Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Cabin 8: Response-able

All’s well that ends well

A comforting thought which all too often loses its deeper reference point when used, finger-waggingly, as an I told you so. All situations, human and otherwise, are complex and so fundamentally unknowable.

Platitudes and clichés can function as important touchstones that evoke deeper wisdom.  They can also be poorly applied, like band-aids, over a gaping wound which will then be covered up and never properly tended to.

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After a particularly gut-wrenching weekend, I am philosophical. I think of first impressions, and last impressions and how oddly similar they can be, even if years have passed between.

I think of real need, and wonder at how some can sense it and respond from a place of true humanity and courage. How others can so tangled in their unclaimed projections and external referencing that they meet real need with cruelty and resentment. Bewildered, afterward, perhaps; What did I do to deserve this, why do people misunderstand me? I’m trying so hard…

How still others see need and meet it with cold judgement. Not my problem.

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I am messy, in the aftermath of a deeply painful and humbling change. My careful corners are badly dented, my wisdom has gone away to seek a more generous place. I am not graceful or beautiful; I do not feel loved.

In the aftermath, this is a place to sit. To be aware of the size and shape of the world.

(I do not feel misery, or despair – please don’t be alarmed that I might consider opting out. I neither fear death nor seek it; life holds great fascination for me.)

I do feel that it’s important to mark this particular end-point, though, and to understand all of its implications. To fully claim all of the choices that led me to this pivotal now. To see and own my ugliness, without judgement, in this deep, painful, human mess I’ve made.

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There is real and extensive damage to assess; I am response-able.

John McCain just died – a steady, complex rock-of-gibraltar man who spoke his truth and respected his (worthy) opponents as much as he did himself.

I do think integrity has a great deal to do with my assessment of this mess I’ve made; it’s more than possible I’ve sold mine too cheaply, so far, in this lifetime. It dawns on me also that there’s nothing heavy about integrity, contrary to what I’ve believed.

I have the strongest feeling that integrity is about self respect, openness, light-heartedness and damned good boundaries.

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While I build the strength I need to conjure the the sea change I know will come, I’ll sit in kindness with My Ugly-Unloved-Keira, here. We’ll play some string games, write some stories, draw the trees, sing some simple songs.

We’ll make up some mopping & sorting out games, and play some more.

We’ll write some letters, pile some rocks, build some research, ask new and curious questions, all the while keeping this gentle touchstone in mind:

You’ll never know till you try.


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Cabin stories 7: Resistance

“What you resist will persist”

This was scrawled and partially obscured at the top of a dry-erase board, in a kitchen briefly visited. One of the most popular clichés of our time, it’s a fine example of backyard philosophy. Not subtle, but pithy. Useful, in a pinch. If you write it down in your kitchen, it means you’re trying, at least, to be mindful.

On the other hand, if you need to write it down because you can’t internalize it as practise, then you’re possibly practising the opposite  – using your resistance to perpetuate something unhealthy for you and your folk, with no actual intention of following through into change.

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Backyard clichés are handy like that. They’re also useful as conversation killer tools: ‘Yes, right. Yes of course you’re right’. One can feel temporarily wise, having played the platitude card.

But these are mere surface observations of mine, since all situations, human and otherwise are complex and so fundamentally unknowable. Kitchens can be gathering places of great abundance and nourishment, but they can also reek of resentment and despair. They can be manifestations of terrible sinking inertia or unfocused chaos.

Platitudes and clichés can function as important touchstones that evoke deeper wisdom.  They can also be poorly applied, like band-aids, over a gaping wound which will never be properly tended to.

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Resistance is far more subtle than the cliché implies, perhaps.

I consciously resist change, and so learn more in the moments before I surrender to it. I resist the lake, before I dive in, and the swim is sweeter. I resist endings, and so learn how and what to plant for the beginning that follows. I resist blind authority, and so can better claim a more conscious authorship of my own life.

