Wednesday, February 25, 2015

abattoir [ab-uh-twahr]

I once decided that though I possess no evidence or testimony which is guaranteed to be truthful - or at least genuinely representative of the norm, it is fairly evident that cows, pigs, fowl, and likely other creatures, are being subjected to unnecessary degrees of suffering in the pursuit to sate the appetite of humans. I decided that it is not useful to me; not wise or responsible or in accordance with poetic principles, to forgive my own carnivorous habit without gaining first-hand experience with the matter. In other words, if I must kill by proxy, let me know the nature of this blood on my hands.

I decided I needed to find my way, somehow, into a meat-packing plant and upon witnessing the phenomenon of life becoming meat, decide what habit I should or could embrace thereafter. I decided this some years ago and still have done nothing to act on it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

New Day Rising: The Mandate


To champion the evolution of harmony in the universe through action, awareness, education, personal example, the creation of new - or support of existing - harmonic organizations, and/or through opposition to entities which promote disharmony. These activities shall be prioritized according to greater capacity for leverage and effectiveness.

Next step: goals.

Friday, February 20, 2015


I was either sixteen or seventeen when I dreamed of my biological paternal grandparents whom I had not seen since I was a young child. Days later I journeyed by bicycle to Stoney Creek and triggered a strange and joyful sequence of familial reunions.

Uncle Dave, just ten years my senior, had married a woman with two kids from a former, troubled, relationship. Terri was my age and Steven, just a year younger I think. While everyone in the extended family treated me with tremendous kindness, almost made a celebrity of me, it was Dave’s immediate family that I forged the strongest connection with, probably for the obvious reason that they were more in touch with teen culture. The other cousins were all younger.

Terri, Steven and I became instant friends. I slept over with them on more than one occasion. I attended my first rock concert with them. I even deep-kissed a girl for the first time in their presence; an event that no doubt bolstered my reputation, misguidedly so, in the eyes of Steven who was a prodigious stud at fifteen. They were wildly gregarious, more so than any of my current high school friends, and they treated my shyness with a good-natured, almost naive respect. “Mellow,” they called me, and, “laid back.” They seemed as pleasantly intrigued with my differentness as I was with theirs. They introduced me to new crowds and new behaviors and in hindsight I can see that my own process of emerging from shyness; one component of a dual coming-out, took root in this friendship.

Terri, in particular, was guileless and cheerful in her manner and would probe without reservation into whatever subject suddenly interested her. It is much to her credit that I felt so comfortable around her, despite my normal reticence, that I was happy to engage in any of her questions about my life, experiences or opinions.

This friendship did not thrive for a long time though. Seventeen is a volatile age and we three were headed in very different directions; Terry to early motherhood and myself toward an alternative lifestyle – so they called it. Steven was so friendly and so generous in his own way, that all the stories of his juvenile delinquency seemed a joke to me. Surely he was done with all that. But I was naive at the time. I hadn't yet realized that criminality was far from the absurdities portrayed by Death Wish flicks and the like. I didn't realize that our struggle to thrive within the umbrella of the law, with all of its shadows and secrets and compromised ethics, is not so different from the alternative; the struggle to thrive outside of the law, under a different set of codes. So it was a shock to me when my new cousin, immediately dear to me, vanished into that world; a world I have only come to begin to understand three years ago, upon employment with Corrections Canada and subsequent volunteer work with troubled men.

Terri and I crossed paths infrequently over the last 27 years and her cheerfulness was a delight each time. We always mouthed intentions to get together some time but we never did. It was always something that sounded great but was never a priority; like so many other great things in life that are easy to put off for the sake of more critical affairs. What a mistake, I realize.

I was deep into the Liberal Theologian’s struggle with breast cancer and the more dire emergent cancer, when I learned that Terri was in the same boat; breast cancer running from bad to worse.
One week after L.T.’s passing I forced myself to attend the funeral, and was glad I did, and then I set my thoughts on Terri. I needed to visit her. I needed to talk to her about our old teen friendship and how awesome it was for me and what it meant to me. Yes, just as soon as I get a little time off from work.

But of course she couldn't wait that long. My opportunity to inject a few joyful moments into her deeply difficult experience has expired.

My dear Aunt Karen, and to some near degree if not the same, my Uncle Dave, have had their second of two children slip through their fingers in one way or another. This is crushing to me emotionally. It is an unbearable contemplation; parents losing children. At L.T.’s funeral I did not face her parents. I knew there was no way I could do that without falling apart in front of them and I knew they wouldn't want to witness that.

But I have wanted very much to see my uncle and aunt for a long time now. I haven’t seen them really, since Biodad’s funeral, another blunder of mine; another total absence from a person’s final stage of life.

For the same reason as L.T.’s parents, I dread facing my uncle and aunt, but more so: I want to see them. I don’t want to lose them from my life. So I will try to see them and I will try to be strong as a rock.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wake Owl

I'm pretty pumped about this band. If you haven't heard of them yet, you're in for a treat. Their 2013 debut EP, Wild Country is just dynamite; every track a delight. Their recent album, The Private World of Paradise is nearly as compelling. Here's the fourth track, Vacation, which is too good a song not to have a video on youtube, so I put one together myself. Hope you like it:

If you dig that, check out the second track, Candy. It's even better.

