Seeking Boundaries

train travelI am newly arrived.
I have just come to this place after many travels, and will settle here.
A house has been given to me, or I have taken a house – I find myself in a house that seems like maybe it belonged to someone before me, but there it is, it is mine now.train sunsetThis house, this place is out on the edge of and yet part of a community – a school? A town? A hippie commune? A camp?
I am now part of this community in my little new / old house.
But I’m concerned about security.
There have been transgressions before – incidents have occurred in the past, violations of the perimeter have been known to happen.
Absolute securing of all boundaries is necessary.chapel ndbThere are the usual doors – front door, side door, back door. This is my first line of investigation. None of them are particularly sturdy. None of them inspire absolute confidence.
But there are also 2 doors at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the second floor – a pair of wooden doors that seal the upstairs from any intruders that may make their way into the first floor.
One of these wooden doors doesn’t close properly – it won’t lock.
This is a concern. blue glow ndbUpstairs I am rooting around in things, cleaning the place, looking for tools, turning over the problem of the less than sturdy doors, the unlocked door in my mind.
Up on this second level there are piles of rich colourful fabrics scattered around on the floors.mandala 1 ndbmoving totem ndbSome movement underneath the fabric turns out to be 2 tiny translucent kittens. As if they are so young and so new and so tender, they aren’t quite actually there yet – they are mere outlines, and are otherwise see-through.
It wasn’t in the plan for this house, to take on cats, but hey, what the heck, the wee things need a place to live I figure, and I go back to fretting about the doors, the precedent of boundary breaches, how to create more security.
In no time the kittens are already becoming cats – one orange, one a sandy brown – no longer translucent, but taking more and more substance all the time.tiger leIt will be good to have these cats around.
Animals on the property is a good thing.
It occurs to me I should consult with the other people here in the community about how to fix the doors – surely someone does carpentry, a locksmith… There must be people I can ask about securing all entrances.
But I realize the problem in this new place, as in so many places I have been…
I don’t know who to trust.sunset lake trainWeekly Photo Challenge – Boundaries

Ephemeral Flight

clouds tiny bird going up cool ice fxThe swallows series is currently floating somewhere out here in a blown out bluish world of towering clouds and little detail.
After much time spent experimenting with photoshop and printing, walking the aisles of art shows and talking to other artists, the cool abstract mostly-white field as an indicator of flight is beginning to appeal.
Shots that, in earlier incarnations were grainy black and white images –
clouds tiny birds b&w square grainyHave become somewhat amorphous hints at sky / clouds / bird.clouds tiny birds w cool ice fxEven the shots of endless sky and cloud, rich in black and white contrast – cloud edge of mountain slvrfxHave become airy, ephemeral, feathery blue images –
cloud edge of mountain as blueI’m starting to get itchy to get out and see some of that sky for myself…
Yay spring!
Weekly Photo Challenge – Ephemeral

Big lake, big thaw, splash of orange

Seven degrees today and everyone was out, the streets bustling again after so many cold quiet weeks and months.
Early in the morning I felt the pull down to the beach, down to the water, some deep hankering need to see the lake.ice, beaches in march 5Sigh….YES.  That expanse of water, so big it only freezes along the edges, the ice now melting and breaking off into mini-icebergs.ice, beaches in march 4What is it about large bodies of water that are so powerful, so enchanting?ice, beaches in march 7I lingered as long as I could, taking photos of nothing in particular, thinking again how photography is really just an excuse for other things – an excuse to be outside, an excuse to talk to people, a means to an end…
Wandering further down the beach there were more people, some of them exploring a series of architecture student installations, strange colourful creations around empty lifeguard posts.ice, beaches in march 1 w orange thingyOthers were walking their dogs.  One orange dog bounded happily down the beach and into the water, only to stop short as the iciness hit his legs and made him think again –ice, beaches in march w dogPoor fellow.
I thought immediately of another photo I had from the summer, of a dog bounding in just so, at precisely this same location, but his happiness was entirely unmitigated.
dog at beach, iphoneWeekly Photo Challenge – Orange

