Monday, December 24, 2012

Scenes from a summer Christmas...

A few pics, before I disappear for a few days!  Merry Christmas to everyone!

The last piece of unwrapped panforte, because I forgot to take any before I cut them up, and wrapped them!

A munchkin who wants some!

Little nativity on top of the heater (which won't get turned on until late May or early June!)

Our family room with Christmas tree (and guitars, which seem to be multiplying!)

The Green Lady who watches over us all year round.

This is about as tidy as it ever gets!

A small dragon caught in the flash.

The tree...and the other tree (an ex-light pole made of jarrah) which holds our house up!



Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Wolf Bride"...music, of the non-christmassy type...and happy Summer Solstice!...

(Oh, and happy Solstice everyone!  Here it is midsummer, and I look forward to the gradual slanting AWAY of the sun, though we have long, hot, stifling months to get through yet!)

I thought the last post would be my...well, last...for the year.  But inspiration strikes when we least need it sometimes!  I've made some panfortes, I've wrapped most of the presents, the house is semi-clean, so this morning I lay in bed with the beginnings of a song going round in my head.  This had its genesis a few days ago.  I was laid up on the couch with one of my shocking headaches, and when I cop one of these, there is nothing much I can do but lie down, wait it out...and think.  It gives me some small comfort, to weigh against the depressing fact that I probably lose one and a half to two months out of every year to headaches of one kind or another, that occasionally the enforced stillness and thinking produces an idea for a painting, a song, a poem, or SOMETHING so I can tell myself it's not time totally wasted.  I was pondering the problem of my song 'Beauty Remembers'.  Not a problem in itself, but to perform it requires about 10 minutes of explanation.  That's what happens when you change a beloved and well-known fairytale to suit yourself, and then write a song about the END of it!  So it occurred to me that the best way to avoid a long and boring introduction would be to tell the WHOLE story through song (and perhaps some spoken words/poems).  A 'Beauty Song Cycle' if you like.  I didn't think anymore of it then, and the last few days have been a bit mad.  But this morning the thought returned and woke me early and then wouldn't let me get back to sleep.  So I wrote another song.  It's still very rough and I don't think it's actually finished, but I really wanted to get it down quickly, because if I don't, by the time all the Christmas chaos is over, I won't remember the tune at all!

So here is 'Wolf Bride', which is Beauty explaining (well, I hope it explains) why she loves the Beast and why she doesn't need him to turn into a man.  After this, I'd better start thinking a bit more clearly about how many songs I need and roughly what each of them need to say.  And once they're all written and perfect (ha ha), I'll need someone willing to sit and listen for a half hour or so.  But first things first. Create the songs, worry about audiences later!



And if I get really keen, I might post some photos of our decorations and so forth later.  I've gone a bit bonkers on bunting (making bunting can become an addiction, I've discovered), but I think I like it better than tinsel.  I've also been painting and making things for little people and relatives...phew!  Unfortunately all my prayers for a cool Christmas day have gone unanswered and it looks like it will be another scorcher, about 40˚C (or just over the old century).

We finished 'The Hobbit' this morning.  Well, I actually finished it last night, and closed the book to discover the munchkins fast asleep on the sofa next to me.  So I had to read the last chapter again today.  I'm going to start Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' tonight, despite our weather, it seems an appropriate choice in regard to the time of the year, and the fact that biggest munchkin is 11 just like Will in the book.  And it will be such a pleasure to revisit a childhood favourite!

Late addition:  The lyrics, in case they're not clear

Wolf bride - Beauty song cycle (© Christina Cairns Dec 2012) 


The stories will tell you it takes one kiss
The stories will tell you it takes just one kiss
But I don’t need stories to make a prince of you
I would have you no other way than this.

You are my wild and terrible one
In Nature’s great (pure?) image made.
You are my wild and beautiful one
And I would have you no other way.

This talk of curses and kisses
Conceived in the minds of small men
Why in God’s name would I choose one of them
When I have you (a king?) instead?

Why would I want a mere man in my bed
When I have a whirlwind, a tempest, a storm.
Your howling cry wakes something deep inside
I choose the river, the mountain, the snow
I choose to be the Wolf Bride.

I have lived among men long enough
To know they are petty and cruel,
They beat their wives, they lie to their friends
They beat (starve?) their children too.

And you, with the strength to tear me apart
Have not touched a hair on my head
Your wild eyes full of truth, no guile in your soul
Why would I not give you my heart.

So I will choose mountain, and river and snow
And I will let the wild in my own heart grow.
I will choose the great (rough?) beast, I will walk by his side
I will be no other’s but the great wolf’s bride.

The stories will tell you it takes one kiss
The stories will tell you it takes just one kiss
But I don’t need stories to make a prince of you
I would have you no other way than this.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas...peace and goodwill to all

We are nearly at the end of another year.  A year of pain and sorrow for so many, and my heart goes out to all of them.  I hope 2013 will bring peace, and compassion, and hope for us all.

As for me, I am my usual disorganised self, and have not sent out my cards, nor even made my usual 'every-christmas-without-fail' panfortes in time to post them to far-flung loved ones (sorry little brother, maybe a new year panforte?!).  I'm feeling a bit numb by this time, the over-commercialisation just depresses me, even when I find myself getting caught up in it.  I long for something simpler, cleaner, quieter.  Christmas carols, real ones, not 'Frosty the Snowman'.  Sung by people I know, not pre-recorded by the latest pop sensation.  Family and friends and small gifts, home-made or chosen with care.  A story about a tiny baby, small children dressed up as shepherds and kings and tripping over their dads' old dressing gowns.  And hope.  Hope, compassion and peace for us all, no matter what spiritual creed we follow, no matter where we are.

And so, I wish you ALL a safe, joyful, peaceful Christmas season, and a happy and hopeful new year. Follow your dreams, be creative, love and be loved...and don't forget to fly.

With love and hope,
Christina

I must not forget how to fly (detail.  © 2007)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hobbits and Jam and Spring in the garden...


I am currently reading The Hobbit to the munchkins, the beautiful Alan Lee illustrated one above.  As the movie will be out soon, and we will probably take the girls along to see it, I wanted them to hear the story and to be able to create their own pictures in their heads first.  I started last Wednesday, after a day of dusting and cleaning (along with a lot of coughing and sneezing!), and so my poor voice was croaky and not the best.  It's been a long time since I've read The Hobbit, so I'd forgotten I'd be required to voice 13 dwarves, 1 wizard, and various trolls and goblins...AND sing all their songs!  I was very tempted to make the youngest dwarves, Fili and Kili, either very camp, or perhaps castrati, just so my poor voice could have a rest from all the 'deep and booming'.  Bilbo was the only respite, bless him. So when I got to the goblins a couple of nights ago, they seemed to naturally develop rather higher pitched, whiny voices!

The songs are fun though, and Tolkien's lyrics and rhythms are simple enough that it's quite easy to just make up a tune on the spot, which is fine until the munchkins decided they liked one song so much they had to hear it again.  I tried to explain that it wouldn't be quite the same, but they insisted.  So I sang it again, sort a bit like the first time, and the next morning I heard them singing it together, reading the lyrics from the book as they went.  Last night, they sat drawing as I read, and produced their own illustrations.

