Sun’s up

Sun’s up, uuh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

It came on the radio a couple of days ago as I was puttering around the studio,
an old favourite from way way back in the day –

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren’t half as frightening as they were before
But I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

I looked around and chuckled –

I’m surrounded by them these days, the lions.
And yes, they were there at the door, in a dream,
and not half as frightening…
In fact they were lolling on the landing,
rolling on their backs, showing their tummies,
as if asking for a belly rub.

The big cats have been frequent dream visitors for some years now, so I pay attention, I work with them.
Not in any fancy complicated way,
more just in a way of being with them, of staying with them,
hangin’ with them, feeling them, and drawing them…

Recently The Shift Network had a “Dreamwork Summit” and gathered a bunch of interesting contemporary thinkers on dreaming to each give a talk and present their methods.
A few of my faves who I’ve worked with were there – Robert Moss and Toko-pa Turner, Sandra Ingerman and Sergio Magaña and Charlie Morley –
but I found I was especially drawn to a couple of guys whose work I’ve only read in books –
Robert Bosnak and Rodger Kamenetz.
Both of them talked about the phenomenology of dreaming.

Bosnak elaborates in Tracks in the Wilderness of Dreaming,

The dream story is not the dream itself.
The dream itself is a texture woven of space and time inside which we find ourselves.
During the dream we believe we are awake, in the same way that we believe we are awake when we truly are…
This is one of the few laws of human experience that hold true the world over.
The ‘I’ in the dream lives inside the dreamworld with the unshakable conviction that the surrounding reality is, indeed, utterly real.
Each dream arouses within us the conviction that we are in our waking lives.
~Robert Bosnak

With this unshakable conviction,
believing utterly and truly that it was happening as it happened,
I had a dream a couple of months ago – a nightmare, really.
In the dream, I (an I that was not entirely me, but somewhat somehow)
had been designated contaminated, or contagious, or faulty in some way,
and was given a bomb to hold against my soft belly.
And I lay there waiting for it to explode,
praying only that death would be fast.

Not a fun dream to take to the studio.
Not a fun dream in any way.
But as I let myself live with it,
as I looked long and hard at my day-to-day life,
it proved very instructive.

Kamenetz writes in The History of Last Night’s Dream

The dream wants to show us inner space.
It shows our predicament, how we really live.
But you have to be willing to feel something about your predicament, because there’s no other way in…
The special language of dreams is forceful, poetic, metaphorical…
You have to learn what causes your predicament and overcome it.
~ Rodger Kamenetz

And so I began to make a few changes.
Obvious things – started removing some unhealthy habits and initiating healthier ones.
But with these subtle changes came a surprisingly enormous emotional shift,
an energy and optimism and buoyancy I thought had fled forever with the onset of middle age.
And then I came across a quote from Sergio

Often when we die in a dream
it denotes favourable changes in our life,
even if the death occurs in a violent manner
and our conditioning leads us to interpret the dream in a negative way.
~Sergio Magaña

This reminded me of the interpretations of the Death card in tarot decks,
a frightening card to see in a reading,
that is usually not entirely what it seems –

Death is necessary for new life.
Without the old growth dying and decomposing into the soil through fall and winter, the new buds could not sprout in the spring.
Without death, nothing could change.
~Rachel Pollack

Or even more radically –

Initiation rites always led up to a simulated death and rebirth.
The initiate is led to believe that he or she is actually about to die.
Everything is done to make this death as real as possible so that the ego will be tricked and in fact experience that dreaded dissolution.
Then, when the initiate is ‘reborn’ he or she experiences a new maturity and a new freedom of energy.
~Rachel Pollack

Now this thought I love –
That the dreams contain their own processes of rites of initiation,
their own shamanic rituals,
their own journeys to power animals.

And to leave you with some of that buoyancy and optimism I’ve been feelin’,
do yourself a favour and have a listen –

And in case you’re wanting some more of that – 

Happy 2019!!!

Magicians

I am staying at Rh’s house. Or not in the house proper, but in a kind of separate guest house / basement suite that she uses, leaving the main house empty.

A man comes in. He wears a balaclava over his face and chases me around, trying to rape me. I am terrified, I do NOT want this to happen. Rh chuckles, watching the action. She has planned this.

There is a pause, and the man pulls off the ski mask. He is, in fact, a kind of goofy guy, and a magician. There is no threat after all.

* * *

This dream stayed with me for a while – as the frightening part was heart-stoppingly terrifying, and the idea of a goofy magician underneath the mask totally piqued my curiosity.

