Thursday, August 18, 2011


Another hot and humid day here in Toronto. It feels very tropical. Sounds carry, as well as smells, both the lovely and the stenchy. The lovely include the haunting scent of phlox (mine are white) that drifts and eddies around the back garden and in the back door.

Speaking of eddies, I've had rivers and light and color on my mind this last while. I've been engrossed with images for Rivers of Flavor, picking final ones from a larger Burma pick. And now they are all sitting queued up (so interesting that the tech people, whom I always think of as American in their language, should have turned to "queue", a more classic English word, but I guess queuing is a clearer meaning than "lining up" or "waiting") and getting sent off one by one, as they load onto Artisan's FTP space. Words fail me: is it an FTP portal? or file? or dossier? or dock?

And as they load up and head out one by one, I'm reminded of the turtles I saw long ago on an outlying island of Sabah, north-east of the port town of Sandakan, then a sleepy-hollow place. Maybe it's bustling now. I haven't been back since 1980.
I was with a friend and we were taken out to the Turtle Island by Parks people. We spent the night there, at about this mid-August time of year, now I think of it. YIkes! That was 31 years ago.

At around one in the morning we headed out under the full moon, on the fine white sand, to wait on the beach. We were lucky that night. First one, and then another and another huge dark shape came out of the water and lumbered across the beach sand to its upper edge: turtles, come to lay their eggs. We crept close to one as she stood digging with her strong stubby legs, a hole that grew deeper and deeper. The sand flew. Then she turned her tail to the hole and began to let the eggs go. They emerged in a gleaming stream, some and then more, white and pearlescent in the moonlight. Eventually, once she was done, she used her strong legs to heave and push sand back into the hole to cover the eggs.

The parks people marked the spot with a post. Meantime the turtle, her work done, headed for the beach, leaving tracks like a tank, a continuous drag mark with evenly spaced dents too. And then into the water she slipped.

Well in a silly superficial way this moment of sending off images into the e-sphere feels a little like what happens when those eggs hatch. The little turle-lets head off to the sea, but who knows how many of them make it? It's part of nature's lottery.
And the process of sending images or letters or manuscript through the e-ther feels a little the same, a fraught and chancy thing.

Maybe I should revise my view: maybe all interaction, all sending out of messages and trusting they will be received, is just as much of a lottery or game of chance. The imperfections of communication are not just technical, not just a matter of something going physically awry (like a bird picking off a baby turtle, or the electricity cutting out in the middle of a transmission). Those are bad luck but in the end understandable. The others, the misunderstood comments or actions, are much more complicated, and more scary too. For example the response that is heard as critical or angry but wasn't meant to be; the silence that was meant to leave breathing room but is read as abandonment or uncaring; the praise that is real but is heard as ironic, all these are the truly scary slippages and losses. Sometimes it seems a miracle that we ever understand each other at all.

When I start to think about the fraughtness of human communication, I reach for consoling thoughts and ideas. After all, most often we DO seem to understand each other. Maybe we're fooling ourselves, and there are more gaps in our mutual understanding than we know or acknowledge, but we soldier on. And we do that because we WANT it to work. We want to understand others, and to be understood. And we want tolerance for (and always need to remind ourselves to BE tolerant of) mistakes and miscues.

How did I end up here, when I started with the scent of phlox in the garden? Maybe the idea of familar scents connects to childhood and memory and then leads to reflection on the larger meta-picture? I guess that's it.

For now, I need to absorb this place I've arrived at, which is the reminder to give people the benefit of the doubt when there are misunderstandings and to be tolerant when things go astray, in whatever way that happens. After all, that kind of imperfection is part of life too.

Now there's something to think about.

Meantime the peaches are in, lush sweet fabulous Ontario peaches. It's a great year for fruit here. Today at the Dufferin Grove Farmers' Market there were also huge blackberries and lots of elderberries too, so enticing. I bought two six quart baskets of peaches, organic peaches, for five dollars each. What a bargain, all that easy to eat juicy complexity for the price of a coffee and muffin. Amazing.

May the rest of August be as delicious and fruitful...

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