the shape of clouds

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I live in an environment where the shape of clouds are always a varied affair of elegant evening skirts billowed across a dance of blue sky and black angry tuxedos swelling in a crescendo.  The soft fluffy puff of the poodle speaks of warm soft winds and sigh and a whisper knowing that the winds can blow in the eerie funnel shaped clouds that speak of a fury of wind and hail and tornados in the heat and aftermath of a cloudless sky of hot uncomfortable heat.

The clouds of last season's early spring were a low pressure affair of white that filled the sky like oppressive tulle and matched the snow that fell in thick wet clumps, the snow that no longer dots the greening landscape but judging from the lack of soft dots of cotton set against the palest shades of blue, it will fall cascading like a waterfall before the day is through.

I enjoy the high up flavor of grey streaks high up in the sky that speak of thunder and flashes of lightning as the moon lifts up and kisses the night.  I enjoy the lazy days of rocking in my hammock staring up past the tree tops to the ever changing shapes that whisper and dance across sunlit streaks of laughter and conjure up lost stories of childhood dreams and are their own meditation on days where watermelon cubes live beside the wild mint that tangles next to the strawberry vines and I watch and sip the honey sweet air of the bee buzz.

Then there are the winter days where the clouds are spread so thin stretched out from horizon to horizon, a white spider web on top of a white spider web on top of a snowflake over and over again so that the only bit of blue I can see is in a memory of another day.  The white of the sky meets the white of the snow topped ground and the white frosted trees stretch up the thick trunks and overturned roots disappear into the white fog that lifts up across the white encased ice of the river and it presses down and makes me drowsy and it blinds and stings in its sterility even as it sparkles and dances across my gaze when a glint of sun sneaks through.

And the cloudless nights that allow the blanket of stars to shine so bright it makes me gasp as northern lights sing across the prairies and forests dancing even above the city lights only slightly dulled as the green fire of the sky crackles and my heart reaches upwards finding the pull too irresistible to ignore and I am lost in the beauty never ever taking it for granted.

My house is brightly coloured, chartreuse green on the trim always there to remind me of warmer days, of now, reminding me that colour is eminent and the clouds will shift and turn and become something else another day.  The walls of my house are set against 70 year old maple floors and the orange hue of fir trim and I carefully licked on the colours of life onto those old plaster walls. A green plum which in most lights is the deep yellow of the sun and a pale blue called PEI sky and that carefully matched tiffany blue and various shades of green and a bright lemon fresh yellow and then there is the crush sip of an orange soda covering the floors and matching the soft blues of my basement.  What does this have to do with clouds, everything I say, because quite by accident, all my accents are the white shade of the most perfect summer billowing cloud as curtains dance and bedsheets wrap and sofas embrace.

And at work, I stare out my window in bits and pieces all day long and watch the clouds tell me what is coming, what has already come and what is here right now, in this moment.  And as much as I feel deeply rooted to the earth, there is a part of me that lives by the sky, by the shape of the clouds that drift across my vision telling me the stories of my soul.

the grandfathers

April 1st is the birthday of my Poppa, my Grumpy, my Grandpa.  So today felt like a good day to finally get around to posting this.  I wrote it almost 2 years ago and when I came here to blog, today, I saw it saved in draft form, found sometime last November in the archives of my hard-drive.  So, yeah, I guess a double post on my first day back to blogging.  On April Fool's day.  No joke. The Grandfathers

They came to Canada, crossing that imaginary border, a fire in their belly for a land that had yet to be worked over by too many hands.  My grandpa, born in Idaho, moved to the shores of Slave Lake when he could barely toddle around on legs soon made strong by crisscrossing the bush with traps while drilling holes into the frozen lake ice of winter, small hands grasping the eyeballs of inquisitive fish.  My granddad, born in Missouri, eight years before my birth, packed up my grandma and seven kids moving across the land until he found himself in a valley of towering trees, muskeg and papery thin birch.  He made camp by the river, water flowing from the lake that holds softly the roots of my truth.

