The Other Side

the force of the tide photo westcoastwoman 2021

“Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

THE OTHER SIDE

This morning
forcing myself
to rise from
the Other Side of
the bed
the world
a sky where
rain fell
no bombs
not rising to
cram essentials
into small bags
before entering a corridor
of human strength and
misery

This morning on
the Other Side of
the world
the bed
first foot
met the floor with
“Thank”
the second
“You”
humanity rising
no Other Side to
Courage
Truth
Freedom

We rise
unstoppable tide
forcing
everything
everyone
Forward.

wcw 2022


Alope

My project for February is picking ‘new words’ from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and matching them with photographs that feel like a visual of what the word evokes in me…. then perhaps leaving my own comment.

Alope

n. a mysterious aura of loneliness you feel in certain places; the palpable weight of all the lonely people secretly holed up in their houses and apartments, with a flickering blue glow cast up on their walls-so many of whom might just want someone to talk to, or just want to feel needed, and could be that for each other if only they could somehow connect.

Short for “All the lonely people,” from the song “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles.
Pronounced “al-uh-pee.”

….from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig

A Slice of Life

Alope brings to mind the Hitchcock thriller Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. Stuck in his apartment with an injury he looks across the way and watches others play out their lives through the windows of their apartments.

A slice of life, making up back stories, feeling their loneliness or imagining it. Watching others come and go from their windows as they watch him do the same.

Like animals in an unlocked zoo.

wcw 2022

SONDER

A book with the title The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows recently made its way into my hands. It is a compendium of new words. “It’s mission is to shine a light on the fundamental strangeness of being a human being.” The author John Koenig spent several years forming new words that “capture the delicate subtleties of the human experience” then published this Dictionary that is described as a “poem about everything”.

I thought I would attempt to match a word and definition from the book with a photograph, a shot that I had taken in the past or use it as an inspiration to search out a visual that matched my interpretation of the new word.

SONDER the awareness that everyone has a story

“You are the main character. The protagonist. The star at the center of your own unfolding story. You’re surrounded by your supporting cast: friends and family hanging in your immediate orbit. Scattered a little further out, a network of acquaintances who drift in and out of contact over the years.
But there in the background, faint and out of focus, are the extras. The random passerby. Each living a life as vivid and complex as your own. They carry on invisibly around you bearing the accumulated weight of their own ambitions, friends, routines, mistakes, triumphs, and inherited craziness.
When your life moves on to the next scene, theirs flickers in place, wrapped in a cloud of backstory and inside jokes and characters strung together with countless other stories you’ll never be able to see. That you’ll never know exist. In which you might appear only once. As an extra sipping coffee in the background. As a blur of traffic passing on the highway. As a lighted window at dusk.”

French sonder, to plumb the depths. Pronounced “sahn-der.” Can be used as a noun or a verb, as you would use the word wonder.

from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig

Featured

Now That Anything Could Happen……

not a commercial operation. photo westcoastwoman

Now That Anything Could Happen
by Joyce Sutphen

You now know that anything could happen;
things that never happened before, things that
only happened in movies and nightmares
are happening now, as if nothing could
stop them. You know now that you are not safe,
you know you live in fragile skin and bones,
that even steel and concrete can melt away,
and the earth itself can come unhinged,
shaken from its orbit around the sun.
You know, now that anything can happen,
it’s hard to know what will, and what will you
do now that you know? What words will you say
now that you could say anything? What hands
will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you?

Joyce Sutphen, “Now That Anything Could Happen”
From Naming the Stars. 2004
_____________________________________________________

Not a Commercial Operation
now that anything can happen, it’s hard to know what will

The wind was picking up, whitecaps appeared as a small boat floated into sight. Trailing behind was a questionably seaworthy barge hauling a large propane truck, both were being buffeted by the growing swells. The boat was moving closer to shore appearing to zig zag in an attempt to jockey the barge into a less precarious position. I watched as the barge rocked back and forth, at times no longer visible, giving the illusion that the propane truck was making its own way across the water.

I called the Coast Guard, explained what I was witnessing and was put on hold. They came back and advised me that there were no commercial operations in the area. They did not need to convince me that this was not a professionally orchestrated commercial operation. Feeling their job was done they ended with “people do all kinds of things”.