Mr Bilbo Baggins, and a generic dwarf, by littlest munchkin.

A Goblin guard, by biggest munchkin.

One of the Warg wolves (with more than a passing resemblance to Flynn, with a bad case of Rabies perhaps!), by biggest munchkin.

Do you see what I mean!?

Other than Hobbit duty, I've been busy with work, though I'm back to part-time till the end of the school year (on the 19th Dec).  Which is good because there is LOTS to do.  The Apricot tree has become far too dangerous to sit beneath for afternoon tea, due to the kamikaze apricots that fling themselves towards unsuspecting victims, which mean it's JAM time.  We've made our first batch, but there's a bumper crop, so I'm going to need to go on a jar hunt.  I think I'll make chutney again too, last year's went rather well (if I do say so myself!)  We've just about finished off our last year's jam supply, so we get enough for presents for Christmas and to do us for a whole year.  Pretty damn good I think, especially when the tasteless, floury things that pass as apricots in the supermarket cost between $10 and $15 a kilo!
Kamikaze apricots all over the ground.

But there's plenty more...or at least there was, before the wild weather of the last few hours brought several more kilos tumbling down!

We've also been busy with the front yard, tarting it up and putting in more vegie boxes.  We emptied out the worm farm casings onto the main vegie box about 3 months ago, with a view to preparing the bed for spring planting.  But we must eat a lot of tomatoes, because pretty soon the entire bed was covered in seedlings just popping up from the worm farm!  So we left it, and have been eating our own self-seeded tomatoes ever since.  And they taste SOOOO much better than the supermarket ones!  We've got more tomatoes, corn, beetroot, eggplant (aka aubergine), and plenty of herbs, so the front garden is looking pretty good now.  Phew!


The Herb patch next to the cubby...fenced off because Flynn likes to dig in it!

New vegie boxes in the front yard.  I'm not sure if the corn will still be standing tomorrow though!

These tomatoes are just about at the end of their productivity, but there's a few more on there.

The Elderflower is blooming again...but still no scent whatsoever...sigh!

Another rogue that popped up out of the worm farm casings.  I think it's a pumpkin (?), though it seems unlikely, as we never have them due to the fact that biggest munchkin will not touch them.

The Lolly tree, or at least as good as, in my opinion.  The kids adore raiding it as soon as they get home from school...though I try to get them to change out of their school clothes FIRST!

The vegie boxes again.  Though they may not look like this tomorrow!

Wow, we have had some WEATHER in the last few hours!  High speed winds and lashing rain.  Not very 'springy' at all.  In fact, I'm wearing my 'ugg' boots and a jumper at the moment.  I had to go and dig them out after packing up the 'winter clothes', positive I'd finished with them for this year.  I imagine our back lawn will be covered in squished apricots tomorrow morning, and everything in the front yard may well be horizontal.  As long as the trees...and the house...aren't!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beautiful music!

Time, where do you slip away to?!  I seem to be so busy lately with work (full time again for a few weeks), and gardening (it's Spring here and we've been putting in new vegie boxes), and just...life.  I haven't been very creative at all.  But I'd like to share something beautiful and creative with you, not from myself, but from my very talented 'little' brother, in his band of two, The Malakoff Street Orchestra.  Two songs, a Nirvana cover, and an utterly gorgeous original.  Enjoy!



Friday, September 28, 2012

The failure of language part 2: transparency

Just before you read Part 2 (if I haven't completely lost you already!), I wanted to share this because it seemed so pertinent to Part 1.  I began watching it, and even before the 'voice' of the snail was heard, it dawned on me that showing the snail up that close, focussing on it as if it was the most important thing to look at, made me a) aware of how beautiful it was, and b) how awful I'd feel if the next bit of footage showed someone casually stepping on it.  I've done that myself, I'm sure we all have, especially when I find them munching on my baby lettuce plants.  But suddenly, just looking really closely made me see the snail properly, as a fellow creature, an individual, worthy of kinship in some way.





The transparent transferal of knowledge...or not!

Colonial history shows us that one of the best ways of destroying a people is to destroy their language, because with it you destroy their culture: their stories, their history, their connection to each other and their connection to the land. In the colonial past, we gave the colonized people our language in return (believing it would have some kind of ‘civilising’ influence), which often did not have the words that they needed to describe their way of living, and so, their way of living, their way of perceiving/experiencing the world, dies. I'm sure we've all heard the cliche of the Inuit people having fifty words for snow. It’s not strictly true, but if a language that has words for concepts familiar and known to the people who speak it dies out, and there are no words that exactly match in any other language, then isn't it inevitable that those concepts will either disappear completely, or be changed and corrupted by using words that can never quite fit? We think that we create culture, that we create language to be a tool of our culture, but the truth is it’s often the other way around. Our culture shapes us, how we think and how we behave. And so does the language we speak. My eight year old said to me the other day, “imagine if there was no word ‘it’, mummy, what would we use instead?” Without really stopping to think I replied that there would probably just be another word that meant the same thing. But then I thought, what if there wasn’t? Imagine a language with no word for ‘it’?! How would that shape a culture, a people? And then I thought, imagine if there was no word for ‘hate.’ Can you hold a concept without a word to name it?  It's a bit of a 'chicken and egg' problem, but I don't believe that it all goes one way.  I do believe that language 'frames' our view of the world.  And I wonder sometimes what's outside the frame.

I remember reading years ago that early missionaries to the pacific islands had some trouble translating the notion of ‘the lamb of god’ to the islanders they were trying to convert, as these people had never seen sheep. So they settled for ‘a small woolly pig’ in the local language. On the surface it might seem close enough, but it cannot possibly hold all the centuries of information, the layer upon layer built up like an archeological site of interpretation, of experiences, of meanings. What on earth would the islander people have made of a 'saviour god' who is described simply as an animal you eat.  Language is not a transparent medium through which ideas can pass unchanged from one person to another. In terms of translating from one language to another, what do you do when you encounter idioms, slang, metaphors, culturally specific jokes or references to things that are well known within the original, but not in the new language? You really have two choices, and both are flawed. You either translate literally, and leave readers bewildered, unable to access the meaning. Or you find a similar(ish) metaphor or idiom your readers will be familiar with and use that instead. And something is lost. Sometimes it’s difficult even within the same language. If I say, “a couple of tinnies short of a six-pack,” or “too many roos loose in the top paddock”, do you understand immediately what I’m saying?