A few days later I found myself at a workshop in Owen Sound with the Toltec teacher, Sergio Magaña –

We learned a “manifesting technique” that, in its series of movements, reminded me for all the world of the Magician card in the tarot deck – reaching up to the sky above, and down below to the earth in the process of creation…

What a way to begin the summer…

We stayed just outside of Owen Sound on my friends’ farm where they had some new horses, and Sauble beach is just a hop skip and jump away –

And there is a sense of buoyant optimism in the sensation of creation from this practice… It’s a technique that is done for a number of days in a row, the repetition reinforcing the sense of creative magician… even my dream world has been increasingly busy (and occasionally magical) with this practice.

* * *

On Facebook I belong to various dream groups, and recently someone posted some collages she was doing from her dreams.

They had the structure of a series of comic book frames, allowing for the shifts in the narrative from scene to scene – a technique she said she learned from a workshop with Jeremy Taylor.

We got into a bit of a conversation about working from a dream, and how sometimes later, when you look back at the original entry in your dream journal, the details can appear to be quite different from what you’ve been accentuating or extrapolating as you make art, or even have conversations about the dream.

For example, from the dream above at Rh’s house, I’d been remembering the most vivid bits of the fear and of the unexpected revelation of a magician.

Yet when I looked back to my dream journal I found that I’d had several other forgotten magician dreams before this, and within the original entry on this dream, there was a detail that “this is a game or a challenge Rh and I have”. So the chuckling Rh seems less evil in this context, and my character is then also not so much a victim as a co-creator.

Interesting.

* * *

There was a dream I had maybe 2 years ago of 6 dead bulls in a parking lot.

It was a terrible dream, with the stench of death in it, and the sense of tragedy of these 6 massive powerful creatures dying a lonely unceremonious death in a parking lot at night.

At the time I had no place to talk about dreams, but I can always make art, so I did painting after painting of bulls, dead or dying, wondering what the heck the dream was about.

At some point I happened on a free webinar given by some people in Vermont, and I told them the dream of the 6 bulls. They were so lovely, they listened so well, and at some point Sue said, “how do you know they were dead?”.

The possibility of seeing the dream story as a more fluid entity, of not taking the narrative as a finished, absolute, unchangeable reality ROCKED my world.

Since then there has been a large painting in the works of some very alive bulls, and even a small sculpture is in the works.

And you, Dear Reader…?

Have you found your relationship or understanding of certain dreams changes over time?

Waiting for …

There has been a lot of topsy-turvy here in our tiny household. Much transition.
The cat has been a bit stressed out at all the activity, Nervous Nellie forever waiting for the worst. It’s become a bit of a sport to tease her about her Chicken Little tendencies, while the humans stumble through Harvey, Irma, and the sabre rattling of North Korea as if everything were hunky dory.
Ah well. Who knows really.
Meanwhile, summer was…

…as summer should be.
Road trips and friends and lakes and chili hot dogs on Sauble Beach and misty river mornings and dragonflies buzzing and the sudden swarms of mosquitos on the Bruce Trail and an impromptu dinner party crammed around the tiny table of an RV.
Through it all the strange part for me was a health issue – I’m not usually a person with health issues, but 2017 has presented health issues as a distinct new concept, so there’s a new sense of the body as something potentially treacherous, fickle and demanding – an ally to be carefully courted – not the effortless ease of yesteryear.
Ah well. So be it.

Then beginning of September my boy moved out – after 23 and a half years, with the hope of a job on the horizon, he packed up his things and went to live with some friends in a hipster part of town.
Ah well. Very very happy for him.

And so with a bit of extra space at home, slowly I’m packing up my studio.
A few things are in progress on the walls, and I go over after work and look at them and feel unsure of what to do, where to begin, when to end.
I sit and look, waiting.
Waiting for some kind of sign, some kind of indication of what’s the next move…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Waiting

 

Summer Textures

Summertime lake.
The endless blue of the sky.

Approaching the island across the lake, I think of the book I’ve been reading: The Zen of Creativity : Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori.
He has a series of exercises on “Direct Experience” or “Experiencing without Identifying” – exercises closely related to the practice of mindful meditation, with the intention of quieting the mind and seeking to simply feel or experience things before the thoughts come in.

Most of us – seasoned meditators included – will find that it is very difficult simply to listen. We hear sounds and immediately name them, or we associate them with something else, we compare them, analyze them, or try to find their source. It soon gets boring just to listen and our minds wander. It’s not easy to let things simply be and let go of our running commentary.

