Sunday, September 30, 2007


my reader janice reminds me of ovid's famous quote:
Let your hook be always cast.
In the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.

expectation kills the arrival of what is necessary. and so openness, availability, receptivity, are conditions to embrace in ourselves to allow the long present now to unfold as it is intended. musicians, artists, actors, poets, teachers, accountants, carpenters, students - all of us - are all subject to a set of prescriptive assumptions that delimit our work practically and spiritually. to step outside of expectation is to allow what is to be, to unfold. it's that simple. it's that difficult.

by the same token, dangling bait of any kind in the pool of existence without expectation - being prepared in some way to be without expectation - allows us to be available to the benevolent presence of the creation.

this image is available at:

jalalu'ddin rumi

today marks eight hundred years since the birth of the great sufi poet and mystic Jalalu'ddin Rumi, also known as Mevlana. he lived in thirteenth century konya in central turkey, where the mevlevi order of dervishes (commonly known as whirling dervishes) have their origins.

The inner pilgrim wraps himself in the light of the holy spirit, transforming his material shape into the inner essence, and circumambulating the shrine of the heart, inwardly reciting the name of God. He moves in circles because the path of the essence is not straight but circular. Its end is its beginning. Abdul Qadir Jelani (about AD 1077)

here are a few selected words of rumi.

If you could get rid of yourself just once, the secret of secrets Would open to you. The face of the unknown, Hidden beyond the universe would appear on the mirror of your perception.

Search, no matter what situation you are in. O thirsty one, search for water constantly. Finally, the time will come when you will reach the spring.

The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you Not knowing how blind I was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.

And if He closes before you all the ways and passes, He will show you a hidden way which nobody knows.

Keep strenuously toiling along this path, Do not rest until the last breath; for That last breath may yet bring the blessings from the Knower of all things.

Like the hunter, the Sufi chases game; he sees the tracks left by the musk deer and follows them. For a while it is the tracks which are his clues, but later it is the musk itself which guides him.

Choose a master, for without him this journey is full of tribulations, fears, and dangers. With no escort, you would be lost on a road you would have already taken. Do not travel alone on the Path.

Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two-days’ journey.

Last night my teacher taught me the lesson of Poverty: Having nothing and wanting nothing.

and finally a poem.

Not only the thirsty seek the water, the water as well seeks the thirsty.
The garden of
is green without
and yields many
other than sorrow
and joy.
Love is beyond either
without spring,
without autumn,
it is always fresh.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi

Saturday, September 29, 2007

where the readers are

well, a month ago today - august 29th - i wrote my first entry for this blog. since that time i’ve managed to post at least one entry every day. the blog has attracted a small but devoted core of people who read and sometimes even respond to the writing and images. that alone is satisfying. even moreso has been the process of revisiting ideas, memories, current interests and making new discoveries and sharing them with the world at large (and sometimes small!). i am truly grateful that you choose to read these words and share these images with me.
the blurry map above is a screen shot taken this morning showing where you all live around the world. like all images posted on this blog, simply click on the image and it will open slightly or substantially larger in a new window all of its own.

Friday, September 28, 2007


cymatics. new to me as a term but old to me as an idea. when vibrations pass through materials they leave wave formations. think of banging your fist on a table sprinkled with flower. not tried it? wonder why i have? well never mind that, just try it. or how about putting buzzing objects next to an aquarium? not tried that either? what ARE you doing with your life?!!

the other day i was scouring the internet looking for something or other and i came across a link that led to a link that led to a link and there i was looking at a book about “cymatics”. the images were so lovely - i love circular images and mandalas and spirals and vortices and the like. so i found out that cymatics was really pioneered by Swiss medical doctor and natural scientist, Hans Jenny (1904-1972). For 14 years he conducted experiments animating inert powders, pastes, and liquids using simple sine wave vibrations (pure tones) within the audible range. So what you see is a physical representation of vibration, or how sound manifests into form through the medium of various materials.

but of course it goes deeper! it seems that before jenny there was a guy called chladni who for whatever reason decided to draw a bow across a violin placed above plates of sand . . . . here are what are now known as “chladni figures”:

here's a pic of vibrations realigning lycopodium powder into pretty shapes:

here’s a couple of pictures taken by a guy who ran a small motor on a table next to his cup of coffee:

This cup of coffee was on a surface vibrated at approximately 20Hz by a an electric motor driving an unbalanced flywheel.
this and other cymatic based ideas can be found here:

before and after

well today was "cut for a cure" day at my school and there was feverish anticipation on the parts of the families of the participants, the participants themselves and of course the onlookers as the fateful hour rolled around. the gym was packed with children and parents and staff and the events unfolded very smoothly. the principal, three teachers, a student and a parent all sat dutifully in their chairs on the stage as the clippers sparked and smoked and chewed their way through the hair of young and old alike.
when my turn came to get the clip the noise level in the crowd rose to an amazing level and only dipped when it appeared as if the woman doing the clipping had stopped. what i didn't realize was that one of my colleagues had asked my "hairdresser" to stop when everything was clipped off except for a lovely mohawk down the middle of my head. at that point she announced to the throng that they could choose if i kept the 'hawk or lost it but they had to pay for me to keep it. amazingly several of my colleagues sauntered up and added fifty dollars more to the pot bringing the total we raised to $1950 dollars. not bad for a south end school!
the cut itself was not a high quality cut but it made the point. when i got home i phoned a friend up who works at a nearby salon and asked if she was up for cleaning my head up. luckily she was. no charge! nice.
so here i am before . . . . . early morning . . . . . sun streaming through the slats of the front window blinds.

and here i am after . . .

i love the fuzzy feel of my scalp. i love the feeling of air and rain on my scalp. i could run my hands over it endlessly. it's fascinating. looking at my head i see steven has kept so much of the very young steven in his presence. not just his appearance but who he is. a threadbare teddy bear.

debbie tomassi

ooooh debbie tomassi you make lovely prints and paintings and you’re almost certainly worth every penny but this beauty is $4500 i couldn’t find if i tried so i’ll settle for this little pixillated replica of the almost certainly drop dead gorgeous leave me drooling and all messed up original painting!

find debbie’s stuff here. debbie tomassi

Thursday, September 27, 2007


i’m getting my head shaved tomorrow to help raise money to support the work of those trying to find a cure for cancer. when i started teaching, one of my closest friends was a man called peter. we hung out together - went to hockey games around southern ontario, had dinner together once a week, and helped each other out with work around our homes and at his cottage. peter smoked like a damp campfire and drank lots of coffee - i figured he was trying to try to put out the fire. peter was a lovely man who taught with me for several years. his students loved him for being firm but fair and always truthful. peter took me in as a sort of protege because it isn’t easy being male in the elementary system. he was very old fashioned and his teaching? well it was dated to be polite! but he was a good man.

peter died of lung and brain cancer. when he finally couldn’t be cared for at home by his family he was put in a hospital bed. i would visit him there and hug him and hold his hand and we’d talk about almost anything. i cried hard when he finally died. it just didn’t seem fair. but then i know he returned as something else we needed here. i’m fairly certain of that.

