No said Ron looking anxiously at Harry again Ginny was shaking like mad though
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Our film premiers tonight at Cinefest International Film Festival, and while both John and I are pleased to see the process through, we understand that it's a small part of something bigger. What we are happiest for, though, is to see Jim and his family, and my family, and the friends, and the brothers and sisters, and the kids all come out to support our project. THAT makes it worthwhile.
Jim kicked ass in his role as our black sheep runner, the fella who knows what's what, despite circumstances that might make him shallow. You get flack for having integrity nowadays, as if it makes you weak for showing strength of character. Kindness, compassion, and consideration are what make us human. Fuck being too cool for school. No one does that anymore. No one who matters, anyway.
So come out and see us tonight at 3:30. And if you can't make it tonight, we're competing Saturday for CTV's Best in Shorts at 12:30. And if you really love us, like us on the Cinefest website, so we have a chance to win the Audience Choice Award for Short Films.
That's how long it's been since I've dropped in on my blog. Who knows how long it would have taken me to return ashore--if it wasn't for Ms. Alexie's kind note of "come back we miss you" I may have been caught up for another month or more. So this one's for her: a Romeo and Juliet cut out, cause I know she likes stuff like this.
I've lately been writing lectures and reading mountains of books for a literature class I'm teaching. I adore it--the work is unrelentless, but the content is so utterly engaging and the kids love it. I mean, they're in class early and have read *everything* I've posted. And then some. They dictate this workflow. And so I read some more. And know less. And then read some more. And then I know a little more. And then, less. On it goes. It never seems like enough. But John Keats said the perfect state of the psyche was a negtive capability: our ability “of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”
But during all this reading and planning, I come across the sweetest things. Things that bring me back to earth and allow me to feel that ripple of temporality. You know that one? The one that nudges you to "be alive."
There was this, from Edward Hirch's How to Read a Poem:
I believe such stored magic can author in the reader an equivalent capacity for creative wonder, creative response to a living entity. The reader completes the poem, in the process bringing to it his or her own past experiences. You are reading poetry — I mean really reading it—when you feel encountered and changed by a poem, when you feel its seismic vibrations, the sounding of your depths. ‘There is no place that does not see you,’ Rainer Maria Rilke writes at the earth-shattering conclusion of his poem ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’: ‘You must change your life.'
Didn't Roald say it best? It's true that the people I most want to be around are generally productive and happy. They get things done, you know? They contribute.
Yesterday we went on the most brilliant--BRILLIANT--music tour this city has ever offered. EVER.
This event, held in places that, despite my sometimes onerous classification as a child of this city, I've never seen or considered as worthwhile space at all. Largely ignored, these spaces offered a venue to a variety of musicians and poets while the spectators climbed through brush to find a seat on the welcoming back of the Canadian Shield. This event was inspired. It reintroduced the city to its inhabitants. Strange Attractor, meet the Kingsway.
Jeff told us a story about buying condoms for a friend whose house stood on the very spot they were playing.Everyone cheered and hollered. Outside of this event, when could that story have surfaced with as much contextual relevance? It brought to mind a house of significant memory that burned down not too long ago. Let's say, I was the happier for its passing, because what's left is potential. New spaces are intorduced all the time, with new opportunities for definition.
That's what good art does: it reintroduces the familiar as strange or vice versa. It allows for new discourse.
And if we're not telling stories, then what are we doing, really? Thanks to David Wiewel for the photographs.
Man alive, there's nothing I love more than spending time at camp. I try to get up more than once a year, to feel time slip away. At Sugar, we measure time in segments of activity: a block spent eating might lead to a block spent swimming, might lead to a block spent napping, might lead to a block on the ATV. Wondering if it's cocktail hour is only ever done facetiously. The hour is always nigh, according to an ol' timers' proverb. It was Bus's first time up at camp, which was very exciting for everyone. Harrison had spent the previous week there with the grandparents, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his BFF, with a warm welcome and a frog net at the ready.Immediately,they went out in search of creatures:
The wood pile at the sauna houses many grass snakes and toads.and the wet rocks at the outdoor shower are good for concealing tree frogs and the odd salamander.First thing Bus did was step back and take a good look over the lake. With his Davey Crockett hat propped on his head and a long reed of grass dangling between his teeth, he proclaimed the camp as having the biggest backyard he'd ever seen.
The kids spent most of their time down at the beach searching out frogs and crayfish, and then building them hotels. First frog to be found? Had one eye. The preceeding ones were fine, however, upon close inspection.
After hours of swimming and inspecting, they were moved by the setting sun to engage in a classic game of war.Since it was also Matt's first vist, we did typically Canadian Cottage-y activities: we fell asleep in utter blackness and heard only the loons on the lake; we looked out over the same glass-like lake in the early morning and watched the breeze pick up; we read back copies of Canadian Living and Cottage Life which had the soporific effect of a large glass of rye and ginger, which we got into once we awoke from our slumbers. These we sipped on the house boat, before jumping in to swim a stretch (when really what you're doing is peeing and eveyone knows it by your far away eyes, but says nothing, out of camp etiquette.)