When I was studying literature at Uni, I became fascinated with what I was learning about communication, culture and language. I know there is theory upon theory upon theory, and perhaps sometimes academics are in danger of disappearing up their own arses in search of the ‘truth’, whatever that might be. But so much of it rang true for me. I was taught the ‘postmodern’ idea that each of us is an individual shaped by our unique experiences, and that we therefore bring our past experiences to everything we see/hear/experience now. Remember what I said about the brain interpreting new data depending on context and past experience. So while we might all share lots of the same information about a given thing, and the closer we are in terms of age, upbringing, sex, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, education and so on, the closer that info will be, there will always, always be a layer of experience that is ours alone, that will influence and inform whatever we see/hear/experience, so in a sense, we can never truly share the exact same experience. It will be different and unique for each of us. If I haven’t said that very well (this is a post about the failure of language, after all!), I’ll try and explain. Take the word…

tree. It’s a pretty simple word in the English language, only four letters, and we all know what it means. Don’t we? But if someone says ‘tree’ to me, will I see/feel/remember the same tree that you do? Tree to me is, obviously, a tall thing with bark and branches, it grows out of the ground, it has green leaves, it creates shade. Sure, we all know that. But tree is also…the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, the tree Adam and Eve are supposed to have eaten the fruit of. If you come from a Judeo-Christian western culture, you’re probably familiar with all that. It's the trees of the Amazon basin that are being cut down at a terrifying rate. The trees that breathe out the oxygen we all need to live. The family tree. Tree is also the thing that moves some to tears of joy (if you’ve read the poem by William Blake), the thing that breathes largely the luminous breeze (if you’ve read D.H. Lawrence’s poem). Tree is Yggdrasil, the world tree of Norse mythology, that Odin hung from in return for knowledge. Tree is the link between upper, middle and underworld in some shamanic traditions. Tree is where the mad king Suibhne of Irish legend spends his days. Tree is the home of Robin Hood, and the Secret Seven (at least in one book!) Tree is the mighty oak of European legend, the Druid tree where the sacred Mistletoe could be found. The evergreen holly tree that promises the return of spring. The weeping willow overhanging the banks of rivers where who knows how many ‘murder ballads’ have set their scene. The Magic Faraway Tree, “all shall find the light at last, silver on the tree”, “tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree”, the old man of the apple tree who must be left the last apple or there’ll be no harvest next year. Ents. The majestic Karri Trees that grow down south, tall and utterly awe inspiring, like being in a green cathedral.  The beautiful jarrah trees, their warm red (and very hard) wood cut down and turned into blocks to pave roads in London (or so I believe) and are still being cut down.  I could go on...and on (!), but I won’t. I’m sure many of you will recognize some, most, even all these trees. These are just a few of the ones I can think of off the top of my head. And there are many, many more that I’ve never come across, from other cultures, places, times. But then, there are my trees. There is the liquid amber tree that grew in my grandmother’s backyard, shedding red gold all over the lawn and the rose garden every autumn, and the Jacaranda I used to climb, though I wasn’t supposed to. There were the red gums I climbed in the bush behind our house when I was a child, the pear tree and the greengage by the washing line. The big willow out the front of a house we rented for a while, with the swing on it.  Do you know these trees? Or the giant pine at the bottom of my friend’s garden, the trees down in Whistlepipe Gully that I gave names and called the Guardians? There is my oak tree too, only a memory now, where I was married and where I said goodbye to my little one. There is the tree in the courtyard here, that my girls climb and sit in to sing. The weeping mulberry that every year promises blue stained fingers and tongues and feet too, the baby oaks in their pots, children of my memory oak, waiting for the day we can find our place in the country and they can be planted out to grow tall. All this and more lies at the heart of the word ‘tree’ for me. All these meanings intersect and weave together in utterly unique ways.  Even mistakes; things misheard, misread or misunderstood, and then reheard, reread or re-understood correctly, add to these intertwining layers.  And each one of us carries this kind of vast store of layered meaning...for almost every word in our language. It’s why I love poetry, it’s what makes poetry happen. All those shared meanings…and yet it’s also what makes the poem I read just a bit different to the one you read, even when it’s the same poem. 

These layers upon layers of meaning, the ambiguity between message sent and message received are some of the things I love about language, that make it such a marvelous medium. The discrepancies, the double/triple/infinite meanings of individual words, the gradual sliding of definition between generations, these are what make poetry and song and story so powerful, so redolent with meanings built up over aeons. It can be a marvelous tool, a beautiful flawed thing. If you understand it is not transparent.

Language is, at best, a translucent medium. It is impossible for an idea, an experience, to be passed from one person to another entirely intact, without any loss or change in meaning. If we are similar people of similar backgrounds and beliefs, it will pass more fully. But there will always, always be a certain amount of ‘energy’ dissipated, or transformed into something else in this exchange. There will always be the core of meaning, the seed, that remains utterly incommunicable, that remains ours alone. A secret that can never be shared.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The failure of language part 1: forgetting

'Babel-On'  an attempt to communicate the failure of communication (how post-modern is that?!)


There is something utterly contrary, I'm sure, about writing a blog post about the failure of language. Add to that the fact that I have a degree in Literature and a life-long love affair with language, and it seems positively mad. I'm an artist and a scribbler, a poet-in-training, a closet writer. I'd like to be able to communicate my ideas, my thoughts, to others and see what they make of them. Heck, that's why I write a blog! But therein lies the rub.

Often I find myself wanting to write, to grab hold of those ideas floating around in my mind, to put them out there so that perhaps others can make sense of them. But I find myself stymied over and over again by the inability to find words that can in any way communicate what I'm feeling. Right now, this moment, my fingers have been hovering ineffectually over the keyboard because I cannot begin to sort out the whirling mass of pictures, impressions, feelings, snippets of heard/read/seen/smelt/touched experiences. That the books I've been reading, the blog posts, the music I've listened to (and created), the smell of rain, and the sound of wind, the art I've seen (and created), my daughter telling me this morning that she couldn’t tell the difference between the birds singing in the garden and the birds on the relaxation CD playing in our family room...all this collides and coalesces into something of meaning. But I can't explain what. I feel it, but I can't put it into words, even for myself. Even when I do find some words that seem to work, I inevitably discover that the simple act of fitting to the words somehow limits and diminishes the thought behind them. Rather like trying to capture a rainbow in a quick sketch with a black ballpoint pen. Something is lost. And if we can't pin it down with words...we have a tendency to dismiss it. A lived experience that cannot be turned into words and 'communicated' somehow, in this society, has no validity. In fact we've almost gone beyond that, to the point where an experience has more validity if you watch it on your mobile phone while recording it and then post it on Facebook, than if you actually just watch it.

I mentioned in my previous post that I've just finished reading David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous. I cannot give you a quick three sentence summary, all I can do is say, read it. But it's got me thinking about language. About how we use language, what we expect it to do (and what we think it does), and how we elevate it (especially the written word) beyond the wordless, felt experience. How we decide what is language, and what is not, how we assign status accordingly. And how, ultimately, it so often fails us.  Abram's book dares to suggest that maybe humans aren't the only ones with language, and it's our definition of language as being the sole realm of humans that has, at least in part, led to the way we view the world as being inanimate, dumb, silent and devoid of meaning, and therefore, easy to exploit and easy to destroy. We even do it to each other. How often have Colonial overlords dismissed the rich and redolent tongues of native peoples as being "babble", and done everything they could to stamp them out?

We use language to explain the world and what cannot be communicated (or communicated to) in words is dismissed.  We trust it to communicate transparently ideas and experiences from one person to another.  And we believe that language is a tool we are in control of. We created it, it serves us. And yet, I think we are wrong.  I think that human language fails on all counts. I won’t try to explain all three in one blog post…so this is part one. 

