Wednesday, 17 September 2014


On a whim, I asked a couple of the other mom's at school if they wanted to check out the Robert Frank exhibit at NSCAD (the art college in our city). It was only going to be open for 1 week and a fraction of his iconic photographs from his famous work from "The Americans" would be printed on newsprint, put on display, and then destroyed directly after it closed. The really amazing thing about this exhibit for me is that I actually went. I never make time for art shows. I love to go to them and I cannot wait, am counting down the days until I can be in the same room as Mary Pratt's paintings, but I rarely find the time.  I  diligently write down the dates of the openings in my agenda, and then other things crowd them out.  But when I do, oh my, even if I don't like the art, or cannot understand what I I am looking at, something stirs in me--Something stronger than the strongest opinion, something more fierce than my most well worn argument, something elemental inside me ignites.

In the Robert Frank exhibit, his photography, which predated instagram, and facebook feeds, and even the kiosks at the grocery store for printing pictures, documented a world that did not understand itself in minute detail yet.  It was before we could analyze our world through every comment and every event on twitter and 24 hours news channels. His off kilter capture of the world of wealth and abject poverty that he observed on a trip across the US observed and forced others' to observe the absurdity and gaping chasm that split post-war society against itself.  He is famous for his collaboration with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and one of their poems, that they co-wrote with Neal Cassidy was on display.  It dragged me into a black and white world of upsidedowness, and stark seeing of what could be, in different light, selling something to someone.  I came stumbling out of the exhibit nudged, ever so slightly, in a new direction.  How about you? When was the last time art pulled the bricks out of your retaining wall?

Pull my daisy
Tip my cup
Cut my thoughts
for coconuts

Jack my Arden
Gate my shades
Silk my garden
Rose my days

Bone my shadow
Dove my dream
Milk my mind &
Make me cream

Hop my heart on 
Harp my height
Hip my angel
Hype my light

Heal the raindrop
Sow the eye
Woe the worm
Work the wise

Stop the hoax
Where's the wake
What's the box
How's the Hicks

Rob my locker
Lick my rocks
Rack my lacks
Lark my looks

Whore my door
Beat my beer
Craze my hair
Bare my poor

Say my oops
Ope my shell
Roll my bones
Ring my bell

Pope my parts
Pop my pet
Poke my pap
Pit my plum

Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The hidden arts

This week I had to get a can of paint tinted and I got a pair of contacts fitted.

Two very routine (for some) errands that I came away from full of awe and admiration.

The first task was to get a can of paint to turn to the colour of "vellum". The guy at the paint counter did not just punch in the formula and wait for the machine to pump out the requisite drops, he fiddled, he estimated, he worked with the paint drop machine as carefully as an artist would. He predicted, as it turns out correctly, that the formula would make the colour too green which we did not want.  He smudged a small amount on to a card and blew it dry with a hair dryer, talked to himself about it needing more red. Added four drops, worried about what that might do, knew it wouldn't be enough, added two more. He played with it for more than 30 minutes until he was satisfied. I was entranced.  I had never seen someone mix paint in a hardware store with so much care and experience before.

Next, I had to get the contacts fitted, as my glasses unexpectedly broke and I was in a bad way. Again, I had no expectations.  Just give me the little discs and I'll pop them in my eye, thank you very much.  Instead, I was greeted by a woman possessed by quiet elegance who took her time to carefully listen to my past experiences with contacts, examined them, made some simple suggestions that I had never heard before which completely changed how I used the things.  I had the feeling of being cared for. Of being really heard, that, of course, is rare in a lot of customer service interactions.

I walked away from both having experienced not only good customer service, but also having witnessed people doing a job very well. Both are jobs that are completely underestimated, some might even say ignored. Observing a person with years of perfecting and honing in on a craft, no matter what it is, is mesmerizing and a reminder that no matter what you do, do not doubt the art of it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Everyone is a suspect.

Readjusting to a new school year takes a lot out of a kid and a parent.
New teacher(s), a new configuration of students, new friends, old friends who become more distant, old classmates who become deputized as potential friends.

It is a little jarring having to grasp a whole new slew of subtleties that your mind had learned to gloss over by the end of June a few short months before.

To rest in between days at school, my children are turning to us more than usual for comfort in the form of being read to, which can fall by the wayside when they are feeling more sure of things.
They also like to watch a show with one of us.  Dog tired, getting back into the routine, I am less tolerant of their choices and I have been inflicting my own, especially on my daughter.

We've started watching Midsomer Murders, a classic British "whodunit", on Netflix.
Other than a ghastly murder near the beginning the rest of the shows are a relatively monotonous enterprise of eliminating suspects one by one.  For a pastoral place, people sure get murdered a lot.
The detective, and the audience, observe each character for clues for motive.  We talk through out the show about our theories. We intently watch and ruminate over the behaviour of the twitchy shopkeeper who keeps looking over his shoulder, the weepy widow, the antique dealer who looks sinister when she is dusting the teacups, and the custodian of the cemetery who sweeps a little too efficiently.

Maybe she killed the butler, or maybe she's really angry and grumpy for another reason, maybe she is really kind and fun-loving or maybe she's really got a nasty temper.

As my daughter navigates a new terrain at school and finds her footing, watching "whodunits" with her mother is practically homework.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


The past few weeks, if we were stuck waiting for something we took to counting up to ten 1 or 2 numbers at a time. Whoever gets to 10 first "loses" and then we start over.We try different combinations to avoid getting to 10 first.

This morning, all dressed up and equipped to start a new school year, the kids held back a bit with me as they got their bearings. As we waited for the doors to open, and the chaos swirled around us, my daughter started another round.


And then their names were called and we dispersed. We'll play again another day soon.

Saturday, 30 August 2014


I woke up remembering a dream of a place I knew well. A place that I thought I knew.  I inspected the empty parts of it that I hadn't noticed before.

Those empty parts became what I knew of those places.

I woke up on garbage day, ready to empty out the rooms I thought I knew.

I was urged to molt, I guess.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Back to the school lunch grind.

Making lunches in the summer is my therapy to help me recover from making school lunches.
May I carry the spirit of food trucks, watermelon wedges, charred hot dogs crystalized by roasted marshmallow, and peas right from the pod into school lunch making mode.

Monday, 25 August 2014

I am here.

As the waves lick the back of our necks, we let ourselves, just for a moment, be suspended in a big briny cradle.  You and I are pulled down and popped back up by the sea and I marvel at your tricks, at my buoyancy.

"Look Mama, that wave pushed me right over."
"I saw that."
"Watch out, here's a big one."
"Oh no, that wasn't a big one, here comes another one."

As the waves lap around our heads, I silently plead with you, "I am here.  I am right here.  I am paying attention. Please forgive me for all the future times I'll be distracted. I am right here."