Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Refugee women feel healing of creative arts

Thomas Moore often writes about soul and art. In today’s Toronto Star, reporter Nicholas Keung gives a concrete example of art’s healing capabilities for recent refugees to the city. This story touches on another theme underlying Moore's work: friendship and soul.

Keung asks, what happens when you get a paintbrush, a camera and words in a new language?
"For a group of women and girls waiting to be granted asylum in Toronto, the fruit of that experiment last summer was a remarkable 40-page book of photography, painting and poetry, plus an exhibit at the Tinto Coffee House that will go on to Toronto City Hall and Metro Hall in June during a celebration of refugee rights.

But more than that, for these women the opportunity to express themselves artistically relieved stress and helped heal the trauma of being displaced from their homelands, giving them a new sense of dignity and self-confidence.

The book, Shukar Lulugi – "Beautiful Flower" in the Romany language – came as a surprise even to the 17 participants, age 12 to 56, because none of them originally wanted to take part in the project organized at the Sojourn House refugee shelter.

That changed when they started learning about drawing, painting, writing and photography from community artists with Toronto's Red Tree artists' collective.

"I thought my life ended when I left my country. I was constantly depressed. The snow here didn't help," said Margarita Valdez, a Mexican lawyer who sought refuge in Canada with her husband and their 14-year-old son in 2006.

"But creative art has awakened my feelings again. I realized that after all the snow, everything would be born and grow again."


"In their painting class, the women were asked to draw landscapes from the rooftop of the Queen St. shelter, or to paint their hands or favourite fruits, like Melena Yohannes' "ugly mango."

"Many of us never painted before. We aren't Picassos, but it doesn't matter," said Yohannes, 21, who fled Eritrea under official persecution because of her Pentecostal faith. "Creative art is about expressing ourselves. It's a huge relief for us to have a few hours for ourselves, to forget about all the stress and problems we had in our lives. And we got to make some new friends, too."

Standing beside a framed photo she took of her toddler son, Adam, Jamila – a Moroccan who fled an abusive husband and asked that her last name not be used – said she never thought she could write, at least not in English. But she enjoyed the simple wordplays in the writing class.

"The project was a therapy for me. As refugees, it's hard to let it out. It's nice to know that I wasn't alone in my tragic experience. It's not like we're trying to forget about the pains inside us. It's about sharing those feelings and stories," said the 30-year-old, all smiles now.
The women's book Shukar Lulugi , funded by the Toronto Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts, can be purchased for $10. Email info@sojournhouse.org or call 416 864-0515 ext. 242. The exhibit is free to view until Thursday at Tinto Coffee House on Roncesvalles Ave. It moves to Toronto City Hall April 3, 2008; Toronto Metro Hall on June 4, 2008.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Salon columnist tells reader, "Get grounded"

On the Salon site, columnist Cary Tennis, answers a question from a young married graduate student who recently returned to the United States: "I'm brilliant but I can't settle down. I can't keep a job. What's wrong with me? I get panic attacks. I go from thing to thing. Do I need some kind of help?"

In his response, Tennis talks about some of his own challenges, and includes,
"My therapist said to me, 'You cannot think your way through it.' Yikes. I thought I could. Yikes.

I was sitting on the floor at Borders the other day in the psychology section looking at Thomas Moore's new book, A Life at Work. He's a pretty good writer. In the introduction he talks about alchemy. He talks about finding your life's work, and what a long strange trip it is.

You have to get grounded. Getting grounded is spiritual but it is also physiological. It involves fresh air. Do some gardening. Clean your house. Drink tea in the afternoon. Slow down. Wait for it. It will come. A lively understandable spirit once entertained you...

What frightens me is the aridness of a life sitting in front of a computer. I have three bags of forest mulch outside the window. One is open and sitting in a garden cart. I can go out there when the time comes and spread some over the garden. I can mix it into the back stretch. That's what I do.
I'm saying get grounded."
He recommends concrete ways the woman can get grounded, and concludes with, "I envy you. You're not in trouble. You're sitting on top of the world. But you need to get grounded. It's too heady up there. The air is too thin. We think our aesthetic passion will sustain us. It won't. You have to find a Russian bakery and sit with the old ladies. You have to change the channel. You have to find a longer wavelength."

