Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Honey, there's a pitbull in the garden."

Woke up this morning, looked out the bedroom window, noticed movement. My eyes focused and I saw it was a pitbull. A new mama. Poor thing look so confused out there, and she fixed an unwavering eye on me in the window.

"Honey, there's a pitbull in the garden," I called to Greg, who was putting the coffee on.

"No way."

"Way. Come see."

"Holy ... that's a pitbull all right. In our garden." He reached for the phone and began dialling the City.

I went to pour us coffee, and when I returned, Greg was putting the phone down. "That's one smart dog,"
he said. "Saw me dialling the Pound and he took right off."

After breakfast--cooked oatmeal and raisins plus two toast and coffee for Greg; one cup of Rice Puffs, an orange and coffee for Weight Watching me -- Greg began getting ready for work. This being Tuesday, I was able to do my radio work from my home office -- in my pajamas, as it happened -- and thus was not in my usual rush.

Greg came back to the kitchen, almost ready to leave, and set a can of bear spray on the counter. "I'm ready to go to work now," he said.

It's been a good week. We spent Easter weekend in Jasper, our 2nd annual "Jasper in April" weekend, and it was lovely, with the requisite elk and bighorn sheep; the requisite ice cream cones; hikes and runs; and some live entertainment at my favourite pub in the Park, The Whistle Stop. You know, I even enjoy that 3 1\4 hour drive to Jasper. So good to get out of the city from time to time.

I tried to get Greg to stand directly behind this sheep ... with one hand on its flank ...
and a big smile on his face ... but he wouldn't. 

Sometimes it's great fun to sit on the grass and people-watch in Jasper
while the trains go by and by.

I don't know what happened to the pitbull. I suspect he belongs to the people who live on the corner. We saw two pitbulls in their window when we were running past the other day. Dog lover though I am, pitbulls scare the bejesus out of me. I'd just as soon not have them as neighbours, and not find them in my garden in the morning.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Art All Over.

I've been enjoying art in disparate forms of late. Of course this is not a new thing, but the level of pleasure I've been experiencing from art seems to be reaching new highs. This is interesting to me.

(Oh politicians, please recognize how engaging in art--
as a creator or appreciator--
makes us each and every one a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human being,
and support us in our creative endeavours.) 

I've been partaking in all-things-art on the stage, in books, via videopoems and readings, and I've writren a new song (with one of my almost-trademark melancholic titles: "Requiem for the Burned Down House" for guitar. (I plan to create a video piece for the song.)

Playing Guitar on the Deck on a Chilly Day in April

Let me begin by confessing that I am late to come to and appreciate the singular talents of American writer Richard Ford (b.1944). What the hell took me so long? I've just devoured the final pages of Rock Springs (short stories, Vintage, 1988). Ooh. La. La.

Wikipedia says:

"Ford's works of fiction "dramatize the breakdown of such cultural institutions as marriage, family, and community", and his "marginalized protagonists often typify the rootlessness and nameless longing ... pervasive in a highly mobile, present-oriented society in which individuals, having lost a sense of the past, relentlessly pursue their own elusive identities in the here and now."

Ford "looks to art, rather than religion, to provide consolation and redemption in a chaotic time".

I say here is a writer who is not afraid to put unexpected words into the mouths of his often down-on-their luck characters. (In "Empire," a female Army Sargeant on a train between Minot and Spokane says to a man she's just met--who has lied to her and told her he fought in Vietnam: "Vietnam? Was that a war or what?" ... And you were probably on a boat that patrolled the rivers shooting blindly in the jungle day and night, and you don't want to discuss it now because of your nightmares, right?")

I say here is a writer who knows that even those of the lowest economic means can be philosophers.

Here's a writer who writes about the parent-adult child and parent-adolescent child bond in a way I can believe. (In the story "Great Falls," in a motel beside the city golf course, a mother says to her son: "I'd like a nice compliment from you ... do you have one of those to spend?" The boy says: "Yes ... I am glad to see you." She tells him adult things, like: "Your life's your own business, Jackie. Soemtimes it scares you to death it's so much your own business. You just want to run." And: "I used to be afraid of more things than I am now.")
And here is a writer who knows the back roads of Montana and Idaho, and knows about fishing and hunting snow geese, and understands many a thing about the vagaries of the human heart.

Ford's first-person protagonist in "Great Falls," says: Things seldom end in one event."

