Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir Monday, The Insightful Wanderer, TToT, Writing

TToT: Forever and Ever and Always – “Inshallah” #10Thankful

“Another celebrity dies. And still it mystifies the people. Another icon is destroyed.”

—The Cranberries, “Paparazzi On Mopeds”

Last week I was writing about American royalty and this week British, with my memories of where I was in my year, month, and life twenty years ago this week, when Princess Diana was killed.

Biopsies and weddings and recriminations, oh my!

I may have been able to see swans twenty years ago, but I don’t know if I’d go back if given the chance.

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I had the best day in a long time with my sister and her kids.

Forever and Ever – Pooh’s Grand Adventure

We spent the day in a nearby town called Stratford, known for culture and Shakespeare’s plays, but I like it best for the swans at the park, the awesome chocolate shop, but mostly for the time the four of us spent there together.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for another fascinating interview.

I heard Sting speak about his music, then and now, and the world he’s worried about leaving behind for his grandchildren.

I love to listen to interviews, to learn about people, and I think he is a good one. I’ve always been a fan of his music, from his Police days.

Then he scored the IMAX film The Dolphins that I love. It’s remarkably beautiful.

When Dolphins Dance

It brings me peace.

“Be yourself, no matter what they say.”

—Sting

I’m thankful the roof is completed, all fixed, along with all banging sounds silenced.

The men are gone, scaffolding removed, giant bin for debris taken away.

Now the rain will stay where it belongs.

I’m thankful my brother is off on an adventure.

Adventure Is A Wonderful Thing

We drove him and a friend to the airport and I was so excited for them, even more so than if it were me going. I want everyone to get to experience travel of some kind.

I’m thankful to have discovered an out-of-the-way little pizza shop to enjoy with my mom on a drive out of town.

Super Choice!

It was.

I’m thankful the first of multiple pieces of my writing was published to round off the month of August.

My Pal Croche: Remembering My First Guide Dog – Paw Culture

I am grateful that Paw Culture gave me the opportunity and a place to write about Croche, for the tenth anniversary of her death, on Good Friday, 2017.

I’m thankful for September and the first of the fresh local apples of the fall season.

It’s practically all I eat for the next month or so. Perfect combination of sweet and sour. So crisp and crunchy.

I’m thankful my niece and nephew have had such an amazing person to take care of them for the early years of their lives, so my brother and his wife could be at work and have total confidence and trust in the care their children were getting.

Now that my nephew will be joining his big sister in school, this won’t be happening, but the bond will always be there.

I know it’s hard to have to decide to leave your precious baby with someone else so much of the time, as working parents, and especially in a city like Toronto, finding good childcare isn’t so easy.

This person helps shape how the child will be, from the first years of their lives, and I know this was a big weight off their minds. I am grateful to this person. I see how much my nephew and niece love her. Transitions are never so easy and pain free, but a part of life.

I’m thankful for the senses I still have to enjoy a day out with loved ones.

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I got kind of depressed after we returned from Stratford, because I couldn’t see the white swans on the water anymore, but I enjoyed juice boxes, walking along a path while my nephew looked for a campsite (pretend), and the drive there and back.

I felt the fresh air and sunshine of the day. I smelled the scent of chocolate as we entered the shop. I heard the ducks and geese, if I couldn’t see the others.

I’m thankful for the sweetest moments with my nephew and niece during our day.

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“Kerry, mommies and daddies always come back, right?”

I was blown away by that statement? Question? Hmm. I still don’t know.

I heard the small voice from behind my front van seat ask this. He’d heard it said on a children’s program that morning. He sounded certain enough, but still looking for a little reassurance from his aunt.

“Inshallah”

Then, as we walked through a store full of goodies, he soon asked if we could get chocolate for others, not just himself. I almost melted, right there, surrounded by chocolates, at his thoughtful request.

As my sister loaded him and our treats into the van, I held my niece in my lap. She’d hardly cried or fussed the entire day. Later that night, I’d hold her in my lap as she chattered away and watched her big brother playing, with great interest.

My nephew wanted me to come to his house to watch Pooh’s Grand Adventure and I did. I am so happy I did.

Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin

I’d seen it before with him, but never had I paid as close attention to the dialogue and word choice. I was impressed at what a smart story it is.

As we sat, the song from above played, about being together forever and ever, as my nephew crawled into my lap and cuddled, sitting still for what could have been a shot at forever and I nearly cried, thinking of how many days there will be like that granted to me.