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Possible that in the act of resistance there lies a seed of understanding – one that just needs your gaze to grow and blossom into something incredible. Something you’d never ever consider, otherwise. 

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A cyclist resists inertia to achieve forward motion, and her body becomes steadily stronger. She can travel through the ever changing world, with resistance to inertia.

To persist in this way could be a very good thing, indeed.


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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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Cabin Stories 5: death and life

In right now there is reverence

deep prayer, an endless, thunder-throated,

steady dripping Love.

The shore waves sing a slow ballad in 7/8 time.

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Good deaths are soft. A miraculous easing of release.

A shedding

a moulting

a fall, then surrender to moss and insect

to beautiful, fragrant rot:

With my body I nourish thee.

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Or with a scream, to announce the end

before the snapped neck, the severed jugular

The feed, even as last breath releases:

With my body I nourish thee.

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There are other deaths.

Reactive, angry, resentful.

Only humans die this way,

non-compostable, ungenerous

like broken plastic buckets

that can feed no one.

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another death I can find no mirror for,

here among the trees, or in the song of the lake:

A human distortion again, since

This One is badly injured, but still alive.

You miss your mark, wound, then walk away?

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You dishonour Love?

It is impossible to nourish anything with this

if you won’t claim it as yours, if you deny it release.

There is only hush and hesitation then. Wrongness.

The crows cannot gather the shining story.

growth stops.

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So. I see her.

I will take my sharp knife

with proper gratitude and joy,

and release She you could not see

from the living, breathing world.

Since you cannot, I will make a good end for her.

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She is willing, graceful.

With this body, I nourish thee.

NOTE: When I was a kid I used to catch and keep caterpillars in jars. I wanted to watch them be, save them from being stepped on as my grandfather used to do with righteous conviction.

The moment of this morning in the deep thunder rain was one in which I understood that nothing is static. Release through death is nourishment, which is then decomposition, integration back into the world – lessons from a lifetime deepened, woven back into the ecosystem. We are only small in this system, but we are many. There is in fact no use in the forest for glass jars, or plastic buckets; you can’t, even with philosophy and romance, separate death from life. To try is to distort, and cause harm.

Thanks for reading this.


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Cabin Stories 4: weather

The tarps work well. Easy to pull out and put away, which is required since sometimes rain comes unexpectedly at 3am. I am quietly and ridiculously proud of this.

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It occurs to me that I haven’t been myself for some years now. That the strong, creative me, fully open to possibles and wonder is only just now beginning to stand up, be seen and look around again, in these past few weeks of Cabin.  She sings, draws and writes every day now.

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There was a glimpse of this me in 2014, but it was chewed up and diverted by small town commercial gallery egos (abetted by my own stubborn naiveté about the way things work in that world), by painful/ joyful diversions into and out of romantic love and by the increasingly heavy requirements of paying for culturally prescribed things. Things that, from here, I’m not sure I needed.

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Many of the things I did need then I don’t need, now. In retrospect, the psychological distance between those needs then and these now is a lot like the distance from the top of the dover cliffs to the rocks below them.

Down is where you look when fear runs in your veins. Down to the meeting place between Forever Sea and Rocky Shore (while your friend the little white dog tugs at your leg to pull you back from the edge).

And then if you look up, where fear has no place, you can see your old, embedded practicalities for what they are: just a few small options among a big-sky-full of others.

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As I surrender to the last hours of Day 29 after The Leap of Faith, I can see what I could not have imagined before I found my courage. 

My ‘friend the dog’ is the cat who joins me to watch the sun set each night. The place where rocky shore meets the endless water has expression as vast and diverse as any behavioural spectrum, but this inspires fascination, not fear. On every level I know I am stronger. 

When the beauty around me reaches impossibly generous levels of gentleness, I stop drawing/writing/reading/singing, and just witness.

Gratitude.

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There is strong emotional weather, to be sure. Beauty without shadow is nothing you can build a good path from. I welcome it – there’s always room for change. Change is all around, here – dancing with life. 

