Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm?


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internal inquiry into a considered response

There’s no other way to heal, I think.

I’ve read this many times.  It is lodged in my blood now, where it often sings me awake at night, sometimes until dawn.  It is in my belly too, still mostly undigestible.

The difficulty lies in the difference between what my heart reads and what my head understands.  Or maybe that’s where the difficulty lies. I’m not sure yet.

We learn battle-readiness, to defend our tender new-budded truths.  We are misinterpreted; this can break our hearts.  We misconstrue, often to preserve the rightness of blame, the righteousness of feeling hard done by; this will initially comfort and inevitably constrict.  In the end the effect is the same:  diminishment and poverty. 

I can’t name all of the possible alternative choices, but they are known by their effect: gratitude, openness, expansion.  Love.

Oh, the bluster and the poverty of me!  As though what sparks my interest should dominate all else, till there’s no breath left in the room, and the small simple beautiful thoughts creep away to hide their perfect nakedness.  Lest they get burned by the mocking loud, the snorting judgement, the braying, betraying complaining whine.

I don’t regret this bluster- it has been an important tool for survival these many years.  I do amend it now that I’m out of survival mode:  more heed paid to the exquisitely naked, small simple thoughts.  The tiny observances, the two-way conversations held safely in trust.  All the time in the world to listen well, with love.

It is one of those nights – my blood sings me awake at 3am and now dawn sits pregnant in the east.  Sheets and sheets of luxurious rain cool street and soil after weeks of heat too strong for the season.  I am grateful for the known comfort of this natural balance, counterpoint to my tender-sore conundrum. 

What to do?  I ask the morning, as she emerges. 

In response, the rich rain sings of gravity, release, surrender.  

Family. We are family.  I have no good answer to this difficulty, for how can I be who I am not, even if who I am offends so?

So. Let the rain and the tears fall where they may, in gravity, release, and peaceful surrender.  May the good answers come over time like waves on the shore, with no urgency. Small and simple, held safely in trust.

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Thank You.

There’s a perfect stillness in this house.  A resting of all the places that will later see activity, development, growth.  I need this calm like a desert wanderer needs shelter and green; somehow my little house knows and holds me like a mother would, gentle and strong.

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What to say?  Good lord and lady but there have been betrayals, haven’t there?  Personal and political. Family and State.  Driven by greed for money and dominance, a great overwheening, toxic need to be first, best, shiny-est: I watch as the old ship of my family breaks apart over money and the misuse of power, as ten muslim refugee families walk north into Manitoba, seeking refuge from the United States of America.

Honestly, and from the bottom of my breaking heart, I don’t get it.  We are not here for this.

I’ve been searching the dry desert for some answers for a long time, as a woman, artist, daughter-sister-mother.  I’ve found only questions in the sand – heavy ones that have become increasingly difficult to carry. I’m not going to be useful, I know, if I collect still more questions and carry them farther; I’ve got to figure out how to put them down.

relief from the desert on last week's walkabout.  These are water dragons.  Astonishing, tiny and shy.

Relief from the desert on last week’s walkabout. These are water dragons. Astonishing, tiny, shy.

We have daily choices to make now, each one of us.  Mine involve full acceptance of the cold bite of reality: not everyone has access to her own decency; many people are broken beyond repair.  I catch myself getting pulled into negativity, and delete the articulate, powerful paragraphs I just wrote.  I resist the impulse for retail therapy, for numbness fed by alcohol and thoughtlessness, though boy do I feel the pull.  I override the dullness I feel when I look at this painting in front of me, and wet my brush to make a change. I value the great beauty of small simple things, and get to work on building the strength and stamina I need to shelter and protect them.

The giant grouper fish who played with me through the aquarium glass !?!

The giant grouper fish who played with me through the aquarium glass !?!

I practise warm human resistance to abusive behaviour, and thank the universe for John Cleese, Meryl Streep, Saturday Night Live, The Netherlands, The brilliant people who made this site, Idle No More, my beautiful mother, my strong smart funny daughter, her courageous and determined director father, my wonderfully kind, generous, gifted companion and Love, all of my marvellously positive, music-hungry students.  I thank the heavens for our human ability to make music and art, and to make change.

