A new year

January 2, 2017

It’s day two of a new year. I hope your’s is a good one.

Recently I heard something said that affected me profoundly. Here it is:

Your life is a story you tell yourself about the day. Tell a different story and you have a different life.

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Soon after hearing it, and writing my story at the end of each day, I drove to this place I’d been wanting to draw for two years.

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 Play

August 3, 2016

Long ago, when my sons went to school, they each in turn came home in Year 1 or 2 saying it wasn’t fair that they didn’t paint much anymore, or play games in class, like in Prep (the first transitional year of school).

Learning gradually became less about play and more about absorbing the knowledge of others.

Speaking with a friend today about joining a drawing class she said no I can’t draw. Oh but I did a watercolour workshop once, every day for a week, but failed miserably. I asked how so? In reply, one of those stories came out where the teacher’s rigid method and criticism left no room to move, and no desire or confidence to paint again.

  
  

Lately I’ve started to paint again, with watercolour also. Just playing really. To reacquaint myself with what watercolour is, what it does, what I can learn, what I can encourage it to do.

Play
 

A week and a half in this little village. The start of a new section, as my friend Susie would say.

So quiet at night. Cold so that I have to wear clothes to bed and have an extra blanket, and it’s November. The air is fresh, the water rain, local friends pop in for 15 minutes and don’t feel awkward to go again because they live close anyway. Think I’ll do the same.

Across the road is a line of poplars that point out the stars in the night sky, and remind me of them in the day. Trees all around, oaks and gums that shelter our place.

Animals are more apparent here, especially birds. I’ll have to paint them sometime, and their sounds. Am still sorting out the studio.

There have been a few odd occurrences.

During an evening walk up the Dingle we saw a peacock showing off his gorgeous tail to a farmyard chook. Poor bugger, not a chance. On the way back we spotted him ahead on the road coming towards us, tail out behind him like an opera cloak. We passed each other, him taking a cautious detour behind a shrub (perhaps he was shy), and on we went. I heard him cry out later that evening. Hope he made it home OK.

A couple of days ago a beat up old Ford, circa 1990 went sailing past the house, a foxtail and Australian flag flying from the aerial. I wondered which of the weird political parties on the last election ballot was missing a vehicle from their motorcade.

Having a late lunch on the front veranda yesterday (pita-bread pizza and half a glass of Cascade Light) I heard the first cicada of summer. I like it here.

Day before yesterday was the first trip back into town and sure enough, as Susie predicted, ticking everything off my list would have been miraculous. I didn’t look at my old house. So much happens in 11 years.

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A few weeks ago I saw and heard the wonderful Rory Mcleod in Yackandandah. A teller of stories collected from all round the world, from conversations with strangers, small moments and big events. With a tireless voice and a collection of instruments he caught us up til nearly midnight.

RoryMcleod@Yack

Checking out his website I realised again how travel is a great educator. The only time I’ve managed to leave this country was to visit my family in the Netherlands a dozen years ago. It was the stories that affected me most, and I made work about them for the next 2 years. Many of the artworks are back over there on loungeroom walls.

bells

dad's hands cropped

The power of great shoes

February 22, 2013

Feet can be very difficult when it comes to shoes. Especially if they are naturally fairly narrow but have a pretty bulbous bunion just down from each big toe. Now, some of my best friends have bunions, and we could probably form a friendly society for frustrating feet, whose anthem would be the lament of the coveted shoe. My sports shoes are always from the men’s range – nice and wide, a bit bulky, and no colour choices (why that is I don’t know).

Searching for some sensible flats, I spotted a gorgeous shoe of the kind that I dream, on the specials table, noted the generous width, slipped it on, and it was obviously for me.

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I’m not a big retail therapy kind of girl but this saved me an eventual trip to a shrink for the madness bunions can cause.

Causes for worry

January 18, 2012

Since my last post, a considerable number of opportunities have presented themselves to me as practice for not worrying. Even before the post went up, it disappeared, due to a failure in the system to save a draft. So what you read is my rewrite from memory of the first attempt at publishing. An immediate test of my resolve. And only the first.

That evening I watched with alarm a doco about the diminishing numbers of big fish in the oceans and the consequences thereof. If you wish to test your own ability to not worry, it’s called The End of the Line. At the end of the film it suggests ways to help – a kindness to a worrier. (Mm, from worrier to warrior. Sorry)

But beyond small irritaions and global disasters is another catagory of worry that you suddenly have access to when you have a child, or three.

Two nights ago my youngest son Tom called me around 11 pm from a lonely tram stop in the suburbs. An over-active imagination being a classic cause of worry, he suddenly felt the need to talk to someone, and he figured I’d still be up. We talked until the tram arrived with one other man on it. We said goodbye, and I went back to bed.

Now, I knew it was a half hour trip home, so I lay there not worrying til midnight, then called to make sure he’d arrived safely.

