Candy Floss Trees

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These trees are all in leaf now, but a coupla weeks back we took a walk to the Victoria Esplanade to check out the Cherry Blossoms and they didn’t disappoint. Candy-tufted trees looking all ridiculously Dr. Seuss-like.

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I think I’ve mentioned before, Jolie Holland has a song called ‘Springtime Can Kill You’ and I feel like I really went through it this spring, with a long bout of illness which dragged on for almost six weeks….but I’m through the worst of it now and we’ve had some glimpses of summer, and today the wind stopped long enough for me to get the prize plants I posted about yesterday into the garden.

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It’s been a year since I finished my job at the library and have been working from home. I do love being able to stop work to go and plant some vegetables or get the laundry in, to be able to deal with life-tasks as they occur to me, not to have to wait to ‘after work’, and in the last couple of months, I’ve put a toe back in the world of activism after a long break…it feels pretty nice to be working with some inspiring people to make the world a better place.

Here’s one thing for sure – each day starts with a long list of tasks and aims and wishes and demands on me…..and when I rest my head on my pillow at the end of the day, I never see the end of that list…..but I am getting much better at living with the endless list and not feeling stressed about it. Life is full. I carry what I can and try to make sure what falls off is nothing too important.

I felt like I got really behind when I was sick, but then a friend said to me ‘Give up the idea you will someday ‘catch up’ with life, if you believe that, you will always feel like a dog chasing it’s tale.’ (I have very wise friends.)

There’s a Buddhist idea that instead of stressing and worrying, we should just turn our attention to today and then do ‘the next right thing’….

….quite often for me, ‘the next right thing’ involves making more tea. (Work-horses need good fuel.)

I’m glad to have made it through another spring!

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take care

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I like the ‘nesting’ quality of winter. The retreat of it….withdrawing, restoring…

I put more effort into meals, into keeping everyone warm, into creature comforts.

I try to go a bit slower and breathe a bit deeper.

I do yoga to keep warm, I tote a hot water bottle around the house….and I eat a lot of soup. I hope you’re keeping warm, too.

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feel the fear….and feel the fear

“Love what you have, and you’ll have more love.” -Regina Spektor

Aah, THIS SONG …”the piano is not firewood yet….” so much yearning in this song.  I’m can’t stop playing it. In it she is saying, ‘Who knows what is ahead of us, so dance today, love today.’

I am an environmentalist, or a greenie, or an eco-freak or whatever – I hate these labels – we should ALL be these things if we care about our future on this planet, and they shouldn’t need labels – it should just be conscious living.

Anyway, because I am awake and aware to what is going on in the world (unlike many people who prefer to do the hands over their ears -“LAH LAH LAH LAH – I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUUUUU….!” thing) – the awareness comes with a great deal of pain. However, it’s not all bad….knowing the things I know does two things to me – firstly, it gives me a great appreciation for what I have, while I still have it and it returns me firmly to the ‘now’ of my life. I sit with so much fear about the future, for myself, my children, my country, the planet…so much fear. But the fear is ultimately pointless, unhelpful, useless. So I sit with the fear in meditation, I observe how it manifests in my body – churning stomach, tight neck, tears coming into my eyes, overwhelming feelings of powerlessness – I try to just sit in that place, observe the physicality of the emotions….and then it goes, it always goes. The sooner I observe it and name it…the sooner it goes.

The second thing the fear does it that is leads me to cultivate beauty and celebration in my life. Actively, I seek it out. I try to create it. I NOTICE all that I have and I am thankful for it, so thankful!

The intellect only gets us so far. Most of what we experience is physical and sensual. To live a life of contentment (not happiness – happiness is a fickle, lightweight state of being that flits in and out of our days like a butterfly, just to be content is what I aim for) takes attention, cultivation and gratitude. These are mental attitudes that often take a bit of effort in our human minds which more naturally descend into chaos, anger, jealousy and fear.

I don’t know how I ended up writing this today – I meant to post about my vegetable garden. I still will – but I guess I wanted to say a bit about why I post so often about simple things which bring me pleasure, beautiful things in my life…which may seem facile, unintellectual, maybe even banal. There is so much going on underneath these little observations, so so much.

I was at Buddhist study group last night and my teacher, Demo, was talking about bringing Dharma (buddhist wisdom) into the heart, to stop intellectualising it and feel it, physically feel it, and I knew just what she meant. On Monday I was having a particularly fearful time – for no reason – it was beautiful sunny day, at home alone, no pressures on me, nowhere to be, no one needing anything from me and I was sitting at the table gripped with so much fear I could barely breathe. I named it fear, and I went from being enslaved by the fear and panicking at it’s escalation, to observing the fear as it manifested in my body. Stomach, shoulders, heart, face. I breathed deeply. I leaned into the fear. I sat there breathing until my shoulders loosened, my body relaxed.

And then I finished my tea, went outside, picked vegetables and took these photographs:

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on the outskirts of every agony

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“On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”

-Virginia Woolf

Indulge me while I write a little bit about what I’m writing, and reading towards my writing. (If you don’t find artistic process stuff interesting, perhaps click away now.)

I’m thinking a lot about time, lately; the human experience of time versus Greenwich Mean Time. Perceived time versus clock time.

