mouth. Brain is gone and heart is open and flying away.
When I wake, I have to pee. Is that all it was? The body’s poetic memo to the mind?

Before I’m Dead list

Hello to you others who will also be Dead (Yes, this is a threat).

author at glacier

(Me at Pereto Morino Glacier, Argentina. Fake smile.)

All of us have made one of these lists at one time or another, or intended to. Yours may be called Life Goals or Bucket List but those titles are not desperate enough for me. Especially Bucket List. That sounds like a namby-pamby playing in a sandbox. Or, god forbid, advice from a Life Coach at 90$/hour.

Me, I need to have an apocalyptic prognostic of imminent Hellfire, Doom, and Destruction to get me moving. An I Will Peel Off your Skin, (wait, that might feel good, like a snake shedding, or a day at the spa) an I Will Pluck Out Your Eyes and an I Will Hammer a Nail Up Your Nostil (though for some, this is a side show), an I Will Stick a Gerbil up your Anus (up for debate-pleasure of pain?)  threat to get me motivated. Luckily, I can conjure up these relatively easily. And inspire them in others.

Last week I happened upon  a noon-hour call-in show on Procrastination. I was expecting the Wine Guy call-in, so Man, was this depressing! There were three categories of callers: those paralyzed with despair; those numb in resignation; and those madcap in desperation. All lives unlived. Addictions, family banishment, suicides, each with procrastination at the root. Before this radio show, I had viewed procrastination as a more mild infirmity, like chewing your fingers nails. Now I know procrastination to be very dangerous. Very dangerous. It must be faced Head On lest a life of regret and resentment is most certain. (See how I am selfishly making this apocalyptic here, but it is true! I heard it on the radio from an Expert.)

The radio Expert said procrastination is a gene. (Is this true? Do they really know this or is it like with all brain sciences, nobody knows ‘for sure’ but let’s experiment with lethal psychotropics to see what happens. ) Supposedly, both procrastination and impulsivity stem from the same gene. I think this is great.  At least something is getting done! Even if it is coming at ya like Mike Tyson.

So with all of this in mind, I am going to create a Before I’m Dead list before your very eyes and hope that it sparks my impulsivity. My Life Coach (ok, it’s just me in a life coach costume. The pay is good) told me to make my goals public. This puts the pressure on by declaring my dreams to the world. Nothing like universal shame. (Or, at least the 3 of us who read this blog- Hi Mom and Dad)

You might be surprised by my goals, for however calamitous the catalysts are, this list is quite ordinary, perhaps undignified. I do believe good living resides in the smallest things. There’s no bungee jumping or Everest climbing or dolphin-swimming. (These are for photo ops: see below). There is no promise of happiness in an external goal, right?

This will, of course, be a forever work-in-progress. I’ll start with just a few and try to make them real for me, not a list of what I think might impress you (especially you, Mom and Dad-though you seem easily impressed). I’m trying to write them quickly here, without too much planning.

If you want, check back to this blog to see what I’ve added (or crossed off!) and PLEASE add a few of yours in the comments. Then, if there are any good ones, I can steal them for my own and claim copyright.

BEFORE I’M DEAD list

  • Play in a sandbox as an adult with as much joy and unrestrained abandonment as a child (see namby-pamby above). Same goes for a wading pool and pretty well everything else where I’m self-conscious being ‘me’
  • Sleep solid through the night and wake up rested and eager to start the day- if only once
  • Create something– even just one tiny thing– that is beautiful that causes someone to remark: “That changed me.”
  • Take a 10-day walk moving as slowly as I can
  • Talk with as many strangers as is possible in one lifetime
  • Tell the truth (or at least the one I am experiencing) and nothing but the truth for one full day and be ok with the consequences
  • Have access to a cabin in the woods on a river, location top secret
  • Choose to care for this body before it is too late
  • Write every day
  • Come to terms with time and its passing (ok, this one is lofty)
  • Let people go (another lofty one)
  • Get rid of f*cking junk everywhere around me and keep only things I need and I love
  • Really listen to people instead of planning what I’m going to say next that might be funny or smart
  • Care for old unhappy men

MORE TO COME…

 

Mierdes et Flores. On walking.

(Be forewarned: this is a dirty post. Some discerning readers may even call it shitty.)

P1100363

Here we are, you and me, together – all of us, really, even those you and I don’t like – travelling along our little trail. For the sake of sounding insightful (and at great risk of sounding corny), I’m going to say that at the beginning of the trail is a cave and at the end is a cave. Both dark and mysterious places. There are some who claim to be Cavers, to know that darkness, but I’d say we all know the same: nothing. We all start and end at the same place.

Our trail is not linear. Sometimes we find it on a map. It is marked, it is well-trodden. Other times, we can’t see any markings. We tear up the darn map, or others kindly/not-so-kindly tear it up for us. For our own good, for their own good. No matter, it is torn up.    Ho ho! Sometimes we off-road, forge new trails.