As we approached the island I practiced with these trees –

Trying to just feel the trees without thinking about what KIND of trees, or about their size or colour or all the things one could think about trees.
Even so, even as I sensed them as a group, as a collective presence, an alive beingness in front of us, I found myself searching for the words to describe the sensations.

And again, trying to just allow the experience of the pebbles… much subtler, so small and ubiquitous, almost imperceptible yet hinting at eternity…
And from this place one might take a photograph.

One way that our spiritual power begins to manifest is through the emergence of the intuitive aspect of our consciousness. This is one of the reasons why Zen and creativity are so intimately linked. Creativity is also an expression of our intuitive aspect. Getting in touch with our intuition helps us to enter the flow of life, of a universe that is in a constant state of becoming. When we tap into our intuition, whether in our art or simply in the day-to-day activities of our lives, we feel a part of this creative continuum.

How can any of us gain entry into this unique way of perceiving the universe, where every breath is the first breath, every sight and sound is fresh penetrating the universe, reaching everywhere? 

At one time or another, each of us has experienced this way of perceiving. It comes upon us unexpectedly. Suddenly the music moves into our being and our body responds. There is no thought, judgment, or conscious effort. The music freely passes through us. We pick up a brush and the painting flows from its tip. the poem creates itself, almost without effort

A photo here and there, I also pick up strange things from the ground and bring them inside.
I’m teaching myself to draw on the iPad – it does not yet feel very Zen at all, it is still a lot about thinking through how the mechanics work, but there is a certain amount of non-thinking possible in the presence of strange things, just looking at them and trying to sense and feel the way into a drawing rather than think.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Texture

March wishes

Oh I wish, how I wish I were a flying fish.

Oh I wish I wish I were the spray from an ocean wave
the wind in the trees
the stretch of a cat
the sparkle of a star in the night sky
a floating colourful anemone in the warm Caribbean sea
a coasting bird, soaring, casual as I move through the clouds…

* * *

We are in my dad’s house in Philadelphia – he has recently inherited it from his parents.
It still has old lady wall paper and old fashioned furniture and such, but some areas, by the staircase for example, there are some bare brick walls and boards.
I know I’m going to inherit this house soon, very soon, and so I look around with eyes to renovation – imagine it with the old lady wallpaper gone, and clean modern lines…Oh, it is exciting, the possibilities ahead!
And I start to pull away more of the old boards at the bottom of the staircase thinking of opening up more space, but I discover curled under the stairs in the crawl space the corpse of a fox terrier.
This is rather disturbing.
Creepy, and there’s going to be a smell problem.
It’ll have to be cleaned up.
But suddenly it gets up, now it’s glowing a rich blue colour, and is a real fox fox, a wild fox.
Away it trots, glowing blue.
I am relieved that this corner of the house is now clean and clear, blessed by this magic glowing ghost-fox.
Outside I am driving, and I realize this is going to be whole new phase of my life – I will move back to the States, to this house in Philly, and I will finally be driving again!
My sister and I are by a kind of river, streaming over rocks, with many many people. But there is a bad man who is a problem.
We drown him, the two of us, holding him down in the river in the midst of the rush of people – visceral, his red throat, bulging veins and tongue – and then finally, the bad man is dead.

* * *

Last night I sat down in the studio for a wee break from painting the latest fox – lots of foxes these days – and the angle from the chair to the patiently waiting half-finished or half-started crow on the wall with the Dollarama flowers on the table in front made it look as though the wing of the crow was decorated, almost tattooed with a gorgeous string of pink flowers…

And I wished, how I wished I was THAT kind of artist.
An artist who makes pretty pink decorative things or beautiful tattoos or things you might want to use as wallpaper in your kid’s room…

Moments, just fleeting moments where the desire to be other, to be more, to be different, to be something else, to be someone else bubbles up.

It’s not so terrible in a way, as it’s all clustered into what has become a fairly conscious process of change I’ve been working on for some time now, deep thinking about the things that are not working, the things that need to be better, the places I need to step up, become a better human being…
But here’s the thing… change is HARD!!!!

Maybe you already knew that.

So one thing I always find myself doing in these moments, is reading.

