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where might this tunnel lead

Just a hint of snow. The occasional fat flake visible against the still leafy tree, in slow dance downward. I watch, mesmerized as if my back window has become a television, the floating white stuff a metaphor, a plot device in the opening credits that whisper a coming change.

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There are things I am pleased about. The great functional beauty of my living space. The ancient trees five minutes away from my front door, the warm community of artists that surrounds my studio and work. The hum of this reconstructed painting as it nears completion in a few days, in time for its’ entry submission into a group show.

The way this painting, with its’ odd off-balanced, skewed gravity has informed what I will do with the other golden one – a permission to work with graffiti on my own work – to include a vulnerability, a soft ‘wrongness’ in what the piece will say, or sing.

To include an ache.

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New awarenesses have risen in me in these days spent writing, reading, drawing – and watching the rain, the wind, the first snowflakes dance slowly downward. This is what I’d hoped for when I leaped off the cliff last winter, though of course there were, and are no guarantees.

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Now the train song, second of the daily five as it curves past my neighbourhood’s houses – high metal squeals, deep chug chug of engine, bell clanging a clear, steady, andante A. My mother would have named that note without checking, which warms my eyes a little, remembering. The mark of a real musician, I used to think.

I know that at some point in my three years here I will record that train song, and add my own voice to it, like graffiti.

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This morning I’m feeling more than a little raw and chafed by the lack of beloved human voices in my world. The rootedness I feel only at my cabin is a lump in my throat, a wetness behind my eyes. I yearn for that safety, that belongingness, today.

As I listened to our Estonian residency artist Kai Kaljo talk about her time here in Canada last night I heard a thread of this in the way she approaches her work. Belonging and not belonging, comfort and discomfort, public recognition and then forgetfulness. In a dark time after everything changed she drew dead flowers, because she found them beautiful. Eventually realized that her creative self was rising, impossibly, again and change was good. Of course it’s good. But still.  Why eyes? asked the young artist. What is the significance of eyes for you?  “I don’t know, really. You decide.”, says Kai.

Kai gifted me a print of the opened window she stared through and loved all through her Italian residency, said as she signed it “I think art is like a window, yes?”. After the rich art talk and the connections made I closed my studio door and wondered why I felt different.

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I begin to understand that my known internal voices have long been misinterpreted by me, out of a learned assumption that outside voices automatically hold more authority. An old old lesson; my older sister finished all my sentences when we were children together. Somewhere beneath conscious awareness our culturally competitive parents approved of this as a mark of her superiority of mind and were entertained by it.

Instead of arguing I learned to archive my unspoken thoughts deep in a subterranean library. Floors and floors of shelves full of unspoken observances, delights, curiosities, private games, resonances and interesting relations with other-than-humans. Beneath those floors the wounds, traumas, bewilderments, betrayals, shocks I believe we all have some version or extreme of, levels below levels, each darker than the one above.

By doing this I could become the mirror required of me aboveground, and did so for many years, since “mirrors show everything but themselves. …nothing of your own will be heard”

Or possibly this is what I did. It’s a good working theory at least, based on what I’ve gleaned so far. In any case I’ve known for a good long time that for me stories are best mined in the dark.

IMG_0375 In The Faraway Nearby Solnit says,

 

Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them. …. Is it the shared solitude of writing, is it that separately we all reside in a place deeper than society, even the society of two?

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The end of my annotated, allegorical Masters story, Seven Swans, Seven Rooms keeps changing, as I get closer to telling it aloud in collaboration with an Owen Sound audience on December 7.

Since I last spoke the story at the end of April, my father passed, I traveled for a month in Europe, returned to find I lived somewhere else, was surprised on the summer road by the strangeness of Grief, and then the comfort of Retrospect. Both have since become my good companions. So of course the story’s end changes. It describes a beginning I’m only just now beginning to glimpse through the trees.

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To echo Kai – I’m not sure why these curiosities are here, or these aches, these lumps in my throat. Am reluctant to over-explain, wise enough to know that the only way through is in. I do trust them, that they’re here for good reason. Maybe they’re for you?

I really don’t know. You can decide.

 

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Grand Plan

In the corner of my well-collected room there is a gilded chair, with cushions of soft cedar green.

I observe both chair and my pleasure in it, thinking how odd it is to have something right there in my room so finely made that the gilding is not ostentatious, but appropriate.

I do not sit in it.

My room, looking away from the gilded chair, at the bay window couch I do my reading in.
My room, looking away from the gilded chair, at the bay window couch where I’ve been reading anthropological studies of the Western Conservatory Music culture all day

Art Fundamentals 7th edition (Ocvirk/Stinson/Wigg/Bone/Cayton, 1994); Free to be Musical (Higgins/Campbell, 2010); The Tone of our Times (Dyson, 2014) – this week’s doors, waiting to be unlocked, to be passed through. Other doors I’ve left open behind me, each granting passage into a thought-provoking room, hallway, staircase.

view from reading couch
view from reading couch

Up, down, through, in.  Cognitive dungeon to library to kitchen to widow’s peak – each a different ‘ology’, each a story that links to all the others ever written, and those only now being conceived.

