It’s the 18th of December, one week before Christmas day. I’ve rehearsed and planned and delivered and engaged, I’ve painted and written and talked and sang and posted, I’ve cooked and sorted and laundered and cared-for and now all of a sudden on the eve of my first day off in what feels like centuries I’m hearing the call that maybe only dogs can hear, that no other human around me seems to acknowledge but nevertheless has got my full attention in this moment…
Basil Johnson once said to me, “Simple, and good – that’s all you need.” We’d been talking about art, and what makes it resonate with human culture in the short, medium and long term. As I remember, I’d been talkative and keen then – about socioeconomic indicators of health and growth, artists in the workplace and some utopian ideas around the political value of the arts as a generator of individual authenticity. In 2004 I was Cultural Capitals Coordinator for my town of 22,000, doing my best to imagine and then somehow impossibly manifest a bridge between national and local, micrososm and macrocosm, embracing all issues visible and audible under the sun. I’d been given my rein, was impossibly curious, – a single artist-mom on the eve of a lifelong marriage that would only last a decade. I was provocative, insistent and intense, flailing.
“What kind of painting do you do?”, he asked, in a pause I’d left open.
My answer was long and exhausting. He listened and gave me two words in exchange.
I heard them enough through all that noise in my head to swallow them whole and keep them alive in my belly. They sing to me now.
The planet, the politics, the migrations of people and animals; conviction, passion, intensity, art and music; friendship, hurt, joy and the passage of time…. our response can be simple. And good.
It’s a choice, to live and work that way.
I choose therefore to fill my tomorrow with simple rituals. Instead of a phone, a computer, a list of errands, I will make a breakfast, a burning, a giving-away, a silence. I will listen to what lies under all the Christmas noise.
This is good. Thanks, Basil. I can feel you smiling.
I’ve given myself two weeks to answer a list. On my list are relatively small goals but they are necessarily comprehensive, since the overall aim is to break through a log jam of old unfulfilled ideas, to clear out what is no longer useful or appropriate, and give form to the ones with a vigorous pulse. So.
Ten paintings finished and hung in a public space in two weeks.
Two public performances booked for cello ensemble, so that we HAVE TO polish these beautiful pieces, and present them.
(If you’re interested in hearing us: December 1 Aids Vigil at the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, and December 16 6:30pm at Owen Sound City Hall)
One new project for 2016, very dear to my heart, fleshed out and taken to the collaboration table.
Eight long hikes.
Three non-fiction books finished.
One grant application mentored and sent.
Five daily rituals carefully designed and established.