Have a seat by the fireside and enjoy some Joseph Campbell:

The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization…
If the call is heeded…the individual is invoked to engage in a dangerous adventure. It’s always a dangerous adventure because you’re moving out of the familiar sphere of your community. In myths, this is represented as moving out of the known sphere altogether into the great beyond. I call this crossing the threshold. This is the crossing from the conscious into the unconscious world, but the unconscious world is represented in many many many different images, depending on the cultural surrounds of the mythos. It may be a getting lost in a dark forest, it may be finding yourself in a strange city. It maybe be depicted as an ascent or as a descent or a going beyond the horizon, but this is the adventure – it’s always the path into the unknown, through the gateway or the cave or the clashing rocks…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish

Relax into colour

The desk is piled high with homework and projects past due.
Lists of Christmas gifts are scribbled on post-it notes around the computer.
The vacuum cleaner is plugged in and ready to go.
Recycling sits by the door ready to be taken out.
The chicken bubbles on the back burner. The rice is poured but unrinsed.
And yet, and yet…
The faint bling and winks of brilliant colour call…
abalone-hillscape

abalone-moonscape

abalone-rivuletAn abalone shell, sitting hidden for weeks in a scrunched up paper bag on a shelf, was rediscovered this morning.
And, oh, but what worlds it holds within…
abalone-nebula

abalone-kali

abalone-snout-and-hoofs

abalone-tunnel

Weekly Photo Challenge – Relax

Tiny Steps

tiny-clouds-can-flagIs it the dark of November, that flu I just couldn’t kick, or the malignant gloom of the American election?
There are days when it feels like nothing gets done.
Days when doing the laundry is a big accomplishment.
Days when I think it’s the perfect day, free of obligations, to go down to the studio and paint – smudging and scribbling and sharpening the image, listening to music for hours – and yet somehow I never get there.
Days when I get up with last night’s promise of a morning run ringing in my ears and I flop on the couch and flake out on facebook on my phone.
Days when I’ve told myself it’s really time to finally sit down at my little corner writing desk and enter the zone – the zone of happy struggles, of exploring interior worlds, scaling memories and imaginings and sensations and the secrets of the human heart, searching for all the right words… and instead I spend hours glumly in front of the computer catching up on email.

Do you know these kind of days?
Switch out the particulars for your own personal Important Goals list that never quite happens?

Well, I’ve been pushing against the dark slide of lethargy with some new tools…
Chief among them the concept of Tiny Steps.

kaizen-book

Tiny Steps comes from the Japanese tradition of Kaizen, elaborated on in this book by Robert Maurer: One Small Step Can Change Your Life.
He says,

Kaizen is an effective, enjoyable way to achieve a specific goal, but it also extends a more profound challenge: to meet life’s constand demands for change by seeking out continual – but always small – improvement.

The key is to start small.
The key is to make it SO small you can’t NOT do it.
Reading some of the bios and creative practices of the greats can be totally intimidating – they seem to be on their game ALL the time, productive all the time – so much so that it’s a world away, unreachable.
Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit describes her mornings –

I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 a.m., put on my workout clothes…walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab.

Well, this is amazing, I love the sound of it, can just see the dark of the Manhattan morning and the surliness of the cab driver and the sweaty two hours at the gym, and gosh I sure wish that were my life too, but ummmmmmmm…
I can tell you right now I’m not gonna be doing that tomorrow morning. And not just cause I don’t live in Manhattan.
I mean even just thinking about how far all of that is from my life brings up all kinds of neurotic garbage and the harpies of self-flagellation begin to loom and the whole thing makes me feel like, well, if I can’t be like that, then I might as well just give up now.
But…
This is precisely where the small steps of Kaizen come in.
Maurer says –

Don’t let these common roadblocks to change make you feel so guilty or frustrated that you give up your attempts to improve.
Instead, use times of difficulty to remember that fear is the body’s gift, alerting us to a challenge. The more we care about something, the more we dream, the more fear shows up.
During the rough patches, understanding that fear is normal, and a natural sign of ambition, makes us more likely to hold onto hope and optimism – qualities that increase our willingness to take the kinds of small steps that slip right past the fear.