As David Abram’s suggests, we have taken written human language (particularly the language/s of the Western World) and put it on a pedestal, and in doing so, we have dismissed the languages of the other citizens of the earth, where once we understood and even ‘spoke’ them. It might seem stupidly romantic or daftly ‘new age’ to talk about the language of trees, or rivers, or conversing with magpies or wallabies. But Abram doesn’t mean it in the sense of carrying on a conversation as we know it…’so how’s your day been? Boss getting on your nerves again?’ He means rather, that allowing ourselves the time and space (and the silence) to listen, really listen, to other animals or rivers or oceans or trees, will allow us to understand them, to bring them back into our lives from which they have been missing for too long.  Time spent patiently listening to the songs of a particular bird will inevitably bestow enormous understanding of that bird’s life. Different songs will become discernible, subtle differences depending on season and lifecycle will become clear. Furthermore, how that bird’s life interacts with the other creatures in the area, with you, will also be understood. You may find yourself thinking, ‘the birds are singing their autumn song’ and even though you yourself haven’t felt the coming of the cooler season, you know, because the birds told you. In a documentary I once saw about the pacific islands, a Samoan elder was featured, a man who could navigate vast distances (like his ancestors before him) across the ocean simply by ‘reading’ the waves and the winds. By understanding the language of wind and water and stars and fish, he always knew exactly where he was and how far from land. It would seem mumbo jumbo to modern westerners to say he could understand the language of the waves, but really, that’s what he was doing. It just depends on your definition of language. Indigenous peoples with an intimate understanding of their surroundings, of their place within the greater community of beings, and a relationship with those beings, have sometimes seemed to westerners to have almost ‘mystical’ abilities to track, or find food, or predict weather, or see things and hear things invisible and inaudible. It’s led to rather patronizing notions like the ‘noble savage’, or the idea that native peoples are closer to nature and therefore more like native fauna than people in their own right. And also to the ‘well, if I can’t see/hear it, it must just be superstitious nonsense,’ attitude.

What was so interesting about Abram’s writing, is that he describes how he, a westerner brought up in cities and used to the western way of thinking/experiencing, found that his perceptions shifted after he began living among the wise ones of the cultures he was studying. That he began to experience the world in a very different way, seeing and hearing things he’d never noticed before. As if his eyes began to see properly and his ears became unblocked, and a whole unimagined world opened up. It’s not that he started seeing spirits or ghosts, but he started to notice, to see and hear the whole of what was going on around him, not just the human part. More telling though, is his description of how he tried to hold on to this new and heightened perception when he returned to the US, but eventually found it being muffled and drowned out by the noise, the constant onslaught of human created communication. That eventually he found himself becoming blind and deaf to the voices and experiences of the non-human world. That eventually, he went back to the way he had been before, the way the rest of us are. The way we presume is normal. And he experienced an intense sense of grief for this loss, having known there is so much more.

We like to think we experience ‘reality’ objectively. But even science tells us now that what we think is real is actually a perceived construct. Our brain doesn’t tell us what our eyes see. It tells us what it thinks they see. Our ears send data to the brain, and the brain interprets what we are hearing according to what it already knows. It makes decisions depending on context and past experience. It also prioritises information. Which means, anything it doesn’t think is important, gets pushed aside. So if you don’t hear the bird singing it’s not because it isn’t there. You don’t hear it because your brain has learnt that it doesn’t need to pay any attention to it. So you don’t hear the difference between two bird calls, you don’t hear the subtle change in a river’s babble, you don’t hear the swing of direction in the wind blowing the leaves of the tree. You don’t see the change in ripple patterns on the water’s surface that signals the fish below arcing away. Often now, we don’t even notice where the sun is coming up and going down. So, in Abram’s argument, there is in fact a vast wealth of communication, conversation, information that we are utterly cut off from, and we are much, much poorer for it. We only see and hear a tiny fraction of what is actually out there. And if we can’t see or hear it, we won’t value it, we won’t care for it, we don’t notice the impact we’re having on it. And we won’t notice when it’s gone. Somehow, in a terrible irony, we have used language, the medium through which we communicate, to build a wall between ourselves and all the rest of creation. And having built that wall, we’ve forgotten there’s something beyond it. Something we used to be a part of. Our language has made us deaf. 

(And speaking of the failure of language, I wanted this post to be so much more...beautiful, poetic, than it is.  Unfortunately, sometimes the craftsman cannot blame his tools, it is his own lack of skill that is the problem.  Once again the words just don't match the cloud of thoughts in my head!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today is International Day of Peace


I do not believe that peace is an airy-fairy notion existing only in some rarefied place where angels sing and float around on clouds. Peace builds schools and hospitals, it makes gardens in wastelands, and rescues beached whales and abandoned children, it has mud on its boots and dirt under its fingernails. It is as real as anything else humans have believed in, and in believing, have created.

I believe the world is beautiful.  If you believe it too...
it will be.


(editing to add this, which I've just discovered and believe is worth sharing!)


(and this because I couldn't decide)


(and this!)


And here's the link to Playing for Change
http://playingforchange.com/

Being still...

It's an enforced stillness...somehow I managed to twist a muscle in my back (doing something as utterly inane as cleaning the bathroom basin), and have been doing not very much at all since Monday, apart from sitting propped up with cushions.  It's temporary I know, nothing seriously damaged, just painful and will take time to heal.  I'm certainly not the most go-getting, active, out there person, but enforced stillness is hard even for me.  It's made me aware of how little we ever allow ourselves to be still.  To listen.  To notice.  I like to think I am a fairly observant person, but there is something about not choosing the time or place to be still that seems to make you more acutely aware of...the squeaking of the tree branches on the roof of the courtyard, the sound of the wind in the tall palm in the backyard a few blocks down from mine, the sound of the wind chimes, a plane going over right now, the pattern of shadow falling across the couch I'm sitting on.  A bird chirping (not a dove this time, though there are plenty of them around now it's Spring).  On Monday I watched and listened, and wrote a short poem, not very good, but a true response.
This morning
I watched.
As the wind chimes turned slowly, silently
evidence of something I cannot see
nor hear. 
The leaves gently bowed and shadows
moved
to a breath of warm air, slow and
soft.
And I marvel as if at something 
I have not seen
or heard 
before.
For indeed, I think that I
have not.
The other thing I have done is to finally finish a book I started reading almost two years ago.  "The Spell of the Sensuous" by David Abram.  It's a difficult book to summarise, but it is profound and thought provoking.  It offers an alternate way of seeing and experiencing the world.  Not as some kind of new age spirituality, rather more as an extremely old way of experiencing the world. Simply that, the world around us is not inanimate and silent, but rather that we humans have become deaf to the conversations going on all around us, because we have forgotten how to listen, how to hear, and how to speak to, the rest of creation.  And that this forgetting, this terrible loss, is what has led us to be able to treat not only the natural world and other species with contempt, but even other humans.  We no longer know intimately the changes of the seasons, we don't understand the birdsong we hear (if we hear it at all) so we have no idea what kind of birds might be making it, or why, so we don't know that the songs they are singing would tell us they are nesting and bringing up young so we go ahead and cut down the tree they are living in without a second thought, without understanding of the impact we are having.  And that this knowledge and understanding is something our ancestors took for granted.  It's not that we can speak the same language as a bird, it's that an intimate knowledge of our place, and all the creatures we share it with, teaches us what different birdsong means.  And we've lost this completely.  This is just one small example.  It is everywhere and permeates everything we do.  I've had conversations with people who do not know which direction the moon rises in.  People who are utterly unaware of the fact that the the position of the sun (well, the earth actually!) changes with the seasons.  How can we be so divorced from reality?  And yet, I think so many of us feel a deep, deep sense of yearning, of loss, for this knowledge.  Yet so cut off are we, that we don't even understand what it is we are grieving for.

