Some words are not for poetry – III
(September 19, 2009)
Onomatopoetically sung song
spun beauty as gossamer thread glistening
I slide down dew-laced air always listening
to words tinged with heaven’s grace, but strung strong
Love does come to me, spinning and bathing
clothing and cradling my soul in its care
Beauty arises with silk gauze my wear
dressing, caressing, nudged gently wading
Into deep pondering life-weaving in awe
of wonder, surrender to beauty’s great
latticework frame, which cloaks and sustains us
translucent, hushed humbly, naked and raw
Into this beauty we spin without weight
hosanna-hymn laced with wild gentleness
[from I am Keats as you are by Glenn Peirson]
Glenn Peirson walked boldly and compassionately in this world, blazing new pathways, dreaming new dreams into being, and main- taining beautiful relationships. The complications of cancer treat- ment suddenly claimed him in November, 2009, after a three year heroic battle. His deepest devotion was to his God and his family: his exceptional soul-mate, Dr. Mary Peirson; his twelve year old daughter, Theodora; and his nine year old son, Henry.
Glenn was born in Kingston, Ontario, and raised in Guelph. He was a scholar, athlete, musician, spiritual giant, poet, gardener and great lover of the Land of Narnia. Before he completed secondary school, he was admitted on scholarship to the University of Guelph. During this time he was tenor soloist at Metropolitan United Church in Toronto. He received research grants, in particular, an NSERC grant in brain laterality and music. He was the Winegard Gold-Medalist at his convocation.
Glenn went immediately from his studies to McMaster Medical School in Hamilton, Ontario. In the entire period of medical school and residency, he sang with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Or- chestra’s Chamber Choir, Toronto. Glenn also created practicums that took him to Moose Factory and further north, to Kapsowar in Kenya, and to St. Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. It was in his residency at McMaster that he met and fell in love with Mary Beingessner, who had studied medicine at the University of Toronto. They married in 1991, in their final year of residency and while Glenn was Chief Resident. In 1992, they spent two months in Malaysia, running a preventative medicine research project they had designed.
Glenn and Mary moved to Guelph in 1994. Mary established her career in public health medicine. Glenn worked as a palliative care physician, a community health centre physician and, in 1999, estab- lished a private practice in Cambridge, near Guelph. He was also the Addictions physician at Stonehenge Therapeutic Community. He maximized a life-style that included time for his highly cher- ished home-life, his music, his faith and finally his writing. He was a founding member of Tactus Vocal Ensemble, and a wine and spa writer for North American Inns magazine.
Finding and encouraging artistic gifts in children was a great joy for Glenn. His children have participated abundantly in the Guelph Youth Singers, Operetta Camp, the Kiwanis Festival and the South- ern Ontario Suzuki Institute’s summer program at Laurier Univer- sity. He was a vital member of Dublin Street United Church in Guelph, relishing it as a spiritual community for his family and as a place of spiritual growth and healing for all who attended. Our friend Evelyn once said, “Dublin Church is the platform for the ar- ticulation of Glenn’s soul.”
Glenn’s spirit continues to be strong. As he said, with a gentle touch, to every patient at the end of an appointment: “Be well.”
Poetry is the only way to touch upon the experience of cancer. It is also the only way to find the beauty in the beastliness. And for me, it was the only way to express my grief and allow healing into my life. Grief is a many-layered thing. It unfolds and refolds away from and over itself multitudinous times and in varying manifestations. To say that grief will fade away is misleading. To say that it will ameliorate and become an acceptable part of the griever’s psyche is a truth… as long as the griever intentionally grieves. Because grief begins with the diagnosis and because so much of my experience of watching a loved one suffer was beyond words, I set out on my intentional grief journey through writing.
cancerwords is a record of Glenn Peirson’s three year battle with a rare sinus cancer. Glenn, diagnosed at stage 4, did his elegant utmost to stay here for his wife and children, the joys of his life. As mother of this remarkable man for all seasons, I was seized by a need to write poetry and take photos on my prayer-walks. These two disciplines became my prayer forms. For me, they reached through the madness to a silence where pain is transformed into resilience. And I was sustained. And I was enabled to be what Glenn, Mary, Theodora and Henry needed me to be.
It is my hope that this book will speak to others, particularly parents. For when the death-order is violated by an intruder, it is almost too much for a parent to bear. I learned that I could survive what I had always said I couldn’t. I learned that I will never cease to be wondrously proud of and inexplicably connected to my son in whatever dimension he happens to be. And I learned that artistry, which resides, I believe, in the imagination, is the soul of healing.
There is a way for everyone. This is mine.
After the Interlude explores destiny, the sibling relationship, the impact on destiny of family of origin dynamics, where we were before we were born, where we’re going after we’ve left the planet, thin places, dreams, prayer and the importance of unbending intent. After the Interlude tackles purpose and the most difficult personal question of all personal questions—Why? After the Interlude converses with existence.
After the Interlude is an expression of an Everyperson. All human beings know fear. All human beings lose family members. All human beings question. All human beings are wounded and flawed. And, above all, all human beings come with a destiny to be uncovered and lived and a monumental capacity to love. The point of life, according to After the Interlude, is now and what we do with all the nows of our lives.
