In Praise of Impermanence

In Praise of Impermanence

O Death!

A moment in time when
Impermanence is
Not a privilege of any species,
Nor of any class or race.
Inclusivity personified.

Your stealth unveiled:
When we cease to be,
What we desire to be,
The scales fall from our eyes.

turns loneliness into company
Like you

removes all pain and suffering
Like you

NOTHING is permanent
NOTHING is finished
NOTHING is perfect

What remains?
There is only becoming.
An unchanging and permanent self, a fiction.

Fading away and ceasing of that very craving to be,
Becoming and perishing in equal measure,
To the drum beat of our relationship to time.

Wabi sabi, the inexplicable pulse,
A process of continuous being,
Manifest in beauty and serenity
A patina that only comes with age.

Marlene Chan
March 15, 2021

In Search of Wabi Sabi
History – WABI SABI
What is wabi sabi?

Five Haiku for March

Five Haiku for March

Stray Kitty (three)

Cold wind shakes cold bare
Limbs, chain fence. Over ice-packed snow
A cat picks her way.

White cat, with some black,
Looks dirtied on white snow. It
Mewls a little. Stops.

Little kitten made big
By baggy fur. Ugh. Winter
Made off with her cute.

Spring, Again (two)

March. Dawn. Crows natter.
Is that a robin singing?
To my old dead loves…

Bathroom nightlight, in
That grey box across the lane;
I feel romantic.

Breathing into Creativity Workshops

Three members of our Digital Literacy/ Storytelling group were among the participants in the two-part Zoom writing workshop “Breathing into Creativity” hosted by the Atwater Library on the consecutive Thursdays, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3, 2020 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Organized and facilitated by Elise Moser in conjunction with AWE (the Atwater Writers Exhibition project), and offered free through the generous support of the Canadian Cultural Action Fund of Canadian Heritage, the two workshops were led by poet, artist, and educator har leen, coordinator of the South Asian Youth (SAY) collective of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre (SAWCC).


Group Poem from Breathing into Creativity

    Three members of our Digital Literacy/Storytelling group were among the participants in the two-part Zoom writing workshop “Breathing into Creativity,” an AWE (Atwater Writers Exhibition) event hosted by the Atwater Library on the consecutive Thursdays, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3, 2020 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Organized and facilitated by Elise Moser, and offered free through the generous support of the Canadian Cultural Action Fund of Canadian Heritage, the workshops were led by poet, artist, and educator har leen, coordinator of the South Asian Youth (SAY) collective of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre (SAWCC). You will find the complete AWE workshop description, including a detailed profile of har leen, and listings of more upcoming and past events, here:

For South Asian Youth:

And har-leen’s website and social media links:

I found har leen to be a proverbial breath of fresh air–gentle, sensitive, attentive, enthusiastic, en-couraging, and dynamic in the moment. As I have recounted from a personal perspective in a companion blog post, har leen led us through an evocative series of individual prompts and free-writes to the community creation of a group poem–a poem conceived as our message from the pandemonium of our planet in 2020, a message sent out into the vastness of universal space.

Above: Har-leen in her NASA shirt: Aim for the stars!

Below is the second, more recent version of this group poem, compiled and carefully edited by participant Wanda Potrykus of AWE, who generously volunteered her time and skill to the project. (Wanda, with professional transparency, has also privately documented the in-progress versions and arrangements, with notes on her editorial decisions, for the contributors.) Wanda was also the unsung hero in encouraging and empowering the workshop writers to let their voices be published here.

I’m posting the poem now with the kind permission of Brian, Donna, Karin, Lynn, Marlene, Susi, and Wanda, as well as that of coordinator Elise Moser on behalf of the Atwater Library and AWE.
The order of appearance of poets will, in keeping with our spirit of spontaneous community, remain anonymous in this post. However, with the exception of section I. “Buried alive…,” which Wanda, with permission, chose to use as a repeating and closing refrain, each numbered passage represents a complete submission as composed by an individual poet.  We also acknowledge the in-spiriting presence and voices of the workshop participants whose contribution is not manifest in the text.

Buried Alive II

Buried alive…

Hello, are you there?
Are you there?
Can you give us a sign
that you’re listening?

This is the sound
of a bullfrog. Our last
bullfrog. We are wondering
if you have bullfrogs there —
and whether you could spare
us a few. Also we are short
of blue girls — the ones
who stand tall in the water

I’m a slouching feeling, scaly skinned.
The beings I desire are beacons, statuesque.
I am a crag among crags.
Surely this isn’t unique: surely
There is a match for me.

Immobilized by my enduring nature,
Longing for the familiar.
How did I get here?
Have I nowhere else to be?

Buried alive…

Extinction. Extinction.
The nipple taken away.
I cry in the night, inconsolable.

Here in the Great Extinction
The darkness gathers
All the dead ones
All the victims
The darkness gathers the song.

In the presence of mine enemies
The lost helpful animals
Return for the others
Who remain with a leg in the trap
Till the sun explodes as a nova
And melts our chains.

Fresh rain beckons us
Painting everything alive
Dancing to sunshine.

What am I seeing?
I’m coming into being
Re-engineering what was there before
Disappearing, fleeing from my unconsciousness,
The door is opening
I am metamorphosing
Parts of me are decomposing,
Oh, what is this wonder that I see?
It’s me…I have been reborn,
Reformed as a fragile, seedling tree.

