December 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
Coming home today when pulling into fulford harbour, you see a white capped Reginald hill, you’ve grown up with this harbour, with this ferry, how many trips back and forth did it carry you on over all the years of your youth?
Pulling into the dock, two swans glide over the water of the inlet and you watch them, wings spread, angelic, bow then land on a ripple in unison. Year in and year out, every season, they too are witness to the continuous story of home.
Your car is stuck in the snow today and so you take the public bus where you meet an old friend. In your mind flashes a memory of the piggy-back ride he gave you when you were 13 years old, playing in the yard at night, his parent’s party rauckous inside their tiny wooden cabin, aglow under the shadow of cedar trees and freshly sprung maples, a leering moon, translucent night, the last month of grade eight, cool, crisp, and clean darkness. Dew on the grass and your bare feet. Memories flash rapidly in and out of your mind as you speak to him, but you wouldn’t mention them now, on a public bus in the snow, or perhaps ever again.
Instead, you talk about your lack of employment, his property and failed marriage, the mortgage. Childhood flashes like a dream when you blink, as far away and as close as that night you spent together and all the others that you don’t remember. Where does your past end and his begin in a history shared so deep?
At Dukes Road, your gumbboots crunch onto fresh snow. This moment is so pristine, you think, realising that’s a word you have come to define as yet untouched by an LCD screen. You are stunned, humbled. Birds dart inches from your chest across this snowed-in narrow country road; it blends into the forest unifying the landscape. The snowfall drapes a stark white curtain behind a life you’ve too long missed out. You walk past hoof tracks where a deer has turned a concentric path and continued into the brush. The road is narrow and the trees are overhung, heavy with the weight of the snow. You notice the silence. What exactly has been hushed, you wonder, and where does silence go when the snow melts?
Walking home you feel something you haven’t felt in eons, and realise there are two of you these days, the one who came before, and the one who comes after. A journey back to nature is a long road, a relearning of a language you used to speak, though sometimes, it appears in a moment of grace when the snow falls.
When you arrive home, you notice there are tiny fragile bird tracks on your snowy doorstep and see how close life has been to you all this time. You want to stay outside forever, here, where the story of home is being told by a woodpecker high in the cedar trees and maples.
You notice that you’re not scared anymore of what’s outside – the cougar sighting last summer or getting lost in the forest is not nearly as frightening now as what is inside.
Of all the strategies to find a moment of sanity, none has been granted as easily as this: a sudden heap of heavy white. A moment trudged through a path without argument. Today, you don’t even call it a homecoming; you call it coming back to life.
March 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
Today, dear readers, you get to witness the depths of my weirdo capabilities!
Here I am in Vancouver, with my favorite furry friend, Micia. This little cutie went missing mysteriously in the middle of the night way back in September 2010 when I was living in Montreal. I thought I had really lost her, but then, one day twelve months later I got an email. She had been found starving five blocks away from my house and had survived a Montreal winter outdoors, riddled with flees and rootless. Seven hundred dollars later she was returned to me, flown across the country after -that’s right, after— I had made the definitive move back to the west coast of canada. This is your classic planes, trains, and automobiles love story.
My life has entered into another period of relative instability these last few weeks, and I am now living in Vancouver. Rather than leave Michia with house-sitters, I decided to take her with me to the city. I know, it’s not really fair to transport cats too often, they are very territorial and love their comforts.
To get around the dilemma of What To Do With The Cat, I decided to ask Micia what her preference might be. This kitty can’t talk, but I do believe animals understand the gist of the energy behind any exchange.
Rather than ask her if she’d be up for a move to Vancouver (too many concepts for a simple kitty), I asked her this:
“Will you be my cat?”
“Who, me?” she seemed to question, humbly caught off guard.
