Walking with ghosts and angels

Painting by Jacky Hosford

As part of LitFest New West, an exhibit is up at Anvil Centre that paired writers of short text with artists who were to interpret the short text or poem.

I was paired with Jacky Hosford, a New Westminster resident originally from the U.K. Through layers and frames she painted her interpretation of what I wrote below. I like the way she’s put the frames into the painting to hint at it being a window into the past, and into the future.

Executive Director, Arts Council New West: Stephen O Shea, Poet Aidan Chafe and LitFest Chair Janice Bannister

I had a really good time at LitFest this year. I was on the planning committee so after all those meetings since September, it was good to see what transpired in real time when the weekend finally arrived.

 

 

 

Nasreen Pejvack, J.J. Lee, and Janet Kvammen

With the kick off at the library via the PopThis!Podcast  paired with J.J. Lee through to the Read Aloud event, I felt perhaps for the first time in the five years since I’ve lived back here, the real strength of community that flourishes in New West and that gets talked about on social media by local residents.

New West residents do a good job of branding themselves, I’ll give them that, thanks to small local businesses with great social media such as Steel and Oak, 100 Braid Street studios, Banana Lab, Tenth to the Fraser and others. And I think City Council and many other residents have a really progressive approach to things.

There is a lot going on here when it comes to words and writing and the people involved. I especially loved the In Your Words event that is put together by Alan Girling and takes place at New Westminster Public Library on a monthly basis.

Kyle McKillop reads Patrick Lane

It’s really great to hear others share their favourite authors and poets, highlighting some of those authors’ books and then giving their perspective by reading the authors’ words and sharing some background about the writers’ lives. The Lit Fest version shared Evelyn Lau, Patrick Lane, Thomas Hardy and a travel writer, Jan Morris. I’d never head of Jan Morris so right after the event was over, I went upstairs and checked out one of her books. It’s called Contact: A Book of Encounters about the people who she’s had the pleasure of connecting with during travels.

And I dropped by the New West Writer’s Group Critique session which was interesting as people shared their feedback on some writing pieces.  The Read Aloud Event was great with fantastic readings by Aislinn Hunter, Nasreen Pejvack, Catherine Owen and Carleigh Baker.  And it was interesting to hear the winners of the Short Fiction contest that got sponsored by local lawyer Dale Darychuk, Q.C.

New West Writers Group and their monthly feedback sessions

Poet Kevin Spenst and Shauna Kaendo doing performance piece to his love poems at Anvil Centre.

Carleigh Baker who read from her new book Bad Endings.

Anna Camporese, playwright Elaine Avila and me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what I wrote:

Walking with Ghosts and Angels

When you return to the small city where you were born, you can’t help but walk with ghosts and angels.

As the radius of your routes expand, you carry in memory everyone who has ever accompanied you.

Landmarked meeting places.

Dad. There. Plaid shirt and black lunch kit full of tuna fish sandwiches made dutifully by mom.

That vacant lot you weren’t supposed to set foot in as a kid and that old woman, Snookie, [was she lonely?] who lived above that garage across the street.

Backyard forts. Baseball diamonds. Lacrosse boxes. Willow trees.

First crush on lifeguard at Kiwanis pool.

Even strangers. Their faces stick.

You carry their hearts on your sleeve as if you’re leading an invisible parade.

Over there. Your grandparents’ backyard and their cement birdbath.

A purple plum tree, its marbled gifts dropped in late summer.

The cobwebbed wooden shed where your Grass is Greener Syndrome first arose as if Grass is Greener might actually be a place that you’d find if only you were better at reading maps.

Now, walking through the cemetery on the hill, you’ve left this era behind, retreated — perhaps to the 1950s — ignoring what the world has become.

Convincing yourself species aren’t disappearing and you’re not afraid of what’s coming down the pipe: oil, the Big One, and even a lack of imagination.

Not the most uplifting ending but written quickly and in line with how I’ve been feeling, about how many people the world over surely have been feeling given the state of international affairs at this point in time.

Float-home Memories

floathome memories

I have only three distinct memories of the women whose float-home I am house-sitting on the Fraser River this summer while they have gone to their other home on the other coast, the east coast, and Newfoundland.

Not a river there right at their backdoor nor two red Adirondack chairs to sit and watch the tugboats from, but a white two-storey house, I imagine, or perhaps I saw a photo they showed me before they left. It has long grass in front  and a square porch that they look past on cloudy days; grass sloping down toward a white-capped cove they have now claimed as their own, not legally, but in attachment,  and little white rowboats all topsy turvy hopscotching around buoys.

Thinking back to another summer so long ago. 1993. Pat, hunched over her desk, always there, busy, scanning information like a reading machine.  Editor. I worked for her, on-call,  right out of journalism school. Occasionally, her humour would lift off through a comment in response to some letter to the editor, a ridiculous request from the faceless all-knowing, know nothing public. Her sarcasm and amazement sprinkling out over the cubicles that sectioned the dingy room like the marks of a surgeon on a stomach before surgery.

It seems as if the next time I saw them, in person, was after he’d killed himself. We were there, inside his float-home, further south along this same river. That abode, run down and wretched and the silence after a death filled the room, and me not able to contain the emotion I’d been pushing down. “No wonder he killed himself. Look at this place.”  The only words that came. And, Pat, bless her heart, responding, “It’s not so bad,” as if that would help. As if anything could make better what could never be made better.  It seems strange now that they were there, except they’d dropped by the neighbours’ place, his friends, and I’m not sure why we were all inside that tiny living room at all.

And, then, fast-forward to happier times. Salt Spring. They’d come for a weekend get-away and thanks to the connections of Facebook, Pat messaged me to ask if I’d like to have breakfast at the Treehouse on a sunny Sunday morning in spring. It had been years since I’d seen them in person. It was a taffy-coloured morning  and  their surprise visit that went so well made everything that much better.

So, you see, I barely know them at all really and yet here I am, in one of their homes. They are getting married today, or was it yesterday? I’m not even sure and it might seem like just another wedding until you read what Pat  wrote on her Facebook page, after she left the West Coast, to marry Janna, the woman she’s shared her life with for 31 years.

Here’s part of what she shared…

“…For those who know me, I’m a pretty private person, and the thought of exchanging vows – or anything in public – is not my idea of fun. But, I marched in protests in the late ’70s just to get job protection for gay and lesbians – and yes, I was fired from a job for being gay (although, granted, I was also crappy at that job!… not in journalism), and while not a fan of the whole marriage institution (don’t get me going) it seems like the right thing to do at this time for a whole lot of reasons.

I must confess, while marching with my protest sign in my stylish suede blazer and Gloria Steinem glasses, I would never have envisioned a time when we would have the right to marry. Basic equal rights at that time seemed an impossible quest. Even trying to get equal pay as a woman required legal threats and action.

So, lastly, I want to thank all of my (our) friends and allies (and there have been many!) who have stood with us (and I mean that in a personal and much wider sense) as we have fought the hard battles. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And, in a very real way, you’ll all be standing with us on the shores of Blackhead Bay, when we say our vows and do whatever it is we’re supposed to do with those darn rings … rings, oh yah, better remember to bring those!!!…”

Congratulations to you both.  I trust your wedding was completed in a style that only you two could pull off. Tears and cake. And, more cake.

And for me, in your floathome, another distinct and very happy memory.