Did you get that last bit?
…small steps that slip right past the fear.
Okay! Now we’re talking!
A step that is so tiny it will neatly sidestep the harpies in my head. Perfect.
So, for me, a small step would be NOT to say I’m going to write a novel before the end of 2016, but to say I’m going to write for 10 minutes each morning.
10 minutes of sitting down to write is something small enough that it’s really really really easy to do.
(and if there’s a morning when even so, even though it’s a tiny step, if it doesn’t happen and I don’t show up, I’m going to remind myself that FEAR IS NORMAL, and try again the next morning)

Going back to Twyla Tharp’s story about the cab – the point that she’s making and the point that really speaks to me is the idea of creating a Ritual.
Creating a Ritual sounds to me partly like a way to make the whole thing more FUN.
But Twyla takes it even further –

Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question, Why am I doing this? By the time I give the taxi driver directions, it’s too late to wonder why I’m going to the gym and not snoozing under the warm covers of my bed…
It’s vital to establish some rituals – automatic but decisive patterns of behavior – at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.

So for me, for my 10 minutes of writing, I’ve found this one piece of ritual I can bring in to the goal of sitting down at the little writing desk in the corner…
I light a candle.
The beautiful little glass candle holder makes me happy. The action of striking the match marks the beginning, the dancing of the flame keeps me company, and the whole thing signals to my brain that a hallowed space has been created to sit down and hold a tiny 10 minutes of writing.
corner-desk

And you, Dear Reader? Are there Rituals, Practices, Habits, Methods that have worked for you?

Please Note: All this comes from a training program I’m doing currently, called Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching. You might want to check it out. 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge – Tiny

Looking back

I was in Ottawa visiting friends from back in the day, back in Montreal, and as if out of some random pocket of a time warp, my friend pulled out some tiny forgotten paintings I’d done on tiles – tiny still lives of the charming funky place we lived in together so many years ago…

bowl and hyacinth

And my gosh, it was a revelation to me – most of all, that I had more or less managed with, more or less made my way around oil paints a couple of decades ago.
I’ve been struggling with oil paints the last few months – torn between the more recent experience of a fast drying acrylic paint, the possibility of fast endless layers, and the faint memory of a rich buttery wet wet paint I was able to negotiate to some degree some decades ago…

kitchen telephone

Now, trapped in work deadlines, I am fetishizing the time ahead in the studio…how glorious it is sure to be with this new-found half-remembered confidence…

goose and duck

Happy happy summer all…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Looking Up

Honesty vs Admiration


The tourists are beginning to return to the city, and if I leave the studio door open to get a bit of a cross breeze with the window, occasionally a lost meandering tourist will make their way to the third floor of the building, and wander into the open door, curious…
There are a total of 5 of us in our large loft room – a fashion designer whose layout tables and sewing machines and bolts of fabric crowd one big corner; a landscape painter with small children who I have yet to cross paths with, but the changing toys suggest she makes appearances at odd hours; a figurative painter who has been in the space for the longest, some 6 years now, and his corner is packed full of the large portraits and expressive experiments of those years; and then Nancy and I in our tiny corner by the door.
It is more of an entranceway than studio, our little corner, but in a city like Toronto, it is what we can manage between the 2 of us, and we love it.
Yesterday I was there with the door open, and given our space, it means I am essentially in the doorway, working away – a point of interest for the 3 tourists who stumbled down the hallway.
They were not especially shy, and after a brief invitation in, went straight into the depths, shrugging by the landscape painter without much notice, and burrowing into the tightly packed corner of the figurative painter. He has some large paintings of famous people out and about – a David Bowie still in progress, Rihanna drying in a corner – and there were ooh’s and aah’s from the 2 ladies in the group.
Turning back, they passed by the bolts of fabric and noticed Nancy’s tiny corner within the corner, a few of her gorgeous pieces up on the wall. The man in their group was especially taken with Nancy’s work and the 3 of them stood there for a while pointing and discussing details.

Beltaine by Nancy Gardiner
Beltaine by Nancy Gardiner

Midsummer by Nancy Gardiner
Midsummer by Nancy Gardiner

Finally they turned towards where I was working away in my section around the door, and after interrogating me on how they might get in touch with the figurative painter, if there was a card or a website, they looked around at my various scattered sketches and experiments, and tried to find something nice to say.
IMG_20160504_195910-01
One of the women focused on the wall of sketches, and said, “well, they are certainly well drawn”, as if relieved she had found some point of concession – she could grant me that at least.
IMG_20160504_195858-01
The horse sketches are on terraskin paper, a treeless stone paper, so I told them about this, and then of course they wanted to touch it, and we focused on surfaces and textures for a while, as I showed them which ones were terraskin, which ones mylar.
The large bat that dominates one wall right now is oil on mylar, and one of the ladies said, “he looks like he… I don’t know, as though he has a purpose of some kind.”
Processed with VSCO with g3 presetMy eyes grew wide, as it occurred to me I HAD painted her with a purpose – she was a dream messenger, one of several bat dreams, and so given the repeated bat imagery, asking for attention, I’d been spending time drawing and painting the dream characters, honouring them, staying with them, listening to them as best I can.
What exactly the bat is about, what she wants to say, I still don’t know…
bat feet
But in there, in the intense focused silence of creating the images, of repeated bat drawings and paintings, I think about the strangeness of them – as if little tiny mice that one day got fed up and said, Dangit! I want to fly!
And did.
And maybe that thought is all she really needs to say…
bat fly down
And so this one comment from a stranger, not filled with flattery at all, but with a kind of faintly uncomfortable, honest relating to the image, totally made my day…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Admiration

