Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Word on Wednesday - Best / Most / Favourite of 2008

(because what year would be complete without a best / most / favourite list?)


Most tender cry
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
(whose website has been under construction for quite some time)

Years ago my friend Barbara recommended this book and the title stuck in my mind. I finally bought it last Jan with a bookstore gift certificate someone had given me, and even then it sat on my shelf for months. Just before summer, curled up on the couch for a weekend, I cried my way through Henry and Clare's romance. I love how the story's sadness and foreboding is peppered with the humour that comes when two people are so comfortably one, destined and resigned to that destiny of constant heartache. A heartache as beautiful as is is tragic.

Most stunning cry (sudden and unforseen)
Fierce Light - Where Spirit Meets Action
a documentary by Velcrow Ripper

Last October I attended my friend Sue's wedding. This friend had a chronic kidney condition and during the ceremony I could tell she was exhausted. Part way through the reception dinner, my husband and I realized that the entire wedding party was gone. Word came around that Sue had fallen ill and had to be taken to the hospital. She went into a coma and died that evening.

I was in shock, it was unreal that one could attend a friend's wedding and then the friend could vanish from this earth. Sue was all light and heart and spirit, but she also had a flair for the dramatic. We all agreed that her exit was beautiful... how many other people get a reception line of all their friends and family at the end of their lives?

A friend at Sue's wedding recommended a movie to me. She had specifically thought of me after watching it. She said Fierce Light was an inspiring documentary about people coming together for good, for peace, for action. That sounded about right. In the midst of a crazy work week, just a few days after Sue's death, I ducked out for a few hours to see the film at Vancouver Film Festival. It was sold out. I sat in the front row, swallowed by the screen.

In the opening sequence, the director Velcrow Ripper shows the story of Brad Will, an anarchist and video journalist, through his final film footage. Brad was shot and killed (by police) in 2006 during the teacher's strike in Oaxaca, Mexico, which he had traveled down to document. He basically filmed his own murder. The footage was gut-wrenching.

My heart burst open... it was too much. I had known Brad. I knew he had been killed, but I hadn't expected to see the footage on full screen in colour.

I had met Brad at Naropa University. My two fondest memories of him were when he and I spent an afternoon trying to create the perfect intoxicating tea and attending his mock gay wedding held outside the Promise Keeper's convention. Brad was one of a kind. A generous coyote trickster with a heart for justice.

I'm pretty sure I cried through the entire film, and not just for Sue and Brad, for all the wonderful, beautiful people out there with fierce light and spirit. Brad died doing what he had to do. Sue died in the arms of love. I don't know if there is any more appropriate way for them to leave us.

to story about Brad that appeared in Rolling Stone

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Poetry Purge*

a: to clear of guilt

: to free from moral or ceremonial defilement
: to cause evacuation from (as the bowels)

I've been typing up my 2008 3:15 Experiment poems. I'm hoping to get them finished before spring. If you have never heard of the 3:15 Experiment... well I just don't know if I can talk to you any more. (it's a collaborative writing experiment, it's annual, it's insane)

I came across this one and really liked how it merged my waking life / job, dreams, odd lists, and a bit of advice (both practical and unprovoked). It is here, unedited, in pure 3:15 form, as the experiment is about writing from / exploring the hypnogogic state.

August 9, 2008
Vancouver, BC

Let’s all give ourselves a raise
all under promoted underplayed
artists report to the promenade deck
time for lawn bowling, sushi
and photos with loved ones

Celebration is a necessary component
to breathing
festivities, fireworks, fondue
should not be kept on a shelf
in the back drawer, coated
with dust. Admire your success
open the windows let it be known

It’s 3 months until winter
keep the hula skirt dry martinis
in china glasses mini umbrellas in our soup
ice sculptures shaped like ducks
cats w/impossibly soft pillows
rites of passage shuffleboard
sun setting over the hills horizons like
white elephants name your poison
name your game—name your baby
take away the name and what’s left?
the essence of what is
breath, celebration, light of our
lives we trust each other
only because we love
to give in, give away
we love to not be in charge
take us away people of the moon
people of the asteroids people
giant-like and forgiving.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Word on Christmas

We've been the landlords to a Chinese family for the past year. They've been renting the bottom half of our house while their new home is being built. There are two kids, Mom and Dad, Grandma, and for two months a few cousins. I only understand about 1/10 of what Mom or Dad tells me, and Grandma speaks straight Cantonese with a lot of hand gestures. I always smile because her eyes laugh and shine whenever she speaks to me.

