Saturday, 3 October 2015

Digging Wind

I heard the wind all night and can see it now, bluff dust blowing in through the screened porch.

I rather like the wind's random effects--the kind of thing someone will come along and clean up.

A glance down at the waves is enough of a reminder that this place is a moment in time--a wind garden, not a static museum.

And look, somebody threw a bouquet.

Angel and friends happy, as usual.

It's a good time up in the wind today. That's what I love about this place: having time.

Here we are, here we go. When we're gone, who will know.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

What I Know About the Canada Goose

I'll try to restrict my remarks to what I have observed about one goose, Angel (pronounced like the Spanish, an-hell), who for convenience I will assume is male.
Angel, who loves apples, will pull one from a tree if he can. Given a bill not designed to eat an apple, Angel will apply his neck to approaching the fruit from every angle, often resulting in a comical sequence of nudging pursuit of the apple around the lawn.
Rain or shine doesn't make much difference to Angel, who practices the same range of behaviours in either case.
Angel remains wary of me. Good.
Angel is a strong walker and runner if need be.
Angel's webbed feet provide poor traction on the concrete lip of a pond. Often he has to fly out of the water.
Angel standing with neck extended straight up signals he's about to take off. Eight or so flapping steps, neck extended straight ahead he's airborne, feet dangling for a few beats before he tucks them in. If necessary, Angel can leap into flight in an instant.
A hawk or owl passing overhead will make Angel and his mates scatter in a hurry. If they can, they'll head for water.
Angel likes to chase and be chased in brief episodes of territorial or mood imperative accompanied by fearsome open-billed hissing. Lasting only a few steps, the chase sometimes results in the chasee taking flight. This behaviour will spook a deer if one's around.
Angel on one leg--the other extended straight back, web up--can still preen, look around, tear at grass, air out his wings.
Angel is a powerful preener who can reach even the anterior base of his own neck with his bill. Sometimes he'll look up mid-preen with a feather caught on the serrated edge of his bill. He might walk around that way.
The horizontal range of motion of Angel's tailfeathers is about thirty degrees from centre. Landing from flight or emerging from water both call for a burst of tailfeather shake.
Angel goes somewhere else at night. By sundown, he's gone.
Angel's a powerful shitter, turds the size of my fingers. Pity the grey squirrel (Pepe, pronounced peep), who must find a patch of ground to dig a hole and bury food.
Even when Angel is just airing out his wings at the edge of the pond, or while swimming, they generate a mighty whump-whump-whump.
A goose can limp. Not Angel but some other goose. The limp costs him his ability to chase. He's smaller.
Angel landing needs a few quick steps to come to a stop. In water, he'll just flex his feet and splashdown. Capable of last-second adjustments in descent, Angel can swing under a low branch, and straighten up, almost hover, before the splash.
Head-pumping is Angel's way of saying I might have to get aggressive. 
Angel will mutter when approached.
Angel's a creature of great power, from the eyes on down.

Monday, 28 September 2015

On Lawn

The Doris McCarthy Artist-in Residence (DMAiR) program--in which I'm happy to be the current a-i-r, (let's just say current air)--will be holding a reception out here on Wednesday to celebrate RBC sponsorship of the program starting next year. They asked me nicely if I'd mind giving up a day of what the DMAiR website calls "quiet, isolated and picturesque" living. Not all, I said, meaning it.
So today some site preparation went on--a cut and trim of the grass, which had just been done on Friday. Just as noisy this time, they went further--gathering the leaf and apple falls.
I understand the need to intervene in natural forces. As I've already noted earlier in this blog, the erosion of the spectacular bluffs, which created the attraction to live here, going back two hundred years but escalating in the last fifty, can be measured now in grains of sandstone rather than metres of prime real estate. This is thanks to an expensive and creative breakwater installation along the lakeshore 60 metres below.
However, what we do not need is to cover up the fact that leaves and apples fall here in autumn. We do not need to prettify the lawn or pretend that geese don't shit here. Imagine, me standing up for the geese--which have not yet returned, by the way, in the forty-five minutes since the truck pulled away. Nor have the grey squirrels or the butterflies or the deer pulling red apples off the tree early this morning, to name just a few of the obvious residents punished, as it seems, by such wasteful intervention.
We humans love the place for the way it is; we hide the way it is so visitors on Wednesday will love it more. This seems to me a shockingly unimaginative and insensitive approach to the ongoing stewardship of this resource. Very much NOT in keeping with the spirit of Doris McCarthy herself, in my opinion. She would embrace, not dandify, what nature gave her.
I feel like shaking down the apples and greasing the geese.

