Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: Ontario

The FOLD: Festival of Literary Diversity

The über cool festival on every social justice tongue is of course The Fold, which takes place in Brampton, ON, every May. I’ll be joining such exciting talents as Lisa Charleyboy, Kyo Maclear, Fartumo Kusow, Catherine Hernandex, Tanya Talaga, Michele Kadarusman, Kim Thúy, and Rabindranath Maharaj. It is my great honour. Thank you to Jael Richardson for inviting me!

 

Skinning the Rabbit, The Sun Magazine

I got home from a trip, picked up my mail and found my contributor copies of the July 2017 issue of The Sun Magazine (along with the welcome cheque). A couple of weeks ago, I went to add The Sun to my list of places I’ve published, and it was already there. I was puzzled; I didn’t remember having already added it. But then I explored a little further, realized I’d published there a long time ago, and sought out the issue, the cover of which is above. I was bemused to find that the subject matter was quite similar to the recent essay since I haven’t written about my childhood in ages.

Here’s that original and second-person story, which was still on my desktop: Hearts

My piece this time around is called Skinning the Rabbit. I explored my relationship with my father through our collision about animal welfare, and through the bullying I experienced when I got alopecia totalis at six. I hope you like it. Tell me if you do, k? It’s not online, but you can find The Sun almost anywhere that carries literate magazines, even in Canada.

I am proud to have had essays in the NY Times and The Sun this year.

The Sun November 1993

 

 

 

 

Summer

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Photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2016

It’s a warm day on Salt Spring Island with my ailing, aged cat, where, for the most part, summer never came. These days, I stay in a ’68 school bus under a double roof that ensures it stays dark and no sun reaches it (both a loss and a gain, depending). The bus is both sanctuary and trial–come dark, rodent armies are let loose, and, alas, the cat dispatched a baby shrew. At first, I banged the walls for deterrence but lately I’ve noticed that human voices are more effective–leaving a TV running might convince them, if I had one. The cat seems to really love it here, though she’s alone a lot–she doesn’t have this kind of exterior access at home. Here, I see Puppy flopped in the sun having a dust bath; she sprawls across the steps; she curls up under a shrub or in the shade of the bamboo. I see her stalk dragonflies. Though there are no beasts to speak of, but something treed her on top of the metal outhouse roof last week on a day I was gone ten hours.

It was a fairly intense June. I did a writer’s residency at Historic Joy Kogawa House and ran near daily Shut Up and Write sessions. My novel WEEKEND came out to some hoopla. I co-hosted a launch at Kogawa House, had dental surgery, and befriended some crows in a particularly meaningful way.

102 Latinx and black people were shot in Orlando, 49 of them fatally, and I, like most queers, was crushed. Every one of us had to some degree cut our teeth in nightclubs like Pulse, and some of us had personal ties to the victims, to Pulse, to Orlando, to Florida. We grieved and still grieve.

I could not work out how to hold this brutality next to my personal joys.

At the end of June, I travelled to Ontario to blitz through a book tour in Toronto, Cobourg, Peterborough and Ottawa, meeting a lot of writers whose work has been important to me, and convivial, welcoming audience members, and taking in Toronto Pride. There was a lot of scooting from town to town (on trains, on which I get quite ill) and loads of bad eating. Meeting Facebook friends IRL was a great thrill–and seeing old friends likewise.

I’m here to help my child with her children. I spend long hours at her cabin pitching in. The big girl is a year and a half; the little one will be four months soon. They are what babies and children are–all-consuming, loud, messy, demanding, adorable, persnickety, touching, sweet. I don’t have any stamina. Ever since I had open heart surgery I fatigue in all the usual, draining ways, but also suddenly, in a second, with the kind of overwhelming fatigue that greets a post-surgical patient up walking for the first time.

But everything people say about grandparenting is true–one can’t get enough.

My older granddaughter has acute hearing. Out-of-doors, she says, “Wazat wazat wazat?” She’s made me understand I regularly tune most of the world’s noises out. And jiminy, there are a lot! Now I hear planes, dragonflies, bees, hummingbirds, sawing, trucks, cars, the croak of a great blue heron, tree frogs, thrushes, robins, chickadees. Sometimes, a pileated woodpecker chortles. Along the driveway, fledgling flickers try out their calls. In the trees, crows and ravens tell their stories. Crickets chirrup and tree frogs complain.

What do I hear now? The wooden bus door slapped shut, knocking, the little metal latch jangling. The slurp of my coffee. The cat’s purr. The riffle of the breeze through the maple leaves. The hum of electricity. My spoon against my ceramic bowl of yogurt and Granny Smith apple. The computer keys. The fan.

Just now, from bed, I heard a loud buzz and looked up to a hummingbird in front of me. She flitted around a bit, hovered near a window, then turned tail and flew back outside.

Social Discourse, 1944, The Missouri Review

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I’m pleased to say that one of my stories, ‘Social Discourse, 1944,’ from print in 2003, is online now at The Missouri Review as part of their ‘textbox.’

When I was a kid, our family owned Royal Oak Dairy in Hamilton, ON. While the story here is entirely fabricated, I based it loosely on a famous Hamilton fire where the dairy employees were targeted by a disgruntled former employer. My uncle, a dairy co-owner, was one of the people badly hurt in the melee, and when I was researching a family memoir, many years later, I spoke to people who showed me their burn scars.

I vividly remember not only the dairy, its production line (the smell of spoiled milk!) and the horse barns, but also that my pony, Toby, was borrowed for the last horse-driven milk-delivery and how excited that made me. I thought he was a very lucky pony to go to the city and have his photograph made. I’m not sure of the year–maybe 1960 or so?

I found such pleasure in milkmen! I thought the men who delivered our milk–who would never, ever allow us a ride in their trucks–were the neatest people I knew. They had chocolate milk in their trucks! What a wonderful job, I thought. Far superior to my father’s job where he wore a suit and sat in an office–though he did get access to the dairy’s amazing stationery cupboard.

Social Discourse: 1944

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