Lives of love and beauty – Robyn

As 2015 came to a close, I took a few days to highlight some of the amazing people in my life; my 12 Days of Gratitude.

Well, we are counting down the final days of 2016, and I am again feeling…well…feelie…and so want to share with you all some of the amazing people I know who epitomize love and joy and beauty, and who have transformed my life.

For those of you who remembered last year’s list, there will be a few overlaps here, but hey, they are that amazing and this is my list!

robyn-sarcasm

Shirt kind of says it all

Robyn Lawson: mother, daughter, blogger, poet

Through our shared friendship with humourist Ned Hickson, I first met Robyn in the blogosphere and immediately felt my life change.

An Indigenous Canadian, Robyn has a passion to explore and share her Native community and roots in all its glories and horrors, more often than not, laying herself bare through her emotional and lyric poetry.

Check out: October Surprises

Robyn is a beautiful spirit who has touched my life in ways that I cannot yet begin to fathom, and remarkably so given that we have never spoken directly (e.g., phone or Skype) or met physically.

Thank you, Robyn, for sharing yourself and your experiences with me.

 

See also: Blog Woman!!! – Life Uncategorized

Urban jungle

Despite being the urban capital and largest city of Canada, Toronto is much more than a collection of steel, concrete and glass. Sure, we host the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and a vibrant business core, but we also have a wide array of green spaces, where within minutes of almost anywhere, citizens and visitors can leave the social world behind and relax with Nature.

This past week, I spent a full day exploring such sections of Toronto, wandering along Taylor Creek Park and down the Don Valley Trail. Here’s some of what I saw.

With the walk home, my entire circuit for the day was 18 km (roughly 11 miles). Enough to leave my camera full, my body exhausted and my soul refreshed. All proof that you don’t have to journey to the hinterlands to experience Nature; it’s all right here if you but look for it.

OverTime finds truth under artifice (a review)

When all else is stripped away, only truth remains

When all else is stripped away, only truth remains

“Being naked and too honest makes you predictable and maudlin,” chided one of the characters early in OverTime, which premiered tonight at the Robert Gill Theatre for the Toronto Fringe Festival. And for the next 85 minutes or so, the cast proved the exact opposite was true.

In some ways, watching OverTime was like redecorating a home, peeling back the decades of paint one layer at a time. As each coat is removed, you uncover the laughter and tears of that moment in time. And once the last layer is gone and the history is revealed, all that’s left is the truth.

It is only as the play deepens that we learn that truth is what retired school teacher Carla (Elva Mai Hoover) feared most when she uttered that line to her protégé Darby (Timothy Eckmier). As Carla mentored Darby to become the next great playwright, she argued that mystery must be maintained.

Truth was also the motivation behind the other plotline of the play as young blogger and photographer Jewel (Andrea Brown) struggles to pull her father Linus (Tufford Kennedy) out of the safe environs of the hockey rink. A successful coach on the outside, Linus is a wreck inside, and Jewel wants to ease that burden.

Mentor Carla (Elva Mai Hoover) advises protégé Darby (Timothy Eckmier)

Mentor Carla (Elva Mai Hoover) advises protégé Darby (Timothy Eckmier)

OverTime playwright Romeo Ciolfi did an amazing job weaving these two story lines together. With each passing moment, it felt like another layer of paint was removed to reveal a bit more of the truth. And at least for me, the story was anything but predictable.

Sure, I felt Ciolfi could get a little heavy-handed with the metaphors. I would not have been surprised, on occasion to have seen a surtitle card reading “Metaphor here”, but I never felt they detracted from the increasingly tightly woven story.

What impressed me even more, however, was how the same layered revelations arose from each of the characters. With each passing moment, the characters became deeper and darker. Part of this richness was the writing, but I also credit the cast.

Daughter Jewel (Andrea Brown) struggles to help her father Linus (Tufford Kennedy)

Daughter Jewel (Andrea Brown) struggles to help her father Linus (Tufford Kennedy)

Rarely do I praise an entire cast of a production, but I could not find fault with any of the performances. And no single actor deserves loftier praise than any other. To me, this was an ensemble performance. Remove any one of these actors and I don’t think this play would have been as good.

