A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.
Rosa 'James Mason' - All Potential & More
Monday, May 22, 2017
Rosa 'James Mason' May 22 2017
having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.
noun: potential; plural noun: potentials
latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
the quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field or of charge in an electric field.
late Middle English: from late Latin potentialis, from potentia ‘power,’ from potent- ‘being able’ (see potent1). The noun dates from the early 19th century.
Much has been written how a little acorn can become a
huge oak. In my 60s class of physics in university I learned about potential
energy and how any object has the possibility of moving. If it doesn’t it is
because there is no exterior force pushing or pulling it. And Isaac Newton told
us that objects in movement tend to keep moving (unless there is friction) and
that objects not moving do so because of inertia.
Looking at this beautiful bud of a modern Gallica Rose, Rosa ‘James Mason’I I felt guilty in
cutting it off for the scan here. The bush will have at least 70 or more roses
beginning around the June 10. So what is one bud that will never open? To me
there is sorrow in that I have suddenly terminated the potential of that bud.
Am I selfish in trying to show those reading here how beautiful it is even
before it opens?
Gallica roses bloom once. The botanical term is that Rosa ‘James Mason’ is not remontant. It
has a longish splash of colour and then the blooms disappear until the next
year. Once-blooming roses force us to be patient and to want to survive another
year so we can enjoy their splendour.
I have one member in my family who is full of potential.
At this moment that potential is being squandered and inertia is setting in. A
person is one and rose has many buds. Is a comparison here and accurate one? Is
the tragedy of potential not being realized that much more tragic? Time will
tell. The garden faithfully comes back every year. Human potential perhaps is
like a well-tended garden.
Rosa 'James Mason' is my Rosemary's favourite rose.
A couple of tiny white butterflies have appeared in the last
few weeks at about the exact time they did last May. Since a butterfly lifetime
is but a small fragment of a human’s lifetime I can only assume that they are descendants
of last year’s. They are welcome particularly since they and our garden impose
a pleasant regularity, an almost predictable regularity to our everyday
In late May, from one day to the next I am astounded by the
growth of my hostas. It seems like inches overnight.
After one year of near death Camellia ‘Donation’ survived
this spring. It did not flower but it will surely do next year. It was and is
a favourite plant from our old Athlone garden of our recent past. It is a happy
thought to consider the transition of the camellia and other plants into our
Kitsilano garden. It is a continuity that placates my feelings in the unsteady
world we are currently living in.
Most important in this happy pattern of a predictable “I am
here, again!” is the flowering of our roses.
In many past blogs I have written here about the first rose
of the season. These happened around May 12. Alas, the two responsible, died in
Athlone. I wrote about that here.
This year, on May 19 Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pré’ opened up a
first bud. Other roses will follow. But there is something special about this
rose that underscores that it has been alive at least 27 years. It is not a
white butterfly but like those two white butterflies I could only but smile.
Genovés Tarazaga (Orense, 31 December 1923 - 5 September 2013).
Anthtropologist Santiago Genovés and his family spent
some time in a concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War. In the late 60s I attended a lecture by him in Mexico
City about his relationship with Thor Heyerdahl with whom he embarked on
several of the latter’s raft expeditions. Genovés said something that I will
never forget. I will translate it into English:
“In studying history one must attempt to be objective but
we must not forget that objectivity is a subjective invention of man.”
With those words in mind I find myself attempting to
grapple and write about my witnessing the opening performance presented by the
Cultch at the York Theatre on Friday of Corey Payette’s musical Children of God (an urban Ink Vancouver
Production with collaboration with National Arts Centre English Theatre and in
association with Raven Theatre, Vancouver).
Those who have gotten this far in this blog may want to
skip most of it until the end. As I am not a traditional theatre critic (in
fact I am not a critic at all) I must write subjectively how this tough musical
affected me. By doing so I will have to compare and
contrast Friday's experience with those in my past.
In the Wednesday media call I attempted to make
conversation with director (listed also as bookwriter, composer, and lyricist of the muscial) Corey
Payette by telling him that I had as a Latin American in my early teens been
forced into a Roman Catholic boarding school in Texas (while we were living in Mexico) by my mother. Payette saw
through my subterfuge and simply countered, “Being forced by your mother is not
at all like being forced by the government.” He was right.
As soon as got home I immediately went to Wikipedia to
see what they had on Canadian Residential schools. I found the information
quite useful and to my eyes non-partisan (objective?). It is here.
