Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On little houses and wildness ...

I haven't written for a while ... lots on my mind and lots going on around here ... packing and getting ready for our trip back to South Africa next week for a family wedding ... lovely lovely ... getting ready for goodbyes to very very good friends who are leaving while we are away, which I am not really ready to face head-on just yet ... little projects and organizing and a week of winter break from school means I am a little behind and it's been a little busy.

But i have been wanting to write, just trying to catch the thoughts - sometimes they go swimming and it's hard to pin them down, get them to flow to the page - silver streaks, half glimpses and they are gone .. what was i trying to say ... what was i thinking .. almost formed, oh, and it's gone. Which is why it's taken a while to come back here.

I got a lovely early birthday present in the post, all the way from the land of pubs and red buses ... my old home ... London town ... (pretty much anyway). a beautiful and unexpected book on shelter ... but on the little little kind. Small tiny just-big-enough-for-one most times kind of houses. Not showy or flashy or pretentious. Not huge and sprawling. Unexpected. Little surprises. Just a box from the outside and then you open the door and it's magical and tiny and all so well thought out. Some are studios and man-caves and secret hidey hole homes in the forest. Some are retreats from the world with the owners able to escape the demands of big-house-living for a while. Some are remnants of the flower-power generation ... treehouses, crazy houses. Little sheds in the field. Some are off-the-grid-living. Which really appeals. They are homes of dreamers sometimes. Free spirits. People who battled in the conventional world and had to rethink. And flourished. 

I have been thinking a lot about this book and these houses - on the day it arrived on went 'Max and Ruby' for Lexi and i sat on the couch and drank in the book. It's not really about beautiful homes or well taken photographs ... it's kind of more of a visual documentary. But it did get me thinking. Which i am guessing was the point. About how easy it is to fall into the trap of having to aquire and show ... wealth, space, home, car, vacations, dinner parties. Not that any of those things are not wonderful in and of themselves, but they can take over, it's easy to lose focus. Little houses mean streamlining to what is really essential. One beautiful bowl on the counter instead of a whole room full of treasures. Everything has to be carefully chosen and be functional, not just decorative. How full our lives can be with clutter and activities and shoes for every kind of weather ... rainboots and shimmery sandals and snow boots and spring boots and flip-flops for the summer ... wardrobes and bookshelves and gadgets and tools and the basement overflows and toys in every corner ... we fill up on shopping and things and surrounding ourselves with objects in our castles (metaphorically speaking) ... and sometimes I think the focus is lost. The sunrise over a field. The walk in autumn leaves. A cup of tea in silence. The simple life. Not that we should all live in little houses. Not at all. With kids alone it is hard enough with lots of rooms and space, especially in the winter when it's cold out and we have to be entertained inside for months on end. It's just that it's appealing - having less - only what is needed - really focusing on how one lives and what the choices are that we make. How our homes should reflect who we are, how we want to live. It seems harder and harder to do that and living off the grid or in a tree has a great appeal. Better yet for me, a mobile home for a year, home schooling and travelling. Or a boat. A caravan. Moving. Seeing. Keeping it simple and open.

And then I had a dream about a girl from art school with long knotted hair and no shoes who could paint, really paint. Flower child with enough wild to keep her from being tamed. I haven't seen her in almost 20 years and we are not in contact but there she was in my dream ... walking around barefoot in her black skirt, wide headband holding back the waves. She had built her house on the roof of another and the floors were black but everywhere she had added paintings - to the floor .. to the walls and furniture ... beautiful glowing self portraits of herself over time. Her house was quiet and light filled and it was raining on the black roof outside - she had moss and ferns hanging in pots beside the open door onto the roof. High up in the sky - suspended. She lived on the Eastern Cape coast in Africa and it was green and wet and beautiful. Methinks there lies a painting in there somewhere.

When i woke up i was so sad ... i wanted to stay in her up-in-the-roof house and finish my tea. And i thought that she had the balance right. That girl in my dream. The wild and not quite tamed. The being in nature but close to it all. Not quite subsistence farming because not all of us can or want to grow our own greens. But that girl and the little houses ... they are keeping me thinking thinking about a better balance than now. A way to find the wildness and barefoot again. A simpler life, more focused on what is important. Like running outside and kids swimming in a lake instead of swimming lessons and an ordered life. Making tree houses and getting feet dirty instead of planned playdates and polite hellos. Not that suburban living can't also be fun. But there's a wildness missing. A feeling of really living. Being ALIVE in all the fullness of that word. How we grow up and get jobs and settle down and buy houses and cars and then the mortgage and schools and PTA meetings and .... it's a little too claustrophobic for me sometimes and I want to escape. Find a better balance. Get my balance right. 

