Sunday, 12 September 2021

acceptance



 I'm not sure why this is happening again and again.

I seem to be unable to concentrate on reading.  I start a book and then very soon I slip in a bookmark. When I return to reading, this bookmark might advance only a half-dozen pages.

I belong to a book club and I haven't read more than a dozen pages from this month's selection. And now, someone passed on their copy of October's selection, The Boat People.  I settled on the couch to spend an early morning hour to begin reading.  

By the 20th page I understood that this was going to be hard read: a boatload of refugees arriving in Canada and the man we have been following has his 6-year old son taken from him and placed on a bus with the women and children.


 I have closed the book and instead have started this post.

I have noticed, over these many months, that I seem unable to read anything that is painful: either sad or angry. A few months ago I jumped ahead in another book to read the ending, something I have very rarely done before.  In fact, something I have reprimanded my husband, Brian, for doing!

I do recognize that I am a sensitive person and feel things deeply but this new avoidance seems different, more acute, more poignant.

Looking for reasons, I grab onto The Pandemic. I wonder if the isolation and pain surrounding Covid is the culprit. Enough pain in our present lives; why read about more.  

Yes, The Boat People is fiction, but only the refugees' names and country of origin have been changed. 

This has happened before. 

During the Second World War, a boatload of  Jews was not allowed into Canada and was instead returned to the Nazis.  And now, especially by the United States, many hundreds of thousands of other refugees are being returned to the danger of their homelands.

Many years ago I looked through our bookshelves.  There were a number of books that I hadn't read, many purchased at a wonderful bookstore in Flagstaff, Arizona.  A great many of these related to the Holocaust. Without even reading the blurbs on their back covers, I packed them up and gave them to Russell's Books.





Visiting with a dear friend yesterday, drinking glasses of Prosecco, she related how many years ago she had forced herself read the entire TimeLife Issue on the Holocaust. She told herself then that if she read and saw photographs of this horror, she would never need to revisit it again.

Maybe I won't read The Boat People.  Maybe I need to accept and honour my avoidance-- accept that this is too heavy for me to carry right now.

                I created these collages about 35 years ago

Monday, 2 August 2021

trust


I remember being told that I should stick to one thing and not spread myself too thin.

Because this was said at my first show at the Cowichan Valley Arts Council, and because it was a family member who said this to me, I was deeply wounded by these words.

I guess this was referring to the fact that I had previously been a teacher, (thing #1), had co-owned an antique store (#2), started a Cowichan Valley AIDS Network (CVAN) (#3), and was presently growing and selling herb plants. (#4) As well as being an artist!! (#5)

I've long ago discounted this remark, realizing how the diversity of my experiences has enriched my life.

However, occasionally I can hear that comment once again. It appears when something I've been involved with winds down.  

When my paintings became forced and my love for the colour and spontaneity of my brush strokes ceased to interest me, I put my canvases aside. 

It made me afraid. I was a painter....now what?

I don't remember how I soon discovered that blocks of wood were wonderful surfaces on which to paint, and that my sketch book and drawings and my love of using bits of text would lead me to create what I call Talisman Blocks. 




I created single blocks that could be stacked and partnered with other blocks.  And then...I began painting chairs and tables on these same wooden blocks.  Those were great fun, channelling my love of colour and design, and taking far longer to complete than a large painting might!


These blocks partnered perfectly with the small chair paintings that I had done several years earlier. 

It seemed as if by curtailing my struggles with painting, I had left space for these new works to emerge.

Trust.  Be open.

Earlier today, taking out one of my business cards, I saw that under my name it says "artist -photographer". But I have barely used my camera since my last trip to Havana, just before the pandemic lockdown.  


I had returned to Cuba four times, photographing the beauty of old Havanas's surfaces and the sadness of its decay. These visits created a bond between my casa particular hosts Rafaela and Willie and myself which has greatly enriched my life. 

It seemed my photography was intrinsically tied to Havana: the people and the city.



And then, once again, I worried that my creative soul was being tested. I felt that I was no longer a photographer and that, without art, my life would be empty. 

And then I "wrote" a letter to our grandkids, who we hadn't seen for nearly a year.  I cut out and pasted down letters to create a 11x 17 inch book about things they may not know about me. It grew to be ten pages and the beginning of another journey.


Since then, I have fallen wildly in love with letters and words, creating what I call "letter poems", a medium that pushes my creativity into new discoveries. I don't write words down, but rather allow a thought/feeling to emerge.  As I search for the letter I want, I become open to other words. 

It is a silent process.  And often a process of discovery.

And yesterday I became fearful.  What if these poems stopped coming!? Would there be something else?















Trust.  Be open.

I mean, like really "stick to one thing"?  WHY?!??










Tuesday, 13 July 2021

treasures




Finally, I have decided to get rid of some of our things. 

"Get rid of" what a phrase! Does part-with sound better?  Or maybe simply sell or give away.

My daughters don't want my treasures: one lives in Israel and the other in a tiny condo with her family.

