Monday, January 21, 2019

On Finding my Wings and my True Self

There's all this talk
of learning to fly
of transforming from
caterpillar to butterfly,
by growing wings
of letting go and soaring
free as a red-billed gull
gliding on currents
free to be your True Self.

But have you walked
slowly and consciously
on springy dew-covered kaikuyu grass
down to the soft sand
just above the high tide line?

Have you kicked
along the ocean edge
sending sparkling droplets
high into sunshine
making rainbow crystals?

Have you thrown yourself
face down in a field
of buttercups and dandelion
 wild carrots and plantain
and inhaled deeply?

Have you clambered down
through cool earthy bush
past the ponga, the ferns
and the parataniwha
to the bottom of the waterfall?

Have you danced
without a care
surrounded by unknown friends
joined together as one
by all enveloping music?

Have you battled through surf
and swum way out
beyond the break line
to the deep swell
where you can't touch the bottom?

Have you dived into the river
and drifted with the current
until panic set in
before your toes felt
the mud on the bottom?

Have you ridden a bike
on the track beside the water
lost your footing
panicked as it sped up
on the downward stretch?

Have you stroked this cat
recognising the uniqueness
of this particular fur
its smell, its texture
as the purring reaches maximum?

Have you learned
to differentiate the scents
of the lemon and lime
grapefruit and tangelo
as well as their tastes?

Have you eaten a plum
fresh from the tree
in the cool of the orchard
ducks quacking for a share
bees buzzing on clover?

I don't have time for
transformation, wings, flying
or finding my true self.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Fear and Hope

Should I live
in fear of death
in hope of life?

Yet fear and hope
drive each other,
and life and death
are a continuum.

In the moment
it's probably best
just to BE.

Friday, December 7, 2018

At The Edge

stand at the edge
supported by firm sand
watch the foam
feel the cool
lapping at toes
be still
just be
let it be

slowly the sand moves
starts to wiggle free
from toes and heels

know that the time
for stillness
is past

know it is time
to chose
rigid, false control
followed by
an inevitable fall

or to release the grip
let go, let loose,
and dance
with the sand
and sparkling spray

Book Camp 2018 - The Process

Another of the questions we were asked in the lead up to Book Camp was:
Do you have a goal/challenge you’d like achieve while at book camp? (It’s OK if
you want to cut loose and just go with the flow!) 
To create without anxiety.
And, although I had anxiety around driving in Auckland, what if I have another stroke while on the motorway, what have I forgotten to bring, what if I get sick yet again, what if I die.... and although I had some frustrations and difficulties arise during the creative process..... I actually found I did not suffer debilitating anxiety when creating as I usually do, especially in the presence of others.

On the first morning of Book Camp, Liz gave us a package of goodies, which included a little pad of Post-It notes. She asked us to use these to keep track of our process during the week. She told us to stick them on the wall as we went along, but I knew that I would forget to do it unless it was right in front of me, so I stuck them on to a piece of sheet music that I happened to have in my bag, not because I am a musician but because it is delicious paper.

Our instructions were deliberately vague to the point of being suggestions: we were to do something with a large old book, bottles, calico, paper, collected words, plus or minus anything....

Thoughts were to be noted on the Post-It notes as they occurred. I found this as silly as the proposal that we 'listen to the book and it will tell you what it wants' and 'the book will emerge' as Liz always rabbits on about.

Except the notes really helped, and my book really did speak to me and emerge! It's the first time this has happened to me, and I put it down to the fact that post-stroke I have an excuse to let go of the tyranny of the absurd expectation that perfection is both possible and required.

So here is some of my process as recorded on my Post-It notes:

  • Arrrgh! Too many thoughts and ideas... 
  • Calico book - 'renovate' the one I started at home...
  • Altered (medical) book - collage - magic potions - cures
  • find the rat in the wall (we heard a noise which was suggested to be that, though was actually just a branch in the wind) - rat behind a flap in book.... 
  • old marbled book end-paper to line holes cut in book to house bottles...
  • what can I do wit all the bits of paper cut from the book? (I threw them out at the end - couldn't come up with an idea._
  • rust paper for cover of miniature book 'Instructions for a Cure-All' with the pages made from a Romanian encyclopedia...
  • words - losing words - swallowing rats - Violet....
  • type out poems about losing words
  • gluing together pages individually - gesso no, pva too slow, glue stick too slow, pva edges - partially worked, make holes and tie pages together yay!
  • gesso edges
  • 'lost for words' - 'falling' - 'calling for help'....
  • larger bottle - message in bottle - 'the stopper has been lost, the bottle knocked over, and my spirit has spilled out across the universe'
  • stamp designs
  • note from talk: thinking positively v negatively - challenge v struggle
  • note from talk: starting day right with a walk, meditation, to still the mind, to open mind
  • note from talk: Hilary's joyful approach, 'glorious'
  • can I develop something of that or is one born with it? Can I discover? rediscover? retain? that childhood enthusiasm?
  • half way through I have found that I can start something without any intention other than the intention to start and not be bothered by thoughts that it may come to nothing
  • doing / being - standing in the edge of the waves doing nothing 
  • it's ok to say 'I love what I've made, this is gorgeous' - after all, why bother doing it if it's not something you like?
  • 'Emerging' my medical book is telling me it wants to be about my stroke, about my aphasia...
  • gesso index, all except my ailments
  • 'bee hopeful' - tape in bottle
  • collage cover
  • paint gold on edges of book
  • wipe gold stamp pad on edges of book
  • next project? too tired - do something familiar
  • gelli prints..... on calico.... round gelli plate
  • stitch on gelli printed calico
  • make prayer-type flags from them?
  • hang them from ladder in The Messy Playroom?
  • Maybe it's time to put my art - yes 'art' - in a living area, a more 'public' space - never done that before....
  • BUT WAIT..... there's not much room .... because there are already a bunch of my art on all the walls....
  • ....I have just never seen them as art.....
  • but my womad flags ARE art!
  • I am a writer. I am a poet. I am an artist. I am okay.