“Inshallah.”

It means God Willing. It’s an Arabic word I heard mentioned twice this week, from Sting during his interview and then in a piece I read somewhere.

I’m thankful for my boys.

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Never before had both Dobby and Lumos sat on either side of my chair like that.

I think Lumos was still wanting me all to himself, as Dobby had been away the previous few days because of all the commotion with the roof repairs.

And to end the post, a song that one of my favourite bands wrote after Diana’s senseless death.

Paparazzi On Mopeds – The Cranberries

Goodbye summer/August, the final long weekend of the season, and welcome to a new month and season of autumn to come.

And to my nephew, starting school for the first time and his big sister and cousin, I want you all to know:

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

—Pooh’s Grand Adventure

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Interviews, Kerry's Causes, Spotlight Saturday, The Insightful Wanderer

Physical Place and Emotional Space, #SoCS #1000Speak

Whilst I complain sometimes that this new Facebook feature, going live, seems to slow down the voice program on my phone. On a day like today however, I see its benefits.

I am currently listening to a Facebook Live session from a nearby museum. Or is it at the theatre? in a town, not too far from me, but which I am not at this time.

I’d gone to this museum several times, the last few summers, for

Shakespeare’s First Folio.

I’ve gone for exhibits and talks about the world wars,

World War I,

and World War II as well.

But now I am listening to a panel of refugees. They are speaking about the countries they come from, how those places influenced them, and how being in Canada has allowed them to speak from a position of peace and yet with the right amount of noise and outrage for some of the human rights violations that go on every day, back in history into today.

Note: I mostly place *** ahead of any or all things said by the members on the panel, in place of actual quotes for things they said, things I heard, and the mashup in between. I hope I can make clear what are my thoughts and what are those experiences of the three experts I just listened to.

This post happened in the moment, but I realize it could serve as a post for any of the following:

Stream of Consciousness Saturday,

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion,

or even the Ten Things of Thankful post I write every weekend.

This was very much a stream of consciousness sort of post, as I was technically taking notes as I listened, but I wanted to go ahead and share them, plus my impressions and thoughts as I listened.

I didn’t realize this panel was taking place today, but I have access to Facebook and can listen in still. I feel deeply for anyone who has had to live through wars and governmental, religious, cultural upheaval.

This topic of refugees, “topic” sounds like a strange word for it, but I just don’t know, though words come easily in most cases. Not always, not here and now though.

This speaker came with his parents, exiled from Iran, at the age of nine. He lost loved ones, family and friends, back in Iran, to executions. Stuff I hear about in the news all the time, can’t fathom, and brush past the headlines to preserve my sanity. This is tough tough stuff. I feel helpless. I write so I have my own voice. I know I am lucky to have that.

My heart hurts. Those forced to leave their homes to survive and to save their families from further danger. He says we in North America are somewhat uncomfortable with pain and suffering. Struggling, he says.

***an empty shell, suffering. To have that fire, you reach a point where you have no choice.”

He speaks of what is beautiful and inspiring. He’s seen crimes against humanity. He felt such a sense of helplessness as a child. Lost his uncle to torture. He saw horrifying images. He learned his instinct for wanting to end injustice.

***It’s not abstract. It cuts you open like a knife.

He went, fresh out of law school.

After World War II, Cold War, the forming of the UN.

Criminal tribunal. I know little about these things. He teaches me and all who listen.

That line, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That’s life for the world. Always.

I wish everyone could hear this man speak, all these speakers.

Humbling. He comes across that way. Futility, enormity. No [punishment is ever enough.

He refers to Nazi punishment at Nuremberg. I saw the movie., My father watched. The lawyers being there. I can’t imagine actually being there, attempting, given that responsibility to give punishment for unthinkable acts. Evil is the word that comes immediately to my mind, but they were all humans too. All of them.

I have the best life here in Canada. Circumstance. Fate. Luck. Whatever you want to call it. We don’t get to choose where and when we are born into this world. Personal past and the wrongs that are done. I see roadblocks. I see them clear. I see people knocking down roadblocks of all kinds. I have knocked down my share, but there are always more, more more.

Others do it. Grace. Genuine humility. Selflessness amongst the selfish world.

Life isn’t always the greatest for all humanity.

This FacebookLive thing isn’t bad at all.

