…day three relentless and me shrinking under the onslaught, smaller smaller until I smell like nothing at all not even fear you could walk through me and not even know it now, though I would feel it. Years ago I had a voice, strong in the chorus of strong but someone I trusted browbeat the spectrum out of me, left me pale at the edge of translucency here with my belly clenched just make it stop.
This was a good while ago. Both colour and strength return, wages of the effort taken to understand how I ever got myself into that place, how to get myself out and fully reclaim the good plan I had.
I choose to keep part of me violet always. To remember so I never disappear again.
Bullies are violet, though they glow red and hard orange when on a rampage. Those they torment inherit violet from them like a virus. Shrinking, small, unimportant, voiceless, underserving, angry-but-gagged violet.
Beautiful humble fragile wise violet.
Remove the ‘n’ and it becomes a flower.
There is no worship of injury here, no victimhood. Violet is the fragile place from which courage rises. Inside the smallness is the will to turn and claim your own strength, no matter how loudly the monster rages.
There is a secret person undamaged in every individual. (PH Shepard)
Drippy Sunday morning; the world outside has shrunk …which appropriately rhymes with Funk, because Funk is precisely what I’m in.
… niggly, prickly snappish me with a million essential things to attend to but instead I chop a fridge full of vegetables and chicken into tiny tiny pieces, beat up a dozen eggs, fry severed onions into carbon, do five sets of loud dishes and answer every question with a maximum of two wedged-out words …
“Mom, can I have a hug?”
Grunt. “May I.”
I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.
While chopping onions I feel grim satisfaction at my power to slice through, to un-make a still-living thing. While I feel this I think about art and manipulation and rage; growth and green and death which in turn makes more growth and green.
It is possible to smile though a clenched jaw.
Of course we are all far too busy for real sanity – what did Norm Bell tell me at the afternoon TOM Gallery opening today… that our generation is the last that has experienced what we now think of as ‘down’ time. (Link to a review of Michael Harris’ book, The End of Absence – thanks Norm)
I do remember, in my bones, what it felt like to be empty of everything but the sky I gazed into, far away from any connection to the rest of humanity or it’s obligations or measurements of my time and effectiveness and function.
I remember the micro sound of a caterpillar chewing leaves beside my head – wondering what the sound was, discovering it’s origin then …wondering in a larger way that I could hear it at all, so small a thing…
I write from tomorrow about that volatile place I was in. It has taken me to my studio, where I wake to the clutter of promise, the smell of colour, the yearn and memory of cello.
I know what to do, when yesterday I did not [I will dig into paleontology and paint artifacts]. Yesterday in the storm of my own inexplicable rage I felt battered and almost violently unexplained. At the gallery in a crowd of people I know well I felt awkward, too-strong and my words, like a pack of battling cousins came out sideways, fist or feet-first. Yesterday it was next to impossible to find compassion.
I’ve read somewhere recently about the making of art that it comes from these places of unexplained pain, answers the pain through process, then tells the story. This could be so, for those who must make art, must make, must … self-provoke?
I do love winter. We get more beautiful winters here than anywhere else in this vast province, (larger than France and Spain, combined). Perhaps it was the melting of the white into dirty brown that set me off unexpectedly, traversing the landscape through my own unstable lava fields. I know I’ve been missing green, and gardening, but I strongly suspect that there’s more to my rancour than this.
I have a day in my studio to paint, to practise and to tick things off the long list. Another tomorrow, then Wednesday and Thursday. Friday afternoon we will travel to Toronto to visit with good friends, and on Saturday I will visit the Zoo, which is wonderfully peaceful in the wintertime.
Our covenant with Winter: that there will be space and time to contemplate, to examine and re-examine, to be still. In the rich pianissimo of deep snow, quiet things sing their subtlety, small things hold great significance, and you can see the wind.
I cannot imagine a life without this.
I awake with the phone yelling in my ear (wrong number)- it’s 6:30am, cold, and still dark. I stumble into routine and before I know it, the cats have been fed, the coffee is made, and I am waking while I read something random. As the light rises to fill the window in front of me a thought-nugget registers – it’s a quotation from George Santayana (Life of Reason (1905) vol. 1, Introduction):
” Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim “
They’re good words. Enough to shock me awake….but we all have to sometime. Stay with me.
Santayana has the right of it – and not just for religious extremists, but also for myself and everyone I know. It behooves me then, to remember Why I’m doing what I’m doing – while I’m doing it. This is not so easy a thing when I have the bit in my teeth (these past two weeks for example).
I dig a little into George S. In vol. 4, ch.3 of the same work he says,
An Artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.
Another thought that requires at least one hundred thousand chews.
Then in chapter 8 of that voluminous work he says,
Nothing is really so poor and melancholy as art that is interested in itself and not in its subject.
Ah. Is this why I struggle? Or do I struggle to unwind the meaning here? Semantic brain rises….
But it is now 8, and I must leave off to begin the moving part of my day. Kid to school, load in to studio, copy, cut & tape the 12-page choir piece for string player functionality (Friday rehearsal, Sunday gig), practise – but damn, I left my cello at home, go get it. At 11:30, good friend Larry Jensen comes to rehearse for a gig we play together in a week (see below). After five minutes of work on the first tune (a tricky, subtle, soaring instrumental that L wrote), I forget George & his chewables completely. After the fourth song Larry plays for me (brand new, soft & hushed like winter) I’m wiping tears from my eyes, overcome. We keep working, I learn my parts, we tweak & pull, then some more and some more, and then we are done.
I’m more than done actually. I am entirely certain that I no longer need to do any work today (after 11 hours of string trios with the youth orchestra kids this past weekend and more teaching/coaching last night, that’s all the gas I have in my tank): home, to light the woodstove.
That done, and a few other things besides I come back to this page to find that my trolling this morning also caught this from George Eliot (1819- 1880):
I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.
How utterly appropriate is that? Two Georges, one day.
So now the woodstove is roaring behind me and the window in front is dark once again.
(see below for more info on next tuesday’s gigs).
PS. if you are here in town and can come to this show at the Bleeding Carrot, please do. These are rare nuggets of timeless beauty, and the more of us that gather to share the more the memory will glow. The juice you need to make it so is at the bottom of this post.
Earlier on the same night I mark World AIDS day at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound with my friend Richard Mascall and possibly one or two other special incredibles. Here’s the link for that – come & observe the brief vigil with us, or take a few moments on your own to think about everyone we lost, those who bore witness to their deaths, and those who still carry the virus.
You’ll notice an overlap in times – the venues are not far apart, and I will be in both places.