… white-capped the waves, pushed inland by a strong, warmth-bearing wind, and hazy the crazy paving sky, with its cloud figments floating, lazy, the heat, with summer’s heavy hand now sudden upon sea and land, wave upon wave, this heat wave, holding us now, as wind tied, the tide, strives to flee but cannot free itself from wind grip, and bit between teeth, white horses cap the waves, leave seaweed stranded high and dry in fierce sun, Irish Moss and Madcap Dulse, their iodine tang fulfilled on chance winds that blow us willy-nilly, this way, that way, any way the wind blows …
I guess this is the painting that helped change my views on reality. I can’r remember what I called it originally, but this is what I first imagined. But what about this?
The signature, top right, suggests that the painting was conceived as in the initial photo. But, does it have to stay that way? Of course not. The creature, if creature it is, is a creature of my own creation. I can fit it into any form that I want. Ignore the signature. Concentrate on color, shape, and meaning. But remember that meaning is drawn from color and shape.
Dizzy yet? Disoriented? I remember doing this with some of Picasso’s paintings in the art and culture class. Turn the slide and change the title. Each angle is a new world and a new orientation upon the world. Oh me, oh my, oh Moo, whatever will you do? Next.
Twist again, I suppose. And now we have almost come full circle. Which one is preferable? Why? Can this be an objective decision? Is it totally subjective? I would love your opinions. And your suggestions for titles. Ludum Ludite – play the game.
And whatever game is that little red dot playing, or the bull’s head, or the open mouth? But now les jeux sont faits — the bets are made. Rien ne va plus. Nothing goes anymore. C’est fini, mon Kiki.
This from the days when I was a wannabe artist who thought he could actually be an artist. But no, it was not to be and the masks fell off and dropped to the ground. There was no Covid back then, so I didn’t have to pick them up and put them back on again. And I didn’t have to stay two metres – six -feet – away from the painting. If you paint with the Devil, you need a long brush. Also known s a Devil’s Paint Brush.
To paint or not to paint, that is the question. So, I chose the path of mindfulness, la escondida senda por donde han ido los pocos sabios que en el mundo han sido / the hidden path along which have walked the few wise men who have lived in the world. And yes, art, in all its forms, is mindfulness, being in yourself, being aware of the moment, being taken up by that split second when paint hits paper, canvas, or whatever, and being absorbed totally in that.
Gardening will do that for you. Also what I call hyperspace, that wonderful world between fingertips, and screen where the great ideas flow naturally, like paint, and words come tumbling out onto the page. Today’s theme: The Great Pretender. Not all the words are wonderful, nor all the ideas great. The greatest skill is to be able to differentiate between gems and dross. This comes with patience and practice. But when the words flow, and the paint settles, there are few joys like it.
One of my first cartoons. It always reminded me of Jerry Lee Lewis: “Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire.” What fun it was to paint and what a joy to rediscover it. I guess that’s the name of the game for a little while: rediscovery. Dig down into the dirt and the memoirs and the flashbacks and reproduce what’s in there. It reminds me too of the conjunction of Mars and Venus, a couple of years back. I would look out of the window, to the southern sky, and there they were, drawing closer together until, suddenly, one night, there they were. “Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire.”
I have never been able to draw or paint with any skill. Then, one day, I read Matisse and his commentaries on his own work: “Making meaning out of colour and shape.” So, there you are. I don’t know what it means, but, as Salvador Dali said “I don’t know what it means, but I know it means something.” And the moment means something: staying in the moment of creativity creates great joy. That joy, the joy in joie de vivre, is there to be rediscovered. So: share the joy. Laugh at the innocence. And, following Picasso, “paint the world as a child might see it.”
Those that have been chosen to survive have walked indoors, Now they are safe behind glass, in the warm, low sunshine that floods the rooms. We watch the sun’s fingers starting to reach into the deepest corners and know that winter is on its way.
Thanksgiving has come and gone yet we still give thanks: indoor flowers to brighten the dark days, flu shots tomorrow, blood tests on Friday. I guess it’s a case of ‘last man standing’!
