I hope you are well and taking care amidst the rising heat and work stress (according to an informal poll of my friends on social media) that is apparently rampant this week, most specifically in the arts & culture sector. Why are we so chronically underfunded and underresourced??? :(
It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything here, I know. My life feels like it got kinda turned upside down in the past month on account of lowkey depression, a case of stomach flu, project deadlines, and now, I am fostering a 7-year old dog from the SPCA.
This is Hoji (or Hojicha), which is what I am calling him on account of the fact that his coat looks like the colour of roasted tea. It is also a name that sounds similar to his old name “Oden” when you speak in dog voice:
image description: here we are wading into the river near my house. a striped brown dog sniffs the water, which reflects surrounding greenery on its surface.
He is a sweetie, but we need to do a lot of training together, for sure. I have been totally wiped at the end of each day with him so far.
I recently completed recording and editing(!) an audio poetry project with talented, smart, and caring writer-poets Rita Wong, Emily Riddle, and Sacha Ouellet. This piece is a result of a series of artist conversations we exchanged over the past couple months. We read one another’s work, read poetry out loud to one another over zoom, and talked about our writing practices and where the words meet the rest of the world. This is part of a larger artist conversation project I’m developing with the support of Canada Council and I learned so much through this process. Grateful for Rita, Emily, and Sacha for making time for our exchanges.
In one of our sessions, there was a moment where Sacha said to me and Emily,
“There are things in our lives that are put there solely for us to play in as humans–that have been brought to us by whatever creation story we carry. And that’s how I know our ancestors love us, that creation is divine.”
image description: notes and doodles in a notebook from a project recording session outside the Coast Salish watch house on burnaby mountain
Recently, I thought about human play in my role as a peer mentor (aka “stage dad”) for a brilliant group of emerging/youth artists for Vines Art Festival, an eco-arts festival that takes place in vancouver parks. Last week, I sat with 3 youth under the shade of maple trees at hadden park as they read their writing out loud to each other. Afterwards, I asked, “what does it sound like when the earth is giggling or laughing?”
I know the world is not all doom and gloom, yet, amidst climate change, I find that is the easiest place for my anxious mind to go. I know this is a theme often reflected in the writing I produce, too. I know I need to find more pockets of joy, of respite, from my very off-putting remorse of existing as a human in our society. (side note: is there a word for this feeling? and is this a millennial thing, or…?) Community and collective action can also be a salve for some of these fears and unknowns.
On giggling and laughter, there is a whole lotta joy and silliness in spending time with a dog like Hoji, even though it can also be really trying to care for an animal, particularly a shelter dog with separation anxiety.
It feels really good to find purpose outside of and beyond myself in the form of a pet. I think part of the intimate nature of building a trusting relationship with an animal lies in the opportunity to connect with the world in a new way. There are many ways that the earth shows us her joy and amusement. Dogs are only one living, breathing part of them.
I’m sharing new work as part of Powell Street Festival – you can now stream “From the Prairies to the Pacific Rim” a poetic exchange and artist conversation with Rita Wong, Emily Riddle, Sacha Ouellet and myself on SoundCloud or Powell Street Festiva’s YouTube channel (with captions)