Nov. 25, 2020

#6) "The Creatively Engaging - Gail"

#6) "The Creatively Engaging - Gail"

This episode is really about dedication and commitment to your artistic craft. Gail is a poet. She also happens to be a woman with Multiple Sclerosis. Over the years Gail has created an impressive body of original work. Even more impressive when you hear of the physical restrictions MS has placed on her. Join us as we follow Gail and Music Therapist Danika on the year long project, "Ebb & Flow".


This podcast really started a year ago. Kicked off by the generous support of a grant from the BC Care Providers Association.  A fantastic organization the represents service providers in the seniors living and wellness sectors. www.bccare.ca

Christenson Village is part of the Good Samaritan Canada Organization. www.gss.org

 

 

 

Transcript

Liz:

... with the quickness I feel in my mind, alert and strong. I love to run, but my knees turn to jelly. I must be content to walk, dilly-dally. Some days, I'm dead-tired, but I must go on. I'm not one to quit, there's much to be done. Some days, my speech is slurred, some mornings, my vision...

Bruce:

This is The Creatively Engaging, a podcast about the changemakers and storytellers who are reshaping how we view aging in our communities. Today's show is a celebration of ability, creativity, and the dedication of Gail.

Gail Buizer:
Hi, my name is Gail Buizer

Bruce:

Gail is a writer, a poet, an individual with MS. She currently lives on the Sunshine Coast in a British Columbia care center. Upon her return to the Sunshine Coast from Northern BC in 2009, she found herself back where she spent her childhood and teenage years. In Gail's words, "This is where I got the love of nature and the feel of the ocean. It must be where the love and feeling for my poetry comes from, the ebb and flow of the seas."

Bruce:

When she first arrived back on BC's Sunshine Coast, Gail was in a manual wheelchair and reliant on staff for mobility. She had no adaptive equipment that would support her independence. Physiotherapist Liz Wood worked to secure the resources necessary to equip Gail with the gear and technologies to increase her independence. Very specialized gear was needed, since Gail mainly had control over just one finger. This independence would change her life and open a pathway to her creativity. And Gail started to create, writing a book about her MS experience while building a large collection of original poetry, all precisely crafted with one finger, the center of her inspiring creative output.

Bruce:

Gail's connection to the ebb and flow of the ocean would inspire an ambitious poetry and music project. Through the generous support of a BC care provider's grant, music therapist Danica Wolf and Gail started to envision how a selection of her poems could be shared with a wider audience.

Bruce:

While it was not an issue to select the poems from a significant body of her work, the challenge would be the delivery. Gail's MS has restricted her physical abilities and significantly affected her vocal capacity. It would be an arduous and draining task for her to try and deliver the nine selected poems. Gail's solution to the issue was inspiring. She would select eight care staff to read specific poems from her collection. This was a wonderfully powerful metaphor for Gail to be speaking through the voices of the staff that provide her care and enrich her life on a daily basis.

Bruce:

The poem and staff pairing was a very conscious process. Gail knew exactly whose personality fit each poem. Also, a very big kudos to the staff involved for accepting, rehearsing, and stepping up to the mic to be recorded, which for many was their first time.

Bruce:

With Gail acting as an audio producer, the recording sessions were a mixture of laughter and nervous energy, Gail directing those needing vocal adjustments in their delivery to ensure each reading captured the mood and the meaning of the piece.

Bruce: Title?

Beau:
A good day, at the... Oh.

Bruce: That's okay.

Beau: I got it.

Bruce:
That's okay. You can just do it again.

Beau:
A Good Day at Sea.

Bruce:
All right. So come right into that speaker, right... Yeah. Right down into it. Relax yourself.

Beau:
Okay. Ready?

Bruce:
Folding and fright does not relax. [crosstalk 00:04:11]. Folding the back or folding the front.

Beau: Okay.

Bruce:
Okay, get really in close.

Beau:

Ready? Okay. How close, there?

Bruce:
Yeah, that's good.

Beau: Okay.

Bruce:
Let's just go for it. Yeah.

