The meme of 39 things

Joining Tamar and Jean: this was fun!

1) Who is the last person you high-fived?
My dog; she shakes my paw whenever I ask and she’s good about high-fives too.

2) If you were drafted into a war, would you survive?
I’d never allow myself to be drafted into a war. If I joined the medical corps, I'd suffer hugely from PTSD, but that's the only area I'd go if absolutely forced. I don't think I'd do jail.

3) Do you sleep with the TV on?
I’ve never had a TV in my room. I need quietness and darkness to sleep, use earplugs actually.

4) Have you ever drunk milk straight out of the carton?
I may have once tried from a small carton; the milk on the edge of the waxed cardboard wasn’t very appetizing.

5) Have you ever won a spelling bee?
Never been in one; I’m not a great speller.

6) Have you ever been stung by a bee?

7) How fast can you type?
Probably around 60 wpm – not fast (self-taught typist, lots of mistakes).

8) Are you afraid of the dark?
Never been afraid of the dark, that I can recall. I love being wrapped in darkness.

9) What colour are your eyes?
Blue. With brown flecks around the pupils, I'm told.

10) Have you ever made out at a drive-in?
I’m sure I have. But we're going back a ways...

11) When is the last time you chose a bath over a shower?
A few nights ago – bubble bath, tealight candles all around the edges of the bathtub, beautiful.

12) Do you knock on wood?
Yes. Wood feels so good under the knuckles, grounding, earthy, wise.

13) Do you floss daily?
Every single day. But then I have to.

14) Can you hula hoop?
Yes, and it’s still fun. When I was seven I was the Hula Hoop Champion of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

15) Are you good at keeping secrets?
Yes. I completely forget what someone’s told me in confidence until I’m talking to them again.

16) What do you want for Christmas?
That’s a long way away.

17) Do you know the Muffin Man?
No. I'm not much of a Muffin Woman either.

18) Do you talk in your sleep?
I think I utter obscure phrases now and then.

19) Who wrote the book of love?
Rumi, oh, but there is no other poet who comes close to Rumi’s vision of love.

20) Have you ever flown a kite?
When I was a kid and lived in England for a bit we’d go to parks and fly kites. Not in Canada though.

21) Do you wish on your fallen lashes?
That’s a new one.

22) Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes and no. On personal terms, yes, hugely; in societal terms, no. So I try not to think in those terms...

23) How many people are on your contact list of your mobile?
Before I let the battery completely and utterly die? Perhaps six dozen; don’t know. Now? A handful.

24) Have you ever asked for a pony?

25) Plans for tomorrow?
Busy with writing.

26) Can you juggle?
I’ve tried, can do 2 things at a time for short snatches.

27) Are you missing someone now?
Yes. My son, who turns 19 this weekend. He's living at his Dad's in another city.

28) When was the last time you told someone I Love You?
Today. This morning.

29) And truly meant it?

30) How often do you drink?
Not often enough. I used to go through one box of red wine a month, a quarter of a glass every night, oh how teeny and fairy-like, my thimbles of wine. But they don't sell wine that way in Ontario (unlike BC with its mountains and camping) and it takes me too long to finish a bottle -:)

31) How are you feeling today?
Pressured. Artistically pressured. To create anything, a poem, a photopoem, a drawing, a dance, anything... to write that paper I have to write... to submit some abstracts for an upcoming conference (oh, deadline's today)-

32) What do you say too much?

33) Have you ever been suspended or expelled from school?
Sigh, no. I haven't lived enough have I?

34) What are you looking forward to?
I’m not sure if there’s anything in particular. More unfolding.

35) Have you ever crawled through a window?
Yes, last Summer when I was locked out of the house. I used the ladder from next door, climbed onto the roof over the kitchen and in through a bedroom window. It was a hot, humid, melting day, but I got in. My dog barked frenetically throughout.

36) Have you ever eaten dog food?
Yes – a few crumbs once of home-baked gourmet peanut butter dog treats. The Ikea recipe (whole wheat flour, wheat germ). It tasted like biscuit without the sugar.

37) Can you handle the truth?
Yes, far more than I can handle dubious fabrications.

38) Do you like green eggs and ham?
Still haven’t figured out what this is!

39) Do you have any cool scars?
A smile-shaped scar on my right shin from running into a corner of corrugated metal roofing in Kafue National Game Park in Zambia at age four. We lived 200 hundred miles from the nearest town. So I didn’t get any stitches.
Comments (2)

Five words to describe ourselves

My friend Prudy had a most interesting dialogue at her site. She had her readers pick five words to describe themselves. And in the next post she responded to everyone's description, see here. Relationships in the blogging world can be as rich and complex as day-to-day connections!