***Living inside the fray vs living outside of it.

This woman has a platform to speak about what happens, good and bad, in her country of Kenya. Violations of treaties. Abuse of women and children. Discriminations. She speaks in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Her words are powerful in their truth. She wants her country to be equal in its society, eliminating fear, from her position here in Canada. These countries need to learn from each other.

Easy to be full of ideals. Getting into life and reality can shock. True meaning and purpose. This man teaches younger generations, from his experiences. Education.

***Emotion as a form of cognition. Privilege over intimacy. Intellectual rigour. If you don’t understand the reality. you will never have passion to use your ability to go and make a difference.

***Exploit. Own moral virtue. General empathy. Fruits of sorrow. Some do work others arrive for harvest. glamorization of human rights. Profound human experience. Account of suffering. Platitudes. Feel good activism. Idealism is about struggle and being wounded and continuing. Emptied ourselves of that understanding. To separate theory from practice.

Nelson Mandela comes up. Imprisoned for years:

“Sometimes I miss it. I got a lot of reading done.”

Spirit. Upside of suffering. Inspiring each other. Draw on that courage.

Kosovo. Bombings. Refugee crisis happened there too.

Orphanages and institutions all around the world with kids in need of a home and someone to love them. Earlier I watched videos about J.K. Rowling’s foundation,

LUMOS,

a spell to produce light from Harry Potter,

from which I named my cat.

I hope Canada can do our part. We are not innocent. We’ve caused suffering. I don’t know the half of it even.

How to help those who must flee is not a new question. I have no real answers. I write. Stream of consciousness, I use stream of consciousness to relieve some of the pressure.

***Silver lining inside dark clouds. Circumstances, didn’t kill them, made them stronger.

World at large scares me. Gives me hope yet still too. Flip flop. Flip flop.

Prominent human rights lawyers. Doing what they can. All my stereotypes of what a lawyer does and I can’t deny their knowledge and wisdom and influence.

Speaking on certain world leaders. Not an easy job, but so often filled with self interest. Naive and idealistic. It always comes back to that for many of us.

***Cynical short sided policies.

He’s bemused. Good word.

Corruption. Complicity. The west. Middle East. ISIS. His idealism is tempered by realism. The global village is a mess reality but is a reality.

He wanted simple corporate life, just before September 11th, in New York.

He speaks of it so soon after last week’s anniversary.

Policy makers. Theories. Clash of civilization.

***Complex diverse fabric. Took preparation to tear that apart.

Middle East politics. I know nothing about this.

Human rights. Rule of law.

***Refugees are the symptom. Not the cause.

HE says. I just I just…

***Ceasefire. Multi laterally.

Talk over my head. I feel like a child who does not comprehend such things. Of course, I comprehend, I do, I think, even if I do not understand.

I hope Justin Trudeau can do something. Is that possible? The EU. So much to keep up with and my head hurts. Meditation. My best option?

Governments need to work together, like we demand from children, siblings, at school. Leadership and resolve.

Compassion post? Where do we learn empathy and compassion from? How do some not learn it, or unlearn it later?

I believe I’ve learned that from my family and from my disability. You see things differently, or else blindness should force you to do so.

Africa feels so far away to me. The world, so large, west, east, north, south.

She’s proud to say she is Canadian now. We are proud to have her here. Her home is always on her mind. You can hear it in her earnest words and tone.

***Political will.

Hmm.

***Willing but their hands were tired. problems. Take care of their own, rather than others that come.

Hmm.

Camps. Refugee camps. Camps are the word I, here in Canada, feel most uncomfortable about. They are all there is for so many though.

I’ve heard from those in literature. From these activists and civil servants.

Those last ones look forward to the day when they are unemployed. Will that day ever come?

They can not be everywhere all the time. Nobody has that power.

Mass migration and mass movements. Here in Canada we can’t nor should we avoid thinking about it, facing its undeniablility.

We are apart of this world. How do we treat indigenous people here, mirrors how we do for others around the world.

He visits prisons in Iraq. Unsuccessful suicide bombers. Young young men. HE speaks to them. Eighteen and Syrian. Must kill enemies. Then he speaks of the violence he has seen and misses his mommy, his village, wanted to go to medical school. Understanding from an intimate position. How recruitment occurs. Highly corrupt. Religious extremism. We are, all of us, susceptible. We can’t run from this. We are all interdependent.

***Hold our leaders accountable. Resume responsibility. Assume it. Do our share. Impossible for a few to clean up any mess.