in my class this year i have a girl with brain cancer. destiny. she’s a really lovely person and i was glad that she was given to me to care for with my class but she’s so sick, i’ve had her in my room for only half a day. so this little sacrifice of personal vanity - which for me will last a month or so until my hair has (hopefully) all returned is for her a more or less permanent state - this little sacrifice is for her. the shaved head represents for me a little solidarity. a pointed stick to remind me of how none of this really matters as much as it might seem. and especially not to take anything for granted. to have as few expectations of life as possible. and to honour each day as a gift.

the talented artist grace francis created this beautiful holographic mandala entitled "as above so below". this is a sufi knowing and loosely translates into our daily lives as "so it is outside so it is inside". in daily practice this looks like how we take our inner work and place it within the terms of the marketplace. here is "as above so below".

go here to see more of grace's work and thinking:


the space between the intimate universe of a sufi poem and the spectacle of a nebula. in a moment they coalesce into one in the mind.

here's an image of the calabash nebula. it lies about 5,000 light-years away.

the calabash nebula is made up of gas ejected by the central star and accelerated in opposite directions, at speeds of up to one and a half million km/h! like so much of what happens in space, i am in awe of it but i can't wrap my head around the scale of it all. much of the gas flow seen today seems to stem from a sudden acceleration that took place about 800 years ago. over the next 1,000 years or so, the calabash is expected to evolve into a fully fledged planetary nebula. i don't expect to be around to see it. i hope it's lovely. it sure is now.

what's a calabash? it's a gourd that can be carved into a bowl, or a pipe, or even used as a percussion instrument.
here's one:

and to go with these beautiful images, some love poems by the greatest sufi poet rumi. the metaphor of love in these poems carries through its human incarnation to that of our relationship with the divine. and then back again.

the beauty of the heart
is the lasting beauty:
its lips give to drink
of the water of life.
truly it is the water,
that which pours,
and the one who drinks.
all three become one when
your talisman is shattered.
that oneness you can't know
by reasoning.
Mathnawi II, 716-718

in the arc of your mallet

don't go anywhere without me.
let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
or on the ground, in this world or that world,
without my being in its happening.
vision, see nothing I don't see.
language, say nothing.
the way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me. be the rose
nearest to the thorn that I am.

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
in the arc of your mallet when you work,
when you visit friends, when you go
up on the roof by yourself at night.

there's nothing worse than to walk out along the street
without you. I don't know where I'm going.
you're the road, and the knower of roads,
more than maps, more than love.

The Essential Rumi (Coleman Barks)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

a summer storm in early autumn

a humid day of high heat and high energy in the class was followed by a wicked ride home and then an evening that quickly graduated from heat to rain to thunder. lovely. for me, it’s a gift to have a summer storm at the end of september. because that’s what this is. a summer storm. there’s a deep distant rumbling that sometimes works its way across the sky - somewhere behind the clouds that have now melded into a deep velvet blackness without form - and then reappears much closer in a sharp edged sound like giant boulders tumbling down a scree.

i took these pictures of the sky before the weather changed.

tonight i am going to read eric walter’s new book “safe as home”. i wasn’t born when the events depicted in this story took place - hurricane hazel in 1954. but i have read many features on it in magazines and books and have seen a couple of docu-dramas about it on the television. the book is written for young adults so it likely will play down some of the more unpleasant elements, but then again i have been noticing much more transparancy and honesty in young adult writing in the last few years so perhaps this will be as real as is possible for a work of historical fiction.

here are two pictures i took while watching the storm blow through. these are taken without flash so the only light is the street light. it is seen here reflected in some puddles on the driveway.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


i mentioned in a previous entry that i thought my research team had come across a structure that i could rightly and truly say represents my sense of what is beautiful in a building . . . . for today at least!

many architects fly under the radar in north america. architecture hasn’t had the same kind of star quality as it has enjoyed in europe. mies van de rohe, le corbusier, frank lloyd wright, frank gehri, antoni gaudi, paolo solari are the names that quickly surface for me. well, when the team dropped the name friedensreich hundertwasser on my in-tray i can’t say that it rang a bell or even tickled a memory. i’d hazhard a guess that it’s new to most of my readership as well.

so. hang on tight. here’s a man with a singular vision who actually managed to see buildings built that are so unique and maybe even beautiful that when i first saw them i wasn’t sure what to say other than “i’ve got to go and see these places”.
hundertwasser wasn’t simply an architect. he was involved in art, designing postage stamps, flags and clothing. his thinking is a little left of centre as he termed straight lines “the devil’s tools”. his approach to his place in this world doesn’t seem to have been focussed exclusively on design but also on reacquainting people with their right to be creative expressive individuals.

his name - which he created for himself - translates into english as “peace kingdom hundred water”. what can you say that takes the idea that a person created their own name for themselves beyond merely acknowledging "hey. that seems so very right to me. i wear my name. it was gifted to me by by my parents. i know its origins and significance but what if i found my own name? perhaps it would seem more real?"

here’s a tiny fragment of his thinking but tell me if you (like me) live in a featureless community where personal expression is more or less limited to the kinds of plants you put out front of your house, the colour of your garage door, and the shade of roofing tiles you choose, tell me that this doesn’t resonate with some deep tucked away part of yourself:

here's something he said: "A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm's reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm's reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door."

wow. thanks for that. i wonder what would happen if this became the common understanding of all tenants and home owners?

i hope that you are as excited and surprised as i am at this man and his work. if you’d like to know and see more then follow these links. this building is named after its architect hundertwasser - a singular brilliant amazing talented creative human being living out loud! here's an exterior shot - trees grow right out of the apartments. oh yeah.

this is the entrance . . . makes me think of the alhambra - more on that another time:

this is a shot of a typical balcony. can you see yourself out here with chocolate croissants and some freshly made sumatran coffee? a little pile of books and magazines in a wicker basket that you take out in the morning.

the front face of the building.

an excellent page devoted to this building can be found here:
a page filled with excellent photos of both the interior and exterior of the building can be found here:
here are some images of other works by hundertwasser. this is part of a spa that he designed.

this is one view of the maishima incineration plant in japan. that's right - an incineration plant!

this is the front entrance to a kindergarten school in frankfurt - would you send your children there? well yes you would because you just know that if the thinking on the inside of the structure is as wickedgood as the thinking on the outside, you're children are in for a life affirming life changing treat!

