Look Up, Rusty

Often the forgotten part of our lives is, simply, the sky–the ever-changing backdrop to our days on terra firma. Places and contexts may remain relatively the same or slow-changing, but the skyscapes and cloudscapes come and go with some regularity. Which is why, incidentally, it is a little bleak to go weeks on end as we have recently in Edmo winter without a good extended opportunity to see even sun or sky. Same effect in Vancouver’s version of rainy winter.

But–and I always come back to the brilliant summer skies in the evening or magic hour when the light has certain je-ne-sais-quoi effects–when the skies and the very heavens open up after a rain, one can see worlds within worlds played out in heavenly vistas. Or strange magical blues, oranges, or pinks along the horizons of these unreal, ephemeral, privileged moments.

At other times, it may simply be the wonder of just looking up at the beauty of puffy passing clouds on sky-blue in August or September. And one again is a shepherd boy in Thomas Gray’s time, lollygagging and wondering at the majesty of Nature–its large, deep, usually solitary pleasures. It is from such moments as the latter, that I feel again as I did at 17, when starting out, feeling the potential of life and the urge to move, and to write something equally memorable.

But those heavenly summer vistas, with their splendiferous roads upward into other worlds, other larger imaginative possibilities–which once spurred Turner to paint his numerous wild sky and cloud abstracts. No question the passion of one’s life could be simply creatively expressing or recording what is above one’s head most of the time. A beauty one will never find on a smartphone screen, or in a conventional company of revellers.

When I was 18, those same skies bespoke to me and said, Romantically, “This is It. This is true Beauty. This is Vision. This is the only God you will ever need to satisfy something so deeply and essentially you in your unique path through Life.” And that became a personal standard or ideal, so to speak, by which I measured all else, and the myriad possibilities of Nature, Beauty and Poesy.

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“The painter’s brush consumes the dream.

The pained dream consumes itself.”
(quote by W.B.Yeats, “Two Songs from a Play”)


He is not a star for you to follow.
He is just a man walking away down the road,
the one who took the fire with him.
No. He is a son of God, a vast conception of self.
He is a wisp of air, a greatness of imagination.
He is true to his dream and will honour it forever.
There is a greatness to his style and gestures.
His arms reach out before him, to hold his dream again.
In that brief moment, he is crowned with stars
and lives in eternity’s sunrise.

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The wrongness of one of those aging women

who gives and gives to others, caring for them, worrying about them, always putting others before her self.

Never spending a dime on herself, never shopping for herself, splurging, letting go in this and many other ways.

A choice. A limited, self-limiting choice.

Never realizing that one’s life is really/essentially one’s life and that the first responsibility is to self–to express its self, to learn, to grow, to seek valuable growth-oriented information, to travel, to feed one’s inner self, to attend to the state of one’s soul, to make or create something. It must be so; cannot be otherwise–for one cannot look out or after others when one has not looked after self.

And the sadness of those who age and die never having tended their own gardens, watered and fed their own flowers…


Well certainly there are those who do good nonstop (Mother Teresa) and find their meaning and purpose in serving others (teachers, doctors, nurses) which is fine. In fact, there are too few selfless people out there–more instead, who’d rather dance to/for money or screens than empathize or care.

But I do believe there are many people we have met who have not fully lived by virtue of the former attitude and approach to life. Sooner or later, the question must be posed by and to self–What about me? What about my needs, wants, and dreams? Usually/often, the only person who will look out for one is oneself. Recall, too, that fundamental responsibility to self and one’s own life. As well as the great matter of choice as to what one does with one’s time-limited, ephemeral life. In a world of innumerable limits and limitations, the worst perhaps are the irrational limits and limitations one absurdly/unnecessarily places on oneself. There is certainly far more to life than sacrifice and serving or helping others.

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Henry David Thoreau:

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves aware, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

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Girl Lying to Get Media Coverage?

The hijab, scissors-attack girl.
A great way to get attention. Her story went international and even King Selfie commiserated with her.

I remember a story I once used in one of my books called “Cancer” about a young woman lying to get attention using lies about sickness as a means to get sympathy. Some actual women have actually done this since to get lots of money.

Could any of the “Me Too” accusations fall into the same category?
Can and do some women lie? Or are they always victims who only tell the whole or accurate truth?

I also remember, in 1980, the Catholic church refusing to authorize one of my textbooks in NL, saying that priests never lie. (Story: Morley Callaghan’s “A Sick Call”, the kind of edgy issues selection I often chose to create discussion in senior high English classrooms). Well, I guess we’ve seen how that issue plays out in the history of that church over the last 37 years regarding child abuse.

No, anything is possible and some/many claims or presumptions have to always be taken with a grain of salt. Again, Follow the agenda.

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Gregory Peck–A Truly Great Movie Actor

(Again, they don’t make ’em like they used to.)

