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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Monster


I heard this poem this year and I was struck by it. Growing up in Northern BC I knew about residential schools. I knew they were unhappy places, I saw the unhappy results of them on the streets of the town where I spent my childhood. During a recent trip home I was astounded at how separate the two cultures were, ours and theirs. Hearing the voices of First Nations men and women during this time of truth and reconciliation I feel there is so much work to do to. As westerners we cherish our heritage, going to great lengths to preserve pieces of the past in an effort to stay connected to it. We don't seem to offer the First Nations the same regard and they are fighting against the strong current of time that threatens to wash away many of their traditional ways. Maybe it is paternalist to suggest they need our help but I feel we can't stand by and let the culture collapse any further. I give you this.

 
MONSTER POEM – Dennis Saddleman

I hate you residential school, I hate you,
You're a monster,
A huge hungry monster,
Built with steel bones. Built with cement flesh,
You're a monster,
Built to devour innocent native children,
You’re a cold-hearted monster,
Cold as cement floors,
You have no love, no gentle atmosphere,
Your ugly face, your monster eyes glare from grimy windows,
Monster eyes through evil, monster eyes watch and terrify children, who cower with shame.


I hate you residential school, I hate you.
You’re a slimy monster, go away you’re following me wherever I go,
You’re in my dreams, in my memories, go away, monster, go away,


I hate you, residential school, I hate you.
You’re a monster with huge watery mouth, mouth of double doors,
Your wide mouth took me, your yellow-stained teeth chewed the Indian out of me,
Your teeth crunched my language, grinded my rituals and my traditions,
Your taste buds became bitter when you tasted my red skin,
You swallowed me with disgust, your face wrinkled when you tasted my
strong pride,


I hate you residential school, I hate you.
You’re a monster.  Your throat muscles forced me down to your stomach,
Your throat muscles squeezed my happiness, squeezed my native ways,
And you throat became clawed with my sacred spirit,
You coughed and you choked and could not stand my spiritual songs and dances,


I hate you, residential school, I hate you.
You’re a monster,  your stomach upset every time I wet my bed,
Your stomach rumbled with anger ever time I fell asleep,
Your stomach growled at me very time I broke the school rules,
You didn’t care how you ate up my native culture,
Your veins clotted with cruelty and torture,
Your blood poisoned with loneliness and despair, your heart was cold,
You put fear into me,


I hate you residential school, I hate you.
You sqeezed my confidence, squeezed my self-respect,
Your anals squeezed me and then you dumped without parental support,
Without life skills, without any moral character, without individual talents, without a hope of success,


I hate you, residential school, I hate you.
You’re a monster.
You dumped me in the toilet and you flushed out my good nature,
My personality, I hate you, residential school, I hate you.
You’re a monster.
I hate, hate, hate you.



Listen to Dennis read this poem.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Resurfacing

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)
"Whatever returns from oblivion returns to find a voice," writes Louise Gl├╝ck in her poem "The Wild Iris." I think that will be a key theme for you in the coming weeks. There's a part of you that is returning from oblivion -- making its way home from the abyss -- and it will be hungry to express itself when it arrives back here in your regularly scheduled life. This dazed part of you may not yet know what exactly it wants to say. But it is fertile with the unruly wisdom it has gathered while wandering. Sooner rather than later, it will discover a way to articulate its raw truths.

Chew on that.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Risk and Romance

My dad, who is 87, is taking a trip this week, to New York city to see a ballet. My stepmother was a dancer in her early years, she danced with the San Francisco Ballet for a time before she returned because of emotional pressure from her boyfriend at the time. I don't know how talented she was but she loved ballet and she shared that love with my dad. Their relationship has changed over the almost 3 years since her stroke. He visits her almost daily where she lives, and depending on the weather he takes her out for a little stroll in her chair and fusses over her, something she always did for him. He cheers her up, sharing little stories and amusements. He is sad. He doesn't get so much back but he is dogged in his dedication. On the weekends he goes to the Ballet. Not the real ballet, the simulcast ballet, downtown at the Scotia Center. He loves it. He has fallen in love with one of the ballerinas and that is who he is going to see in New York this week, he hopes. There is always the chance that the understudy will be dancing in her place.

I heard about the trip through one of my brothers. I assured him the trip was likely a fantasy. Dad has some fantastic ideas these days but none of them come to fruition. He feels his age. Many years ago he and my stepmother went to New York and had a fabulous time. She took care of everything and they went to many performances of music and ballet and art. Dad described feeling "stirred-up". He sent me an email letting me know about the trip and I sent one back but it was too late. The trip was booked. He was really going to go. He bought his ticket to the ballet and had his travel agent book a trip around it.

It's crazy of course. An old man alone in the city. He is a perfect target for abuse and that concerns me. On the other hand he is a risk taker, he always has been. He climbed mountains, flew planes, skied, hiked, and yes, traveled to Manhattan and many other big American cities and lived to talk about it. My dad and stepmother traveled to France and Switzerland some years ago after she had been diagnosed with Alzheimers. They were both in their 80's and I was convinced they had a suicide pact and they would never be seen again. They returned home revitalized and excited. 2 months later my stepmother had no memory of the trip. Dad still talks about it as pleasurable and extremely difficult.