Monday, September 24, 2007

deconstructing home

"Symbolism will replace Analysis,
Deconstruction will replace
Quotation will replace introduction,
Intermediation will replace
Transformation will replace
Sophistication will replace
and Connotation will replace
— Kisho Kurokawa.

deconstruction. well i think that word first crossed my lips in the late seventies when i was part of a reading course at trent university run by sean kane. if not there then in a room and with a person not too many steps removed from sean. i had no idea that as a concept, deconstruction would cross into all and every facet of life including architecture.
i love buildings that are different, that step away from the box in some way. the box was the be all and end all when i was a kid and of course over time that box has been pulled and tugged and melted and curved and all sorts has been done to make large buildings more appealing or challenging to the eye.
so what's deconstruction architecture about?
“It is characterised by ideas of fragmentation, non-linear processes of design, an interest in manipulating ideas of a structure's surface or skin, and apparent non-Euclidean geometry, which serve to distort and dislocate some of the elements of architecture, such as structure and envelope. The final visual appearance of buildings that exhibit the myriad deconstructivist "styles" are characterized by a stimulating unpredictability and a controlled chaos.”
controlled chaos. words that resonate with this boy's ears. that's a mantra. that's a way of being. that's an end in itself. so how does controlled chaos play out in a building. see i feel comfortable in buildings that are controlled shall we say. not so much chaos.
well some of the buildings that have emerged from the deconstructionist movement are downright messy and interesting more for the empathy one feels for the men and women who had to build them. i cannot imagine the blueprints and architectural renderings for some of these places. i like the separating of component pieces and the bending of previously rigid planes into beautiful and irregular curved forms. but there’s something essentially human still missing in them and as a result of countless hours of research by the team here at the golden fish world headquarters, i have come across a building that might speak for what i think of as beautiful now in a structure. but, that’s for another day. maybe tomorrow!
for today, i’ve collected some of my own favourites together here.
the first is in the city of almere, near amsterdam. almere, is not only the youngest but also in terms of architecture one of the most interesting cities in the netherlands. amongst the many clever new buildings constructed here are these apartments called "the wave", a design by rene van zuuk.

the second is the stata centre designed by star architect frank gehry for m.i.t.

this is “the dancing house” in prague co-created by gehry and czech architect vlado milunic.

a more curvaceous design - again by gehry. this building has a page dedicated to it that you should read and see here:

and that’s where i’ll leave off with the deconstructivists.
either you like it or you don't. it's gimmicky to look at but then it also exposes our strange need for sameness and solidity and maybe even predictability in those structures that line the streets of our cities. and what is a city but the extension of all the minds that live in it? somehow, non conformity to the ruler based buildings of the sixties and seventies just makes so much more sense now.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

my first 10K part II

the big day of the race is here. i haven’t run competitively since high school. i’m fifty years old. what am i doing? why? well i think it’s to prove something to myself and then to others . . . . i ain’t dead yet or something. so i’ll take you through the details of this experience and let you decide if it’s all worth it.
the big psyche started last night. i have been reading up on “what to do the day before your 10K and everyone said, eat lots of pasta, drink lots of liquids, get lots of sleep. so i made up a big pasta dinner, clobbered back two glasses of red wine to chase it down, drank a bottle of gatorade, and had a rotten sleep because my family came back from toronto around 12:30 in the morning and woke me up, and then my wife - who has a cold - hacked and snorked and shifted and shuffled so much that i couldn’t sleep and eventually settled for a sleeping bag on a couch. yay!! great preparation - everything’s going well so far! NOT!!
then i woke around seven this morning, had a cup of coffee and a granola bar and now i’m trying not to puke because of the bazillion and one butterflies slam dancing in my stomach. oh and the constant back and forth to the toilet deserves mentioning as well. anxiety is a great laxative.
so out of the blue, my wife decided that she would try this race as well so we went to the race together. there were thirty five men and women registered for the 10k race and the start area was packed with giggling and joking and you could feel a little tension in the air. however, all that evaporated with the “go” of the starter and there may have been a bang or a whistle, i can’t remember. i saw one guy go flying off at a crazy fast pace but my eyes were on a friend of my wife and i (casey) - she was a bridesmaid at our wedding - and i knew she was a good runner so i kept her in my sights the whole race.
the course was a good mix of hill - uphill and downhill - and some flat sections but not enough to get really comfortable and establish a good stride. i settled into a rhythm after the first three k and passed a couple of young men who were struggling at that point. the first lap seemed to take forever because it was new to me and i had to check with the course volunteers who were stationed at every possible point where a person like myself might take a wrong turn. the second lap was smooth because i knew the route and could judge when to pick up energy and when to use it and also because i had my groove going until the last kilometre and a half which was all uphill and for which i had little left. i tried and tried to catch casey but she finished fifty something seconds ahead of me.
so how’d i do? well i ran a 53 minute 10 k which was slower than my goal but the course was harder than i anticipated. i finished fifth overall and the four in front of me were in their mid twenties or younger including two eighteen year old boys. it was a beautiful course through the sir sandford fleming campus and the people both in the race and watching were very supportive. i’m satisfied with my run and have a goal now in terms of time and then also to ramp up my conditioning. the next few runs i have are 5k runs and so are much more manageable.
yayyyyyyy. now i am going to have a sunday afternoon nap.

100 unique readers!!!

thanks to mary jo manzaneres for this pic. mary jo writes a really cool blog at
well this blog, "the golden fish", which is very much in its infancy (and that means less than one month old as it was successfully birthed on august 29th, 2007) has just welcomed its one hundredth unique reader. who are these people? well to be honest i don’t know all of them. but, i do know where they are from and so i’ll share that much with you.
Germany, Italy, Ireland, England, Japan, Poland, Austria, Portugal, Russian Federation, Sweden, Netherlands, Egypt, Brazil, Australia, Vermont, Wisconsin, San Francisco, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Illinois, Alaska, and a place not far from Sumatra named Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei And Muara Brunei Darussalam!
then there are my loyal canadian friends and family who have persevered through my self-indulgent ramblings against all odds and to what end?! thankyou. and janice i am working on the t shirt through cafe press who can produce such an item for me. i’m preparing the artwork to allow for a (hopefully) seamless (well there’ll be seams as you know) transition from watercolour to cotton.
with love and thanks to all the readers of this blog from steven

the first day of autumn

i took this picture in my backyard last autumn.

carving up other people’s work is a sort of sacrilege i suppose - in their wholeness, they are complete and in their fractured selves, a decision is embedded by the person(s) responsible for the fracturing that suggests they might somehow be above it all.
iit could be assumed that the carver assumes: “here’s the best bits. i didn’t think much of the rest.”
and yet often when i read a poem, listen to a cd, watch a movie, reflect on a memory, look at a slide show, i am left with the one bit, element, or component that really rocked for me. spoke to me. touched me. changed me. for example, here it is the first day of autumn and to celebrate, here are two bits of a larger poem by baudelaire on that very subject. they carry the essence of his poem and carry weight all on their own.


Soon we will plunge ourselves into cold shadows,
And all of summer's stunning afternoons will be gone.

-- It was summer yesterday; now it's autumn.
Echoes of departure keep resounding in the air.