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I read an old book about power versus force and realize that this place we’re in, this climate of despair and abuse is not new.  We’ve been here before, and we can stand our ground again.


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In search of light-heartedness

The bells, the paint, the studio cats who complain at the rain.  The reflective work, the promotional, the inquiring work, the rehearsals, the gigs, the scheduling work, the self nourishment which since November 9 has increasingly been – hard work.

The grim manifestation of positive, hopeful, pro-active paintings, songs and video as I emerge slow and stiff from the flatline shock of the US election and its results.

I trudge.  Plod, sink.  Grind my teeth and trudge on.

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Never has the political felt more personal to me.  We grieve like Sisyphus watching the boulder he pushed up the mountain for one hundred thousand years slide from his grip to roll away and down. It’ll be back at the bottom in mere months, picking up momentum as it goes.  He knows he must go after it, push it up again…

The reality of that election, what it means personally and for the world I love has me on the edge of melt-down, all the time.  I grit my teeth and trudge, propelled by clean rage – the only engine still running.

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Never have I felt so urgent a need to think differently.  To find a clearer way to do my job – making/sharing art and music, being human.

Jack Dixon, American author, ‘The Pict’ (2007), The Barn:Memoir of a Family During the Nazi Occupation of Holland in 1940-1945′ (2014), and many more, wrote this:  

If you focus on results, you will never change.  If you focus on change, you will get results.

Toni Morrison, American Editor, Writer, Playwright, Literary Critic, ‘The Bluest Eye,’ ‘Song of Solomon,’ ‘Beloved”,’A Mercy.’ (and many more), wrote this:

This is precisely the time when artists go to work.There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.  We speak, we write, we do language.  That’s how civilizations heal.

I know from experience that the rage engine, however clean, burns out and in the end costs me months or years of positive energy.  The joy engine, the hope and the laughter engines go farther with a far gentler toll. Kindness, love, generosity – these are the best engines of all, and I/we will need them in the months and years ahead.  So I search for the means to re-start them, to maintain and fuel them.

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I’m making gatherings, since this is a thing we do together, repair and maintenance of joy and friendship.

  1. Studio tour here (live music, art, functional art, books, honey and a beautiful retrospective show of my dad’s paintings).  10am to 4pm, Circle Bar Art Factory, 1190 2nd Avenue East.  Write to me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/events/205689303185216/), or at keirartworks@gmail.com for more information.
  2. Random Act of Christmas Music with the Cello Choir, at Frog Pond Cafe, 11am – 12:30pm, Saturday December 10.  We will play and bring lyrics for those who want to sing.  Highly recommended.  fb link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/209666356146246/
  3. Get your Wassail On!, at Heartwood Hall, Solstice night, 7pm Wednesday December 21.  We’ll bring a string orchestra, lyrics and good cheer, others will bring poems, songs, stories, and good cheer, you can come and bring your voice …and good cheer, in celebration of human beings everywhere as well as here.  fb link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1721170268210795/

if you’re not on facebook, write to me at keirartworks@gmail.com for more information.  I would love to tell you more.

See you there, in person or in spirit.  All my love to you, truly.

Keira

 


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Once upon a tone…

I’m having trouble reading.  A smorgasboard of fascinating printed material, practically glowing inside beautifully designed covers – right in front of me, and I can’t find the anchor point, the stillness that gives permission to dive in and engage, without great effort.

It’s not glasses – I replaced my old foggy set with two exceptionally clear and useful pair, gone the headaches.  It’s not disinterest – I couldn’t be more passionate about the material this Masters course and my own inquiries offer me, or hungrier to understand more deeply.

Not schedule, not lack of sleep, not poor health, not an ability to interpret and articulate, focus or retain but still a trouble I am increasingly aware of.

It’s my patience, my attention span.  Somehow in the past four years, I’ve become hooked into distraction.

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Point-of-view alters understanding.

I need to consciously choose to dig into a new concept now. Decide, again and again to make a practise of reading each paragraph two times (necessary, to understand the irrationality of the Pythagorean comma and it’s resulting philosophical effect on the holy trinity, and hence contemporary governance).  I take mental and written notes, then move on only when I feel the bell of understanding resonate in my bones and blood.  The next time I sit down with the same book, I review, repeat, wait for the bell, then move on.