Who knew it could be so easy to domesticate an animal. All it takes is a consistent supply of food and a reasonable amount of trust. After Robin Rood flew onto the back of our cat, I knew his days would be numbered if we didn’t reintegrate him into the wild. And in all honesty, I was looking forward to a renewed worm population in my garden and later mornings lolling in bed; show me a songbird that doesn’t wake up before 6 am and I’ll buy you lunch.
The morning after Bus left for Toronto, I awoke to loud chirping. It was 5 am, Sunday, and there was a bird sitting on my head. (I recall now how my mother felt, 35 years earlier, when my diapered brother, with his mouthful of blackened apple juice teeth, would yell from the top if the stairs at the baby gate: “Juice!” and hurl the glass bottle passionately towards the floor, smashing it.)
Approaching 8am, I still hadn’t found ample food for Robin. His cries, piercing my heart, moved me to desperation. I called the Wild at Heart Animal Refuge in Walden and plead my case. “Where is he now?” they inquired. “Atop my head,” was my solemn reply. They urged me to bring him out at once.
Volunteer Kayla Guse, appropriately pronounced “Goose”, met us at the entrance and commented on Robin Wood’s friendly chirrup. You have no idea, I thought. She assigned Robin a case number and promised to reintroduce him to bird life by first bunking him up with a younger Robin. “We don’t hand feed, since we want them to be able to scavenge for food on their own.” They promised that, despite being caged, they would offer “cage enrichments” such as branches with buds and leaves and live insects to poke at. “Our goal is to have them not associate humans with food,” said Kayla, who seemed amused by my anxious maternal ways. Can you ever really undomesticated an animal? What I’m really asking, I guess, is would Robin Wood ever return to our big blue spruce and raise up a family? Would he remember us and the time we spent by the Azalea, turning over stones and digging through carefully placed mulch? I imagined he wouldn’t, but we would. It’s been a week or more since we dropped Robin off at the refuge. I thought I should call in and check on his progress:
“Ahh, the friendly one!”
“We made him that way,” I wanted to shout,“He’s just like his mother!”
Instead I said, “His name is Robin Wood.” Kayla informed me his name had been changed to "Whiskers."
“Whatever for?” I asked, bemused.
“He still hasn’t lost the downy tufts above his eyes. They look like whiskers,” Kayla explained.
Yes, the tufts. The same white tufts that almost got him named “Donald Sutherland.” I knew them well.
“He’s really super friendly,” Kayla repeated.
There’s a cost to being that friendly; his friendliness has bought him an extra two weeks in the can. They promised to call so we can attend his release, towards the end of August. Would champagne be acceptable, I wonder?
The Tale of Robin Wood takes a surprising turn as the young fledgling develops a strong sense of self and some decently splayed tail feathers. It’s been a whole week, and this bird ain’t shy for nothin’. His parents have given him up to our care; he is clearly thriving on the fat dew worms we buy from the bait store on the Kingsway. For the 34 years I have lived in this city, I have never once stepped foot in this store. I always thought, “how curious to have a bait store on such a busy corner.” Now the proprietor and I share laughs and hunting stories; he asks after the bird, and I after the flashy rubber boots he has for sale. Robin Wood is bringing people together. With five of us under one roof (not counting the cat, who’s been practically shunned since the bird arrived and the bird himself), it suddenly dawns on me that I am surrounded irrevocably, by the male species--men, boys, cat and birds. We all share the role of “father” to Robin Wood. He tilts his feathered head to each of us as we approach to check on the cleanliness of his nest or to offer him a ground beetle. The words “hey Bird” are music to his ears, and he responds in kind with a friendly chirrup. Robin’s claim to us is growing stronger by the hour, and we feel equally committed to him. There is a book called “Sharing a Robin’s Life” in which the writer shares her story of how she saved a fledgling. This bird decided she would prefer to stay on with the author. Like, she never left. The author gives account of stealing eggs from another nest so her own broody bird can try her hand at motherhood. This thought fills me with a kind of pang. Of what? Self doubt? Disbelief? What does she mean “never left”? Suddenly Robin Wood is a gangly teenager that demands money on weekends and eats us out of house and home. Never leave? I am filled with what can only be called anxiety. We’ve got to get this bird on his own two feet and out the door. No more dew worms dropped carefully into watiting beaks. This bird was about to realize that growing up is a two way street.
So the regime changes: every morning, we bring Robin outside for his daily calisthenics. I garden and he forages. If Bus or Harrison are in charge, they gently toss him skyward and he’ll flap his nascent wings furiously until he lands on a suitable perch.
All of us are keen to see Robin develop in such meaningful ways. Thinking like birds, we try and understand what he needs—to find food on his own and to perfect his ability to fly. But when Robin begins to find perch on the heads of our neighbours, or fearlessly on the back of the cat, we know we have to take some serious action. Stay tuned for the final installment of The Tale of Robin Wood.
