Learn by heart

I want this newsletter to be better, so much better than it is, and each time I sit to write to you, I hope it can somehow break through the unseen barrier. But I fear it may disappoint. At the climate strike on Friday there were interminable early speeches. I don’t want this newsletter to suffer the same fate: too many speeches before we actually get moving along. By the time we get going, we could forget why we were out there in the first place. I remind myself of the guy in Cocteau’s Orpheus, with his notebook, desperately tuning in to the car radio listening for messages of poetic wisdom embedded in numbers and codes. (And as I write this, motorcycles rumble, like black riders roaring past outside.)

Since I last wrote, we’ve had our election, followed by climate strike with Greta and the 15 young people standing up and suing the Canadian government. October’s turned a sharp corner and is fast going downhill into November and there’s no way to put on the brakes. Dark mornings and early evenings bring up visceral echoes of resonant memories, as if the trees remember lost leaves.

So I did what I always do this time of year, I read a good book. The Secret Commonwealth, Philip Pullman’s latest, absorbed me in its living web. I especially loved the mention of attar, and rose attar as a fulcrum of the quest, since the finding of essences was a main theme in my own novel, Attars! And then he referenced the Simurgh, the one great bird sought by travellers in The Conference of the Birds. The rich realm of the imaginaire is the perfect place for myth-dreaming and renewing our being.

Back to the climate strike on Friday: Windy day, cold walking, we gathered outside the Art Gallery steps, standing for a very very long time under a billowing banner for a Cindy Sherman show. I decided not to take photos and thought it would be better to just open my senses and follow along, by heart. I thought about how a photograph of what happens can replace the action itself. The photo can be a reductive memory-stealer, a sensory reducer. And then, when we finally walked, I soon found myself walking along outside the circle group protecting Greta for much of the way. I’d decided not to take photos, just open to the whole wide experience in the moment, but couldn’t stop myself from snapping just one, catching the back of Greta’s sign as she walked along.

Then this happened: as if she’d sensed the photograph, she turned back and looked right at me, a very brief and genuine contact as we were walking.


Some google prompts from this week’s edition:

  • Greta in Vancouver and some terrific photos, plus her speech.

  • 15 Youth sue Canadian Government

  • Vancouver Art Gallery’s current Cindy Sherman show

  • Orpheus (Orphée) film by Jean Cocteau

  • Look on Amazon for my book, Attars, Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust volume 2 The Secret Commonwealth, and The Conference of the Birds by Fariduddin Attar.


Watch your inbox! I used to send this newsletter out on Sundays, but weekends are busy so I’m mixing it up and switching to mid-week for a while.