Sunday, December 20, 2015

Beyond words, music, images

A little 7-minute film produced in 2006 at Saint-Lukas, Brussels, school of arts, as part of the graphic design course, animating  "Of Death", a poem by Ivor Gurney, English composer and war poet who spent the last 15 years of his life in mental hospitals.  He died in 1937 at the age of 47, of tuberculosis.

Ivor Gurney, of Gloucestershire, wrote over 100 poems and 300 songs.  Some of his letters and poems were written in the trenches of World War I.

Gurney expressed, in verse, his experience of war, of those things he observed and reflected on during his long walks, alone; his sadness, his yearning for death.  A number of years ago artist Tom Denny created eight magnificent stinglass panels in his honor in a chapel in Gloucester Cathedral, each depicting moments from Ivor Gurney's life and writings.

I was particularly drawn to the 7th one ("To God").   The person who took the above photo remarked that the people standing and gazing at these windows"were moved to tears by what Gurney had seen and suffered."[1]

Poetry, music, and art that move us.  An odd verb--"move"--usually meaning 'to go to a different place', 'change direction', or in this case, 'cause us to react emotionally'.  You don't have to have experienced "war" to understand what its victims feel; you can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voice, identify with its expression in poetry, music, and art.  Not perhaps the specifics, but we all recognize pain, loss, suffering, despair.

Why would one want to continue staring at something that moves one to tears, re-read a poem, or listen to a piece of music, again and again, that haunts by its sadness?  Perhaps for the same reason one reads uplifting verse, is moved by exquisite beauty, or senses the presence of overwhelming love.  Sometimes it's just to make yourself remember, both the joyful and the sad.  One minute you're standing there, and the next minute you're suddenly taken to a whole other  place, and you don't resist.  It's like a magnet, pulling you in.

These moments make a mark; you remember them.  It's how we connect with our shared universe, and by extension, to one another, to people or events that occurred before we were born, to those ongoing.  Such moments will continue to draw others long after we're gone.  Even more so, when we know the story behind the story, as in this case, of Ivor Gurney.

Gurney actually thought of himself more as a composer than a poet.

You can listen to his Sonata for Violin and Piano in E flat major here,
and his song "Sleep" here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

They Found Her

Eight and a half years ago, 9-year old Cédrika Provencher, a little girl in our city, disappeared.  It was summer, she'd gone out near her home, on her bicycle.  A man approached and asked her to help him find his dog.  They found her abandoned bicycle and bike helmet.  She was never seen nor heard from again.

I remember that summer, because of the sudden appearance of posters, everywhere, showing her picture.  Just in my neighborhood alone, stores, banks, bulletin boards, telephone polls posted her picture with pleas for information. Each time I crossed the border into the States, her photo would stare out at me, on the bulletin board at Customs, facing every bus traveler coming or going, alongside that of Canada's other missing children.  Despite the offer of a $100,000 reward, despite 200 volunteers for days combing fields and forests, despite massive and frequent media coverage, despite 500 tips phoned in, no trace was ever found.  Until this weekend.

Hunters in the woods in an area off the highway 20 kilometers away found some bones and a skull, authorities determined to be that of Cédrika.  

Persons hundreds or even thousands of miles away spent months (some, even years) trying to help locate her, many convinced they would eventually discover what really happened to her.  Psychics chimed in, people reported having dreams about her, that she was alive, that she was a victim of sex trafficking; others felt certain she was dead.  I myself believed she was still alive, as every year, on the anniversary of her disappearance, local media again reminded us that yet another year had passed and still no answer.

It made me think about all those other disappearances, the other names and faces on the missing children list; about the disappeared in general.  Some had gone missing as long as 20 years ago, with age-progressed images to show what they might look like now. 

Everyone in this region knows who Cédrika is (was), that missing girl from Trois-Rivières, whose photo is still displayed on some local billboards.  How many other Cédrikas there are out there, whose name we'll never know, their stories kept alive by those still hoping they'll be found.

Rest in peace, Cédrika.