I highly recommend you try this technique (perhaps just in your head and not necessarily out loud) with everyone in your life. You might find it beautiful, to acknowledge that all the beings in your life — including all your friends, roommates, and all the people in your family — have a choice. We are deluding ourselves to think that people, cats, dogs, birds, or even hamsters aren’t free. Every being – from your husband to your daughter to your mother to your budgie — has freedom and autonomy and choice. No one and nothing belongs to us. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful and frightening things about being human. People come and people go, sometimes they disappear for months, then as if by a miracle return one day; sometimes they don’t come back; and sometimes they never leave us at all, choosing instead to stick around forever.
We can try to keep people or animals in our life, by shutting the door on them, or keeping them on a tight leash, but even this is a false sense of security — who wants a friend just because they feel obligated, or a husband just because he signed a marriage contract? The irony of it all is that love and freedom are always holding hands, inseparable from each other.
It might feel great to know that everyone in your life has, on some level made a choice to be there and that that’s how precious you are. Don’t forget, you’ve also made that tender-hearted choice, to be in the lives of others. These beings are our gifts to us and we are our gifts to them, for each other we make life worth living (whether we see it that way or not).
My kitty is curled up on my bed right now, purring happily.
She’s found herself a “person” for life.
October 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”
Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.
We don’t say to our cat
If only you wouldn’t stare out the window so much, then maybe I’d love you
If only you didn’t wake me up so early,
Leave your fur on the furniture
If only you didn’t sleep so much
I could love you then
If only you didn’t stay out so late, and had a different kind of purr
Kitty, get a better job
Then I’d love you
If only you looked a little more like Muffin!
I could love you then
I will feed you and pet you until the end of your days
I will keep you safe and warm
There’s never been a cat like you and there will never be another
Why can’t we love everyone this way?
September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
Kitty is home. The cat came back. From the icy montreal alleyways in winter, to the hot and stifling summer streets, to a paradise Island in fall, via cars, planes, ferries, and the love of countless strangers, over 12 months, across 3000 miles. What a perfect reminder that Life moves in miraculous ways; sometimes it can do for us what we could never do for ourselves.
September 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Summer comes and rain falls away
But the very next day it seems
The snow comes to stay
And you too will go just like the dog days do
I’ll put on my hat, my gloves, my scarf
To keep the cold apart
But there are no hats, gloves, scarves for the heart
Just a cold wind which leaves its frosted mark
Don’t forget that I will always love you
Just a reminder to help you pave your pathway
Summer comes, fall it cools
Winter it snow, spring it rains
And you go
But in my silly mind I’ve gotten married to you
You’re across town, don’t even have a clue
Or these images that in ten years
I’ll run into you & fall right back inside of you
Don’t forget that I will always love you
Just a reminder to help you pave your pathway
Fall it cools, winter it snows
Spring it rains, summer comes
And you go
So when will we meet next and where will it be
On a platform track in an old movie
Cause time moves in circles & can leave you anywhere
The one and the only, Martha Wainwright
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
We reveal so much about our unconscious inner lives, and the destinies we will write, through the stories that we tell.
Humor piece re-write By Mary Fowles For Joel Yanofsky March 26, 2003.
When I broke up with my boyfriend last September I wasn’t expecting to fall in love again so quickly, especially not with a neurotic coral-beaked Agapornis Personata. I’m firmly convinced it wasn’t coincidence that the single and searching Lovebird I affectionately named Safran came into my life. It was just weeks after my boyfriend told me that “opening up the relationship” could be good for us. I didn’t agree. As it turns out, in Safran I may have found the most monogamous male on the planet. Like any great romance, our love blossomed in the wake of tragedy.
At the Lovebird warehouse where he entered this world, my sensitive bird did not fare well. Crammed into a tight rectangular box bared with impenetrable aluminium and at least ten other common foul, Safran, with his sensitive and complex soul was driven mad. Longing for the world of his ancestors, the roofless sky that marked a life of freedom, Safran slipped into the darkest of depressions at the young age of six months. Knowing that attacking the boundaries of his prison would only lead to a headache and a flaked beak, Safran turned upon his own foot in a bout of irreconcilable self-loathing. It began with a mere nail-biting problem. He would sit on the plastic perch beneath the hum of the florescent lights of the warehouse and chew until each little black claw was taken off. And then he started on the tiny toes. Toes that in nature would have been used to grip the bows of willow trees and pounce on worms, in captivity were useless. Three out of four were taken off within months. Over night the burgundy scab would heal over the stump, only to be re-opened again in the morning when Safran focused on his day’s work. In such a state, Safran was more likely to die from blood loss than be purchased by a bird-lover.