Turtle textures

r gentry sea turtleImage: Raina Gentry

The most delicious underwater dream of the clearest, cleanest water, following a turtle as she swam ahead of me.
The light glowed underneath the water, glimmering on rocks and mosses and the legs and shell of the swimming turtle. A dream of such peace and pleasure, suspended weightless in the water.

tamara philips red turtleImage: Tamara Phillips

On my way home this morning, I stopped in at the local turtle hangout, just to savour the dream, even though the water is cloudy and murky, still it glints and ripples and hints at deliciousness for all the critters living in, on, and around it. Turtles sunbathing on rocks. Ducks by the dozens. A lone blue heron perched atop a tall dead tree. Sparrows and robins and cardinals and yellow finches belting out their morning song so loud I can barely hear whatever is crashing around in the bushes on the other side of the pond.turtles sunbathingI’d spent the night on a friend’s couch. We’d been talking into the wee hours about how much of the hokey woo we could each handle. You know, we’d gotten onto the whole Abraham Hicks / Law of Attraction thing, and of course the idea of “channeling” makes my friend recoil, AND, she protested, “the magical thinking”. She’s a rational, educated, hard working woman whose father is a scientist. I totally understand her reaction – if I actually try to think about channeling, it doesn’t speak to anything I understand, really – like what is that exactly?water abstractionBut I’m trying to stay open-minded. Cause I’ve been finding with some of these things, that if the message is beautiful and can move ideas around in interesting ways, does it matter how it arrives?

Most days I find the Abraham Hicks quotes I get in my inbox engage my mind and attitude in novel ways, however there are some days when it feels like the message of “abundance” is a kind of facile, “Yes, we can all have as many SUV’s as we want, you just need to raise your vibration to get your SUV too”, to which I have a rather negative reaction. You know, just thinking about the planet and turtles and clean water and things.turtle swimsBut I think of my late father-in-law, a highly educated doctor with an anthropological philosphical bent, a Marxist refugee from Papa Doc’s Haiti. He would say of all teachers and teachings, “take what you like and leave the rest”.

To me it feels like that. So last night I was telling my friend about an interview I heard between Wayne Dyer and Abraham Hicks, where Wayne Dyer talks about how for years and years he’d been angry at his father for abandoning him, cause he’d ended up in a series of foster homes and carried his anger with him until the day he went to visit his father’s grave. Abraham Hicks interrupts him and says, “but you chose all of that – you wanted the independence, you didn’t want some father figure around all the time, meddling in your affairs”.

Now of course, the problem is that you’d have to accept not only channeling, but also reincarnation and a kind of immortal soul that makes choices as it comes into a new lifetimes and a whole cluster of beliefs that may or may not be your thing.water abstraction 2And yet…even though I don’t really know if I believe in reincarnation and immortal souls, still I’m drawn to the mindset, because the idea that we choose our experiences is so totally liberating. All notions of victimhood are immediately eradicated, as one becomes the prime director of one’s experience in this lifetime. It is a sensation of freedom and agency perhaps not so different from the feeling in Nietzsche’s phrase, “he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how“. There is a kind of purposeful light that is bestowed by this thought pattern, regardless of the origin or scientific provability of the thought pattern.turtle and duckLately my most favourite “channeled messages” are the Mayan Messages. Again, it’s a “take what you like and leave the rest” kind of relationship – there’s a bunch of things in there I can’t deal with, like UFO’s and stuff that I’m just not ready to think about. But what I love in them is the sense of the planet and the serious political and environmental challenges we face in our time, the need to think about living life simply, consciously, sharing the skills and resources we each have.