I read a book a few years ago about time which blew my mind. I’ve never been able to see time as I used to since: ‘Pip-pip: A Sideways Look At Time’ by Jay Griffiths. I return to it often to re-read my favourite passages.

(Jay Griffiths is my favourite writer. I love her in a completely blind, biased, engorged, passionate, ridiculous way. If I could ever write anything which is 10% as good as what she writes, I would be very happy. Her book ‘Wild’ is my favourite book – if I could crawl inside that book and inhabit those words, I would.)

The internet is changing our experience of time, particularly social media. Social media presents an eternal connected present, however facile. It’s a very different inhabited present from the inhabited present of meditation or the Buddhist notion of ‘nowness’. The eternal connected present of the internet, in partcular, social media puts us in a strange condition where we both are both together and alone. The illusion of ‘togetherness’ is very beguiling, even bewitching, and yet the emotions which arise after consuming too much internet/social media is one of profound emptiness or loneliness. It’s an ironic state: together/alone; connected/isolated; intimate conversations/in public. Irony is the plague of contemporary life. We can’t express any emotion whithout couching it in our layers of awareness to make it clear to others that we know we are expressing emotion, don’t worry, reader, we are tightly in control here, there is no emotional bull in the china shop, our feelings are caged in the bars of the meta-meta-meta. Even when we are sincere, we are ironically sincere and therefore we are not sincere. Social media frequently drives me nuts, and yet because I live in a different city from the majority of my friends – I am glued to it, hungry to stay connected to my faraway friends and yet, honestly, the small lines of type which are my interactions with them often leave me feeling hollow. (Here is where I should insert # hashtag firstworldproblems to connote that I acknowledge my angst is minor on the scale of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and that I am potentially whining, but I won’t. Oh whoops, by mentioning that I should insert it there but saying I wouldn’t, I did. Oh fuck. Modern life is rubbish.) This internal state of connected has created a synthetic condition called ‘FOMO = Fear of missing out’. We no longer trust that our friends will contact us IRL = in real life with their happy news or their problems or their musings on the novels they are reading, so we glue ourselves to the internet to stay in our friend’s lives, whilst simultaneously removing ourselves from our own. Ironies heaped on ironies. Then there is schadenfreude, too, the scourge of social media, pleasure from the pain of others – and also the bystander effect of watching people suffer online and not commenting, not engaging,  just watching them flail in public like a landed fish. It’s sociopathic, and a completely normal part of our every day lives.

I don’t know what the answer is to these painful ironies of the ever-connected present of the internet, or if there is an answer or even if an answer is required. I do wish people would be more honest on the internet and less performative….but when does that honesty become a kind of performance? Am I performing now?  Or was I then in that now which just passed? The Buddhist concept of inhabiting ‘now’ encourages surrendering to the present as it is, without fantasies about the future or replaying the past. It’s extremely hard to do, but very healing if you can manage it. As our brains present a constant non-linear bricolage of memory, fanstasy, projection, visual images, random associations and neuroses, it is not easy to surrender to the present moment. It is work, it is effort, it is surrender of the most extreme – which is why most people avoid it. To fully inhabit the present moment as it is, is to let go of any sense of control we have over our lives. We don’t have control, not really. All we can do is ride the waves.

The Waves.

The other book which I am re-reading and obsessing over is ‘The Waves’ by Virigina Woolf. ‘The Waves’ is Woolf’s most stylistically daring book: ‘I am writing to a rhythm and not to a plot’ she said at the time of writing it. Much is made about it’s pure stream-of-consciousness style, which renders it unreadable to many people, however, I think what is far more notable and interesting about the book is Woolf’s experimentation with conveying time. The novel covers the whole lives of the characters but from their internal lives only, there is no external plot. When I read the book in my twenties, I was mainly in love with the beautiful, yes, poetic, writing and the taught, fearless wisdom in the book, but re-reading it recently, it’s the book’s portrayal of time which is really striking to me. She somehow channels the impressionistic and emotional and roaring and constant stream of perceived time and memory in a way which is profoundly moving.

I am also reading this guy. 

So, I’m trying to write poems which explore some of these ideas about time, not in terms of teasing the ideas out intellectually, didactically, but in terms of style. Like Virginia Woolf does in The Waves, like Shena McKay sometimes does (especially in Old Crow), like Ali Smith does in her genius short stories. High hopes, I know, but it’s good to have high hopes in the beginning, right?

I know my own perception of time has changed profoundly in the last few years to the extent that I thought I was going mad for a while, but then I went to a course about grief and learned that memory loss and changed perception of time are common effects of grief. It was a great relief to find out I was experiencing a normal, recorded symptom of a profound emotional state, and not going bonkers, although I still have some hard days where I feel like my grip on sanity is slippery. I have come to terms with the idea that I will never get to experience time in the same way again and this coming to terms is partly why I want to explore it in my writing.

I’m trying to connect all this stuff to environmental devastation and the ways that capitalism is a human-created cancer which is slowly killing us all. So yes, it will be a nice light read. (Sarcasm to deflect the true intensity of the passion I feel about this subject. Must not get too het up about anything. Keep it casual.)

Thank you if you read down to this far. Like I said last post, it’s the school holidays and the lack of thinking time is hard hard hard, but this is some of what I’ve been reading and thinking in between preparing food and playing with spud guns and trips to the park and so I thought I’d spew it onto here to try to grab a hold of it a little bit. Cheers. x