So off he will go. I will feel nervous for him but excited too. New York is a wonderfully exciting place. If he dies there somehow he will have been doing something he loved. He is not a baby, we can't wrap him up and protect from his desires. Who knows how much longer he has on this earth so why not be reckless and take a long trip to see a beautiful woman dance in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. In addition to being a physical risk taker my dad is a romantic and as long as that is alive in him he is alive.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Printing day.


video

Rainy day. Printed an invitation for the Whatcom Land Trust. They are having an open house in mid-November. I hadn't printed much for the last year it turns out. The last project was last November, also a mad rush. These projects are fun to jump into. Time limits the whole process which causes a designer to streamline how she is approaching the whole thing. Time, budget, quality. Pick two. Nothing is perfect, the point is to keep making.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Postscript


One week post radioactivity. Yesterday I thought I detected a very metallic taste and odor. Does radiation taste. It passed. Pink insulation on the side of the road reminds me of flesh. Flesh with blood drained out, fur thrown free. I soaked in the tub and scrubbed my skin until it gave up little radioactive flesh rolls that look like gray splinters. I take extra care when I rinse the bathtub but is it enough? I don't feel capable of dealing with radioactive material unsupervised. Is the radioactivity hiding there, an invisible cloud. Or is it just inside me. At the weekend, we decide not to make love, as a precaution. All of my secretions are suspect. I discard my toothbrush and used q-tips. At the border I set the radiation alarm off as predicted but inside behind a special closed door 2 detectors fail to read what's actually in me. The device guesses Industrial Barium. I wait 45 minutes and then am approved to go home. The exercise is ridiculous and the border officer jokes with me and I am forced to joke back. My flesh knows how to react to many situations. At the hospital before the scan they wrap me up in warm blankets and the bed vibrates gently as they image me from head to toe. I drift in and out, it is not unpleasant, my flesh relaxes and I stay so still, I want to make a good image.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Low Iodine Diet Day 17, Radiation Day


I am now radioactive. 4mc. I have managed to make it to this moment despite feeling so wimpy yesterday. I even slept well last night. There were a lot more people in the nuke med waiting room today. An 80 yr old woman and her 50 something daughter waiting for testing, a woman with her husband dozing in a wheelchair. A single girl with a pink iPhone and slicked down hair. And me and my umbrella. My song for today is Radioactivity by Kraftwerk. I say this sort of tongue-in-cheek but somehow it lightened my mood about the whole thing.

I learned a bunch of new stuff about Facebook today and the algorithms that control our experience there which I have known but today it really hit home. I have been really exploring my feelings about Social Media lately. I forgot about the treatments and thought about the future for a little while. So that was good.

I'm fine, itchy but fine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sketchy

 Thinking about William Morris

Between you and me, I'm overwhelmed. Everything feels very touch and go. I am one day away from swallowing the prescribed radioactive iodine and I can't say I don't have reservations about what is about to take place. I've been to the hospital twice in two days to receive a shot deep into my ass muscle that will hide the effects of the synthetic hormone Liothyronine during the prescribed nuclear scan. 

I discovered a few days ago that I have likely been under dosing my Liothyronine. My lifeline. I've been brain foggy and was feeling like my world was closing in on me. I was pretty sure it was the early signs of dementia, seriously. I was doing everything slowly. I found myself in a kitchen filled with young people buzzing about and I could not keep up with the conversation. It was frightening. I thought it was hunger from the prescribed diet and that was probably a factor but it wasn't the whole story. In 9 months I have gone from having one healthy thyroid that I thought worked pretty well—although now I have some doubts—to half a healthy thyroid, and now no thyroid. At first the medication made me jittery so backing off on it seemed the right thing to do but I went too far obviously.

I am struck. I am without a part of my body that I barely noticed or even understood and now I am tasked with accepting the reality of living with a dependency on medication that I don't quite recognize the effects of. It all makes me want to break down and cry. In the hospital yesterday morning waiting for Mark to park the car I just wanted to weep big poor-me-tears. In that vast waiting area, so somber, so many sick people coming in and out. It felt scary and bewildering. I felt lonely there and loneliness is not something I generally think about but this whole process makes me feel profoundly lonely. It is my job alone to carry my body through this medical obstacle course. The shots make me feel sick so I can't do too much, the whole thing is distracting me from what I would rather be thinking about. Stress causes cancer you know. This is the ridiculousness of the whole exercise. Dealing with cancer can give you cancer.

My friend who has the same cancer as me but in more sites started her low-iodine odyssey yesterday. I stopped by today to give her a hug. She reminded me that I was almost done. Friday is the scan and then I can return to normal. Another new normal.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Low Iodine Diet Day 8

 
 Lunch of turkey, tomato, baba ghanouj, hummus, cashews and banana.