In Native American teachings, Turtle is the oldest symbol for planet Earth. It is the personification of goddess energy, and the eternal Mother from which our lives evolve. We are born of the womb of Earth, and to her soil our bodies will return. In honoring the Earth, we are asked by Turtle to be mindful of the cycle of give and take, to give back to the Mother as she has given to us. ~Jamie Sams

turtle collageWeekly Photo Challenge – Texture

Working on Art

hallway collagesFor a month or two I’ve been inviting friends over for dinner, wining and dining them into the night, and, when they’re relaxed and off-guard, I lure them up to my room, blinking and confused, and force them to sit on the edge of my bed and look at my art.
I’ve been so hungry for feedback, ravenous after many hours and days and weeks over the winter of experimenting with different forms, jamming around with the photos, the painting, the collages – I need need need to see what people respond to.living room collagesI’d invited a bunch of people over for a barbeque last night, a little seasonal fair, and as I was tidying and mopping and vacuuming in anticipation of their arrival, it occurred to me – I’d have them hostage for hours, could put art all over the house and see what people might say.photoIt must be some core piece of the need to make art is an element of communication – it’s like you’re looking for a way to talk about something.
And sometimes it may be a private correspondence with the Universe – like cave artists making shamanic magic on the walls, calling to the spirits of the animals to reveal themselves and where they can be found in abundance.
Or it may be a conversation you are having with a friend in your mind as you do it, a kind of running dialogue that informs what comes out. And then when you talk about this image that has sprung from somewhere, it’s part of how you connect as friends – you see more about who they are by what speaks to them.photoSo when Bea said she really loved the alligator – a drawing I’d hesitated to put up, cause it’s just a loose rough kind of sketch of a piece – it gave me some sense of a place in Bea that resonates with this not-pretty, not-girly kind of image.
But Tom kept remembering something I hadn’t put out, a picture I’d shown them several weeks before when I’d had them on my bed and forced them to look at things, an experiment with drawing and painting on a photo – photoThat one! said Tom. That one was his favourite.
Sometimes taste seems to cut along a shared medium, as in sometimes the painters like the paintings, responding with a visceral part of themselves to texture and colour – Maria, a month ago uttering a low hum when she saw the blues and drips and bumps in this piece – under the seaAnd showing no real interest in the experiments of drawing and painting on photos –
swallow expWhereas Nicky, a non-visual artist, an actor / dancer / director, was very drawn to these experiments, and felt the one of the magnolia was the most realized, the most successful integration of photo and paint – photoAnd while some people have a more textural inclination, others are more figurative, they don’t care for abstraction, they like to always recognize what the image is, to always see a familiar shape.
Sometimes when you’re kind of on that edge, a title can help, can indicate a figure to be found and known – so for example, if I were to say this is a butterfly –
flutterbyWould you believe me?
What’s your favourite, Dear Reader?
(Weekly Photo Challenge – Work of Art)

Letters from the alleyway

20140425-180623.jpgLately has been a patch of such intensity, so much pressure in every direction, that each glimmer of tenderness, of humanity, of a hand reaching out in the chaos has felt like a branch that must be held onto tightly in hopes of slowing the relentless slide down a slope.

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That dream the other night of a house where everything you touch turns into something else – you pick up the umbrella, it turns into an eel, you grab the doorhandle, it turns into a salamander.
A house of so many tricks and false faces and turns and complications, and in the dream I am trying and trying to leave, to take my son and go live with a man I’ve met by the seaside, a fisherman, to go and live a simple life, the three of us, if I can just escape this house….
But –
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But I can’t leave.
I can’t extract myself.
Yet.
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A couple of nights before that it had been a childhood home, passing through the kitchen and my mother making dinner and instructing me on how I should go out and do all the right things to get this man, to hook this rich guy already and get myself taken care of, fer chrissakes.
He is waiting for me outside, this guy. A producer I know – bit of a hot shot.
He is just up the street, and is impatient there in his fancy car, a sports convertible – he wants me to hurry up and get in the car.20140425-180350.jpg
I am annoyed at being hurried.
All I want to do is play in the mud…
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Weekly Photo Challenge – Letters