My five words were hard. I wanted to describe my life at present, my state of mind. But qualities are more fixed, stones in the sweeping current, places where you can safely put your feet as you cross. The five words feel vague and, oh, here they are: responsible, careful, creative, compassionate, sensual.

Prudy's response: "I know this woman pretty well, as I've read her closely for about as long as I've been on here and I've talked with her several times. I was surprised by her description and she's the first one to do so. There isn't anything this woman can't write. I prefer her in first person but she is stubborn. And I know I'm supposed to pick five words and then shut up but this one is going to take some time. She gets the most generous commenter award, I think we'd all agree. I once told her I waited for her to tell me what I'd written. When I first read her she was writing poetry. I think it became more prose poetry. Rich is what I called it. Then she started a book. Then she started doing Podcasts of essays and some of her poetry. The minute her voice hit the words they became jewels. What I liked just as much were the extemporaneous preludes she charmed us with, her voice lilting, laughing. I don't know why but I was surprised by her keen intellect and academic prowess. I think she must have toned it down for me:)

All along she'd been painting. She does amazing work with vibrant color and with subjects to my taste as she is similarly spiritual and sensual. Okay. Lyrical, brave, open, compassionate, joyful."

Posted 3/30/2006 at 12:39 AM by ydurp

I have been so low these last days that this picked me up and I thank you, Pru. For being the friend you are...

You can leave five words to describe yourself here. I'll respond as best as I can.
Comments (1)

Prayer Ribbons

MP3 recording of this poem: Hi-fi; Lo-fi.

Where your prayers are, hidden on the inside, invisible. Between you and your God, or the life force itself. Prayer is because of what continues. Prayer is not disruptive thought, fragmented living, but the song of it all. In the quietness of the intimacy of the holy.

a peace tree
where the wind moves
pieces of woven material
lanterns of love

And then I lifted myself, and it was bright.

And I saw them flutter
collected against a plum wall
a rainbow of ribbons, banners
prayer flags, lungta.

Weavings of spirit and meaning, desire and effort, care and consideration, and tears. Knot us, our dreams and hopes and those we love, together; please don't separate us...

Here is my prayer ribbon, gentle reminder to the great spiritual forces that I am here, needing too.

On trees all over the world, prayers for peace. I tie white prayer flags onto the trees out back. For all the wars, conflagrations, battles, arguments, violences.

I pray for inner peace.

To be knitted into my world; to be woven into the continuous strands of the sacred song that our prayers are.

Hold me tight.


A Neckline of Beads

A Neckline of Beads

click on image for a larger, readable size

Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice

Two abstracts were accepted for the upcoming Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice Conference at York.

This one's at 9am on May 6th, a Saturday morning:

Caregiving and Evolutionary Ethics: The guardians who undergird culture.

"For a moment, during their conversation, feeling the desperations they spoke of, the difficulties, she felt connected to millions of women over the globe who struggle with poverty, grief, racism, violence, but who keep going. Women who are the emotional centres for their families, who are anchors, who place food on the table miraculously out of almost nothing, who somehow dress their children, their spouses, themselves, who clean and maintain their homes, who work for menial wages, where they are essentially labourers, who never allow themselves to succumb to madness, or drugs, or a furious destruction of the world around them, who keep loving their families in profound ways. They grieve, yes, there is sadness, but they have hearts of compassion. It was here that she felt a bond with the strength of women throughout the ages. She knew she was alive, living in her generation, carrying the flame of continuous love through the marathon that history is, only because her foremothers had also carried it and passed it on. If mothering is a stable, conservative force, if that's what happens to women as they take on the responsibility and role of motherhood, then she was grateful for it. This was where there was meaning, the staying-with-it through everything, the power to endure, to continue." Brenda Clews, The Move.

Caregiving is a core ethical value. Unfortunately care of others, especially the most vulnerable and important for the future of 'the race,' children, often falls to women who are mothers, and who, one might say, because of this role, become the keepers of the continuous flame of evolution. Such processes as "natural selection" could not, I would argue, produce a highly complex species without the continuous care provided by women who take on the caregiving role, and so become, not just metaphorically but in a very real sense, 'guardians' who undergird the enterprise of culture. In this talk I will align caregiving with a discussion of evolutionary ethics and read a short selection from my unfinished novel, The Move.