Beau:
Overcast, but calm.

Bruce:
[inaudible 00:04:23] just have some fun with that.

Bruce:
Gail, how do you see this being read, this poem? Slowly?

Desiree:
You want me to go slower? Okay. Right. And which?

Gail Buizer:
Leave more space [inaudible 00:04:41].

Desiree:
Leave more space? In between these sections or in between each word?

Gail Buizer: [inaudible 00:04:50].

Desiree:

Okay. You're talking poem language. So in between these so-called paragraph kind of looking things? Okay. All right.

Bruce:
Whenever you're ready.

Desiree: Okay.

Bruce:

 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Desiree: Silence.

Bruce:

So once the staff recordings were completed, the plan was to take a break throughout the rest of 2019 and pick it up in 2020. Well like everything else, it wasn't long before COVID-19 crept into the picture. Danica, the music therapist, was not able to physically join us at Christenson Village, and continued her music therapy work through the virtual space of Zoom. Now this wasn't conducive to completing the Ebb and Flow project with Gail. That could only be done in person. So many months passed and eventually Danica would find herself back in the physical space of Christenson Village, working with Gail. The separation and desire to complete the project would also see it evolve into a project with original music soundscapes by Gail and Danica, the creation of Gayle's personal poetry logo, and the setting of a date for a poetry release celebration, and the podcast you are listening to now. As mentioned earlier, Gail moved back to the Sunshine Coast in 2009, she was living in a beautiful part of British Columbia known as Chilcotin Country, best experienced through her poem read by staff member Sabrina.

Sabrina:

Chilcotin Country, snow capped mountains, wide green pastures, endless starlet skies. Chilcotin Country, a land of many disguise, where settlers come with hopes and dreams, their fortunes to unfold. But Chilcotin Country has many a way unseen, with cold, harsh, winters and hot dry summers, she'll spin her web, you'll see. She'll whisk away your dreams and leave you in love instead, for those who come never leave. She's in your blood, you'll see. Chilcotin Country is where you'll stay in peace and harmony.

Bruce:

Hello Danica, it's nice to have a quick chat pre Gail's poetry launch project. Can you tell me a bit about the experience collaborating with Gail on this project and what it was like for you?

Danica Wullf:

That was a really fascinating experience and interesting for me, it was really driven by Gail and her motivation and her dedication, and that was contagious then on my part to get this project off the ground and then keep going for the long year that it's been with COVID in between. So that was definitely the most fascinating part, was just to be inspired by her dedication and how that motivated me to help her to keep going. Yeah, it was a really neat experience and fascinating experience to witness Gail's motivation and dedication to be working on a year long project. And in turn, that really was inspiring.

Bruce:

So with such a long project, what do you think it was that kept yourself and Gail motivated to finish it? What was the drive?

Danica Wullf:

I think the drive was that really, the heart of the poetry for G ayle is so important to herself, and that it's shaped into a piece of legacy work that I think she's keen on sharing. 

And so it really just showed how important that work was for her and how important it is to bring it out to the world, how it wasn't enough just to type it for her own self and to have it on paper for herself, but to actually share it.

Bruce:

Great. Had you ever done anything this length of project with any people that you worked with in your music therapy career?

Danica Wullf:

I have not, no. The projects so far have been shorter, where you maybe do a shorter legacy work of a song writing or a collection of important music, put on CD, but this was definitely the longest project so far.

Bruce:
So in a project this long, what do you feel one of the greatest challenges would be?

Danica Wullf:

I think for both parties or whoever's involved to continue to have that motivation to keep it up. It would have been very easy to give up on it, especially with the long break of COVID, to just say, "Oh, it's getting too tedious, let's just move on."

Bruce:

When we do the launch on November 19th, how do you feel people hearing the poetry for the first time, how do you feel it will impact them?

Danica Wullf:

Oh, it will be amazing. I feel like a lot of people that will come and listen, they know Gail in some capacity, whether they are core residents or staff, and in that, and that was the same for myself, you feel like you have a picture of who that person is, but my expectation is that once they hear this finished project, that they'll be surprised, because I think they will learn a whole other side to Gail and a deeper side. And I'm excited for that, for Gail to be able to share that, and for co-residents and staff to get to know her and on a deeper level.