Just after I started reading the book, I found myself watching "Narnia: Prince Caspian" with my girls one evening, and as often happens, the two collided and created a question, a thought.  I scribbled it on the inside cover so I wouldn't forget.  

"It's the 14 Jan 2011 and I'm on page 95.  But I wanted to write this down while I'm still thinking about it.  We all watched "Narnia: Prince Caspian" last night, and watching it after reading this was fascinating...I must go back and re-read the book to see how much of it is original.  The four Pevensie children come back to Narnia, but hundreds of years have passed.  Cair Paravel is in ruins, and Narnia has been invaded and taken over by a warlike race of humans who attempted to (and believed they had) 'eradicated' all the Narnian 'savages'.  The world of Narnia has changed dramatically.  Where previously all the animals spoke, the trees were inhabited by animate spirits, dryads, and could move and speak, the land itself was in many ways, SENTIENT; now the trees, according to DLF (the dwarf the children rescue), have retreated so far into the earth they no longer CAN move or speak, they are 'just trees', and many (if not most) animals have forgotten how to speak and 'gone wild'.  As DLF says, "get treated like a dumb animal long enough, and that's what you become.". The children are perplexed when a bear attacks Lucy, they don't understand why it wouldn't talk to her.  Lucy is saddened to find the trees silent and unresponsive.  Narnia has become like our world.  When Aslan comes, he reawakens the land, calling the trees up from their sleep, and summoning the river spirit to destroy the invading army.  Watching the movie after reading this, it's like a vision of how our world might once have been (well, slightly less 'Disney'!).  As if we have a memory of how things once were, how they SHOULD BE, and though we might think it's just imagination, the longing for that is there deep within us.  I can't remember how much, how obvious this might have been in C.S. Lewis' original vision, but it doesn't actually matter, that yearning is tangible in this modern re-telling, retold for OUR time.  When we envision Utopia, it is a SENTIENT Utopia, where we live in harmony with plants and animals, rivers and rocks, and can speak to them."

If we think a little further along these lines, we have the Ents in Lord of the Rings, we have Avatar.  We have Harry Potter showing us there is magic all around us, but we are too blind to see the mermaids in the lake.  There is much more I could write, but this is awfully long already.  I'll leave you with a couple of links to other blogs that have informed and influenced my thinking on this.

Terri Windling, of course.  So many of her posts are utterly inspiring.  She has lately written several posts that have made me stop and think more and more about this.  And over at the Earthlines blog, Sharon Blackie has written eloquently herself, and included the writings of others, about belonging to a place, learning it's language and coming to an understanding of it that can only come from being a PART of it, not APART from it.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Busy...but had to share this!

I've been working full-time the last few weeks, and though I have enjoyed it thoroughly, I'm looking forward to doing something creative in the next few, now I'm back to two days work a week.  I'm itching to write, actually, inspired by a post by Tom Hirons on his Coyopa blog.  It's so wonderful I had to write this post just to tell you about it!  If only I could write like this:
http://coyopa.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/nettle-eater/

And this one by Tom, too.  Utterly magical.
http://coyopa.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/sometimes-a-wild-god-2/

Sunday, September 2, 2012

If music be the food of love...it is certainly soulfood!

Last weekend I spent time at one of those rare events that somehow takes you away from the mundane boring ordinary world, and drops you into a beautiful place that nurtures and inspires, and leaves you wishing you never had to leave.  It's called RhythmSong, and it only happens once a year.  I've been a few times in the past, but haven't managed to make the last three or so years, and how I have missed it!  The venue is nothing special, old chalets at a 'holiday camp' that has seen far better days.  But it doesn't matter.  It's what happens there that's important.  Four marvelous days of music, singing, songwriting, clowning, drumming, where if you've never sung in front of an audience before, you may suddenly find you have the courage because everyone is so supportive, where just finding that courage will get you a standing ovation, and you may even find yourself with a 'backing band' of professional musicians if you just ask for a hand.  Four days of workshops, classes, sharing, great food, and a community camaraderie that is as beautiful to experience as it is rare.  The calibre of artists invited to run workshops is wonderful, they come from all over the country, and they become part of this wonderful community, sharing, laughing, eating meals with all the participants like old mates.  There is a youth scholarship as well, so there was a bunch of marvelously talented teenagers in the mix, with no discernible age barrier at all.  Everyone loves music, and that's all that matters.  I sang, and played Cordelia for the first time in front of anyone other than my immediate family, and it does a shy ego marvelous good to receive applause and whistles at the end of a song.  More than that, though I was so nervous I couldn't hear, I was told afterwards that the entire group of young 'uns joined and sang with me, in harmony, as I attempted an Adele song (not my usual thing, but fun to have a shot, and as I said when I came up to the mic, it's about as 'pop diva' as I get!).  That's the other marvelous thing about this weekend, though all the participants are amateurs, everyone sings, and any excuse to break into song is acted upon, and the harmonies! Oh the harmonies.  People who sing in community choirs and just naturally break into harmony, who sing for the pure joy of it.  Oh how I wish I could bottle that feeling and hand it out on a street corner in the city to everyone who walked by.  It's how we SHOULD be, I'm sure of it, just singing because we feel like it.  I saw my mum shyly share a song she had written with the song sharing circle, and stand up at the mic with one of the young lads and sing in front of everyone, I saw my dad get up and sing a song he thought no-one would know or like because it was too old fashioned, only to have everyone join in and then applaud and whistle and hoot when he finished.  It's that kind of place, a magic place, maybe a bit like Avalon, (or actually, more like Brigadoon!).  It appears magically once a year, out of the mists, lasts a few short hours, then disappears again, leaving no trace but a warm happy feeling.

I didn't take my camera, I didn't want to be distracted by taking pictures, but here is some YouTube video of past RhythmSongs, that will give you an idea of what it's like.





Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New toys...and the tyranny of technology

I'm typing this using the new toy...which may seem rather odd once you read the rest of my post.  Yes, here I am, planted on the couch, by the windows letting in beautiful winter sunshine, my feet up on the edge of the coffee table...and Beloved has just handed me a coffee to top it all off...with the new iPad.

