Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Going Underground

Not really underground, but thought I'd let you know I'm disappearing for a few weeks. I may have opportunities to check in, but a part of me thinks a break may be a good thing too. So this is Adieu. So Long, Farewell... all that. Look forward to seeing you all again in June!

And here's the Michelangelo plaque that I wanted to include in Life's Little Lessons.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Life's Little Lessons

I wanted to accompany this post with a photo of a pewter (I think) plaque that sits in my study, but I've learnt that digital photography has limitations, and one of them is taking photos of dark objects. It wouldn't come out clear, so I will tell you what the plaque says. It says "I am still learning" Michelangelo said that in his 87th year. (Ancora Imparo). What's good enough for Michelangelo is good enough for me, so I will join the new Life's Little Lessons this week, to try to gather together the lessons that have been there for me to learn.

1 I learnt that even though I may wake up not wanting to follow through on a day's plans, getting up and putting one foot in front of the other will help the day turn out better than I might expect.

2 I learnt that if I'm ever again invited to a ball, I should wholeheartedly give myself to the experience and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. They don't come around often enough for any other response!

3 I learnt that there are fairy godmothers and guardian angels all around me, disguised as friends and family.

4 I learnt that when there is an unpleasant or difficult task to be done, sometimes I can do it alone, once I know that there are people who would be there to support me, should I ask.

5 I learnt that I have gathered more knowledge than I'd realised about birds, and that it is good to share a little of what I have learnt.

(a sixth...) I learnt (or was reminded again) that the root of the word "arrogance" is the Greek Arogare, which means "to claim for oneself" and at times, arrogance doesn't deserve the bad press it gets. It's ok to toot your horn, blow your trumpet, or be pleased with yourself when you've achieved something, or come through some difficulty.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Meme - Ten Beautiful birds

Harmony invited me to offer a list of the ten birds I think most beautiful. These ten catch my eye for different reasons. Some simply because they visit my garden so often. Some because their song is so sweet. Some that have personalities that tickle my fancy. Some that are elegant, some that intrigue me. I borrowed the pictures from the British Garden Birds website as I am no nature photographer. These ten are:

1 Wren, aka Jenny Wren. Tiny, sweet, shy and timid, but she lives in the patch of ivy at the back of my utility room.
2 The swallow. When they return (I saw my first one last week), it is a cause of joy. I love to see them doing that sweep, swoop and dip over a river or under trees. Their dance!
3 Robin. There's a pair nesting in the hedge at the top of my garden. I've been watching Daddy's antics as he fetches and delivers food to the nest. He takes a different circuitous route home every time. So cautious. Stop, go to the right, head left, stop, look around, and home.
4 Mistle Thrush. A beautiful song. I always enjoy watching the thrush come after rain, to search out worms and snails in the soft moss and soil of the garden. Hop, hop, dip, dig.
5 Kingfisher. One of the birds I've only glimpsed once but that one glimpse was a marvel. I love the colours.
6 Grey Heron. Their patience, stealth, elegance, prehistoric mien, their flight. Wonderful.
7 Bullfinch. Had a visit a few months ago. That chest! Rose-pink.
8 Goldfinch. These come in little flocks of 5 or 6 to my garden. They are quite bossy at the feeders. Very sweet song, and they do bring gold - sunshine - with them.
9 Blackbird. Another marvellous song. And the yellow beak! The hen is brown, but has a certain elegance about her, too.
10 Blue Tit. Sweet, cute little birds. They love the fatballs I hang from the bird-table.

oops! Just noticed there are eleven pictures there. The one I didn't list is the Chaffinch
(between the goldfinch and the blackbird). He's got a pretty blue-grey head and a chest that has a rosy glow but nothing like as red as the bullfinch. He's a tenacious chap when he wants his station at the feeder.

Would anyone else like to share their favourite birds? I'd love to see them and hear about them.

Sunday Scribblings --- My Shoes

I have problem feet. They have spread and stretched and developed unpleasant conditions (requiring morning and evening anointing) over the past few years. I can wear high heels, but I just can't walk very far (as in to the next room) in them. So my shoes are of necessity flat, broad and often very unattractive. I do what I can. I buy in red or purple if those colours are available. My everyday shoes in recent times are pink. They're beginning to look a little the worse for wear, but they have the shape of me in them, so I keep putting them on - one more time, for old time's sake, and promising myself to retire them tomorrow. But I have decided when I go off on my trip next week, they're not coming. They can stay home and mind the house, sit under my kitchen rocker in the place where they always wait for me, and when I return, maybe they'll become my yard shoes - the shoes I have handy to slip my feet into when it's raining, I need to go to the bins, or rush to the washing-line, and I'm in slippers.

