Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Cabin stories 6: learning human

There is not a tree here the species books would call perfect. They are bent and twisted, storm-broken and shallow-rooted. They share a mere skiff of soil, what sunlight they can reach and make the best of what they have. Ironwood, cedar, birch are the oldest. Sapling maple and ash have found space too, and tall twisting rowan that drop bright orange berries in the fall.

Birch is the tallest, and shortest-lived – they fall first, in piles where green moss and mushroom speed the process of rot. Seeds from any species take root there; everywhere I look death feeds life.

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Here companionship is visible – a staying with, through weather and change. All around I see slow and deliberate acts of steady-ing and support. These beings share their vulnerabilities – a trunk too thin to support straight growth will lean on another, older and stronger. They live this way, making room, sharing strength, all their lives. They stretch their roots beneath the skiff of soil, to connect with their own mycelial network. This community  of flora and fauna knows who among them is weak, starved or injured – and they send nourishment or honour death, if death it must be.

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This morning’s brief scan from my tiny access point into the world-wide-web offers me news from Rebecca Solnit (a major hub of the human mycelial network ), who scans today’s news and puts all in context of sanity, who treks through the away-ness of Tibet, brings solar lights, medical teams and menstrual kits with her for giveaway.

I see elsewhere that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: 1984 team has partnered with the Anti-recidivism Coalition (ARC) in California to raise awareness and funds in support of formerly incarcerated men and women.

Also a broad spectrum of successful Go Fund Me campaigns (Thank you Amanda Palmer), Avaaz squaring up against Monsanto, great new restaurant downtown, free umbrellas if you need ’em, looking for recommendations….

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These trees teach me to reclaim my love for humans. Contrary to what we hear or read in the news, we do help one another, genuinely and reliably. We do what we can to keep ourselves and each other laughing-strong so we can withstand together the ever more serious blights that threaten the world. We Stay with the Trouble, we collaborate across knowledge fields to study the warm data that inter-connects systems, we learn, we notice, we support, we link arms as companions, we resist the fear that would divide us.

Universal companionship requires a proactive sensing of signals that is not possessive, but compassionate. For me, this is a learned practise that extends beyond simple emotional sensitivity.

My humanness requires a conscious determination to crack the carapace of whatever restricts my self-awareness, to reveal the vulnerability that connects me with all vulnerable selves. To honour and sing with the voice only I have, to speak my claimed insight – gently, firmly, assertively, especially if it goes against the well-promoted grain. To pay attention, through my uniquely human skin, to the other species around me.

To see and understand pain, for what it is.

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Nora Bateson:

The revolution, the evolution is not going to be found in conference centers or seminars in 5 star hotels. It won’t be definable in righteousness or sanctimony.

The resonances will be and are where the pain has been–where there was no choice but to become unbreakable.

Where the scars are generations deep and sculpt into raw, sassy, funny, sexy, harsh, confusing.

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Nobody’s ever ready for real change. The tree snaps in the wind, the hurricane rips through an island, a city. The bullet misses, or finds its mark, your heart breaks, suddenly and without warning, in a new place. The army invades and you become a refugee, the American Government takes your child from your arms, someone who has been raped himself, rapes her. A diagnosis, a move, a new job, you fall into swooning, impossible love….

Not one of us is ever ready. But if we are human, if we allow us to fill with compassion and laughter we can claim our pain and learn how to keep growing; life from death.

We can choose to play our pathway out of trouble, learn to think differently, to haltingly, hilariously, try out a new language.

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Unconditional:

  1. without limits
  2. unrestricted by definition, requirement, or compulsion


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Unplugged yet more connected

Story Cake first instalment is coming – never fear.  It has been delayed by some time-sensitive physical and academic tasks, which have taken precedence over all else:
I’ve been packing up the old and building the new.

To the point where I’ve got twenty days left here:

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during which I find places for all this house-ness,

and incrementally move my work here:

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Where I can collaborate with the lake, the trees, the critters, the rocks, and the folk who come to drink it all in.  There’s often wifi connection from across the water; I have some solar panels and a battery.  I have paint, paper, books and simple recording equipment.
What a great big enormous blessing.