His capitalist breeders plotted an imminent execution. It was at this point that my neighbour, a kind soul who worked at the warehouse brought Safran to me. “He’ll bond with you,” she said, “loving pets can nurture the most tortured of hearts.”
Lovebirds are one of the few species that mate for life, raise children together and love one another until death. But if they cannot find another bird in their vicinity, they will bond with humans, or so the story goes. Safran and I met was I was 25.
“Love birds live to be 35 years old, that means he will be with you until 60,” my neighbor told me, as consolation that in Safran I would find a faithful life partner.
It wasn’t long before I realized that Safran was more likely to bond with the tip of my nose than with my person. In bird world, I’ve come to understand, anything my size that moves or makes a noise is The Enemy. His small form and, dare I say, tiny brain makes it impossible to fathom me in entirety. In truth, I don’t really exist to Safran. He relates to me in parts. For example, I can tell by the way he looks sideways at my hand when I change his water bowl that he considers The Hand to be a threat to his existence. My mouth, on the contrary is an interesting object from which strange noises emanate to interrupt his pruning. I am a threatening fingertip he hides from; I am a few strands of hair he nibbles at sometimes. That is all.
For months after Safran arrived we had a routine. At night before bed when the lights were dim I’d lean into his cage where he hid beneath the soft paper towel. “I love you, Safran,” I’d say. Then he’d shimmy sideways across the bottom of his cage to hiss at me violently, bearing the razor sharp edges of his beak and thick pink tongue. In the mornings I’d put my finger into the cage to offer him a pomegranate seed- a tropical fruit of his native Tanzania. He’d then bite me sharply, drawing blood.
As Safran grew strong and healthy, he stopped gnawing on his foot. I left the door of his cage open and encouraged him to take what limited freedom he could, considering the circumstances. It was a revelatory experience to watch the day he used his beak to climb out of his cage and then perch on the top. I know he understood a world that for once was not latticed with the bars of incarceration. And since that time he has learned to fly around our bedroom with inspired liberty. Perching on the geraniums and hibiscus at the window, he stares into the open sky often and engages in intelligent conversation with the swallows and robins. At night I’d often dream he had curled up on my neck sleeping peacefully, the soft black plumage on the top of his head lightly resting on my cheek. Or I’d dream that wing-to-wing we were flying together over rainforest and sea, stopping sometimes for a sip of fresh morning dew that had formed on a strand of grass.
In the morning I’d awaken. “Good morning my sweetheart,” I’d say. “Squawk” he’d bark back at me with those characteristically beady, vacant, ebony stares. It became more and more apparent to me that my love for Safran was unrequited. I began to wonder if my ex-boyfriend didn’t have a point about the possibilities of an open relationship. Indeed, I myself began to long for one.
It was around this time that Safran picked up one of his least appealing habits- what I’ve come to term the Chinese Torture Chirp. Around 6:45 on most mornings of the week would then awaken to a piercingly shrill wail, not unlike a dog whistle with a particularly disturbing rhythm. During that time I would often rise up from my sleep to the sound of my own voice screaming “Shut up you worthless beast.” Staring past foggy sleep-filled eyes I’d confront my Safran clinging to the edge of his cage with a terrifyingly defiant stare.
