Still Standing

I love this photo of my brother in front of the Detroit City skyline.

Sometimes we get knocked down. For a while. We lay there, supine, gazing at the world with hazy longing while an invisible anvil pins us to the bottom of an indifferent river. An eternity ticks by in slowww-motion, tick, tick, while a hundred sunrises and a hundred sunsets quietly stain the sky. But today is a new day . . .

Forty years ago I fled the family nest, which had been uprooted in the early 60s from Detroit to a remote mining town in northern Ontario. It was always my intention to leave, but I visited often over the years, somehow believing that it’s the one who left who must always make the effort.

Guilt. It can play crazy tricks with the mind. But guilt for leaving a sad place that was never yours is absurd… especially in that moment when black ice sends your car careening through three feet of powder toward a frozen ravine while your baby screams in terror. The absurd has stubbornly lingered over time… but the gods were with us that day.

Thanksgiving. My brother traveled a thousand kilometres in late November for a long-awaited reunion with our family clan in Windsor and Detroit. Cancer and other setbacks had delayed his visit, but here he was at long last. My beautiful, brave, sensitive brother, ravaged by illness and radiation. A survivor. He stayed for five wonderful days – we talked, drank, laughed, and cried, but mostly we marvelled that we had made it this far. As a parting gift, I gave him our father’s helmet [1].

Melancholia. This thing that I naively thought I was leaving behind, in a small mining town so long ago, turned out to be a merciless stalker. Forty years, and thirty moves… apartments, houses, towns and cities. Lots of them, but still… the shadow persists. Just the other night I dreamt that I got the keys to a new apartment (right next door to my son and his family) – one with big windows, a parquet dance floor, and space to paint large canvases. I awoke with a lingering sense of joy that was gone before noon. And then this article from Brain Pickings crossed my path, What Depression Is Really Like. Van Gogh describes it well.

Reflection. I think for the first time in my life, I’m finally getting it. The moving thing. Endlessly running from the “black dog” with a carefully crafted rationale obscuring the truth. The truth. I cried for seven hours on this last U-Haul road trip in 2014, the flood-gates unleashed during a farewell hug after breakfast with my best friend, Kelly, in the parking lot at Burger World. Christ, I weep just thinking about it. Writing does that. It brings you to your core.

[1] While writing this post, it suddenly occurred to me that this is probably a preamble to the yet to be written Part 3 of The Diving Helmet. Follow the links to read the story from the beginning:
The Diving Helmet – Part 1
The Diving Helmet – Part 2

[Postscript] ** After publishing this post I realized the irony in the title, Still Standing. Detroit (the backdrop in the photo) is currently rising out of a long, dark period, and reinventing itself. I love that!!

Post-election Hangover

It’s been a week since municipal elections were held across Ontario, and many voters were not happy with the results. However, the elections were completely overshadowed by a shocking sex scandal involving CBC’s media darling, Jian Ghomeshi – a scandal that has rocked the country hard from coast to coast with unrelenting aftershocks since it first erupted on October 26th.

But… the dust has begun to settle, sort of… and while sex and politics often seem to go hand in hand, these recent and separate events might as well have happened on two different planets, so I’ll leave the sex part for my next post, and focus on the politics for now.

So… finally emerging from the murk of confusion and shock, small voices from across Ontario have begun to pull us back to where we left off a week ago. The complaints are old and familiar:  Who won the election??? OMG, they’ve chosen to stick with the status quo. Nothing will change. Why is voter turnout so appalling low??? Such apathy! What’s wrong with people?!!

On October 17th, an interesting article by Don Tapscott was published in The Star. I’ve thought a lot about the failings of governments and politics over the years, and Tapscott’s article was right on. He discussed a city, Guelph, “that is well on it’s way to re-imagining the role of local government.” So, to address some of the old, familiar complaints, this is my take on the situation.

Guelph had a 45% voter turnout, which was a significant 11% increase over the 2010 election, while Windsor saw the opposite with a 37.5% turnout for 2014. So they (Guelph) must be doing something right. Right?

Actually, there are numerous, complex factors that have contributed to today’s voter apathy and disengagement, especially within particular age groups. However, one of the biggest reasons in my opinion is that the current model of centralized governance is outdated—from the municipal level, all the way up to the federal level.

Currently, our governments maintain rigid patriarchal structures that, despite their democratic premise and inclusion of women, call on citizens to choose who is going to rule from the head of the table. After that we are as powerless as children. Once in place, most politicians seem intent on following their own agendas. This system is problematic, and no longer aligns with modern 21st century sensibilities shaped by the democratizing effects of the Internet, communal experiences, and global connectivity.

“…Guelph has demonstrated that cities can innovate. Through its fresh approach to problem-solving and open-government principles, Guelph is challenging the traditional industrial-age approach to local government and democracy. Shared ownership, decentralized decision-making, community engagement have the potential to shift the relationship from “us vs. them” to “we’re in this together.” Tapscott.

Healthy and progressive evolution must keep up with the times, but old hierarchies always resist and delay necessary change in order to retain their perceived power. While paradigm shifts in organized societies are always easier to recognize and analyze from a historical perspective, we know enough about our world today to understand that old constructs are no longer working very well.

The backlash against authoritarian and patriarchal societal constructs happened in the 1960s. Why, in 2014, have we not moved forward?

WAC – The Walkerville Artists’ Co-op

The Walkerville Artists' Co-op

Well the dust is starting to settle a bit, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in Windsor for a month already! In April I set up my wall display as one of the newest WAC members, and yesterday I moved to a bigger and more central wall space that became available May 1st. As you can tell from the photos, the store is bright, spacious, and full of beautiful work – all created by local artists.

I’ll be adding collectible note cards of my iPhone artwork (with envelopes) before the GRAND OPENING RECEPTION this Friday, May 9th. WAC only recently moved to its new location, so as a new member I’m super excited about our big event! If you live in the Windsor/Detroit area, please drop by and say hello!

For more information about this impressive artist co-op, visit the WAC website: http://www.walkervilleartistsco-op.com/