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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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Disruption

Pick yourself up off the floor, sweetheart, and go figure out what success means to you now. Way you go now, that’s it.
The drama’s just a distraction you made up to keep you down there, so drop it.
Get up, and get going.

IMG_0004Something has happened; my starting point has shifted. No, it’s more than that – have shifted  – into someone I only partly recognize.

I think I like her. Not sure yet.

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Self-study Arts Based Research for my Masters since March 2019 took me back through 5 years of notes, journals, blogs, photos, paintings, drawings, poems, shows, courses, jobs, gigs… inspired me to write an allegorical story that features seven swans I met on the highway in February. I wrote a paper to support the story  and both are now being honed and polished by this new, still foreign me. I thought the honing would be simple – just polishing, enriching a little.

Ha. Enter the Me whose father has passed on, who returned from a first solo trip to Europe/UK in a decade.

Who IS this person?

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I do trust her. I trust Me and whatever is going on with this process, even though I feel more than a bit blind.

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My question was about transformation, transition, while examining all aspects of the idea, the principle of inclusivity.

It’s a good question. A related question occurred to me last fall as I read books in my cabin in the middle of a forest beside a big lake: why is this trouble with inclusivity so specific to humans?

Another related question emerged when I found myself in the midst of an ocean of tourists, trying to sort out who we are, together, now, as the world changes so dramatically all around us. Levels of inclusivity: I can get lost in the streets of Firenze, but unless I take a risk and connect meaningfully with someone who lives there I will not be invited to a family gathering, or learn what it feels like to be Italian, in Tuscany.

To be a tourist is to be excluded from what is actually happening around me, as I pass through a place. Money alone does not buy meaningful, healthy human connection.

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Then I applied inclusivity to the complex world of Family. As children, parts of us get excluded, while other parts are accepted as normal and appropriate to the Family ‘culture’.

I don’t think anyone escapes this kind of ‘pruning’ as a kid – it’s the nature (and perhaps purpose) of Family. But then what is revealed as the Family knot gets unraveled?

All those previously excluded bits come to the dinner table. A very interesting conversation ensues.

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Foundations of understanding crack when the tectonic plates beneath them shift, and so doubt and discomfort, a sense of deep powerlessness over the way things change; I wasn’t expecting to be be working this deeply now.

Of course also the corollary: I knew I’d be different when I started this.

Now I’m different.

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Pick yourself up, Sweetheart. Figure it out.

And go jump in the lake.