We live in multiple layers of clothing against the cold damp of constant seeping rain, walk under umbrellas, and peek out from under shelter until some blue sky appears.
Then we breathe the blue and the coloured leaves, and roll in the damp ones underfoot. We go to the flashing streams, the roaring falls, the pounding waves and we exult
..until the rain and the cloud and the pounding wind bring us under and in again.
These times. Pressured, heavy, challenged, shifting. Some of us don’t have dancing feet. Some have not learned to swim.
Two days ago in Ottawa a man died on Parliament hill. He suffered from serious mental illness – serious enough that he found himself a gun and shot another man who worked as a soldier there. I grieve for both men, whom we, in our culture, have failed to see clearly.
Poem for Michael Zehaf-BibeauMichael Zehaf-Bibeau, for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist, and for every single one of us who struggles with addiction and mental illness, in sorrow for this:
September 24: studio
Thought can re-write history, she says Meditative thought influences the order of things Orders them more neatly so there’s less damage done.
and there’s the
small voice the difficulty
the closed throat mid-
sentence, the little
alarms shot with adrenaline
the subtle gagging that
no one notices but
There’s no problem. Who
…said there was a
problem? Mental Illness is only
addiction is only
another form of terrorism-
We just need more Security and
I think I caught something in
the subway – just a virus it
comes and goes it’s
…something about bare feet, walking about not leaving prints behind, and if you do your feet print history
I’m looking at them now,
but I can’t read
I’m not sure what happened. Or how…?
I just want to drink an ocean of alcohol
passive-watch movies that siphon rage
go to classical concerts full of fury, listen to poets
who have found something
to let somebody else do the darkness
the refined, articulate hurt that they’ve managed to
filter through all of their exhausted bewilderment how
Impotent. Invisible. I just want to sleep. only sleep.
it’s taking every ounce of my strength
to resist the rampage,
The terrible roar in me.
As predicted, each painting for #Selfie has had it’s own arc of becoming. They have all been surprises, have all taught me things I wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s been a privilege to be at the centre of this project and participate in the discovery, the shaping and polishing of each facet. Quite a geological process – I am changed by it, I know.
I sat down to pull the book together and realized that even though the whole project has a broader, wider arc I was still inside it, making. Still in process, still on the curve…
It became clear over the days of showing up for writing that this lovely broad #Selfie arch also had a corresponding shadow. As I walked along this one it became narrower, and darker, and steeper – in descent.
Then I realized, “Ah. This is personal now.”
also, “Ah. This is writing of Book”.
#Selfie has been a great collaborative experience – music, performance art, spoken word, poetry, well-considered response and story. Ron de Boer and staff, david sereda, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Coco Love Alcorn, Christopher McGruer, Paul Hartmann, Christian Wilke, Marcus Vichert, Norm Bell, Thom MacFarlane, Kate Walsh, John Fearnall, Brad Morley, Frank Klaassen… so many more who climbed in and on to add thought, response, notice, rhyme, feeling, rhythm, comment. Highly resonant, this idea of examining #Selfie.
Did I think it had already got personal, in the making of the paintings? Yes. Yes I did think that.
But the paintings were one of five components to #Selfie. There was also the collaborative performance; the collaborative spoken word; the blog (the way in to the paintings); and the book. The book is the larger arc – both visible and public, and invisible, personal. Not a compilation (though I thought that’s what it would be), not a summary or a closing paragraph. It has elements of those ideas, but the book needed to be a distillation of the experience into something …chewable.
So I wrote a folk tale.
It begins this way,
A girl was born with a sleeping wound buried deep inside her. She also had joy, which was clear for anyone to see.
While she was growing up, her family, who loved her very much, gave her another wound to keep, and buried it deep in her future. They also gave her love, which was clear for anyone to see.
They made the wound they gave her out of pieces of their own memories, fragments of their parent’s arguments, scattered bits of rage and anger that they had collected from behind the doors and under the carpets, in the chesterfield beneath the pillows, under the beds, under the kitchen sink. they put all of their hopes and dreams for her in the wound, and wrapped it all up in a beautiful cloth made from their love.
That was the way it had happened for them, the way it had always been, and the way it would always be.
I’ve loved the essential nature of Folk Tales for as long as I can remember. They don’t mess around with descriptive filler or emotional drama, but deliver metaphor in layers which the reader can take in and combine, to build their own image and intuitive response. Always I’m trying to do this with my paintings. This last #Selfie painting more than any of the others – possibly because of the book writing, and the Folk Tale…
When the time came for the girl to leave her parents and seek her fortune, everyone agreed that she was well-prepared. Beautiful and full of life, promise, intelligence and talent, it was clear that she would have no trouble finding success, fulfilment, happiness and love.
And so she did. As the years passed, everyone who knew her was reassured by the clean arc of her life, since This was the way it had happened for them, The way it had always been, The way it would always be.
She herself was happy, content and grateful for the comforts she enjoyed, until she came to the day in her future where her parents’ gift was buried.
Today from 6 until 8pm we will launch the book and this final #Selfie painting. The show will come down on August 8th, and then #Selfie will be in Chapter Two, which I’ve not written yet, but I shall. Here’s the link to that event if you’re nearby & on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/748736241853940/
The story to be told there is a more introspective one – it’s mine, certainly, but also it belongs to anyone who is pulled to #Selfie Examination. Good heavens there are riches there – fragility; audacity; strength; disempowerment; blind, mute sadness; singing joy; risk and nourishment. It behooves one to keep walking down the path….
In the story, the girl meets a Hermit. Then she meets the Great God Pan. Then she meets Baba Yaga, and ….
Well, write to me if you want the rest of the story. It belongs, I think, to all of us.