Neither one wants the huge task of disposing of art and antiques when I die.  Nor does my husband, Brian.  So, being well into theothersideofseventy, the responsibility seems to be mine.

My collection of objet d'art is as varied as I am complex. 

Porcelain, carvings, paintings and some wonderful folk art collected when I had an antique store in Vancouver.

 I have an exceptional steel-beaded purse purchased in Paris when I was a college student. There is a tiny lipstick stain on the lining so I used this treasure at least once!


                                         
Each object has a story from my life.

The vintage shadow puppets remind me of traveling to Bali with my dear friend, Sheila. And of trapping a rat who had been "visiting" our room at night to eat the soap.

Crystal champagne glasses remind me of Pierre, a friend who died of AIDS many, many years ago. He wanted there to be a case of champagne when we celebrated his life.

My folk art collection began when I had an antique store on South Granville Street and when my business partner Nora and I travelled together on buying trips. 

It reminds me of our craziness when we travelled to Armagn in Ireland in the midst of fierce battles between the North and South.  The hotel in which we stayed was bombed soon after we made a hasty retreat two days after arriving.

There is the tiny antique buddha that my sister gave me for a wedding present.  She had thought it was the god of fertility, although we discovered later that it was rather the symbol of wealth! 

These objects bring life stories to mind. They are anchors. When they are gone will the intimate reflections go with them?

 I believe that the stories, and especially the people, reside deep in my cells. Parting with the objects doesn't erase that 

Writing this, I feel a sense of relief.


















Monday, 3 May 2021

Jack & Morgan

 For the last several weeks, my thoughts have strayed around the idea of bucket lists.

Strayed and stayed.

In a 2007 movie by the same name, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, both diagnosed with terminal cancer, decide to take a road trip together with a wish list of things they want to do before they die.

In my life today there are several people who are struggling with health difficulties and during the past four or five years a few very dear friends and family members have died.

So, I thought, what is it that I want to do before I die?  Before I "kick the bucket."

If you google 'bucket lists", you will be rewarded with a multitude of sites and thousands of ideas and recommendations.  These numbered selections seem not to be for people who are approaching death, but rather for striving young adults boasting that their list is more dramatic/adventuresome/outrageous than someone else's. And usually more expensive as well.

       On the site https://personalexcellence.co/blog/bucket-list/ you will find Bucket List Ideas: 101 Things To Do Before You Die

The author says a bucket list will help us realize what it is that we want to achieve during our lifetime and help us not to spend our time on "pointless things". 

On her site she writes: 

Hi! I’m Celes and I write about self-improvement, being a better person and living a better life. My greatest goal is to help you live your best life.

#1 on her list is: Travel all around the world

#2 Learn a new language

#3 Try a profession in a different field    (WHAT?!)

#4 Achieve your ideal weight

Enough said!

Continuing my search, I found the site bucketlistjourney.net where Annette proudly welcomes the visitor to her "ginormous bucket list" containing 1001items, and writes "I know the bucket list is huge. Yes. I do think I can complete everything on it."

The first item on her list was "Abseil Down a Waterfall". Before I could say "you gotta be joking!" I had to google the word "abseil".

ab·seil
/ˈabˌsāl/
BRITISH
verb
  1. descend a rock face or other near-vertical surface by using a doubled rope coiled round the body and fixed at a higher point; rappel.
    "team members had to abseil down sheer cliffs to reach the couple"


I was still searching for a bucket list that might have some suggestions for this 77- year-old woman who is afraid of heights and who has no desire to get a tattoo.

Besides, we are in a midst of a pandemic and would be foolish to travel to distant parts of the world.

When I read Annette's #42 (Bathe an Elephant), under the category of Nature & Wildlife, I closed her site and started a poem with letters cut out from magazines.




And here is my bucket list!


Friday, 2 April 2021

eye lashes

About 40 years ago, while living in Duncan, I took part in a workshop. My recollection is incomplete and there is only one part of it that has stayed with me all these years. 

I remember being in a circle of women, with another circle formed behind me. We were asked to say what we loved most about our body.

I froze.

I did a mental scan of my imperfect physical self, and my anxiety increased.  When my turn came to share, I answered with "my eye lashes".  Even to me it sounded bizarre.

In the circle behind me, I heard a friend say that she loved her entire body, so couldn't answer with only one area of herself. While I saw her as vivacious and fun, I also saw her as overweight.

Looking at photographs of myself, taken at that time, I see a petite woman with a beautiful smile and a fit body. I see now that I would have been considered pretty, although I don't remember ever being told that.

Three weeks ago as I stood in the bathroom brushing my hair, someone I barely recognized was reflected back to me from the mirror.

Her eyes had deep circles beneath them.  Her eyebrows had been micro-bladed to fill in their sparse growth. Her nose had a wee depression at its tip where a biopsy had been carved out. And, for the first time, I didn't apply mascara as my eye lashes were no longer full and long.

How cruel is that!?

I have become used to people showing surprise when I tell them  my age, and being told I look way younger than chronology indicates. I now doubt this discrepancy. I believe I finally have caught up with my age.

Maybe the pandemic has played a part in this.  

