Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Pond that is Lake Wascana

It will freeze your hands in November. Geese know it's cold but don't care. This is when they know they're smarter than trees which stand there pleading.  

The flockherd drifts in diagrams of a thousand, heads and bodies visible in the crossing to Willow Island. Patches of goosing are absorbed.

Throw in the ducks and west wind and a distant sun--you've got yesterday. In a running shirt, wool sweater, high-tech jacket and gloves, I still wished I was home washing dishes. Can longjohns be far behind? I tell you, I wished my behind had another layer out there on the trail. 

With passers-by I exchanged greetings that said Yup, buckle up for winter. It hurt to write a word. Turning a page was like raising a sail in a storm. Yet there was sunlight, as much as could be, bright as reflection, if cold. Blowing on the hands brought relief, as did a spell on an east-side lagoon which the wind hadn't found.

It's goose who says these things.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


I'm pretty good at leaving a place when the moment of departure has arrived. I'll be all business when I pull away from Fool's Paradise tomorrow morning. I doubt if I'll even glance over at Angel, who'll be napping anyway.
It's the day before that's tough--that sense that I will never pass this way again, a vital period of my life has passed, I'm losing something forever, and so on. Sappy, I know. 
The fine weather has been holding on beautifully here and for the four-day run back to Sask ahead.

I completed only a translation and a half of the Marceneiro fado but will continue at home. My dog writing, called Half-way from Doug to Dug, totals about 70 pages--80% of that from the drive to Toronto and work here, five drafts worth--and I did produce three YouTube videos (see links from this blog) and numerous blog entries and photographs. Also helped take care of the final proofs for A Round for Fifty Years: A History of Regina's Globe Theatre which is coming out from Coteau next month.
None of that much matters, really. It's the ongoing contemplation that feels more powerful, the having of time, as it were.
I'll miss this view from where I'm sitting right now.

And by the way, you dedicated readers of this blog--a sweet morning to you, uncle Frank and aunt Mahovlich--will want to know how my boots made out. We last saw them here.
In preparing an update, I had a moment with Facebook. After a few hours of uploading my boot story set to "O Pagem" by Alfredo Marceneiro, I got a message from FB saying first "your video is ready for posting," then one a few seconds later saying, in effect, "we can't publish your video until you confirm you have the rights to the material." FB  was right on this one. I had to re-do the thing with some public domain music. 
See the link to see the boot story. 
Over and out from Fool's Paradise. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Remarks for Tonight's Reading

In introducing my Hillsdale Book, I'll speak of "characters" and "place," and "language" with which they interact--which creates them, in fact.
Of course, all of these terms are subject to complication. The place, an urban suburb, figures in narratives of geology (land as covered with two miles of ice, then a post-glacial lake), history (land as buffalo habitat and corresponding First Nations), sociology (land as urban planning, the post-war western suburb). The characters carry their inner landscapes--their arrays of experience, anxiety, desire, dreams, etc. Any act of language attempting to represent such processes must be multiple--polyphonic, open-formed, narrative or lyric or documentary, textual or visual. And it must play, or the place and characters will sink into their own essences. It must be as light on its feet as possible, trusting that any truth of any matter will be assembled as/from the language moves.
So one character, a boy moving to the brand new suburb with his parents, will speak his perspective. A traveller, visiting every street in Hillsdale as he might the countries of western Europe, responds to his own past and to contemporary perceptions. A woman named Flo speaks from her experience of moving to Hillsdale when it was new and living there still. Subject, all of this, to fooling around.
The elephant in this room is the passage of time, which the boy, the traveller, Flo and the others implicitly express, as life does, needless to say. 
All of that's a little long. And I will have had a beer or two with Dan ahead of time. So I'll probably just say "This thing called "Hillsdale"--no relation to my own name, by the way--is made from characters, place, language. You can put your own Hillsdale together right here, tonight from the bits I'm about to read you."
And away we go.
After that: some pieces of dog (a character) on the Scarborough bluffs . . .

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Dressing Up as a Goose

It's taking a while to come together . . . a pair of spatulas sprayed black for my feet (but how to attach them?), some grey and brown blanket scraps for my back, a white-tipped paper fan fixed to my rear end. I've trimmed a yogurt container to fit as the white chinstrap.
I don't know what to do about the neck. The neck has to be convincing when I board that streetcar (which is what people like to do in their costumes, judging by the trip up Bathurst on 511 last night). I can sell "goose" with the right neck, but if I don't get it right I'll look like a mere grouse or mud dove. As of 11.10 am, I'm tinkering with flex tubing, chimney fragments, and that vacuum hose from the Kenmore 835. I've rigged up a toy alligator for the bill--that was easy.
For the sonic component of my costume, one of those squeeze horns maybe. I might sample some avant-garde tenor sax. 
Then there's the question of where on the goose/ghoul/ghost continuum I should settle. Should I run at people with my red tongue (a broken knife handle) bared? Should I stand still? Stick my bill under my feathers?
I don't want to spend all day on this, however. Maybe I'll settle for acting like a goose, starting from the inside somehow. Perhaps tell stories of where I go at night, where I come from, why I need your apple when I could easily find my own, how I know when to take off, and the like.
I suppose I should build some turds into my presentation, but come on now.
Ok, 12:08, I'm done:

And the rear view:

What do you think?