I resisted this for a while.  Because hubby (and I too, in a previous life) is a graphic designer who works from home, we have computers already...but it's always been a juggle for me to find a decent length of time on one during the week without getting in his way of work.  I don't like to spend much time on the weekends stuck in the studio (especially not on beautiful sunny winter days) because weekends should be family time.  And that leaves late evenings, which are not ideal, as I'm usually tired and can't think of anything to say and end up web surfing and then feeling guilty about the time wasted.  And I don't like sitting in the office chair in front of the screen in the chilly studio to read a long and interesting article online.  That's just wrong!  That requires a comfy chair and a fire and a cup of tea at the least (or perhaps a glass of red wine in the evening?!) So, we bought an iPad.  It also means that munchkins can use it (sparingly...I'm trying to limit all 'screen' time to no more than two hours a day), and play some educational games, and also look at the Internet under supervision.  Because like it or not, I know they'll have to learn how to use these damn things sometime!

So that's all fine and dandy.  But sometimes...oh how I wish for simpler times when the dreaded computer was nowhere to be seen.

This semester I'm working at a local school, helping out in the library while one of the permanent staff members is away.  I did work experience at a library, way back in the mists of time, when I was 17, before computers and smart boards and printers and remote control air conditioners and digital cameras and audio-visual equipment.  It was fun, I remember considering it as a career back then, being a fan of libraries in general.  And working in this one has been fun too, to a point.  Meeting the kids (even the monosyllabic teenagers!) is fun, talking about books, seeing which are favourites (the ones I'm constantly re-shelving), seeing old favourites of mine still finding an audience now, it's all wonderful...when I have time.  But it seems an enormous amount of time is taken up pfaffing about with technology.  I have to learn a whole lot of new stuff just to be able to issue and return books.  There's scanners and barcodes (for students as well as books), programs that have to be logged onto and long and complicated processes completed in order to do the simplest thing, and then logged out again before you can do anything else.  A website that I need but cannot access because I'm (at the moment anyway) only casual, so I have to use someone else's computer.  Not to mention the turning on and off of about twenty computers for students, answering (or trying to) student queries about why they can't print (who knows), why are they locked out of their login (who knows), can I give them a new password (only if I can access the site I'm not supposed to access), and so on and so forth.  Answering staff questions about how to use the smart board (who knows), are the laptops all charged and ready for the class to use (who knows).  And that's all when the technology is actually working.  When it isn't, everything stops while I wait for the poor beleaguered IT specialist (who is also a teacher, so isn't exactly hanging around just waiting to fix something) to find time to sort it out.  It's not a fear of the technology, I've been working with computers for 24 years and they are wonderful tools.  But I resent it.  I resent the time learning all this stuff is taking up, taking me away from being my (probably fantasy) idea of a helpful school librarian, when I know that all these new 'skills' will be forgotten and obsolete in a year or so.  I resent the fact that when it doesn't work, there is no manual alternative.  How much time is wasted worldwide because of 'sorry, the system is down at the moment'?  As a person who likes to do things with their hands (I love the new book covering work, and book repairing), I hate hate hate sitting in front of a frozen screen wasting time and knowing there's nothing I can do, I can't circumvent the system.

And so, I found myself day-dreaming the other day of an old fashioned library.  With old, dark wooden shelves (no melamine allowed) and card files.  Where the books have little pockets in the back with cards in them, and date stamps, where there are no computers or smart boards.  I have a vision.  It's called the Luddites Library Cafe.  A sign on the door tells you to turn off your mobile phone.  There is no WiFi.  Laptops, DS games, iPads (yes, I know, I just bought one), Mp3 players etc are not permitted.  There are squishy comfy chairs, and quiet study nooks, shelves and shelves of everyone's childhood favourites, and a little cafe section where you may buy a nice hot cuppa and a piece of cake and peruse your weekly selections in peace and quiet, or have quiet discussions with fellow library members (perhaps an alfresco section for sunny days and louder conversations?)  Wood floors so you have to walk quietly, and hand painted wooden signs over each section.

I explained this vision to my mum.  She told me I'd only ever get little old ladies visiting my library.  I don't know, I think there might be a lot more people out there who would relish visiting a place like that, a technology free zone where peace and quiet rule.  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Inspiration or madness...Part one and a half

It continues to be a deep, deep subject to ponder, this one of inspiration and muses and where these colliding ideas and urges to make, to create, come from.  There are many new entries into the moveable feast, so I'll be mulling over it a while yet I suspect.  While sitting outside enjoying the winter sunshine yesterday, I re-read THIS article, by Niko Sylvester, from the Journal of Mythic Arts.  Terri recommended it in the comments section of her post on Inspiration.  It's a fascinating article to read at any time, I read it years ago and it was a joy to come back to it and discover new things.  One quote that leapt out at me was an idea from Leslie Ellen Jones' book, Druid, Shaman, Priest: Metaphors of Celtic Paganism.  Sylvester writes:
one of the primary functions of the shaman is to mediate between the mortal world and the Otherworld. Jones comments that "The Otherworld can perhaps be regarded as a psychological state related through language", making a poet a natural choice for shaman. This psychological state is another state of consciousness that alters the perception of reality. In normal life, we live in consensus reality, the purpose of which is "to provide a structure for filtering masses of potentially perceptible raw data into a manageable flow that offers enough information about the environment to enable us to function, but not so much information as to be overwhelming." A shaman is able to leave consensus reality and enter another state; "an altered state is merely a different filtering of the same mass of available data." 
Now this makes sense!  The idea of a 'consensus reality', essentially a version of reality that we all agree to adhere to (without really having much choice I suppose, society teaches us and we believe), in order for society to run smoothly.  But one that you can step out of, because it's really just one way of thinking out of infinite possibilities.  I'm not a psychologist, but I imagine it as some kind of highway we're all on, we're all travelling in the same direction, going approximately the same speed, seeing the same landmarks from the same point of view.  But you can get off it.  You can take a side exit, head down a disused track, step away and look at the highway streaming past from outside of it.  See those landmarks from a new vista.  Take the scenic route, so to speak.  Which might explain why it always seems to take me so much longer to do the normal, ordinary, everyday stuff (like housework!), because I'm on the slow road to somewhere else in my head!  The ideal situation would be that you can choose opportune moments to 'sidetrack' and then pop back into line and catch up with everyone else.  I suspect the problem is that sometimes you don't really choose.  The sidetrack appears and before you know it you're off on an adventure somewhere, and then sometimes it takes a real effort to find your way back onto the highway, at least in time to get dinner on, or pick the kids up from school.  Maybe that's the sliding scale between creativity and so-called 'madness'.  Healthy creative people can pick their moments and find their way back easily.  People suffering from mental health problems may not realise they've gone off on the track at all, or may find themselves hopelessly lost.  I've probably taken that metaphor as far as it can go, but it made me think.  Especially after reading about 'Translogical Thinking' yesterday.  It seems to fit nicely with that concept.