Here I am on Monday again. 8 days into the diet. I think I am doing a reasonable job but I must admit I am hungry. We sailed on Saturday and on our way home I bought a huge container of cashews (unsalted) and stood outside the store eating them, I resisted the urge to open them in the store and start gorging myself before I had even paid for them. I couldn't go any farther without eating something. So there I stood in an underground parking lot on 4th avenue in Vancouver oblivious to everything, trying to get my blood sugar back up. The danger with this diet is avoiding defaulting to too much sugar and choosing protein instead, but finding protein that is free of salt is tough also.

Beyond all the diet issues of the last week I had to face some other tough issues in my personal life. Learning to reign in my enormous ability to be horrible to those around me when I am feeling frustrated. I have dented something sacred and will work harder to control myself. I cannot afford to lose one ounce of the love I am the recipient of.

I saw my stepmother on Sunday and was moved by how much she has deteriorated since I last saw her in the Spring. She did not know me, could not meet my gaze. I choked back my sad tears and held her hands, moistening them with some nice cream and massaging them, and her arms and shoulders  gently. I told her little stories adding little physical actions, walking my fingers across her small hands, making little nibbles on her arms with my fingers and scratching her head. The story was about fleas. She smiled into her lap but never looked at me. Someone is in there, somewhere.

I went home and felt grateful for my crappy lunch and my ability to feed myself and for the person across from me who loves me so well. We sailed in the afternoon and somehow the conversation of the day before helped us both work together better getting the boat in and out of the water with mutual cooperation and kindness. I am humbled.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Low Iodine Diet Day 1



So I started my low iodine diet yesterday. It's advertised as a 2 week process but it turns out it's really for 3 weeks ending with a nuclear scan. I suspect in the third week you feel so weird from being shot up with all the crap they put into you pre-scan, eating might not matter that much. When I first started this process last December I had total faith in every step of it. This radioactive bit has me concerned. I don't relish being vaguely poisoned, but I am going along with it. I am nothing if not a good dutiful girl.

The long and short of this diet is no dairy, or anything containing iodine which is a dubious substance and is not really listed in the ingredients of things. Oh well. I eat whole food, I should be fine. No seafood for 3 weeks.

So... that leaves a lot of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts. The challenge for me will be to avoid sugar as a way to comfort myself. Poor me. Boo Hoo.

Yesterday I ate the following:
Blueberries, home-made granola, ginger tea, raw cashews, dates, carrots, more cashews. Avocado, coleslaw, baba ghanouj. More dates, cashews now gone. Wine. Almonds. Brown rice, various greens, onions, celery, beef, fresh ginger. One measly piece of crystalized ginger covered in white sugar.

At some point during the day it occurred to me that instead of thinking about food and feeling grumpy I could get busy. I made tomato sauce with some of the bounty from the Urban Farm. And wouldn't you know it, I was cheered up right away.

Went to the big vintage trailer meet last weekend. It was a good one for sure. I still can't quite believe the absurdity of this event and my role in it but I find the people to be so interesting and sincere. We listened to some musicians play by campfire and had a big out of tune sing along. Pearl sitting next to me exclaiming "this is wonderful". And it was.  Here are some pictures! I even managed some sketches as well as some knitting.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Inspiration arrives

ArtSpace

The architect and artist Maya Lin (Photo by Walter Smith) 

Maya Lin on Using Art to Awaken Audiences to Our Ecological Plight

By
World-famous from the day she won the commission for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while still a 21-year-old undergraduate at Yale, Maya Lin evolved into one of the most versatile practitioners of architecture today, designing everything from private residences to corporate compounds to the memorials that she terms "memory works." From the beginning, she has also pursued a parallel and often intersecting career as a fine artist, creating subtle yet impactful sculptures and installations—such as the renowned Wave Field at Storm King—that are aimed at making viewers aware of the sensitive ecology surrounding them.

Lin is now the subject of a concentrated survey at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, featuring artworks that make visible, in transmuted form, the region's waterways. The show essentially revolves around various modes of cartography: on the wall are silver sculptures shaped like bodies of water in the Hamptons—including the iconic Georgica Pond—as well as the epic Pin River — Sandy, an assemblage of countless tiny metal pins that delineate the watery footprint left by Hurricane Sandy. Then, as the centerpiece, there are also three nested rings of marble whose surfaces are topographical sections of New York City, the equator, and the arctic circle. It's a quiet presentation, and one that draws the visitor to meditate on the power and precariousness of the substance that has fascinated Lin throughout the course of her career: water.
To explore the themes embedded within the work, Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew M. Goldstein spoke to Lin about her show, on view through October 13.

