Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11, it is raining

Today is March 11, and it is raining.  It is another anniversary, a happy one, twelve years now since we took our second son, Jon Eben, to Emergency, and ended up going with him to 6 Lane (Long Stay) where he was confined for about three months.  “March 11, it is raining,” is what he wrote that day.

Today Lorraine and I had lunch at the Summer Savoury Restaurant on the second floor of the Halifax Infirmary.  We were there with my mother, who is a patient on 8.4 of the Infirmary and had already had her hospital lunch because we couldn’t get there earlier.  However, she had a couple of sections of a cinnamon bun and a small cup of coffee with plenty of cream and sugar.  She said it was a real treat just to get out of her room and eat something different from what they served her in the hospital.

For Lorraine and me it was a time to remember our visits to the Summer Savoury a little under twelve years ago.  Once Jon Eben had been on the locked ward long enough to be allowed out with us, one of our excursions was to walk from there over to the Summer Savoury.  It was often a difficult journey, since he often had to be persuaded to go and that he could actually make it.  It was a long trip, after coming down in the elevator, to make our way through the long tunnels that connected the various hospital buildings.  Often we had to stop and rest or reassure him that it was going to be OK.  We always saw ourselves as trying to provide a safe space, a small sphere of normalcy, within which he could more easily walk through the corridors.  It was always good if the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and we’d try to find a table far enough away from others, because in the early days it was easy for him to believe that everyone there was talking about him.

It did change over time.  Lorraine insisted that the physical activity of the walk, as well as the possibility of moving through places that were not the ward, made a significant difference to Jon Eben’s state of being, and she was right.  The walks to the Summer Savoury and the time spent there eventually developed into walks outside the hospital and finally to day trips out to our house, until the time came early in the summer that he was able to leave the hospital for good.

The years since he was discharged have not been without incident or difficulty, but Jon Eben has prevailed over them all.  His present life as successful writer and editor, loving husband and father, and beloved brother and son is due in part to the professional care he has received and continues to receive from some caring and capable psychiatrists, counsellors, nurses, and other therapists, but it is also a tribute to his determination and courage and self-discipline and capacity for love. 

Today is March 11, and it is raining, but this evening Jon Eben will not be in the hospital like he was twelve years ago.  Instead he and S. will be going to a poetry reading featuring bill bissett, Steve McCaffery, and others, and tomorrow he’ll attend a Roundtable Discussion on Contemporary Poetics at a local art centre. 

His voice on the phone earlier was, as it always is, gentle and kind, and we are all grateful that he is starting his thirteenth year after that sudden onset of illness on March 11 1999 on such solid ground and in such good shape.  We are, as I have said before, all blessed by Jon Eben’s continued health and by his presence in our lives. He is our miracle.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, the 100th of such days, which makes it an exceptionally good day, one to cherish.

I had one new message in my G-mail this morning, and it wasn’t an ad from Staples or or Amazon, the kind I always delete; instead it was from D., a Turkish student I worked with in high school who is now in the first year of a Masters program in Gender Studies.  I was, as I always am when I hear from D., delighted; it is a treat to get a message from someone who is so intelligent, so literate and literary, so aware, and so fiercely good at what she does.  Susan Sontag once said that she would buy any publication that had work by Anne Carson in it, as would both D. and I, but one day equally wise women will say the same thing about D.’s work.  Having a message from her early today was an especially good omen for this year’s Women’s Day.

I am in the atrium of a university library as I write this, waiting to meet M., an undergraduate student I have worked with before.  M., who is also enrolled in Gender Studies and is, she informed me earlier, the only Chinese student who has ever enrolled in the program, e-mailed me at my Yahoo account to set up a time to get some editing help with a paper she is writing.  I like working with M. because she is intelligent and perceptive and enough of a nonconformist to study something other than Computer Science or International Finance, and because her view of our culture and gender issues in it are always worth listening to.  I also like her quiet and self-effacing humour, her composed sense of self, and her determination to learn and to understand.

I spent part of the morning at the Refugee Clinic working with M.L., a refugee claimant from Mexico who wants to improve her English.  With the use of Babel Fish and her Spanish-English dictionary, she told me that she wanted to learn what was the first thing she should do to improve her English.  I had no answer for her, so we talked and wrote together, and gradually she became more confident about what she already knew and what things she could do to put it all together as a new speaker of English.  It was great to see her courage and determination in her pursuit of greater fluency, the same kind of courage and determination she has needed to build a life here for herself and her family.

I remember in the late 1990’s thinking and saying that the biggest achievement of the twentieth century was the victories of women in their fight for the status they deserved in our world and that my hope for the twenty-first was that we might begin to see the results of that achievement.  It has been a slow and gradual process, one that is far from over, but my experience of today tells me how lucky I am to know women like the ones I worked with and thought about today.

