Spirit of Boo

Spirit of Boo

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.

Normality

Normality

In spite of grey skies,
blueish snow and early-
morning, under-cloud-
light combine to color
my garden several shifting
shades of blue-grey.

Light grows and the garden
starts to whiten. No deer as yet,
but they aren’t far away.

Two big ginger cats,
I think at first they are foxes,
stalk their marmalade path
through the trees towards the road.
I have never seen them
before. New neighbors?

One crosses the road
but the other hesitates, then flees,
as flashing school-bus lights
bring normality back to my early
-morning dream-filled world.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Normality

Coal Face

Coal Face

My family never forced me underground.
Nobody ever made me kneel at the coal-
face altar and worship, on my knees,
that grimy god with its coal-black soul.

A child in body and heart, nobody ordered
me to squirm down diminishing seams,
much too narrow for men or machines
and fitting only for the smallest child.

Fitting indeed, an early coffin, made to
measure, lying in wait for the slightest
slip of the rocks above or below. Tight
fitting, indeed, no wiggle, wriggle room.

Billy Blake, my mate from Trinidad,
younger than me, saw the black faces
of miners emerge from the mine, enter
the pit-head baths and come out white.

He, too, wanted to be white. He dug
underground, grew even blacker, went
into the showers, gouged his black skin,
drew rivers of blood, never changed color.

He died when the roof above him fell
without warning. They pulled him out.
Brought him to the surface. Prepared
him for burial. Wrote on his tombstone:

“His body was as black as night,
but oh, his soul was white.”

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Coal Face.

Universitario Rugby Club, Santander

Universitario Rugby Club, Santander.

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.

Giving Thanks

Sunrise from the Red Room, KIRA.

Giving Thanks

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.

Thank you, Canada.
Thank you, New Brunswick.

Eaux Canada!

Butterfly Ghost Dance

Butterfly Ghost Dance

I woke up yesterday morning
to find frost on the ground
and a white layer over the green,
green grass of home.

The sun rose, and emerald
patches shone through
while the frost stayed layered,
icing on the lawn’s
Thanksgiving cake.

Occasional leaves lay a scattered
orange carpet. White threads
seemed to move as the breeze blew,
shadows shifted,
and the sun warmed my world.

Then I saw them, the ghosts
of summer’s butterflies,
long gone the live ones,
but their spirits drifting
over the grass gifting me
with warm, sunny memories
to contrast with
that first fall frost.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Butterfly Ghost Dance

Into the Sunset

Into the Sunset

So, the writing is back. I have reformatted The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature and am now checking it through one last time before I send it to the publishers. This feels good. I haven’t stopped painting though. Luckily the original, hanging on the wall, looks better than the photo. My angles are all wrong and the colours are definitely not as sharp as in the original. As I always said, when introducing Spanish Art via slides and photos: “Do not trust the imitations. Go back to the original.” Easier said than done, especially when the original may be tucked away in a foreign museum hidden in a small town. As Dylan Thomas once said of Swansea Museum: “it’s the sort of museum that ought to be in a museum.”

As for the Introduction of Art, and please note I do not write ‘the teaching of art’, here’s my article on my career as an art facilitator! ‘In the beginning was the picture and the picture was in the book.’ I guess my art career ran parallel to my career as a facilitator of Spanish literature, prose, theatre, and poetry. Some things you can present and introduce. But no, you cannot teach them, not unless you are completely without humility and understanding.

Now that’s what it is meant to look like!

Stay on the Green Side

Stay on the Green Side

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!

Dizzy Dawn

Dizzy Dawn

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.

Octo-+Plus

Octo+Plus

The Octo-Plus has eaten up all my words and the stream has run dry. When the words don’t flow, I let the paint flow instead. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That might actually be a self-portrait, lurking in the bottom left corner of the painting’s glass. Ah, the ghost, not in the machine, but in the painting. It’s a hard life, being a writer when the words dry up.

I remember the old school’s terms of abuse “Oh, dry up!” Well, 70 years later, I have done just that. Mind you, it’s only for a day or two, and look, miracle of miracles, I am writing again. Leave the keyboard, take up your pen. The words are flowing and you’re writing again.