On and Off the Grid

Although we’d signed the lease early Tuesday morning, we couldn’t move in ’til Friday night – it was that kind of week, has been that kind of month.
We packed the car, dumped our stuff, breathed in and looked around and vowed to come back soon as we could.
Can you see our space, up there in the bright light on the third floor?IMG_20150918_203402-01-01Tuesday had been the final preparation of the large colour images for the dress rehearsal that night and then show opening Wednesday. Printing and mounting this combination of old photo resuscitation and photoshop art that I started to really love doing – Photoshop is growing on me.
Can you see those strange women, collaged and cloaked there in their layers of colours and textures and doodads?20150919_195216_HDR-01Wednesday was troubles hanging the dang pieces on the brick walls and printing black & white pictures for the charity show on Thursday.
Thursday was cutting the black and white prints and wrangling the little pieces of paper into the metal-grid-frame thingy I’d found that seemed like the perfect old-fashioned new-fangled gizmo for the subject.
Can you see all the different images, tucked under, beneath, and behind each other?imageFriday was packing, cleaning, preparation for Saturday’s art fair, and then by evening the dashed move into the new studio.
Then running late, Saturday morning, the damn grid walls that have haunted my summer at art fairs here and there – the absolute necessity of them, the awkward unwieldy height of them, whether they have enough space between the rows to actually hang the resin pieces on them.
Everyone’s fascinated by the resin – they love hearing about the process – the blowtorches, the drying time, the risk of dust and bubbles, the sanding afterwards.
Can you see the grid walls, there sustaining everything, underneath all the shiny, crooked art?wpid-wp-1442869447858.jpegThen finally Sunday, at long last I am on my bike and off in the direction of the new studio.
It is a gorgeous, sunny day, blue blue skies stretching everywhere as I pass kites and kids on the beach, along unknown bike trails at the bottom of the city, and onto long stretches of path beside abandoned train tracks.
It’s the old grid of the city, the old infrastructure, the remnants of how things used to run down here.wpid-wp-1442869985683.jpeg

The whole way there, in amongst the trees, the paths, along the beach and finally even along the roads, the train tracks, the crumbling highways, there is movement. Monarch butterflies flit everywhere. Every few feet is another flutter of wings, recklessly spiralling up up up into the sky.
Can you see this one, tiny in the blue, making his way up and over the grid supports of the motorway?wpid-wp-1442869994939.jpegMigration season. Everywhere they’re finding their way to the lakefront to launch themselves on their insane, remarkable, magical journey down to the mountains of Mexico.
The fragility. The resilience.
I push on.
Bridges crisscross the opaque brown river, and it feels like the stinking bowels, the underbelly of the city.
Men sit amongst the bushes with fishing lines outstretched into the filthy water. Very “off the grid” living.wpid-wp-1442869455143.jpegFinally I am IN the new studio, full of the sights of the ride here.
The sun pours in the windows.
I have the whole space to myself for now.wpid-20150920_142512_hdr-01.jpegWeekly Photo Challenge – Grid

Beneath

The city had been disgusting with the heat – waves of it coming up like an open oven from the pavement at intersections, the apartment sticky and muggy and confining and gross.
The only thing I could think about was getting up north, getting into some water and swimming.
Swimming swimming swimming in the coolness of a lake.
Packing a few things into a bag, I came across this little pamphlet kind of thing that’s been kicking around for a while – it’s written by my mom, but I’m not sure when I got it or why, and when exactly it emerged from the archives and started floating around my reading pile, but there it was blinking up at me, and since all I could think about was swimming, I threw it in.
underwater experience
My mom used to be a prof, so she would do things like write books, and I remember one time when I was a kid asking her what the title of her book was, and she said, “Equivocal Predications”.
Oh. Ummm, right. Whatever.
So I wasn’t sure how far I’d get into this mysterious little pamphlet, but although it’s dense, it’s actually quite lovely, and I thought about the ideas in it as I went swimming each day in the cool deliciousness of a little bay.
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In her opening, she says,