Isolation, the cancellation of social events like the ballet, wearing the same old clothes every day and constantly hearing and reading about death. For the first time I see very clearly all the things we own and knowing that my daughters have no room or desire to be left these things when I die.

These thoughts make me feel very old, as if I am already planning for my death. Covid-19 prohibits me from seeing my wonderful grandkids and my dear daughters. Changes are happening in their lives that I can't witness and share. 

Zoom calls are not hugs. The phone doesn't show my smile. I know it's the best we can do now, but the circles beneath my eyes are only getting more pronounced and my body's aches  more numerous.

This is my reality. The question is what can I do that is meaningful now ?

A few months ago I took a felt-tipped pen and wrote "My job is to help people" 

The words wrote themselves. I have begun acting on this in concrete ways and I will seek out other ways to help.  Really, that's all we can do. 

Be kind and be generous with words and with time and, if possible, financially. 

I don't need eyelashes to do this.

    selling succulents


cooking for an outreach program



















Sunday, 14 March 2021

introspection









While I'm still physically healthy during this time of near isolation,  the health of my creative self is in crisis mode. 

My camera sits on its designated shelf in the den, the iso set to ISO 800 so I can photograph the pizza hot out of the oven, or the special Chilean cake I love as it sits on a rack to cool.

My camera doesn't accompany me when I walk or when I drive.

And even if I take a wonderful photograph, I'm not able to print it as my "print-partner" is strictly following COVID guidelines and I'm unable to come to her house.

So, I've turned to something I have done for much of my adult lifetime--  cutting words and letters from old magazines. Almost 30 years ago I decoupaged tins and small boxes and even a teapot and a pair of wee shoes. 

I'm still using a small notebook I made, with the cover decorated with paper images gleaned from magazines. 


   
And, how absolutely amazing that 25 years ago I chose an image with the words 
"A HABANA"!

In the collages I have created over many years, I often chose words from other languages, primarily Hebrew and Chinese. These were words as art and decoration, cut in such a way that the meaning was obscured. Words collected in a special bowl in the living room, words that I might use as titles for my paintings and later on, that might become show titles when I exhibited my photographs. 

So, I have turned to these again.

At first I composed small poems, stringing together words and phrases that I had cut and laid out in the dining room.  These weren't glued down and I photographed them while standing on the table.


Soon these poems changed, becoming prose and more personal and becoming images I wanted to keep.

Out came the scissors! Out came the glue sticks! Out came the me captured on paper!


 

























Saturday, 23 January 2021

memory

 
I've been mulling thoughts about memory and meaning for several weeks.

The question I have been asking myself is would our present lives have the same meaning if we had no memory of our past. 

If I believe that I am all that I have experienced, my place and circumstance of birth, my family and their histories, my gender, health and education, are these things imprinted deep into my unconscious? 

The people I have met and the multitude of things I have thought and done, are these inscribed on a plaque hidden somewhere in the depth of my being? 

Do I need to consciously remember them or does that matter? 

"We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future," says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. And then Mark Twain's more direct statement makes me smile in recognition: "I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."


I recently saw a poignant video of a former ballerina suffering with Alzheimer's, as Swan Lake music reawakened  her memories of being on stage.  In the video, Gonzalez Saldana seems to feel the music as she sways and moves in her wheelchair. As the music reaches the crescendo, so do her movements. 

Besides being touched by this little-known dancer's grace, I saw, once again, how we allow so little time to practice stillness. We are always doing. Gonzalez Saldana, living with this disease, could feel the music deep in her soul with no clutter in its pathway. 

I fear dementia, with its abnormal brain changes. 
The dismissal of my cognitive self. 
The erasing of the me as I am now.
And, the erasing of my memories.

For these reasons, The Thief of Broken Toys, by Tim Lebbon, distressed me deeply.

Quoting from this short novel's back cover we read that "when a father loses his son and his wife leaves him, he cannot tear himself away from the small fishing village where the boy's memories reside. They're all he has left." He wanders the cliffs carrying broken toys that he had promised his son that he would fix, though he never did. These broken toys keep his son, Toby, close.

And then he meets the thief of broken toys.

When I first bought this book at a used book sale, I was surprised to see that the author was "an original talent on the horror scene." The story seemed to talk of a father's love and his tragic loss.

The loss was far greater than the father or myself could have imagined.

The thief in the story magically repairs the broken toys, one by one. He then asks Toby's father to replace him in this important job, as the thief's time was coming to an end. 


With the father's refusal to do so, a curse befell him.

His memory was erased. 
With that, his love for Toby was erased.
He had no memory of Toby at all.

This is the reason that Lebbon's horror genre includes this slim and powerful book.

I cannot imagine forgetting about Brian. Not remembering my beautiful daughters and their families.
These people fill my heart with love, and how my heart would shrink without my thoughts of them.

Tell me everything I don't remember.



Songwriter Jason Mraz says
"I can't walk through life backwards
Wherever I'm going, I'm already home."



              a card created by Sat-Sung Kalman Hassid many, many, many years ago