Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Shift into Changes

On the nest

Part of my ongoing recovery has been walking: I’ve always been “a walker” having grown up in a house where taking a stroll after dinner was part of my family’s evening routine as a child. But it was prescribed after my surgery in November, and except in the depth of winter, not been much of a challenge.

Unlike last year, when we really didn’t have much of a “winter” here in Calgary, it’s been distinctly nasty out, so I’ve been grateful that the weather improved and I could get out more often, and for longer distances. More sunlight certainly helped too!


The end of April meant the end of my regular winter house-sit, and work on plans for the rest of the year. I judged the fleece show again that I did last year (pictures of that trip, which I recently returned from will be posted in the next blog entry), and I’ll be driving to Québec in July to visit friends and then attend a musical improvisation camp in August.

Yes, that’s not a typo: I am going to drive out: I’ve been persuaded to accept the gift of a car. It means being able to stop into small wineries and cideries in Ontario and Québec and bring bottles back with me, which I am looking forward to.

Since the beginning of December, I’ve been charting my progress on Walking 4 Fun, doing a virtual tour of El Camino Frances through northern Spain, and on Sunday, May 28, I finished. The beginning and the end were full of spectacular scenery, but the middle, ah, not so much. The part I’m anxious to walk in real life is the stretch after Santiago, ending up in Fisterra — it’s on my bucket list — if for no other reason than for the food of Galicia and the wines of the Rias Baixas.

I’m committed to being back in Calgary for September 15, and I’ll be heading back out to the West Coast the beginning of November, all things being equal. In between, I’ve got lots of projects to build and writing to do, wherever I’ll be hanging my hat.

Douglas Fir Trail

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Minor Inconvenience

Water and Ice #3

When most people hear the word “cancer,” they expect the worst possible consequences.

And for many people, that’s what they get.

For whatever reason, my experience has been quite the opposite.

Water and Ice #5

From finding the squishy benign cyst on June 24 last year, to the malignant lump underneath that was removed November 10 (and having full motion on that side within two days), and finally completing sixteen radiation treatments March 9, I have had an amazing crew of people caring for me.

My surgeon made me laugh endlessly, and vice versa, while my medical oncologist and radiology specialist always treated me with respect when I drew the line at not having chemo, while the friends who walked me to my daily treatments, my mindful meditation and yoga group, and my psychologist kept me sane.

Water and Ice #6

I know I’ve been lucky in finding it early, getting appointments at what felt like light speed on many occasions, and that’s done a lot in having such success. Almost everyone I know has a friend or family member who hasn’t been aggressive as the cancer has in getting something not right looked at in time, and I wasn’t about to add to the list.

Water and Ice #8

That’s not to say the whole adventure has been a walk in the park (Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, in the case of these photographs), because it hasn’t. But the few side effects I have had (loss of sense of taste and sense of smell, and some minor burns from the radiation) have almost completely disappeared, and the mental stress has eased considerably.

The healing continues.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Finding Peace in Chaos

While I had an initial reluctance to submit a piece for the inaugural Alt Alt DIY Performance Festival in Saskatoon the first weekend of January, I eventually decided I wanted to continue exploring some of the work I had done as part of One Yellow Rabbit’s Summer Lab Intensive last summer by actually performing craft.

My initial submission was related to “spinning a story” and I thought long and hard about just what story I could tell, and how I could spin it. At some level, the how was the easiest part, utilizing kami-ito (spun paper yarn in Japan) which is the foundation for shifu (cloth woven from paper thread). I had an adequate supply of Japanese mulberry paper (washi) that could be used to print out my story, and I did some experiments in InDesign, figuring out an optimal layout. What worked well, given that 5 mm is an easy width of paper to spin up, was to set the text at 9 points, with spacing of 14.2 points.

The what to write, the music to accompany the work and the title, which is also the title of this post, flowed from that: there are few things that soothe me as much as creating yarn on my spinning wheel, and all of the chaos that became the majority of my 2016 was no exception.

So I chose to write, in fairly explicit detail, my medical experience, based, in large part, on the long emails I had sent family and a growing circle of friends who were aware of my condition, with most of the gory details and names of my medical team removed, some additional commentary added, verb tenses made coherent — ah, the joys of being a professional editor some days! — and various other tweaks as deemed necessary.

Creating the music enabled me to again work with developing a work drawn from another text file as I did for The Simplicity of Ritual — for Finding Peace in Chaos, I used the list of tarot cards I drew during a reading done by a friend of mine, repeating each eight times — and ran through this website to create a MIDI file. I dropped three copies into GarageBand, offsetting them by one motif each, and orchestrating them for widely different instruments. Thirty minutes after I started, I had 7:45 of music ready to go.

All that was left was to book some time at CJSW to record the story, discover that I had written enough that it wouldn’t fit into one iteration of my music, but felt comfortable in two, and edited the entire 15:30 audio production within a two-hour window, turning it into an mp3 to take with me.

I was the second performer on the Saturday night, preceded by a slightly creepy clown who did great magic, and a trans woman doing slam poetry on roller skates, and I’m grateful that they have both become good friends. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous spinning the paper, despite being on a borrowed wheel that was painfully slow, compared to my wheel here at home, and the standing ovation from a roomful of (mostly) strangers was overwhelming.

It was freaking cold in Saskatoon, as you can tell from most of these photographs, but the welcome was warm.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my infrequent electronic ramblings, and the sixth since I lost my wee mannie: I look at how I’ve changed, how the work has shifted forms, metamorphosed to incorporate existing and discovered skills, and keeps me as sane as can be expected. I took the photo below last year when I went to visit his plaque, and I’ll go up again tomorrow, where I am sure there will be much more snow than there is here in the city.

While I may not have peace all day, every day, I no longer have chaos 24/7 either.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Comfort and/or Discomfort

Not my regular

Yes, there’s been a big lapse since the last entry in October, but not for a lack of things to write about!

From the time I stepped off the plane, returning from Denver, much of the time has been a blur: straight into a long house-sit, facing a big grant deadline, and then the beginning of the resolution of medical problems initially discovered in June. Part of the process was made easier because I was house-sitting somewhere that I had time to be grumpy by myself, to be honest, and gave me a chance to explore a part of Calgary with which I was not intimate with.

A perfect fall day

Different walking paths in mostly good weather encouraged me to get out and have the exercise my doctors indicated that would speed healing, and I found myself outside for long stretches on many days. Finally, I decided to start tracking my steps on December 1, thanks to the built-in pedometer on my iPhone, and began a virtual walk of the Camino of Santiago.

Bark 2

Since I eventually want to go explore the Spanish coast of the Bay of Biscay and Galicia, I though it would be a good way to measure my progress, particularly since the virtual walk I’m doing ends at Fisterra, a place on my bucket list.

On the wing

When the fall house ended, I had barely a week in my own bed before setting off for another one over the holidays, again, in another part of Calgary that I was unfamiliar with at the western edge, near Canada Olympic Park. Heavy snowfalls kept me busy shovelling, and plummeting temperatures turned my usually long walk on Christmas Day down to a much shorter stroll. It was a peaceful week, full of reading and writing: the former (Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa) recommended by a friend, while the latter was a performance piece I would be doing in Saskatoon the first weekend in January.

Tall trees

Books for Sale

The shop is currently empty.