Orion confirms this. He has risen in the night sky and now accompanies me on my journey through the dark hours, sword at belt, faithful dog at heel. Yes. Winter is on its way. Warmer clothing. Thicker jerseys. Non-slip shoes. Oh the joys of Canada.
Remember: there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. Locked out of the university, walking the picket lines at -35C, we learned the facts of outdoor winter life only too well. So, dress warmly. Keep safe. Keep your distance. Wear those masks. Did out your snow tires. Tune up the snow blower.
And may you always wake with the flowers in the house.
How could one not give thanks for the bounties of Thanksgiving? Listening to Cross Country Check Up, last night, as I have done for the last 55 years, I was amazed at how people, some of them in dire circumstances, were able to find things for which to be thankful. I haven’t made a list of the things for which I am thankful and I certainly didn’t call in to the talk show to give my opinion, but let me think…
I am thankful for the beauty of the natural world. Just look at that sunrise! Yesterday we walked in Mactaquac and admired the beauty of the changing leaves. Migrating geese put on a display, taking off from the waters of the head pond, flying, then settling down again. We: I am grateful for the presence of my beloved, still beside me after all these years. I am grateful that we are together and that we are both of us able to walk and indulge in this province’s autumnal beauties.
I am grateful for faithful friends. I will not name them all. If I did, this blog would never be finished. This morning, an e-mail from Geoff Slater, whose paintings and drawings have often appeared on the blog, spoke of the nature of ritual and how we use it. He spoke of external rituals and how, during times like these, when our normal lives are upside down, we lose the ability to follow our external rituals. This may cause dismay and a loss of stability to many. However, he also reminded me that we, as practicing artists, have established our own internal rituals. These keep us going in the difficult times, for they are always there to fall back on. Following his line of thought, I explored my own daily rituals, the ones that have kept me going throughout Covid-19. Thank you, Geoff, for those ideas and for your long-term friendship.
I am grateful for the initial offer, from the University of Toronto, to come to Canada to study all those years ago. Canada gave me a chance to challenge my established rituals and to build and shape new ones that were more suitable to my inner being, a being that I had kept well hidden from the Masters of the Universe who limited my creativity, and ruled the rituals of my Boarding schools and my undergraduate studies. Above all, I am grateful for that rich, inner world of creativity and dream and I am doubly grateful for those who have allowed me and encouraged me to express it and set it down for others to share.
So, Thanksgiving Day: a day on which to give thanks for all the blessings that are in our lives, large and small. Sure, times are tough. Sure, we could all do with more money. Sure, we could go on and on about our wants and needs. But today my want and my need is to give thanks for who, what, where, when and why I am. As my friend Norman Levine once wrote: Canada Made Me.
For the first twenty-two years of my life Thanksgiving held no meaning, no life, no substance, no form, nothing familiar, nothing special to hold my attention.
When I emigrated to Canada my cousins changed all that with an invitation to visit them in Kincardine for Thanksgiving.
Turkey on the table, colored table napkins, and a family gathered, arms outstretched, to make me welcome.
We were all surprised at how alike we looked. “Like Cousin George, in Vancouver,” they said. “Like Cousin Elsie in Revelstoke.” “Like my mother’s mother, back home in Swansea,” I said.
They told me how the Second World War had brought the family back together on these special holidays: Christmas in Wales for the Canadian boys or Thanksgiving in Winnipeg for the Welsh boys learning to fly.
That Thanksgiving, the old family names turned to photographs: snaps of my mother’s wedding, my grandmother holding me, age three, on her knee.
And finally, as a special Thanksgiving gift, a long-distance call to Britain and Clare on the telephone saying “Yes,” she would come to Canada, and “yes,” she would marry me.
And I remember crying all the way from Kincardine to Toronto, and that was my first Thanksgiving in Canada.
Comment: A Golden Oldie, indeed. This poem is from my collection Secret Gardens. The secret love poems I write to Clare. It was published on our Silver Wedding Anniversary, 24 December 1991. It is a pleasure to re-publish it here for Thanksgiving, 2021. Now what am I going to do for 24 December 2021?