Pin River 
Pin River—Sandy and Arctic Circle at the Parrish

What is the concept behind the show? 
The works in the exhibition incorporate my interest in mappings and focusing attention on natural terrain or phenomena—I like to be site-specific—so I started looking at the environment of the Hamptons. I created Pin River – Sandy for an earlier exhibition that focused attention on New York, and it was a natural to include it at the Parrish since so much of the flooding occurred along the coastal areas.  The three bodies of water cast in recycled silver bring into play my interest in revealing the figure/ground reversal of looking at the water as the positive of the map rather than negative space—something we don't focus as much attention on. This show combines my interest in utilizing scientific approaches like cartography and satellite views to reveal aspects of the natural world that we may not be thinking about.  

aligning reeds 
Aligning Reeds (1985) in New Haven

Your work has been positioned within the legacy of Land Art since your first project, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which presented a stark black gash of stone as a wound in the earth itself. You have specifically been working with water since your second installation, Aligning Reeds, in which you planted blue metal rods amid reeds on a riverbank near Yale. What is it about bodies of water that you find so compelling as a subject for art? 
Perhaps it's because of water's ability to easily exist in three states—ice, mist or steam, and liquid—and that it's so transmutable in form, or perhaps because it's so critical for life on earth. We just aren't thinking about how degraded these freshwater and ocean systems are.

civil rights 
The Civil Rights Memorial (1989) in Montgomery, Alabama

For your Civil Rights Memorial, you inscribed the wall behind one of your cascading "water tables" with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "… until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Do you also treat water symbolically—or metaphorically—in your work, and if so, how?
I think mapping and cartography approaches water more in its exactitude, and in a somewhat analytic form. The water tables probably come the closest to treating water as a metaphor, with the quiet underground groundswell of information and the stillness of the water until you touch the flat table's surface. But in my new sculptures I'm interested in seeing or revealing actual existing waterways, and trying to see them as whole systems.

In much of your recent work, including Pin River — Sandy, you use a multitude of small components to make up a sweeping whole. In 2011, for instance, you filled one of Pace's Chelsea galleries with thousands of wooden blocks at various heights that together created a giant undulation resembling a wave-like topographical map. What inspires you to take this approach?
It depends on the form I'm sculpting. Water can be seen with more defined edges sometimes—we all tend to map a river as a solid line—but at times water, especially in estuaries or in certain riverine conditions, is much more about dispersal and floodplains. Think of estuaries, salt marshes, or the ambiguity in coast plains. I find the pins to be much better at formally capturing that dispersal, and the ambiguity between land and water. 

You're known for making work that's extraordinarily ecologically conscious, drawing your viewers' attention to the catastrophic effects of climate change and the depredation of our natural resources. What do you hope these viewers will take away from experiencing your art?
Curiosity—and a desire to pay closer attention to the natural worlds. 

The Parrish refers to you as "one of the most important public artists of our time." Do you think of yourself as a "public" artist, and if so, what does that mean? 
I think the "public" part comes from my earlier works, but in the past decade I've found much more of a balance between the outdoor public works and the museum and gallery exhibits. It's just that the large-scale outdoor works came to attention first—even though the smaller scaled artworks have really been the genesis for almost all my work.

listening cone 
Listening Cone, a wood-lined bronze sculpture containing a video of extinct and endangered species (installed at the California Academy of Sciences) is part of her multisite, multimedia memorial "What Is Missing?"

You're working now on something called "What Is Missing," a project intended to bring attention to habitat loss and other ecological crises that has been described as your final memorial. Could you talk a little bit about what this project is, and how it came about?
I've been drawn to memorials in the past—the Vietnam memorial, the Civil Rights Memorial, the  Women's Table, the Confluence Project—and they're basically history or memory works that focus attention on some of the key sociopolitical shifts in our time. I was approached to do those works, but I've known for almost 20 years that I myself would instigate the project that would be my last memorial, "What Is Missing?," and that it would complete the series. I almost always work in series—it affords me the chance to study a subject more in depth. I knew that "What Is Missing?" would be the project that would take my concern for the environment and the subject of species and habitat loss and transform it into a memorial.
For me, memorials are and always have been a way we can look at history and learn from past events—to see history not in a didactic manner, but to simply present facts and allow people to absorb them and then decide on their own what they'll take away from it. In "What Is Missing?" I do focus on what has been and is being lost, but I also have stepped much more into advocacy at times by presenting information about what each one of us can do to help. I'm currently working on the last part, "Greenprint," which will envision plausible future scenarios that will balance our needs with those of the planet. As an artist, perhaps I can put these issues in a new light—to get us to think differently about what the issues are and what the solutions could be.
confluence project 
A section of the Confluence Project, an art installation at several points along the Columbia River

What other projects are you working on now?
I am installing an exhibition in Madrid for Ivory Press entitled "Rivers and Mountains," and I have another show that will open at the Brower Center at Berkeley focused on "What is Missing?" and the San Francisco Bay. I'll also be exhibiting and discussing "What is Missing?" at the Nevada Museum of Art—this is all in September.
At the same time, I'm building out the last two parts of the Confluence Project, which focuses attention on the history of the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest. On the architecture front, I'm in the process of building the Novartic headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with private residences in New York and Colorado. 
So it's a balance between the art, architecture, and the memory works.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I read a book


I spent a lot of time in the library this August while my daughter attended Driver's Education class in the town next to mine. Mostly I worked and tried not to look at books but eventually the temptation was too much and one day I walked straight up to and grabbed "Breakfast of Champions" from the staff pics book display. I went straight back to atrium and began to read. I read "Breakfast of Champions" the first time when I was around 15. It rarely occurs to me to read something again but in this case I felt like it was the right thing to do. I had no idea how much Vonnegut's world view shaped my own at that tender age. I guess I am grateful for it although reading the book again 40 years after it was written is slightly depressing. All of the things he shed light on about human behavior has not changed one iota. We're ruining the planet and our cultures. What would he say about the Kardashians and the tendency in the media to manipulate the population into caring about things that really have no bearing on our existence here on earth. I finished the book yesterday and I feel a bit melancholy today. I worry about the future and it's hard to keep under wraps. So that's what I'm dragging around.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to Reality

It's always a bit bumpy the first few days back to school. The air is changing, invisible bubbles filled with cool air pop as I move past them. I reminded myself of this, this morning while I walked on the road. It's always a bit bumpy the first few days back. Visiting summer guests have left, laundry is folded. Only bird voices on the deck. Nuts dropping on the garage roof.