Abandoned Photos

runner, truckThey’ve been sitting in a folder in the basement, old old work prints that never quite got finished, and are here scanned. I’m thinking to join a local photo co-op so I can scan some of the old negatives and revisit them, give them some love, resuscitate them from their state of defunctedness.boy w fridgeThey are moments of abandon, in different meanings of the word – a moment of wild running abandon; an abandoned fridge and perhaps child as well; and losing oneself to the abandon of sleep…sleeperWeekly Photo Challenge – Abandoned

Three Hearts – alleyway art evolving

art in the alleyIn the alleyway just down from my house, there’s the expected graffiti on the garage doors, but more unusual are the bits of installation art that appear.
This one of the heart has been most striking.
It began on one side of the alley, on a kind of plywood sliding wall, and has morphed over time, its paper images and fold-out doors peeling away in the weather, then magically sprouting new imagery in its centre.
After several incarnations on the plywood wall, one day it had been moved to the other side of the alley, near someone’s rear doorway. alleyway heartIt continues to evolve. The images continue to shift. Over time it’s become a highlight of the walk down the alley – to see what new elements have arisen in the night.
I’ve been thinking I must contribute to it at some point, adding some new element, some small sprinkle of love before we leave the neighbourhood.

20140225-113954.jpgWeekly Photo Challenge – Three

New Year Beginning

new year fireThere was a new moon on the first day of a new year.
We lit a fire.new year flame 1We set intentions, scrawling them secretly, folding them carefully into small squares of paper in the middle of an elaborate arrangement of flowers and candies and grains and seeds and sugar and wine.new year flame 2The bundle burned slowly, the temperature low, the wood still faintly damp.
We chatted and waited and watched. Shifted away from the smoke and watched some more.new year flame 3A log fell suddenly, burnt through by now, and with the moving heat the flame rose fierce around the bundle, encompassing it quickly now, then fluttered small until there was almost nothing but the coals glowing hot still. new year flame 4Weekly Photo Challenge – Beginning

Grand Animal

The taxi driver refused to go any further.
In the dream I was staying in a hotel on Spadina near College and wanted to go shopping further down towards Dundas, in the deep and winding medieval streets, but the driver turned the car around and let me out, saying “most people don’t want to go down there – it’s too dangerous”.
It was like one of those neighbourhoods in Mexico City – Colonia Doctores or Ciudad Neza way back when – where all taxi drivers refuse to enter, cause everyone knows anything could happen.
So I walked.
The streets were deserted, dark, until I got down near the very bottom, almost to the waterfront, where the sky was wide and the road opened up into a kind of rock quarry, reminiscent of Teotihuacan –
quarry1teotihuacan b&wAnd still walking, I ventured into the rocks, strolling happily until I sensed movement in the steps and mounds of the quarry. And as I looked, these creatures took shape.
They were lions – stone lions.
They were living animals – their large bodies moving and rummaging about – but they were made of stone, the same stone of the the quarry.
placcid lionsnarling lionAt just the moment that it registered in my mind what I was seeing, the danger I was in, a large lion sensed me too, the hint of movement in his peripheral vision, and his head snapped up in a snarl.
Then the pounce, the running jump of the massive creature coming after me.
Suddenly I had a large plywood board in my hands which I lay underneath in a crevice in the rocks, pulling the board flat on top of me, effectively disappearing into the ground.
big biting lionThe lion lumbered heavily over me, not finding me, scrambling over and away, somewhere beyond where I lay hidden.
The fear was so real, the terror so palpable – one of those nightmares that wakes you up in a sweat, blinking in the dark of the bedroom.
The next morning I was out walking, and turning the corner to where the new second-hand bookstore is, the guy who sells old National Geographic magazines for a buck a piece, I noticed several had big spreads on lions.
nat geo running lionI brought them home and began to draw.
When the dream is so vivid, so strong, and yet so cryptic, there is nothing for it but to spend more time with the imagery…
running lion