I watched the boat and truck bob and weave it’s way out of sight, the thought that lingered was how familiar it felt each time a wave hit and the barge disappeared below the water line. I recognized it was the emotion we have been living with the past two years.

The truck is too big for the barge, the boat is too small to be pulling it and the wind and waves are never reliably consistent. We are living in a world now “that anything can happen” and as we are being reminded every day “people do all kinds of things”

So, I extend my hand to yours as we all jump forward into this New Year and ask the question ….

What words will you say now that you could say anything?”

wcw 2021

Featured

The Two Best Ways to Die

photo westcoastwoman

I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.

Henry David Thoreau

My wanders to the Island loft have resulted in a few stories none of which are extraordinary but I feel inclined to record the more insistent ones….. the visits have been ‘between storms’ or alternately ‘riding out storms’ which have cut off ferry service and electronic communication. The times I spent incommunicado felt strangely more like a comfort than an inconvenience.

Contains some “salty language “

THE TWO BEST WAYS TO DIE

He was a Street Photographer’s dream, but this was not the street and it would be next to impossible to get a candid shot from my position in the driver’s seat parked in the ferry lineup. My hand had involuntarily reached for the camera when I caught my first glimpse, but instinct told me to retreat, sit back, watch and listen.

Minutes earlier I had pulled up behind an older model car with a broken tail light and bumper sticker that instructed the reader to BE RE’MARC’ABLE. I was hoping to see some evidence of this re’marc’ability from the car’s occupant, I did not have long to wait.

The car door opened, out stepped a West Coast, post modern, biker-pirate-sailor hybrid. Every bit of clothing on his body was some shade of black. A mariners hat with a small brim was pulled down tightly over his dark hair. A long pea jacket ended just above the knee under which hung a shapeless wool cable knit sweater stretched almost the length of the jacket. Tight jeans and leather biker boots whose tops flopped side to side as he stepped. So many layers of darkness it took me time to detect the braid that fell over his right shoulder ending just above the waist. He was living up to his PR and hadn’t yet spoken a word.

In these days of distancing I was well aware of my “come from away” status on this small and intimate island, maintaining a safe physical distance from the locals. ‘Marc’ as I will call him, made his way past my partially open window coming to a stop nearby, within earshot. Two women stood outside their vehicles just behind me, they formed a Covid friendly triangle. It became clear they knew each other casually, also clear was that Marc had much to say and jumped right in and started saying it.

He lived on his boat and had spent time moored in various bays and marinas up and down the West Coast for years, twenty to be exact. Speaking to no one in particular he declared that if he ever had to live on land, someone would have to “just take me out and shoot me.”
What followed was a ten minute monologue of his life at sea. It was never clear if he had ventured far ‘out’ to sea but he was very familiar with the bays and harbours of the islands that border Vancouver Island and the Mainland.

Time had been spent ‘below deck’ with ‘mariners’ where much alcohol was imbibed and ‘salty’ stories of the sea exchanged. He spoke of sailors and boats that were part of West Coast lore, stories were told in a way that left no doubt he had indeed spent much time below deck.

I recognized the name of one couple, Alan and Sheri Farrell. They were legendary, as was the China Cloud, one of the many hand crafted boats Alan had built. I caught a glimpse of it one day…..

His tales of the sea were interrupted for a moment as Marc admired the necklace one of the women wore, she told him it had belonged to her mother who recently died. Marc’s mother was also dead and he spoke with scorn about being offered a Kitchen Aid mixer when her belongings were being distributed. Living on a sailboat there is no space for such luxuries, he had taken instead a piece of her jewelry.

The talk of dead mothers brought the conversation around to a place that many of us find ourselves when death overtakes a conversation. What was the ‘best way to die?” it was quickly decided that the best way to die was, without doubt, “in your sleep”. There was a silence as this peaceful end was pondered by all…. Marc broke the silence…..”or fucking”.

A rather jarring addition to the usual death options. I adjusted my rear view mirror to see the reaction of the two women but everyone was heading back to their respective vehicles. The ferry had arrived, it was time to board, and so we did, each in our own vehicle with our own thoughts on the matter of Life and Death and how we hoped to experience both.

into the sunset. photo wcw

“It began when…”

Morning Walk. photo westcoastwoman

It has been a while …. I recently joined a writing group that uses ‘jump off lines’ from poems to get us writing ‘wild writing’. I plan to post one of these ‘wild writings’ every week and see where it leads.

