Sunday, November 22, 2009

revisiting the reclaiming

I've written about this car before, a long while ago (see October 9, 2006) but I feel compelled to post about it again... I recently re-photographed it, and was then further inspired to re-blog by this artwork, by Tin Can Forest (who I wrote about rather recently -- see March 13, 2009). A work like Autopust: Farewell to Cars (on the right is Nabozhnik), with forest spirits reveling & wrecking, sets my heart fluttering... An end to the personal motor vehicle! Tak!

And so this is a gentler reclamation of my mother's first car. Can't remember why she stopped driving it, I think my cousin drove it after her, finally it rolled to a stop out back on the acreage by the treehouse... and the hood came off, the engine was removed, and three, four, five persistent aspen sprouted up through the rusting cavity.
It's one of my favourite reminders that everything belongs to the earth. No matter how we change, shape, adulterate, mould, alter the materials we have -- even the most built, the most manufactured things the earth takes back eventually, slowly deconstructing. Held in place by the tangled fingers of vetch twisting about the disintegrating metal, this car waits to become rusted ashes. Chewed up by the silver lichen teeth, slowly engulfed in moss and leaves, the shadows of the growing trees.

At a recent seminar in my department, the head of the school here discussed his dreams for the future of anthropology and archaeology. Among many things, he called for a re-envisioning of time scales, of what it means to create, be created, to be & become. He wanted us to look beyond the conventionally given dates & times of when things came into existence, & to focus on the process of becoming, not of Aristotelian mixing of form+substance=conception, a single moment of creation. Nothing is fixed, everything is fluid & changing even as there is some underlying stability, recognizability. Rain, waves, rocks, humans, all like this.

So things are always becoming; everything is a process. There is a past-ness ever carrying on into the present & looking to the future -- what is a desk, he said, but perhaps a phase in the life of an oak tree? & so a car might be a phase in the life of metal, a phase in the life of rock, mineral, dust.

(& if I'd had a sword with me that day, (& a steadier tripod-like surface), I most definitely would've re-enacted this.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

aftonland, eveningland

sunset in august, north saskatchewan river valley, edmonton

Last weekend, I went to a concert at St. Machar's -- 12th century church in Old Aberdeen -- and listened to the choir Con Anima sing works by Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Pēteris Vasks, and Per Nørgård. It was magical -- the singers played with the space well, clustering around the pews, so close you could hear their stolen breaths, or stood all at the back of the church in the darkness with candles... when you couldn't see them, it was like the stones themselves were singing. I was introduced to Tormis's Estonian polyphonous lullabies, as well as the work of Nørgård, a Danish composer. I was not as struck by his composition, but his piece -- Aftonland (evening land) -- was based on the words of the Swedish poet Pär Lagerkvist, and they are a wonder. His plainspoken words are autumnal, elegaic, the calm acceptance of dying, ending, slow slip into shadow -- & the eternality of life not in the heavenly Christian sense, but in the good old pagan way of celebrating the beauty of decay: sowing of new seeds in the ground where the dead lie, & the ground is the very flesh of your ancestors. who provide the harvest for you. My heart flutters at the mention of the earth remembering; that's something I've recently be writing about. The earth remembers everything, because everything is of the earth.

(Another absolutely perfect song like this is Smog's Permanent Smile (lyrics here) -- decomposition has never been evoked so eloquently)

leaning sunset trees, north saskatchewan river, edmonton, august 2009

From Aftonland (words by Pär Lagerqvist, selected by Per Nørgård) -- English translation


Some day you will be one of those who lived long ago.
The earth will remember you, just as it remembers the grass and the forests,
the rotting leaves.
Just as the soil remembers,
and just as the mountains remember the winds.
Your peace shall be unending as that of the sea.



Let my shadow disappear into yours.
Let me lose myself
under the tall trees,
that themselves lose their crowns in the twilight,
surrendering themselves to the sky and night.


Into nocturnal ground you lower
the life which seems laid waste,
like the sower returning
to the earth which he sees open
the harvest that he has gathered.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


saturated light, near the solstice, the river valley, edmonton, june 2009

This was started a long while ago, right about when the photo above was taken, days before summer solstice... but only finished recently. Even though I'm coming to appreciate the Aberdeen landscape -- green woods, sinuous river, smooth sand, the singing of the sea -- I am missing home & the places I've made, the places I am made of.


summer in the pines

& there’s sap tang

on quick tongues now,

pulse under lips &

the heat rising from

the slow breathing

of the river: between

the boughs the waxwings

hover, yellow tailfeathers

bright & sticky as caragana,

fingered sage, tangles in

the thicket of your hair.

summer & the water

below’s a smear of green

mirror, a streak of sweat

trailing a cheekbone,

& these shaking hands

caked in soft clay:

we coax the forest floor,

rustle the brush, push

each other deep

into the earth now,

pressed to a heart’s mossy

membrane, aspen-trembled

backbone. tell the woods:

remember, remember

us, in the spaces between

the roots & dark matter,

feathers & the nesting,

the water, the air.

dwelling on the web.

the waves bringing presents, the beach north of the bridge of don, aberdeen

This is just to say that I am still blogging here -- this is still a home for poems & photos & other intriguing things. But I am also posting here, at Among the Heather, writing mostly about Scotland, where I am studying now.