It’s been a life-long dream, this.  Ever since I first read about Emily Carr and her cabin.

Postscript:  For the next three weeks some paintings from #Selfie and Five paintings at the River are available for a reduced price, fully instalment-negotiable.  Tomorrow I will post a list with sizes and suggested prices, and my contact information.

 


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Resplendence

A multitude of tasks and their stressor partners slow-dance around my house like dust motes in the sunlight; I am happily, if overwhelmingly engaged in the actions of living.

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Every so often pressures collide with sensibilities and swirl the dust mote dancing into a frenzy. Through and over all of this a thin cicada song of anxiety – I’ve mostly learned to ignore this, like the writer who works beside a busy train track.  Some days are better than others.

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I am doing my utter best to lay solid groundwork that will take me/us somewhere new, satisfying and truly relevant in these times.  To connect need to need in a way that can reveal surprising, intersected solutions.

To make functional use of art and music, in valuable and valued service.

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Need to need, like bee to flower. Then honey, more flowers, a resplendent spring.

I seek nothing less than an active, challenging, collaborative peace.

 

 


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Driving Time

In July 2017 I bought a car.  At that time it had 45,000 km on the odometer, which is partly why I bought it.

In our tradition of car-naming my daughter and I named him Thom, short for Thomas. Not Tommy, ever.

He is an indigo Blue Honda Fit.

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By now, April, 2018, and Thom and I have racked up another 30,000km together.  There have been things to do and people to see.

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While we were driving (by ourselves, never when witnessed), a song came.

It became an earworm.  Then it grew, longer and longer….

back_leftI recorded bits of it into voice memos. A few weeks ago when we parked at home, there were enough bits, so I wrote them down, strung them together and recorded a rough version.

Here it is…

 

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…complete with frogs (one from Costa Rica, another from Toronto) and badly played xylophone (I’m a cello player, not a percussionist, damnit. Also at one point the frogs had a falling out).

Warning – it is an earworm.

 


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Black and White

Here’s something.  If you slow down a recording of crickets to the speed it would be if their lifespan was equal to humans, it sounds a lot like a human choir (link here).  Huh.

Another thing.  If you look at this global map of the wind, you can see where the wind that just pushed over the old window on your front porch came from.  You can zoom in and check out how fast it’s going and where it’s just been right now, anywhere in the world, the wind. (link here)

Huh.

 

This is like reading Paulo Friere (Brazil) on Education for Critical Consciousness and Theatre of the Oppressed, Patricia Leavy (Boston) on how Method Meets Art, and Shaun McNiff (Cambridge, MA) on Art as Research, Willingham and Higgins (Canada and UK) on Community Music practise.  I feel these thoughts on my skin like wind from three continents, four countries.

Same wind that’s stirring the trees.

And another:  two 18 volt, 3 amp lithium batteries can charge a chainsaw long enough to cut and collect firewood that will last for two days, run a circular saw and a power drill long enough to build a shelf and counter, with a little left to spare.  A Sherpa 100 lithium battery can keep a studio light going all day, charge phone and wifi device, with a little left over to top up a laptop battery.  If it’s sunny out, you can charge the Sherpa from solar panels, and the lithium battery charger from the Sherpa.  Heat from a tea candle can power the reading lamp beside me (invented and produced in Wiarton Ontario at Caframo) for 4-5 hours.

Not sure this is interesting to everyone, but it is to me.  When the water pipes beneath the street froze a few winters ago, I learned how much 16 litres of water weighed.  It was my maximum for carrying from supply building to car (50 yards).  I learned how to do a sink full of dishes with one cup of water.  I’m learning the same direct measurement realities now about energy and I’m fascinated, frankly.

All of this together, the sound of crickets slowed down, today’s fierce wind from Mexico, Paulo Friere’s, Patricia Leavy’s Shaun McNiff’s, Lees Willingham and Higgins’ thoughts intermingling here, the realities of available energy and time, heat and wellbeing – all of these things met this afternoon in a meditation with my thumbs in the playing of the Courante from Suite Number 1 of the Suites by cello, written in Austria by JS Bach in 1717-1723.  That’s the fourth continent, meeting in my thumbs.

