Saturday, May 23, 2009

Artefacts of other eras and a symbiotic narrative in the first person

There are numerous things that intrigue me about railway tracks. It’s the package that I come for.

I love the marriage of rural and industrial. What a perfect stew pot of information and imagination to cook and feast upon. As we all know, the railway, which was once the most important system of transport has become a decaying symbolic representation of the 19th and 20th century. It was one of our favourite things that we brought over from our backcountry. Though still used cross continently for freight transport and revitalized by large urban centres with significant sprawl for efficient commuter transport, it nonetheless feels old fashioned and closing on defunct. For many an individual, the rail tracks serve as a backdrop to explore the imaginary.

I begin my expedition by discarding my real life presence; I am no longer looking after my staff, my dad, my adult kids, my pets, or my house. I am no longer having nightmares about my recently deceased mother. It is on the tracks that I come to terms with debilitating and chronic feelings of futility and inferiority. It is here that I regain energy to fight spiralling and misdirected distrust of people with whom I love. This is a place for escape and recoup: A place to meditate, envision, strategize, release, breath, explore, connect.

I love the sound of the whistle when it blows. I love the scraping of tracks when I am in the train. I don’t even have to go anywhere special. I carry a child’s excitement of getting on a train. The act of looking out the window in silence at the landscape that swooshes by and the space and time this travelling allows me to reflect, makes train travel one of my favoured private cerebral spaces.

Walking along the tracks can be as therapeutic.

Worlds of otherthingsapartfromselfabsorbedme.

One of the more interesting things that I have noticed is that snails are abundant on the tracks. I don’t quite understand why. It’s not as hypothetically simple as; there are no other great snail populations in and around Montreal because there are few wild green spots. There are other wild green spots and the mountain being one in particular, I went and had a gander.

I went up to the mountain and found no snails. I found bryophytes and trees and moisture and wild flowers but no snails. My question is this, what is it about the tracks that attract the snail? Is there a special mineral that has seeped into the earth due to the rails and their traffic? Are there special snail eating plants that grow only along the track? Is it a local magnetism or do the snails travel along the great stretch of tracks cross continentally? What is it about the tracks that attract the snail? Why only the tracks? What makes the tracks so special?

This is an ongoing contemplative inquiry of mine and needless to say, I am at the beginning with lots of time to diddle daddle. In my quest to answer at least some of my questions, I have come across a gem of a place called Bishops Mills Natural History Centre. Here is a group of people so delightful and sincere that it has reminded me why I place such positive value on living things, including humans. People like this are genuine examples of why it is possible to live in a beautiful world. Not because they have shown incredible bravery or because they have reined over any large empire (at least not human) but because they live by their principles and are in awe of the world around them. They are indeed, alive.

Through their pages I was able to tentatively (like any humble neophyte) identify the type of snail that inhabit my little pocket of grand universe. There are possibly two types. The most obvious is the dark banded snail called Cepaea nemoralis ( aka the grove snail). I am thinking though unsure, that the white lipped (respectively) called the Cepaea hortensis also lives amongst the tracks. Both are edible but in all honesty, ever since I lived in BC, in close proximity to the amazing banana slug, I have lost my appetite for such things . . .
Special soundtrack courtesy of Ry

Although I do not see any darts they do look like they are in the midst of doing the deed. See the white balloon like seepage from in-between the two snails? As if all this isn’t awesome enough, there are more reasons why walking the tracks . . . rock!

Railroad snailhobe! Have you ever gotten down with the world of moss?

Marchantia are rich in their own right. Liverworts have been around for about 475,000,000 years! They are part of a miniature world, a universe really, and I am in complete marvel of them. From their modular compartmentalized epidermis (that helps heal from local trauma), to their little gemma cups (see the little bowls on their body, aka thallus?) and the gemmae discs that flush out with the rain to replicate themselves anew. I am thunderstruck by the antheridiophore and archegoniophore- the male (shorter flower like) and female (taller palm tree/unbrella) reproductive structures.

Trains, snails, and marchantia! How lucky I am to bear witness to these.

Thursday, May 14, 2009



Everything makes sense. Even upside down. I follow the dots and make my lines. I reach up I can dig deep I withstand the blood rushing away from the feet. With a toss of a few words carelessly strewn I can cross stitch them back so they have a cushion to sink, a pond to bathe a bed to rest. No stress.

Unless falling apart is an issue. Corrosion is part of the big picture cycle. Shit speaks loud in the forest even if no one is listening. It eventually makes kaboom. Afterwards choice will always be abandoned for automated remote control. That machine runs so loud it’s hard to hear the other more subtle sounds.

