December 7, 2018

Birth of a Feeling


Sweet relief; party of three. Bernard Elgin--seconds old--placed on my chest. November 11, 2018.

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The dreaming just comes natural
Like the first breath from a baby,
Like sunshine feeding daisies,
Like the love hidden deep in your heart.

'Donald and Lydia' -John Prine

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Lie down in the light. Benny warms up as he gets his first once-over. Ten fingers, ten toes, white chicken hair? Check!
Minutes old on the warming table and not exactly impressed.
Benny and midwife/ aunty Em.
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I didn't know what I was missing until I felt the weight of my newly born son gently laid across my chest. On Remembrance Day, November 11, 2018 at 7:11pm our son slipped from my body into this world. He was little--as we were assured he would be--but mighty. He took to the breast like an old hat. My gentle little teacher. Pleasure to make your acquaintance at last dear child!

We named him Bernard (in honour of Iain's late grandfather) Elgin (an ode to the first child I ever truly connected with as a Montessori teacher). We did it; we are parents! Iain's grin and exquisite face of emotion told me so in those first minutes as a family of three. Sweet relief.

The idea of penning a play-by-play of his birth is far too great of a task for me at this time. Perhaps I am still too close to the beginning of the story to write with enough perspective to give it any depth. I will say that the labouring aspect of Bernard's birth was incredibly empowering to the woman in me. I have never turned as deeply inward as I did during those long hours of labour. Facing surge after surge of the most powerful energy my body has ever known, I took great solace in silently rattling off a roll call of matriarchs who came before me.

Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim
Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim
Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim
Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim
Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim
Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim
Anna, Elizabeth, Annie, Helen, Kim

These are the names of the women who carried me and in turn, birthed me. They became a lifeline that I held onto for dear life, silently repeating their names while gripping this railing or that until the powerful wave washed over and out toward the shore leaving me bobbing along before the next one rolled in. Bobbing along, gathering my wits. Long, deep and low notes helped me achieve the "loose and low" wishes of my midwife. It was incredible to feel my body begin to open as the night progressed despite sounding like a cow in labour. Find your rhythm and hold fast!

Transition and the physical act of pushing Benny's body out of mine was a different story. There was no solace, no break, no intuitive wisdom from generations of Christmas past. Where did the hard-earned power, pride and intuition go that I had just felt and worked hours to achieve? All that was suddenly replaced by fear and doubt that the child would ever emerge. It was the hardest mental and physical work I have ever achieved in my life. Thanks to the incredible kindness and guidance of my midwife Emily and the attending nurse Kristen, I clawed my way back to the surface and hauled up my boot straps. Puke and rally--Kroeker style. It probably sounds strange but in my despair it helped to conjure up all of the most horrifying pieces of land I have ever planted and funnel that energy into the physical process. The baby did emerge eventually and I thank the moon above for his tiny head.

From where I write I can hear Benny mewing and grunting in his bassinet. Sweet baby dreams to you my little sweet sweet sweet. We are in the thick of it now and I wouldn't trade these precious first weeks for anything. Sacred times over here.

That is all for now. Thanks for reading my story. I shall leave you with this final image. True pride, as captured by my sister Erin who (along with my mother Kim, sweet Iain, midwife Emily and nurse Kristen) attended the birth and assisted me from start to finish despite having a little babe of her own at home. I thank you and I love you.

Most of all, I love my partner Iain. Without you, I would be in a very different place. I have no doubt that I am right where I need to be. Thanks for dancing this funny dance with me. We made a child and he is lovely!

Dear Bernard, thank you for choosing me to be your mama. I love you to the moon and back and I'll do my best to raise you to be a sweet man like your papa.

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Right back where he belongs. This is a portrait of a mother's pride. I did it! 
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Most precious photographs thanks to my dear sister Erin du Plooy.
Kiev 60 / Delta 400

November 9, 2018

Rest Easy

Nine months along with you; down in the valley. Photo thanks to Natalie Baird. October 2018
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Today marks eight years since we lost a dear woman in our family. Marj, rest you dear woman. What kind of vantage point have you carved out for yourself today, I wonder? I can easily imagine you perched on a branch, observing your children go amongst their days with their children in tow--your grandchildren--growing, growing, grown. Some of them so grown by now they are independent of their parents. Maybe they too are looking toward the treetops, searching for signs of you watching from above. Oh, there is so much to tell. You know it all I'm sure, but it bugs me how much time has passed since we last had a good laugh on the phone. Whenever I was in distress in the past (be it stranded on a logging road with nothing but a satellite phone and a bag of sunflower seeds to my name or in the throes of an adult tantrum that needed to be laughed off) I could call you, and you would carve out time. I miss you for so much but I really miss your laughter in the face of darkness.