That balance will be different for everyone. Some people hate getting their feet muddy. And that's OK. As for me, i am looking forward to heading back to Africa next week and finding some river mud to sink my toes into.


Monday, February 20, 2012

The circus ...

Today we took the kids to the circus. I've never taken them because of how I feel about animals in a circus ... i'm a fan of the people-doing-the-tricks kinds ... acrobats and tight-rope-walkers. Swings and ropes and breath-catching-like-when-i-was-a-child ... unicylces and stilts. But it's a childhood memory so strong for me - the one and only time we went to see the circus ... the smell of sawdust on the floor (in those days) and the hugeness of the tent, ropes suspended high high. Roasted peanuts and popcorn and sitting on wooden benches .. the excitement. 

Today there were tigers. Seven of them. Seven tigers in a cage. Made to jump from one little stool to another. For what. To impress seven-year-olds. Made to walk a tightrope. One of them sat on her stool, in the position her trainer wanted her in, and she just looked out at the audience. Eyes vacant. I know that look. I know that posture. Quiet desperation. They are not that different from us.

What is it about us humans that makes us want to subdue everything that is wild and beautiful. Makes us want to tame and control. Those seven beautiful tigers. Who should have been out in the jungle. Untamed. Wild. Terrifying. 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

This week ...

It was time for a new window at ABC cakes ...

a tiny window of painting time, working on undercoats in warm and cool ...

and lots of busy-ness ...

this weekend I am celebrating friends and family ... how about you ?


Monday, February 13, 2012

It's getting a little on the side of silly, the not being able to paint. Well, I could do it at 5.30 in the morning but my studio room is not heated and I am not feeling quite up to that challenge, just yet. But soon soon, if things don't shift. It has to do with a partner coming home late late and working weekends and still needing time to see friends and play with the sprogs. But it is a little silly ... 

Still ... altho today was not to be in a painting sense, I did play on pinterest and found lots of photos of gypsies and caravans for my travel-loving-soul. I discovered this amazing artist (thank you Nelly) and am blown away by her paintings. I have a series in my head, have had them for a while, just waiting till I am ready to start them ... and this was exactly what i needed to see today. Love it when that happens.

I received a box of Japanese chocolates today ... a surprise gift and I was really touched. Such attention to detail and beauty even in the little things. A country I would like to visit - one day.

And then there was the turning-on of Valentine's lights and having a dance party in our living room to Sheryl Crow ... feet stomping, Lexi (2) doing ' hip hop dancing mommy' and Hayden breakdancing on the coffee table. 

Really, all in all a pretty good day.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

A long time ago a friend told me to sit still and wait, to listen to my heart. Turns out this is not always so easy to do ... to be quiet with oneself and to be patient.

This week in Flora's class she has been talking about intuition and it's uncannily relevant because again in my life I find myself sitting and waiting - for signs, for something, a voice, a guide ... some sense of direction. For this time of tiredness and nothing achieved to be over, to move on to new directions, movement of some kind, adventures, change ... a feeling that life is going forwards instead of being stuck. Which is how it has felt for the longest time now. For my intuition to speak and show me the way. To feel that something magical is waiting around the corner. 

Too many choices, big life-changing-choices, and right now I feel paralyzed and unable to move at all. Like everything is on hold and frozen and i need to choose, choose, choose. Instead of running around in a panic, stressing about time passing and not knowing what to do (which would have been my strategy not that long ago), i am trying to breathe in and out and to wait, be patient, trust. That something is waiting only the time isn't quite right for me to know ... waiting to hear my inner voice showing me which way to turn. How to move forwards.

Sometimes I feel like i didn't listen, years back ... it happens - we know what our heart tells us but we let our heads guide us ... or we're just so confused that we run in circles and choose out of a place of panic instead of that lovely calm certain-in-our stomachs feeling of knowing what to do ... and i think how too many of my choices were made in that way, too panicked and rushed and not given time or quiet attention. I bolted rather than walked. Too many times. I made huge decisions which changed the entire course of my life, by bolting. Feeling frantic. 

I am hoping this time to find that place of calm. Hoping my intuition will shout rather than whisper. Hope I will be listening. Hope I know how to follow without arguing or involving my head.

A song I have been loving lately.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If i was a songwriter ...

If i was a songwriter i would sit in my room - dusky blue guitar strumming.
Windows cold-fogged-closed from the night air outside -
Sound suspended in the freezing.

Sing about the full moon hanging yellow in the trees tonight
and the way the road rose to meet me driving driving.
Sing of the silence inside sometimes, no words ...
the enormity of choices and how i feel i am drifting.
A little. Sometimes.