My grandpa was a boxer.  He also won an arm wrestling championship when he was in his sixties.  I watched him standing beside this much taller, 30 years his junior, muscled up man as the organizers handed out trophies.  Beside that second place winner, my grandfather looked small, old and fragile.  This man, who would fight a grizzly bear for a moose, who knew his way through the bush and across the lake and around the winding spaces of my granny, looked unimaginably fragile to me.  The first time my grandpa put boxing gloves on me, I felt awkward and unstable and in need of protection as though wearing the gloves made me less invincible, more vulnerable.

My little town had far more boys than girls, young men working the oil rigs and cutting back trees rooted deeply in rough-hewn hands and the promise of freedom.  I was the only girl in a sea of boy cousins yearning for the swirl of a pink frothy dress hiding behind a spunky, feisty attitude fueled by the red neck anger of something I didn't yet understand, the clinging hands of poverty.  I wore it in darkly drawn on eyeliner and big black boots topped off with a sullen scowl and bright orange hair, a splattering of freckles across the bridge of a broken nose, invisible boxing gloves not quite hiding ragged fingernails.

I watched the orange glow of the fire as I tipped the bottle and felt the burn of vodka, music floating over me as the trees towered above.  One of the ever changing bush party sites was a campsite directly across the river from my granddad's farm, black angus breathing out snot and snorts, stomping the earth.  By the time I was old enough to party at the site known only by his last name, he had long since died.

When I was 12, my granddad died quite suddenly of a brain aneurysm.  It was my first experience with death, so different from my son who, by the age of 12, had watched his great grandpa; aunt; and two brothers die.  It was unexpected and brutal as death often is.  My mother told us he was at the hospital as we drove out to the farm and in my head, I knew he was dead.  We pulled up alongside the river, drove up the long driveway parking in front of the white picket fence, incongruous from the sturdy buildings and knotty wire fences separating the pastures filled with drying cow pies.  I sat on the light blue velvet cushions of the van, sweating in the beating heat of all those windows, in the knowing and I could see him - a battered cowboy hat, scuffed boots, strumming his guitar, fingers cracked and dry from wrangling the bull and birthing the baby calf, blue eyes staring down the moon.

Vodka hit my brain, warm waves hovering above the lick of orange flame and shadow illuminations beneath the fuzzy stars of “I love you man.”  I watched the stars, separating myself from the drunken laughter, the endless conversation but I could feel the collective pull as chalky smoke drifted up from across the river.  A larger fire, bright orange ribbons dancing, distracting from the wooden pallet campfire at my feet.  Young men, drunken sways in the night air, stumbled over themselves, over the bridge, weaving towards the shape of my uncle, begging to help, to be of some service.  Stars collided with the knowing.  It was a normal burn, controlled and necessary.  I wondered where were those helpers at that other party, under the towering jack pines, soft spongy ground coated with white sand icing as I lost my virginity, torn open under a full moon, pine needles sticking into my ass like an acupuncture I didn't ask for, screams lost to the howls of the owl, the fire crackle too far away to see, drunken laughter splayed in the distance.  The boys were busy doing what boys do, tending the fire.

I rode my bicycle with streamers on the handlebars, staring up at the bright blue sky as the fire bomber planes soaked trails behind them.  My grandpa tugged my pigtails reassuringly in the sunlight of his driveway swept clean of pine needles and bits of soft sandy dust and I was reassured that the fire was out there and towns didn't burn the way that the bush was prone to.  I promised him, that last time, hollowed out cheeks laid white against the hospital sheets, that I would quit smoking, the burning ember flickering between my fingers, smoke rings blown out.

When the fires hit my home town this spring there was a shattering.  My parents had been visiting for the weekend, back yard barbecues and greenhouse shopping.  Flowers and seedlings lined my patio waiting to be planted into the fresh spring earth.  They were on their way home when my phone began its incessant buzzing and sometime after midnight, we opened the door to their weary faces, tired eyes.

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The summer following the fire, I walked through the town where I grew up and saw the devastation, burned out vehicles piled high on top of each other next to blocks of emptiness, piles of rubble sitting next to a sunflower patch, face turned towards the sun, smiling as though it had never happened.  Even though I had heard the stories and saw the photographs, it was still jarring to see, to feel my memories eroding and changing and I wondered at the memories cleared away, razed down in a blackened fight of smoke and flame.

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There was no one left to tug my pigtails reassuringly as I admired the poppies in my mom's front beds, her lawn grass green.  I tried to imagine the smoke so thick that my uncle could barely make it down the street, floating embers landing on concrete as he rescued their dog shaking in the farthest reaches of the darkest corner.  I looked over at my grandpa's pretty wood slated house, spared from the fire that took out blocks of houses in seemingly random disorder.  I always found it hard to believe that the house started its life as two skid shacks pushed together and that my granny left a perfectly good hospital to trudge miles through the snow to give birth to my father in the cold of winter's night in what became the kitchen where I learned to bake bread.  The house had been sold years before and when the new owner gutted it, he proudly walked me through the rooms pointing out the new features and I took a Polaroid photograph of the faded linoleum that my grandfather installed for my granny when I was still able to reach up and pluck the mints out of his front pocket, white peppermints that cleared his throat during the long days at the lumber mill.

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Fire is a fierce and powerful force fueled by wind, the summer storm of lightning strikes and cigarettes carelessly thrown out of cars moving as fast as the conversations that threaten Bambi and the field mice scurrying across the jack pine floor.  Dead and old trees are burned to make way for the dense green of the new.  There are pine trees that need the heat of fire to open up their cones, to create the seeds that repopulate.

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I wandered along the ridges of the beach road, the sun dipping into the lake, blackened trees reflecting her light even as fresh new green swished in bright tutu layers and I breathed in the clearing of space.

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A fire rips through me and sparks out of my fingertips as I clear away the dust and debris, the interfering clutter, the frayed edges of my boxing gloves held together by a thin band of leather string.  The fire is burning away the last of the deadened branches and cracking open pods, releasing new, soft seeds and I look down and smooth my fresh new green skirt.

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And high above the bright lights of the city glow ... I watch the stars, the grandfathers tending to the glittering fire.

winter

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and the flakes continue to dropstar sparkled and stark like the bones beneath fragile faded skin dagger reminders of the smoothed skin child that grows into the soft fragile vein and of the ones that die against your strong heart and another northern winter gloves and pulled hair caught in zippers icy grip stamp of boots slide of car tire a reminder that there is only one choice, to be hearty and strong chapped lips and ice dripped lashes rosy cheeks lashed by the whip of her howl and your howl wells up andanswers the call

summer sway

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the summer sway

is a sashay of hot heat, blue sky

gulp of orange crush

condensation drips from hips that languish

sliding down the hot pavement

of a short skirt

squinting through sparkled sky trees

rainbow prism of heat

rolling down my spine

as i breathe in the shade

of a cool green leaf.

 

back alley wanderer

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i am a back alley wanderer

looking for the realism

behind carefully manicured lawns

weeded within an inch of life

forgetting that life lives in the mislabeled

notion of what it is to be a weed.

 

i am a back alley wanderer

looking for the truth

in the garbage that piles up

next to blue bag recycling

wondering how you live

and is it really that much

different than the eggshell crumbles

filled with coffee stained discussions

that fill up the conversations that i have over worn wooden

light streaked tears.

 

i am a back alley wanderer

tripping over a dog barked fence

faded basketball hoops

dangling from long gone

boy dreams and chipped paint

worn from your hands.

 

i am a back alley wanderer

looking for magic

in a flashlight light bulb

left by a distant race of people

who swam with the fishes

in cities built under the ocean.

 

i am a back alley wanderer

looking for the words

in the lighted pathways

to bring me home.

waiting for the blueberries

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sitting, legs splayed, the spongy muskeg holding me close

chubby little fingers

dipping into his ice cream bucket

fistfuls of blueberries finding their way

into my belly

picked carefully by large hands

weathered and worn, a lifetime of working

nips and scars

a battle with a bear, the blade of a power saw

and the hawks fly overhead

pine tree needles prick my tears

and i miss it all, washed down the river flow of time

and so i carefully plant

remembrance

into the soil of my garden

knowing it will never be the same

but that it will be a sweet taste in my belly's thought.

 

bloated fish

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(polaroid spectra/expired polaroid image softtone film)

we walk around whole and fragmented, images fuzzy and soft in a mirror that reflects back nothing and everything

and our voices rise in passionate outbursts

until we realize that what we are saying is interpreted very differently than our soul's thought

because no one has the full picture, not even you.

there are too many variables, too many events that turn into memories that become deeper and more vibrant in the remembering and the importance becomes a bloated dead fish laying on a fog stained beach after the tide has come in, gone out, breathed in, breathed out.

monkey see

monkey do

hold your hands over your ears and hum a familiar refrain while chanting i can't hear you i can't hear you all the while knowing i hear all your words but i can't understand you anymore than you can understand me and the best we can hope for is a soft sigh to lay our heads in our deepest moments of doubt and a friendly smile holding zero expectations and perhaps the warm body of a dog who understands what it is to be rejected and yet opens up his heart to you anyway because that is what hearts do, they open easier than they close even after they have been left out in the cold.

and i talk in riddles because i am not really saying anything and yet if you listen carefully, you will find yourself and that is everything

and the picture doesn't show the way the sun streamed in, billowing a white froth of curtain across the bedspread or the smile that came easily and the remembrance that it wasn't always that way.  and the reality doesn't show the long stop motion moments that preceded the moment.  and the deep indented hug of remembrance.  her soft brown dyed hair and the way it felt as i wound it around the curlers and her soft sunny reflection looking up at me through that very mirror propped up on the kitchen table that has since been discarded along with the linoleum and the walls that held the life of a family long since gone.  but the heart remembers even after the last funeral hymn has been sung because that is what hearts do, they open easier than they close even after they are buried deep beneath the earth's womb.

and i walk around whole and fragmented, images stark and crystal clear in a mirror that reflects back nothing and everything

and i wipe a soft cloth over the fingerprints

even as i can't resist placing my palm lovingly over the freshly washed glass.

finding beauty

floral beauty  

I have always said, beauty is in the imperfections,

a crooked tooth on a lopsided grin

a chipped nail on a soft hand

a nervous habit and a chewed paperclip mangled into a lovingly cast object of art.

Beauty is in a fallen leaf

a clouded sky

and a flower strongly holding on, head lifted proudly with petals broken wing dancing lightly in a breeze.

Beauty is a dust covered window of dappled sunlight and a loud snore by a tiny child.

Beauty is in the imperfections that dance across the earth's objects and nature's treats and our cares.

I was born a perfectly imperfect human

and that makes

me

and you

and everyone

beautifully beautiful.

and so i come to the blank page

letting go of perfection

finding beauty in the stilted flow of words

cast in the light of the morning sun trickling across the waves of the wind's fierce blow.

and i wait for them to drop on the page

and the sun to set deep into the glow of night

so i can wake up found, wake up lost. wake up to beauty.

again and again.

light always finds its way in ...

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a hundred thousand thoughts

that i push into the light

a candle flame waiting

to ignite a soul.

a hundred thousand words

that i push into the furthest reaches

a blank page waiting

for my soul to ignite.

and i stumble around the darkest sky

and stumble over a star shone sun

and wonder if i am already

home.

or if home is waiting for me

in a galaxy that fits into

a hundred thousand thoughts

left floundering in

a meaningless mashup

of words.

and so i chew the light

and blow out words

like smoke lingering

in a cold wind pattern of drifting snow.

and.

The sky is white with pale strips of blue ribbons and the fog hangs low over the trees in the distance steeples rising up like wishes.

and the words evaporate into the light. once again.

a kiss is a treasure

blue kiss  

a kiss is a treasure

and so x marks the spot

and magic lives in every breath

even those days when i forget

and so i mark the spot

with a kiss

to remind myself

when i need it most.

words linger like snowflakes

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sinking deeper

and deeper still

into the muddy waters of the dark, pulling me inwards even as i grapple with the muted light of a sun that sets earlier and earlier.

i make lists.  rearrange furniture. make more lists which are really nonsensical lines of a poem that i haven't yet written.

*frozen shivers to the bone *a purple and silver idea floating in thought *wet mittens and warm kittens *a word sliced into a song *the rhythm of love
 
and then
 
*ideas floating like snowflakes landing on my tongue *dark chocolate and salted caramel *wishes dug up from the earth *ice encircled dreams *the shades and hues of a white layered cake
 
and long before that, this
 
*quiet infusion of light *silver bangles clanking *hues of blue *wishes left on dangling stars *whisky downed laughter while clinging to the curve of the moon
 
was followed by the craving for
 
*strings of chartreuse paper lantern lights *salted carmel dark chocolate *red raspberries *bourban sours with orange bitters *dancing for hours in a crowded club
 
and so i soak myself in hot steam and drink tea steeped in the slow boil of ice if left out too long and search for my slippers pulled on over layers of flannel and wool and wonder at the words that float around above my head just out of reach and so i try not to grasp too hard.
 
and i watch the sun set over the trees and the tops of houses peaked and made white by the snow that continues to fall in sheets.  empty pages of white.
 
 

river flows

Untitled She spent a week walking through trees and watching the river flow, rocks nudged up against each other, turned over and polished.  She marveled at how life happens whether you sit still or run a million miles a minute through your mind.  She sits still but there is movement, so much movement. 

Tears fall and fall and fall.  Smiles drift and rise up and break into song.  The sun rises and sinks and the moon winks. 

When the heat is unbearable, there is always coolness in the rocks, the blast of water breathing breezes.  She found her tears create their own heat because her skin is penetrable.  And so she scratches at the itch until the skin breaks and oozes and cries out in red marks.  and then finally. she remembers that it is better to sink into the itch and just let it be until it disappears into a distant memory of something that she doesn't yet understand.

wait five minutes

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so yes, it snowed for all of 5 minutes. i didn't imagine it. or maybe i did. regardless, i am reminded of another truth about this environment that i call home. "wait five minutes and the weather will change" are the words of the elders, grizzled old men chomping on tobacco and spitting ... in cans; pink lipsticked ladies in flowered house dresses, hair carefully put in curlers every night, "wait five minutes and the weather will change". and it does. all day long, the hot sun blue sky over run by puffy white clouds turned to a mass of blue hued nostalgia and i can see the streams off in the distance - rain turned to snow back to rain as the sun pushes through again and then the thunder rumbles and lightning streaks the grey black anger of the gods and buckets run from the sky as hail pelts the back of sunburn legs revealing a double rainbow as the sky turns pink before night stars flail about against the green spark of a northern light. and it all is a mirror for the emotions that dance around the thoughts in my head.
 
