Sunday morning, day two of the heat wave that will last for another five. I’ve adjusted my routine to regular cold baths, closed drapes after 9am and the fans are all on high to move the air through. Quite a lot of background noise to work around in my video making, which is just fine – I’m not making clinically sterile internet content, I’m a human conversing about art and humans.
My body wants space, in public. A minimum of two metres of space on all sides, as it turns out. My mind and heart want space too: text me first, don’t call or drop by. Don’t send uninvited healing to me, or try to fix what you feel is amiss in my world. As it turns out, I’m the only one who can do that, for me. I offer this respectfully and with big love on behalf of all of us caught in a weird relational matrix: good friendship will not tolerate projection of unconscious expectations from one to the other. It is permitted to say: I’ll share my thoughts and my responses when I’m damned well ready to, and I extend the same generous space to you. Thank you for respecting this and for your continued presence in my life.
New boundaries – a personal sovereignty necessary to function well and peacefully in the world. Boundaries that should always have been in place for us all, I now think. Not to defend, not made from fear or anger, not even territorial (with all the muscled competitiveness that word implies), just a clear self-respectful marking of the sovereign space required to work, love and grow in the world. Easy Peasy once you claim it and extend the same space to others in your life. Rilke, I believe, would agree.
The effects of isolation in pandemic times. My body wants love, and understands more clearly what is not-love. My body wants discovery and challenge that takes me beyond my comfort zone. My body is designed for change and movement; stress and stillness are equally essential to this process. Depression hits when I forget to honour stillness – my body will take me there until I remember. It’s what you feel that counts, you notice and name that in the still moments.
I notice that I don’t notice body parts as much as I was taught to. Legs, lips, belly, hair, hands. I’m more curious about movement, carriage and presence and in the lineups for groceries, the warmth of a voice, the sound of laughter and smile behind a mask. We are bodies of water after all, oxygen and hydrogen and trace elements like memories. All our parts move together in waves, firing electrons and signals as they flow across and through.
When I don’t flow my memories become like mud, when they flow best I make art; lillies grow from mud.
One large piece of paper painted on then torn into nine in a 2019 heatwave. I lost three of these in 2020 – wrapped a gift with two , burned another, used the last to see if I could convincingly draw a living, breathing wave. nope. I tore another blank sheet into nine in the summer of 2020 , thinking I could experiment in the tiny cabin by the lake.
I did not make art in the tiny cabin – was shocked to find myself claustrophobic there, the only human in 12 acres of forest. It was the wind that maddened me – relentless prevailing wind that pounded massive waves onto the shore, beautiful repeating waves that spit up whole trees onto the rocks, swallowed the entire stone beach and spewed it back once or twice per second. I rested when the wind did, which was rare. To regulate myself I studied those waves as a prisoner studies her captor, every day down to the shore with my camera. Every day listening to feel where I was in the constant crashing, the whipping rain and roar – my tiny water body, tossed like a tree in the body of the Great Lake. By the third month I was exhausted and my heart felt smashed into pieces.
I caught the Covid virus on the Winter Solstice. It was the stay in bed and quarantine version, thankfully, not the intubator kind (thanks to the tracing efforts of our health units I know I did not infect anyone else). On the first night of sickness I lived all the most intense emotional markers of my life all through the hours, relentless waves of memories crashing again and again, again on the shore to be seen and heard; it’s what you feel that counts, notice this. Name it.
I survived and emerged back into the bright world with no long term effects – a gift on many levels, not the least of which was a renewed love for life. The lillies began to grow.
This is the end of part one. Part two will come in three days – June 9.
Human beings are water bodies who carry the memories of every peak, every trough, every climb up and slide down we have lived. When these experiences are noticed, they become fertile. When they’re named and shared they they become stories. Stories connect us as humans – named things that are shared, to support, to enlighten, to inspire, to comfort. This is what we do, this is how we are human. It is what ART is.
Eighteen works on paper are now in the pipe for Conversation Pieces. I’m now at work building the performance that will support them properly. These works on paper are very special indeed- like marking points on our collective pandemic experience. They will be for sale on my website on June 20, earlier for Newsletter subscribers.
Conversation Pieces: Comes In Waves is the audio and video presentation which will be available on or around the June 20 solstice, if the many moving parts line up as planned. I am at work on essays which will be presented in (illustrated) book form.
My deeply held hope is that once gallery spaces open up again the pieces on paper, audio, video and book form will be assembled in one space for folks to experience in person. Cross your fingers for this! Much as I respect and love the internet, I yearn for direct connection and conversation with people fully present in their bodies.
Please consider this a personal invitation, AND an ‘interesting note of inquiry’ to all who read and resonate with this story and my work: I would be so honoured if you would sign on to my mailing list. The quarterly newsletter I send will not clog your inbox, but will respectfully offer Art stories that I trust will resonate further with you.
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