After positing that water has a body, a soul, and a voice, Gaston Bachelard argues in Water and Dreams, “Possibly more than any other element, water is the complete poetic reality”…

Floating, savouring, weightless and happy, chasing ducks and minnows, I remember what a passionate scuba diver my mom was – she couldn’t get enough of it and was always off on some trip to go diving.
underwater
She writes,

Until only recently, literature of the sea and its inherent poetry has been predicated on a superficial relationship between man and the sea: man on the edge of the sea or man on the surface of the sea. To go under, to go down in the sea, was to go the way of Plebase in “Death by Water,” losing the power of perception…

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Now, with special equipment, men can experience the profundity of the sea: he can go down and still live to hear the poetic language of the deep of the sea. The action of going down is the gesture of knowing: the deep holds within it the secret of all that is unknown, the metaphorically profound, and the mystery of all that is “under” – including psychology’s unconscious and the mythic underworld.

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Within the profound abyss, within the metaphor and experience of depth itself rests an expression, according to Merleau-Ponty, of divine Being – amazing us who might have expected and seen taught that God is transcendent and “above”: “Claudel,” he comments, “goes so far as to say that God is not above but beneath us – meaning that we do not find Him as a suprasensible idea, but as another ourself which dwells in and authenticates our darkness…

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Beneath Your Feet
…with a special shout-out to my mom ❤

Musing on Georgian Skies

On July 3, 2012, when I’d had my first little starter DSLR camera for about 3 weeks and barely knew how to turn it on, I took the bus up to Collingwood for the first time, went for an afternoon walk and happened upon this scene –the tempest #1The wind was blowing, a storm was on its way in, and I was thrilled by the blasts of wet air, almost sea-like, and the dramatic clouds everywhere.diagonal busy cloudI walked. I took pictures. I marvelled.
At the time all that was expected of the experience was a relaxing week up north on Georgian Bay – I had no idea this was the beginning of something.ducks under billowy cloudsBut now, just about 3 years later, and many dozens of trips north with that camera and several others later, I can say…
Something happened.
Something grew.
That spot, happened upon by chance on a first day out wandering, and the surrounding hills and paths and parks, became my wild sanctuary, my muse, my special spot.canadiana new w rflctr

rocky shore

point, low clouds

the house on the hill

dragon cloud

Weekly Photo Challenge – Muse

Broken Rock Face

cormorant island
Friday afternoons are sketching class – the best day of the week.
Each week we go to a different location, a park somewhere close by, in the ‘hood, and set up to draw whatever presents itself.
This week was the Scarborough Bluffs.
tree leaning down cliff side
Such an amazing place – I’d never been this far east and south before, and wow, what a fascinating, strange place, almost like being at the ocean with the strong winds, the sound of waves on the beach, the gulls and kingfishers diving for fish –
kingfisher
A place to come back to when the sun is low on the horizon and the skies glow orange and magenta.
But it was interesting too how harsh and desolate the cliff faces looked in the bright afternoon light, the ravages of time and water on the shapes of the rocks –
overhang full size
edge, gull, treetop
My drawing companions tease me that no matter what I draw – a rock, a tree, an animal – it ends up looking vaguely like the human figure.
A drawing of a cliff face also seems to hold a variety of human faces, snouts and orifices –
hoodoos drawing
Another rock drawing suggest reclining figures, hairy crevices and the folds of flesh –
rock fountain drawing
A drawing of tree hints at perhaps a headless torso, arms, a belly-button –
tree torso drawing
Another tree could be an underarm, or a knee –
tree branch drawing
That is my hand, my mark, apparently.
Out in the sun and wind, facing these cliffs, blown away by the sheer force of the place, it’s hard to even put pencil to paper, the desire to simply soak in the splendour of the day is so overpowering.
Yes, this too is Toronto…
cliff lake vistaWeekly Photo Challenge – Broken

Change in motion

vic park bridge sunriseLately I’ve been thinking a lot about change.

It’s something I think about even when I’m out messin around with my camera – I have a new camera, it’s a delight, but I’m still learning all of it’s functions, all the little buttons and buried menus and options, all that fancy digital stuff.