His protagonist in "Winterkill": "Trouble comes cheap and leaves expensive ..."
Also in that story, "Mr. Wheels," a guy in a wheelchair ("due to a smoke jumper's injury") who drives a specially outfitted Checker cab goes fishing in the middle of the night while his buddy and a strange woman entertain themselves in the car, and "Mr. Wheels" gets snagged on something. His friend comes to help, and has to enter the river to release the line.


     "It's an odd thing to catch," I said, standing above him in the grimy fog.
     "I can't change a fucking tire," he said and sobbed. "But I'll catch a fucking deer with my fucking fishing rod."
     "Not everyone can say that," I said.

Richard Ford, you are exquisite.

And so are you, Edmonton playwright Nicole Moeller, who wrote "An Almost Perfect Thing," which I saw last Friday night. I can't stop thinking about this play:


More brilliance: Edmonton poet Kath MacLean's launch of her new book (with University of Alberta Press), Kat Among The Tigers. The text demands a quiet time and space and I've not been able to carve that out this weekend, but I was absolutely blown away by the video poem "Doo-Da" Kath screened at her launch. I aspire to be that good one day.

I want to say more, but it's film night tonight. What's up: "The Secret Life of Words."

Ciao for now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Road Trip: 1933 km, more or less

What I know is the road, but fog thick as smoke was a new thing. White on white, with semi trailers frequently tearing out of the monochromatic landscape to hurtle toward me.

On to Saskatchewan -- for so many reasons -- with many stops and several friends along the way.

The photos were uploaded in anti-chronological order. Oops. So I'll begin where I ended (which is also -- in so many ways -- where I began).

How I love the woods surrounding Middle Lake. No trip back would be complete without at least a cursory walk around the campground. I tried to get to the clearing I love best, but punched through snow up to my thighs, and thus had to remain content to stay on the lane.
I love this place. Lucien Lake Regional Park.
Dear Deer.

A squirrel presumably as ready for spring as I am.

You can't buy this.

And now to my friends ... here is Roger.






Friends at my birthday tea, at Eileen's home.
From left: Moi, Shirley, Bernice, Ruth (in back), Dori, Marie (in back), and Eileen.
I stopped in Outlook on my way to Moose Jaw, where I had several presentations.
It was great to see my Aunt Doreen and her husband, Irvin.

In Moose Jaw I visited my grandpa, Thomas Earl Greer. He was a lawyer, and a gunner in the 2nd World War.
I was five years old when Grandpa died, and I remember him well.

After my presentations in Moose Jaw I drove to Watrous and spent two nights with Jim and Helen, aka Mom and Dad.
Mom is in the Red Hatters' (but you probably guessed that).

This is Jeanne Marie, in Biggar. She's one of my best friends.

I believe Jeanne Marie is one of Canada's best poets, only Canada doesn't know it yet.
In the meantime, she operates a hair shop on Main Street.
She gave me a cut and high-lights.

This was a reading at Java Express in Moose Jaw.
I read with students from Vanier Collegiate, their teacher, and members of the public.
Loved the live music, too.

Mom and her great granddaughter, Ashlyn.

This is Leah, my great niece. She's four now.
And a real delight.

I turned 48 on April 2nd.
My daughter said: "Mom, it seems like you've been the same age forever."

My dad, Jim, and his great grandson, Reid.
Priceless photo of these two.

Back to Jeanne Marie's hair shop.
I usually cut my own hair, so this was a treat.

So it was the typical Shelley Leedahl whirlwind tour, with visiting and presentations and runs and practical matters -- checked on my house in Middle Lake, had my taxes done, that kind of thing.
Left Middle Lake this morning at 9:30, and got back to Edmonton at 5:00. What did I gain an appreciation for on this road trip?

Friends. Family. Health.
John Mayer's music.
Double lane highways.
Birthday cake.
E-mails from Greg in Mexico.
Returning geese.
Appreciative teachers.
Sunshine, and snowmelt.
The farmer in the Burger King in Moose Jaw who, upon hearing the fountain drink machine sputter as I put my plastic cup beneath the nozzle, came up to me and said:
"Sounds like a John Deere" (ah, I knew I was home).
Unexpected birthday greeting e-mails.
Beautiful messages from faraway offspring.
Scheduling that allowed me a cemetary visit.
Eating with friends.
New rubber boots from the Bargain Store.
A ring that looks like the one Diana wore, and now Kate Middleton wears.
Temple Garden Mineral Spa.
Nits Thai Food Restaurant in Moose Jaw.
An employer who allows me time off from my day job to travel
when my literary career requires it.
A good -- if not aging -- car.
Laughing till I cried.
Big bags full of carrots and parsnips.
Being where everyone knows your name.