New Year in Island View

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Happy New Year to all my readers and fellow bloggers, from Island View, New Brunswick. As you can see, not an island in sight, just trees and snow. And it’s still coming down.

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Here’s one of the bird feeders, aka the squirrel diner. It comes into its own in summer when we can get to it more easily. The crows love to perch om  this one, too. A family of five, soon, I suspect, to expand, has taken over the garden.

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It’s hard to believe that these are color photos, not black and white ones. Not even a cardinal to lighten them on a day like this. We have a pair living near us and they have been in to visit, as have the deer. Wonderful to see against the snow. But not today, though.

 

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Now this is how to do black and white, with just a little bit of color. This comes from my very creative friend, the line painter Geoff Slater and is part of one of his drawing exhibitions. I wish I could draw like that. I also wish I had a pair of cardinals in my bird feeder.

And I wish …… for peace and love and joy and health and happiness for all my friends in this new year that has now so proudly entered.

Nativity

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Nativity

We keep this beautiful, hand-carved nativity scene on the sideboard all year round. It is tiny, approximately 2″ x 2″ and came from Central Europe, possibly Hungary, where a friend was travelling in the mid-seventies. He brought it back for us as a gift and we revisit it every Christmas, moving it into a more central place of honor and beauty by the Advent calendars and the Christmas scenes.

It will soon be time to remove most of these Christmas adornments. Some will stay up longer though and this is one of the pieces that will remain in sight to delight us all year round.

 

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This is another piece that will stay with us. It shows our photo of Tigger being visited by Kiki the Cat and several little puppies. Tigger gazes at them from his Royal Portrait, making them all feel welcome and protected as he endows them with the seasonal spirits that will extend well into the New Year.

Xmas Trees

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This year we have abandoned real, once living trees in favor of plastic trees with LED lights. The house doesn’t smell the same, nor did cool air fill the space beneath the tree. No more watering the tree. No more collecting dry pine needles. No more worrying about the cat climbing the tree or the dog pulling the tree down as it chases the cat or tugs and worries at a string of lights. Nor do we have to worry that the puppy might chew its way through the electric cord and electrocute itself. And no more electric eels in the fish tank, even though they are the current thing.

That doesn’t mean to say we are in for a bleak mid-winter, not at all. We have strings of lights, music on the stereo, and even  peces en el rio que ven a Dios nacer, as they sing in Oaxaca (the fishes in the river who come to see God born). And who could not be merry at Christmas time with a fire in the fireplace, a Charlie Brown Christmas on the stereo, and guelaguetza music from Oaxaca waiting to be played and warm the party up. Nobody, but nobody, not even the meanest Scrooge or the most insistent Grinch, can resist the Oaxacan pineapple dance, played at full volume by the state orchestra or a local village band, at midnight, in the zócalo, when the rockets climb skywards to knock on the front door of the gods and the Virgen de la Soledad parades in all her mystery and glory through the candle-lit city streets.

Add to all of this a small miracle: the reappearance this year of the Christmas tree Clare’s auntie used to place every Christmas upon the counter in her shop in Cheap Street, Frome: one of the most famous and eligible streets in Merrie Olde England. We have placed auntie’s Christmas tree on the table in the hall by the front door and surrounded it with lights. What joy: the old and the new, hand in hand, in this new found land that is itself, so very, very old and where we now live together with our memories of a distant past.

And for those who still wish to decorate their very own Christmas tree, you can do so online, adding toys and lights, and an angel on the top, whenever you wish. And remember: where there’s a will there’s always a way.

Rain / Il pleut

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I remain fascinated by Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. I first met them when, as a  teenage flâneur in Paris, I wandered the quays along the banks of the Seine, entranced by the literary treasures of the bouquinistes. Eighteen years old, I had just been released from a twelve year sentence to a boarding school education (6-18 years of age). I loved the freedom of Paris and the joys of choosing my own poets and my own poetry books will always stay with me. Apollinaire was not a set text. He was a personal discovery and a true  joy. I remember the light blue cover and the worded rain drops inscribed upon it when I bought my first Livre de Poche, the poems of Apollinaire.