A lot of blaming of journalists. Media looks at one problem. Pay attention. Feel powerless. Then what?

How to get beyond colour, I am colour blind. This does not solve it entirely of course.

Robert Kennedy. Fifty years ago. Before my time.

Female genital mutilation. Gender based violence. We feel like we need to pick an issue. These are real, live human beings, silence no more.

Teachers teach and then those students go on to teach children.

I am here in the virtual audience. Big big biggest questions, heavy with importance.

Silly thought, but like my still growing in-box, I fall behind. We have fallen behind.

Justice isn’t always so easy. I watch a documentary on Netflix about the idea of Hitler escaping, and I wonder. What if he had? Conspiracy theories linger, nonsensically.

Ethnic. Ethic. How to obtain sustainable peace? Long term?

***Spectacle of ISIS.

Regimes. Atrocities. Don’t make it to social media. Refugees flee from government. ISIS is the word most people see and hear. Undoubtedly it is all causing such strife.

***Dabbling in feminism. Iran calls it. Complex transition. Authoritarian. Fundamentalist. Leaderships. Repress. Youth want democracy. What kind of a coward is afraid of a feminist?

No kidding. Time isn’t often on their side.

Our leaders, those in positions of power, they do abuse that. How do we fix it? My idealism and naiveté showing again.

Korea.

History straight from this speaker, this man, from those things I was not yet born to see.

***Rule of law and rule of force. How to be civilized.

North Korea. People starving. I have no clue.

Nothing makes you feel better. Well, listening to these people helps a little.

Darkness to light, from Korea, north to south.

Those images trouble me no doubt.

Genocide. Rwanda. Hatred. Dehumanizing. Calling human beings cockroaches. How could anyone, no matter who it is? Fifty years after the holocaust.

***In the moments of most tension people fail, their best intentions lost to history.

When we hear the window to prevent escalation of violence is mostly gone by.

This Iranian/Canadian human rights lawyer states any ordinary citizen should never feel we can’t make a difference, do something. Is this true? Can I help somehow?

Then, in Winnipeg, apologies for residential schools. Prime Minister gives this now. Elderly immigrant couple delivering cupcakes. Neighbours. Could barely speak English but they brought “transcendent humanity” to their indigenous neighbours.

“all that it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.”

I must check this Facebook page more often.

Stratford Festival

There is good being done everywhere. I need only seek it out.

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Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, Memoir and Reflections, Shows and Events, Special Occasions, TToT

TToT: Black, White, and Gray

Another week has gone by and it’s been just as crazy as ever. Trump is back in the media spotlight, another mass shooting has taken place, and there’s a new E L James book selling millions of copies.

It’s a crazy, mad world and yet I’ve managed to find ten things to be thankful for, in and amongst the insanity.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

Monday: outdoor entertainment.

For the chance to sit and relax outside, all while having a loud speaker down the street provide the music to relax with.

It’s nice when there’s a crew working on a roof a few houses down. They set up loud speakers and some music to work to.

All I had to do was sit outside, in my chair, and enjoy the atmosphere.

For a chance for reflection.

It was five years to the day that my oma passed away.

I wrote a tribute blog post to her to mark the occasion.

Gardens Of Sunset

It was a chance for me to remember all the things I’ve missed about her since she’s been gone.

Tuesday: The Diary of Anne Frank..

For the chance to see this wonderful live performance.

I saw this play, at Stratford Theatre (Avon) in Stratford, Ontario.

I have read the diary, seen the film, but this was a totally new and unique experience.

I learned a few things I did not know, smiled at the humour infused into parts, and felt emotions from a group of people who were well chosen to play these roles.

I had a deep appreciation for the work that must go into putting on a show like that and I felt something. I think that’s what great theatre is supposed to do.

For the chance to celebrate!

My parents have been married thirty-six years and that blows my mind sometimes.

I am lucky to have them and the lessons they’ve taught me, just through the people that they are.

They are a team, they are lucky to have each other, and they know it.

Wednesday: Canada’s health care system.

For the ability to go to the doctor and not have to worry about the cost.

I know nothing’s perfect, including my country’s medical care, but I have needed enough of it to appreciate the fact that I can access it and receive just the same level as anyone else.

I know not all places are that way. I am receiving excellent care. If I were living somewhere else, I might not feel like I can go to see a doctor or a nurse, even for a check-up.

For sarcasm.