One hundred hundred chews per mouthful.  If I don’t do this I reach the end of a chapter and all I can think about is …. whether Donald Trump represents for our times the black hole that is Pythagoras’ comma.

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So.  Throw paint at something, and find the sanctuary of ‘Do.’, away from the beckoning screen, the humming pile of books.

Thank you, iPhone, thank you Macbook Pro.  This is the result of you and your entire ecosystem of marketed convenience.  Three years ago I did an art project called #selfie that required extensive online research into and active participation in social media that still has me connected to thousands of people I know only virtually. Two years ago I dived into the vast ocean of tweeters and texters by accepting a 4s into my life, and the result was the twisting of my thought processes, overloading of my senses with so much irrelevant data that my mind – my mind – needs remedial care, just so I can read.  A Book.

And yet, books are the better diet, I’m finding.  Lightly sprinkled with internet research, they are once more becoming the oatmeal of my day.  I have receptors for this information, still. Each time I insist, my attention span lengthens a little more.

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The Tone of Our Times (2014, MIT), by Frances Dyson – the main course of my reading at the moment.  Dyson is connected to a community of Scientists and Artists (ISAST) who have some simple goals:

  1. To advocate, document and make known the work of artists, researchers and scholars developing the new ways that contemporary arts interact with science, technology and society.
  2. To create a forum and meeting places where artists, scientists and engineers can meet, exchange ideas, and, where appropriate, collaborate.
  3. To contribute, through the interaction of the arts and sciences, to the creation of the new culture that will be needed to transition to a sustainable planetary society.

Important book.  Sassy, even, to my reading ear, and very dense.  I’m on page seven of the intro and already I’ve needed to dig into terms and references online, like monochord … cosmology; techno-gnosis; doxa…

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A hundred hundred chews, and not too much at once.  Here are the first two points of Ed Boyden’s (also MIT) advice about “Managing brain resources in an age of complexity” (November 13, 2007)

When I applied for my faculty job at the MIT Media Lab, I had to write a teaching statement. One of the things I proposed was to teach a class called “How to Think,” which would focus on how to be creative, thoughtful, and powerful in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure. In the process of thinking about this, I composed 10 rules, which I sometimes share with students. I’ve listed them here, followed by some practical advice on implementation.

1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.

2. Learn how to learn (rapidly). One of the most important talents for the 21st century is the ability to learn almost anything instantly, so cultivate this talent. Be able to rapidly prototype ideas. Know how your brain works. (I often need a 20-minute power nap after loading a lot into my brain, followed by half a cup of coffee. Knowing how my brain operates enables me to use it well.)

So I change it up, the reading, and I don’t gorge myself.  I also have dessert waiting for me – a beautiful little book titled Once Upon a Time; A Short history of fairy tale, by Marina Warner (Oxford, 2014).

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She begins, “Imagine the history of fairy tale as a map, like the Carte du Tendre, the ‘Map of Tenderness’, drawn by Parisian romancers to chart the peaks and sloughs of the heart’s affections….”

Ah, how I love a good map.  But first, a little paint throwing, and then half a cup of coffee outside in the long autumn sunlight.


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Back in.

Sideways works best.

I’ve been away from this studio for a month – longest time in three years – to work at sorting out old family issues that had reached a boiling point, then (surprise) to feed and look after a teenage cat mama and her three kittens who appeared in my house half-way through June.  Quite a distraction, four cats. Welcome in my life while I chewed on old family gristle.  Happily I found a generous adopter who has taken all four of them in so the family can stay together. They are installed there now, charming and distracting other people….

You’ll want to see a picture (I have many)

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Finally I’m back in studio to work, changed and feeling more than a little stupid as I look at the pieces I left at various states of completion.  What was I planning?  The notes I left are a clue, yellow wash left-centre, white on overlapped spirals, throw brass-green, where is the guitar, but I’m seeing these pieces from a different place, differently.

All of my fine procrastination skills are in full play. I understand the principle of stick with it but when you are slightly out alignment with ‘it’, there’s no way to force this.  It’s also hot.

