Solo

Snow is both light and heavy, slow and fast, visible and not.

It’s a season of contrast.

WinterRose

I live in a Canadian province that stretches from Windsor/Detroit (on a latitudinal par with Northern California) to Hudson’s Bay – a stretch between 42 and 57N; from carolinian forest to tundra – “Ontario is Canada’s second largest province, covering more than 1 million square kilometres (415,000 square miles) – an area larger than France and Spain combined”, reports my provincial government.

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Somehow, after exploring many other places on the planet, I became the sixth maternal generation to live in the one small town in this enormous province that gets the biggest annual snowfall (and rainfall).  Owen Sound is nestled at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, which defines the west shore of Great Lake Huron and the rocky eastern shore of Georgian Bay.  A note:  I identify more with Georgian Bay than with Huron, which is like a lukewarm bath to swim in when all I want is the rejuvenating shock of cold water.  GB is 80% the size of Lake Ontario, second-deepest of the world’s largest inland freshwater lakes, and is guarded by a hothead Anishnabe god called Kitchikewana.  He called me back here from far far away and I came.  For good reason.

Pic by Vita Cooper, friend and artist.  12 street from the river, where I spend most of my time....
Pic by Vita Cooper, friend and artist.  Just right of centre you can see a brick building – I’m writing this from the top floor of it.

The geneaology is important in a personal way.  But the effect of all this falling water, both frozen/ light and heavy/ wet – that has shaped me and my understanding of the world in a very profound manner.

I think differently, because of it.

PicnicTable_Dec2013

Snow, here, is peace.  The wind on our walls;  the vast plain of white outside our windows;  the deeply understood value of fire and warmth; the call to our belly muscles as we shovel ourselves out of a four-foot blanket of confinement – we live in a kind of shared solitude that makes things clear and simple.

In an ocean full of the salt of complaint, I exult in my good fortune – to be Here.

 

 

 

Who designed this?

The Harness is off.  It’s over there on the floor.

Curious, to see this thing I’ve worn for 30+ years…  Who made it?  Why so tight?  Why the rough rope?  It’s ingenious, actually.  There’s a pull cord I see that will jab thumbtacks into my backside when I’m slowing down, and simultaneously tighten the collar around my neck…  added incentive to get through the last 10% of every project?

I recognize that this harness was designed by me, however unconsciously, from the inherited protestant ethic of Work as Suffering.  Life is work, therefore (inevitably) Life is Suffering.  Extrapolated:  If you don’t suffer, you’re not working hard enough.  This idea can take the joy right out of any task – even if it’s your highest calling.  It can in the extreme lead to the wearing of hair shirts, to self-flagellation, martyrdom/victimhood,  the false rationalization of the need to live like a starving artist …

up next.  Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy - to engage, or not.
up next. Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy – to engage, or not.

To be clear – I’ve had a super-productive, satisfying time since April, when I began work on the #Selfie project.  It’s been an experience full of engagement, surprise, transformation – rich with reward on every level.   I also met my harnessed self full-on several times, too, and recognized someone driven in a way that is not healthy.

With several new projects on the table now – each one full of promise, potential and fascination, I find myself wondering about this.  As I take the breath one takes before diving in, I wonder

Do I really need the thumbtacks?

Does it need to come to suffering and self-denial, this finishing?

Must it be a battle, every time?

 

resist underpainting
resist underpainting

At the very least I need to radically alter the design.  To find and use material that I like – softer, padded. No thumbtacks, no injectors full of anxiety, no neck collar.   Maybe it should be more like a well-crafted tool that will help me to pull a heavier load.

Or maybe the work isn’t heavy, and I don’t need a harness at all.

This is quite a thought.

dance step 2 resist underpainting.  The power is in the space between
dance step 2 resist underpainting. The power is in the space between

Maybe I just need to change my mind.

This is exciting.  So is 2014-2015.  So many neato, challenging collaborative and solo projects ahead.  So many Incredibles to work and play with.  Without suffering for any of it.

So, Honoured Protestant Ancestors.  What you lived and suffered in protest to is no longer life-threatening; the ethic no longer applies in any way that’s healthy and life-affirming.  Sleep in peace, with big smiles.  Grins, even.

 

“If you bring forth the genius within you it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.”

– Jesus, gnostic Gospel of Thomas (which didn’t make it into the bible.  Too bad.)