I took this photo at Golden Ears Provincial Park. There are old growth stumps in these woods as big as cars. I stood there and tried to imagine what it must have looked like. The trees were monsters and much farther apart in contrast to these 3rd growth Fir that seem to be packed tight, barely any light coming through the canopy. I am reminded of Emily Carr of course. She got to see the old growth forests firsthand. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have little interest in painting the woods but I like to take the odd picture if the light is just right. This is in keeping with my naturalist spirit.

I am feeling at sixes and sevens, not quite here, not quite there. I need to get back to work of course, break the summertime habits of broken up time and late starts. Make some fucking money! With 10 empty hours stretched out ahead of me I felt a bit directionless and on edge this week. I've let a lot of things slide over the summer and the danger is to think about them all at once. I decide to be kind and take a few days to adjust to what is coming next.

I decide to mow the lawn. 

Running the lawnmower means you have to be aware of your extremities and the grasses extremities and all the plants too. So it gave me some time to think about various things while performing a physical task which seems to help the brain make sense of things. Change is always a bit startling and I think it's important to sort of sit with things sometimes.

There is no point in arguing with my inertia when it comes to certain work. It's an ugly road to go down so I think it's reasonable to surrender and do something else rather than grouse and do nothing.  As far as art goes. I have no answers. I'm thinking. I'm reading. All I know is when I slip into making something time passes and I feel productive. Those questions, why? Why do it? Why this? are quick to appear though and honestly I am baffled about it all. I try to carry on.

Even now, blogging with the pressure of a client deadline looming over me, I am having a hard time feeling committed to the activity of writing but I also can't stop myself because the longer I write the more I sink into it the more is revealed. Sorry to constantly repeat that metaphor for doing creative work, but that is how it feels to me, falling in, being overcome by, and I never know what I can reasonably put off while I take the time to explore this world of artmaking, whatever that means. Painting, sewing, felting, god forbid writing.

Today I spent time painting the big barn doors on my rental. It's a job that has been needing attention for two years. It took 3 hours. And I enjoyed doing it. Fuck! So the point is to do something and in between think about the projects I am working on and don't feel like I have to be at my desk to do this work, necessarily. The point is to accomplish something everyday and enjoy the process. Everyday could be rainbows and unicorns! The point is I have to work at all this stuff all the time and I can't stop because I want to find out what I have to say.

My dad at VAG with Douglas Coupland

I saw the Douglas Coupland show with my dad. We went spontaneously one Sunday afternoon in late July. We flew through it like a couple of maniacs, but it almost seemed like it was set up that way, the ideas were very clear, the pieces were well executed, it felt familiar, based on furnishings, pop art and everyday products. It was interesting. Smart and stylish with a narrative I could relate to. My dad was a bit skeptical, but it's no wonder. They are of different generations and DC has always been about a very generational specific viewpoint. My dad had trouble with the idea that a writer was making paintings. I can relate to the work, he is organizing the things he likes and understands and that is a damn good exercise and what I guess I am doing here.

P.S. My dad is fine. We've seen him a few times over the summer. I probably have a lot more to say on that topic but seeing this show with him was like exercising a long practiced ritual. My dad took me to the VAG at about age 10 when I first saw a work by Ed Ruscha.

It's starting to rain now. The cloud cover makes it darker than it really is. I did see the last gasp of the suns rays on the tops of the cedars to the east. The rain stops and starts, rattles the leaves, cools the air, breaks the tension.

School always starts on the Wednesday before Labor Day so that it takes 2 weeks before the kids have a full 5 day week. I appreciate this humane build up to full operating speed. After a two month break it takes time to get back to the routine of working long days. Practice, practice, practice, get back to the practice.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The First Quilt I Ever Made

The first quilt I ever made took me 10 years to finish. The large squares were chosen from my mother's leftover clothing. She often made our clothes growing up and certainly made her own. All these examples show her simple lifestyle and earthy practicality as well a hint of Asian minimalism. The clothes she made for herself in her early womanhood were practical and sturdy based on her descriptions of them in a letter to her mother around the time she got engaged to my dad, but she made much fancier things as well. I recall a hostess outfit she made in the late 60's that was satin with a high Nehru collar and tiny red buttons down the front that closed with tiny loops. There must have been a hundred sets of loops and buttons. I often wonder where that particular dress ended up. It was long gone by the time she died and I started making this quilt. I am getting ready to make a second quilt for my husband which I hope to complete in less time than this one took. A friend encouraged me recently to make one thing everyday. I think I can do this. I think I can slow my brain down and turn off the chatter and just cut and sew. My mother managed to make things well and often while raising the 4 of us and all the while keeping the chaos of daily life at bay. A fine role model she was.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hydrangea!