Down to ground. The ground. Grounding. I should be so happy; to think at least that I have myself; an entire solar system brimming with verve. Get with the program; here for the long haul, as an island. Once in a while ships touch bulwark, but that’s a luxury for places like the high plateau.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I had told you that she would be difficult and that it would be better this way. So you pretended to be my brother. We waited at the bottom of the stone three story walk up. She answered the door, big blond hair, large body brimming over a pencil dress. She let us in a dark entrance and showed us the stairs up to our room. He was lying in his underpants in the foyer, post coital. We walked around him. Once in our room we closed the door and I got to work; these are the things we will need I said in a hushed voice to you. You watched me as I dug out a newspaper insert and began to cut each page into quarters. I had other things but for now had to go to the bathroom. You followed me to the door, leaned against it and we locked our eyes together as I peed. Movement from behind your head I saw her coming into the room much like in one of the last scenes of Psycho, when deceased Mother is tied to a swivel chair in the basement and Norman Bates comes crashing through the door with a knife in his hand wearing the blond wig. I screamed watch out just as she whipped you around and pushed you to the window on the other side of the bathroom. You yelled. I sat motionless on the toilet unable to move. Frozen in the moment of need. Unable to help you. A weight on my chest. In fact, this is how I awoke; struggling for breath in the middle of the night, in my bed, the size of an ocean. I thought of my mother immediately. Ashamed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I close my eyes. And look straight ahead. It’s not black but multi muted in darks with redish hue. Sometimes I can see patterns that unfold themselves against mahogany. A pattern in yellow ice cascading to rust shoots from a corner of one of my eyes. My left eyelid is normally where stories begin. Is this because I am left handed or because I have learnt to read starting from the left side? How much of what I see is in relation to my experience, both individual and under the hospices of the great collective unconscious? Do eyelid images extrapolate from our social indoctrination too? What are my eyes doing, what are they really seeing? It’s just the insides of my eyelids, some flappy tender foreskin for the iris that helps keep the glass lubricated. I know that science can explain it. Science can explain how the brain tells the neurons what to do. How the brain invents the I. The brain is my favourite spongy matter. For it is credit to my brain that I have an I.

Or is it? The I the brain, the eye; one without the others? The images that I see are perhaps just a conglomeration of memes that have found a good home in this dusted blue grey with highlights of pink. This spongy mass is what the I calls home. Does it matter that I am nothing if I am something to me? Even if me doesn’t exist it exists in my I as long as I am alive. There is at least continuity. Maybe my I is not real but at least it makes sense when it tells a story. My nothing is something to me. My I can figure out from a to be to g to z even if it isn’t real even if I am nothing I still have feelings even if I am nothing my I still needs to love, be loved, search love, make love. .

No matter if there is not really an I, that I don’t really exist, even while not existing I can still close my eyes and look at the patterns on my eyelids. Nobody can stop me from seeing things from within. Not even your I. Sure, sponges come from the sea but the I too, lives in sponge and this sponge lives inside of me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

quantifying worth

My second summer in the garden of my present home was a magnificent one. I turned a neglected weedy mud patch into an inner city oasis. I removed the unlevelled cheap industrial cement slabs, dug a trench, and re-laid them vertically to make a short cement wall. I turned the earth, enriched it with manure, added my first year of compost, dropped some seeds and watered and waited, watered and waited. Looking at the wet sludge, doubting that anything would sprout. After a good week, it happened. Like voodoo magic, from below the earth’s film, these ruptured seeds sprouted. And they grew. It was a wonder that a relative neophyte such as myself could help make this wild and thriving space in the confines of a dilapidated five by twelve plot. For my additional joy, the sunflowers seduced a family of goldfinches to hang out for the summer. As one yielding colour pulled another into this tiny urban pocket, I mused over how a few insignificant seeds could have done so much.

One morning as I got up from bed, I almost stepped on one of these goldfinch beauties, on the floor splayed and beheaded. To my horror I understood that my favourite kitty cat had done me this honour. I felt terrible for the finch. This was a beautiful unusual bird for my northern dirty city neighbourhood and had felt that a great misdemeanour had taken place. And as I sat at the edge of my bed, lamenting the tragedy of the situation I asked myself this; what made the killing of the goldfinch any more or less transgressive than the killing of a sparrow? What is the value of life; it’s beauty, performance, endurance? What makes one life more vital than another? What is my life over yours? How do we measure validity? And even if we got it right, that is to say; righteousness over patina, who are we to judge and deem the more worthy. We may read in the news of a victim of circumstance. We shake our heads and say, but she was such a nice person. He was so kind. And if she were ornery rather than nice, if he was not kind but sourly and mean; would their unfair victim hood fair more acceptance in the drop of their fall?

This is what I thought of as I stared at the dead bird.

Two weeks ago, my sister found a baby rat scurrying behind my parent’s fridge. A rat! We thought in horror, must get it out! I brought my young cat over to take care of matters. I caught glimpse of the rat and it’s trail the other day and realized it was just a mouse. Relief set in for everyone: After all, it was just a mouse.

Just over an hour ago the phone rings. I am informed that the cat found the mouse and is parading it up and down the hallway with its squirming body in its mouth. From Finch to sparrow to rat to mouse, it’s all about value, isn't it.