Mierdes et Flores. On walking.

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


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!


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.


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.


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?


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?



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. 


No matter our imaginings, no third hand was produced.




Pillow Talk

My bed mate sleeps with two pillows. One under his head and one over his face. His reasoning? To block out the light (I read in bed. I cover the lamp with a T-shirt for consideration) and to dampen the sound (That’d be my voice. I like to talk in bed).

Since it seems to be our only time alone (we have two nosy children) I forge ahead with my chatter, no matter. He must hear me. Since when did feathers create a sound barrier?

I’m considerate enough to jab him from time to time, at the very least to avert snoring. It’s no good on a storyteller’s self-esteem.

Last night I was going over the bit about quiting my whole life again. Won’t launch into all of that here, suffice to say, I happened to not be enjoying The Life. I’d be going on for maybe 20 minutes about all the asshole bosses and the terrible state of The Business and the sell-out advertorial world, the chemical additives in food, the offence of the children’s menu, the poverty conditions Out There, the miserable lives of women around the globe, the Secret Suicide Rate and how old and fat I am and how he has developed a halitosis problem and his Ear Hair is getting out of control and how the children are ruined for life, what is going on with that limp my dad has and how this neighbourhood is all wrong for us, nobody likes us, The Planet is doomed and our parents will Die soon, when I figured I’d better check in on him.  He hadn’t stirred in some time.

Poke. I had woken him.

“I’m listening. Yeah, yeah.”

“Repeat everything I said then.”

“He got away. That guy in the oxygen mask. The first one on the scene.”

He was listening afterall.


WHAT WAS NOW– following around Jane Bunnett

Katy and Jane

This email showed up in my inbox on Feb. 16.

From: Ajay Heble
Date: Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 8:28 PM Subject: job with ICASP?
To: Dawn Matheson


Dear Dawn,
I hope this note finds you well. I’m writing to see whether you might be interested in considering taking on some short term work with ICASP. We’re looking to hire some- one to do some creative (video and other) documentation of our Improviser in Residence initiative (this year, as you may know, our Improviser in Residence is Jane Bunnett). you’re interested and available, perhaps we can arrange a time to meet to discuss.

All the best, Ajay

I wasn’t.

But I did it anyhow– and I’m sure glad I did.

Read this PDF to see what happened!

WHAT WAS NOW following around Jane Bunnett

and watch one or more of the videos that resulted! The one with Kids Ability is a tear-jerker…

>Katy’s Song (Jane Bunnett and Katy from Kids Ability)


Making Do: A Depression Woman’s Cookbook


This is an article I wrote some time ago about the amazing Guelphite, Rita Porter (Coady), who died last year at 104. She was one of the heroes at the front lines during The Depression: a homemaker. This was a time when life literally spun on a dime, when the battle cry was “use it up, wear it out, make do,” and the strategy for war, the handwritten recipe book.

Rita ran a houseful of orphans (her siblings) on Toronto Street in the Ward. Living in the self-help generation of today, this no-complaints piece stands out for me.

Recipes and photos included (thanks to the Guelph Mercury)


Continue reading “Making Do: A Depression Woman’s Cookbook”

Bedtime for Bozo (me)

My boy and I are lying in bed talking about life. This is such a treasured time for me. He’s growing up so fast, which, right now, feels like growing away. He needs me less, which, yeah, yeah, is a good thing, I know, but not easy for a mom.

Roots and wings, baby, roots and wings: the two essentials in parenting for all species. The wing time is quickly upon us. Teaching the wings part can be hard going for flightless species.

My boy is nine tonight, ten in a few weeks. Some parts of me are becoming gross to him, like my tangled hair. Don’t I brush it? Why am I not wearing my bra? No kisses, mom! And my breath smells. “It never did when I was little.”

I find this stuff cute. It’s not what really bothers me. Though I did gargle before I crawled in for cuddles. (I’ll admit that it is not endearing when I pick at his face and clean out his ears while he’s reading.)