Book Camp 2018 - The People

In the lead up to Book Camp, Camp Leader, Liz Constable  asked us some questions to give us a hint or two about each other. Here's one of the questions, along with my answer:
What are you most excited about? Just being in that wonderful space again: free of responsibilities, going for walks in the amazing grounds, visiting The Fabulist, creating in the company of All The Best People.
It was indeed All These Things! The people especially were wonderful. Some had been to the previous camp, others were new to it.

Liz is an amazing teacher and guide. She will teach a particular skill where needed, but more importantly, she guides, challenges, encourages, laughs, listens, validates - she claims to have previously been a life coach, but in reality 'previously' is a misnomer. She is inspiring both as an artist and as a person.

Camp Mother, Cath, was fantastic. She looked after the nuts and bolts of camp, fetched coffee from the local cafe, made life easier in general, and still managed to create some amazing art.

Jo, Liz's sister is also an amazing creative, fun, generous, professional artist and graphic designer operating as The Design Space Gallery in Lower Hutt - though I was encouraging her to move to Raglan....

Michelle was an wonderful last minute addition to Camp, and a wonderful human being. Just go look at what she does - WOW!

Sara had had strokes as well as other health issues. She had an inspiring determination to get everything she could from Camp, despite having to withdraw from the sensory overload even more than I did. It was wonderful to meet someone who really 'got' my issues, even while I wished, for her sake, that she didn't. I learned so much about post-stroke life from her, and about persistence.

Delwyn, well, she'd be welcome just for the divine red roses she brought for the dining tables! But she was so much more. She sat on my left, between Sara and me, and was very quiet which was great for us, but was quietly humorous, kind, and creative - her wrapping paper made with her hand carved stamp was very special.

Oh! I haven't mentioned Sandra Waine who came in one afternoon, and taught us a bit about stamp carving! Check her out! Personally, I feel a stamp-carving binge coming on.

On my other side was Sarah, another quiet, but creative first timer. She had a distinctive artistic style and I spent a lot of time peeking across at her beautiful work.

Fliss is just so energetic, she just gets stuck in and goes! But her energy is catching, not wearying.

Ann was at the far end of the table, just quietly  and determinedly working away at beautifully finished creations, right to the very end of camp - she did not waste a minute!

Liz, as always, worked with delicious eco prints, nature themes, leaves etc. - I love her work.

Hilary. Hilary, as Camp Leader Liz pointed out, brought the light of joy into the workshop. Her work is beautifully executed, and imaginative, but most importantly, just joyful. Every room should have a Hilary in it.

Sue is more a fabric, button and stitch person than a paper artist. Where Hilary brings joy, Sue brings passion. I just love listening to her speak about her love for her work. Which is so amazing to me, as someone who has never been a stitcher, it leaves me gasping in wonder.

Directly across the table from me was Gill who despite being stung on the head by a wasp, kept her lovely sense of humour and created with some beautiful decorated wallpaper she had created before she came, and did amazing things with copper wire, inspiring me to dig out the stash that I've been meaning to do something with for years.

Apparently Carol intended her creations to be magenta, but instead they turned into pink treasures that I loved, despite my normal dislike of pink - she may have 'turned' me!

Sara spoke at one point of 'finding her tribe'. I don't really think of myself in terms of belonging to a tribe, but when I am at Book Camp I certainly feel a deep sense of being Home. Thank you, Liz, for creating this space.

I'll be back!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Colouring-in My Life

I read something the other day that had some initial appeal but then, no.
'Finding yourself' is not really how it works. You aren't a ten-dollar bill in last winter's coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people's opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. 'Finding yourself' is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an evacuation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you. ~ Emily McDowell
I totally agree that 'finding yourself;' isn't how it works. And I agree that I am not lost. But after that, McDowell loses me.

When was this time before the world got its hands on me? The world got its hands on me the moment I was born. But wait. In the womb I was affected by 'the world' - by my mother's world. By her food, by her state of health, by the noises in her world, by her emotional state and more: science has shown this. Even before the zygote, the gametes were affected by my parents' bodies and worlds, 'the world' got its hands on my DNA right back at the beginning of time!

It feels that the world has treated my lifeline the way a kitten plays with a ball of wool, so that there's that ragged indeterminate beginning, and a piece of yarn that will continue on, also indeterminately, where my genes and my actions in the world will mean that I will continue on after death in the lives of others.

It seems to me, that all that handling by the world has made me exactly who I am now. That I have made it through so far, through all the ups and downs, the tangled and the breaks and joins, and the thing to do is to accept that who I am now is the sum total of all that. But it's not the end. Once I accept that, I am free to do and be whatever comes next.

I don't want to deny and dismiss my past to find who I was way back when: I want to find out who I am in the present, and look forward to who I can be tomorrow - or even later today.

This is to remind me of all I have gone through to get to this point, to remind me to keep going, to remind me that even when it seems like there is no way out of the tangle, I've managed it every time for 67 years so I may as well keep trying. And if all else fails, I can grab some felt tip pens and colour in the scribble drawing.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Between Conception and Death

We are conceived. We die. In between we exist.

After I got seriously ill and was diagnosed with diabetes, and again when I had a stroke, my focus became putting off death for as long as possible, and in making my journey towards death one of the least possible pain and misery. I researched, and amended my diet, exercise routine, my mental health with the aim of harm reduction. That has certainly helped improve things, but yesterday I realised something else.

From the moment I was conceived, I have been moving towards inevitable death. The time between can be spent living or dying.

I chose living.