Friday, May 21, 2010

uprooted benches: uprooted community

For three years in a row, I've worked with groups of teens to write short radio plays; a program
sponsored by CAHEP and Playwrights Guild of Canada. The scenes are based on a sense of place‒
exploring how community shapes, reflects and inspires us. And if you look closely while you're
wandering around town, you may see small green signs attached to posts. If you call the number
number on the green sign, you will hear a radio play about that very location, written by one of
Thunder Bay's young playwrights. There are eight of these radio plays in the Bay/Algoma area alone.
Which leads me to my peculiar and surprising morning tea.
Like many other people, I occasionally hover outside of the Hoito and Calico‒ taking in the sights and
sounds of Bay street. But today was different; today when I arrived to meet my friend for tea, I was
met with dismantled benches, dismantled flower beds, dismantled concrete ledges and an uprooted tree.
My friend had warned me, but it still took me off guard. There was, of course, no one gathered there;
no one in sight, though the morning sun was warm. There was no one gathered there because there was
nowhere to sit. My friend‒ in her unique fashion, had brought with her a tree in a pot, a small folding
table and a chair. And there we sat; discussing the disappointment we felt at the loss to the
neighbourhood. We would miss the hub of community that always gathered there‒ the diverse group of
people that morphed and changed as the day progressed. Where else in our city could I go to find such
diversity‒ a place where men in suits sit next to kids with torn jeans and wacky hair? Where else could
I hear a variety of languages spoken‒ very often the Finnish language, but also sometimes Italian and
other languages too. Where else would I see senior citizens shoot the breeze with teens, babies in
strollers and children climbing along the concrete ledges while the adults linger in conversation long
after filling themselves up with Finnish pancakes? Where else would I find a senior citizen busker
playing traditional accordion tunes one day and a young “hippy” playing folk tunes the next? Quirky?
Yes. Part of the unique appeal of the Bay/Algoma area? Yes. Now uprooted? Yes.
Community is not something easily replicated. Community builds organically over a number of years.
Putting a bench somewhere does not automatically bring people. I heard the other day on the local
news that both our teens and our seniors are saying there are no places to sit in our town. Maybe we
could begin by not removing the few sitting places that we have.
While my friend and I drank our tea and coffee with her “bring-along” table and chair, we fantasized
the place filling up with all kinds of people‒ all bringing their own seating. And we also imagined that
once the place was re-bricked, the Hoito would decide to fill it up with not two sitting benches, but
five. And not one ledge of flowers but three ledges of flowers. We realize that this is not likely the
plan. The plan is more likely to fill in the brick and leave the place looking a bit stark. I'm not saying
it would look stark to the untrained eye. A visitor would likely walk by the Hoito, never knowing that
at one time, the place was a gathering place in the truest sense of the word; a gathering place where
anyone felt free to sit, whether or not they were a patron of the shops at that given moment. I like to
think that such places still exist.
I can think of one other person that will likely notice the change to this sitting area; and that is the
young man who wrote his story about the tree‒ the tree now uprooted. His story, titled “Hidden Nest”
invites the listener to look at little closer at their surroundings. I'm asking the Hoito and the City of
Thunder Bay and the Bay Street businesses to look at little closer at this little corner of the world, and
perhaps consider restoring it to a place where people, once again, feel free to gather.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Treasuring a tiny package received in the mail

There is always one moment in my day that somehow glints out from all the other moments. It's often unplanned and unanticipated. I am sure that as a child, I had many more of these moments, since much more of my day was unplanned and unanticipated. Although, I am trying to notice these moments as they occur; and at the same time, allowing them to fade away into the day. So, when opening my tiny package and reading the miniature card, a felt a flush of emotion. I sat down. I gave the moment its due. I didn't rush it. And for that, I am glad. For today was not mundane. Today, I treasured a tiny package I received in the mail.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reaching out to catch spring before she arrives

It's a long, slow wait for budding trees and flowers. I feel myself reaching into the heart of spring and trying to coax her to come forward.