IT BEGAN WHEN……

It began when I spoke something, something that sounded like a promise,
that tasted both foreign and sincere on my tongue.

It began when there was no doubt your body was dying,
when that promise had to be unearthed, examined, acted upon.

It began when I held your hand and it came time to say goodbye,
the gifts and pain that flowed from that touch.

It began when I went to the shore sobbing,
as a scene played out between a man and his dog.

It was all ‘clothing optional’.

It began when there was no other option but to release, everything,
clothing being the least of it, that first layer easily removed.

It began when attempts to control anything moved forward like a tsunami,
spilling onto ground, exploding into air, inhaled by merciless waves.

It began when you asked me where I was going and I replied
“Wherever my feet take me.”

Yes, that was the moment it really began,
when feet carried me to the edge of a waterfall

Standing, waving to myself as I went over

It was all ‘clothing optional’ beyond that point

wcw october 2021

Clothing Optional. photo westcoastwoman


Featured

The Empty Handed Offering

“The Empty Handed Offering” photo credit Rose Kilmer

“You are being called, we are all being called. We stumbled upon the Hero’s Journey and now there is no turning back. We know too much, overcame too many trials and received initiation into the Great Mystery, the river will not release us without a struggle.
We asked to be conscious, we cannot become unconscious…it is too late for that.
We are reluctant heroes.

Linda Jonke

The Empty Handed Offering

What does an Empty Handed Offering consist of?

I am not sure, but my gut tells me it looks something like the walking forward of this photograph. No idea what it actually is, or if it even exists.
I hope to attempt an answer over the next eight months. A series of synchronicities has allowed me access to a small loft over the winter that is located on a remote island a few ferry rides away.

I have taken to calling it “A Room of One’s Own”. Full disclosure, I have not read in its entirety “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf but now have a copy in hand and will finish it before the first departure of my solo journey. Books, art supplies, camera and hopes for inspiration will travel with me as I move back and forth every few weeks from ‘home’ to ‘room’ with the question of the “Empty Handed Offering”.

I was born on the Winter Solstice, each year there is comfort in knowing that the days become longer, the light returns slowly from that day forward. This year I enter another decade of life, more decades are now behind than in front.

This opportunity is the perfect gift, a room of one’s own and a question that can only be answered walking forward with hands and heart open… into the ‘Great Mystery’

Strength grows with Grace (morning dew). photo westcoastwoman2020

Off Map – Follow the Terrain

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westcoastwoman 2016

 “There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.”    Adrienne Rich

OFF MAP -FOLLOW THE TERRAIN

“Sit down and weep”, not something I have considered during this period of containment. I own but have not read a book titled “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept”. I like the title so well I am not sure I will ever read what is inside. Weeping appears to be a more enlightened form of crying. Do we weep for humanity and cry for ourselves?

I want to learn how to ‘weep’ and then search out ‘those among’ us who could acknowledge my strength as a warrior. My hope is they are waiting somewhere ‘off map’, beyond the beyond.

This poem by Joyce Rupp, OLD MAPS NO LONGER WORK speaks to that part that yearns to go ‘off map’ and discover new terrain… perhaps that decision has already been made for us.

westcoastwoman 2020

Two words that say it all

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photo credit play it again. westcoastwoman 2019

 

these days when words fail us and so many need to be heard, I offer these “two words” in a quote from Richard Wagamese……..

 

“Sometimes people just need to talk.  They need to be heard.  They need the validation of my time, my silence, my unspoken compassion. They don’t need advice, sympathy or counselling.  They need to hear the sound of their own voices speaking their own truths, articulating their own feelings, as those may be at a particular moment.
Then, when finished, they simply need a nod of the head, a pat on the shoulder or a hug.
I am learning that sometimes silence really is golden, and that sometimes “Fuck, eh?” is as spiritual a thing as needs to be said.

 

Richard Wagamese.   Embers  One Ojibway’s Meditations (2013)

 

Split Screen

holland-house-library-1940
Holland House Library  London September 1940 morning after an Air Raid

Split Screen

Order in the midst of Disorder, Outside but also Inside”

This photograph, taken the day after an Air Raid on London in the Fall of 1940 has lived as an icon on my desktop for a few years.