Bruce:
What would you say is your biggest takeaway from doing this project with Gail?

Danica Wullf:

To not put limitations on what you think yourself, you can do, what the other person can do. If you have that vision, that goal, stick with it, it's important. And there's always hurdles in between, but my biggest takeaway is really it's, don't let yourself be stopped by limitations. And in our case, it was the hurdles of COVID, it was the hurdles of figuring out technology, having ideas in our mind of what Gail would be able to do and then realizing that's not working out. So how do we, instead of then giving up on that idea, how do we adapt and overcome and keep going? Keep going, it's worth it.

Bruce:

With all the audio recordings completed and locked down, which I guess maybe isn't the best term to use during this COVID era, we finally could have release celebration on November 19th. That afternoon, we would host two listening sessions, one in Gail's home floor, and one for the Christensen Village poetry group. As you can tell by the responses afterwards, the event was a huge success.

Alanna:

I thought it was absolutely amazing. It was amazing to hear the music with it and how the music and the voices together, when they pause, how the music really enhanced the words, and just taking that little bit of time, just to pause, to be able to think and really have it all come together, I thought it was amazing. I loved it. What she can do, just the way she words things, she's amazing. She's done stories. I've read a lot of her poems and they really touch you. They really touch you in ways where she's actually had me in tears at times. They're just beautiful. I admire her. She's an awesome person.

Bruce:
So what did you think of your poem, hearing your voice?

Beau:

Oh, the weirdest thing ever. But I was picking out the ones that I liked the most. I think Desiree had the good one, the commercial voice, so you're thinking of like a commercial. And the music was really good behind it, like the music played was like...

Jacqueline:

I think what was most interesting about it was hearing it late after the fact, and just realizing how her poetry has been a big part of my journey with Gail. And we often go for a walk in the woods, and we're out there at Christenson Village dealing with challenges and being in nature, and it was beautiful. I'm just so grateful for her voice through poetry. I would like to listen to it again, because there's things in there, especially around challenges, that would be particularly appropriate in this pandemic. And just Gail's ability to go through the challenging times with such beauty and grace, and we can all learn from her. So I'm grateful for her and her words.

Liz:

I think I'd read a lot of the poems beforehand, but you know, it's really different when you hear them spoken, and I just loved the music with it. I really think that added a whole... It was like a storytelling, sort of the story of your life and-

Gail Buizer:
All food for thought.

Liz:
All food for thought. Absolutely, you're right.

Nina:

It's a poem about silence, and just appreciating, if you didn't have one, you wouldn't appreciate the other. So this comparison of silence to sound and chatter, and you can apply that to so many things in life. If you don't have the bad, you don't appreciate the good. So it was a little moment of reflection for myself. And anyways, I think that was one of my favorites. And like I think Liz just said, this was like a story of your life and all of them combined. It was really great. I loved it.

Isabel:
I think Gail's poetry is unique. I've never heard of anything quite like it.

Group: (singing).

Bruce:

Thank you everyone for listening, and thank you to the supporters and staff and all the individuals who came out on the 19th for the poetry launch. It was a fabulous, fabulous day. So it really helps to spread Gail's poetry and the story by leaving a review for this podcast or letting others know that can be heard on any of the major podcast platforms, such as Apple, Spotify, Google. You can also find a link to the show on The Creatively Engaging website, which is www.thecreativelyengaging.com.

Bruce:

So to close out today's podcast, Gail would like to share the nine poems she presented during her November 19th celebration.

Gail :
[inaudible 00:16:41].

Beau:
A Good Day at Sea.

Beau:

Overcast, but calm breaks the new dawn, a good day to troll for salmon or sole. All you may get is time to reflect, a good day at sea for you and for me.