3 flower heads of the same Hydrangea. Each globe at a different phase. Fantastic! 

The light has been almost ominous lately. Our hot days have ended for now. The sky is pale gray, the light feels flat but it's good for photographs. I popped out and took these pictures of the Hydrangea at the corner of my office,  I pass by it on my way to my desk everyday. I rush past things so often, there is so much to do. I feel like I never scratch the surface. Today I stopped and captured these before the brilliance drains right out of them. 

I took my bike out for a ride the other night and thought about Robin Williams in his final hours. I stayed out too long and rode home in the darkness and was thankful I didn't crash despite how disorienting the absence of the light was. I'm so sorry Robin was beyond the point that a good ride on one of his beloved bikes couldn't sort him out. 

We're all down here in the trenches, doing what it takes. Summer is divine even if the news and rain has changed our moods a little, it's still all so beautiful.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

June Blog

So what happened in June was I had the second surgery to remove my thyroid. The good part. The bad part went in January. It took a long time to get over in the winter. I felt profoundly wounded. I had had a huge scare at the discovery of the tumor  and then it took quite awhile after the surgery to get the results. So then I know something that I didn't want to know, but the good news is that part of me was in a trash heap somewhere. The nut sized cancer stopped dead.

The second surgery was easier. I had an idea of what to expect but the process of healing is still a job. The first 3 days were okay and then I was on my own for a few days which was not ideal. I should have asked for or demanded more help. After 10 days they took the bloodied bandage off and pulled out the sutures. The surgeon exclaimed "this looks great!" patting himself on the back for my benefit.  Somehow the incision site is less painful than the first time and I am grateful for that. In January I did not touch my neck near where they cut into me for over a month, despite knowing that gently manipulating the scar helps to soften the healing tissue. I felt apart from my body. 3 months after the first surgery I could feel connections being remade deep in my neck. Just around the time of the second surgery I was finally feeling normal. So I was more prepared for the second offense but the healing was still work that had to be done. In all it took about 3 weeks to feel okay again. There were real highs and lows during that time but then it all just dissolves little by little and before you know it you're getting up, getting dressed and going about your business like nothing happened. I was fortunate too that two other friends underwent surgery around the same time as me so I was able to help them and also have some really helpful discussions about healing. The surgeon only presents the landscape of the surgery they don't ever discuss in depth the after effects of the anesthesia on memory, the bowel, general outlook. In addition to the aftermath of the surgery I was also getting used to taking daily 2 or 3 Thyroid pills. At first 3 was too many and I felt horrible and jittery and I wasn't sleeping. The surgeon suggested backing off to 2 and that was a miracle.

14 days after the second surgery I awoke one evening, after a good weekend of playing tennis 2 days in a row and I felt so profoundly sad it was alarming. I climbed into bed with my husband and he rubbed my back as I drifted back into sleep. I felt badly about the damage to my body, the irreversible-ness of it all. The news came back, the pathology report was clear. No cancer in the side of the Thyroid they had removed but it was hard not to think, why couldn't I have kept it and used it rather than taking pills for the rest of my life. I felt again like an insignificant wounded animal up against a force much larger than myself and while I was grateful for the care I received it's hard not to feel like a statistic and a board recommended course of action. Am I out of the woods? I think so but the treatment continues, there will be another major test I will have to undergo in September involving Radioactive Iodine and 2 week diet beforehand. I will comply, what other choice do I have?

So all this is to say why I never blogged in June and maybe why the blog has been sparse all year so far. I am fine. I am here. I will prevail.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What I'm Not Reading

http://www.amazon.com/Orenda-Joseph-Boyden-ebook/dp/B00GQAIE4W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406587245&sr=1-1&keywords=the+orenda

This is the book I started not to read after I heard the excellent Canada Reads program on the CBC.  I also heard subsequent interviews with Joseph Boyden and then my dad lent me his copy of the book. After reading a bit I returned the hard copy and bought a version for my Kindle which I read a little of and then stopped. That is why I am referring to it as the book I am not reading. I intend to pick it back up of course. My dad felt it was a bit brutal. It is. I like how the story is told through various voices. The writing itself is spare but descriptive. The part I have read, was violent but also magical and very real feeling. Since my trip to Smithers last year I have been thinking a lot more about the issues the First Nations face. The main one of those being how they are seen in today's and future societies. This generation needs stories like this to connect them to the history of Canada. And because I have not finished this book, that is all I can say.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Second Honeymoon


Celebrating 10 years of love, sovereignty and togetherness! Photo taken by a kind stranger south of Yachats, Oregon. A good trip that keeps getting better.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sticks and Stones

How do you fill your days?
You may well ask.
What are your long term goals?
To become a better artist.