 

not like the other

one of these things is not like the other,  

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one is a photo of the ocean waves and one is a photo of the lake of my growth.  one is evening's fall and one is midday relax.  they are the same but different and hold different secrets and different notations on my heart but bring me back to the same place inside of me.

and as spring smiles.  i find myself longing a dusty open road.  a body of water.  a large rock of mountain.  the windsong of the prairies.  i want to wander in the trees and listen to the earth and dig in the dirt and hold the womb of the mother in my scarred and paper dry hands, childlike in their ragged nails and ancient in their holding of death, life and all the messes in between.  i want to sit and watch the waves catch themselves in an endless splash towards a shoreline that is littered with the rocky weeds and tiny shards of glass like sand.  i want to remember where i came from, who i am so that i can remember where i am going.

and i bite into a soft juicy orange that traveled too many miles to find its way to my hands.  and i long to sit by his side, my little fingers reaching into the ice cream pail filled with juicy blueberries picked by the worn bulk of his knowing that he will tease me about it even as he breathes his last breath.  worn and old heading off to find his little woman long since gone from this earth.

and i find myself crying.  for no reason at all.  and for all the best reasons that exist in this world.

wild child

Untitled what can i say.  i've been the darkness and the wild and have run headlong into uncertainty and laid myself bare more times than i can even remember.  and then.  i made the choice towards the stable and here i am sitting in the light of that and wondering why i still crave the dark.

i have been told i am brave and i think really?! and then i remember that i am but that this, this doesn't make me brave.  i have conquered fear and faced it like a gun aimed at my head and wondered why the tears only come later in the memory of all that living.

i want to marry the light and the dark, stitch it all together in a crooked lined smile, a tooth shattered from the gnawing.  and i remember walking the streets and looking in at brightly coloured walls through windows flung open with laughter and imagined how perfect i would feel if only i had that.  that.  even as i cursed and swore up and down about the evils of consumerism and the trap of fitting into a cubicle box designed by someone who played with rats for a living.  and here i sit.  wondering.  if this is really it.  the happiness i was looking for and i know that it isn't even as it is.  it is the yes and the no.  roots pulled down so deep that i can feel the blood binding me to the earth even as i snip it all in a breath and fly to the sky burning my skin on the sun.

my mother used to say that i walked too close to the edge of things and that i needed to learn balance.  i have learned it so well that i find myself stuck squarely in the middle and i was never a middle sort of girl.  and so now i sidestep over two ties of the track and remember that my grandfather was made strong by the sweat of his arms pounding over and over again, the steel track that goes on forever to somewhere else.

and i look hopeful down that dirt road and i pull a black garbage bag behind me and the dust rises up like gold glitter in the sunlight.

waiting for the roses

(instagram)

i have been waiting for the roses to fill the air with their scent, to float their petals down in soft paths for me to lay my head.  i have been waiting for the roses.  but then today as the snow came down yet again, i realized that the rose hips were worth stopping for and that perhaps all this waiting was preventing me from breathing in the beauty right in front of me.  and so i stopped and laid my head down on softly floating snow and drank from centre of the rose hip, chewing quietly on my thoughts.

stillness

There are no bells and whistles going on over here and I am mostly just standing in my stillness.   It is a good stillness that may actually be more movement than stillness. 

january trees

(polaroid spectra / impossible pz 600 silver shade film)

i never grow tired of capturing the trees, the trees that line my street and i can spend whole days just gazing at them and letting their wisdom soak through me.  the trees speak to me in stoic stanzas of strange settlings telling me what has been forgotten in the ways that we live and the ways that we endure and the ways that we celebrate our losses and gobble up the pieces of peace that find us reaching out to grasp the root. 

i hold on tight to the slow sleep of the waiting.  the january trees and their icy roots grown warm deep under the layers of ice where the earth's fire pulsates.  they are not lonely or isolated because they choose the other, the quiet and the peaceful rejuvination.  after the parties and the twinkle lights and the brightly arrayed bulbs are pulled off of icicles, the loner in me reaches inwards, grasping for solitude, for slumber.  i have slowed down so much that i can feel time stretch out before me, a blue softly lit horizon that waits quietly for me to decide to live.

and finally.  i am ready to join the trees.  and a fire warms me deep down in the core and i feel the vibrations holding me gently and i have slowed down enough to know that i am living.