Sabrina:

Chilcotin Country. Snow-capped mountains, wide green pastures, endless starlet skies. Chilcotin Country, a land of many disguise, where settlers come with hopes and dreams, their fortunes to unfold. But Chilcotin Country has many away unseen, with cold, harsh, winters, and hot dry summers, she'll spin her web you'll see. She'll whisk away your dreams and leave you in love instead, for those who come never leave. She's in your blood, you'll see. Chilcotin Country is where you'll stay in peace and harmony.

Liz:

Multiple Sclerosis. Trapped in a body, unable to respond. With the quickness I feel in my mind, alert and strong. I love to run, but my knees turn to jelly. I must be content to walk, dilly-dally. Some days, I'm dead tired, but I must go on. I'm not one to quit, there's much to be done. Some days, my speech is slurred. Some mornings, my vision blurred. When I see double, that causes trouble. So I cover one eye and I carry on. So far, I've been lucky. I'm still able to walk, even though some days, my legs feel like rock. With your help on Carnation Day, they'll find a cure. Then my prayers will be answered, my dream will come true, I'll live life to the fullest because of you.

Cassi:

Not for Me. Life in the city is not for me. I'd much rather be wild and free. Not hemmed in by buildings so tall I can't see, the mountains that are sheer pleasure to me. Not strangled in traffic, unable to move, caught in the rat race, no time to be free. This is not the life I dreamed of, you must agree. Life in the city is not for me.

Kathy:

I Don't Know What to Do. I don't know what to do. Should I write a new poem or play an old song? The answer's in the doing. To write would mean to think my own thoughts. To listen would mean to think someone else's thoughts. Which is the most satisfying, is that the question? Is it better to write and keep busy or listen and do nothing? I could always listen and do something. So many options, what am I to do? This is just a bunch of nonsense from a bored person. I do have other things to do now, so I'll go.

Jacqueline:

A New Day at Christenson Village. It's overcast, but still warm. The new day is relatively pleasant. There is a breeze, but that is to be expected this time of year. Out in the courtyard, the flowers are colorful and bright. They seem to radiate their beauty. There are so many different colors. If you go out on the trail, you can end up in the forest. There you'll find all sorts of life, not just an assortment of trees, but streams and birds. You could see wildlife if you consider running into a bear or cougar lucky, or you could see deer. You could walk to the end of the trail and go for lunch. If you have the choice and a friend or family to go with you, the decision is yours.

Jacqueline:

Challenges. We all have challenges. Some may be bigger than others or more life-changing. Some take a lot of patients every day, and others take work to improve. Some, we have learned how to live with. One thing for sure is, most people with challenges feel blessed to have them. They are given a chance to see how strong they can be. It makes the rest of their problems seem insignificant. They realize they are manageable. I met a lady upstairs when I first came to this care home. She had Alzheimer's and did a lot of funny things, breastfed her doll and cat, sat on my bed and spat all over, took me for walks without asking me. She would forget and leave me anywhere, or hand me off. But she must have felt sorry for me. I only had the use of one finger and a voice that was amplified but still could not be understood. She was impressed that I went to India for an operation that could help. On one of her more lucid days, she said, "I'm glad I met you before I died." It took me a while to realize what a true gift that was. It wasn't till then that I realized my life had value. I could help others by making them appreciate their own value.

Irene:

A Silver Lining. Every cloud has a silver lining, every dream, a wish to be. Every past has a future, only time knows what will be. Life has had many faces, each shape a ball of clay. When you think it is formed and the way it will be, along comes a rainstorm that changes what would have been. You thought your life was over, all your plans put aside, then found by a new plan, another life began. We never know what life will bring, we make the most of what we have. Things can change in a hurry, but we needn't worry. Waiting the wings, in you go a dream with a wish to be. Life has a way of going on. You can't be in tears forever. Carry on with what must be. Soon your sadness will be a smile. That's the way it was meant to be.

 

Desiree:

Silence. It is the silence between the notes that makes the music. As in life, the notes may be different, but the quiet time says everything. Silence does so much. It makes you appreciate the clear sound of the note. You will also anticipate the next note more. It is the quiet of the night that really makes you appreciate the noise of the day and look forward to the new day.