I love me some good sarcasm and John Stewart and The Daily Show will be missed.

“Pile of butler skeletons.”

Oh John. I will miss your wonderful brand of truth, spoken through a filter of the best sarcasm, that only you know how to deliver.

Thursday: it has happened again.

😦

For the fact that again I live where I do.

It’s not yet Canada Day and I mean nothing toward the United States or anywhere else.

There is violence in all places in society. I just know I am glad I don’t feel the need to carry a gun. I don’t want to live in a culture where being armed is seen as a necessity.

I hope for less of this, in all places, as time goes on.

For truly unique dining experiences, still to be had in my own home town.

I ate at a new spot, recently to open up in my city.

Sometimes I get bored of the same old thing when it comes to restaurants and food.

“Oh no! Not you again!” This is written on a “welcome mat”, on the way in.

🙂

Infusions just opened up and it offers a trickling fountain on the way in, a play area to distract children from even wanting to eat at all, and a candy bar as a dessert option.

Who doesn’t love a candy bar, I ask you?

Friday: there are perfect moments in life sometimes.

For beautiful June weather.

I realized I have a lovely place to sit and listen to music, reed, or spend time with people.

I need to make use of my deck more often. I can get so much out of a few chilled hours on my back deck, in my yard, listening to the birds chirping.

I don’t do that enough and I am missing out when I don’t.

For a sweet and simple connection.

There was no other hand I would rather hold on a Friday night than that of the best guy in my life.

I am lucky to have nephews and I love the car ride I spent with one of them, as he held onto my hand, as he fell asleep in his car seat, on the drive home.

Wow! I think I could have kept going, but I will just leave it there, for now.

John Stewart didn’t only speak about the hilarious events to make the news this week. If you get a moment you should check out what he said about the Charleston shooting. He spoke about how some things aren’t grey areas, but black and white all the way.

I do not mean to end on a sad note this week, but it is something to think about.

Is the world black and white or many different shades of grey?

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History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Memoir and Reflections, RIP, Spotlight Saturday

Love and Despair

Canada has lost two icons, in the last two weeks. This is my tribute to them both: Lois and Jonathan.

Lois Lilienstein, dies at age 78

Sharon, Lois, and Bram were a part of my childhood.

Sure, I wasn’t a huge fan of the giant, silent elephant, but I did watch the three performers and I liked their songs.

Somewhere in between Polka Dot Door and Today’s Special.

The Elephant Show was full of skits and songs and it was always there, seemingly just there, in the background of my early years.

It was comforting like home.

The theme song is unforgettable for anyone who has ever heard it.

“Love you in the morning and in the afternoon. Love you in the evening and underneath the moon.”

The folky sounding music they sang together made them some of the best children’s performers around. They volunteered for certain children’s events, such as appearing where I saw them, met them, and had my photo taken with them.

I was a teenager by this time, but my brother and I had both received kidney transplants at Sick Children’s Hospital in downtown Toronto.

We were at a celebratory event, one afternoon, in the hospital’s main atrium. We posed with Sharon, Lois, and Bram by the cake.

Then, as I grew, I’d long since outgrown kid’s shows and soon what became important to me was what made me proud to be Canadian, with the development of my love for my country’s literary history.

I was shocked, last week, when I first read, in my news feed for Facebook…
Jonathan Crombie, dies at age 48

This was the last thing I was expecting.

There’s always a certain obvious morbidity in my mind, as one celebrity dies and I already start thinking, I wonder who the next one will be to pass away.

Jonathan Crombie was only forty-eight and died, a few days before the official announcement, from a brain hemorrhage.

Right away I felt a sickening feeling inside.

He was Gilbert Blythe. He “was” the role. He WAS that character.

I knew the PBS mini series before I really read the books. It all came to life for me, on screen, with the descriptive video I received in the mail in the late nineties.

Most girls had their prince charming, Disney prince of their choice. I had Gil. He was what an ideal male would be. He became the ideal for me.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe always reminded me of my grandparents, right from the first time I became truly aware of their love story.

I never thought I would be writing about why this character means to me what he does, not for this reason. I had assumed it would come up eventually, here or somewhere else, but that I would talk about the significance of Anne and Gilbert or Gil himself, as an upbeat writing on my favourite literature.

I didn’t think, couldn’t predict I would be writing about what Jonathan’s role as Gil meant to me, not as a tribute to the life lived by the man behind the beloved Canadian literary character, at the time of his premature death.