I wouldn’t be writing any of this if my since zero years of age friend Marcus hadn’t challenged me to think in black and white, while taking pictures of my life, with no people and no captions for seven days straight (the first three here are in chronology, and then I just started looking at things differently and took more).

Huh.


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A reciprocal boat

Sometimes the boat NEEDS to sink, little miss willpower.  Sometimes it’s just time to release Her.

Boats are practical things that keep you afloat on water, carry what you need for a journey, bring back what you harvest.  They are all female.

Boats are dreams, freedoms, passions, yearnings. They are shared, protected, obvious solitudes.  In them you can aim yourself to the far horizon, traverse the foreign deep and sing the sky.  They cradle in a soft wind, scream in heavy weather.

Without exception, boats require maintenance. Care.

A reciprocal boat carries two, each with her baggage, each with his wounds which, if utilized correctly can transform into oars, a sail.  A tiller, a keel even, to stabilize a fragile idea in rough weather.  Ingenuity is required, shared goals, a willingness to do all the work made necessary by journey.  If one refuses to bail while the other catches the wind, forgets to balance the agreement of labour and care, well then there is no crew, and the boat, She knows it. If there’s no crew to attend to the moment, then eventually, inevitably, down She goes, in sad, sorry relief.

That one sank four years ago, on September 3, 2013. In the course of that time I’ve sung her Her to peace in honour of her ten years of service. Despite a poor crew.

There are fair weather boats, full of jolly shout and sun.  These are white white above but deep and heavy below with a labouring few who may never be seen.  These know Her engines, Her faults, Her upper deck requirements and tend them, cursing the dark.  Below the cursings, deeper still in the hull are dungeons where the scapegoats molder, banished for being born out of place.  Light above, heavy below, She knows full well she cannot be sustained, but grinds the tending souls to breaking point in any case, for the sake of Show.

One like that finally sank three years ago, in long, slow stages.  I watched her break apart and go under, still raging.

It was not beautiful, or poignant.

The boats still out there are better made; They need maintenance at dock, newer crew, so in They come, a float of dignity and good lines, for repair and Captains who understand the weather, yearn for the horizon.

Still others wait ready, clean holds full of nourishment and good sense.

Me, I’ve found safe harbour. Deeply grateful for the peace after the storms.  I repair, rebuild and absorb new information here, I check the shore for the next journey.

I’ll know Her when I see Her; we’ll sail when the wind is right.

 

 


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Little Book

The red book records the odd.

The black one, scars.

The green, intent

The blue, fancy

The yellow is a large sieve

to catch memory for story glue. but

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in a private, cathartic moment

They will all burn.

This is not a world

that is kind to things

sorted and filed in this way.

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In one it is recorded:

I do reject hope.

I hold passion away from my body,

measure trust like a miser,

like a miser, take great care

with my accountabilities.

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The little books know.

There is no family, no truth,

no gift freely given.

This is who we are.  Nevertheless

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I am not dead yet.

Through these Mean Times

I shall continue to search for,

find, and make art.

Little Book, Jan 26/April 11, 2017, studio (house)
KLM

A Note:  This poem was written at a dark time, in a long moment of self-observation.   I refer to this in a recent post called The Far Horizon – a time when I found myself sifting through the broken things – beloved house gone, beloved studio gone, beloved places now pawns in a power-play not of my choosing, family torn apart, living deep inside poverty with my financial resources withheld, lawyers who forgot critical information, mismanaged files, set their own agendas, people once dear to me now like bullies who pout their entitlement, present their victimhood to the world while they sucker punch the whipping boy or the concubine, kick the chained dog. Shock after shock after shock.

How does the human spirit survive catastrophe and rebuild?  Turn from toxic identification with the badness of life into a place of curiosity and ingenuity?  Choose to let go, heal up and move on?  Our history is full of fine examples – I suspect that this happens at least once every second on planet earth – it’s what we do.

For me it has always been the making of art and the writing of journals.  Get it out of me and onto a page, a canvas, and then let it go.  In January of last year I read through and pitched journals from 20 years – a cathartic burning, a profound release of attachment to old pains.  On the other side of that is genuine strength, genuine laughter.  It’s good to stand your ground.