Caligrammes are out of fashion now, their virtues taken over by the joys of concrete poetry. I still write some, drawing them out by hand. I find this much easier than planning them on typewriter or computer, though I have done both. The cartoon – poem hybrid, printed above, is my intertextual reflection on Apollinaire’s original Rain / Il pleut which can be found on page 62 of the above link from Le Mercure de France.

I look at the snow steadily mounting outside my window and I hope that we will not see rain for a long, long time. Not until Easter and the welcome warmth of spring. That said, I miss the rain. It was a constant part of my childhood and I remember spending day after day, head pressed to the window pane (yes, I do know how to spell it), watching the raindrops sliding down while behind me, the old coal fire threw out enough heat to warm me in my daily loneliness.

Heart Dance

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Heart Dance: This is what the heart does when you have a good friend around for lunch and you spend an hour or two discussing art, creativity, meaning, change, artistic development, moving on, changing one’s style, and welcoming and creating new artistic visions. Heart Dance is about possibilities, about opening things up, seeing the interior self more clearly, watering the creative soul and encouraging it to grow outwards until it fills the whole person.

Heart Dance moments happen at different stages in the artistic life. They are urgent moments, impulsive moments, moments when you can suddenly hear the music of the spheres and see the universe dancing for you, before you, and with you. They are magic moments when the heart becomes one with the universe and heart and soul join mind and body in a universal heart dance where the dancers are one and the dance is not just for one, but for all sentient and creative beings who can hear the music and feel the rhythms pounding through arteries and veins.

The dull, grey, concrete life of the nine to five desk-bound existence fades away to be replaced by a flowerbed of activity, full of light and sound and color and music. Usually, this happens to the individual in the privacy of his or her own mind. Occasionally, we can share the event with a friend who is going through the same, or a similar, change at the same time. A unique experience to feel and witness the music with another person and to be bound into the circle of dancers, treading where other artists, great and small, famous and less important, have all danced before.

We talked of the joys of visiting great museums and of staying in one room, before one painting, and of spending the day there. This I did with El Greco’s El entierro del Conde Orgaz / The burial of Count Orgaz, with Picasso’s Guernica when it was housed in the Mesón de Guernica, with Hieronymus Bosch’s The Hay Wain, with Velásquez’s Las meninas, and with Goya’s Desastres de la Guerra, not one picture, but a series of etchings taken in, day by day, over a period of a magical month spent in Madrid.

In poetry it happens when I return to poems that I love. I read and re-read them, again and again, finding new nuances, new meanings, new depths. I think of the anonymous Poema de Mio Cid, of Góngora’s Polifemo, of Quevedo’s Canta sola a Lisi and his Heráclito cristiano, of Octavio Paz’s Piedra de sol, of Lorca’s Romancero gitano and his Poeta en Nueva York … the wonderful original poems of Fray Luis de León and of St. John of the Cross … and this is just scratching the surface of an exterior world that I have interiorized until it has indeed become a part of me.

Heart Dance: my heart dances and sunshine floods my soul as I write these words, words and thoughts that I have just shared with a good friend, as he shared similar words with me and we joined together in a heart dance during which the sun shone brightly and the whole creative universe sang and danced with us.

Hash Brownies

It’s funny, really … after years and ears of avoiding illegal recreational drugs, of urging students and athletes to be natural and clean, after politely and rudely saying “No” to pushers and pushing them aside … the least (so they say) of those recreational drugs (marijuana) is now legal and on sale in Canada in government sponsored and approved stores. Did I waste my life in the advocacy of cleanliness and health only to discover that what I was advocating against is now perfectly legal, and excellent, and good, and makes tax money and profit for the government?

One thing’s for sure: I’ve been clean since birth, and I am not starting now, not on recreational drugs that were previously illegal. That said, my friends who suffer, as I do, from osteo-arthritis assure me that the medical marijuana they have been using for years is better for them than all the patent medicines sold over the counter. I can see and hear the ads: “Blow dope for hope,” “avoid pills for your ills,” “smoke joints for your joints.” Or maybe  “eat hash brownies for your just desserts.”