Barque visitors may enjoy reading comments responding to this column.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Moore talks about new book at the Smithsonian

On his LiveJournal blog, Eridanus Darryl Kummerow writes about Thomas Moore's A Life at Work book tour appearance at the Smithsonian Institution:
Monday evening, I went with Teacher, katrinas joy, and some Systri to hear Thomas Moore speak at the Smithsonian. I really like Thomas Moore, especially after a severe, month-long depression in December 2001. I believe it was his book, Care of the Soul, in which he said one should learn the lesson of one's depression. Because I have non-linear logic, what I received was I am not defective, there is a lesson here, and I became more conscious of my depression - looking for the levels and intensities, what made it worse or easier, and finding the causes. In his book of essays, Original Self, I have marked an essay, in which he says we should all be more Pagan, because ancient (and modern [Eridanus note]) Pagans were deeply involved in the world around them. And, no matter what your religious beliefs, the world is sacred (whether by immanence, or by God creation) and it is wrong to not be involved. It was great to hear him speak. My housemate had gotten a copy of his new book, and he signed it for her...
The original post includes links to related sites.

A review of A Life at Work published in the Tucson Citizen, on March 6, 2008, concludes,
"Moore shares the idea of an "opus" in identifying our life's work, namely the need to understand ourselves, think beyond our jobs and factor in activities that give us a sense of meaning and purpose.

Moore cautions about escaping into the pleasant fantasies of a successful future. He states that it may be more useful to gather the courage to face the past in all of its disturbing detail.

Thomas Moore is an extraordinary man. His book shows us how we can get the most out of life, perhaps not financially, but certainly spiritually."
An attendee at Moore's talk, at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, wrote a Flower Power post about her reactions to his appearance.

Also, although not part of the current book tour, the blog Tumbling Towards Something summarizes a talk given late last year by Thomas Moore when he discussed ideas from A Life at Work.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Rough notes from Moore's talk in Santa Rosa

Terrie Miller attended Thomas Moore's book talk on Thursday, March 6 at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rose and posts her rough notes from the evening. She includes some of Moore's responses to questions from the audience.

At The Literary Addict blog, Lorette C. Luzajic comments about Moore’s A Life at Work, by describing her reactions to his discussion of Icarus. Luzajic says,
"... Moore gently prods us to our calling, and shows us that our calling may not be a giant, world-dominating blaze of glory, and it may not be one specific thing. He asks us to watch carefully and let it unfold instead of suppressing it, to gently coax it from the ordinary moments, to wait for it through the tragic. He reminds us never to belittle our calling - we might be very good at a perfectly respectable thing like cleaning hospitals or selling shoes. Every contribution is important."
Earlier in her essay, she writes, "It’s a great relief to myself, and to millions, to know that a man as talented and perceptive and ‘called’ as Moore watched life unfold in the same way we all do. Everyone expects a special stamp at 18 or 20: here’s your career, here’s your family, here’s your kids, here’s your future. But life unfolds in brilliant disorder: paths veer unexpectedly into another."

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Blogger summarizes Moore's stop in Seattle

Candace Morris attended Thomas Moore's book signing at Elliot Bay Books in Seattle, Monday night. She offers her notes of the evening on her Musings of the Melancholic blog.
"At first, we were surprised and embarrassed at the lack of attendance. However, slowly and ever so surely in their infamous way, (their non makeup, over 50, intellectual way), Seattleites turned out and filled the basement with warmth and light.

He exceeded our expectations. He is the picture of graciousness and openness, while still vehemently passionate about his principals (at one point expressing his frustration with people finding salvation in authors)."
Morris then summarizes Moore's presentation and she concludes with the point, "We take ourselves entirely too seriously – and therefore disappointments become great disillusionments and disorientations. If we instead see setbacks as just another curve in our opus, we can more readily embrace the twists and transitions."

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