Inclusion

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 …

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“Mom, can I have a hug?”

Grunt. “May I.”

“….Yes.”

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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.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn't take away, even though it was tagged.  I don't want to think about it.
buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn’t take away, even though it was tagged. I don’t want to think about it.

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…

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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 miss this.
I miss this.

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.

I’ll say hello to the river otters for you,

river otter
river otter

Old things and dungeons

Grocery store “…ya, seven car pileup in Dundalk.  I’m not going home to London looks like…”

snowfort stories – there were three of us, so …  that’s when the snowbanks along the roads were 14  feet high- we used to run along the top and jump over the hydro lines… 

I guess some people like winter, probly they don’t have to shovel…  Better get extra, looks like we’re socked in…

detail from a painting I'm working on now.  I think it's about my parents...
detail from the painting on the wall in front of me. – a teacup I got from david sereda and Stuart Reid

I’m here in the warm painting light thinking about old things.  There’s nothing in this studio that isn’t grounded in history.  Even the studio space is specific to this – it was part of a ladies’ hosiery factory founded and run by one of my great-grandfathers (mother’s mother’s father) in the 1920s that at one time employed 200 women.  If I close my eyes I can hear them talking to one another in counterpoint to the rhythm of the knitting machines…

I just finished a painting that I’d thought was about a snaffle bit – a reference to Athena’s golden bridle that Bellepheron used to bend Pegasus to his will.  I was going to call it Unbridled – but that just shows how little I know.  It’s called Chalk Horse, and in this painting, she is a mare.  We have been locked in battle for a week, but I do get it now.  She’s lived in the Oxfordshire hills for somewhere near 3000 years, and is known as the Uffington Horse.  This week she’s been very much in my studio.

Snaffle bit?  Pah.  Stomp.

detail of the same painting
detail of the same painting – my father’s excellent chop saw.  I cut 1000 square feet of 1 & 1/4″ ash floor on this puppy.

There’s something about writing music or prose, about making paintings that demands utter openness and honesty.  It’s a place of utterly precious fragilit, but there’s nothing judgemental about it – it’s just that when an image rings true then it has become itself – that’s the work.  Any contrivance, any force of will or intention will just get in the way.  So you listen.  It’s got to be collaborative if it is to have any relevance to the world at all.

Good art is always relevant to the world – it’s the why of it.  Art, music, writing, dance, theatre,  – these immeasurable, difficult things are our best chance to change our minds about ourselves.  This is where the difficult questions get asked, the ones that require real honesty to answer.

Icegrotto3

We are all of us very good at building dungeons for ourselves, are we not?  As I listen to Leonard Cohen, at age 75, sing about his Secret Life, I think this must be so.  We build them of bits and pieces of our failures and from inherited shame, and keep the dark door shut, when instead we need to spend well-considered time there, alone with ourselves – it’s the hardest thing to do, perhaps.  For me, this is where I get humbled, every time – groping around in the dark for something I recognize, something that can hold a difficult beauty.

Icegrotto2

I emerge always with fewer words.

Gratitude.  That’s a good one.

Release

Every once in a while I see a bald eagle in the sky,  like poetry so beautiful and alive I stop breathing.

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We have entered the long cold of January.  Winter came early this year – two months ago –  to invite us deep inside where we can tend to the root of things, tune our eyes to the subtle colours of the great Hush.  This is permission to follow – slowly, slowly – a whispering line of thought down the long path, to pause at each wonder that emerges, then continue …

To walk on frozen water.

whouff.  I think that's the word.

An invitation to meet one’s Self, again and again in the cold and the warmth, in conversation, in music, in colour and in silence.  To introspect.

Positive and negative space; high contrast in the stark white days where eagles fly, fishing, the long nights where bears sleep under resplendent starlight.  This is when stories are found and told.  When songs are made and learned, paintings begun and finished.  When courage burns warm like a hearth-fire.

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The warm bustle of work begins soon.  Right now I find myself steeped and floating in gratitude.