This weekend, I bought two new pairs of shoes. On the left, the gold-ish flatties will probably be known as my Cinderella shoes. They took me to my first formal ball on Friday night! I know - 48 years old, and only now venturing into the grown-up world! I woke on Friday morning, thinking it would take a fairy Godmother to make me feel like going to that ball. I had a task to perform that day that wasn't pleasant, and I thought I would just want to go home and hide in my bed after it. I signed the final papers for my separation agreement before lunch on Friday. But the Godmother must have been hovering, because instead of heading home, I found myself shopping. I bought an absolutely kick-ass outfit and those shoes, and I went to the ball, and I enjoyed myself, and I danced, I danced, I danced. Cinderella! But I didn't rush home by midnight. And there was no Prince. But that was the whole point! Who needs a prince? I had my friends, and music, and I felt good, good, good, in my shiny little shoes. And next morning - I still had both shoes, so they will live to dance another day, I suspect!

On the right, the first white shoes I've bought since my wedding shoes! I've just realised that. Well, these are to accompany me when I set off on my California/Oregon oddyssey next week. There has to be something new in the suitcase, so there will be green trousers and these shoes (and probably a few other items acquired along the way). I've never been across the Atlantic. This is hugely exciting for me, and I will be glad to be treading that land in comfy shoes. Yes, I'll bring more shoes ( Last year, on a 4-day trip to Barcelona, I carried 6 pairs of footwear!). I will have flip-flops. I will have runners. Maybe walking-boots? And I will have a pair of little gold sandals that look like just a few threads across my feet, and feel great and make me forget that I have problem feet. Because, problem feet or not, in the right shoes, they can take me anywhere, and if they look a bit odd at times, or call out for a bit of attention, they deserve it. Those feet, those shoes.

So watch out! Here I come! In my travellin' shoes.

Who else had something to say about their shoes? Check out Sunday Scribblings here

Friday, May 05, 2006

Top ten teenage wardrobe items - List Friday

List Friday at Pomegranates and Paper suggests the topic each week. Take a look at the other lists.

My top ten Teenage Wardrobe items

When I was a teenager, what thrilled me was to buy clothes with labels – not fancy labels. Just any labels. I grew up with a grandmother and a crowd of aunts who were all dressmakers, a mother and another aunt who were whizzes with knitting needles, and an uncle with a knitting-machine, so until I reached my teens, very few items of clothing came from shops. They were made for me with love and attention to detail, but I always envied people with clothes that came off a rail somewhere. So the items I remember especially loving first were :

1 A pair of lemon crimplene bellbottom hipster trousers, worn with
2 A lemon/orange/cream floral nylon blouse (I know, I know…!!!)

Once I’d gotten over my infatuation with synthetic fibres,
3 A white broderie-anglaise short-sleeved, short smocked top that I bought in a boutique, having haunted the place every day after school until my mother relented and gave me the money for it. I called it my Altar Boy top, and wore it even when I’d ripped a hole in one sleeve.
4 A pair of brushed denim jeans with zipped pockets on the side of the legs, below the knee. Practicality? Dunno. They just felt so cool. Then – disaster – dropped a bottle of bleach, splashing one leg of my jeans. Disaster? No –oo. Wore them until they fell apart, with the huge bleached splash all down one leg. Wore them proudly, and called them my “cement trousers”. Paired with number 3, I still think I’ve never felt better in any outfit.
5 (blush, blush) in the worst stage of my hippie phase, a “kaftan” I made from a bedsheet and embroidered with flowers, smiley faces, clouds with sun peeking through, rainbows… I wore this in public. It still looked like it was made from a bedsheet.

One summer, something strange happened:
6 I borrowed a fisherman’s knit, moss-green jumper of my father’s and never gave it back. I wore it and wore it and wore it, with
7 A pair of beautiful, brown, leather men’s sandals. Also my fathers. I know! I know! (His feet are small, but the sandals were still too big for me. I didn’t mind). He had had them for years. I took just one summer to destroy them.

The summer my breasts grew:
8 A grey wool duffle coat, over an assortment of black items of clothing, to wit: One pair of black bellbottom trousers, with buttons on the side from knee to hem, a black A-line skirt, a black POLO NECK (in summer), a black cheesecloth blouse. Black tights.

And the summer I decided it was ok to have breasts:
9 An embroidered cheesecloth tunic bought on a school trip to Paris. Chic!
10 And this one is interesting. When I was thirteen, one of the hated, hated items in my wardrobe was a tweed suit – trousers and jacket, green with an orange stripe (see? Horrible!) Made by one of my hardworking aunts for Christmas. I wept when I was forced to wear it, considered it an abominable cruelty on my mother’s part to insist that I wear it to Christmas Mass, and abandoned it at the back of the wardrobe, hoping my mother would forget about it. She did. Four years later, I pulled it out, and suddenly it had acquired a certain je-ne-sais-quoi – retro chic? – I wore it and wore it and wore it.

