I’m working on a fun idea for my 40th year. A few months ago, while engaged in conversation with a student, we spoke about time-limited-oriented blogs, such as ‘400 Days until 40’, which is one that my student used to read. It freaked me out a little that he mentioned this on the exact day that I had 400 days until I was 40. Anyway, after a few weeks of pure fear of aging and dying, I then went on a friend’s 40th birthday, we spoke about it, and I got over it.
And now I’m starting to see other friends, acquaintances, bloggers, all with their excellent ’40 before 40′ lists (going up in balloons, singing in public etc). Other people have lists or acts that are more closely linked to their everyday. A poet I know is learning 40 poems off-by-heart before she’s 40. (She’s a wonderful performance poet.) I liked that idea. In fact, I liked both the wild and the everyday.
So I started with one idea–a blog about transitioning to veganism before I was 40. I am already a vegan and have been for a year, but there are a few moments, and a few belongings, that still need to change/go, such as a reliance on chocolate when tired, my old leather satchel, not checking labels of all new foods.
And I began it in the spirit of one of the most important books I read last year, Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. In that book the mantra is ‘just do things. always.’ It’s a mantra Scott learnt from his father. In the book he talks about his ultra-marathon career. It was very much stimulated by his parents. His mother’s unconditional love and support (‘you can do anything’) and his father’s conditional love and encouragement based on effort (‘get on and do things. always’). And it helped Scott become one of, if not the, greatest endurance runner known. Continue reading
It is a still morning. I’ve seen a pair of female blackbirds meet on the top of the telephone pole, and fly off together into the still moonlit, blue morning. A neighbour is up – I can hear the runoff water from their shower. The last of the Monoprix decaf is brewing in the cafetiere. I’ve slept fitfully after a few too many glasses of wine (Montepulciano and then Sauvignon, both vegan). My friend Chris is up early too, and we’re playing chess online. The window has been open all night and the air is clear and fresh and welcome, after the thunder-pressure. Misha, my cat, is sitting in the front room on the window sill, peacefully looking out through the smallest, cat’s-eye slit in the curtain, the neighbourhood snoopy that she is. I brush her. She pushes back at me. I leave her to get the coffee and open my laptop, only five hours after going to bed and committing myself to ten days without turning it on. But this is not work, today, and I have no fear of obligations. There is still doubt about if I am doing the right thing or not. But there is more love, and love wins out.
My mouth feels itchy and blotchy on the teeth, as I didn’t brush last night—the electric toothbrush K gave me is still in the wicker drawer in the bathroom. All night I have been thinking, sometimes dreaming, of the things that I cried about last night. My father, missing, and what I am still missing, that person to encourage, care for, teach me about life and growing up. And what he is missing: a son to help him continue to find a way to live into old age, a son to be proud of. And the other thing I was weeping about: the pigs in the trucks on their way to the meat-packers, boiling over in the 45 degree heatwave because pigs have no way to sweat to cool them down, so they are dying in agony in the heat; and the love and grace of the people from Toronto Pig Save and the other city Pig Saves who meet them at the traffic lights on the way to feed them water and watermelon to relieve them in their agony.
As it says on the Free from Harm website, the first and last act of mercy and kindness they will ever receive. The mercy and kindness I’ve been unable to show my father. The image of that cow in Farm Sanctuary’s video, newly born, literally seconds born, being dragged by the leg by a farmer away from its mother, the mother cow who ran after it, her young, her newborn, but who could not stop the farmer taking that cow and putting her into servitude, chained into a narrow milking cell for the rest of its life. The image of my father, homeless, bring dragged out of the shop doorway, a gutter. Continue reading
It is like a Buddhist temple in Thailand, this pine cone, the largest of the half dozen or so (it is more like nine) that I have collected. Its outer fringes flick up to the air like the eaves and tiles of those temples. But this pine cone is dark, light on the underside of each of its plates, which are designed like chairs in a theatre, set around from each other so the person behind can see more clearly the play, whereas inside, where the seed was, which looks almost as if it is open to catch rain, to wash the seed down into the earth, it is dark, a deep brown of the tree. The true skin of this thing is on its inside.
It stands against the smaller, fatter pine cones I have collected from other trees, other places. This long one came form Wiston and the pines there, whatever breed they might be, whatever species. Do they talk to each other? It has been found that trees do—they even give moisture to each other underground, when necessary, warn of predators and fungi, they open and close according to the weather, like flowers, the teeth of this cone. It is almost like a forest in itself, this glass plate I have filled with these small remembrances of the forest, of the days that I have spent outside, walking, running, and in Wiston, talking, writing poetry. The walk around the square three times with a fellow poet, our lives brushed up against each other for a small moment. There have been times in the last few weeks where I have thought about Wiston, the poetry weekend I went on. There have been plenty of times I have thought about less pleasant things, such as feeling outside the community here in Newcastle, such as my chance or choice for decisions of where to go next, what to do, of friends leaving, of leaving friends.
The pine cone knows nothing, or at least very little, of this. But it has been dragged away from its own family, its own place, and put together with a bunch of cones that are similar but still different, not exactly of its own type, and it sits here, in the dry, warm, elegant comfort, as I have called it in another poem, penned this morning, about my cat’s breath on the window pane (see below), and it wonders where the wild life it once led has gone. It has been displaced this cone into a foreign world, not one where it is at any risk, except of stagnation, of ossification, of a lonely loyalty to others in the same condition and situation. The pine cone stands up because I have positioned it to stand. The others around it bumble up, standing or rolling over, or lying down, one of them a similar kind, from Wiston too, maybe even from the same tree, but this one is lighter, thinner, it looks like a cousin rather than a brother, kin but not nuclear, and a worse reminder for being so. Continue reading