-Charles Baudelaire

the arrival of autumn is filled with associations - as a kid it meant the return of street hockey, it also meant that school was for real because somehow when it was still warm and sunny and you could wear shorts and short sleeved shirts to school it was almost like a play. but when you had to wear long pants and a jacket and you got to really thinking about how to protect your body from the chill, it made it all seem real.
obviously it also links into winter. i find that most people i know dread the coming of winter - for the loss of sunlight, the loss of warmth, the loss of the outside world, the loss of plant life, the loss of long chats with the neighbours, in short; the loss of a lot of freedoms.
there’s goodness in the autumn and the winter and once you’re inside the changes you can find it. many acquaintances have established a kind of sporting relationship with winter seeing it as an opportunity to skate and ski and frolic in the outdoors. i’ll be honest - i can deal with winter and see its beauty, but i much prefer being physically and psychologically comfortable and for me that means a degree of warmth. or many degrees!
here's another picture from last autumn:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

my first 10K

i’m excited as i write this because tomorrow i am running in my first competitive race since i was eighteen - that’s thirty two years ago. it’s a fundraiser for a bursary fund for students experiencing financial hardship attending sir sanford fleming college who have a special interest in sports related careers.

the distance is 10 kilometres. i was never a distance runner, preferring the shorter 1000 metre races or better yet the two to three hundred metre distance. i started training six weeks ago - when i went into the runner’s shop to buy shoes and shorts and a shirt i told the salesperson my plan. he laughed. actually so did i.
to go from zero running to ten kilometres usually takes a season training at the five k level and then a gradual ramping up to ten k the following year.

i bought some wickedgood pearl izumi running shoes - they’re amazing because they’re seamless! here they are:

beautiful aren’t they?! HA!!! they’re ugly and you know it! but i’ll tell you they’re amazingly comfortable and they fit my feet like gloves - truly. it’s like wearing socks with really excellent soles.

i bike at least twenty K a day and i have been for fifteen years or so and so i have a bit of a (can i say this) leg up in terms of my fitness level. anyhow i have really enjoyed the running to be honest and while it has not been entirely pain free i have enjoyed the hour long runner’s buzz after each run and the feeling of accomplishment after a particularly fast (for me) or long run.

my times have been steadily dropping. my 10.25K time right now is 53 minutes. my 6.5K time is at 29 minutes. my goal for the race has been to clock under fifty minutes for the 10K. i think that with the adrenaline and maybe if it’s an easier course than i’ve been training on then i can see less climbing and can perhaps keep more of a rhythm and thus up my average speed.

runners have registered for this race from all over and i expect there’ll be those who are in the upper echelons of running who will clock a thirty five minute run and make the old geezers like myself who are hustling along at a relatively good clip look like wannabes’ but that’ll be part of the learning i expect and actually look forward to.

i’m in a 5K fundraiser run next weekend and am looking at two more runs and a duathlon with my neighbour matt the wildman biker boy before november’s done. i just got info about a new year’s eve run as well so i’m hoping to carve a bit of a spot for myself in terms of fundraising and then also in terms of my own sense of achievement through my body.

one challenging feature of this process has been addressing my instinctive competitive urge which is still there - the need to prove myself against others. i badly want to meet my goal and then also in the back of my mind, i wouldn’t mind being recognized for either my age or for the fact that i finished fairly high up. recognized by who? myself.

but in the back of my mind is that little niggling “it’d be great to win or place high up” and it really really doesn’t matter but i can’t completely shake that away. perhaps the best way to get rid of it will be to not manage to achieve that!!! i’ll let you all know about the race tomorrow after it’s over.

Friday, September 21, 2007

a place for the fairies

a long warm day yesterday segued into a rush racing ride home through the darkening sky. the western sky was painted very quickly by the sky fairies last night - a few pink and salmon coloured streamers were what was offered as i rode up the hills out of the valley i work in, towards my home which sits on top of a hill - a hill coated with suburban sidesplits, big houses, pools, nice cars, and young trees . . . . the old ones all left when this area was developed.

there’s a smell that older trees have about them in the autumn that is redolent of time passing which carries me back to my early childhood in altrincham, cheshire.

check into altrincham here:

i attended st. georges school there which was side-by-side with st. george’s church, a church of england building. it had a small graveyard and i recall that during one of our playtimes (known in canada as recesses and now in the manner of machines needing maintenance “nutrition breaks”) a group of us boys scaled the stone wall between the school play yard and the graveyard and we took turns sliding on the long smooth-as-ice gravestones that were laid flat more-or-less side-by-side. the gravestones were slick with moisture, leaves, and moss and were perfect for sliding on. no consideration for the dead. it was fun.

this weekend i’m going to build the blog postings that have hovered on the edges of other blog postings. i have found that writing a blog allows memories and current experiences to surface side-by-side and patterns, connections, linked emotional states emerge that are worth addressing. my english childhood is a funny thing for me because it is such a distant and different world - not just chronologically but also in terms of its form and especially because of its very englishness, its simplicity, and because for me it is very vivid, poignantly vivid.

helen allingham the romantic english artist grew up in altrincham, she captured an england that is all but gone from the fabric of knowing that people experience in england and abroad. here’s a link to helen if she’s an unknown quantity for you:

i have read the words of many writers who have tried to capture this england. it’s surface features are lost but it’s deep mapped features are very very present in ways that might be perceived as esoteric or questionable by the more pragmatic reader but i sense that they they are still there.

on my last trip to england i ventured south of london. i don’t like london. it is as not england as new york is not america. london is london. new york is new york. they are states of being unto themselves.
i arrived in dorset. and learned an england that is totally unlike and yet paralleled in my own experience by the england of the north yorkshire moors, especially the smaller villages tucked away in the more unpenetrable locales of the pennines.

dorset has a depth about it that is very present in its landscape and which can also be found in its people. as i was walking from cranborne - seen here . . .

to wimborne minster (here's a thatched roof cottage just outside wimborne minster)

one day for example, i came across an older gentleman carrying a small scythe. he asked me with the most beautiful dorset accent where i had come from and where i was going to stay the night. i told him. he was gobsmacked and told me that he had been to each place - wimborne minster within the year and cranborne a few years prior. the two locations are twelve miles apart. 12 miles. i bike more than that evry day just travelling to and from work.

he showed me his gardens which were very english and immaculate and wonderfully eccentric and of course in all the order and labelling, there was a place for the fairies - something i learned about from both my grandmother and my father and which i have provided in my own garden. a little wild untamed untouched spot that is visited with care and consideration for the little ones who live there - oops there goes my readership . . . oh well!

the place for the fairies is so quintessentially a piece of knowledge i have that links me inexorably to my english heritage.