My mind is becoming vast like an ever-expanding castle, which, although timely and immensely satisfying, is not entirely comfortable.  Often it’s a tight squeeze.  I forget things like where the car is, what music I need to find, what day it is….

Union Station subway poem, Rush hour Oct 27
Union Station subway poem, rush hour Oct 27

Travel and roads.  I’ve spent a great deal of time not-home, in-between.  I don’t mind this 600+ km each week of highway through orange maple trees and purple skies, cropped fields and pumpkins on shelves by the roadside. Pumpkins like people, each one a different shape and size, some sideways, some flat, some enormous, others tiny, a couple of them smashed into pulp on the road.

In between I read through and into cognitive change.  I tune my cello/voice and play/sing for Tom Thomson, for Mary Sue Rankin, who are gone from here but also Not-Gone, ever.  I am honoured and humbled to be part of a circle teaching gift from three powerful indigenous women, and to be gifted an improvised-traditional calligraphic rendering of my friend and colleague’s Chinese name. As the kilometres go by and events sift down into understanding, I realize with growing certainty that the most valuable ones are those that cannot be purchased.

Home from Toronto Oct 29.
Home from Toronto Oct 29.

Oh yes.  Lawyers (an interesting and useful contrast), to collaboratively and fairly settle and resolve a marriage that ended three years ago. Muffler replacement on my hard-working honda.  These are purchased in the name of maintenance, a ‘taking care of’.  A garden full of beautiful perennials (rescued from the bad marriage), now being choked by goutweed – I will start digging it out tomorrow morning, also putting away the beautiful summer writing space on my back deck, now blanketed by yellow ash leaves.

Certainly, for things like these, for ‘taking care of’, it’s good to earn a decent living.

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My beautiful ash tree, three weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving. Now it’s mostly on the deck.

Remembrance day concert soon in the marvellously thriving community arts centre – this one a collaboration of elementary school musicians and the community concert choir, who both need cello, lucky me.

Things you can’t purchase, but have the greatest value.

Generosity.  Thanks-giving.  Remembrance.  Care.

 

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Summon the Artist

The studio is different, this second day of 2016.

It’s taking some time for the subtle but undeniably permanent changes to sink in.  Some can be identified now; the bell paintings I began in December ring at a new frequency – thirty-six hours from now they will finish in a way I hadn’t imagined.  There’s a kind of inner ‘glow’ to them – as though they were still in active process of becoming while I was elsewhere attending to christmas gatherings, encountering and engaging family; playing like someone 5 years old and far wiser with dear dear friends; making and sharing beautiful communal music; solving puzzles; sorting buttons by colour and size; breathing the outside air, forgetting worry.

These bell paintings are more fully themselves – I won’t need to work so hard to bring them home.

Almost impossible to get the yellows right for this photo. The real one is like sunlight - I'm utterly charmed by it.
It’s impossible to get the yellows right in this photo – I’m not a good photographer & certainly don’t understand enough tech to make it right. The actual painting I stare at on the wall is like sunlight.  It puts me into a hammock on a hot summer day that is made bearable by a perfect, sun-quenched breeze.  I can hear honeybees, cicadas, crickets, red-winged blackbirds, the caterpillar beside me, who chews an ash leaf.  A crow comments, occasionally.

There’s more room in here, impossibly.

How…?    I’ve not moved anything out except – oh ya.  The Bell paintings already at the Bean Cellar, and two hanging in living rooms.  Paintings that are finished take up a great deal of space and need to move on to some other wall, somewhere else.  I’d forgotten how strong they were.

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None of my camera batteries have juice left.  I find patience, while they recharge and catch up with my curiosity.

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step 5 – I’d give you step 7 but my camera batteries…. What I’m looking at is more like a golden thought than this earlier one.  Somehow the little bells ring inside a warm memory of change from long ago. Every colour is there- golden, rich red, deep violet, spring green, hemlock green, deep aqua loke Georgian Bay.

While I wait for camera batteries I listen, and realize that a new set of materials call to me for the first time in many years.  Paper. Ink. Plaster. Chalk.  – these will be a re-visiting, since that’s where I started long ago.  Pencil crayon, after seeing a drawing at the Durham Art Gallery that stole my heart in December (it now astonishes me in my kitchen, as it did when I unwrapped it at Christmas).

I feel I want to make use of Black for the first time since rejecting it’s place in my work 30 years ago.  It is the absence of colour.

Why black?  Now?  That’s a curious thing.

I follow the call to new media. Like a wise 5-year-old engaging in serious play. Hours go by, and no time at all.
I follow the call to new media. Like a wise 5-year-old engaging in serious play. Hours go by, and no time at all – like a good walk in the forest.

Happy 2016, everyone.  It feels new and full of promise to me.   You too?