"As birds sing to survive, although they don’t have to." (Maureen Evans on Aubade)
Maureen Evans is a contributor to Half Mystic Journal’s seventh issue, aubade. She was raised reclusively in North Western Canada. She set her mind to writing a way out young, and has lived widely ever since—travelling through fifty countries, earning an MA poetry in Belfast and designing literary software in London, publishing in journals worldwide and releasing an avant-garde cookbook in New York—with her poetry remaining rooted in the north: wild and humane. She now splits time between creating art in Brooklyn, NY, and building a timber-frame home in Quadra Island, BC, where the birds sing beautiful and hard.
We asked three of our Issue VII contributors to share with us their personal definitions of aubade: how it is formed, where it has been, what it could be. Here is Maureen Evans’ vision of the dawn-dizzy dance—the first chords of warmth—the sun forgiving everything it touches…
Dawn is portentous as any moment. Our instinct to name that moment more is the spark of all song, especially aubade—but for a poetic moment to burst fully into poetry, we must practice seeing past ourselves dazzled. The return of daylight is poetic, but it is our continual creative consciousness that reflects meaning from dawn, to shine fresh upon daily life. Meaning is simply a practice, and as such, may be practiced intentionally, in order to grow stronger in ourselves and our creative response—all of being alive.
My best lesson of this came observing the morning practice of a friend, Rhoda, for whom I wrote an aubade in response. I’ll share with you my memory of her lesson and what she told me about it more directly.
I recall sunlight slicing my eyes by 5 am, betraying every other certainty it was still night. All around was cold and silent, with a scent of bare skin and line-dried sheets, and unbroken sleep on my tongue. I’d arrived past eleven at night yet drawn a window shade on sunset, foreboding this early wakeup call.
Having travelled west, I was seven hours jetlagged, facing the early sunrise of summer equinox in the north. I grew up at high latitude, so visiting my recently-met friend felt like travelling back in time—though we had so much in common that, extending from her being much older than me, time together also felt like travelling forward.
So willingly disoriented, I was too soon awake, watching blades of light sharpen along my window shade. I may as well get up, I thought. I went to the kitchen, and there sat Rhoda, aglow in the light of an uncovered window. She was dressed against the chill and her white hair looked fluffed by sun. She held her coffee, wrist upon sill, and leaned forward, intent upon the birds outside, flitting like dispersing dreams. She appeared both asleep and focused.
As soon as was polite, I asked her to tell me more.
Rhoda said that for years she’d been waking before dawn, in order to feed and watch the birds before her large family awoke. She was born to rural labour and sweeping love; working seven days a week, she consistently woke tired, and was still half-asleep while brewing her morning coffee. Frost ferning the windows in winter, breath clouding the air year-round, she was barely risen to consciousness as she dove out to refill birdseed on a saucer atop the fence. She’d then return indoors, fill her cup with coffee, and just sit.
In dissolving darkness, arboreal birds gathered gradually around her offering, stirring themselves to eat and to sing. Upon their outpouring, indecipherable yet unmistakably joyous, Rhoda opened herself and filled with gratitude. Simultaneously she felt powerful love for her family welling up. The birds sang harder and farther. Reflected in them, she knew she wasn’t alone in feeling so rapturously.
She’d fold together the moment of dawn and feeling of her soul with caring intentionality. This ritually gathered force of joy went on to describe the rest of the day to her, daily. As she met loved ones’ varied awakenings, her eyes were generous with birdsong. Resuming rote work, such as the baking of endless bread required to slate their hunger, she remained tender and inspired.
Rhoda felt, fostered, and furnished meaning this way every day of her life. Near the end of that life we met, instant and easy creative comrades in our aubades. As far as poetic sparks fly, after a lifetime of practice, Rhoda was sheer flint. For making meaning is baking bread is writing poetry is singing song. Zenith creative consciousness is all one discipline, one decidedly of dawn-felt joy.
As birds sing to survive, although they don’t have to.
Maureen Evans’ poem “Rhoda”, along with twenty other pieces by contributors and three columns by the Half Mystic team, are compiled in Half Mystic Journal’s Issue VII: Aubade, a stunning collection of contemporary art, lyrics, and writing dedicated to the celebration of music in all its forms. It is available for preorder now.