Bio: Brenda Clews is a writer, artist, dancer and single mother living in Toronto. She has degrees in Fine Arts and English Literature from York, and an unfinished Interdisciplinary Studies thesis on the maternal body. She is currently writing an autobiographical novel about living in uncertainty, and about existing outside the dominant discourses, entitled, The Move.

This one's at 2:30 that afternoon:

The creative writing piece:

Towels hung on the door, an accidental spectrum

In these photopoems, I explore my daughter's relationship to her body. As a feminist and as a woman who struggled with bulimia many years ago as I came to terms with my own female body, it is hard to witness my daughter undergoing the same struggles. At 15 she is radiant as the sun who cannot see its own beauty. These prose poems explore the difficulties girls face with media and peer pressure to sculpt themselves into more perfect images of what is considered beautiful by the general culture.

I wrote to her... "Please use the same bio I sent with the other abstract. Am I aiming for 10-15 minutes of reading here?"

I've barely written anything. The first talk is 15-20 min, that's easy. The second panel seems to consist of only two of us, which means an hour and 15 minutes each! I had thought of writing 4 pieces, taking up 12 -15 minutes, so this is going to require some planning. I'll probably take a disc of my photopoesis pieces, or dig up some old work... though, oh dear, I can't. Lost in storage...

There are so many writers and poets and artists out there, how come this panel is so under-represented? The last time I joined a creative writing panel at one of these conferences, it was packed, with writers and audience, and we each got 10 minutes to read... some of those pieces were incredibly moving and became the highlight of the entire weekend.
Comments (7)


Last night I made some really hot curry and just had some for lunch, and whew, blow...

Today I'm considering engagement. It's important. Sometimes you do things without really doing them. Meditation this last week has been difficult because I've done the meditation without really doing it. If you know what I mean. It's about engagement. In meditation and in my work. By focusing some good intent on my book, and even having it beside me while I sleep, seems to have re-charged my relationship to it. I finally have an ending, and not the one I expected, but it is congruent with the text. As I re-read, editing, how painful the narrative is. Yet with so many unfinished manuscripts and thesis's (two and two), bringing something to completion is of particular importance. That's a meditation in itself: the hexagram of completion.

Engagement isn't completion, they're two different processes with two different purposes. Engagement is being in the present, fully participating in whatever it is you're doing. Full focus; undivided attention; the complete synaesthesia possible for any particular connection. But engagement is needed for completion, especially when the mind wanders, creating posts on why we write in blogs and spending copious hours photoshopping a photo, recording a reading that didn't work until giving up and going for the sweetness of the yoga teacher's voice, ooh la, should I tell you that? Today the manuscript lies open before me, and have I spent as much a one second looking at it? I've had a breakfast of 12 grain bread and melted cheese, mugs of coffee, erased the grey in my hair with colour, showered, had curry for lunch already and it's not even noon!

I've hugged the dog lots, eaten grapes, wiped counters, done dishes, laundry, sent emails, considered all my relationships, focused on what I need at the present to continue, collected my life, you know the song.

Oh, did I tell you about the fresh strawberries, almost over-ripe, that you slice into a bowl and put a good-sized dollop of cream cheese on and sprinkle generously with raw sugar? In the microwave for 40 seconds, mix it all up, and it's almost like having cheesecake! Instantly, that is.

Do I have 2 hours a day for my book? Of course I do. Now that I know the ending, I can focus the writing.


Comments (2)

Why Do You Write?

MP3 recording: hi-fi, or lo-fi.

How can I take the reader's perspective into account when I write? I write from excess, from overflow, from abundance, a plethora, a cyclone of words. Aren't we all on journeys, discovering our way as we go? Mine isn't a journey of logic, nor do I know the path or the map that'll finally result from it all. I don't have a specific set of interests to write about. Though I do favour prose poetry and exploring emotional landscapes. My lifewriting is often hidden in metaphors, obscured with fictions, offered as a tie-dyed garment of brightly coloured silk, fragile and soft as the morning sun, or as dense dark broadcloth heavy with grime and flung before you. For I don't know who you are. I can only guess. With your writing at your sites, in comments, I create a sense of you that is surely only a part of who you are. We dance together, oh, yes, we do this, in our writing, our interconnections, and it's fun, most enjoyable, but I wonder about the intersections, parallels, curvatures, and parabolas of our intertextual writing. We share our core values, deeper selves, revealing who we are in ways that we might not in social situations, we let each other overhear us, our soliloquys, yet we are always cognizant of each other, and each other's perspectives. We love the dialogues we have. Small sitting rooms for writers writing on writing, where the style of the saying counts, not just what is said. Let's share fine champagne and fresh strawberries and talk of art and literature and philosophy and each other's joys and travails with the perfection that a purely writerly existence affords. It's a luxury, living through words like this. We can be true to our most generous, loving selves. Posts fall like golden leaves, etched with our words, disappearing into the world, a world that is surely far richer for what we are sharing.