england. my england. locked in my heart and my soul’s experiencing. as real as i wish it to be.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

weather report

i hit a bit of a wall today - low energy after a night of fitful sleeping. i was running low on energy around nine and so ploughed back a really good and strong mug of coffee. it did what i wanted it to - jacked me wayyyyyy up and of course i came down. but my body plays tag with caffeine and so around two in the morning i woke up and listened to the various wheezings and snorings and rustlings and house cooling down popping and stretching sounds around my supine form, and then got up for an around-the-house walk and of course got back into bed and lay there running life past my mind’s eye. mostly useless trivia and low level grunt stuff but some good things blew past and i replayed some of those good things. kind of like eating candy ‘till you’re sick of it.
waking up after a a night of that drivel and drollery is brutal and this morning was no exception. i had a deep sense of futility and i did manage to find a brave and honest face and maybe even some exuberance but i knew it couldn’t last and sure enough the grumps came over me around two when in the ideal real world of my imagining (and summer experiencing) i felt the undeniable urge to nap. but when you’re working you can’t nap. doctors and even corporate monkeys admit that the afternoon nap is a good thing and even works. but the public education system hasn’t caught onto that. heck even the little weebles have lost that privilege.
anyhow, focus on the goodness in the day hmmmmm lemme see now. beautiful deep sunshine and warmth - seasonal perhaps but still a reminder of the glorious summer days when i could dream about how good a teacher i was going to be this year, read volumes of books, listen to all kinds of music and watch films like mad. today was about recognizing the constraints of my work . . . . and anyone reading this who knows me is aware that i love my work. there are days though when i resent how that love is compromised.
so tonight’s music is weather report live in tokyo in 1972 . . . . joe zawinul the keyboardist (died a week and a half ago) apparently instructed the band to “hit ‘em hard right from the first note”. this is uncompromising electric jazz with the mournful soprano sax of wayne shorter lifting the music out of its electric percussive edginess into a more pensive and cerebral realm.
here’s part of a review that took place after the event:
”Part of the fire seemed to come from the Japanese people themselves. "When we went to Japan we didn't know what kind of a response we would get, but I couldn't believe what happened. We thought, 'What are we gonna do with these Japanese people, man?' They're so beautiful, such wonderful listeners, but laid back. That was their culture. So we said, 'Let's hit 'em hard, right from the first note,' and we hit 'em hard! We improvised, because the tunes we had written at that time were not very long--eight bars here, a nice little melody, and so on--but we worked it over, and sometimes we'd play it long, sometimes short. It was an inspirational way of doing things, and through that slowly we developed into a band."

i saw weather report years ago in toronto - probably a half dozen years after this album. they had found a mellow accessible edge that sold many records and allowed some elements of the force that weather report was to surface without scaring off the paying customers. this tokyo concert reminds me of the tremendous changes jazz and rock underwent in the early seventies as the earliest of the global influences and the advent of a more accessible avant garde merged into bands such as weather report, mahavishnu orchestra, return to forever, herbie hancock and the headhunters and of course, miles davis’ electric bands.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

fresh tunes from dj earworm

i just got an e-mail from my e-bud dj earworm (pictured above) with a link to four tunes (mashups actually) that he spun at the cartier opening in los angeles.
it's all good and here's what's up:

Lemon Lucy
Elton John - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Beatles Cover)
Lemon Jelly - Come

L’eau de Rose
Louis Armstrong - La Vie en Rose
Air - J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau

Brazilian Diamonds
Paul Simon - Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes
Django Reinhardt - Brazil

Gwen Stefani - Luxurious
Fergie - Glamorous
Barrio Jazz Gang - Bellevista

go hear to listen to or drop the tunes for free!

can't get no

a lot of what makes life exciting is seeing the old reinvented or reformed in such a way as to make it both comfortably familiar and then also tweaked or tickled enough to make it unfamiliar. and so “new” enough to excite interest in itself. people can do this sometimes in ways more powerful than cosmetic surgery.
the comic books that i read as a child and traded with my friends drifted off the radar of most kids and certainly most adults but have made a miraculous return that must have publishers and artists rubbing their hands as the graphic novel genre appears to be taking off. i have bought a few graphic novels - mostly remakes of classic novels like crane’s “red badge of courage”. nothing special really but engaging in their visualization of an otherwise occasionally tedious text.
more recently i have been coming across artists releasing their own graphic novels that function side-by-side as powerful graphic and textual statements while also digging deep beneath the skin of popular culture and baring societies' soul. i recently purchased rick veitch’s novel “can’t get no”.
open “can’t get no” to the first three pages and here’s what you’ll read:

“even as it opens . . .
the eye might recoil
fearing the temptation of all that low-hanging fruit ...
on the Tree of Knowledge.
Better to stare straight ahead...
and affect the chiselled grimace
that goes with one’s prescribed position...
on the totem pole of life.”

not your standard comic book fare. but this is not standard comic book fare. prior to the release of “can’t get no”, veitch was known for his clever but much closer to the mainstream work in comic books and graphic books featuring superheros. i wouldn’t have bothered with them myself. the days i read comic books are behind me now - or so i thought. i came across this book on the basis of a recommendation by author neil gaiman who is one of those amazing people who cranks out quality material without exception and so i took his high praise for this work by veitch as an unquestionable recommendation and got myself a copy. here’s what i saw when i opened the book.

page one

page two

page three

i was hooked right off the bat and read it in two sittings . . . . occasionally returning to view images more carefully because i have found with graphic novels that i tend to to be text oriented and don’t slow down enough to fill the words with the graphic associations that the author / illustrator intended. it’s a learned skill.

“can't get no”, is a stream-of-consciousness 'road' narrative about a failed businessman finding himself after the world trade center attacks. the story is told without the usual word balloons using free verse poetry that is jampacked with seemingly random and yet carefully interwoven thoughts and observations.

loosely retold the story goes as follows: corporate exec chad roe had the "perfect" turn-of-the-millenium urban life. however, the trophy wife, the prestigious job and the pills threaten to overwhelm him, and things go from bad to ugly when his company (a permanent marker manufacturer) faces a crippling lawsuit charging it with shouldering the fiscal responsibility for cleaning up all the tags its products have been responsible for throughout the city of new york.

reeling from the financial collapse of his business, chad descends into a night of wild, craziness, only to wake up a "marked" man - literally - his body covered in a permanent tattoo. the ironic twist of the tattooing is that it is his failed company’s product that is used in the tattooing process! then, instead of picking up the pieces of the wreck of his life, he hits the road.

cover image and excerpt at:

can’t get no.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

true to street model railway

among the many “wish i may wish i might” things on my life’s list is building a model railway system. i’ve always fancied heading down into the basement, turning on the lights and then flicking a switch tucked away under an enormous collection of chipboard tables and listening to the satisfying whirring of little electric motors. sadly, and probably not so sadly when i really think of it, i’ve never got closer to it than reading books and magazines and visiting other people’s set-ups.
what appeals to me is the chance to create something in detail that comes from endless research and then even more endless work. sounds like fun doesn’t it!

there used to be a little shop in peterborough called cosburns. actually, it still exists but it moved from its first location and in so doing lost all of its charm. the first location was a cramped little room essentially functioning as a hobby shop. to get down an aisle already occupied by another person was impossible. when the proprietor asked if you wanted help, well, what was he going to do . . . he couldn’t be in the aisle at the same time as you, so you were on your own to haul down the scale model of the cutty sark, or grab the teeny tiny box of one thirty second scale hydro poles or whatever else you found amongst the piles of jammed together boxes and bags.

what was most cool at this shop was that they had a model train setup that was probably no more than eight feet in total running length but the train crossed a trestle with a roaring torrent below, passed mountain sides, and looked for all intents and purposes like a scene out of the interior of the rocky mountains. when they moved to the new location, the train setup was still there but in a brightly lit aisle that you could share with another person or even two or three other people and somehow, in making the setup better lit and more easily accessible, it lost its magic.

the magic of model railways is still there inside me though and today i’d like to share the work of a guy who has taken that passion - and that’s what it is - and taken it to the nth degree, reproducing urban squallor and decay in an extraordinary feat of realism that will leave those of you who appreciate hobbies suited only to the obsessive compulsive absolutely gobsmacked.

peter feigenbaum is a student at yale university. how he finds the time for this and his other work and hobbies is almost beyond my comprehension. but there are people like peter who somehow make time bend in their favour.

here’s an image of most of his setup taken from a standing position.

here’s an image of a little part of his setup taken from street-level.

here’s a link that will allow you to view the rest of peter’s amazing set up:
it’s really stunning isn’t it! little tiny street dreams and street nightmares and street art and street life brought to our lives by the imagination and labour and passion of one person.