Today, as I stood in a funny nook outside of the labour and delivery ward at Women's waiting to hear where my name fell on the Induction list, a woman and her very, very fresh infant were wheeled past the spot where my mom and I were waiting. I couldn't help but laugh at the irony of it all. We wait for life as we mourn death. You would have stopped her bed and all the people around that tired looking new momma and exclaimed how "BEAUUUUUUUTIFUL" she and her new babe were. Everyone would have smiled and somehow you would have gotten away with such a bold move in that split second of incredible tenderness and vulnerability. I honour your incredible spirit today with a good laugh, a good meal, and this old song. I love you. Rest easy, dear one. This one goes out to you. Still makes me cry, eight years and counting...





Ps. It felt incredibly appropriate this afternoon to pick up two rolls of pregnancy portraits. I felt you near that afternoon as I leapt through the valley in my birthday suit. Never heavier, never freer, never happier. You were chuckling to yourself I am sure as Natalie framed up the magic on my Kiev. As we walked toward Honky Tonk, I stopped short on the worn path in my boots and antique wedding dress and pointed to the blue sky. Golden Eagle flying free. Hello! Goodbye! I love you.
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"Viewing parenthood as a process of spiritual metamorphosis allows us to create the psychic space to invite the lessons of this journey in. As a parent, to the degree you are able to recognize that your children are in your life to foster a renewed sense of who you are, you will discover their potential to lead you to the discovery of your own true being.

In other words, while you may believe your most important challenge is to raise your children well, there's an even more essential task you need to attend to, which is the foundation of effective parenting. This task is to raise yourself into the most awakened and present individual you can be. The reason this is central to good parenting is that children don't need our ideas and expectations, or our dominance and control, only for us to be attuned to them with our engaged presence."

- excerpt from The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary

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We are waiting with wonder and delight over who this child may be and what exactly they will add to our mix. Last night as we lay in bed, our bodies pressed close together, we laughed at the petit and wild movements of the tiny body encased between us. What a thing of beauty--to stand just on the edge of parenthood peeking over into the abyss at what may be.

Despite tail-end of pregnancy hiccups and setbacks presenting themselves, I am feeling serene and tuned in to this little creature. Perhaps he will come in his own time, in his own way. Regardless, I am looking at the long game picture and that entails a baby at my breast soon enough.

In the meantime, my hands keep busy with various mending projects that dot the surfaces of my home. Resting over nesting. The walls can wait to be washed. I am content to practice the very slow art of total un-productivity as this small body sinks deeper toward the light. I am ready.

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Runnin' for the roses in a hundred year old Kimono. October 2018

Near Roseisle, MB; October 2018
Kiev 60 / Tmax 400

October 11, 2018

Zuki Su

Man oils chain. Winnipeg, MB; October 2018. 

All tied down and ready for a winter's rest in a warm shop. November 2018.


Kiev 60 / expired 220 Kodak 400 VC
Kiev 60 / 120 Delta 400

October 9, 2018

In & Around


Working hard on fitting together geometric shapes in my living room. September 2018.

Portrait of a man on a ladder. September 2018.

Portrait of a pregnant lady seven months along, captured from above. September 2018.

Pregnant lady eats pretzels on her daybed, captured from above. September 2018.

Mama and girl playing harmonica on my back deck. September 2018.
Makeshift tub; camping edition. Spruce Woods, MB; September 2018.

Happy lady in the reeds. October 2018.

Brilliant lady in the wind wearing her own Tony Chestnut vest in ochre. October 2018.

Eight months along wearing Tony Chestnut as old as the hills. October 2018.

Two mamas holding their young in a bread maker's kitchen. October 2018.

Kiev 60 / Tmax 400 & Delta 3200

September 25, 2018

Summer roll

Sandwich eaten' at the Sugar Shack on a hot Sunday. August 2018.