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During and while all of the storms pass over and through, the spiders spin, the birds forage, The butterflies do their impossible, the waves sculpt the shore, and the trees drink both sun and rain, stretch themselves steadily upward and down. 

The clear sky remains the same, regardless of weather, full of options. I trust the sky.

I’ve landed well.

 


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Cabin stories 3

Like Laurel and Hardy, Level and Sturdy are comedians. It’s the kind of funny that sneaks up on you a couple of days later, when you look at the framing you took a break from and there they are, tangled in the ladder, looking bewildered but earnest. You take off your hat, scratch your head, waddle over to get the level, then come back with the tape measure.

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New term: joist hanger. D’uh.  

New level of understanding: nails push, screws pull.

Skil saws buck when your board binds the blade. Weight on one end fixes that. Sometimes.

Power tools are just obnoxiously loud. But I do love them.

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In the end, comedy gets it done. Level and Sturdy get some well deserved down time before the next job. They use it to jump up and down on the 5×10 deck we muddled through together (it holds). I make the shelves fit, put my paint on the shelves and rig up a tarp so I can work there in the rain…

 

Which is not just rain, it’s a deluge so intense, heavy and long that the cat stares at me in increasing terror because time has stopped, there is no daytime any more. All there is or ever was or ever will be, is rain.

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Rain makes a painting out of the water containers I use for painting.  Rain drenches me to the bone in five seconds. Rain on wet west wind finds ways to come inside and under my brand new tarp ceiling, until I, yelling AAAAHHHH, go outside with vapour barrier and staple gun to block it. AAAAAHHH and NOOOO there’s not enough vapour barrier left to go all the way around.

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Wet still, but less wet. I chuckle a slightly mad chuckle at my own heroics, then realize I’m seriously chilled.

Happily there are a few sticks of dry wood to burn, smirks Sturdy, and winks at Level.  He means there’d be WAY more than that, if I’d been on the chainsawing and wood piling during the eight week drought we had.  Never mind, it’s enough for a fire in the stove.

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Cat is much happier with the edge taken off the damp, snores his boneless day-sleep on the white chair. I wrap myself in blankets and read.

L&S play cards and wait for the next gig.


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Cabin Stories 2

Week Two

Ratbastard is a new regular presence in my life. Has arrived, I believe, to teach me powerful new lessons in the kind of assertiveness that brooks no opposition. He requires that I maintain full, absolute ownership of the space I now occupy.

He is nocturnal and extremely intelligent. Also pointy-faced and vindictive when thwarted.  I sense that he has dangerous and deeply rooted self-esteem issues, is possibly in exile from his family (since they are nowhere to be seen), and so is really seeking love and belonging, in his bass-ackward way.  He’s a young adult, reckless and angry.  I am a middle-aged woman with a broken toe. I’ve developed a mean bark and the certainty that I can and will use a 2-by-4 to drive home my point.  If necessary.  I do hope it does not come to this.

Ratbastard and I are embarking on a journey that will eventually end in truce or death (his).  I can and will out-persist him.

NOTE:  I have nothing whatsoever against either rats, or bastards, in fact I have good friends who hail from both species. The name RATBASTARD was the first that came to mind as I chased my troubled trouble friend away from the window screen he was attempting to open.  A satisfying name to yell when defending territory.

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Rain is all you can hear when in comes in torrents. After three grateful, introspective days of it this place is richer, greener, kinder.  Plants have appeared where there were only rocks and a skiff of soil before, and the spiders are back to their abundant net-working.

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Ratbastard has not come by for four nights now.  I wish him well.  I also persist in my wish not to see him again.

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After an interesting day-surgery experience yesterday which required much preparation over the weekend, I’m back at my work: collaborating with this place, reading, drawing and deepening the final research inquiry for my Masters.

I don’t think I could feel happier than I do in this moment.