I was born in Argentina and in the 19th
century the history of Argentine aboriginals is much like the one in the United
States. The government sent armies to kill them. They were not as efficient as
the Americans and many remained. To this day if you are robbed in the street it
will be by a Bolivian (a euphemism for an aboriginal). In the 60s I remember
how shocked government workers were when they attempted to give wool sweaters
to near naked Ona Indians from the Patagonia who paddled their boats in cold
rain. The Ona were immune to colds and when they wore the sweaters, the
sweaters got wet and many died of pneumonia.
The most famous Argentine writer Jorge Luís Borges is on
the record in writing in a most shocking way on how the Canadian Government
could have possibly sent a totem pole as an example of their culture. The totem
in question outside the Retiro Train Station was the first totem pole I ever
In Mexico it was not until the 1968 Mexican Olympics that
finally dark-skinned Mexicans found the handle of calling their race the copper
race or the Aztecs. There was a new-found pride in their race, culture and
studies began to preserve native languages like the complex but beautiful
All the above is as background to my being shocked by the
roles of the nun, Sister Bernadette played by Trish Lindstöm and the priest,
Father Christopher played by Michael Torontow. It was doubly shocking because in
my five years at St. Edward’s High School in Austin I received a very good
education by strict Brothers of Holy Cross who never resorted to violence.
There was never even the rumour of any sexual shenanigans.
It was this contrast between my personal experience at
St. Edward’s that ameliorated my guilt about not being one of those “survivors”
(as Canadian Aboriginals who survived the Residential Schools call themselves)
who candidly spoke of their experience at the end of the show.
My favourite local actor Kevin Loring, who plays Wilson as
a boy in the residential school of the musical and as an adult Native
attempting to pass as a white man, in the after-performance-talk told us about
the value of not losing one’s language (one of the bleak cornerstones of
Payette’s musical). He told us that speaking one’s language and thinking in it
is important. It was brutal to watch how the Sister Bernadette and Father Christopher punished the boys and girls (played by adults in the musical) punished for speaking or even writing in their native tongue.
At St. Ed’s the local Mexican Americans attempted to anglicise
the pronunciation of their names so a Juan Reyes became John Reis. Many spoke perfect
Spanish but lied and said they could not speak it. They were ashamed of their
heritage. It had to be the sudden taking over of municipal officials in small
towns like Carrizo Springs in Texas that started the Chicano revolution of
pride in the Mexican heritage.
My experience with Canadian Aboriginals came as a shock
on my first job in Vancouver in 1975 ( I arrived with my Canadian wife and two Mexican born daughters that year) for Tilden Rent-a-Car. I was told not to
rent to anybody with the surname of George or John. I asked why and had to
insist until they told me, “Because they are Indians.” I promptly rented a car
to the first Native Canadian that came through the door. His name was Moving
Rock. He took an Oldsmobile station wagon and abandoned in Arizona. I was
almost fired. I was also told not to rent to one of my best clients, Johnny
Stone who was a black pimp fromSeattle.
While working shooting photographs for CBC films and
variety shows the only Native Canadian I ever met in those days was Pat John
who played Jessee Jim in the Beachcombers.
With all the above as background to my watching Children
of God I did not have to ask myself why Payette would choose a musical to tell
the story of residential schools which is not a happy one. Without revealing
the ending I can say that it is much like any tragic opera. Things don’t end
too well. Payette nicely answers in the Q&A in the Vancouver Sun (May 18 and I still pay for a
subscription in hard copy) with writer Shawn Conner on how Children of
God adds to the conversation about residential schools:
In terms of the connection
to how indigenous stories work, and why it feels right for it to be a musical,
what I’ve been taught from the elders I’ve worked with is that you cannot tell
a story without the story having a song. You cannot sing a song without that
song having a dance. And you cannot dance without that dance telling a story.
So for me, the musical form really lends itself to indigenous performance.
I found that the actors of Children of God were not only good actors and
singers but most intelligently eloquent when they spoke to us after the
performance. I asked Kevin Loring to send me a paragraph (last Wednesday) on
how he feels about the play. This is what he sent me:
This production is
important. In light of recent comments made by certain politicians around this
issue, it is clear that the impact of the Residential System is still not
really understood by many Canadians, and we still need to educate the public
about this legacy of trauma. Music transcends boundaries and allows a more
direct connection to the heart of a moment, this enables an easier path to
empathy and catharsis. Children of God will open your heart and rock you.
Children of God did not exactly rock me because thee
music is too lovely and particularly by the orchestration by violist Elliot
Vaughan (part of the musical group made up by Brian Chan, cello, Allen Cole,
piano, Martin Reisle). And even more beautiful was the sound of that viola in
some of the songs like And We Wait.