Still with me? Now you're ready for the EP: Wild Country

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

abatis [ab-uh-tee]

What follows is a week of entries from the guest log of a cottage that my friends and I rented. It seems pretty normal at first:

Saturday August 11

Wow! What a beautiful cottage and a beautiful lake! We love the Paper Birch trees. It’s so nice and quiet here! We heard loons calling from far away. The windmill and the water cooler make a subtle symphony of strange noises!

Sunday August 12

We swam and played games all day – all four of us. Some chipmunks came by. Heard the loud call of a heron as he soared low across the shoreline. Beautiful! The setting sun makes the lake look like wine!

Monday August 13

Had breakfast in town. Bought a big bag of peanuts and fed the chipmunks all day. A moose came by! He seemed to check us out for a bit and then wandered away.

Wow! What a storm! Magnificent! The lightening on the water plays tricks with your eyes. Looks like faces emerging from the lake!

Tuesday August 14

There’s some trees down from the storm. A few have fallen across the lane way. There are strange footprints all over the beach. I think Stevie is playing a joke on us. Belinda and I played Scrabble. Amber and Stevie played a game called Trouble. The chipmunks did not come today.

Wednesday August 15

Worked on the lane way most of the day. At this point there are quite a few trees blocking it. Came face to face with a bear. It was huge. We stared at each other a long time before it ran away from me. It’s so very quiet. The setting sun makes the lake look like blood.

Thursday August 16

There’s a big puddle in the kids room. It rained heavily all night – which softened the ground. Made it easier to dig the holes. Ideally they should have been deeper but there’s so much work to do. So many trees to chop down for the driveway. All work and no play makes Brian a dull boy.

Friday August 17

Filled in the three holes. It’s so quiet. Even the windmill and the water cooler are silent. Played solitaire. Won 66 times. Lost 600 times. There are puddles all over now. They look like wine.

Okay. I confess: I wrote all these entries in the log the first day we arrived, before we fell in love with the place and knew we'd want to come back every year. Luckily the owners weren't offended! 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

abate [uh-beyt]

So much suffering has dissipated since my withdrawal to the loft. I say my days in the loft because someone I respect immensely once warned me that poetic pursuit sounds pretentious. Oh well. Pretentiousness is everywhere. Humans are wired for it in spades. My own has become a rare pretentiousness. I consistently allow people to believe I'm duller than I am; daily declining to offer crucial insights except where I predict it might be heeded.

Embarrassment, guilt, insecurity, jealousy, sorrow, confusion, hate, rage, indignation, confusion, anticipation, disappointment, shock, suspicion, hate and rage, to name a few breeds of suffering. And lonesomeness of a pedestrian sort. All of this has diminished to some great degree or another.

What has grown in me instead in such joyfully unanticipated abundance: Freedom, peace, understanding, patience, tolerance, clarity, insight, forgiveness, empathy, love. And a lonesomeness of a different sort. I can't seem to find anyone who views both the universe and the human being in fundamentally the same light as I. Sometimes I think Neo sort of understands my perspectives in general, while sometimes I doubt that I have made enough material available to him; or that he has absorbed enough of it, or that his own perspectives allow him enough trust in them. It is not his priority to be another me. But I dearly wish that he would experience (or continue to experience) as similar a migration as possible. I wish this for everyone. It's just that I'm accustomed to thinking of him as the most likely candidate of anyone I've met.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Waiting... waiting...

This will sound phony; cliché, but it’s true. I sit there session after session watching and hearing her long laboured breaths and thinking each one is the last. There is a static pause between them. Is that it? Is it over? Every time… No. One more… And now? Now is it over…?

Suddenly I find myself rising from the chair and hear myself uttering “I can’t do this” and I’m walking down the hallway purposelessly, having no conscious will to do or say what I did, but animating like a puppet. Pure instinct perhaps. I realize that I am driving myself completely crazy.

She is asleep or semi-conscious all the time now and her only infrequent whispers are to assert her will to die, or else to answer “No [I’m not in pain].” I must confess admiration. I never imagined she had the strength to face the end this way. But what do I know?

The doctor has warned that she could go on this way a long time. Even without eating or drinking, the accumulated fluid in her bloated limbs could supply her body for weeks. I’m aghast at the morbidity of it.

And so it lasts all day and into the evening. Visitors accumulate. I beg off to grab a few hours of sleep. I will come back and take the night shift, perhaps alone again with this silent new friend who does not resemble the Liberal Theologian.

At 1 AM I awake and prepare to return. I check the phone and see I've missed a recent call from Monica.

Relief and dread. I call her back and receive the news. It’s all over.

It’s all over.

So I go back to bed and lay awake until dawn.

It’s a bit of a marvel, looking back on it. I was so preoccupied for so long with my concerns about the issues and concern for LT and concern for The Daughter. And never once during her living cancer experience did I spare a moment’s thought for the hole that would be left in my own life. All the great talks we've had. All the helpful psychological views she shared as I pored over the sufferings of my friends and loved ones and the wards of my charitable work. I will miss all that generous input and advice and the brave transparency we made of our lives to each other.

Trust. We had magnificent trust in one another. Not perfect, of course, for that is only possible for two people who have entirely escaped the matrix of illusions, but... magnificent.

Strange I never once, until now, thought about her coming absence and all the best things about her and all I would miss.  I think she once accused me of being in denial that she was dying. She may have been right. Perhaps I still am.