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

More About Angel

Water off a duck's back, we say, finding duck's more mouth-friendly than geese's, I suppose. But have a look, in this rainstorm said to be with us all day, at the perfect balls of water sliding from Angel's back.

Let us consider further goose words which, in Doris McCarthy's old Webster's, follow all the good words (offering a chance to play--as in goose-tempered, Goose Samaritan, and that hit tv series The Goose Wife--but not right now).
My question is, what in Angel's behaviour or nature deserves these words:
Goose egg. I can't speak to this one in late October.
Goose as verb. This is common, the sudden chase to the backside. Angel is prone to spells of it. But at other times, such as right now with the rain pouring down, his range of behaviours seems to narrow. No goosing.
Silly goose. A value judgement! Angel and company squawk and fuss at times, but who doesn't. 
Goose-neck. A glorious yes to this one. This morning, before the really heavy rains came, Angel at the edge of the pond used his neck as a ladle to throw water over his back for a morning wash, just benefit #55 of this fabulous body part. (Perhaps, dear reader, you'd like to view my video . . .). If there is one legendary goose-- king/queen of all geese, that no one has seen but that everyone fears or suspects is out there, perhaps residing in its watery lair in the greatest of the great lakes--by the neck will the legend endure.
Goosebumps. For sure.
Gooseherd. One who tends geese. This is a new new one on me, but I'll take it. I've had no choice but to watch them. Certainly I've heard them.
Goose step. If we're talking Nazi march, that looks nothing like anything a goose does, except maybe the crudest possible waddle. If this expression derives somehow from uniformity of group behaviour, it would be the way Angel and his family pod of seven or eight circulate casually together about the yard. They'll all be eating apples, they'll all be preening at the edge of the pond, they'll all be ripping at the grass, and so on. They straggle in unison.
Goosey. Foolish or stupid, according to DM's Webster's. Easily upset by a prod to the backside. This is common, as mentioned. But what goes with the quick upset is the quick recovery. Two seconds after the goosing, both gooser and goosee resume whatever they were doing as if the thing had never happened. Sometimes, however, one or both will have to take flight, or the gooser will do it a second time.
At this point, Doris McCarthy's Webster's moves on to gopher . . .

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

In Praise of In the Skin of a Lion

If I was going to paint a house with my favourite colours, I'd need a wall for Michael Ondaatje's fab novel which I read dozens of times during my (unfinished) grad studies.

If you're read it, you'll remember scenes set here, the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in east Toronto.

Digression #1: Doris McCarthy's father--he's the one with whom Doris, when still a girl, walked the shore of lake Ontario beneath the Scarborough bluffs and said Some day I'll build a house up there (the house I'm working in these last few weeks)--her father, as I was saying, was a civil engineer who worked in Harris' department. 

Digression #2: Ondaatje's novel teaches us how to read and write a novel like that. The narrator of Skin tells us Trust me. There is order here--very faint, very human (I paraphrase). This idea has always felt important.

Monday, 26 October 2015

A Translation of Fado by Alredo Mareneiro

The day I arrived at an apartment I'd booked for my last month in Lisbon last year, the landlord pointed out a cd by Alfredo Marceneiro, one of the great Portuguese fadistas, or fado singers. This is the real fado, the landlord was saying, not the tourist stuff. Over the next month I wore out the cd. Here was music that delivered that sense of longing I loved about Portugal.

Lately I've been working on translations of fado lyrics. First, O Pagem.

When I say translation, I mean free translation, a blend derived from the sounds and rhythms of the piece, a few words of Portuguese in English, and a strand or two of imagination. In this case, I've played it straight, remaining true to the heart of fado (as I understand it) while shifting the setting from Lisbon harbour to the Scarborough bluffs.

Here it is, a piece I call "The Danger":

In the story to remember
Lovers whisper at the shore
Tender words they give each other
In the summer light so warm

Leaning in to every beauty
As if nothing wears away
For a thousand years believing
All that they love will never fail

Thus the making of this story
The unmaking of this scene
So gently do their bodies
Surrender to their dream

They’re immune to any warning 
They see nothing in their way
Down the trail they coax each other, every step another
To their final private room 


If you see two lovers tell them
Of a danger sweet and true, so sweet and true
Always an end

Nothing else for time to do.