And there are no photographs of any of those items. Honest! Really, there aren’t!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Poetry Thursday - all grown up.

This week, Poetry Thursday moves from being a weekly feature of Liz Elayne's blog to its very own site, and this is exciting - very exciting indeed. Liz and Lynn, who is partnering with her in putting together this new site, ask that we write a little this week about our relationship with poetry. Ah.

My first poem: Eggs

Eggs are great cos you can beat them,
scramble them, fry them, poach them
Eat them!

(I was about 6, I think, maybe 7)

After that, I wrote a whole sequence of food poems, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet. My mother retained these pages, and I expect them to emerge from her attic at some stage in the future.

As with most of us, every bump on the path of my adolescent love-life became cause for a mountain of heart-broken "There'll never be another...." poems... until the next heartbreak, and the next poems. They are buried in a very ugly green plastic-covered ledger somewhere in my attic. Hope they never find the light of day.

Other people's poetry: The school experience. Great poetry, shame about the teaching, in most cases. Somehow, most of the English teachers I experienced in Secondary school (High-school) managed to take great poetry and make me hate it. Yeats bored me. Somehow, John Donne (because what I remember was Love Poems... "I wonder by my troth/ what thou and I did til we loved. / Were we not weaned til then/ but sucked on country pleasures childishly...") managed to bypass the teaching and enter my soul. I recall reciting it aloud to my husband. Aaah. I recall being exceedingly frustrated that a 14-line poem took three pages of notes to "explain" it. Each poem was disected and analysed and we were told what each phrase or word meant, alluded to, implied. There was no space for our own response to the poem. It killed it, to my mind. You know the Billy Collins poem about beating a poem to death with rubber hoses? He captured it. Totally.

So the school experience left me wishing I liked poetry, but feeling it was old-fashioned, didn't have much to do with my life, and was over-full of "nature". I read voraciously, but fiction and an assortment of non-fiction. No poetry. Even when Kahlil Gibran entered my life, I considered that spiritual writing, not Poetry, per se. I read it. I listened to the recording of Richard Harris (oh that voice) reading it.

Life went on. I went to live away from home. Married, had my son, and made new friends. I was living in Yeats country at this stage - visiting places like Hazelwood, Glencar, Lissadell, Innisfree, on Sunday drives, and beginning to mellow to the poetry of Yeats. You can't live for 16 years in the shadow of Ben Bulben and not begin to soak the poetry into your bones. That must be what happened, gradually. A friend began to work with a poetry journal based in Sligo, and her excitement about the material coming to her desk was infectious. The night they were hosting a group of women poets from a Donegal fishing village, I went along "to help with the sandwiches" and stayed enthralled by what I heard. That was the first poetry reading I'd gone to. And it changed my life. This was the first poetry I heard that made me realise it can be about real, ordinary things too. I went home and wrote a poem.

Poetry Reading

We said "It might be good for a laugh, at least".
Imagine going totally rhapsodic over trees!
Don't get me wrong.
I like trees. - Really, I do!
But they're hardly inspiring.

And then, a woman's voice came up
and spoke my heart.
Unfurled the rumpled fabric of my life.
In front of all those people.
It was all said in six lines.

Looking around I saw faces
that said "She's telling my tale"
and we applauded our lives.

I think of that as my first poem. From there, I began to write - and to read - and to seek out readings - and to associate with people writing poems. I found that when there was no other way to voice a feeling, I might be able to do it in a poem. And when I read poems, more and more often I would find myself voicing a deep "aaah" when I GOT a sense of what the poet was feeling, or was aiming to convey. A recognition in the pit of the belly. And some poems that I don't understand at all, but it's like humming a tune in a foreign language. The music and rhythm and mood of the language touch me in a place beyond words. And sometimes when I write a poem, I wonder "what does that mean?" as though someone else wrote it. It comes out of a space that is not head, not intellectual, but soul and heart and gut at times, and the meaning whispers itself to me bit by bit over time, and I sit with it, and allow it to be a presence, like a dream-image that will speak to me eventually.

Poetry is now in my blood and in my bone. My best times are times with the writers' groups (note - plural - there are two!) I belong to, or at a reading. I feel alive then more than any other time. Poetry is my music. It is my spirit. Poetry is what lifts me up. A poem is, for me, a prayer.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Feng Shui - Moving 27 things

Perhaps some of you have noticed, perhaps not, but during the past three weeks or more, I've posted Thursday poems and Sunday Scribblings and not much more here. I've continued to make a daily 48-word post on my 48x365 blog and occasionally uploaded one of my SoulCollage cards with a few words about it on my SoulFragments blog. I've managed to keep up-to-date with blog reading, and even posted comments here and there, but I haven't really felt present a lot of the time in blogland. I've been making hurried visits, guiltily stealing time from other responsibilities - and at the same time, telling myself that this minimal activity here was important to me - important to my self-care, and indeed it was and is. During those few weeks, I managed to eat well, get to the gym to keep to my 3-times-a-week goal, get adequate sleep, and complete my thesis for my B.Sc in psychology. I handed it in last Friday. I'm free!!! It's done. And I feel like blowing my trumpet a bit by saying how proud I am of myself for taking care of myself while I was doing that.