I click on it intermittently to remind myself how resilient we are as human beings.  Story-telling animals who in the midst of chaos and uncertainty keep moving forward. Reading, writing and telling our story as part of our survival.

Split screen, calm and chaos,  our story being written day by day.

westcoastwoman 2020

 

 

 

 

 

Human Error, Tides and the MAGA hat

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‘Alice’ and ‘Dorothy’ compare notes

Human Error, Tides and the MAGA hat

I arrived a little late to the party and it took some time to realize that this gathering could go on for longer than any of us expected.  These ‘guests’ were going to be delayed even after they had donned their coats, entered their vehicles and were ready to depart. Patience, something most of us have in short supply would rule the day.

Living on an Island necessitates ferry travel back and forth to the Mainland.  This particular morning while checking in for the sailing, I had been advised there would be a delay.  Once parked in my assigned lane, snippets of conversations could be heard through the open window.  One woman saying that she had been waiting since 5:30 a.m.  That meant that the first ferry had not yet sailed.   I was booked on the second sailing, so realizing this would not be a short delay I grabbed my camera and headed down to the dock to discover what the holdup was.

DSC_1233
©westcoastwoman 2016

Making my way to the dock I heard in passing that a truck was stuck on the ramp.  “How bad could that be?” I mused.  A monster tow truck was already in place and it looked like a quick and easy tow.  The tow truck driver on his phone and the ferry personnel with hands on hips did give me pause, but…..

“What could possibly go wrong?”  Quite a bit, as it turned out.

The wild card that shows up when you least expect it was in play.  Humans and in this case human error had collided with Mother Nature.  We would have to wait and watch as this perfect storm of man versus nature played out.

Walking to a different vantage point the situation with the stuck truck became so bizarre it was difficult to understand exactly what was unfolding.  It was obvious that whatever was happening was beyond the ability or the control of the people in
charge to fix it.

Houston, we have a problem.

DSC_1238
©westcoastwoman 2016

“How could this happen?”, was the only question that came to mind.

Later it was revealed that extreme tides had changed the angle of the loading ramp.  The crew believed the truck had enough room to clear the upper deck and load onto the lower one. 

Turns out they were wrong.  In the end the only solution was to wait (on Mother Nature) 12 hours, when high tide changed the angle of the ramp sufficiently to have the truck towed back off the ramp.

Meanwhile hundreds of passengers where backing up hour after hour waiting for sailings that didn’t materialize.  Those of us closest to the dock were treated to intermittent screeching sounds as parts of the truck were slowly crushed by the effect of the receding tide.

truck
unknown photographer

The excitement of the ‘truck incident’ mixed in with the impatience of the human cargo waiting to board produced a kind of party atmosphere.  Once we realized that no amount of complaining was going to change the situation, most people made the best of where we found ourselves and the social barriers that are usually up, broke down in the face of  a lengthy delay.

This incident happened in June 2016, hopefully you remember early 2016? ‘the good old days’ when we lived in a world where ‘weird shit’ and human error could be encapsulated in stories such as the one above.

This brings me to my one and only interaction with a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat.  Tides turned, emergency ferries were brought in and many hours later I found myself in the coffee shop of the ferry finally heading home.  The air on the boat was electric with relief and the afterglow of having been part of something out of the ordinary.  Most people were cheerful and lively conversations between strangers  were continuing.

I sat down with my coffee and looked around, seated next to me were two young men and on the table in full view was a MAGA hat.  Even mid 2016 in Canada, the hat with all it’s connotations was very familiar.  They looked like a friendly pair, I said “You’ve got to be kidding… can I take a photo?”  They happily agreed.

DSC_1256©westcoastwoman 2016

A short conversation ensued and I learned they were cousins, students and both recent immigrants to the United States.  One was a citizen and the other about to become one in  Fall of 2016.  Travelling around Canada and the U.S. for a month, they confessed to using the hat as bait to start conversations to get honest opinions from people.  Mostly, they were hoping to understand the rationale of people who supported the man and the belief system that the red ball cap had come to symbolize.