It started with the soccer ball escaping down the hill towards the wood pile. Or maybe it began with the neighbour calling to complain about that precarious branch. Or perhaps it was when the arborists arrived and sawed off the impending limb. Whatever it was and however it began, the long and short of it is this: we are the proud family of a thriving baby robin. Bus found him struggling in a pile of wood at the base of the aborists' chipper. His soccer ball had escaped him and it rolled directly to the struggling creature. A bloody demise averted, we took the bird in and, using the old robin’s nest found a year before in the cedar out back, set him up cozily. The previous week, I had rescued a grackle from the roadside and this bird, named Blackerton posthumously, had not lasted 24 hours. In my experience, a young bird who has undergone a trauma will not last long, but our goal was humble: we should provide it a measure of comfort in its dying hours. So the nest was rigged up and hung in a basket. Surely this featherless creature would rest beside Blackerton; it was only a matter on time. And so we waited. Bus had lately become interested in birds and arrived at our home from the great city of Toronto equipped with feeders, guide books, binoculars and a keen interest. His knowledge of “what to do in an emergency bird situation” was sharp and so we let him take charge. He collected enough worms from the garden that soon enough, the bird was quieted and fell to sleep on a full stomach. Having calmed a dire situation, our thoughts turned to filling Bus's new feeders. A trip to the Backyard Birder was arranged, and we arrived with our list. Bus asked about the fate of the robin and the reply was that there was a chance the parents would be keen on finding their lost offspring, and thus we should return it to the base of the tree out of which it had tumbled.
We quickly paid and sped home. We returned the bird to the tree and almost immediately, the parents returned and began feeding it. We sat opposite, and with the binoculars, took turns marveling that the parents would not abandon their young after the involvement of humans. The nest was in an old mitten basket and was lined with washcloths. Surely this was taken was a sign of solidarity amongst beasts. We were on the same team, as it were.; all parties wanted that bird to thrive.
That evening, a great storm blew in, shaking the timbers and clapping thunderously. We decided to check in on the bird. Perhaps it was the dark, or the wild wind and rain, or it could have been the featherless quivering—whatever it was, we returned home with the nest, knowing full well it would not make it through the storm. We gently removed the shaking bird, replacing the sopping wet cloths for a heating pad and a soft cloth. Bus suggested we commit to a name, figuring it might be around for a while. We decided on Robin Wood, of the Wembley Street Maples.
Oh, man. This one was good. The best yet. The River and Sky Festival's fourth year was held on the shores of the Oxbow River, with the Sturgeon River just a bike ride away. It was fairly reminiscent of last year's location, in some way, but smaller. More intimate. More authentic, somehow. And man, did it work. Our hosts, Chris and Julie and their kids, busted their butts with the help of Peter and Lara and many volunteers and board members, to get the site in order. Camping spots had to be levelled, infrasturcture built (outhouses and outbuildings of all kinds), stages raised and grass shorn. The weekend before, we helped build cob ovens that would cook the pizzas to serve the 500+ guests. Harrison, Matt, John and I set up our gypsy tents in the Family area--a brilliant move by the board to designate a special area where kids get up early and go to bed early. We all slept well. There was no mad drumming into the wee hours that we could detect, since the beach was far enough away and the fire ban really sunk individual plans for late night debauchery. And for those parents who couldn't leave their tents for their sleeping children, the stage could be seen and heard clearly.Some of us, however, managed to find debauchery. And some of us, despite being surrounded by dozens of budding musicians and dramatists, managed to find restful slumber. Yeah, the festival is unlike any I've attended. As Mark Browning, our Music Director, said: "it's the only music festival in Canada that has no need of security." The people who go give a shit about eachother. There is no pretense. It's just good people, excellent music, and amazing starry nights spent floating on a river or walking through the black forests with only the sound of a distant banjo to guide your way. Man O Man. The vendors provided the best meals. Jake and the Fromagerie Elgin crew made gourmet grilled cheese and fish tacos. And Steve fired up some locally sourced buckwheat blueberry pancakes. James Nadel did free bike maintenance all weekend long and tuned up my ride something fierce. She rides like a brand new bike. He and Jess also made really great pressed espresso all weekend long. But in the evening hours, oh how we danced to Hollerado. The "most fun had since who can remember" was the general consensus. They were riotous!And in his non-chalant summer style, Harrison revived his summer romance with Alyssa, the sound guy's daughter. Last festival, if you recall, they were quite inseperable. At age seven, he was haggling the vendors for a deal on a bracelet for her. This summer, ages 8 and 9 respectively, they picked it up where they left off: riding bikes, swimming, spying, exploring and haggling for deals on ice cream for their friends. They found their own Moonrise Kingdom on the accepting shores. A regular pair. Captain and Tenille. Huck and Tom. Susie and Sam.
I underestimated him, though. When asked what his favourite part of the weekend was, I thought, "surely it will be the freedom rides, or the languid days rafting on the river, or the abundance of iced cream and inner tubes." But no. It was Young Galaxy. I knew then, "this kid's a winner, man!"
The last day found me floating on my back, listening to Chad VanGaalen, in a blissed out state of awareness, beside Lara and Peter's drifting canoe. There was nothing better, nor could I imagine anything coming close to it. RS 2013 has some big shoes to fill. It's only the best festival in the country.