The laundry room is shared and I have to walk through their hallway, past their bathroom, Grandma’s room, and the kitchen to get there. I would have been horrified if any of my landlords had to walk down my hallway to do their laundry. I get shivers just thinking about a few of my landlords. We had a peeping tom for one when I lived in Prague...

In any case, whenever I venture down there, first knocking politely, then jiggling the doorknob so they know I’m about to enter, Grandma always greets me enthusiastically, with a hand on my arm, and the ladies wave from down the hall in the garage, pausing over their sewing machines... oh, yes, they do piece work in the garage. Mom, Grandma, Sister, and “Cousins.” They are chatty and keep the radio on a Chinese version of an easy listening station. The laundry room is just off the garage.

Over the last several months, Mom has hemmed two pairs of pants for me, our curtains, and she made me a green cammie for my birthday. I’ve photocopied papers for her, faxed documents to China, and I gave her kids most of my Halloween candy. They are moving out at the end of the month; their new
house is finished.


Today is Christmas and I need to do laundry. I had heard the whir of sewing machines earlier, so I know someone’s around. I’m not sure if they celebrate Christmas, with kids growing up North American and living in such a fusion of cultures. My own traditions have morphed since moving to Canada.

I grab a little present so I won’t go down empty handed. It’s a honey gift set that my friend made. Her parents run an apiary. They make the honey and she makes the beeswax candles. I venture downstairs and find Mom, Grandma, Sister, Cousin and a Girlfriend sharing a meal in the kitchen. Merry Christmas, Mom says. I hand her the honey gift set and she tells me in very broken English that she wants to invite me to a party at her new house. She then says to come over and she’ll hem my pants. Okay, I say.

Grandma opens all the cupboards, pointing and chatting the whole time. I smile and shake my head. She opens the refrigerator and gestures inside. I still don’t understand. She goes to a calendar and flips the pages to Dec 28. She points to everything around her and then gestures away. Ah, they are moving on the 28th. Everything in the kitchen will be gone by the 28th is what she means. That’s a lucky day. The Mom had once said that numbers ending in “8” are lucky.

Grandma goes to the stove and grabs something wrapped in aluminum foil. She offers it to me. She points to herself, then the item, then to me. I'm pretty confident she's giving it to me, so I take it. It’s heavy and warm. Thanks, I say, Merry Christmas.

I go back upstairs and into our kitchen. Baby is in the middle of making a traditional Christmas chili. We've been camped out for a few days due to weather and illness. We didn't get a chance to buy any of the usual holiday fare, so chili and pancakes it is.

I set the steaming package on the counter.

What’s that, Baby asks. I believe, I say, it’s a Christmas Yam.

Today I am grateful for the beauty of small gestures.

Happy Holidays to all! Be well and safe! May you all be delivered your own Christmas Yams.

Our front yard, yesterday :-)

And a farewell from this planet to poet Nanao Sakaki who died on Dec 21 at age 86.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Word on Wednesday - Gross National Happiness and Pronoia

This weeks' word goes out to the happy feet of Matt Harding. I couldn't stop smiling as I watched this video. I also got a little teary-eyed a few times, because it's just so damn beautiful. Watch it in its entirety, cuz just when you think you've seen it all, he changes it up a bit. Well done!

(Since YouTube is now WIDESCREEN, it doesn't fit in my blogspace any more. Doh!)

If you just love him, his website is Where the Hell is Matt?

And if you want to see an interview with him, check out young VJ Alexandra Liss' Video on SanFranciscoIAM

In particular, what he says at 5:38 about the country of Bhutan is lovely. I had never heard this. Basically the king of Bhutan (they just moved to a democracy recently) decided to measure the prosperity of the country's citizens NOT on economic terms, but by their level of happiness. They have a Gross National Happiness and a Ministry of Happiness.

That is just about the coolest thing I've heard of since I discovered Rob Brezny's book PRONOIA a few months ago. It actually deserves its very own WORD Entry. Perhaps I'll do more on that later. I'd definitely recommend it as a great holiday gift.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Friday Five on Tuesday

Better late then never, right? I'm working my way back to blogging more. I have to shape up because I was invited to participate in the upcoming Poetry Bloggers Conference (more info as it comes!).

The poem below was inspired by my recent trip to Hawaii, where I swam with sea turtles, and missed my husband back home.


untidying the line between breath
and spirit
our nightly sculptures mock
dark matter
enter the
light of eternal sunshine
transformed via
our bliss
bedroom sighs
we rise
again and again
flying over pele’s mountain
woozy with love
plain and simple

words only jumble the treasure of it
all so godish
a connection of sea turtles
bidding aloha to brackish waters
our tears and kindnesses
mixing gesso on which
we overlay
their sun-kissed skins

FRIDAY FIVE words last week: