Bernadette Wagner and I recently renewed our decade long friendship when she swung through the Okanagan Valley with her new poetry book The Dry Valley, from Radiant Press. Bernadette stayed with me for a couple of days, and being in her energetic and encouraging presence, talking about meaningful things, was a reminder to me of how important creative community really is. Bernadette joins us from Regina, Saskatchewan, where she lives with her husband and son. She has a daughter attending university in Ottawa.
Bernadette’s way of putting herself and her work out into the world is inspiring. She is similarly tireless in supporting other poets, because as she says, that’s just what we do!
Thanks for joining in this virtual poetry hootenanay, Bernadette! In response to my three questions this is what you said;
1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
Bernadette: The COVID-19 times has taught me that I already live a quiet life, take care of myself and family, and educate community.
2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?
Bernadette: People going on about having more time on their hands now certainly don’t live in my house! Until a couple of weeks ago, I was pretty much home alone from 7:45 am to 5:45 pm Monday to Friday. For the past two weeks (or has it been three?) I’m sharing the house 24/7 with my husband, an immuno-compromised civil servant working from home. And, as of yesterday, our son is also home 24/7 with COVID-19 symptoms. Our daughter, living out of province and also with symptoms, will be home from grad school in a month.
My life is radically altered and altering. I am the heart-centre of our family, the nurturer, chef — domestic goddess, if you will — and I’m spending more time on the computer ordering food and supplies or in the kitchen cooking, than on writing, though I do try to do a writing sprint or two every day.
I’m getting through it all by leaning heavily on the meditation practice I’ve had for almost 20 years. I meditate at least twice daily and for longer periods than I used to. Colleagues have been hosting free meditations online. I think there’s one almost every day and I’ve always loved communal meditation. Community is really important to me. And these sessions — there’s one specific to writers now — help me remember that I’m part of something bigger. That’s especially important now.
I’m also grateful to social media for that sense of community. But I was quite shocked by people’s initial fears so I spent a significant amount of time talking people down, sharing positive messages. And there’s so much ugliness and negativity coming from a certain leader of government south of here and so many people sharing it that social media isn’t as much fun for me.
I write a daily report, or try to, of the Prime Minister’s news briefings. It’s my public service, I suppose. I am a fiercely political animal but I have to say that thus far PM Trudeau is impressing me. And believe me when I say that it takes a lot for a Liberal Prime Minister to impress me!
3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Bernadette: The robins have returned and their song relaxed and inspired me yesterday.
Those who attended your book launch in Kelowna in early March had the treat of listening to you read the poem that you are also sharing with us today. It is so lovely in its imagery and strong sense of place. Thank you for the gift of these words.
Peace, and continued good health to you and yours,
Fieldnotes from the Qu’Appelle (in memory of Robert Kroetsch) Morning bursts apricot and yellow on the lake. Gray driftwood floats on sky. White sails, a blue breeze. ~ Water gurgles, chugs. Beeps announce coffee. This place allows for human and more-than-human connection. Wings, skin, bark, fur co-exist. ~ Just around the bend, maybe three miles north somewhere between the hills hanging in a mist that curves around land and heart, insistent wind holds hawk high. She swoops drops then climbs, feast tightly taloned. Soars over trees, birds, insect, over chattering squirrels, water, blood. ~ Number Eleven highway, two blades slicing skin, how progress scalped this valley. ~ Two turkey vultures spiral high, closer, closer to the hillside abattoir. ~ Orange-breasted robin pecks apart huge moth. Families of swallows, inhaling insects, dip, rise, dip again. ~ Qu'Appelle Valley green is silver sage, a treetop's lime, river bank hay, market garden crops, stands of spruce, stretching, short commercial lawn, sea of forest holding a hill, a yellow clover stalk. ~ Living sky shapeshifts colours, a river of vulnerability pinpricked by light. ~ Peace filters through singing elms, beneath their fluttering gold, rippling grasses.