As we spoke, laughed and got deeper into conversation, others were drawn in to our circle by the subject matter and the blazing red symbol propped on the table between us. By the time we neared our destination our small group had grown substantially and the discussion had become thoughtful, critical and as always politely Canadian.  We parted with hugs all around wishing our new American friends good luck.  One of them put on the hat and they headed off the boat towards the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  I’ve thought about those two young men often since that day and how things have changed in the three years since that meeting.  The man who distributed the MAGA hats won the election against all odds.  I do not have to describe to anyone the rough seas that have been endured since that day.

Human error, tides and the MAGA hat. Looking back on that day, the three things  that seemed random at the time have fused together in my mind.  Human error and the hats are events and objects that come and go depending on the situation.  The tides however are constant although sometimes fluctuating between very high and very low.

It feels like our collective ‘truck’ has been stuck for a while waiting for the rising tide, but there is no doubt that the tide is rising.  I hear it in the voices of the people who are standing up and speaking ‘truth to power’.  I see it in the young people who are standing up and speaking for a planet that has no voice.  There is a feeling of
inequality that is hard to shake, but there is truth both economically and spiritually in the statement …

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

ships on the horizon
© westcoastwoman 2009

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shields

 

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photo © westcoastwoman

Something inside me has reached to the place where the world is breathing” 
   Kabir

Shields

Crisis,
birthing canal
to our Deep heart,
no stopping
the slippery movement
forward that demands
splitting open

Barriers of Reality,
Illusions of Safety,
clinging with tentacles
mired so deep that
Shields became prisons,
Seek wholeness
Not Perfection.

You are too much.
You have never been enough.
Pain liberating Truth
Reject, Embrace
Don’t waste your suffering,
A faint beat is detected
Light and Dark start their Dance.

westcoastwoman ©2019

 

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photo©westcoastwoman

 

Head to Toe

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photo credits ©westcoastwoman

Head to Toe

Living Dolls
Mannequins – partially animated,
Walking Shoes
Footwear – highly elevated,
Terrain between Head and Toe
Uncharted

Holograms
of Hollow Humans
Hover Helplessly
To Have and Hold
Hot  Hashtags

We post images
of life unlived,
capture forever
the second life…..
“doing it for the gram

Sun rises
Earth stretches
“the-more-than-human-world”*
Awakes
A New Day Begins.

©westcoast woman 2019
Intelligencephoto©westcoastwoman

*phrase coined by David Abram

 

Featured

Treading Water

DSC_1943
photo credit © westcoastwoman

If each day falls
inside each night,
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.

Pablo Neruda
***

Treading Water

The tide is coming in. A long, hot summer day is coming to an end when I hear my neighbours voice.  “Come on girl, get out here”.  She stands waist deep in the cool water of the incoming tide and I lose no time in joining her.  We take the plunge together, the one I usually resist until the last moment– letting go and going completely under.

Swimming out over our heads we start treading water and talking, a talk that soon turns to a version of one that is reverberating all over the planet.  We speak of the human condition, the planetary condition, the white privilege that has allowed us to live and tread water under a rising moon on a beautiful island off the West Coast of North America.  We speak of this and more as we slowly drift from shore.

I am facing out to sea and by the time I look back, the shore appears to be distant and I am starting to lose strength.  The conversation continues as I change the movement of my arms and we both slowly move back towards a place where we will ‘touch ground’ again.  I reach intermittently with my toe, longing to feel the safety of the sea bed. There are two conversations going on, one with my companion the other within myself.

I am a strong swimmer and could have easily floated on my back if I felt too tired to swim or tread but each time my foot reaches for security and doesn’t find it there is a slight feeling of panic and then palpable relief when my toe finally does find bottom.  I am surprised by the intensity of both feelings.

Sitting on the deck later that night I realized how long I’ve had the feeling I was treading water–we have been treading water as a world community.  There is a collective need for our toes to touch the sea bed and feel the familiar security and comfort of solid ground.

As we head back towards shore perhaps we are being called to dive;  dive deep within ourselves and return with our particular part of the puzzle.  No one gets to sit this one out.  There is no ‘us and them’. There is only us.

A Call to Arms.  Arms to reach out, arms to hold, arms raised with clenched fists in resistance and arms spread in surrender.

We are over our heads.
We are treading water.
The call is out.

© westcoastwoman

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photo credit Marc Riboud