I decided at this point resolutely that if I were to open up the relationship on my end, it wasn’t fair that Safran suffer in solitude. “We all deserve to know the love of a kindred spirit,” I affirmed. And so Peachy entered our lives. She looked lovely in the pet store the day I brought her home: long black lashes, a dainty rosy beak and perfectly quaffed feathers of turquoise and a hint of golden blush. “A sexy little thing,” I thought, “just what my Safran deserves.” I didn’t know at the time that Peachy, a pretty and healthy bird, had the attitude of a pit bull. The domineering-verging-on-psychotic beast crushed poor Safran’s machismo, what little of it he had. When I placed her gently into Safran’s cage expecting a love-at-first sight affair, she charged head on to peck his delicate scalp like a slice of stale bread. Her chirp was a terrifying refrain that made me question the existence of God. I had to separate them or watch Safran die a slow and painful death. For the next three days he cowered nauseated beneath the paper towel in the corner of his cage. When I lifted it up to check on him, he would hiss at me like a cornered cat and then vomit violently. Today all that is left of Peachy is an $80 credit I incurred at the local pet store when I returned her.
Safran and I have grown to co-exist. I maintain a deep love for him, but am less attached to his loving me in return. He maintains an irrational fear of me, but trusts I will not invade his boundaries. Often to describe our union I invoke the romantic song writer Leonard Cohen, “Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.” Safran the bird; I the drunk.
March 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
I lay in the darkness listening to rain, thinking about a big wave that’s said to be travelling all the way from Japan to the shores around here. Suddenly, Japan doesn’t seem so far away, no longer just a point of reference on a map, but something alive and real across the ocean, something essential, like a heartbeat.
It’s my last week here in this little cabin. I lay in the darkness, a half-moon is covered by an overcast night sky, but a few minutes after I turn off the lights, lying in the total blackness, a glow illuminates the windows and skylight.
I am not alone. I know, for example, that in this moment, right now, there is a little brown bunny who lives under the cabin. I saw her yesterday, soft and swift, darting through the woodpile and into the darkness of the crawlspace. There’s a family of sparrows huddled into the rafters above my bed, I hear them coming home to nest at dusk, then, many hours later, I hear their ruffling feathers at dawn, taking flight into the light of the morning. A spider spins her winter web in a cozy corner of the cedar siding. I hear a heron who lives on this beach call out in the darkness, in the middle of the night, loud and prehistoric, from wherever she is nesting.
We’re in the darkness. We’re listening to the waves. And tonight, I take none of it for granted. Somehow, by some miracle beyond our understanding, we share this life.
We share this lifetime.
Each with our own knowledge and habits and preferences, we share this little cabin. We listen, in the darkness to these waves, and by an almost imperceptible glow of a hiding half-moon, we listen to the rain.
Suddenly, I feel as close to the bunny snuggled under the cabin as I’ve felt to anything. We share this sweet and gentle darkness, each with our own concerns. Each alone, but in the strangest way, together. We share a solitude without loneliness. We’ve acknowledged each other before on the driveway. Like indifferent acquaintances brushing shoulders in the grocery store isles, we’ve barely said hello. But tonight, for some reason, we’re very close. I think about her innocent desire just to survive and be happy here, to find some warmth and shelter, under this cabin. Her simple and noble wishes to stay safe and clean and to be organised, to find food that tastes good and water that is cold and fresh. Little bunny, we not only share a cabin and a lifetime, we share these common impulses.
It seems that every year for the past two years, around this time in March, I’m sent some kind of miraculous gift. Last year, I found a goddess statue buried in the mud at the beach. This year, I saw a perfect rainbow stretched right across the bay. We’ve called this Rainbow beach for years, and now I know why. Perhaps a sign the hardest months of winter are over. Perhaps a simple reminder that life is precious.