It is now the evening of International Women’s Day.  The bright and sharp-edged new moon I saw a little earlier has dropped out of sight here, but that same moon has shone and will continue to shine on all the women (and men) of this world until the day finally ends somewhere far to the west of here.  When tomorrow’s sun rises we will all embark on the 101st year of International Women’s Day.  I’m proud to be a part of it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Season's Easing

Today is Saturday.  It is the weekend, though that fact means less, now that I am no longer engaged in fulltime work, than it used to; however, there is still a lightness to a Saturday that is different from other days of the week, perhaps a contact high I pick up when I am among regular working people enjoying their Saturdays, but a high nevertheless.  I used to feel it driving home from my school on a Friday afternoon; now I can’t always predict when it will come, but it is usually something I can count on, especially on a Saturday like this one.

For one thing it is March.  The sun is shining and the wind is out of the south.  It is the season of change where you first notice a palpable easing of the grip of winter.  It is not spring by any means, but there are days now when you can think of going outdoors in shoes instead of boots, where gloves become optional, where the car just seems to run with less effort, where the limitations of what is possible in winter begin to loosen, and you can begin to feel certain intimations of the possibility of what will come.

I miss the feel of Istanbul at this time of year; it’s still too early for the ihlamur and erguvan to be blooming there, but the dark melancholy of an Istanbul winter should be starting to lift right about now.  I can still feel it in the Japanese teapot on the table, which came from an eskici (seller of old things) in Ortakoy and puts me there in those back streets near the Bosphorus, the place mats and table cloth from our Armenian friend in Kapali Carsi (The Grand Bazaar), and the painting of a Bosphorus sea ferry on the wall, a birthday gift from a few years ago that still reminds me of the guy who sold them near the waterfront. 

You can feel the easing of the season outside as winter’s grip on water begins to loosen, allowing snow to sublimate and ice to shrink.  Lawns are starting to show that familiar dun colour of March with the faint hint of green that I always love seeing, and there is a slight rosy blur on the tips of bushes and the tops of birch trees.  If December indicated the descent of (or into) winter, then March may suggest an emergence from it.

The green tea I am drinking was a Christmas gift from X., a delightful IB student, and her gentle father who always served me a generous mug when I went to tutor her, and the tulips on the table that Kelly brought last weekend are in a vase that my great great great grandfather brought with him when he emigrated from England to Canada in the 1840’s.  It’s not clear what is so important to me about these small things, but there is something about the lightness and the easing of this first Saturday in March that allows me to notice and to cherish them.

We’re not going to visit Istanbul this spring, though we’ll certainly be thinking of that place, and we will pay attention here to that gradual loosening my old friend Williams has always reminded me of with his Spring and All:

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken


It is March, and the seasonal change marches on, just as the freedom fighters also march on toward Tripoli today.  Spring, we can hope, will mean better things for them and for our world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This is the this

It is, as some of you know, my birthday today, and I am now 66.  It is important to me not just because I am beginning my 67th year today, but also because of this.  What this, you might well ask.  Well, this is the this, this page I am just now composing and will some time through the day today post on my blog so that you, whoever you are and wherever you might be, can read it if you choose.

Two years ago today I decide to write and post my first ever blog entry (you can check it out here if you want to).  It was titled “They say it’s your birthday”, and it was built around the fact that Lou Reed (67 today), a boy named Levi (4 today), and I (66 today) share this day, the understanding that Lou was (and likely still is) in a relationship with Laurie Anderson, memories of the albums I had just taken to a used record store, and the connections to a couple of old Beatles songs that were in my head that day (and still are today, though I am no longer 64).

This is Post #130 of that blog, which I called Field Days: A Miscellany.  I have just learned how to pronounce “miscellany” through one of the wonders of the internet where someone at a pronunciation site just said it for me, and miscellaneous really characterizes the contents of Field Days.  It is subtitled “A Day Book of Sorts”, and one of the things I have truly loved is the ability to write here about things that happen in a day (miscellaneous things) and take my attention sufficiently to get me writing or photographing or googling them and posting the results here.

I think that my blog posts are a bit like essays, in the original sense of the word, that is; they are essais, or attempts, to get at something through language.  One of the blessings in this endeavour is the ability to write of these things that have engaged me in the informal voice I am most comfortable with, a kind of conversation with the known or unknown you.  A further blessing of a blog is the ability to broaden the range of what can be written through the use of links, so that my side trips in exploring that thing or things that may end up ranging over the vast number of possible trails through the ether of the net can be shared.  And, finally, because I am such a happily visual being, I have the opportunity to include images, what the roving eye may see and try to hold onto with a small camera.

I know some of the people who read what I write here, either because they post comments in response or because I recognize their IP addresses or locations, but the majority who show up on my sitemeter are unknown to me.  I like that, the fact that my writing voice, my listening ear, and my scanning eye can be read, heard, and seen by others out in our wide networked world whenever they care to explore what is available here, and sometimes wonder why that person in Agawam, Massachusetts or Arlon, Luxembourg, or Broadmeadows, Australia dropped in for a visit and what s/he might have thought or felt.

So the subject of my 130th post is not so much my birthday today, shared with Lou and Levi and family and friends, but the variousness of the world we live in and the things that take our (or, in this case, my) attention in it sufficiently to note them as they pass.  Composing a post for this blog has always been a great pleasure for me, and I always hope it may bring pleasure to you too. 

Happy (birth) day to you too, hope you have a great one!