Good morning

My morning ritual has gotten more and more elaborate over the years.
It begins hors champ, out of frame, in my bed with scribbles in a dream journal à la Robert Moss – you can’t move too much or the dreams get lost, as if it is the body that holds them, not the mind, so this must be done while still in bed, searching inside the positions of the body for the secrets of the night.
Then journal and pen get dragged groggily downstairs to the kitchen table where writing continues, a kind of morning pages thing à la Julia Cameron, but with candles, I’m not sure why, just for fun.
candles, journalIdeally this is all happening before first light, cause next up is the Sunrise Ceremony à la Diane Longboat, with a little more fire to make a smudge of dried lavender and sage – it’s supposed to be tobacco, but tobacco is kind of pricey around here and doesn’t burn so easily and I’m not so fond of the smell, and seems like the main idea is prayer and gratitude for the day, giving thanks for being alive and being able to see the sun rise yet again, the smoke rising to wherever prayers are heard.
smudgeThis is done facing east, of course, though as a Canadian the changing arc of the sun becomes quite evident if you are doing this daily, and right now the sun is a little further south each morning.
If the day is not too wet, and sometimes even when it is, I stand barefoot out in the dewy grass and damp soil of the back yard, out where the morning glories and other plants reside.
sun in artichoke stalks 2And somewhere in this greeting of the sun a glass of water will be consumed, the first drink of the day blessed by the light of the sun, re-hydrating the body after sleep.glass of waterBut I must confess, each morning is a struggle between the timing of the glass of water with the sunrise, and the feeling that I want, I crave, I shouldn’t, but I just can’t hold off on my one deep intractable addiction, my true love, the one I lie in bed the night before fantasizing about…
coffee groundCOFFEE…..
Oh how I love my coffee, can’t wait for some coffee, am sad each time my allotted 2 cups are done and I’m not allowed anymore.
But I’m not the only one. As I move through my morning routines, often as not sneaking one coffee in before the glass of water, or even before the morning pages and the first lighting of the smudge, I have to be careful not to set my cup down. Someone else here, bizarre little thing that she is, will lick my coffee cup if I’m not looking –
kitty sniffsWe call her the Italian cat cause she likes coffee and pizza, will steal a piece of pizza from your plate if you’re not careful. As a kitten she was found in the alleyway here in Little Italy – seems it might be genetic…
For a good morning bonus, here’s a nice little article on creativity and morning habits.
(Weekly Photo Challenge – good morning!)

Marks

20130806-201140.jpgShy, tentative marks on the page, trying to remember how to draw – oh I used to do this all the time, it was so easy decades ago…
It is a re-entry into pure eye to hand communication, all visceral observation, any analytical thinking subverted, diverted, short-circuited.

20130806-201214.jpgLast week in the city, at lunch a friend said she had started going to life drawing classes again after an absence of decades. It comes back, she assured me, Like a bicycle…

20130806-201300.jpgEncouraged by my sweet BFF Susan, asked so nicely by Uzoma, and determined to reconnect, experimenting with pencil, pastel, paint, messing around, trying anything to feel less afraid of the page, I begin drawing on photographs –

20130806-201343.jpgIt seems like a desecration at the same time as it is wholly satisfying – an ownership, a branding – a new area to explore while feeling somehowlike a tying up of loose ends…

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Foreshadow of mortality

20130802-145327.jpgOut for a walk along the shore today I began to collect things. Little fragile things that appealed to me that I thought best to put in a baggie if they were to have any hope of making it home intact. When I got home hours later, the collecting already forgotten, I found the baggie with its assortment of tiny delicate objects.

20130802-145932.jpgThere was something about the plastic and the randomness of the items that made me think of the drawers of collections at a natural history museum – a jumbled assortment of various species of flora, crustacea, stone and insects.20130802-150001.jpgEach thing seemed to be in a state of deterioration, a point along the meridian of birth, life, and disintegration, suggesting its own mortality – a kind of foreshadowing of our own short time here. 20130802-150020.jpg

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Foreshadow