It’s the summer of 1977. I’ve gone to work as a vegetarian cook at Cold Mountain Institute, a personal growth centre on Cortes Island, a hundred miles north of Vancouver in BC. Jim Sellner, one of the two property managers who, with his wife, Judy, is working on his MA in humanistic psychology and co-leading staff group, has offered to do bodywork. I’ve taken a couple of sessions, and now I notice I can no longer eat. I tell Linda Wyness, one of my fellow cooks, who has taken the intensive Resident Fellow Program and is very much in touch with the Cold Mountain vibe. She suggests I lie down in my room, do a relaxation, then create a self-guided visualization, imagining entering my mouth and walking down into my stomach to see or hear what it might have to say. I do that, and what I discover is that I’m afraid if I do well with the bodywork, Jim Sellner will no longer be willing to do sessions with me. I reflect on that and realize what I’m feeling has more to do with my relationship with my largely absent father than it does with Jim Sellner and the bodywork. The other thing that Linda suggested was that I eat whatever I am drawn to, even if it’s just toast and peanut butter.
Now it’s the spring of 1983. I arrive in Montreal after visiting my sister, who’s doing a mystery school workshop with Jean Houston in New York. I’ve been fasting a lot while working as a dishwasher at the Green River Cafe, in Greenfield, Massachusetts. I’m down to 116 pounds and can barely walk up stairs. I’m surprised that I’m still having issues with eating when I saw into the core of the issue right from the beginning. I go to a drop-in health clinic at CLSC Metro, and the public health nurse, Mary Carol Case, is alarmed. She does some tests, finds that I’m anaemic and that my thyroid has shut down. Apparently it’s one of the body’s self-protective measures, to slow the process of self-digestion. She gives me a photocopied article about Karen Carpenter, says I have anorexia, and that after adolescent girls, gay men are the next most likely to suffer the disorder. She says I no longer have permission to not eat.
I remember going shopping at the food co-op I’m a member of, Co-op du Plateau, going through the shop and choosing my food, then all of a sudden having to race around the store to put everything back before I fly out into the street, to freedom.
I remember walking back to my apartment on my way home from Concordia, where I’m taking summer classes in the teaching of English as a second language, darting into the little Portuguese corner store to pick up a round loaf of corn and soy bread and a carton of milk, then dashing home.
As a poet, singer/songwriter, and performance artist, Falcon oHara takes part in poetry readings and writing events in Vancouver. He is currently working on a revision of A Summer’s Tale, his musical work-in-progress, a solo show for Vancouver Fringe 2017, and his first novel.