“Fake Sleeping”

Continue reading “Bedtime for Bozo (me)”

So Much Depends Upon

Below is an old blog post from a site for a larger project called One Mile Square. It tells the story of my contributions to a a community art project run by the Musagetes Foundation. I was an artist commissioned to create a local project. I chose to work with Cheryl Turner, a great Guelph woman whom I met at Action Read Literacy where she was learning reading skills.
Cheryl lives with a health condition that affects her day-to-day life in the community and in her own body. Her mom has the same condition.
Together, we decided to explore what makes Cheryl’s day-to-day livable. What does she depend upon for happiness?
Turned out squirrels were a big factor.
We created a video together. Then we created an event to share the video.
Since many of Cheryl’s contacts were through Action Read, we included the gang there in a live ‘bedtime slumber party’ where her colleagues read bedtime stories to children in the community in a public place (we picked the Via Train Station so we could have lots of traffic coming through and new people to engage). We decided to have everyone bring sleeping bags and lie on the floor so they could watch projections of the book pages above on the ceiling as the stories were read to them by adult learners.
Then we screened our video!
See below for the long version of this story originally shared in a blog post on Musagetes home page!

slumber party TrainStation july2011 026-1SLUMBER PARTY at the TRAIN STATION / September 1, 2011

Continue reading “So Much Depends Upon”

My Blog from Guelph’s Bookshelf

Dawn Matheson blogs for The Bookshelf

The Bookshelf Open Writing Room (Mondays 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.)

It’s been a year since I’ve written anything, save a sloppy email, a saucy Facebook update. Nothing worth nothing. I’d had a writing practice once. I’ve romanticized it now, I know. I’m aching for it. Truly aching to write about something I care about. Maybe something you care about. But I never find the time to compose a thing. No matter the desire, it’s too easy for me to let myself down

A few months back, I dropped hours at my job to make space for writing. It was time I needed. A cut in pay to drive up the stakes. Not high enough. It was summer. There were fires to build, children to hose, lawn to lay on.

It’s come to the point where thinking about writing feels like the chest pangs, the stomach flutters you get in the presence of a crush. Something so desirable and so unattainable. Crushed hope.

The stakes need to be higher. That’s where you come in. I need your peer pressure.
Starting this writing room at the Bookshelf is strictly selfish. If I host three hours on a Monday morning where I make you sit and write and shush you if you start chatting, I better be writing, too.

Maybe you need the Writing Room?

Continue reading “My Blog from Guelph’s Bookshelf”

the mud ball factory

While other kids are at goalie camp, karate camp, and saultos gymnastics camp, our kids are engaged in factory labour.

Production takes place in the gravel section of our backyard where worker Auguste digs down deep with her fingers for dirt to be dunked  into a glass vase full of water. She squeezes and forms the balls of mud to be inspected by Trygve, factory boss.

Trygve’s job is to sit in the red chair atop the fantastic new grassy knoll (a pile of dirt that sprouted which we now so love– best feature in the yard by accident). From his throne he orders the production of mud balls. Once approved (Auguste’s handprint squeezed into each one) worker Auguste marches them one by one to the secret laboratory (behind a bare bush in plain view) where they dry out for 22 hours, according to orders. Many hours of production has formed quite a pile.

Graham, (who we call Gray Ham) our gentle, sophisticated 50-something always-single business friend who occasionally drops off bread to our home,  popped over to deliver some of his garden share. He is the first mud ball customer. Worker Auguste ‘disappeared’ into the secret laboratory to select his perfect dry mud ball while boss Trygve counted the ‘looney’. “Yup, its a dollar all right.”

Gray Ham was instructed to whip it at the side of our house with all his force.  Shazam! The mud ball shattered, exploded!, And left a black circle on the stucco which is still there. Gray Ham said it was very satisfying and well worth the money.  One of the more invigorating activities he has engaged in.

In all this, I neglected to mention that worker Auguste wears a uniform: a shiny silver space suit, homemade from tinfoil.

(below: break time; boss giving orders)

IMG_0312 IMG_0311

Back washed by baby.

Auguste and I take baths together. Kind of our thing. She likes them hot; my other can only take luke warm which I find unpleasant: sitting in murky wetness.

Auguste’s latest greatest excitement is the hair growing on her legs. She explains it, I’m growing up so the hair is coming in. At three, this is a great source of pride. One leg is bumpy, maybe a rash. I’m concerned. No mommy, (silly mommy doesn’t know a thing.) that’s the hair coming in.

Auguste’s other pleasure is washing my back with the sponge. Getting it really really clean. This is my bath pleasure, to be taken care of by a three-year-old. To be nurtured by my child.

When I’m out in the world looking for work, watching the men repair the train track, seeing the  young women heading into the meth lab in the morning with their coffees, I can feel my clean back.