Sunday, October 7, 2012


A couple of mornings ago, this was the treat that was in my Gmail inbox, while the image above was the treat outside my window that morning, looking not at the harbour but at the white birches between our house and our neighbour’s.  Those are certainly two things to celebrate.  This blog is titled Field Days: A Miscellany with the subtitle A Day Book of Sorts, and this post is an observation and celebration of that day and some other days in the past couple of weeks.

Just over forty years ago Lorraine was in the Grace Maternity Hospital with our first child, who was born after a long and difficult labour.  It was profound and life-changing for both of us, but more especially for Lorraine, who had been confined to her hospital room for quite a few days.  She went to the window to look at the world outside and was amazed to see that things were carrying on quite normally out there, people walking along the sidewalks, waiting at crosswalks, talking to each other, all apparently oblivious to the fact that our first child had been born.  The night he was born I wrote the following as part of a much longer poem:
              I am not artiste
c’est tres simple
aujourdhui je suis
tous hommes

this baby born the first
ever in the world
and I the first father

On his 40th birthday we celebrated, and perhaps the most wonderful aspect of this celebration was the great joy and pleasure our two granddaughters took in the celebration, especially when they got to shoot their aerosol cans of “party string” at their beloved dad and when they got to watch him blow out his candles and enjoy their slices of the chocolate cakes.

Later on that same weekend I participated in a reading that was part of Word on the Street, a celebration of books and of both writing and reading, held on the Halifax waterfront.  I was very happy to be there, along with the other winners in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia 35th Annual Atlantic Writing Competition.   
My entry, “Orientations, Syria”, included five poems that explored my experience of, and orientation to, being In Syria with Lorraine to help her with the completion of her photographic work there.  It was great to have my work recognized in this competition and to have the opportunity to share it with others, though this celebration, like any celebration involving Syria must be tempered by our knowledge of what is still happening there.  Here is my introduction to my reading:

My submission, “Orientations, Syria”, is part of a larger series, Orientations, I have been working on.  The verb “orient” means to locate and understand one’s self in relation to the east.

I want to dedicate this reading to my intrepid wife Lorraine Field, who has been travelling to Syria since 2004 to make and exhibit photographic work (her last visit there was in February, 2011, just as the Dera’a demonstrations were beginning to spread); also to our stalwart friend and guide G. and his extended family; and most especially to the Syrian people, whose spirit, courage, and heroism have inspired them to continue resisting and fighting back against the Assad’s cruel regime through a time of heartbreak, injury, and death.

These poems are from a quieter time in that brave and broken country.

The reading went well, and I was very happy to be able to do it and get such a positive response from those who attended.  As to celebration, I am always happy to join in celebrations of the written word, and I was also happy to watch this shortvideo clip on Al Jazeera today that may hold hope for a future Syria without the Al Assad family crushing its own people so ruthlessly.  So, from our positions of relative privilege, comfort, and safety, let us hope for the dawning of better days for Syria’s freedom fighters – it is the least we can do.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Recuperation/Recovery #6: Heart and Hearth

What have heart and hearth got to do with each other except that they share the same first five letters?  I have often thought that there should be a connection, though etymologically there is none that is apparent to me, each one coming quite directly from a different early Germanic root word.  For me the connection is approximately this: each one is central to some sense of house or home, and here I mean literally as well as metaphorically central. 

The heart is housed in the body centrally and pumps its blood to our extremities, including that bonebox of a skull protecting our brains, without which my forefinger would not be able to hunt and peck its way through the writing of this post, and without which there would of course be no post to posit, no etymological proposition to explore. 

A few years ago I watched an ultrasound image of my own heart beating and was struck by the profundity of it all, since I was observing the central pump of my own life system, realizing that it had been faithfully doing its work since months before I was born and would keep going until the end of my life.  It was, both literally and metaphorically, getting to the heart of the matter.

In our house we don’t have a hearth, which is actually the floor of a fireplace, but our woodstove provides a good approximation of one, as it is central to our sense of home and an important source of warmth, again both literally and metaphorically.  Both the hearth and the heart are central to my idea of recuperation, which is the restoration of health and balance to my body system.

When I was recovering/recuperating in Foothills Medical Centre in the early stages of this illness journey, we had some notes on the whiteboard in my hospital room.  One was the following poem by Li Po that our son JE put there:

Long is the journey,
Long is the journey,
So many turnings
And now where am I?

And where was I?  I was in a hospital bed where people who cared were looking after me, working in every way they could to facilitate my body’s recuperation.  It was not, however, where I wanted to be, though I understood the necessities that kept me there; I wanted to be home.  After all, home is where the heart/hearth is.  So the other messages on the whiteboard, besides the list of questions to ask the doctors on their early morning rounds, were reminders of home: my own bed, a place where I could see Halifax Harbour, a place to sleep with the window open.

Now I am here, in our house, in a comfortable bed, and the rainbow of recovery is still working.  Alleluia, I say, let the recuperation continue!