Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars. 

Gustave Flaubert


Some random thoughts on writing, self expression/exposure and society’s efforts to contain declarations of individuality.

Flaubert’s quote describing human speech echoes my sentiments when I’m writing. The process necessary to move beyond the cliche and to create an original thought is simultaneously laborious and exultant. I rely on images, anecdotes and symbolism to improve and enrich my inadequate language.

I listened to an interview with Kurt Vonnegut’s daughter, Nanette, where she described his abhorrence to writing. She said he felt as though he had no hands when he sat down to his typewriter to begin his dance with words… that he loved to paint, but felt compelled to write in response to his disgust with civilization(WW11/George Bush). This prompted me questioning the source of my compulsion to write in such an exposed manner, rather than concealing my observations in a fictionalized account. Perhaps my experience with a family and a culture that preferred the dark, less savoury elements of life to be either sanitized before exposure or denied outright, compelled me to tell the truth as I have experienced it. I have always felt that the real me danced to a drummer no one else heard, but until now, have lacked the chutzpah to dance alone. I could not tolerate being shunned, even minimally. Last Week’s Post, ‘Changing in the Dark’, allowed me to descend into the alienation of the shunned. Virtual hugs were sent… words of support were delivered(THANK YOU), giving me enough esteem to leave my cottage, and fly to Toronto to meet my family for Christmas.

Compelled to Write

Compelled to Write

 No matter the age of one’s children, they can be relied upon to notice changes in moods and behaviours, and if permitted, query the cause. So over breakfast my daughters commented on my clothing. For 3 days running, I had worn an old black sweater and pants, purchased in 1996, when preparing for my move to Albania. I said I was in mourning for the part of me buried beneath a dung heap of criticism. I went on to describe my present identification with the body malformation of Albanians who had lived under the horror of Enver Hoxha’s 40 year Dictatorship. Hoxha’s policies were enforced by imprisoning, executing, or exiling those who threatened his power. I told them about Ilir, the Company driver that was needed, to safely navigate the potholed streets as much as the politically unstable city of Tirana. Ilir was a well educated and sensitive man. Physically wizened, I thought he must be 65 and unwell. Shockingly, he was my exact age …43 and as healthy as one could be having lived in the most tightly controlled country in Europe. In contrast, his daughter, who was 15 was very tall and beautiful, having been better fed in a less tyrannical environment.

Father and son on their way to market near Tirana Albania

Father and son on their way to market near Tirana Albania

Tirana'a Outdoor Markets

Tirana’a Outdoor Markets

And then The Universe delivered me to The Art Gallery of Ontario…just in case I still needed convincing that our society distorts the human shape, but that restoration can occur through expressions of creativity.

Upon arriving at the AGO, we thought we would fortify ourselves with a drink from the bar, supposedly located on the 5th floor. Unable to find an elevator that went beyond the 2nd level, we walked up an enclosed, spiral stairwell in the centre of the gallery. By level 4 we were having an Escher type experience…

Climbing the Stairwell at AGO

Climbing the Stairwell at AGO

As we stumbled out of the stairwell, we walked into the middle of an Evan Penny exhibit! He is a Canadian artist who finds inspiration in the pervasive presence of manipulated images delivered daily by the mass media. He contends that as a society we accept these images as real, forgetting the degree to which they are manipulated.

When we left the disorienting display of larger than life faces, we wound our way down to one of the most powerful female artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds…including her marriage, her miscarriages, and her numerous operations. She insisted,”I never paint dreams. I paint my own reality.” As tentative as I have been in describing my pain, she was explosive.




I feel encouraged to pursue my expression of reality as I experience it, after visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario. Although my body is far less contorted today than it was as few as 5 years ago when I began the process of healing, I am not comfortable in it. I feel congruent with my emotional, spiritual and psychological self, but not my physical self. As it is only in the past year that I have risked expressing myself artistically, possibly through a greater freedom of expression I will loose this sense of dissociation. So for Week 24 of 52 and beyond, I will continue to write, draw and dance on the wild side, in the hopes that my body finds its way back to itself!