But here we are.

I don’t know exactly what Jonathan felt about his time playing Gilbert. I would assume he realized what that role meant to people like me. I read he would often answer to “Gil”, but whether or not this is true I can not say.

I do know he played the role of Gilbert for all three movies. He started as a fairly young guy in the eighties.

He was the son of David Crombie, Mayor of Toronto, long before Ford would make the position famous for so many other things.

Jonathan performed on the stage, Shakespearean roles, at the Stratford Festival Theatre.

I wish I could have seen him in that role, as a bit of a variation from Montgomery’s character. Just a small variation of course.

Jonathan would return, years after his original debut as Gil, when the third Anne film was made, at the start of this new century.

It was a bit of a shock, to me in that moment, when I first saw him again. He was older, obviously, his voice having changed a fair bit from what I’d known it to sound like.

He pulled off a whole new, more serious role this time, going off to perform medical officer duty in a retelling, of sorts, of a story from World War I and I was newly impressed by where he would take that character.

It was a bit of a stretch from Montgomery’s original writing, but I wouldn’t read more of the books until several years later.

Of course, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for L.M.’s brilliant creation of the great love story of Gilbert and Anne, but Jonathan brought the character to life in ways I will never forget.

It was the way Crombie pulled off the deep and unwavering devotion and dedication to Anne and his pure love for her. I envied it. I only dreamt that anyone, in my real life, could or would ever love me like that.

Even as an old-fashioned story, theirs is a fictional love story that didn’t have lots of drama and back-and-forth, at least not for him. He played always his part, Gilbert Blythe, the cool, calm, and collected gentleman. The chivalrous doctor that once was a love-sick schoolboy.

Nothing, betrayed in that character, seemed to react. They took a sombre period in Canada’s history, now one hundred years ago, and they portrayed it, both Jonathan and Megan, and the rest of the cast, with grace and dignity, feeling and heart.

The tragic romance of doing the hard thing, the spectre of having to be separated, all coming alive from the pages of any history book I’ve ever read. A fictional story that I could, so easily, picture in real life.

Of course, I knew it to be a work of fiction, but Jonathan made me feel it in every line he spoke as Gilbert.

I wanted to include my favourite moment from his performance in Anne: The Continuing Story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr20pRzTiTc

I will return to this story, again and again, to always see him in this greatest of great roles.

Watching the above clip of their reunion always did bring tears to my eyes, caused the all-too familiar butterflies in my stomach when I immediately went to watch on hearing the sad news, caused my heart to race like always, and will forevermore stir a deep feeling of nostalgia that can hardly be explained through words.

It is why I believe in the art of a fictional performance, when in spite of all the silliness of what acting often is, sometimes an actor gets it right. Sometimes it isn’t silly or frivolous. It means something.

And so I dare to be so bold as to use a line from Montgomery’s books and from the films themselves, not in an attempt to be over-dramatic for the sake of it.

Anne Shirley said it first. I say it now.

I didn’t know him. I never had the chance to meet him in person, but I would have liked to tell him all this, if I had.

“In the depths of despair.”

His passing has caused a strange empty feeling in me since I heard he was gone for real.

From what I read, his organs were donated. This only makes me love him even more.

How many people get to mean the things he’s meant to people like me and to give others a second chance at life through the sudden end of his own?

RIP Jonathan, Gil.

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Shows and Events, This Day In Literature, Throw-back Thursday

Day in the Museum: Part Two, Shakespeare’s First Folio

I just happened to be watching the news the other night when I heard something that immediately caught my attention…

Stratford, Ontario is a short drive from me and known as a lovely quaint tourist town, the claim to its fame being Stratford Festival. There they are known for their elaborate and brilliant performances of some of Shakespeare’s best-known and well-loved plays.

Museum Ad

Celebrating the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, The Stratford Festival arranged to display something of great value in honour of the occasion. This item was so valuable that it was only at the museum for two days. It only arrived as people lined up to see it Saturday morning and, according to the museum employee at the entrance to the exhibit, would be leaving not at five, but at ten minutes to five.

William Shakespeare’s First Folio is the first book of his plays, published by his friends and fellow members of The Chamberlain’s Men: John Heminge and Henry Condell. It was published seven years after Shakespeare’s death; before that it was common to find fraudulent versions in circulation.