Today I went back to a book that I read a couple years ago, The Brain that Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge.  Fascinating stuff, it discusses new discoveries in Neuro research that overturn older ideas that the adult brain was hardwired and incapable of change.  Instead, it talks about 'neuroplasticity', the flexible, malleable, changeable brain, that is capable of re-wiring itself, and more interestingly for this discussion, mentions some pretty weird and bizarre things that have been discovered.  That is is quite easy, for example, with the help of simple illusions, to trick a healthy person's brain into believing that a wooden table is part of their anatomy, even when that person is well aware that it cannot be.  That 'normal' people who are denied sight even for just a few days, can develop extremely acute hearing and tactile senses as the 'visual cortices' that aren't being used for sight take over some of those tasks, thus increasing the amount of 'brain power' (so to speak) that is given over to handling aural and tactile input.  And that many started to experience very vivid, strange hallucinations as they moved around, heard sounds, or were touched.  The fact that autistic people can often hear things that 'normal' people cannot, and find sounds that don't bother us utterly deafening, suggests (to me at least), that 'normal' people might not be getting the full dose of reality at all, but rather a filtered version.  Filtered through a brain that is shaped and altered by the experiences it has, and importantly, by the culture it develops in.  So while our brains may shape our culture, our culture also shapes our brains, and therefore must shape our perception of reality.  It seems to me that definitions of what is 'reality' and what is a 'normal' brain all start to look very...fuzzy.

What I also noticed in the book, was the number of times phrases like, "Dr Such-and-such was the first to see the link between...", "Professor Thingummy made the connection...", "Dr Whatsit saw the affect this had and wondered if it could be applied to..."  Which all sound to me like different ways of describing 'Translogical Thinking.'  And they're phrases we're very familiar with when it comes to speaking about scientific breakthroughs, new discoveries, exciting medical research and so on.  So while maybe creative people's brains have similarities to people suffering from various mental illnesses, it's pretty clear that these abilities are vital to the development of humanity and civilisation.  I guess, as in the case of so many other things, it comes down to a balancing act.  Too far one way and mental illness and psychosis might be the result.  But too far the other and we might still be living in trees.

So...where does that leave inspiration and the muse?  Perhaps the muse is just the whisper of synapses firing in unusual combinations in the brain.  Perhaps the muse actually exists as a real, physical entity who keeps you awake at night with shreds of ideas and characters and paintings that need to be created, an entity that 'normal' brains can't see/hear/feel because it's their brains that don't work properly, or at least, don't show them the whole of reality because they couldn't handle it...oh I'm just being cheeky now, as I've managed to include myself in both camps throughout the course of this argument!

Or maybe it's both...or neither...or something else entirely that we can't even begin to comprehend.  In any case, though perhaps I pay a price in more ups and downs, more dark fallow times, more times of doubt and fear that my talent amounts to nothing, than the 'average person' (if indeed they exist), I would not trade my delight in indulging in 'translogical thinking', in getting off the highway into the interesting sidetracks, and in listening to the whispers of the muse, for what might be an easier, and more....normal?!...way of thinking.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Inspiration or madness...or both?

Ahhh, a new moveable feast is arising, starting on Terri Windling's blog with a wonderful post "On Artistic Inspiration."  There she discusses the strange relationship the artist has with the 'muse', with the worlds they are creating (through words or paints or music or whatever), and how sometimes it can seem more than a little like madness.  But what is considered madness these days was in the past sometimes considered to be the ability to 'walk between the worlds', to enter the underworld or another spiritual dimension, to contact other beings and most importantly, return bringing all they have learnt back to their people.  The path of the shaman.

Most of us who are likely to be reading this will be well aware of the contradictions this presents.  We live in the modern age, a rational/logical society that has, mostly, eschewed 'superstition' and the notion of a spirit filled world.  Or at least, it likes to think it has, and does not treat those who disagree kindly.  The trouble is, as Howard Gayton (Terri's husband) mentions in his interview with Brian and Wendy Froud, artists "often do live in two worlds," and that second world is frequently not in the slightest bit logical and rational.

As Howard also mentions, "It is a fine line to walk when you are dealing with these principles, treading between what is believable and what is not. When I read about magical principals, a part of me thinks: this is definitely true; and another part thinks: no, this is mad. It's like living in two worlds at once."  I find this happens to me often, as if I have two voices in my head (perhaps an argument between the left side of my brain and the right?!), one leans in closer and says "Wow, tell me more," and at the same time, another voice is standing back and scoffing at the silliness of it.  Yes, I have Mulder and Scully inside my brain!  I can often be pretty cynical about new age type spirituality.  My default reaction to people who claim to channel spirits from Atlantis, or beings from the planet Sirius, is generally "Yeah right, and I suppose you were Cleopatra in a previous life too."  The trouble is, as an artist (and interestingly enough, as a singer), I've had that feeling of someone/thing working through me to create.  Something I can't pin down, I can't put my finger on.  It's illusive and mutable and inconstant.  But I create work, not all the time, but often enough, that seems to come from somewhere else and I almost feel guilty putting my name on it.  The fact that sometimes I create artworks that can trigger deep feelings for someone else, that they see things in my art that seem magical and full of strange meaning, doesn't surprise me because I think that's what art is supposed to do.  The artist creates something that will resonate far beyond their initial idea/theme/skill, because something in the piece speaks to the personal experiences of another person in a way the artist can never plan for, or understand.  But the fact that sometimes my artwork does this to me in surprising ways, still confounds me.  It isn't necessarily big, grand artworks that do this for me.  In fact, more often that not it's the smaller, odd little ones.  The Talesingrs do.  Both the stories and the artworks, but perhaps the stories most.  Maybe I've just somehow convinced my subconscious that what started as a bit of fun (the invention of the 'anthropological' material and my fictitious Professor Woodford-Harding) is all true.  But really, it was the other way around.  The stories felt to me as if they had come from somewhere else, they felt old.  They don't feel like mine, so I almost felt they deserved a historical context.  It's not an attempt to convince anyone they are 'real', and I hope no-one has thought they were and been disappointed.  But at the same time, they are real.  On some level I can't explain.

After a quick search on the web, it is clear there is a great deal of ongoing debate about the link between creativity and mental illness of various kinds.  It's an idea with tenacity, it has been around for a very long time, and it seems the jury is still out.  Some claim it's just an unhelpful stereotype that can do real damage.  Others are adamant it's true.  But I remember seeing a documentary a few years ago, and the brains of an artist with no symptoms of mental illness and a person suffering schizophrenia were scanned, and when the artist was in 'creative mode', their brains fired in the same way as the person with the mental illness.  The difference, I remember, was that they were not stuck in that mode.  They seemed to be able to turn it on and off.  In doing my quick skim on the web I found this article, and in it I found this particular quote, which jumped out at me.
"Specifically, Rothenberg's research concludes that translogical types of thinking characterize both psychotics and highly creatives. Translogical thinking, he explains, is a type of conceptualizing in which the thinking processes transcend the common modes of ordinary logical thinking. 
It involves what Rothenberg calls janusian and homospatial processes. Janusian thinking is a conscious process of combining paradoxical or antagonistic objects into a single entity. Homospatial process is the essence of good metaphor. It means to superimpose or bring together multiple, discrete objects."
And here, again, the same idea.
"Two aspects of thinking in particular are pronounced in both creative and hypomanic thought: fluency, rapidity, and flexibility of thought on the one hand, and the ability to combine ideas or categories of thought in order to form new and original connections on the other"
Translogical thinking.  It's this idea that struck me, simply because it's news to me that this is unusual.  I presumed everyone did this, but maybe they don't?  The idea of thinking as a game, where you play with ideas, moving them around and putting odd combinations together just to see what you might get.