Rowan Moore Seifred
 Stick Pile #1

For the last 3 or so years I have been trying to reconcile my identity as a graphic designer with my identity as an artist. The process has been interesting and the outcome, a complete surprise.

Rowan Moore Seifred
  Stick Pile #3

This journey began with my first life drawing class in over 20 years in 2013. Drawing and painting got me back into thinking about art making. I read somewhere that you should never think about the why of art making when you are making it. They are two different activities and should not get mixed up together. That used to catch-me-up and stop me dead.

Rowan Moore Seifred
 Looking south on the east perimeter. Piles are 20ft apart.

Now I see things in simpler terms. After 20yrs, my time on this property is likely limited and so I want to  immerse myself in it while I can. It made sense that my statement would involve this place.

Rowan Moore Seifred
 The first 3 piles run south from the north east corner of my property.

People are starved for nature. It's being destroyed but it's everywhere too. Growing up between the cracks in sidewalks, sprouting in gutters. Art is there too, waiting to be called upon.

I caught a snippit of a headline that an eco conscious art curator I know commented on, and it made me re-visit the stick piles I began making when I first moved here.  And there it was, an idea I had had long ago resurfacing and the right moment. I have been waiting and watching, biding my time.

 Forest selfie with cedar debris.

My plan for the next 2 years, (I picked 2 because that marks a major milestone in my life as a parent) is to create a series of these stick piles around the perimeter of my 5 acre property. I am not going to think about why. I am going to pile things up and see where it goes.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Floating

 
I begin this in my living room on Saturday morning listening to a groovy collection of John Zorn music. New to me and highly compatible with my current state of mind. There are tulips blooming everywhere, the leaves are emerging and the mountainside is changing shape and color with every moment. The garden is coming together here and at the Urban Farm. The Japanese maple outside the bedroom window that reminds me where I am in time is greeting me with delicate chartreuse leaves extended on flaming red branches. On the nights when the moon was full and the night was clear the tree was black and white as if covered in snow. Waking and seeing it at first, I could not believe my eyes. It took a moment for my brain to understand that it was moonlight and not snow after all. I heard some good poems read and I saw a few concerts and reconnected with the dreaminess of listening to art performed. By chance we got a hand-me-down piano, something I have wanted for a long time but was not sure I could afford. My neck is healing. It has taken awhile and it is still not quite 100%. I am feeling reclusive, selective about who I see and what I take on beyond what I am working on. I think it is a healing response and at the same time I think it is a transition period for me.  Taxes—the most recent obstacle to my creative pursuits— are done. And today I am washing my office floor—preparing the space for work. Space to work gets lost in the chaos of life; hidden under paper, place mats and unopened bills. The truth is the cleaning is all part of the practice and that is why when the thought came to me to wash the floor, I said yes. This is an important part of my daily practice, saying yes to doing things, whatever they are. I stop myself all the time and consequently things have backed up on me, I take too long to do things. I am too sporadic. So the idea of the practice is to add consistency to the behavior I am working on developing. Why is it so challenging to give myself an hour a day where I take time to move my creative—non-work—work along? This is the hurdle, making time and doing it. Taking the time and sinking-in to do the deep work, without losing touch with everyday life, that is what I wrestle with. It feels like losing control but I know the only way to explore creatively is to let go, really push off from the dock and float alone into the darkness of the catacombs where it all originates from.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stop gap

I am not dead. I am not ill. I am reflecting. Nothing new there but maybe there is a new depth to the reflection. At any rate, many things feel a bit trite at the moment like quippy little blog posts like this one. As you were.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Summation


This is what I am trying to achieve. The sensation of lying on my back staring up at endless openness while standing upright in the modern world. The sensation of sun on my face when skies are gray and complicated. The sensation of boundless joy while performing the mundane tasks of simply being alive. So far so good.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Manifesta

 
Drying plastic sheets for Nuno-Felting.

I'm super off track with the blogging. I am in deep self-care mode at the moment. I suspect I will live to procrastinate many more things, the painting, the writing, the endless crafty endeavors. Work is the answer. More work, more making, more sketching, more seeing, more doing, less thinking, less talking, less weighing, more breathing. I got invited to join a group of artists meeting to discuss art and the process of making art and the reality of being an artist. Initially I felt that it was what I wanted. I even thought the invitation had come to me in a sort of divine way. I went to one Salon style gathering and there were many very interesting people there but I felt ill at ease. I feel suspicious at the very idea of the thing. Is this normal? Is it just me? It takes a lot for me to get out into a group of people and I generally reserve the energy it takes to do this for clients and family gatherings but off I went. I even shared my work, I read a piece from this blog as an experiment. People were supportive but I felt hollow afterwards as I tend to. I am suspicious of this need to seek attention for things I have made. I connect it to bowel movements from childhood. My mother would applaud my stinky efforts. It mattered and it felt good to me and to her, both our jobs done. I don't want to talk about making art much in the same way I don't want to talk about my sex life or my bowel movements in public. Yes, I have sex and I really enjoy it, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about sex, I dream about it, I miss traffic signals thinking about it. I don't want to talk about it though. It's private. People do not want to listen to me talking about my sex life. I think making art is the same thing. I want to do it, not talk about doing it with people who have their own methods and manias, fetishes even, sexual and artistic. I enjoy the intimacy of art making and I believe the creative process is a solitary one and I am okay with that. I am superstitious. Whatever creative gift I have been given (as I write this I am stunned that I even thought that, a gift from who/where) I need to protect and explore for myself alone. I can't speak about something that has no form, wrong words could dissolve the gossamer waves of whatever it is that might ooze out of me given half a chance. So I will continue to plan and make and if you run into me, let's not discuss art or sex or shit or blood. All those things are implied. Let's agree to discuss the discussable, the dog, the swans returning from Russia, the new buds swelling in the unusually warm weather and how grateful we all are to still be at this beautiful party.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Returning