“I know that there are moments when you question who you are and that doubts seem overwhelming until you wish upon a star. You’ve forgotten why you’ve come, that there was an ancient call. You’ve covered up the memories that you’re here to nurture all. So I’m here as a reminder to help light the way, to reignite the truth within and this is what I say: You’re a lady, you’re a princess, you’re a goddess, you’re a queen, you’re the feminine expression of that which can’t be seen. You’re the answer to the question, How must love be revealed? You’re the vision of a world that is begging to be healed. You’re the beauty you’re the grace, you’re the lover, you’re the light. You’re the form of wholeness manifest revealing day and night. You’re the answer to the question: How must love be revealed? You’re the vision of a world that is begging to be healed. And I know that there are times when you want to lead the way, to peace in your surroundings otherwise you cannot stay. You’re remembering there’s a promise to make a difference in this life. The inner you is screaming it is time to release strife. So I’m here as a reminder to help light the way, to reignite the truth within and this is what I say: You’re a mother, you’re a daughter, you’re a wife, you’re a team, you’re the feminine expression of that which can’t be seen. You’re the answer to the question, How must love be revealed? You’re the vision of a world that is begging to be healed. You’re the leader, you’re the guide, you’re the healer, you’re the way, you’re the form of wholeness manifest, turning night into day. You’re the answer to the question How must love be revealed? You’re the vision of a world that is begging to be healed. So take the time to listen to the spirit that you are and open to the vision that you are a shining star. You must remember why you’ve come. Awaken that ancient call, open to the memory that you’re here to nurture all. Open to the memory that you’re here to nurture all. Remember who you are. Remember who you are”
June 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
A day trip to the Montreal tam tams a few weeks ago heralded quite a tragic sight: A young blue parrot perched on a crazy woman’s shoulders. His wings clipped, enslaved to her shoulders, the parrot had taken to virulently attacking his owner. He used his beak to puncture and scratch the skin on her face and arms, which were pockmarked and bleeding. His owner was trapped in a prison of her own – that of a sick mind – and attacked the poor parrot reciprocally, even trying at one point to strangle him – a technique she called “training.”
My reaction to this episode was so strong I realised I must have somewhere inside identified with what was going on. I have often been haunted by the oppression and abuse of animals. I’ve always felt that animals, just like us humans, have a deep desire for their own free lives, and to expand in their own true natures; that somehow they are worthy and integral beings that matter in the grand scheme of life.
But if we’ve imprisoned and abused animals throughout the course of time, we’ve also done it in equal measure to one another, as the phenomena of human trafficking, slavery, exploitation, and abuse of all forms can attest. That is why, if we chose to, all human beings can identify with the oppression and domination of animals, just as we can imagine what that experience might feel like in our own lives.
Gloria Steinem wrote in her famous book Revolution from Within “The truth is that, like every other part of nature, human beings have an internal imperative to grow.” What she meant is that with a little encouragement and love the undiscovered potential that exist inside each person can naturally flourish.
Today we’re living in a society in which, however externally free we may be, we are almost never “good enough” – smart, beautiful, rich, talented or powerful enough – and this predicament is its own kind of prison. We forget that we have an intrinsic worth, and perhaps this isn’t an accident. Our economy is in so many ways fuelled and sustained by a collective low self-esteem. Steinem explains: “The idea of an intrinsic worth is so dangerous to authoritarian systems … that it is condemned as self indulgent, selfish, egocentric, godless, counterrevolutionary, and any other epithet that puts the individual in the wrong.”
If we were to at some point stop the internal dialogue (our crazy owner) that tells us we are never quite enough, might our life (the parrot) be a little more free? Might we consume a little less and find our own path a little clearer, without the added pressures of measuring up to externally-imposed ideals. Might we find that beauty, power and even happiness can be found through self knowledge?
And finally, with a little practice, there is a revolution from within: “We are so many selves. It’s not just the long-ago child within us who needs tenderness and inclusion, but the person we were last year, wanted to be yesterday, tried to become in one job or in one winter, in one love affair or in one house where even now, we can close our eyes and smell the rooms.
What brings together these ever-shifting selves of infinite reactions and returnings is this: There is always one true inner voice.
Sometimes the most revolutionary thing we can do is love and accept ourselves; the impulse to declare that we matter has formed the basis for revolutionary movements since the beginning of time. At this point, we have the power to grow back our clipped wings and fly home to ourselves.
And then, we might hear the Sufi mystic Rumi calling:
Come, come, whoever you are. Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.