So, on the first day that marijuana was legalized in Canada, I went into the garage, climbed the step-ladder, stood at the top, breathed deep, and came down again. I went back into the house and told my beloved: “There: I’ve just had my first legal high.” I was proud: high on top of a step-ladder and still legally, morally, virtually, spiritually clean.

Guess I don’t need strange smells hanging to my clothes. I can always smoke Gauloises or Disc Bleu if I need smelly breath and clothing, not that I have ever smoked either. I guess I will remain a rope-a-dope virgin … but I might yet be tempted by the miraculous possibilities inherent in hash brownies or peanut butterballs with an appropriate addition. Especially if the pain gets worse. And my doctor makes a strong recommendation for clemency.

Early Bird

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This is the first painting I ever did on canvas. Kingsbrae held their painting session for children in June 2017, and I joined in with the five and six year olds. It was such wonderful fun. They slapped the paint onto the canvas with unbounded joy. It was hard not to be joyful with them. Many of them expressed curiosity about my painting: “What is it?” then later “What are they saying to each other?” The conversation between bird and worm (or whatever it is) was of incredible importance to them. I thought of it as my “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet” moment. Now that’s confidence for you.

My strange accent, slowly developing as mid-Atlantic Welsh, with a touch of West Country English and a dab of Upper Canadian and a touch of New Brunswick also fascinated them. “Where are you from?” “Fredericton.” “No. Where are you really from?” “Island View, New Brunswick.” “No. Where were you from before that?” The questions continued until they had ascertained that indeed, I was not a Canadian, a real Canadian, even though I was in Toronto in 1967 to see the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. 1967: that’s 51 years ago, and I still support the Maple Leafs and I still have my strange overseas accent. “You’re weird,” they told me. “I’ve been in Canada a lot longer than you,” I told them. “Where did you grow up?” They asked. I silenced them with my answer: “I don’t think I have yet.”

Happy paint-splashers, we dabbed on and on in alternating mirth and silence. Some left the table and walked away. Geoff collected our paintings and left them to dry. Later that day, we hung this painting on the wall in the KIRA dining room. It sat there for several days and nobody noticed it. Alas, a hawk-eyed young lady finally spotted it the first night she came over for dinner and “What is that?” she asked, pointing at my painting. Bold and italics combined cannot reproduce the scorn and disdain rolled up in the single word: that. I remember the butler in a country house in Somerset removing with a pair of tongs the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker from the weekend newspapers left on the doorstep. He, too, was very disdainful.

I also remember the tone of an Old Etonian, well he said he was an Old Etonian and had a rasping, high-pitched nasality that made him sound the part. This jolly goof fellow summed me up at a dinner party one night in Toronto when I first came to Canada: “Oh, you’re Welsh.” The grate of his voice was the scrape of a stick removing a dog turd from a shoe. “No,” I said. “Irish, actually.” I used my broadest Welsh accent. “My family is Irish Catholic not Capel Cymraig / Welsh Chapel. Moore is an Irish name. Llewellyn ad Jones are Welsh names. I am not called Llewellyn or Jones.”

And this reminds me of my father, standing in the elevator in a posh hotel in Bordeaux, when three Irishmen walked in. They scanned him for a moment, and then one said, in the broadest of Southern Irish brogues: “T’is the map of Ireland written all over your face.” “Yes,” says my father in his thick, Welsh accent, “I am Irish. But I was born in England.” And that brings me back to my painting. Is it the early bird that catches the worm or the late worm that gets caught by the bird? And which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Ah, the beauty of children. They accept, often without judgement and often without speculation and I love their readiness to befriend the growing child within the old man as he ages. They may not hold doctorates in philosophy, but by golly they are true philosophers in their finest moments. And then of course, they go to school to learn how to behave … and may the good Lord have mercy on them.