Effects of That Recent Giant Moon

took the catcher left the mitt
took the goose left the shit
took the diner left café
took the Blue left the Jay

took arthritis left the knees
took the mac left the cheese
took the subway left the time
took the metre left the rhyme

took the wheel left the turn
took the matches left the burn
took the window left the sash
took the hyphen left the dash

took the daughters left the son
took a chance on the 401
took the left ear left the right
took the sunshine left the bright

took the peeping left the Tom
took the 50s left the bomb
took the butter left the bread
took the haircut left the head

took the shoes left the socks
took the cable left the box
took the coffee left the tea
took page seven left page three

took the hawk left the scatter
took the what’s but left the matter
took the bone left the skull
took Martin Amis left Martin Mull

took the fountain left the spray
took tomorrow left today
took the flight left the path
took the morning left the bath

took the flower left the seed
took the yearning left the need
took the muscle left the heart
took arrival left depart

took the signal left the sign
took the body left the spine
took beginning left the end
took the now left the then

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Dog Hero

For his tour around the USA in 1960
John Steinbeck had a camper van built
to his specifications, one of which was his mutt
Charley. The result was Travels With Charley
in which Steinbeck tells of a plastic bucket
with snug-fitting lid. Every night he adds water,
detergent, and the day’s laundry (including
whatever rag Charley has going). Tomorrow’s leg

will supply agitation. Where he stops
at night he can rinse and hang the laundry
and prime the bucket for the next cycle.
Charley understands this, an act he delivers
as casual worship at his master’s feet.
Charley is said (here) to have written
half the book, at least half, while Mr. Steinbeck

drove and made coffee (the part that earned awards--
all Charley) and filled his day as writers do
with tea, sleep and daydream. Counter-clockwise
from New York was Charley’s idea
as was the deep south to end
now let’s get home. Every time
Charley sees a camper van he gulps
and climbs in, all a dog can do.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Sign Song

I was happy enough with the old one. Just the right mix of terror and lure, I thought.

A bluff is not a cliff, however. When the lip collapses--collipses, as we say around here--I would tumble into a heap of sand and clay. I could easily conk my head on a rock or break a leg or find myself buried, but that's not the same as a plummet ninety metres straight down.

This morning, along they came with a new sign.

It's still (not) a cliff, as you see. And I appear to have taken a run and leapt, reaching back at the last minute to consider . . .
where's the colon? Is Warning Cliff Edge what's Unstable? Who's Cliff Edge anyway? Has he always been unstable? Is is enough verb for a time-sensitive context like this?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Wave Piece

A proper commitment to waves would be to sit with them for a thousand years, saying nothing. Most of us couldn't help putting language over them, though, as if the best we can do at a high moment is speak of it.
I was busy at that earlier, imagining a man (a musician with a Three Dog Night haircut--this was 1974) who with $5,000 from his novelty record ("Getting Sedimental Over You") built a cottage on the Scarborough bluffs, knowing bluff-all about how to do it, as he admitted when he came back from tour and found half the cottage tipped to bits and the other half declared UNSTABLE by the City of Toronto.
But he'd been warned, I went on to imagine. He'd sat down by the waves one time and claimed he wanted to "breathe like them and heave like them" and "surrender his body" like they do. He saw how they roughed up whatever they could get to but insisted he'd like to "set you in a safe place and scare you" as they do.
Well, good luck to me with the rest of it. For now, this side of a thousand years, here's thirty-nine seconds of lake Ontario:

[couldn't upload my mpeg--think breathing and heaving]