all this, sustenance

Posted by Daniela Elza on Sep 12 2017

I am thrilled that my poem all this will be coming out in an anthology on local food. Sustenance: Writers from B.C. and Beyond on the Subject of Food anthology will be published this year by Anvil Press, 2017. It is put together by current poet laureate of Vancouver, Rachel Rose. I am thrilled because it is a very special poem to me, one that has grown in significance since it was written.

In 2015, I went to Armstrong and stayed with Jamie MacDonald and Cat Majors (4663 North Grandview Flats Rd., Armstrong, BC, V0E 1B5). They run Armstrong Apiaries. I spent a few days on their bee farm in August, and contributed to the Poetry at the Market, which Cat had organized for their Farmers Market. We read poems while people shopped for local food and hung out. Poems were written on the spot, on a typewriter, for interested passers by. Cat had also arranged for a table with manual typewriters. All day children and adults click-clacked, wrote whatever they wished. Many of the young writers had never seen, let alone touched, a typewriter. It was common to hear them exclaim what muscle it took to actually make marks on a page. For some who remember typewriters, like myself, it was sheer nostalgia.

I initially met Cat while I was launching the weight of dew in Vernon and the Historic Mackie House in 2012. She was such a generous and kind host. Everything had the feel of care and love around her. Things in her house were not just things, they were memories. There was a special handmade black-and-white carved soap waiting just for me. It felt as if from the moment we met we recognized a kindred spirit in each other.

The buckets of honey I brought back to Vancouver reminded me, with each spoonful, of the place, Cat and Jamie, the bees, the fields that surrounded the blue bee house.

I vividly remember the morning when I got up very early and Jamie took me around the farm. The italics in the poem are close to the things he said if not exactly what he said.

Between the time of submission of this poem and its acceptance, I heard the devastating news. Cat passed away last year, after being diagnosed with cancer. One of the last exchanges I had with Cat was to send her a rough draft of the poem. She wrote back:

Seeing our little farm
Interpreted so
So lovingly
Is a deep thrill
Thank you, Daniela

I then sent her another little poem which later got absorbed in all this. That one ended with the lines:

I bend down to the dying
pray they will never leave.

I meant that for the bees. I did not know Cat was also dying. She loved that one too. That was probably the last exchange we had.

This poem is dedicated to the bright light that Cat was, and still is in my mind. It is dedicated to her love for the bees, and her playful, poetic spirit. It will remain a small altar for the special moments and rituals we shared together, for the bee-dance hugs, the walks, the laughter I still hear, for her love of people, bees and life. It will always remind me that sustenance is not just what we grow with love, what we nourish out bodies with, but also what we let in our hearts, what we choose to celebrate.

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