During that half hour of waiting, while my grownup son travelled home on a tram in a faraway city, I found myself remembering events from his childhood. In particular, the first time I sent he and his two older brothers on a walk to the shops on their own to buy icecreams. It was a deliberate moment, a decision on my part to let go a little, and trust that they would be safe out in the world of that small town.
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Snow shoes

July 14, 2011

Tomorrow I’ll see some snow for the first time this winter. When I shut my eyes lately it feels like snow might be all around me. Had to sleep with an extra blanket on last night.

The only time I have attempted cross-country skiing it ended in tears. When I got home and spoke to a couple of girlfriends, they told me I was not alone in that. One friend said it took her the whole first season to feel confident.

Although my desire to ski is minimal, the challenge it poses and the delights it offers make it a tempting goal. Some days.

After the trauma of that initiation had worn off a bit I was inspired to prepare my body for a possible second attempt. The thing that noone had told me of beforehand was the inescapable and treacherous side-slide. I thought skis went forward and backward. Who could know they go sideways as well? In opposite directions.

In the small world that is my brain I came up with a rollerskate that does the same.
exercise device for ski training

Last week I went down to a little town in Gippsland called Yinnar to hang a show with 3 other artists. This dot on the map is near another dot called Boolarra.

Seeing this small town in the Strzelecki Range after so many years, it appeared as the Gippsland of my dreams – the lush green that I miss, the damp air of evening, and small hills that conceal a surprise at each turn in the road. This is the land of my childhood, the dream that I carry with me.

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An Ode? … mm

March 30, 2011

Well that last post wasn’t really an ode. But this might be. And maybe it’ll fit with a tune… something from a 50s musical western. No, maybe not.

At a quarter past twelve in the middle of the day

when the sun was high and hazy,

I took to my bed ’cause I couldn’t stand up

but not for being dizzy or lazy.

My nose drip dripped and my head was a bomb

about to explode for sure when

it became apparent as I slipped out of sight,

this cold was also a cure

For the too much to do and the so much to sort

and the having to get there fast.

In the quiet of bed with a doona on my head

my mind was clear at last.

Ode to the Common Cold

March 28, 2011

Last Sunday evening I sneezed a few times, and again on Monday. On Tuesday I went to work but was home in bed by lunchtime. It was a great relief to sink into my bed under the doona in the middle of the day. That’s the first good thing about having a cold.

As a child I had a cold every winter, and stayed home from school for a week. My nose was stuffed full of snot and my throat sore, but I had mum to myself. Sure I had to stay in bed but she brought me vegemite toast and cordial at regular intervals. Believe me, when you have eight brothers and sisters, its something you don’t forget. I think I might even have told that story already on this blog.

Back to last week. After that moment of relief things went rapidly downhill. Drip drip went my nose, and by evening my head felt like the bends might – too much pressure and too much pain. So I lay about for two days while the Cold had its way with me.

When I was finally strong enough to go out I went to my studio, knowing, for the first time since January, exactly what I wanted to do there. When I arrived I did something completely different, but that was OK because it flowed easily out of me. My head was clear and calm. I was clear and calm.

I had to be calm because I hadn’t recovered yet. But the clarity was the gift – the second good thing about having that cold. Too ill to worry about anything else, my mind cleared along with my head.

And what I did in the studio was play with colour.

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A time for tesserae

January 31, 2011

Mosaics have long been on my ‘learn to do’ list. Images of amazing walls and floors in Roman and Moorish and many other buildings, and Gaudi’s wondrous works in Spain have fed my longing to travel to places far away from here.

When I was in my teens, Dad made a large table for the verandah. It was a triangle, equilateral, and it weighed a ton – he always made things to last. It was a bit high to sit at – I recall having to stretch up to lean on my elbows. (Perhaps that was before the growth spurt that grew me into maybe the tallest girl in my class.)

The top of this table was to be covered with ceramic tiles, so a design had to be developed and I was called in to help. These were my favorite times with Dad – creative collaboration. We also chose the wallpaper for the house, a dubious claim to fame despite the gameness of the choice – it was the seventies.

Several possibilities were drawn up – geometry at its finest – coloured pencil triangles on thin white paper.

triangles group of 5 smalltriangles 5 6 smalltriangles 12 smalltriangles 3 4 small

And finally we chose one of them.

triangles 7 small

It had the required symmetry, it had intrigue, and it was enough of a challenge to warrant the work ahead. I don’t remember helping with the actual construction however – Dad was a perfectionist.

So, a couple of months ago when my friend invited me to a mosaic workshop, I became very excited, and found 2 small books that I bought many years ago, and read them again, this time knowing that I would actually be applying what I read. Here’s what happened last week. I’ve yet to apply the grout and I’m hoping it’ll be beetroot red.

Copy of mosaic Jan11 ungrouted

It has the required degree of wonkiness, no intrigue, and for a first attempt it was just challenging enough to be fun.

Post-it notes on the train

January 19, 2011

I’m loving my friend’s train stories. Check out the link under all of this.

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Hovercraft

January 18, 2011

Something strange is happening when I drive out in the countryside lately. A light roar of tyres on the road surface like background music, and a feeling of floating like when I ride my bike with ear plugs in. A waking dream, senses alert.

I don’t think the cars or the road have changed, but something has.