So what is happening?  Are we all mad?  I'm thinking back to another post I wrote ages ago, about the beauty of the unfinished piece, whether it be painting, poem, story or whatever.  That the unfinished piece holds a kind of magic that the finished piece doesn't, a dynamism and vitality because all the possibilities and potentials still exist.  And that is the exciting part for me as an artist.  Because while that piece stays unfinished, I can hold all those possibilities inside my mind, I can be in all those 'otherworlds' at once.  All those contradictions, and impossibilities can co-exist happily.  I can move around them, look at them from different points of view, try out different reactions to them.  I can thread two together that might seem utterly opposite, and find something beautiful or powerful in that conjunction.  And I think this is often the point where that something 'mystical' happens (if we want to put it like that), as if by putting together two disparate ideas we create a pathway that allows something else to come through, something that feels like it doesn't belong to us.  A secret whispered in our ears by a muse.  Who knows!  I once told a uni lecturer that I considered myself a 'post-modern humanist', and was told that was impossible because they are utterly contradictory schools of thought.  But it makes sense to me.  I can believe in faeries on one hand, and not believe in them at the same time.  And both are the truth.  I can look at an artwork I have created and see every painstaking line, every problem I had to resolve, remember seeing my hand create this and remember all the thought processes that have gone into it, and see it as nothing more than a thing I have made.  And at the same time I can be amazed and awed by what seems to be so much more than the fruits of my labour, a thing magical with a power of its own that is nothing to do with me.

This has probably gone on quite long enough, but it is a subject that I find endlessly fascinating, and enlightening to contemplate.  So this may just be 'Part 1.'   We'll see.  But for now, I'd better get both feet back into the real world, and bring my washing in!



Sometime later....!  Author Margo Lanagan's latest post, 'Truly, Madly, Deeply', just popped up in my blog reader.  I thought it worthwhile mentioning it here!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Still here...

Yes...it's been a while I know.  There isn't really a good reason, just lots of silly small ones I guess, you know, busy with things that often aren't really important but they take up time and more importantly, energy.  Boring life stuff.  Mojo a bit low too, and feeling that I haven't really got anything particularly interesting to tell you.  And at the same time, weirdly, too much to say to know where to start.  And good old procrastination of course.  So I won't rabbit on a lot now, just dipping my toe back in, and to show you a couple of things I've done in the last two weeks.  A big and a small painting, with a bit of scribbling on them.  Because I am, as I'm sure you well know, an inveterate scribbler!

"In the Realm of the Night."  I had two heavy, rustic wood frames made by a friend many years ago, which I've never been quite sure what to do with.  They called out to be much more than just frames, so I made this one part of the painting, with beads and fabric and bits of old jewellery all added into the mix.

This is "The Ragged Soul", to illustrate THIS poem of mine.  For anyone who has ever felt they weren't good enough, had failed, or just weren't the person they though they would be.

Acrylic, coloured pencil, pastel and ink.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January...

...is the month when I really need to just accept that I'm not going to get anything much done, and get over it!  With the madness of Christmas over, I always have this silly idea that I'll be able to get cracking on some creative stuff.  But with January comes the searing heat that just seems to suck all my energy, and makes it impossible to spend much time outside, and school holidays don't end until the beginning of February.  So much of my time is spent trying to keep munchkins amused indoors, while simultaneously trying to limit the time spent in front of the TV.  And get the housework done!

So that's my excuse anyway...for the 3 week long lack of posting.

So we've been out and about, finding some cool refuge in the movie theatres and galleries.

We went to see 'Tin Tin', and enjoyed it immensely (I think it was Beloved who really wanted to see it though, being a longtime fan of the comics).

We went to the Art Gallery of Western Australia to see the 'Princely Treasures' exhibition, of marvelous pieces from the V&A in London.  I bought the girls a 3/4 size guitar for Christmas and have been teaching them some VERY basic basics, so they were rather fascinated with this piece.
Joachim Tielke Guitar, Hamburg 1693.

We read 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' a few months ago, so were very excited about seeing the movie 'Hugo'.  It was extraordinary (though a little long for smallest), filled with wonderful original footage of some of the oldest films.  A remarkable film, it was actually worth seeing it in 3D (usually just bothers the heck out of me), and I'd like to see it again.  Though biggest decided that actually, the book was better.

The next day, we went down to Spare Parts Puppet Theatre again, to see Shaun Tan's 'Arrival'.  Something I didn't realise, is that Spare Parts developed this production in collaboration with Shaun, while he was still creating the book, and the production actually opened before the book was published!  A beautifully made piece of theatre, without a single word of dialogue, and without needing one.  If you haven't seen the book, it's a masterpiece, so go out and find it.  

I don't usually make new year's resolutions, I know myself too well and it never works.  But I've made a sort of resolution...to do more sketching.  It's something I just don't do enough of, I've completely got out of the habit over the years.  So I'm trying to do a sketch of something every couple of days, and to try NOT to care what it is, or how it turns out.  It's the doing that matters.  We took the girls to Kings Park on Sunday afternoon (when it was actually overcast and blessedly cool) and as they played at 'Dinosaur Park', I sat and sketched a tree.  I decided to do it in pen rather than pencil, to deter myself from getting the urge to 'rub out' any bits I don't like.

Today the girls and I went into Perth on the train to see the 'Extraordinary Stories from the British Museum' exhibition at the WA Museum.  Only a tiny fraction of what is actually in the British Museum in London (I spent a day there about 20 years ago and would have been quite happy to camp there for a week) but I was very excited to actually see this in the flesh (so to speak) after seeing pictures of it for years.

Biggest munchkin was very taken with the Queen from the Lewis chess set, as she started learning to play chess in 'clubs' time at school last term, and got a little chess set for Christmas (I probably shouldn't admit that she can beat me!)

After we finished looking at that, we went down to sit in the lovely new, light and airy and COOL main foyer, and all did some sketching of the replica dinosaur the towers over the seats there.  With my sort-of-resolution in mind, I thought the museum would be a great place to do a bit of sketching, and the girls were keen to join in, so we took pencils and sketch books with us.  I think we should make it a regular thing, as there's so much to draw, and being able to walk around a stuffed bison or deer, or look at a dinosaur skull from different angles, draw skeletons or fossils or birds in flight, would be marvelous practice.
My dinosaur foot...again with a pen so I can't rub out 'mistakes'.

Biggest munchkin's dinosaur sketch.  She was a bit confused and thought that everything in the museum had come from the British Museum!

The Lewis Chess queen.  Now if any of you with sharp eyes and photographic memories are wondering why she's holding her left hand up to her face in the drawing, when the actual chess piece is resting her face on her right hand, it's because Biggest munchkin was actually drawing it from the poster hung up on the window and facing outwards.  So a reverse image.

Littlest did a couple of great sketches of the dinosaur heads, and the foot as well, but she's off to stay with her grandies tonight, and took her sketch book with her to show them, so I couldn't scan them in.

Phew!  This weekend, we have Beloved's best mate, and my in-laws coming to stay.  

I think I shall spend the first day of school (Wednesday next week) on the couch with my feet up and an iced tea balanced on my belly!

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