…just went to pick up my camera and tripod at the house, paused there to pull some weeds, water the plants on the deck.  Returned from that extended errand I realize I need fresh cream for my coffee.  I need the black table and the cutting table cleared for work and photos, but it’s covered in Purcell, Handel, Haydn, Bach, Beatles – all taken out of my carefully constructed quartet binders, loose.  I twitch every time I look at it, but I know it will take a full day to put it right again….shall do this now, right after I sweep the floor and put the ink away, or walk to the corner store for cream first…..

I compromise, pile the music mess and put it somewhere safe for later, clear the surfaces for new work, fill the water jugs, check which mixed paint has dried and what’s still good.  I take photos and develop them for the ‘process’ files

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Cashews, fan, cleared work surfaces and some mixed yellow paint that’s still good

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and the first wash is done:

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There.  The story thread has been woven back in, and my bodymind is happy in image mode again.  I can now safely go and get cream for coffee #2.

This is heaven.

 


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Colour Pages #6: Violet

…day three relentless and me shrinking under the onslaught, smaller smaller until I smell like nothing at all not even fear you could walk through me and not even know it now, though I would feel it.  Years ago I had a voice, strong in the chorus of strong but someone I trusted browbeat the spectrum out of me, left me pale at the edge of translucency here with my belly clenched just make it stop.

This was a good while ago.  Both colour and strength return, wages of the effort taken to understand how I ever got myself into that place, how to get myself out and fully reclaim the good plan I had.

I choose to keep part of me violet always.  To remember so I never disappear again.

Bullies are violet, though they glow red and hard orange when on a rampage.  Those they torment inherit violet from them like a virus.  Shrinking, small, unimportant, voiceless, underserving, angry-but-gagged violet.

Beautiful humble fragile wise violet.

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Violent.

Remove the ‘n’ and it becomes a flower.

Violet

There is no worship of injury here, no victimhood.  Violet is the fragile place from which courage rises. Inside the smallness is the will to turn and claim your own strength, no matter how loudly the monster rages.

There is a secret person undamaged in every individual.  (PH Shepard)

Strength of violet.  Walk softly with yourself.


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bound·a·ry

bound·a·ry
Origin
early 17th century: variant of dialect bounder, from bound2 + -er1, perhaps on the pattern of limitary.
CurbPuddle
Interesting word.
from “bound”
  1. 1.
    a territorial limit; a boundary.
    “the ancient bounds of the forest”
    • a limitation or restriction on feeling or action.
      “it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the issue could arise again”
    • technical
      a limiting value.
  1. form the boundary of; enclose.
    “the ground was bounded by a main road on one side and a meadow on the other”
    • place within certain limits; restrict.
      “freedom of action is bounded by law”
      pot bound

      pot bound

the word is also almost it’s own opposite:

verb
  1. 1.
    walk or run with leaping strides.
    “Louis came bounding down the stairs”
noun
  1. 1.
    a leaping movement upward.
    “I went up the steps in two effortless bounds”

Bound for glory.

OldCelloScrollEd

bound by…  a promise

It’s bound to happen…

Photo by Dominie McGruer, 2012.  A beautiful place to let go of.

Photo by Dominie McGruer, 2012. A beautiful place to let go of.

Good heavens but life has been intense these past two weeks.  It feels as though we are in the shimmering time between before and soon, when old heavy things rise to the surface to be dealt with in new ways.  There is no getting around it – old things must be dealt with, sorted out, brought to conclusion, ended.  It’s requiring an objectivity from me that I’ve never before had to access, as I watch myself and others involved get triggered, explode from old injuries which just get deeper, react out of panic and fear, escalate, deny, avoid.  As we slowly slowly come to terms with what simply … is.

I have a new respect for good lawyers, who enjoy a certain lightness of being I very much aspire to.  They are the boundary keepers, the good fence builders.  They seek and define common ground, demand of us self respect.

MamaMaple'sArm

I recently spent the night in a forest under an old old maple.  I was there just to listen and watch, though my busy mind often interfered.  There was a root – her foot I thought, sticking up just high enough to be my pillow.  Little insignificant me under the upward and inward gaze of old old she.

I was significant to the mosquitoes, who were there in great number.

Busy mind, mosquitoes in great number… I got a tent.

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Inside the tent, everything outside was muffled, and I was amplified.

Later, the rain came down.