Monday, September 17, 2007

susanne abbuehl: compass

this morning’s listening comes courtesy of swiss singer susanne abbuehl. her disc “compass” is breathtaking in its ability to take complex text and place it in a very listenable and yet challenging musical frame. the music is typically sparse and economical, an aural pique assiette, giving susanne’s voice the opportunity to slip in and around, through and under the assemblage.
i was drawn to this disc out of curiousity, being attracted in particular to track three (where flamingos fly) which remains my favourite tune as penned by canadian composer gil evans, most famous for his work with miles davis and yet an extraordinary composer and musician in his own right. i first heard this piece of music as a high school student on gil’s album “out of the cool.” i signed this album out of the local branch of the public library over and over, struck by the colour of the music as much as by its difference from anything i had heard to that point. that it was created and pressed in 1960 was of little consequence to me. it was out of the box.

the treatment of this wistful almost mournful tune is exquisite; gentle without the breathy obsequiousness so many female singers resort to instead of delivering true emotion through their voices.
track seven (as well as several other tracks) comes from a similarly sterling pedigree, having been penned originally by james joyce. the words are chosen from a collection of joyce's work released some 100 years ago. go here to read james joyce’s work entitled “chamber music” published in 1907:

here are the words to two of my favourite pieces:

The twilight turns from amethyst
    To deep and deeper blue,
The lamp fills with a pale green glow
    The trees of the avenue.
The old piano plays an air,
    Sedate and slow and gay;
She bends upon the yellow keys,
    Her head inclines this way.
Shy thought and grave wide eyes and hands
    That wander as they list—
The twilight turns to darker blue
    With lights of amethyst.
james joyce

similarly, “bright cap and streamers” finds its origins in the mind of james joyce:

Bright cap and streamers,
    He sings in the hollow:
    Come follow, come follow,
        All you that love.
Leave dreams to the dreamers
    That will not after,
    That song and laughter
        Do nothing move.
With ribbons streaming
    He sings the bolder;
    In troop at his shoulder
        The wild bees hum.
And the time of dreaming
    Dreams is over—
    As lover to lover,
        Sweetheart, I come.

the ubiquitous “black is the colour of my true loves hair” makes an appearance here and (with some gender adjustments e.g., “him” replaces “her”) is performed against a musical backdrop that owes as much to aaron copland’s lush minimalism as it does to its roots. the song by the way is often attributed to ireland but it is believed to have originated in the appalachian mountains.

here are the words:

Black is the color of my true love's hair
Her lips are like some roses fair
She has the sweetest smile and the gentlest hands.
I love the ground whereon she stands
I love my love and well she knows
I love the ground whereon she goes.
And I wish the day, it soon will come
That she and I will be as one
I'll go to the Clyde and I'll mourn and weep
Where satisfied I never shall be
I'll write her a letter, just a few short lines
And suffer death ten thousand times.

compass: an album of music that is as mind-engaging and beautiful as i have heard in some time.

Track listing: 1. Bathyal; 2. Black Is The Colour; 3. Where Flamingos Fly; 4. Lo Fiolaire; 5. Sea, Sea!; 6. Don't Set Sail; 7. The Twilight Turns From Amethyst; 8. Primrose; 9. Bright Cap And Streamers; 10. A Call For All Demons; 11. Children's Song #1; 12. In The Dark Pine-Wood.
Personnel: Susanne Abbuehl: vocals; Wolfert Brederode: piano, harmonium; Christof May: clarinet; Lucas Niggli: percussion; Michel Portal: clarinet (2,4).

to see and hear a sample of susanne’s work go here:

this is the garden

i came across a couple of e.e. cummings poems yesterday morning while digging through some boxes of books. the first . . . “this is the garden” . . . seems timely in its literal connection to the changing state of gardens in the northern hemisphere as the sun casts less heat and leaves the sky earlier each day. allow yourself to leave the literal for the time it takes to read these words. settle inside the images and allow them to reform in your self as a pure insight.

this is the garden

this is the garden: colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night’s outer wing
strong, silent greens serenely lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
this is the garden: pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.
e.e. cummings

cummings was one of those few and far between writers who managed to effortlessly bridge the space that exists between the avant garde of the time and popular accessibility. his form and content while obviously distinct, somehow inform each other and draw the reader to consider the import of each word and image.
my english readers might be astonished to note that the image below was taken in stretford, manchester!

here’s the source for the image if you’d like to see more:*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*

here’s another poem by cummings just for the sheer joy of allowing myself to be transported away from the reality of a monday morning - awwwww it’s not that bad actually!

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a true blue dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my eyes awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings

enjoy this gift of a poem inside the gift of another day on this earth with you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

the fish and the ring

it’s a cold beginning to the day here in peterborough. the morning temperatures are dropping steadily each day. today is sunday and sunday often means a story. today’s story is from one of my favourite areas of the world - the north of england. the city of york remains one of my favourite cities to visit and certainly i have difficulty thinking of a more awe inspiring structure than york minster. the stained glass of that building is among the most beautiful i have ever seen. one evening i had the privilege of hearing evensong sung there. however, i’ll tell that story another time. in this story, the role of the fish is somewhat minor but the story might not have a happy ending without the fish, so here you go.