In my happy place with needle and thread, working on stitching a flight cap. August 2018.

A perfect depiction of my speed this summer. Photo thanks to IDP. August 2018.

My pops and his grandson Elliot enjoy the lake. August 2018.

Elliot looking unimpressed. August 2018.

This kid was not wowed by my stitching skills. This hat fit him for about five minutes. August 2018.

My sweet nephew held by my love. August 2018.

My niece Ollie works on her sewing skills. August 2018.

Granny Kim reads to her grandson. August 2018.

Baby's first sink bath :) at the cottage no less! August 2018.

All photos from a single roll of 120 Portra 400 / Kiev 60.

August 22, 2018

Bird Bath

This is where I write, three years after the self-timer shutter snapped. Double exposure (home & Ripperz concert); Winnipeg, MB; September 2015. 
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The book in my hand droops distractedly as I lie in the bath. Candlelight dances on the water-splotched tile surround and I am reminded yet again that the tub is due for a good scrub. My eyes continue to stray from the printed dialogue of Charles Frazier's latest called 'Nightwoods' (highly entertaining). I simply cannot help but pause to observe my bird-child attempt to peck his way out of his dappled shell. Every few sentences, eyes cut from print to skin. His body is growing rapidly though the volume of fluid he swims in remains the same. Thus the entertainment from my vantage point gets better and better with each end of day de-robing.

Peck, peck, peck. I can't help but wonder if I will indeed give birth to a winged creature.

The child in my daily care--Leo--has named the babe Moltress; "a fiery winged creature who has the power of Sacred Fire. A Legendary" he says to me with convincing urgency between mouthfuls as we eat leftovers at the table this afternoon. I have nary a clue as to what these words of his mean, but I do enjoy the imagery. A Legendary, indeed.

This point in pregnancy marks twenty eight weeks of growth / togetherness. My body magically undertakes the daily work required in the process of knitting together a human being. I try to do my part externally by eating lots of leafy greens, drinking plenty of water, moving my body and breathing deeply. So far, so good. This evening I stand at the edge of my third trimester. Nothing to do but surrender to the great free fall that is new motherhood and enjoy the ride in. There he goes again: knees, heels, elbows (I cannot seem to get a handle on where his body is positioned within my own) drag along my innards with surprising zeal. At times it feels like he is literally feeling his way through the dark for the nearest exit.

Patience young grasshopper, trust in yourself that you will know when it's time to descend toward the light. Or maybe birth will take a totally unexpected sharp corner and we will both go careening off the tracks. Time shall tell!

Surrender, remain present.

My mantra on this side of new motherhood.

I grin as I write. Can't wait to meet you Moltress. In the meantime, keep on exploring your tight quarters. It is a wondrous feeling and an incredible sight.

---

Ni tunes his mandolin. Winnipeg, MB; December 2014.
Chopping onion at the table inside the Sugar Shack. Near Roseisle, MB; January 2015.
In the meadow together. Near Roseisle, MB; July 2015.

August 9, 2018

By honeysuckle, blessed

My ma and sweet Luella.

Auntie Daryl and sweet Elliot.

Elliot and Lue.

E & L; pool date.

Reesa takes a dip.

Jenn feeds Forest on my daybed.
Winnipeg, MB; July 2018
Kiev 60 / Tri-X Pan 125 (forty + year old film! / processed with Ilford DDX 1+9)

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This evening I lay on my daybed as the light of day sank behind the neighborhood trees heavy with foliage.  Sweet summer nights. As I lay I listened to a friend cry as she drove, eleven hours from my daybed spot. Nothing quite like driving while weeping. Weeping while driving. My child danced under the weight of my hand resting on this new hill of life climbing toward the heavens. As I listened, I wished I could recite a spell for her to use in solitude. Write down what you wish to dispel yourself of and tear it into a million tiny pieces. Throw those ripped bits into fast flowing water or better yet, flames. Good riddance dead weight.

Good riddance.

Even later in the evening while flipping through a well worn book, my fingers stopped their grazing at the sight of this Jeni Couzyn poem. This one goes out to those who need a little softness tonight. Peace be with you.

I love you my friend. Send your demon down the river and don't look back.