How it feels to wish I could go back in time, just a bit ...
Go back to finish that conversation, say it new ...
drink the last sip of wine, run down that beach ...
Jump out of the aeroplane.

Not have to always be saying goodbyes
Goodbye and bless you and i wish you would stay.

Wish I could stay me - me then and me now.
New beginnings mean endings and it's hard to let go.
Sometimes. A little.

Go back to that night beneath the boughs of the lemon tree
dreaming of tequila shots with salt from the sea.
Go forward to a full moon under an African sky
And all of us together.

A different bench.
Another lifetime.


Friday, February 3, 2012

On Flora and painting

November 2010 ... Flora's workshop in Pennsylvania.

For the first time ever I went to an art workshop, by myself. There is such an amazing community of artists here in the States, people teaching and attending retreats and workshops and blogging ... but for me this was the first time I was doing anything like this. 

I had taken Kelly's online course in the summer, and afterwards a group of us from the East Coast who had taken the course and connected on Facebook, met for a wonderful lunch on the Hudson ... laughing, talking, sharing, inspiring, encouraging, (drinking, for what is a good lunch without that!). I floated out of that restaurant feeling like I had finally found a community of women I could relate to - all on very different paths but in so many ways the same. 

During the lunch everyone was talking about courses they had taken and artists they knew of who blogged or taught. Flora's name came up a few times and when I got home I found her website and fell in love. What amazing colors and layers and energy and a feeling of freedom in her work. And then just a few weeks after, I found out she was running a workshop in Pennsylvania. I could only go for one of the two days but I was beyond excited, and that day was pure magic for me. A chance to do something just for myself, by myself (although I was happy happy to find that three fellow flyers were going along too!) ... sometimes with children and chores and life just ticking, it's a very special thing to have that pocket of time to oneself. I always love a road trip - somewhere new - and by myself, it was a real adventure for me. And I was scared, just a little.

Flora working her magic

Flora is just amazing and for me the class was a breakthrough on so many levels. Her process of working is very spontaneous and unplanned and for me that was incredibly relevant ... I have only ever worked in oils, slowly, laboring over each layer ... sometimes feeling really frustrated and angry with myself because the spontaneity I start with somehow gets worked over and over until everything is smooth and a little too perfect - not how I plan it to be at all. But it's really hard for me to stop.With oil that is. But acryllics ... well they're just totally different - dripping, spraying, running, wiping, playing. Sometimes that's the key to changing - trying a new medium, a new way of doing things. Remembering to play a little. Something I had really forgotten and just could not find my way back to. I remember at the end of the day Flora asked us what we had come away with, what had sunk in for us the most during the day ... and for me it was that I had been shown how to let go a little, not to worry about the final result, not working over too much. 

Oil, 2008

My two paintings from Flora's workshop ...

I left Pennsylvania early early the following morning, the sun was just rising - always my favorite time to get behind the wheel, with the world still sleeping and only a few cars out on the road .. i always imagine where they are headed, where they come from - i make up lives for them, conversations, what they are having for breakast ... early light and silence ... the crisp cold of almost-winter and pink glows on the horizon. I flew home, and I felt like i could do anything.

Over the next few months I kept coming back to those two paintings and I have to be honest and say I over worked them again - i started feeling like they had to be OF something .. I couldn't just let them be. I started making them into flowers, and then I wasn't happy at all and as I kept working i felt like i was losing something with each layer of paint. But then i couldn't really go back. Funny how that happens sometimes ... you can overwork, go too far, go in the wrong direction.

But I have love love loved working with acryllics this past year ... I have dripped and spattered and wiped and thrown and played. And for me, that's just about the best thing I can be doing. I still did some oil painting in between but less and less - i love the immediacy of acryllics, the quick drying time is perfect for my tiny pockets of time when I get to paint ... an hour here and there. Before, with oils, i would work and then have to put the canvas away for days before that layer dried, losing my impetus a little. But with acryllic I feel like i can get a lot done in  a short time, and it's easy to wipe off or work over.

Flora is starting her e-course on Monday and I really cannot wait. The past few months have been long and a little lacking in play and spontaneity ... I so badly want to have that floating feeling again, that feeling that I can do anything, that it's OK just to have fun, to throw on the paint and scrape and doodle and just to let things happen. To feel alive again. And I am hoping this time that I learn a little more about letting be and not pushing too far, not making it too perfect, not planning the outcome ... learning to go with that flow again ... i sense a theme here.

Wishing you color and some time to play this weekend, and to seeing some of you online on Flora's course next week. Happy painting !