The Fish and the Ring

Once upon a time, there was a mighty baron in the North Country who was a great magician that knew everything that would come to pass. So one day, when his little boy was four years old, he looked into the Book of Fate to see what would happen to him. And to his dismay, he found that his son would wed a lowly maid that had just been born in a house under the shadow of York Minster. Now the Baron knew the father of the little girl was very, very poor, and he had five children already. So he called for his horse, and rode into York; and passed by the father’s house, and saw him sitting by the door, sad and doleful. So he dismounted and went up to him and said: “What is the matter, my good man?” And the man said: “Well, your honour, the fact is, I’ve five children already, and now a sixth’s come, a little lass, and where to get the bread from to fill their mouths, that’s more than I can say.”
“Don’t be downhearted, my man,” said the Baron. “If that’s your trouble, I can help you. I’ll take away the last little one, and you wont have to bother about her.”
“Thank you kindly, sir,” said the man; and he went in and brought out the lass and gave her to the Baron, who mounted his horse and rode away with her. And when he got by the bank of the river Ouse, he threw the little, thing into the river, and rode off to his castle.
But the little lass didn’t sink; her clothes kept her up for a time, and she floated, and she floated, till she was cast ashore just in front of a fisherman’s hut. There the fisherman found her, and took pity on the poor little thing and took her into his house, and she lived there till she was fifteen years old, and a fine handsome girl.
One day it happened that the Baron went out hunting with some companions along the banks of the River Ouse, and stopped at the fisherman’s hut to get a drink, and the girl came out to give it to them. They all noticed her beauty, and one of them said to the Baron: "You can read fates, Baron, whom will she marry, d’ye think?”
“Oh! that’s easy to guess,” said the Baron; “some yokel or other. But I’ll cast her horoscope. Come here girl, and tell me on what day you were born?”
“I don’t know, sir,” said the girl, “I was picked up just here after having been brought down by the river about fifteen years ago.”
Then the Baron knew who she was, and when they went away, he rode back and said to the girl: “Hark ye, girl, I will make your fortune. Take this letter to my brother in Scarborough, and you will be settled for life.” And the girl took the letter and said she would go. Now this was what he had written in the letter:
“Dear Brother,–Take the bearer and put her to death immediately.
“Yours affectionately,
So soon after the girl set out for Scarborough, and slept for the night at a little inn. Now that very night a band of robbers broke into the inn, and searched the girl, who had no money, and only the letter. So they opened this and read it, and thought it a shame. The captain of the robbers took a pen and paper and wrote this letter:
“Dear Brother,–Take the bearer and marry her to my son immediately.
“Yours affectionately,
And then he gave it to the girl, bidding her begone. So she went on to the Baron’s brother at Scarborough, a noble knight, with whom the Baron’s son was staying. When she gave the letter to his brother, he gave orders for the wedding to be prepared at once, and they were married that very day.
Soon after, the Baron himself came to his brother’s castle, and what was his surprise to find that the very thing he had plotted against had come to pass. But he was not to be put off that way; and he took out the girl for a walk, as he said, along the cliffs. And when he got her all alone, he took her by the arms, and was going to throw her over. But she begged hard for her life. “I have not done anything," she said: “if you will only spare me, I will do whatever you wish. I will never see you or your son again till you desire it.” Then the Baron took off his gold ring and threw it into the sea, saying: “Never let me see your face till you can show me that ring;” and he let her go.
The poor girl wandered on and on, till at last she came to a great noble’s castle, and she asked to have some work given to her; and they made her the scullion girl of the castle, for she had been used to such work in the fisherman’s hut.
Now one day, who should she see coming up to the noble’s house but the Baron and his brother and his son, her husband. She didn’t know what to do; but thought they would not see her in the castle kitchen. So she went back to her work with a sigh, and set to cleaning a huge big fish that was to be boiled for their dinner. And, as she was cleaning it, she saw something shine inside it, and what do you think she found? Why, there was the Baron’s ring, the very one he had thrown over the cliff at Scarborough. She was right glad to see it, you may be sure. Then she cooked the fish as nicely as she could, and served it up.
Well, when the fish came on the table, the guests liked it so well that they asked the noble who cooked it. He said he didn’t know, but called to his servants: “Ho, there, send up the cook that cooked that fine fish.” So they went down to the kitchen and told the girl she was wanted in the hall. Then she washed and tidied herself and put the Baron’s gold ring on her thumb and went up into the hall.
When the banqueters saw such a young and beautiful cook they were surprised. But the Baron was in a tower of a temper, and started up as if he would do her some violence. So the girl went up to him with her hand before her with the ring on it; and she put it down before him on the table. Then at last the Baron saw that no one could fight against Fate, and he handed her to a seat and announced to all the company that this was his son’s true wife; and he took her and his son home to his castle; and they all lived as happy as could be ever afterwards.

here’s an image of the coat of arms of glasgow, scotland.
if you look carefully you’ll see that the fish have rings in their mouths. it might interest you to know that this is why they are there: - “The coat of arms always shows the fish with a ring held in its mouth. This is because a King of Strathclyde had given his wife a ring as a present. But the Queen gave it to a knight who promptly lost it. Some versions of the story say that the King took the ring while the knight was asleep and threw it in the river. The King then demanded to see the ring - threatening death to the Queen if she could not do so. The knight confessed to St Mungo who sent a monk to catch a fish in the river Clyde. When this was brought back (presumably catching salmon in the Clyde in those days was a lot easier then!) St Mungo cut open the fish and found the ring. When the Bishop of Glasgow was designing his own seal around 1271, he used the illustration of a salmon with a ring in its mouth and this has come down to us in today's coat of arms.” check out the original reference at:

if you enjoyed this story, then go here where you will find an entire book of lovely old english fairy tales uploaded and best of all - it is in the public domain!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

hawkeye and the last of the mohicans

rain. an evening of rain. the sound of rain gurgling in the drainpipes. neighbours chatting with my children. asking about school. i value these moments. inconsequential as they are when judged by the span of a lifetime. each carries colour and form and weight of a kind not easily measured. reassuring in their familiarity. comforting in the inner security they carry.

speaking of comfort, last night i watched the last chapter in an old tv series now available on three dvds, each containing four chapters. i last saw this program as a boy new to canada from england. the series was entitled, “hawkeye and the last of the mohicans”.

Based on the writings of James Fenimore Cooper, this exciting frontier adventure series was filmed almost entirely in Canada from 1957 to 1958 utilizing authentic outdoor settings and carefully observed period detail. the scenery was rugged and for an english boy unused to forests and wilderness, breathtaking and realistic. even the canoes themselves are beautiful to look at.

The plots were somewhat similar in that the co lead character Nat Cutler, known as Hawkeye, with his faithful Indian companion Chingachgook, the last of the Mohican tribe, fights to protect settlers against the raiding Huron Indians or more often against any native group with an upstart warrior who rebels against the chief of that tribe.

interestingly it isn’t quite as politically incorrect as i had anticipated but by the same token, there is not one native person in the cast - even among the extras!
while not entirely accurate historically, the series showed a white man working with respect alongside a native person whose insights and woodlore and wisdom were respected and often served to solve problems in the stories.

it’s nice to go back and revisit little pieces of your childhood, if only to determine the effect they had on you then, compared to the effect they have you on you as an adult. i know that we are often disappointed when we see or revisit something that at the time seemed extraordinary or much bigger or more special. in this case, i was rewarded with a good tv series that has stood most of the test of time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

the box

a foggy friday morning. foggy inside and outside my head. a few thoughts rolling through me today along the lines of "the box of my existence is being rebuilt". i'd better put up a bit of a fight to make sure that the box suits me.

here's a poem, about a box. the poem is by thomas jardine.