Since I began this blog on the subject of subjectivity, while I was impressed by the overall performance of the actors I was most affected by the that of Michal Torontow's Father Christopher and Trish Lindstrom's Sister Bernadette. And of course my fave Kevin Loring was superb as the Native Canadian passing off as a white man (only in the opinion of the excellent Herbie Barnes who plays young Tommy and older Tom). It is only when Loring's Wilson throws back to Tom what happened to Wilson's brother Vincent (Aaron M. Wells) does the tragedy of this musical hit your gut and it hit mine.
I cannot let go in this blog without mentioning that for the Vancouver East Cultural Centre to have had the foresight to choose this musical says something about the slow but steady improvement of the content in what used to be a theatrical wasteland. This is not part of the Push Festival or any of the other avant-garde festivals that our city may have. It does not make Children of God, less avant-garde, less cutting edge.
If you call yourself a Canadian then you have a duty to see this dark but illuminating work. Guilt is not enough. There is more and Children of God tries to answer that conundrum called reconciliation.
Yesterday Wednesday I went to a media call for the
Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s production of Corey Payette’s musical Children of God (at the York Theatre
where it opens this Friday). We were witness to three songs (performed twice).
The musical is about Payette’s having lived in Northern Ontario and discovering
(in his own way) the tragedy that was Canada’s residential school policy.
It is a standard journalism protocol for theatre reviewers
(I am not one) that dictates that you never write about a preview or a media
call. I will abide by this. It will not prevent me from citing comments from
my Fuji X-E1digital camera that
became Sword Excalibur in my hand and I took some swirly and wonderful
photographs of what we (my Fuji and I) saw.
I am going to the opening on Friday and I will have plenty
of ammunition to write about my feeling that I will be dazzled.
Being of Latin American extraction (I am an Argentine by
birth), until recently I could assert that I hated musicals. I can watch opera
and I can watch afilm, But anything
in-between I abhor, or used to abhor! I have seen enough classic film musicals
and many (as in many) musical plays at the Arts Club Theatre. I now can assure
you that I love good musicals. I have been well trained.
From the tip-of-the-iceberg-view that I got yesterday I
believe that this is a good musical play, with no fluff and plenty of serious
content fed to us with lovely songs.
The set is spectacular (in a monumental way) and the lighting very good. I have
inside knowledge that the flowers I will see on stage Friday are fake but the actors
are not. Consider that one of them is Kevin Loring who appeared in one of the
best ever plays (not quite a musical but it had a man playing a lovely guitar)
I have ever seen in Vancouver. I wrote about that play here.
Of the movement shots (I took many) I thank Arty Gordon
and her Arts Umbrella Dance Company who gave me the opportunity to learn of the
magical photographs one can take at ¼ of a second.
While my Fuji really did not comment on the performance I
believe it did through the photographs I took. More will see the light here on
I wonder what the gentleman from León, Guanajuato who is part of the production staff does besides not wearing the excellent leather shoes his city produces.
Before Linda Lorenzo and Nora Patrich showed up at my
door this Monday morning I knew was going to do one photograph for sure. I took
out my father’s Argentine flag from a drawer. A word, one I had not uttered in
many years, fell into my memory – “enarbolar”.
The word has strangely something to do with trees, árboles., This only, if you
can consider both a tree and a flag as holy standards.
De en- y árbol.
Levantar en alto un estandarte, una bandera o cosa semejante para que se vea
bien. U. t. en sent. fig. Enarbolaron los viejos fueros para defender la
posesión de las tierras.
Levantar un arma o algo con lo que se amenaza a otra persona.
To raise your nation’s flag is to enarbolar but in my idea Lorenzo would wrap herself in it.
Because 17 years had passed since I had last photographed
her I chose to use my ring-flash trick (the camera is purposely crooked). I
wanted her to be less glamorous (if that is possible!) and more seriously edgy.
Our notions of what flags represent are in question these days. My father’s
flag was made of rough and very durable wool in Argentina. It flew from a pole in our garden on Argentine independence day, the 25th of May. Where are flags made
Beautiful women love to be contrariwise.Before Patrich and my appointment with
Lorenzo, she (Lorenzo) had indicated that she was going on a vacation to
Hawaii. “No te quemes,” I told her.
But she did tan and she did have tan lines on her chest which I have removed
(not too skilfully from the shot you see here). While I was doing it occurred
to me (and this happens often when I “fix” and enlarged photograph with
Photoshop in my monitor. Years ago I might have spotted a black and white print
with Spotone remove the vestiges of dust. Only that technical marvel of the
past, the airbrush could have handled those tan lines.
My point is that when I enlarge a person’s face and body
I get to see them in a most intimate manner. It is perhaps one of the most obvious improvemeny of this digital age