Keys in the Sun. Scent of the Rain
(October 1 to November 20, 2018)
Monday, October 1
Landed now in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver with a touch of rain after a run-around delay changing planes at Pearson Airport in Toronto.
Tuesday, October 2
Now to sit down at have a look at The Sicilian Cowboys and revisit some of my protagonist’s moving around from Canada to southern Italy, and the horses he’s out to chase down. This is my novella in progress as I take residency here at The House.
I am working on an old Smith Corona portable typewriter named Silent yet I can hear the keys coming down under the fingers pretty well. There is no doubt about the value of the sound of the keys to me. A certain sense of rhythm and physicality which lends itself to the feel of using my fingertips to chord a song out on guitar. Though you will read this blog post down the way on computer, I type it first on the Silent Smith Corona and then enter it into Word to share as a post.
The novella. The title derives from a story about a late adolescent kid and his older friend traveling to Sicily to see the wild horses of San Fratellano, yet along the way the story of Bobby’s attempt to escape (Bobby being the narrator of the story), and maturation from and through living in Canada with old world tendencies peeks in and out.
Thursday, October 4
Now this House I am working in is more than intriguing. Joy Kogawa, a well-known novelist of Japanese heritage who lived in this house as a child until she and her family were relocated to internment camps in 1942. She went on to become one of Canada’s finest proponents of brilliant, succinct, and poetic prose. The Historic Joy Kogawa House Society hosts residencies for writers working on their new works, and the spirit of Joy is evident in the well-appointed wood finishes and quiet mood of the surrounding neighbourhood, though the front street was in the midst of a sewer replacement project when I arrived and the work continues. Fitting, as my main character has done his share of road construction work. I always notice synchronicities and imagine that my character Bobby would fit in like with these Vancouver city workers. For certain he would like that they kind of keep banker’s hours because they stop work at 3pm. Bobby used to do 11 to 12 hours a day given that his crew were unemployed in Ontario’s winter months and the guys wanted to make up for that loss with long, long days in summer.
Sunday, October 28
Major League Baseball gave up a great series, Boston taking the Dodgers in five games. Tried to keep that in the background of the day.
Friday, November 9
As a singer-songwriter I have hosted two workshops on the techniques involved in song writing. One, how to move from written text to spoken word to song. Another focused on metaphor and performance. Workshops have been well-attended by writers in the community with a great sense of courage and sportiness. Along with that I have been assisting in the creation of an archive of items either gifted or held in the House. And the garden looks terrific whether in sunshine or rain. The guitar resonates happily. From typewriter to keyboard to fretboard fingers chase the day.
As we move into the Remembrance Day weekend, it is hard not to think of the waste, pain, and persistence of war. Those passed on and those left behind. Those interned and held in camps. Those forced to flee battered homelands and fight occupation and colonial and oppressive policies. Peace seems mercurial at times. Too brief and fleeting in visits to our planet but peace itself is subject to growth. That is always the hope. To experience it and pass it on to generations to come.
One of the most striking items in this house is a cardboard brown suitcase that is like one that might have been Joy’s, when as a child she was interned with her family. Inside the suitcase are two small doll dresses and a mother’s blanket. The dolls are gone. But off-setting that are a series of framed photographs informing visitors to the House of Joy’s accomplishments in the face of great adversity. This is a writer. A writer from who we learn. A soul with uncanny courage and a conveyer of peace. A Steinbeck, a Toni Morrison, an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In short, the blanket remains!
Monday, November 12
When the house needed to be occupied by Nejime Shoichi, a poet from Japan brought to Vancouver as part of the JPN 49 (Japanese Poets North of the 49th), a collaboration between the Kogawa House Society and Tasai Artists’ Collective, I had a week in San Francisco and Oakland and the warmth was pleasant as the air was cool at night. Sad and terrifying to see the news of the fires there now. As it was here in British Columbia. Between San Francisco and Vancouver I feel I am visiting two of the most beautiful and culturally invigorating cities on the continent. Rolling hills to mountains and bridges and the great Pacific Ocean. I love the neon signs down Granville. The harbour lit in sunburst early in the morning and the gulls hawking down to the waves. Nature has a true voice here. And the sound of a train across the midnight landscape soothes the soul as it calls out vast distances awaiting visit.
As I close here, many thanks to Ann-Marie Metten, executive director of the House, and I pass along an image towards the end of Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. Good luck and a joyful spirit to you all!
“Between the river and Uncle’s spot are the wild roses and the tiny wildflowers that grow along the trickling stream. The perfume in the air is sweet and faint. If I hold my head a certain way, I can smell them from where I am.”