The Wooden Box

The wooden box stands on its end,
The open side against the wind.
High amber grass rolls in waves
And laps against the knotted boards,
Long unused except for spider caves,
And now one of the many hoards
The wind puts leaves and petals in.
I watch nearby while a low dark sky
Shoves heavy clouds with lighter wind.
The roaring trees know I am shy.
A spirit in the box soon stirs;
It tilts backward then leans forward,
The grass rage and all prefers
Not to have the box remain;
It lifts light, as if to fly,
And falls on back without a strain,
Up and open to the starting rain.
Each droplet makes a blushing stain.
The grass it pressed is yellow-brown,
Which springs up more as rain falls down.
Completely drenched I look around
And turn the open side to ground.

by Thomas Jardine

Thursday, September 13, 2007


i read an absolutely phenomenal book this summer entitled shantaram. here’s the link to the author’s website:
the author - Gregory David Roberts, based elements of the book on his own incredible life story. i’d like to share a little bit of his life story with you here.

* Born June, 1952, Melbourne, Australia
* Founder member, Anarchist People’s Liberation Army, 1969
* Union activist, Builders Labourers Federation, 1972
* Founder member, Australian Independence Movement, United Front Against Fascism, 1973
* Student Leader, Melbourne University, occupation of university Council Chambers, 1974
* Student Leader, Black Week Aboriginal Activism Movement, 1975
* Marriage break-up, loss of daughter in custody dispute, beginning of heroin addiction, 1976
* Armed robberies with toy pistol to support heroin habit, end year 1977
* Capture and imprisonment, 1978; Escape from Maximum Security Pentridge prison, 1980
* Helped by motorcycle gang, BLF Union, & revolutionaries to escape to New Zealand, 1980
* Fight conservation campaign to save sacred Maori mountain, Mount Maungahiha, 1981
* Escape from custody (twice) in New Zealand, end 1981
* Arrive in India, beginning 1982

so after reading that, i wonder if you, like me, are amazed that a man who could commit armed robbery, deal, and engage in countless other illegal and dangerous activities could also be such an accomplished and powerful writer?
i’ve often wondered how many people have slipped through the cracks of our society through their own poor judgement or through society having standards or expectations that somehow pre-empted them from receiving the support, attention, and veneration they deserved. perhaps they didn’t fit the mold of author, writer, poet, or painter and so were not given the opportunity to share their insights and expressions with the world.

i wonder how many incredible artists, musicians, writers, actors, thinkers lived their lives unnoticed because perhaps they didn’t have the means or ability to make themselves known to the larger world?

what if (okay, let’s move beyond “what if”). we know, that the famous people who grace the pages of magazines, line the walls of galleries with their work, or play their music to appreciative audiences, are very much just the tip of an enormous creative iceberg. what if the people who achieve “success” aren’t even the best artists, musicians, writers and actors? what if in the great unknown unrecognized mass of humanity there are people who could truly transform the world through their creative insights but . . . . through some quirk of fate we will be denied the richer, more beautiful future that would be welcomed into this world on the calling card of their creativity because they were a criminal, lived in poverty, or didn’t have the personal wherewithal to promote themselves.

reading this book reminded me that i often judge people through their choices and of course our society compels us to judge people by their actions. but forgiveness - a virtue subscribed to and promoted by all the world’s religions but rarely acted upon - is a powerful force that needs to be welcomed back to its rightful place so that we can see beyond the mistakes inherent in our choices and those of others, and look on our lives as an endless learning process - the emphasis being on learning - from our successes and our failings and from the successes and failings of others around us. perhaps inside that ordinary rock resides a diamond. perhaps inside that oyster lies a pearl.
the image below is of a petal that fell off an easter lily. it curled naturally and so i placed it on this sand dollar which was itself a gift. i like the large curl of the petal and small feather-like fronds of the sandshell. the textures are fine and granular on both the petal and the sand dollar. i also love the shades of beige in combination.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Red Fish

it’s time for another fish story. today’s comes from turkey. again, this one features a grumpy, greedy king and a nice fisherman who comes across a magic fish. there’s a more grownup and possibly better written version of this that i might post another time. same story, just closer to its original roots.
the image i’ve picked to go with this story is from a very cool site run by artist jim pallas. jim creates work that is largely kinetic and interactive or, as in this instance, made out of “trash”. it’s funny how an object passes from valued and sometimes lovely to trash based on its utility to the owner. jim grabs things like wires, bottle caps, tickets or whatever else he can get his hands and mind on and creates amazing, beautiful, brilliant pieces of art. please spend time at his website - it’s huge and filled with his creations. here’s a fish he made out of tickets.

The Red Fish
A Tale from Turkey
Adapted by Laura Simms ©2001
A kind fisherman once caught a bright shining red fish. It was so lovely, he took pity on it and instead of cooking it or selling it, he decided to take the fish home as a pet. He dug a hole in the floor of his house, filled it with water, and put the fish safely within it. From that day onwards, the fisherman had very good luck.
One day, he came home early, and discovered the source of his good fortune. It was the fish. He saw it leap from the hole, shed its’ fish skin and turn into a beautiful young woman. She was a fish fairy and she promised to live with him.
Soon, the King, who was a greedy man, heard about the fish fairy and wanted to marry her himself. The fisherman begged the King to let him keep the fish fairy. The clever King said, "Build me a gold palace in the sea in four days and you can keep her!" When the fisherman returned home, there was a gold palace on an island in the sea. The fish fairy had called upon the fish to build it.
The King called for the fisherman again and demanded, "If you want to keep the fish fairy then make me a crystal bridge that stretches from the shore to the palace in two days!" Again when the fisherman returned home, the crystal bridge had been built.
The King grew angry. "If you and your fish fairy are so clever, then bring me an egg with a flying donkey inside by tomorrow morning. When the fisherman told the fish fairy, she gave him an ordinary egg and told him to throw it into the sea. He did and a huge white egg flew out of the waves into his arms. He took it to the King. Out jumped a flying donkey. It leapt onto the King’s back and rode him around the palace screeching, "Hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw!" The King screamed, "Get this donkey off my back."
Then the King threatened the fisherman, "If you do not bring me a one-hour-old baby that is wiser than the wisest person in the world in two hours, I will cut off your head and take the fish fairy."
Hardly was the fisherman back in the door of his house, when the fish fairy said, "My sister has just given birth to a baby. Go to the sea and call for him." The fisherman went to the sea where the waves churned and up rose a one-minute-old baby. The baby stamped its little feet on the ground and demanded to be taken to the King.
Once in the palace, the baby jumped on the King’s knees and smacked the King again and again saying, "How dare you have a baby taken away from its mother before it is two minutes old. And how dare you ask for impossible and greedy things." The baby smacked the king again and again saying, "I am wiser than the wisest person and I know you are a fool." Finally, the King begged the fisherman to keep the fish fairy. So the baby returned to the sea and the fisherman married the fish fairy and they lived happily ever after.

so it seems to me that a simplistic learning from the stories i’ve posted so far is to be humble. to avoid the trappings of power and wealth unless they come to you through magic or in the form of a serendipitous windfall. and to listen very carefully to fish. hmmmmm.