Wishing all my followers a wonderful Christmas and let us hope that the New Year brings us some relief from Covid-19 and all the ensuing vicissitudes. Sunny here in Island View and coldish, but not too bad. A tiny sprinkling of snow, so we qualify for a White Christmas – una blanca navidad.
AMGD: The full phrase attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the author of Ejercicios espirituales / Spiritual Exercises and the Founder of the Jesuits, is Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem or “for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity.”
So, to continue with the Latin: Pax Amorque /Peace and Love. My friends: whatever your customs and beliefs, make this Christmas a good one and let us all wish for a Happy New Year.
Duende “Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende.” “All that has dark sounds has duende.” Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)
It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth, you stand there, silent, wondering: can I? will I? … what if I can’t? … then a voice breaks the silence, but it’s not your voice.
The Duende holds you in its grip as you hold the room, eyes wide, possessed, taken over like you by earth’s dark powers volcanic within you, spewing forth their lava of living words. The room is alive with soul magic, with this dark, glorious spark that devours the audience, soul and heart. It’s all over. The magic ends.
Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell. The Duende has left you. Your God is dead. Deep your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted, you sink to deepest depths searching for that one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save your soul and permit you a temporary peace.
I guess the secret is to have infinite trust and to hand yourself over to those higher powers during the performance. Some can do it individually, others need to be part of a team. It works differently for each one of us. But when the lower element surrenders to the soul-fulfilling higher element, miracles happen. And when they are over, we are left bereft. It’s the same, in many ways, with mystical experiences. After we venture into the beyond, Messiaen’s Au-dela, upon our return to our earth-bound existence, we are left stunned and stranded by our former voyage into absolute beauty.
So, I can’t draw dogs, nor people, nor reality. But I can draw spirits, and moods, and emotions. This is NOT my neighbors’ dog. It is the spirit of their dog: energy, joy, happiness, and total and complete love. What more could a doggy want or an artist, however useless, do.
Boo: I salute you. Woof!
Original drawing, dated 9 August 2014, can be found in my drawing notebook of that year. I used it as a model for the painting, was completed on Tuesday, 30 November 2021.
The back ground is dark green, or should be. We have red and yellow leaves, of course, this is New Brunswick, Canada. And the white flecks are the frost on the grass. Lovely.
Look closely and you can see bits of me reflected in the glass of the painting. That’s why it’s a selfie. Not a total one, but a teeny little bit of one. How much of ourselves do we ever capture, in a photo, a painting, a poem, a piece of prose? Not much, I guess. And is it the real ‘us’ anyway? I very much doubt it.
Does it matter? No. If you want to see the real me, come and visit. But, be prepared: I am not who I seem and I am desperate to hide the real me from the real world. You may catch glimpses. And that’s about it.
And I have a cat, just like that. Runs to the basement, hides beneath a chair, sits and purrs in her basket, sleeps on the bed at night, winds herself round my knees at feeding time, is and isn’t, just like all pussy cats. And aren’t we all like that? Here today and gone tomorrow. All that joy and all that sorrow.
Enjoy us while you can. And can-can while you can-can!
This photo just reappeared on Facebook, posted 17 October 2016. I couldn’t believe it then, and I can hardly believe it now. What an honor. What memories. Imagine: immortalized on a beer pump in the bar of a foreign-to-me-now rugby club.
“There is some far corner of a foreign bar that is forever Canada, and Wales. And in that bright brew, a shadow will remain, a memory, ghosting through, whose stay was not in vain.”
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity. The Olde Order changeth lest one good custom should corrupt the world. The memories fade as faces age and friends grow distant. They fade away like dreams in the early light of day.
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.
One of my good friends always greets me with the following phrase: “Still on the green side of the grass, then”. So, here’s my painting: Stay on the Green Side. Much better than the other side, from all that I am told by my more down-to-earth companions. I will not intrude upon the thoughts of some of my other friends, nor expose their beliefs. I’ll paint for them another day.
So, while you can, and while you may, Stay on the Green Side, my friends. Wake up each morning, smell the coffee, and gather ye rosebuds while ye may!
There is so much happening. It’s hard to keep track of it all. Reading and annotating the material I am working on for my online writing seminar. Painting: a delightful relief and relaxation. Who cares if I can’t paint? I can make meaning out of shape and color, like my friend Matisse. Writing: the poetry is back and I will start revising those short stories again soon. I may also go back to my first novel. I have abandoned it for too long.
Meanwhile, each dawn is a busy dizzy time. This morning I decided to lie in bed until 24 birds had flown past my new bedroom window, one for each new pane of glass. It took about fifteen minutes. I watched the mist rise and then the sun start to break through and when the sun came, so did the birds. Dizzy Dawn is now hanging on the wall, along with another set of paintings I have finished recently.
Life is good. I hope it stays that way for as long as possible.
Sometimes the road seems uphill all the way. Lungs burn. Breath comes hot and hard and chunky in the throat. Legs hang heavy, muscles will not obey the owner’s instructions.
Consult the operating manual: “Take a break,” it says. “Rest now. Don’t push too hard.” But to rest is to give in, to come to an abrupt halt, or to drift backwards down the hill.
What stubborn streak is painted so deep in us that it shouts ‘never surrender’ when our most urgent need seems to be to throw in the towel? Is it the urge to get to the top, to see the lower lands stretched out below us? Or is it the mantra of fight the good fight?
Many things can drive us on: a need, a desire, a whim, an urge, or merely a refusal to stop fighting. Some of us will never give up. We will never lie down and curl up in a corner, a dead leaf to be blown hither and thither by the cold night wind.
Look carefully: there are no drugs, no needles, in the biker’s uniform. There is no small accessory motor hidden in the back wheel to help when times get hard.
The mouth is open, the eyes are set on the target, the legs still move, the sun still shines, and three smiling heart-shaped faces cheer the cyclist on.
Who can they be, these three angels at the road side, who can they be? Yet they are there and we are here and the bike is there and the hill is there and sometimes … yes, sometimes, the road IS uphill all the way.
But we keep the pedals turning and we don’t get off our bikes … and that’s life.