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When I was a girl it was easy to fall into a reverie. It felt as though the whole universe was passing through my mind in an easy flow, cleaning me out. Sometimes I would sit on the concrete bench that Dad built aroung the barbeque, under the Boobialla, and gaze at the garden. At times my head was full of difficult questions, but mostly those hours were about floating and soaking.

On long weekend drives to the bush or the beach, a car full of kids all sleepy on the way home, I would cup my hands to the window and get lost in the dark blue of the evening.

The thing about those experiences is that I was completely there in those places in that moment, and at the same time I was everywhere else. Open.

Anyway, the feeling I’ve been having in the car lately is like that, only I’m a fully functioning driver as well. And the thing is, I’m not trying do it, like trying to retrieve my childhood clarity. It was just there suddenly, a week ago.

Christmas aftermath

December 28, 2010

Yesterday was for rest. Today I can’t think, only do – a good thing. Today I wiped down much of the house, following the discovery on Boxing Day of a flea infestation which we subsequently ‘bombed’. This is fast becoming the era of the bug. I haven’t put grasshopper-proof shade-cloth over the car grill yet but the pressure is on.

I remember an Easter Sunday when we discovered lice in 4 out of 5 family members’ hair. Not a chemist open. Only an experienced mum and hairdresser over the back fence who graciously cut off most of my hair – an early nineties acid perm. We were staying with friends at the time because all of our belongings had gone to our new home town in a truck.

Christmas is fraught with traps, and that thing called hope. I like the funny moments, when no-one is thinking too much. The quiet after lunch is good too.

ChristmasDay 4pm 2010

I love having a car. It could be any car really, although I’ve loved a couple of them more than the others. I can still feel the thrill of that first drive alone. The potential to go anywhere I want, as far as I want, without relying on anyone but myself.

The yellow pop-top Kombi was my favorite. Pull out the back seat and it became a portable studio or art transporter or removal van. After a family trip I could just sweep it out. And in summer it was cool and airy.

We called it Kate and made up bedtime stories about her and her friends. But the engine died and I sold it to my neighbour. It sat in his back yard for a long time.
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I want a van again. You’ve got to be able to sleep in your car. Sedans just aren’t the same. I had a station wagon in between – an old Toyota Cressida. Pretty easy and comfy, until the suspension fell out and the seats fell in. She ended up in my mechanic’s back yard, and then at the wreckers. Poor old girl.

Mum is one of those lovely people who are funny without even meaning to be. She loves her car too. Soon after she bought a Suzuki Baleno someone asked her what type of car it is. She answered, after some thought, “I think it’s a Mitsubishi Baloni.”

Filter

April 21, 2010

Having returned a few days ago from my trip to Melbourne and Gippsland feeling satisfied with the many short visits I made to family and friends, I lay down with a migraine. It crept up on me after the long hours of driving and the long hours of email catchup the next day.

A few years ago I discovered that if a migraine isn’t too severe, the only thing I can do to use some of the many unproductive hours is draw. I set myself up in a dark room, paper and materials at my fingertips. With eyes closed I begin making marks with movements that cause me the least pain. Sometimes the drawing becomes a frustrated explosion of coloured crayon, but mostly they are quiet odes to pain, but not to suffering.

migraine4Dad was a migraine sufferer. We often had to creep around the house, just as my children have so graciously done for me.

migraine5It’s a complex business. Stress, diet, hormones, sleep, coffee, air pressure, genetics, posture. Many years ago when alternative medicine was rare here, Dad found a doctor who taught him self-hypnosis, to help manage his stress levels. I remember his gratitude for a little help. It was a kind of filter, a thin shield between heart and life.

Soft steady rain

April 6, 2010

In Dutch there are many words for rain. The cousin who told me that, didn’t tell me what they are, so I’m left to imagine. Rain, shower, sheet, drips, plips, drumming, rushing, drift, spots, curtain, wet, buckets. In English,  ‘rain’ is added to the end of a description – driving rain, pouring rain, heavy rain, soft rain, soaking rain.

My father’s birthday has just passed. It’s raining, as it did when he was buried. When I first began work in my current studio, he came to mind – my first creative ally. I made a series of small drawings in watercolour – quietly weaving patterns like the ones he wove on the loom that he made.

Copy of dot weave 2It was the seventies. Mum was a spinner and she knitted and crocheted. Still does. Dad loved the sheep, the wool, the shearing. Together they went searching for plants and bark to boil up dyes and then made things with the freshly spun and dyed wool.

Hands ought to be productive. And if beautiful things come from it, all the better for the world.

Sensory input

April 4, 2010

My father was a musician. My earliest memory is of lying against his chest feeling comforted by the vibration of his voice – warm baritone hum. I also remember his voice when it filled the house and either thrilled or scared me. And the long hours I spent immersed in the smells and sounds of his wood-work shed.

My mother worked long each day to run the household. I remember the fabric of her coats, her apron, the doilies we crocheted together, the vegemite toast she brought me when I was home from school with my annual cold, and the smell of pea and ham soup. And I can see her reading and writing, pulled between the English of her second life and the Dutch of her first.

And many many other things come back as I write.

coats in diary