To Kill a Mockingbird
Moby Dick
The Omen
Cape Fear
The Boys from Brazil
The Big Country
Gentleman’s Agreement
The Gunfighter
The Keys to the Kingdom
On the Beach
Pork Chop Hill
Twelve O’Clock High
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Roman Holiday
The Guns of Navarone

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Ingrid Bergman–A Truly Great Actress

(unlike most actresses today)

Autumn Sonata
Murder on the Orient Express
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Cactus Flower
Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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is the last of the good/more popular, older Canadian writers. When she dies, the olde pre-20th century CanLit school* is toast (except for maybe Ondaatje if you’re a fan). I would expect her to win the next or second-next Nobel Prize for Literature. She couldn’t fathom Dylan’s selection and was jealous of Munro’s selection. But she’s done enough, especially with the two new series, to get the big prize.

I think she’s overrated and always has been with her limited subject agenda. But I commend her courage in criticizing List Woman who has publicly condemned many men sans traditional presumption of innocence and criminal convictions. It is a disturbing trend smacking of real witch-hunting and McCarthyism. Absolutely no question, as Deneuve also put it, that this fad/trend has gone too far with insignificant people one has never heard of bringing down so many names, more and more lately on the basis of snowflake generation complaints.

The Internet has made it too easy to destroy people’s lives and careers and to make accusations not even entered in courts of law. Truth has often taken a hit these daze with what Trump called fake news. And there is something accurate to that view when applied broadly and generally to online opining by no-names and people with grudges and agendas looking to elevate themselves and their stars. Follow the agenda is my recommendation, as always.

*For the most comprehensive, chronological online history of pre-2oth century Can Lit, cf. my blog http://canlitbooks.ca


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Although there is truth to Nature as being

peaceful and beautiful in a Wordsworthian Romantic way, the Byronic/Voltaire-ian view is probably more true in these turbulent, chaotic times. “Disasters” and “eruptions” as Shakespeare correctly described them.

Volcanos, wildfires and suffocating smoke, ice and icestorms, winter blizzards, heavy snowfalls, alternating rapid thaws and freezes, destructive floods, typhoons, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, rainfall deluges, pestilences, and plagues are the (new) norms.

Can there be any doubt that Nature is stronger, as unpredictable, and equally destructive as humankind? Now is the time to dispose of any namby-pamby notions that Nature is essentially and unilaterally harmonious and predictable. (So much for weather and climate forecasting.) It is, at best, forever changeful and irrational, much like human beings.

Nature being as freakish and violent as human nature and human destruction.

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Spanish Memory, 1937

They appeared slowly one row at a time on the edge of the horizon. It was going to be another hot summer morning and the mist had faded. They had travelled far in the night–tired, hungry, walking on empty. It was very quiet everywhere and the soldiers were impressed to come upon some roses in a bush by the roadside. There it was they were suddenly reminded of home and all those who meant something to them before they had been conscripted. The long valley spread out before them and, at the end of it, the town. Seeing it, the men recalled all they had endured, their cause, and goal.

In the town, the people were awaking slowly. Some scratched themselves, drank coffee, fed the babies, and crossed themselves as they did each morning, wondering what the day would bring. Very few of them noticed an ant-like body moving steadily down into the desert as the sun began to get warm.

The soldiers, sweating now, had more certainty and occasionally glanced at one another as their walk turned into a march and the rows straightened out with more purpose–their boots kicking up dust along the centuries-old road which rolled downward toward the town.

In the town, there were breakfast smells, the sounds of babies crying, and old people muttering in their cots. All were still oblivious to the army advancing toward their quietude and peace.

Some of the soldiers began to feel a peculiar lightness and gradual exhilaration as they neared their destination, remarkably unimpeded. There were no airplanes or sentries during this last stretch.

It was only then that one of the townsfolk sounded the alarm, ringing the old chapel bell above the central square. This day would be different after all; the town was in for a change.

The glint of sun off the soldiers’ rifles struck fear in the townspeople now staring toward the east. The army had reached the bend of the road into town and their drummers were propelling them forward in readiness for the rout about to come. Engagement and carnage were now most likely; there would be no siege and little resistance. Today there would be glory and honour for the bravest. They would take the town easily and take it back for good.

The townsfolk ran like chickens in the narrow streets, trying to collect tools as they fled for a final stand. But it was too late; the enemy had entered the city in full regalia with their flags and gunfire. A cacophony of screams, explosions, and blood too long and awful to apprehend any further.

I saw a frenzied horse bolt from a man, his hands thrown up above the blaze he perished in. An incredulous mother howled for her dead child. A broken sword lay on the bloody ground. It would be of no use against the soldiers running from one building to another. But most of all, I remember the face of an agonized bull charging crazily through the wasteland that once was a quiet town on the road into a desert valley.

(based on listenings to Ravel’s 1934 masterpiece “Bolero” and viewings of Picasso’s 1937 mural “Guernica”)

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