What’s a folio you ask…well I will tell you because I honestly didn’t know myself, until recently: Folio is Latin for leaf:

“Usually means a leaf in a manuscript. But in printers’ jargon it had another sense: it referred to page size more than one page was printed at the same time on a single large sheet of paper, which was then folded into pages. When the sheet was folded once to form two leaves, making four pages, the page and book size was described as folio. A folio page is usually about 38 centimetres (15 inches) tall.”

Driving into the parking lot of the museum – a police security presence was obvious. This was serious stuff, not that they had any fear of me attempting a theft of such an artifact. I am not that gutsy, but imagine if I had pulled that off? Sounds like a good idea for a story, just fiction of course.

We arrived at a good time, a lull in the lineup. Only ten people were being permitted in the room at one time. I was glad to hear that cameras were allowed inside, but no flash was permitted. Any direct bright light could damage this centuries old document. Anything to be done to prevent fading of the writing of this special piece of literature was being done.

folio IMG_0693On entering I heard the hushed conversations of the other people and a humming of what turned out to be a dehumidifier. This book needed to be in just the right environment, which included temperature and lighting. It couldn’t be too humid and any lights were not aimed directly at or on it.

I tried to take in my surroundings then. I knew it could turn out to be rather pointless, me here to see some old book hidden in a case. What was I going to get out of this anyway?

IMG_0675 IMG_0672 IMG_0668A few old photos and the dresses worn in past performances of Shakespeare’s plays were on display in the room.

IMG_0665My knowledge of actress Maggie Smith is fairly recent, with her starring roles in the Harry Potter films and more recently still in Downton Abbey. This photo didn’t even look like her, according to my sister, but it was from her performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1977 and that was almost thirty years ago.

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The drawers in the cabinet held the separate pages of the folio. It was hard for me to comprehend and my sister read some of it to me, a lot made difficult by the old English writing. I felt like I was in a jewelry store, with the glass cabinets holding precious jewels. This time I was looking in at something so much more precious to me: words.

To the ReaderAn introduction by fellow playwright, poet, and literary critic Ben Jonson. This was all taking me back to a time I can not possibly grasp. It’s hard to even imagine what it was like back in the seventeenth century, of which Shakespeare himself was only alive to see the first sixteen years. His plays were mostly written and performed in the final years of the 1500s, at the open-air playhouse The Globe Theatre, on the south bank of The thames.

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Also in the room was a photo, included in the folio, of William Shakespeare himself. Recently, with the 450th anniversary, there has been a lot of debate about this likeness. Is it truly him?

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The artist responsible was only fifteen when Shakespeare died so it is unlikely he knew the man, but more likely he knew people who did and must have seen a photograph from the time or had someone describe what Shakespeare looked like in life.

I find it almost impossible, even in the face of some of the most proven methods, to truly believe that any of this has survived or is the truth. That is the part of history that both baffles and enthrals me. I would love to own something as precious as a book from so long ago. Even hearing it explained how something made of paper with ink imprinted on the pages lasts centuries I can’t quite fathom how. The diaries I own of my grandmother are only barely fifty years old and already some of them are so worn and delicate. How does anything make it this far through time?

Luck must play a big part in this, but you simply can not discount the care someone must have taken over the years. On our way out I hear a voice speaking with authority, or with something like it. This voice sounds young, but unmistakably informed. I pause to listen and speak to her.

She is only a summer student here and she reiterates that she is no expert: “Just someone who enjoyed researching all this.”

Through something called
Young Canada Works
she was given this opportunity for the summer, and she had clearly already done the sort of research I was relieved of having to do myself.

Her knowledge as a student, receiving her Masters and her interest in rare old books was evident. I could feel her passion for the subject matter and I could see why. It was something like that which drew me to this museum to see this famous piece of English literature. Within hours it would be back to its home at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

Finally, on my last post for this week I will speak about my trip upstairs in the museum to check out the World War exhibit.

Sources:

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/landprint/shakespeare/

http://fisher.library.utoronto.ca/about-us/brief-history-department

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Day in the Museum: Part One, Four Senses

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I spent this past Sunday afternoon surrounded by a lot of old things and one incredibly old book. This week I will break up my afternoon at the Stratford Perth Museum into three separate blog posts: today, Wednesday, and Friday.

The Stratford Perth Museum sits on seven acres, its present location, in a big old brick house. It is out of the town of Stratford a ways now, for the first time, when it moved away from the Stratford Festival and the flurry of excitement, to a more peaceful spot. In 2008 they felt they needed more space and made the move and the transition.

