Thursday, August 11, 2011

Under the Pearl Moon

What happens when an eleven-year-old urban girl is forced to live in a remote cabin with an eccentric aunt? And what happens when that same aunt– a long time activist and a woman driven with worry for the environment– chooses to live a no-garbage lifestyle. Years ago, I visited a friend of mine in Atikokan who had taken on that very task. She had reduced her garbage down to one small plastic bag a month. At the time, I was so inspired by her dedication that I, along with composer Lise Vaugeois and performer Jennifer Garrett, wrote and toured a theatre piece, then titled “Under the Moon with Aunt Birdie”. (Incidentally, this will be produced this season by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra).

During our performance run, we invited filmmaker Sonja Obljubek, to film archival footage. She thought it would make a great premise for a film. This percolated in the back of my mind for years until one day, I picked up my pen and wrote a film script, (well, not all in one day, naturally), re-titling it “Under the Pearl Moon”. Once I could think and create in a visual language, the story expanded to include neighbours, a boy with a bit of a chip on his shoulders, a woman with vision loss, and an ancient pine tree. Out of necessity, this eclectic group becomes Pearl's community. And in the end, it is Pearl who discovers a true and lasting relationship with the natural world, rather than her aunt.

Children, I fear, are not sometimes not encouraged or given opportunities to develop connections with the natural world. It is my firm belief that without this connection, we are all deeply deprived. It is one of our most basic human rights; to have access to the natural world. Only then will any of us have the passion and desire to truly become responsible stewards of our earth.

If you want to contribute and be a part of this wonderful project, click here.

Late last summer, we filmed a demo scene of Under the Pearl Moon. As this has been developing for years, other components and community people have become part of this project. Filmmaker Sonja Obljubek will co-direct the piece with myself. Lise Vaugeois will incorporate some of the music she originally composed. Eco Superior Thunder Bay has contributed to the educational component of this project. As well as producing the film, environmental-arts lesson plans have been developed for teachers to use in classrooms. As funding comes into place, these lesson plans will be delivered by artist educators throughout the province. As well, an educational package and website will be made available to teachers across the county. The film itself will visit environmental film festivals worldwide.

It's a tall project with a tall order. Our message, in a nutshell is, “come play and be inspired within the natural world”. We have some funding but we are striving first to complete the film, and secondly to delight and inspire family audiences everywhere. And to do this, we need additional support. Will you invest in this vision? Ultimately, it is our way of giving back to this extraordinary planet, and encouraging stewardship for all.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I've Got My Darning Needle Ready!

Whenever I feel a bit dulled by stress. Or wound up. Or unable to piece together a creative thought, I consider my day and I ask myself “What is one thing that stood out for me?” Sometimes I try to force the 'one thing'. I tell myself it was the crackle of thunder that woke me up or the delicious peaches and ice cream I had for dessert. But if I really and truly want to discover the kernel of something wonderful, I must relax my mind and wait. I've been asking and waiting all day today and just now, in the early evening, it comes to me. It was my mother's comment when I dropped her off in the car after taking her to the bank. Just before leaving the car, she cheerfully turned to me and said “I've got my darning needle and dental floss ready!” Now we hadn't been talking about anything even remotely related to either darning needles or dental floss and so for a moment or two, I was perplexed. But later in the day, it hit me. You see, just yesterday, my mother and I spent the day out at “The Bothy”. The bothy is a cabin in the woods that she and my father built from reclaimed lumber. They both embarked on this project when they were in their 70's.

My mother's main mission during the summer months is to make “the bothy” mouse-proof. She herself grew up in a log cabin in the bush with seven other siblings and perhaps her own mother was in a constant battle with mice. But for whatever reason, my mother works hard to ensure that every cupboard is airtight, and every nook and cranny is sealed. Almost nothing on earth gets my mother down, but any sign of mice defeats her mood, (though only momentarily).

Yesterday at the bothy, we tried to pick blueberries but the heat was scorching and so we gave up after gathering only a cup or two. We then tried to open the boathouse but the lock had rusted. Next we proceeded to putter in the cabin. And somewhere along the way, we came across evidence of mice who had taken up residence in the couch. They had nibbled a hole into the cotton filling and left scores of mouse droppings behind. We first folded up the heavy futon cover and hauled it outdoors to shake it out. I then took a knife and pried into the hole, ferreting out cotton and droppings. After hauling the futon back indoors, we folded it with the outside in, and fought with it until it sat back on the couch frame. But it sat badly. It drooped here and puffed out there. So we fought with it some more. Finally, we got it into a position we were both semi-happy with. It was a “for now” kind of a position though. Between the two of us, we decided that on our next trip out, we would slice the futon cover in half using a sharp kitchen knife and sew it up again. Twenty-four hours have passed since either of us have mentioned the couch. But my mother's comment today- “I've got my darning needle and dental floss ready!” is her reference to repairing it up.

My mother, I realize always has her darning needle ready. In my mother's world, every single problem can be solved with a darning needle of one sort of the other. She may have a discouraging moment but it's only ever a moment. I, on the other hand, don't have that same readiness to face every problem. But it is something truly to aspire to. All this business of living a creative life, I realize, is incomplete without that spunk that most of life's problems can be solved with a darning needle!