But - something does have to give when a major proportion of one's energy is going into a big project, and when I posted on Sunday about my home, I must have painted a fairly rosy picture. I mentioned my kitchen is cheerful, but neglected to say the floor hadn't been washed in... oh... 3 weeks! - As for the windows! - The genista I'm so in love with would have a hard time being seen through the grime that had built up on those windows... Get the picture? This house needed a bit of TLC. - And it needed a bit of action to simply get the energy moving inside as well. A lot of stale study-energy was sitting around my home, and it needed to shift. So today, I got the mop and bucket out and washed that floor, and then cleaned the windows in kitchen and study (the front of the house will wait for another day), and it was when I came to moving and later replacing all the little items that have accumulated on my window-sills, I thought of that maxim in Feng-Shui - that if you need to shift energy, you should move twenty-seven things.

Are there 27 things on my kitchen window-sill? Let's see...
  1. The jade plant which is a descendent of the very jade plant I bought to decorate my very first home away from home - 27 years ago. This particular one is at least 12 years old. Struggling a bit, sitting on a north-facing window-sill. Needs repotting and some individual TLC. Noted.
  2. A mis-shapen tiny cactus that looks like a hand with 27 fingers of its own. Unremarkable, until each finger sprouts a tiny orange flower. Love it. But I can never predict when to expect a flower. Maybe soon?
  3. Four stones - one little marble stone, with pinkish veins in it
  4. one black, grey, white, mottled, flat smooth, the size of the palm of my hand, beautiful to hold
  5. one pale grey, also flat, shaped like a piece of bread
  6. and one white stone, the shape of a heart, picked up on Maghery Beach facing west towards New York, just days after 9/11. I took it as a talisman, a token, a memorial.
  7. A little flat saucer brought by a friend as a gift from Israel - painted in a blue and maroon pattern, and sitting on the saucer...
  8. A tiny green china frog, a gift from my sister's college room-mate on a visit to my first home-away-from-home way back in 1980.
  9. A tiny ginger-and -white striped cat, gift from my sister on the same visit.
  10. Miniscule pink plastic elephant. Came from a Christmas cracker. Seemed to belong in the saucer "menagerie".
  11. An exceedingly ugly and kitsch china duck which my son gave me so proudly as a Christmas gift when he was about 11. For a week before the event, he was telling me "You're just going to LOVE your present! I know you are!" Of course, I do.
  12. Around the duck's neck (it needed some decoration) a bangle of tiger-eye stones
  13. and a bangle of some blue stones I cannot name off-hand
  14. and a bangle of safety-pins and little beads. Sounds awful, and looks very pretty.
  15. and a string with a tiny bottle of bubbles with a smiley face on the bottle.
  16. A big bottle of bubbles, so that I can pick it up, step out the back-door and bless the neighbourhood with bubbles whenever I feel it needs it (or I do!)
  17. A painted wine-glass in lovely swirls of wine, yellow, blue, gold. Beautiful with a tea-light lighting inside.
  18. A black oil-burner with a deep well.
  19. A cinnamon-scented candle, gift from one of the women in the first ever writing class I facilitated.
  20. A pair of little green glass bottles with butterflies on them.
  21. A grey and blue pottery bud-vase, gift chosen and bought by my then-6-year-old neice for my wedding. She's getting married in September!
  22. A blue-and-white jug with a pattern of cornflowers, just right for any posy of flowers or few stems I bring in from the garden.
  23. A tiny phial of pebbles and shells with a pebble stopper, sent from Chile by a young friend who has been studying there. She knows I have a fondness for the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and when she visited his home at Isla Negra, she got this little keepsake of his beach to send back to me. I treasure it.
  24. A brown pottery dish with shells and pebbles gathered on holidays - Lanzarote and Scotland being the most recent additions, but somewhere in there are shells from Spain and parts of Ireland too.
  25. A violet/lilac/purple glass beaded tealight holder
  26. A small candle in a brown/gold shot-glass
  27. A red glass outdoor candle.

And that doesn't count the butterflies and crystals that hang on the window either!

Oh... and I didn't just move them and put them back. Everything went back in a different place. It looks like a whole new range of items. The energy has shifted!

I'm back!!!!!