I had never heard of this museum, but I suppose I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t spend as much time in museums as I wish I did. I think most people think of the town of Stratford for the Festival theatre, but there is a rich culture and history in the area. It felt like one however, on entering, but I tend to have my idiosyncrasies with these institutions.

I enter a world of previously owned or used things. I love the history and the mystery of these items I find myself surrounded by, but I am without the ability to appreciate these collections with my eyes. It is my other four senses (excluding taste because it really doesn’t apply here) that I’m left with.

Immediately I realize I probably won’t be able to touch these precious and often times delicate pieces. I assume, rightly from the start, that this Shakespeare folio will not be the exception. The woman who greets us confirms that for me, no doubt spotting the white cane in my hand.

I want to stress that I love history and to imagine where something has been and who may have owned or handled it in the past. I can’t explain my strange discomfort with old things, starting in my childhood and with my fear of pioneer villages on school trips.

I have been to Europe and I swore I wouldn’t miss out on anything truly memorable while there just because I was afraid of…I don’t know what (an experience for another day’s post.)

I do not see as I walk through the museum and these buildings are like libraries, in that there is a sense of hush on the place. That only leaves one more sense: smell.

Smell is such a strange thing to relay to others through words, but it fills me with so much sense memory.

Smell can be nostalgic and it can be distasteful. It can be a distraction for me, totally taking me out of the moment and away from what history and treasures I find myself surrounded by.

Our special exhibit priced tickets give us access to the entire museum and my sister locates things I could actually get a feel for by touching. I spent my time in the Shakespeare exhibit and, unable to feel anything, (I was left with a museum headache) trying to grasp in my mind and imagination, what others were seeing with their eyes.

Festival Treasures: Creating the Wild Kingdom

“The Stratford Perth Museum, in conjunction with the Stratford Festival, presents a special exhibition called Festival Treasures: Creating the Wild Kingdom, showcasing unique pieces from the festival archives.”

It’s here my sister tries to show me the props and masks for view. I feel the strange materials and plastics and she knows not to place my hand on anything made of fur. I have a reactionary reflex alive and well that takes control of my hand, but I tell myself silently to take it easy and not pull away so fast. I’m sure it still shows in my behaviour.

“This fun-filled safari explores inventive ways of bringing birds and beasts to the stage. It will feature costumes, props, design sketches, audiovisual material, documents and photographs to illustrate the process of creating pieces for festival productions of The Birds, Peter Pan, Alice Through the Looking Glass, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and many others.”

I am curious about how these items have all remained in such good conditions for so many decades, through countless performances and I speak to an Archiveist Assistant:

I work in the festival archives. I’ve worked for a long time in the festival but I only recently went to the archives, I was a stage manager before that. Stratford Festival has the largest theatrical archive in the world, devoted to one theatre.

I ask her about how these things have managed to survive for fifty or so years:

Purpose-built facility…climate-controlled atmosphere. Archival friendly tissue paper and acid-free boxes. It’s kept at the right humidity, that’s why it’s so cold in here.

How does this work with keeping all these items from past performances?

We have the advantage of having props and costumes. Most theatrical archives don’t have the room or the money.

We have all the asses heads from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the strawberry handkerchief from Othello, the casket from Merchant of Venice

We recently celebrated the sixty-second anniversary. Back in fifty-three we’re lucky there were people that were far-sighted enough to keep things, especially because they weren’t sure there was going to be a fifty-four season or a fifty-five season, let alone two-thousand-fourteen.
We started in a tent.

How much is kept?

We take two costumes and the main props from all the productions each year.

I ask her specifically about something from Shakespeare’s time period and how that survives:

Bugs, moisture, heat…those are your biggest problems.

For four hundred years it was okay in somebody’s house. In order for it to last that long…biggest thing is moisture and sunlight…just to keep things from fading. That’s why you keep the lights down. It’s quite extraordinary.

So what is one way costumes and props are preserved over the years, in the festival?

For things like sweat and body odour…the best thing is vodka. You spray the costumes with it.

All the blood, sweat, and tears that go into that…all those performances.

This museum was once someone’s home and is now an old house, storing old things. It now houses so much from a past long gone. In Shakespeare’s case, long long gone.

Next time I will write about the reason I went to the museum in the first place: Shakespeare’s First Folio.

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