---

Spell to Soften the Hard Heart of a Woman by Jeni Couzyn

The almond has trapped herself in a cage of bone,
The chestnut in bristle is hidden,
The gnarled old man still trembles like a boy at the sound of your name.

Your hurt be in the ground,
Your fear be in the wind, 
Your pain be in the stone.

The chords of your heart are untied,
The envious thorn is drawn from your eye,
The scaly armour falls from you making you young.

By this flame, holy,
By this water, holy, 
By earth, holy,
By air, holy.

The spiteful shadow is trimmed from your heel,
The nine wounds from your mother's whip are washed from your blood,
Your dark of father is filled with father love.

Be blessed by gardenia,
By hyacinth, blessed,
By honeysuckle, blessed,

By this star, holy,
By night, holy,
By laughter, holy,
By this kiss, holy.

July 18, 2018

Imprint


Ni & I, happy together in the back woods of Ontario. Near Sioux Narrows, Ontario; June 2018.

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It feels a bit funny to return to this place after so many moons away. And yet, there is a special familiarity that goes along with it. Like the feeling that comes with slipping on my grandmother's tattered old denim shirt after a long period of forgetting of its existence in the drawer.

Sentiments of old, hanging around like forgotten laundry sunbaked on the line just out of one's peripheral vision. Crisp and well-worn at the same time. This is how I feel about this old place.

There has been a great shift since the last entry I wrote in March. Little did I know then that I was carrying the bright spirit that I feel move within me as I write. Iain and I are set to welcome a child into our fold sometime in November. I look forward to meeting the little person we created together in great love. Will the child have the laugh lines of his father? Will he have my Hildebrandt nose given to me by the many, many strong women who came before me? I hope so, but I also love that I can't possibly know--until I know. Great things are worth waiting for.

And I have been waiting for you for a long, long time my love.

My wonder and delight in this pregnancy is too vast to pen right now so in lieu of words, I will leave these two images. Perhaps you will note the delight in our eyes as we grin into the lens.

A few weeks ago I shot the wedding of a dear friend out at her parent's cottage near Sioux Narrows in Ontario. On our slow and intentional journey homeward, Iain and I (both being tree planters at some point in our twenties) were simultaneously drawn to the obvious mouth of a cut block weaving jaggedly off the highway. Without a word, Iain pulled the truck off the highway and into that mouth and we drove in silent reverie of the strange beauty around us. Some of the land had been freshly shaved down and the scent in the air was heady and intoxicating. Menacing slash piles giving off plumes of scent I would pay a trillion dollars to bottle and wear as perfume on my most sacred evenings. I communicated silently with my child as I tend to do, explaining to him the wonders of working a land stripped raw of it's natural bounty. It is a harsh reality to stand amidst. And yet, it is an honour to participate in the process of thoughtfully replenishing the contours of such a naked place.

As we drove deeper and deeper into the land, the lane narrowed to a point where even the slim truck could not move through. We stopped and stepped out into a deafening world of black flies and other unidentifiable creatures and I stripped nude so Iain could capture my changing body in another beautiful place. There was no evidence of the work of horrifying machinery where I stood. Just wildflowers and a wall of greenery and me and the new contours of my own body. Wondrous! Sadly the image never came up on the roll, but we both know what we captured in that place. I hope the feeling imprinted on my son as these attempts to remember imprint on film.

We will take you along to beautiful places, child.
---

Self portrait in the funny little mirror from Ni's old 1980 Granada. Wind whipped and happy. Near Sioux Narrows, Ontario; June 2018. Five months along with you, child.

Colour Season

Ni puts the finishing touches on his flatbed.

My beautiful friend Lo.

Portrait of a bright spirit. 

Portrait of a beautiful child observing the magic of the annual Art City parade.

My cousin Alex holding up a section of the enormous Canker worm at the parade. 

Parade grins.

Portrait of a fantastic grin on a talented woman called Kylie.

Toast--mid parade.

Half pipe woman--my favourite float from this year's "West Broadway" theme.

Ian J. blows bubbles for happy participants in great overalls.

Sarah hoists a friendly robot.

The lovely Meghan and her girls enjoy the Art City parade.


Winnipeg, MB; July 2018
Kiev 60 / Portra 400