Ginger Carrot Oat Spelt Muffins

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Night Wings and Mother's Day

Night Wings is what I think of as my bird play. Every morning I am woken by the sounds of birds tapping and chirping as they build their nests in the eaves. Today, I woke up to Mother's day- grateful for the warmth of the sun on my face and the company of friends and family.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Warming up a cold day in May with Treasure Hunting and Ginger

Saturday morning I set off in search of treasures at a church flea market. It was so cold, the fellows at the check-out had thrown blankets over themselves. Nevertheless, they were all as jovial as can be.... even though they had been there since 6:30 a.m. I heard one of the church fellows call out "A dollar for a hard back, fifty cents for a paperback" and a woman in the crowd answered "And how much to warm up the weather?" Everyone had a good chuckle about that. I took my finds back home and began by fixing a broken frame. While it was gluing up, I made the ginger muffins I had started the night before. I'll include the recipe tomorrow, if anyone would like to try them. Everything I make is wheat-free, since I'm allergic to wheat.

Friday, May 7, 2010

fresh grated ginger and lost negatives

I'm going to make cookies with oodles of fresh grated ginger. It would be great if I also had a bit of molasses but I'll have to use honey instead. Once the cookies are baked, I'm going to sit with a cup of licorice tea and enjoy my warm cookies. That will be my every day creativity. Also, while sifting through some boxes of odds and ends in the attic tonight, I came across some old pictures of our family in 1987. We were all wearing vintage hats and clown noses and most of the pictures were never made into prints.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

blue silk skirt on a clear night after rain

The air has that clean after-rain smell to it tonight. I found a silk skirt at a thrift shop yesterday and it was three sizes too big. So I took it in and wore it today. Then tonight, to my surprise a knock at the door was followed by a woman standing in my hallway from my childhood many, many years ago. She's lived in London, England now for many years. One of the first things she commented on was my skirt. So given that I'm tired, and this afternoon had ten acupuncture needles put into my shoulder, I'd say my moment of creativity is a "blue skirt on a clear night after rain".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

light continues to dance on walls

light dancing on walls

After supper, with dishes piled up on the kitchen counters, I sat watching the fading sunlight as it danced on the walls.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

my daugher's tea leaf reading

a tour into a corner of my soul

Today I woke up thinking about this concept of “creativity in the every day”. And really, the word “creative” can be defined so broadly that in fact, I could peel a banana creatively or make my bed creatively. (The fact is, I rarely make my bed at all so I suppose making my bed really would be a creative act.) So what do I mean when I challenge myself to “creativity in the every day”. I think that for me, it's a mixture of engaging my imagination and at the same time taking a little tour into a corner of my soul. I suppose it's a bit like a prayer for me; a way to affirm life. I'm trying to invent/ invoke /capture one moment in my day where there is an element of enchantment. I used to keep diaires; reems and reems of pages of what I felt; what I did; what challenges I faced. And to some extent, I still do this. But it's more exciting for me to face an open, blank page and allow an image to emerge. Whatever image comes up is more honest than any words I could conjure up. What will today's image be? Today, as I open up to a blank page, I feel at sixes and sevens. But that's fine. I can feel anything at all and still invoke imagination.

Monday, May 3, 2010

day two

Well, here it is, my second day of inserting a creative flourish into the everyday. I know I'm in a transition right now in my life and I want to be aware that any decision I make involves all those people and values important to me. Both big decisions and small decisions. So rather than make a shopping list, because whenever I do make lists, I never look at them again. So I drew a picture. I know some of the little squares are blank in the wall of squares. It's not because I ran out of things important to me. It's more that I wanted to leave some openings for things or people or work I haven't yet discovered.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

my first posting

Inserting creative flourish into the everyday

In my many years working as an artist and teaching workshops, I have heard so many people say "I'm not very creative." Of course, we're all creative. It's part of being human. But maybe, underneath that comment, is discouragement that his or her creativity has never been noticed or encouraged. There isn't a child in the world who doesn't love to sing or dance or imagine stories. So what happens? We get caught in jobs and situations that don't lift us up. Close to three years ago, I left a secure job for exactly that reason. I felt that my creativity was slowly being depleted. Creative expression has never failed to prop me up during difficult times and give spiritual meaning to my life. It's given me a way to make sense of things that otherwise do not make sense. I've raised my children with a creative spirit and I do my laundry with a creative spirit and I approach everything I do with that same spirit. So when I feel this energy waning, I know it's a huge wake-up call to make a change, to adjust something... to open that window up again.

When we're children, that window is always open. Coming from a large family of nine, I was always surrounded by imaginative play and music and the outdoors. My eyes were wide open, just as they are in this old photograph of myself so long ago. I hope to never entirely abandon creative expression. I now remind myself to insert creative flourish into the everyday. And perhaps I'll be able to share some of that inspiration of the day-to-day with those who read my blog.