No longer buried…still alive
I thrive.

Wanda has offered her suggestions and insights to both our poets and others, as individuals and in community, to take the opportunity for further creative exploration and reflection:

“Whether a neophyte or an experienced writer, from time to time we all need encouragement, thus compilation of this poem is inspired by a previous event commemorated on the AWE website:”

Rapid-Fire Readings, Ricochet Writing: Montreal Authors Write Before Your Very Eyes!
“On April 30, 2015, twenty-four contemporary Montreal authors from across the impressive range of our literary scene offered rapid-fire readings from their work. They also created a brand-new literary jewel by adding a line each to a collective text. At the end of this fast-moving happening the final product was read aloud with panache and brilliant comic timing by playwright Colleen Curran. The Quebec Writers’ Federation and the Atwater Library co-hosted this exciting event.” Source: AWE website:

So have some fun with our group poem. Feel free to play around with the verses, and reorder the sequence of the verses as you wish and in terms of what makes sense to you. There’s no right or wrong way…Add your own lines to this text, even if you don’t choose to share them with the rest of us. You might surprise yourself at how well yours fit in. I like to read poetry aloud so I can play with alternative intonations along the way. The choice of title too is up to you. Enjoy! As Paul Valéry, (French poet and philosopher), once rightly said, ‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned.’ Keep on putting pen to paper! One never knows quite what poetic jewel may appear.”

May we all go bravely forward in the Plague Years, playing, despite all, with optimistic abandon and joy!


Down the Rabbit Hole of Dreams

The earliest memory that I have retained of a dream (more properly termed a recurring, unsettling nightmare in my case) can be attributed to the third segment in Walt Disney’s Fantasia known as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I viewed it for the first time in childhood. Fantasia was the first commercial film shown in stereo and a precursor to ‘surround sound’. It has been reissued multiple times since 1942. The part that repeats like a gif in my mind is where the young apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, Mickey Mouse, loses control over the broom that he magically brings to life. The broom is commanded to empty buckets of water into a cauldron that eventually overflows. Chaos ensues. The orchestral music originally composed by Paul Dukas based on Goethe’s 1797 poem ‘Der Zauberlehring’ and iconic animation of Walt Disney Studios combine to haunt me even today, especially during this relentless, uncontrolled pandemic of 2020.

The stuff of dreams is mind-boggling. The historical schism between Sigmund Freud and the father of depth psychology, Carl Jung, was over dreams and their interpretation. For Freud, dreams were expressions of ‘wish fulfillment’. Jung’s The Red Book of hand calligraphy and illuminations in the style of a medieval manuscript is considered to be a window on his dreams and the collective unconscious:

Detail of an illustration of a solar barge on page 55 of Carl Jung’s The Red Book. Translated, the complete text on the page reads: “One word that was never spoken. / One light that was never lit up. / An unparalleled confusion. / And a road without end.” According to translator Sonu Shamdasani, the solar barge “was seen as the typical means of movement of the sun” in ancient Egypt. “The Sun God protected the barge against the monster Aphophis, who attempted to swallow the solar barge as it traveled across the heavens.” Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung

Based on a survey of over 9,000 dreams about COVID-19, the author of the recently published book, Pandemic Dreams, Deirdre Barrett claims that most coronavirus dreams provoke anxiety and exhibit patterns similar to other crises she has researched such as 9/11.

Barrett has had her own coronavirus-related dreams. This digitally manipulated photo-collage was inspired by her dream in which she was “trying to put a hood over my cat Morpheus’s head to protect him from something toxic in the air.” Illustration by Deirdre Barrett

“I was in the library of a home that felt centuries old. It was cozy and safe in the library but I knew that outside, a terrible plague was ravaging the world. It felt much more like Europe during the Black Plague than modern COVID-19 times,” said Barrett who used the image of a plague doctor wandering a landscape of COVID-19 particles to represent her dream.  Illustration by Deirdre Barrett

It does not take long to fall into the rabbit hole of dreams. Did you know there is even an online guide to dream interpretation?

Sources for information and artwork of Harvard Medical School psychologist, Deirdre Barrett:

CBC Radio, Day 6 Quarantine Dreams interview with Deirdre Barrett


The Harvard Gazette

Harvard researcher says dreams indicative of virus fears

Further reading by author Deirdre Barrett

Pandemic Dreams (2020)

The Committee of Dreams: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Their Dreams for Problem Solving and How You Can Too (2010)

Trauma and Dreams (2001)


Stories from the Womb of my Closet

As I work through the creation of my first podcast, I’ve been paying attention to the process which finds me starting, stopping, and then procrastinating before getting back to it.  What are these internal and external barriers that catch me up and hold me in place, not doing what I need to do?


Andrea Klein – Designing a Life

Andrea Klein – Chemist turned Interior Designer, Westmount resident, born Cartierville, of French mother and Belgian father. Grew up in a multi-lingual household, although her mother was a unilingual francophone. Second husband grew up in Westmount on Murray Hill. Retrained as as an accountant at 50.


Terry McGimpsey – A Life with Perfect Pitch

Terry McGimpsey  – grew up on Selby Street (now disappeared) in Westmount, now lives on Hillside, residential housing complex built by Westmount to house those evicted from Selby Street when the  AR 720 was being built in the 1960s. (more…)

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