Today, I am plain lost (of Mind), looking for Meaning. I know, there are those who say you are never lost, you just don’t recognize the trail, Dodo! I am uncertain of what to believe. That’s why I appear to Not Be Moving at times. Some say you will have a more satisfying life if you go about convincing yourself that everything has a purpose, moreso, a Meaning, even the ugly, especially The Ugly.

On this early Spring day, on this urban river trail at the base of an exclusive golf course, there is only shit, dog shit clambering out of the melting snow. The Great Melt when the snow that once blanketed the dirty world in white, making it clean and fresh and Pure, now reveals itself as merely a thin veneer over months of dog shit, candy rappers, used condoms.                                                                                                                                         Within 20 minutes of the trailhead, I found over 40 piles of poop, two of which I stepped in. How rude! How inhumane of dog-owners! Hang them! Wrap the shit in newspaper, place it on their porches, set it on fire and ring the doorbell!

dogshit-1

My sign says: “Dog owners. Get your shit together. Unwalkable…” 

The trail markings here have words: Beware of flying golf balls, a diversion designed to trick hapless walkers to look up when the real stinking danger is below.

dogshit1

This is the Cutten Trail, land that once belonged to Arthur Cutten who made a fortune betting on wheat in the Thirties, a fortune never uncovered, a fortuned rumoured to be buried here in this dirt and dog shit. (Hence, the occasional sighting of those middle-aged Metal Detector Men who have strayed from their beachside habitat.)

Along all trails lie both mierda et flores. (I’m showing off my cosmopolitanism here with these Spanish words because that is how trail walking was explained to me by a girl, a Pelegrina as we called each other,  who I met on the Camino trail in Spain twelve years ago. She walked this ridiculously long, madly famous path (as many have since Medieval times) searching for Answers of Great Concern. Would she continue walking with her fireman husband, or would she leave him for the shoe salesman in Valencia?  I was asking the same question about my partner back in Canada, but the decision was more difficult as I had No Shoe Salesman. (And I was mostly the problem). There was that hunky buck-toothed Brazilian pilgrim on Day 8 who waved me back on the trail from whence I have strayed-  surely a Sign, this was The One, my life-changer. But he was of a different mind, resulting in embarrassment and sangria.)

Mierda et Flores. Flowers and shit.

P1100368

Here are a few flowers I recall over my years of walking the Cutton Trail: The Spoon Tree, The Message in the Bottle and The (butterfly-stomach) Hand Holding.

Number One: The Spoon Tree.                                                                                                       Some wood nymph hung a dozen mismatched Grandma silver spoons on the branches of a tree. They called to walkers by clinking  in the wind. Old spoons of Real Silver, eventually pinched, one at a time until there was none, likely pinched by students for their dorm rooms at the University on the hill. (Students: forever the scapegoat.)

Number Two: The Message in the Bootle.                                                                             Another time, I followed a rogue trail down to the marshy riverside where tucked beneath the exposed root of a Willow tree was a Jam Jar. In it was a lined piece of paper torn from a notebook with These Words:                                                                                                        You are loved.                                                                                                                                          I wanted to take this love letter with me to make it mine, Mine Alone, a Special Message for Special Me, but there are a thousand special mes for whom this message is also written, so it must be left where it was found.

Number Three: The (butterfly stomach) Hand Holding.                                          Long long ago, in another me, a Barefooted Boy slipped his hand into mine on a morning hang-over walk. It was so exciting I nearly threw up. Nothing came of it, it was never spoken about, he found another Special Me, yet the feeling is still alive in me today. Is it for the boy?

P1100284

One good thing is, if you look for it, there is always worse shit. Once, on a Night Walk, I found a pair of men’s underwear, extra-large, full of human shit just off the trails’ edge. A drunken accident? Illness-induced, a desperate act of a hiker, a homeless man, a student heading to an exam who literally shit his pants?

Or was it another love letter for Special Me, in disguise? (See above, the Ugly has it’s meaning, too. One man’s trash, etc… ) Is this a reminder of our shared humanity: we are all Vulnerable? You, me and the stranger, too.

Merdes et Flores. Don’t flowers grow in shit?

Everything in everything. They are the same. The joy in the suffering, the suffering in the joy. Can’t you see the pretty colours in these pictures? When you don’t look too closely? Or when you look really closely?

DogShit2

 

The Third Hand

(This is a follow-up post to PILLOW TALK where we learn that my bedmate has mastered the art of responding to me while asleep.)

On a whim, a desperate whim, which may sound like an oxymoron but is not, I thought I’d hold The Bedmate’s sleeping hand. He pulled it away, rolled over saying,  

“Those two are mine. I’m looking for the third one. The Third Hand is yours.”

There are many ways to interpret this response, what a third hand may mean in a partnership of this sort: one of a physical, emotional and practical nature.

You think on it, as I have. 

Unknown

No matter our imaginings, no third hand was produced.