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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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#Selfie 19: The Writing of Book

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”.

'map' for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.
‘map’ for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

#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.

#Selfie Examination.

three of five images, underdrawing...
three of five images, underdrawing…

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.

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly
all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

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.

more colour
more colour, corrected drawing

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.

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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….

Final painting.  This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is... interpretive.  Come and see the original if you can.
Final painting. This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is… interpretive. Come and see the original if you can.

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.