Margaret Macpherson lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Right now she is off-grid, seeking the solitude of the lovely little cabin you see in this photograph. That sounds pretty appealing to me, Margaret.
I’m borrowing your words here, Margaret, when you say you are a writer, teacher and mentor who believes in freedom, self expression, justice and the uncanny ability of the human spirit to connect intimately with others. You love people and words and positive energy and your work speaks of your deep connection to humanity. You’re a Northern lass, a second generation feminist with three kids, a husband and a cat.
We met at Banff Centre, a decade ago, and thanks be to social media, we’ve stayed connected. Our recent lunch at U. of A. was a blast, so many things in common to chat about.
Let’s jump right in with three questions, Margaret, as they are windows into the richness of your life;
1. 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?
Margaret: As a writer and, more recently painter, I have always sought creative pursuits but in these strange times I feel a new urgency to create. Not all that I do is for beauty and comfort, either. Sometimes I believe images and text should probe us to reflect, to consider new perspectives or even new questions. Art can, and sometimes should, make us uncomfortable.
I do feel like we have more time, and that’s curious because I’ve always been an artist and a gig worker but now, in the season of COVID 19, the quality of time is different. It’s blurred and amorphous. People are loosing track of days. It’s marvelous in a bizarre way because what is time if not a construct imposed upon us?
I don’t mind this world order falling away; I think it was broken and unsustainable. My hope is that we can learn from this crisis — death is always with us, we can’t love things, giving and receiving are both important in healthy relationships. I want the world to collectively re-imagine and implement a new order that upholds different values and principals. I know if sounds lofty and it’s not that I don’t succumb to Doritos and Netflix from time to time, but I am changed by this reflective period and, oddly, I feel hopeful.
2. What is the core factor that brings vitality and life to you?
Margaret: I think my spiritual life and my intuitive life have been deeply important to my being. I’m a survivor of sexual assault, an outspoken second wave feminist, and someone who gets energy from others, a typical extrovert. This isolation would ruin me if it weren’t for the artistic practices I’ve established and the rich communion I have with my creative self, the Creator within. I always have to acknowledge ego, all the time, however because when it gets in the way, you’re hooped. There is no flow between yourself and the richly mesmerizing spirit world.
I’m experimenting with an expressive visual arts activity involving three principals – deep meditations, trusting the process of the medium (in my case watercolours), and gifting the result. I focus on a particular person or situation and then paint and see what occurs. It’s remarkably revealing at times, but I have to remind myself to acknowledge and let go of ego – I’ve named the practice Non-prophet, just to remind myself how easily ego creeps in.
3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Margaret: As I write this, our black cat is sitting on the back porch in the mid afternoon sunshine. Watching her ears twitch, I realize how attuned she is to the coming of spring. My own longing for a deeper connection to the Earth surprises me. It might be time to head out to our cabin in the bush. There is no running water there, no electricity, no neighbours, no cell service, just a riverbank and the quietude of a world awakening. I need to feel the spring stirring, the way my cat does.
Margaret Macpherson has two published novels, Released (Signature Editions, 2007) and Body Trade (Signature Editions, 2012), a collection of short stories, Perilous Departures and four non fiction books. Her stories and essay have been anthologized and her poetry scattered to the winds. Margaret’s website is woefully out of date but if you want to get in touch visit her HERE.
Thank you for visiting with me today, and for our connection over the years. I appreciate your infectious optimism, and welcoming spirit.
And a poem…
Now, there is no more busy
Now, we have time
Now, distraction is foreign
and flights of fantasy are the only
aircraft we can board.
Now, walking outside is our consolation
and brave sun, in our solitude, a new companion.
Now, the stars are less distant,
and those we love even closer.
Now, we can’t gather
can’t hobnob, can’t see or be seen.
Now, we are quiet
Breathe while the earth is healing
Breathe while the fields ripen
Breathe while the lungs of our longing
thicken and fill.
Time is on our side, at last.
It is all we have left.
Breathe in the ecstasy
of this world
Cover photo by Joel Clements Photography.