So it’s a change.

mist on pondAnd I’ll be out trying something old or trying something new, and it doesn’t always work out, but it makes me think. And one of the things I think is about is that strange human thing where we resist change, even when it’s for the good, how we tend to always seek the familiar, the known, and want to stay there, because we don’t know what it’s gonna be like on the other side, even if we know we want to need to change, want to need to go in a new direction to a new place.

For example, say you want to lose 30 lbs, and so you know you need to eat less and exercise more, but in a kind of frenzied fit of self-sabotage, you start to eat more and move your body even less, as if some part of you is digging in its heels like a toddler saying, NO. No way. Not doing that.

And you get stuck in this tense place of resistance.

I’ve been feeling this lately, a kind of vague angst that I suspect may actually be a good sign, that I’m on the verge of some kind of movement, some shift. Because I’ve been looking for, pushing for changes that need to happen in my life, and it isn’t comfortable, what I’m feeling these days, it feels like pressure –

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Resistance is a natural biological function that shows up when our status quo is threatened.
Change affects us. As we begin to do things differently, we ourselves change. We can’t help but become different people as the activities that we participate in, the habits that pervade our lives shape us, re-shape us.
Clearly we all have fears…that keep our Current Ways of Being Intact.
And: even though we want to be living differently, we secretly hope that WE won’t have to change to get there.
We all have our own ways of preventing the death of a self: who we take ourselves to be. Right here. Now.
~ Joanne Hunt

bird in bullrushesIn the park, early in the morning, I was thinking about this. There was a bird in the stalks of the bullrushes. I wanted to get a picture of him. In my head was a photo I took with my old camera – if only I could do something kinda like that but with this camera with more pixels and just the right light in the bullrushes, then for sure it’d be the bomb…
bird hanging on w colorBut birds in motion are always a challenge, and at the same time I was trying to figure out the back button manual focus gizmo on the camera, and it only seemed to activate when you moved the focus ring, and would slip back out to autofocus if you lifted your thumb from it, and meanwhile the bird was moving around between the stalks and I kept losing track of him. Tricky stuff. I may have cursed. I hated and loved the new camera. And I was almost about to get the whole thing coming together when the bird flew away.bird leaving rushes newAfter standing sadly for a moment, waiting in vain for the bird to come back, I realized of course it was okay. What was really happening in that moment was about Practice. To change means to anticipate the resistance, and to lean into the resistance is to practice. Learning the new camera is practice, in the same way learning a new way of being is not a one shot overnight thing, it happens within practice.

Expect the resistance. Anticipate the resistance.

And practice.
sun in tree
Weekly Photo Challenge – Motion

Deep dreams

horse flank hairA large, hot, breathy, needy animal in the bed with me – powerful, emotional, childish, grabby.
So close, as if I couldn’t quite see it.
A horse?
horse eyeWaking up, stretching, catching the tendrils of the dream, I thought of the horse at the farm this past summer, the one who would always break away from the group and rush over at a trot – would be on me, nipping my shoulders, in my face, my ear, so needy.horse groupBut thinking further back, I realized horses have appeared a number of times in my dreams. They are beginning to take on their own symbolism – like a running motif in a story they’ve begun to be recognized figures, speaking, along with the cats and other regulars, in a kind of private dictionary of dream symbols.horse eating and lookingThere was that really vivid one some years ago – an obviously BIG dream – where I was with Claudia, and we decided to look for some old drawings I’d done.
If only I could find those drawings, we said, the way through to the future would all become clear.ronda archwayWe jumped down from the old stone walls, having decided to look for them right away, right now, and went into the house.
People were everywhere – women cooking and talking, gathered in each room.
They were friends, most of them – some of the Montreal gang, but a few Toronto friends as well – busyness everywhere, with the noise of laughter and talking and kitchen sounds rising and bouncing off the walls.
We made our way past everyone, polite nods and waves, and in to the centre of the house – some inner sanctum that posed as a crawl space but was really a kind of lost cave like those ones in the south of France and Spain.
There, in the doorway, at the entrance to the cave, where I was sure I must have stored the drawings, were 3 horses.
circling small w watermarkThey needed to be paid tribute.
They were needy, neglected. There was a whiff of beer.
They needed some kind of acknowledgement before passage would be allowed.
Animal as sacred; sacred as innate nature, as dharma, as animal.

So of course, to pay tribute, to acknowledge and pay respects to the call of the hot, needy, breathy companion of the night, I’ve started a new painting.begin horse pntgNow I just need to pick up some beer…double expose horse skyWeekly Photo Challenge – Depth