I am back to walking despite the bitter cold. The question of purpose comes up not just for me but for others in my milieu. The young are confused and misinterpret their daily acts as trite and unimportant. I often think if only X would happen then I could do Y, Z. Well here's a news flash. X is happening! I picked up trash today on my way home. I picked up a big plastic cup, a plastic sheath from one of the salmon reparation saplings that flew off in the wind, and an empty bottle of vodka before I found a discarded grocery bag to put it all in. I filled it up pretty quickly. I have been meaning to do this for a long time but haven't. The trash annoys me. Beer cans, coffee cups, fast food bags that like magnets pull the dog off course. So today I did it. It felt good, and it gave me a totally different perspective on my walk. I may never write a great novel and there may be no purpose to any of it but I will be able to walk down my road without hating humanity and that's something.

P.S. Someone on my road drinks a ton of 100 Proof Vodka in plastic mickey bottles. I hope it isn't a kid.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sundays






On Sunday it was frosty and clear once the sun came up over Sumas Mountain. It felt good to be outside and I took pictures of the frost. I am planning a garden, such as it is covered in black plastic and spare tires. I helped at the Urban Farm on Saturday and came away feeling good about everything. We will have a kick-ass raspberry crop again this year and I have plans to throw in a 20ft row here at home too. We made a rough list of things to grow in the garden, things we think we can handle. Beans, peas, cabbage, kale, the basics. Meanwhile I felt nervous about Monday's surgical event but what can you do, time moves us along and now it's 4 days later. The rain started up again and I wouldn't have walked even if I could have. Tomorrow I will try again.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bare


I am rowing along my feet are my oars
row, step, row, step, breathe, breathe, breathe.
Merrily, merrily.
I saw seven eagles flying, trill, trill, calling.
Two white capped adults and five mottled juveniles
above the creek. I called to them,
my head tipped back compressing my delicate vertebrae
exposing my white lumped neck.
Hello eagle brothers what a fine day it is.
I bet you can smell the rotting salmon all the way up
in those cottonwood trees. They trill, trill,
call back to me soaring overhead. Showing off
feeling good because of this sudden sun that has
pulled us all out today and made us joyful
when we should be afraid.

As someone who has considered cutting things short
stopping midstream so to speak but fearing the end
incredulous that it all must end in happier times.
I feel lighter now, knowing how it might end
a lump begins somewhere and there you go.
An answer to the question.
An end to the unknowing
but miraculously
step after step, row, step, breathe, step
with my eagle brothers alive above me
and my salmon sisters dead on the creek banks
getting ready to smell as soon as the air bloody well
warms up, and it will. Hope rows along side me.

I am linked to them, the eagles and the bare trees
my flesh exposed, no more or less important.
I am in the flow and that is the point.
And I will row hard like my salmon sisters swam hard
follow my purpose which for now is the simple
act of breathing, stepping, striding, rowing.
Moving when it is time to move,
waiting when it is time to wait.
Sunning myself when the sun
calls me out into the world
along the creek beneath the trees.
My soft neck bared and open
so that the eagles might pull free
and devour what is
unwelcome in this once perfect body.
Trill, trill, call. Step, step. row. Breathe.

Friday, January 10, 2014

One Month

I have not written in a month. Not because I had nothing to say but because I was not willing to go into those deep woods. Instead I have spent the month quietly inhabiting two states. One private, one public. My public self enjoyed the holidays. I ate, I drank, I traveled about dropping off cookies and cheer, spending time with family and friends, it was lovely. My private self came too and sat quietly waiting for my public self to get tired and go home. Some days for hours I forgot completely about my private state and was amazed by how positive and hopeful I felt. Other times my private self scrambled, clawed to the forefront of everything presenting formless ideas that eluded words. I am changed. I turned 50 in December and it was an emotional day. I missed my mother to the point that I could barely speak about her. Like a wounded child I long for her steady hand. In reality she was not that steady, she faltered and I see those fissures in myself. My private self keeps a little album of these creases in our combined flesh. I am not her but at times I fear that I am. We are so fragile. While I was thinking about these two selves as they slid back and forth on top of each other making me feel whole and fractured simultaneously I came to the following conclusion based on evidence and information. I am going to be okay regardless of what happens to me. I have today and I feel fine. As long as I feel fine I will continue to move ahead. My face in the mirror smiles back at me and I think, look at her she looks fine.
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