As with the play, there were times when impassioned performance became overwrought melodrama, but I largely felt these moments were the exception. These actors and their descent into raw truth had me mesmerized for 90 minutes, and I found myself praying we would go into overtime.

Without hesitation, I would watch this performance again and again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

[Adapted from a review that first appeared in Mooney on Theatre.]

In sights

Searching

Sad hooded eyes

Look me over,

Stare into me,

Searching my soul

For empathy,

A kindred spark,

Recognition

That we are one.

Lives held sacred,

Spirits unchained

Despite coiled wire.

Acknowledgement,

We’re each encaged,

Trapped by limits,

Captive of views

Held by others;

Defining us,

Confining us,

Refining us

To imagery;

A dull shadow

Of former selves,

Bleeding vibrance

To worlds of grey.

But hope remains,

The spark still burns;

Words unspoken

Continue tales

Yet unwritten.

Share my story

Of wilds now gone

That glow in eyes

Hooded and sad.

Cages

His master’s voice

His_Master's_Voice

You always see cartoons and sitcoms of men completely beaten down by their wives, crushed under the weight of constant haranguing and abusive disparaging language, and I have always thought how sad.

I was fortunate enough to marry a woman who was nothing like those wives and so I did not develop a marital slouch. This is not to say, however, that I couldn’t hear her voice from anywhere, the bat and dog having nothing on me.

Perhaps the best example occurred during a women’s hockey tournament in which my wife—I will call her Leela, because that is her name—was participating.

As a hockey lover and good husband, I attended almost every game Leela played and this tournament was no different. The tournament took place in a large rink complex (about 4 sheets of ice) and so the concession stand was well away from some of the rinks.

With Leela ensconced in the dressing room for her upcoming game, I took the opportunity to sneak off for a coffee and hot dog. While I awaited my food, one of the other husbands showed up and we started chatting. Time became immaterial.

Suddenly, I stopped talking and like an icy meerkat, rose up on my hind legs at a disturbance in the Force. I was being beckoned.

As I peer my failing eyesight through three sets of doors, the Plexiglas getting murkier with each layer, I espied a waving hockey glove.

“Gotta go!” I announced, as I bolted for the doors.

Indeed, it was Leela who, through a mouthguard, did her best to scream my name. She needed new skate laces.

If an audiologist had been in the rink, he would have detected no sound. Likewise, there was no visual clue that anything was wrong. And yet, I had been imprinted, so I knew that darkness had descended and my assistance was required.

Arena_Ice

Now, make all the whipping noises you like, but we found out that the connection also works in the other direction.

At Leela’s regular hockey games, in a men’s league, I would sit in the bar above the ice sheet with all of the other wives, where I could watch the game in relative comfort. It also gave me an opportunity to make mental notes on Leela’s play so we could discuss it on the way home (something she wanted, so get off my back).

In one game in particular, however, there were no notes to make as Leela seemed to refuse to actually play, despite taking her regular shift. She would enter the appropriate zone of play and seem to just tripod with her hockey stick, dreaming in a universe of her own.

Annoyed by this, I finally mentally yelled out, “Leela! For god’s sake, do SOMETHING! Skate, check, fall down. Move!”

Miraculously, her body suddenly jolted, as though smacked in the back of the helmet, and she involved herself in the play. The rest of the game, she remained engaged.

On the ride home, afterward, we talked about it. She explained that she was standing there in the offensive zone, completely zoned out, when all of a sudden, she woke up as though shaken and realized that she had to do something.

It would seem, her master’s voice is just as loud as his.

crossed-ice-hockey-sticks

(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission, so stick it)

Attraction

Reading

I know it was static

That caused her hair

To reach for my arm;

Its gentle fibers

Mingling with mine.

A connection tenuous

Yet signalling more.

No attempt at retreat,

No urge to disconnect,

Only stationary comfort

Between two souls.

My arm immobile,

Exchanging warmth,

Seeking meaning,

Awaiting more;

The glimpse of an eye,

The curl of a smile,

The eddies of a sigh

Could not convey more

Than the subtlest attractions

Of the smallest ions.

 

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission, so don’t give me any static.)