I write out of excess. I write because
I'm too full. Over-ripe. Spilling out.

The corset of silence too tight.

I write because I'm pregnant and have

to give birth.

It's the extravagance of living.

The fertility of words.

Because I carry around
a wild dictionary in my head.

Because of the aesthetics of expression,

how satisfying it is to compose, to share.

A thought, a heart motion, a poem, a gift.

From me, but to you.

Why do you write?
Comments (3)

Abandoned Bouquet

Push-pull confuses me. Especially the push-away.

We hurt each other with rejection.

The force with which we can expel each other. Turning the other into an object of non-importance, an unwanted essence. The ability to savour, to honour, to love: the self, others, the world, damaged. But love doesn't happen in isolation. Maybe some have their lists of good and bad. But it's not that easy. It's not that this person, or people, state of mind, area of interest is safe, acceptable and all else needs to be distanced. Isn't that possession? And possessions can be lost. If they're people, they can leave; if they're belief systems or areas, we can become profoundly disenchanted. Then where are we? In angry rebuttal to the world that we clearly divided between acceptable and not. Between people who counted and those who didn't. Between an arbitrary definition of the good and the not-good. So what do we do? Do we cling more tightly to our safe constructed categories of who is and who isn't even when they might betray us, or do we give way and open out to the mystery that has no name, is amorphous, all-pervading, without judgement? A light that shines everywhere without discrimination. If we could spend one year of our lives not rejecting what would happen? Would it open out in magnificent ways, this ability to love?

Or would be we overwhelmed? Is the push-pull, rejection-acceptance, necessary for homeostasis, for balance?

Breathe in; breathe out.

As I tell my yoga students, make sure your in-breath and out-breath are equal - that what you take in and what you give out balance.

But. Push-pull. Wound-heal. Why do I do this? Is there no other way?

Comments (5)

Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels

An MP3 recording of this piece:
Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels: Lo
Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels: Hi

I am with you like an angel. Can you feel kisses, a caress of breeze perhaps, or a sudden warmth that lightens your spirit? I hold you enfolded in my wings when you weep, inconsolable, disappointed. Can you sense a blessing of radiance about you? My wings, woven of sun and moonlight on veins like leaves. Surely you see their shimmer breaking through what separates us. You are my prayer, my vigil.

But I am an earthy woman who laughs, storms, cries, rants, pesters, and loves.

And I am unable to settle, come into being in one place, crystallize. Can I play in the garden palaces of the heart? And retire in solitude when the day is done, to rest?

Even as I sweep across the sky of your consciousness, a roseate sunset, mandala whorl of sun, the choral clouds, like a hymn, a sacred song, something ebullient and therefore holy, I am racing away into the night and disappearing.

I offer you a guardian, a keeper of the flame of your heart, a high priestess who holds your innermost secrets, a temple to honour your prayers on love, but it's ephemeral, Akashic, in the place where everything is recorded, where what we are, our memories, our dreams, are held safe. Nothing you could hold onto, nothing at all.

I am here; but you cannot see me.
Comments (9)


One set of beliefs though which you define yourself. Is this fundamentalism? That set of beliefs is also a formulae. A code in a sacred text; the ordinances of the ordinated; a belief in the reward of rightness. Happiness to be on the one path to salvation, whatever it may be. In every movement, surge of social beliefs, group with a purpose, religion, are fundamentalists. Those who place whatever doesn't agree with their creed into a category of evil to be opposed with all force, vehemently. Fundamentalism is the opposite of acceptance. Fundamentalism takes the complexity out of living. It replaces a sensitive tuner, an ethic of compassion, a cognizance of difference, shades of infinite grey, with certainty. Instead of the vast and perplexing mystery of living, one set of beliefs through which a person defines themselves and others. One path to walk. One goal to achieve. One perspective on those who follow the "illumined path" and those who don't. Fundamentalism is an escape from the responsibility of living. Of living in the impossibility of time, with uncertainty, in the flux of ideas, events, emotions, unpredictable happenings with a mass of people who are equally unknown. Fundamentalism is like the virus that invades to overtake the whole system and make it its own. In its success it kills the very spirit that gave it life.
Comments (4)
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