And, above all, After The Interlude faces death head-on. Ellyn Peirson’s credo on the soul’s journey is a personal culmination of years of exploration of the soul. Andrew Ruhl, Ellyn’s soul-friend, responds to and frames the theories and propositions in words and photography.
from ANTONIA OF VENICE:
The promenade buzzed with vibrant energy. Frock-coated and gowned quartets of opinion had joined others until the din was almost musical. The audience had spilled out from the Chiesa onto the promenade and almost into the Bacino after a sensational concert. No one was anxious to leave. Emotional comments here were offset by high criticisms there. “Spectacular!” “But did you miss the male voice? I mean, instruments are instruments; but a female voice?” “What did you think of the soloist? Was her voice not a little light?” “Ah, but she must be a lovely creature—very pure singing. It’s a shame she’ll end up in some convent. Definitely talented… with the violin, as well.” “This is Vivaldi at his best!” “Yes, and always with something new up his sleeve! Shall we be off to the Ridotto now?” The performance had indeed been spectacular. Even Doge Giovanni Corner had joined in with the cheers and applause. A Doge was usually more restrained. God’s representative did have to set standards.
The Maestro di Violino was once again forgiven his reluctance to embrace his priesthood. Stories of his decision against ordination were, as always following his successes, resurrected with as many embellishments as his solo voices and violins could offer in concert. The long-held belief was that he lived with a shameful secret only his music could assuage. Antonio knew their fascination and shrugged it off. His business was his business. And he’d had his reasons. He had had to be honest with himself. He could never have committed fully to priesthood. And—the priesthood would have shut down the life of his music.
Tonight he relished the audience’s response! The holy praise offered up by his “Gloria” had been followed by his newest secular work, “L’Estro Armonico”. The expert conductor could evoke deep responses from an audience in much the same way he could from musicians. It was all a matter of attention, genius and timing.
Tonight, as people straggled off to their gondolas or walked to the Piazza San Marco, he enjoyed leaving them in wonder—wonder over the lily-white solo soprano voice in the “Gloria” and wonder over the solo violin obbligato in the new work. The young girl, partially hidden in her black and white habit, would be his greatest star someday. Somehow, Antonia would come out of hiding and into the bright light of his world of music. Ah! If only she were male! Then he could take her to the dizzying heights of composition.
Enough! Her rare gifts and the fire of her beauty were enough. Antonio Vivaldi, amply satisfied with the success of the evening, was happy to see the last dignitary off into the sounds of the Bacino.The picture looks across the Venetian Bacino from Piazza San Marco to Santa Maria Maggiore…
the image looks across the Venetian Bacino
A complex concerto in words. The protagonist is music brought to life by exceptional character development intertwined with music. As a Fine Arts major and classical pianist, I soared with a musical composition in words. Gripping, mystical and sometimes dark this one of the most remarkable books I have read in years. (Kindle customer)
To suggest that Glenn Peirson was indefatigable would be an enormous understatement, for he retained his trademark sense of wry humour to the end of his days. “Please understand,” he wrote a few months prior to his death, “the tall, hooded fellow with the black robe and boney fingers and long sickle isn’t hanging around me. He might be in the other room, but I would just as soon find him and throw him out of the house head first . . . ” And again, just nine weeks prior to his death, he ended a note to family and friends with this marvellous perspective on life and living: “Until we next communicate, we wish you the same revelry in life’s many unsplendoured and often-overlooked day-to-day jewels.”One of Glenn Peirson’s many friends is Howard Dyck, a noted Canadian conductor and former CBC Radio host. He wrote of his accomplished friend: “He was a rare one, was Glenn, a perfect blend of saint, clown, philosopher, pixie, artist, scholar. All of us who were privileged to know him are immeasurably richer for having walked with him.” I am Keats as you are is Glenn Peirson’s parting gift.
I stared at the sad statistics of Grandpa’s family’s life, the impetus for his emigration to Canada for good things in a New World. I felt overwhelmed at what had led to my family life in Canada. There, within the pages of an old Bible, was the name of the voice that had been waiting patiently and persistently for over a hundred years to be acknowledged and believed. And heard… above all, heard—listened to—because we can’t fully leave this realm until our story is acknowledged and finished. Someone must hear us and weave our story into some kind of fabric, receptive and complete. Sarah Pegg, wife of Arthur Westley, mother of eight children, two of whom survived into enduring adulthood. Sarah Pegg, dead and gone from her family’s history at age forty-three. I had never heard of her—from anyone—and had never taken the time to delve into the Bible (how did it get here, to Canada?) and find this modest genealogy. But I knew it was Sarah’s voice I’d heard—Sarah who had spoken to me. I had a compelling sense that she was speaking and needing something.
Oh, Sarah, how patient of you! You must be so very weary.
I couldn’t escape her voice. Nor did I want to. I became wilfully possessed by this woman who had made it possible for me to be here, this Sarah Pegg, of whom I knew nothing. Nothing.
This Sarah Pegg, of whom I must know everything. Everything.
Help me find you, Sarah. No one but Sarah could hear me. No one but Sarah, sad mother of eight children. Sad mother of six dead children and two who had left for Canada because the rest of her descendants must be born there, across the great Atlantic Divide.
And so began my journey of listening, to the inaudible, to the stories of one of London’s tattered children.