Friday 29 April 2016

here and there and everywhere

it's funny how the zeitgeist thing goes.

scanning the interpixies to see "who is doing what" these days reveals that 


is the current favourite workshop flavour.


i think it's always been mine.

i have fond memories of my wonderful class teacher at Shelford Girls School in grade 5, who sent us outside to randomly choose a foot square patch of ground and then
after we had made our choice
explained that we were to study it closely
map it
draw it
write about it
count the insects walking across it
imagine ourselves to be their size
see the grass as a forest
make rubbings of it with pencil and paper

i'm pretty sure that Mrs Pownall has long gone to the dogs above
but i don't think i will ever forget her

the classroom was always filled with flowers and seeds 
and bones and other assorted found things

a couple of years later my love of language was nurtured by the redoubtable Mrs Williams, a flame-haired and passionate Scot who read us poetry and made history come alive.

my father instilled in me a love of maps and wandering
while my mother had me drawing plants almost from when i could hold a pencil

 i have been trying to remember the first time i offered a class that brought all these things together and i think it must have been 'mapping country' at the Kapiti Summer School of 2009
which evolved in various ways, stepping sideways into fieldwork
and eventually blossoming as being (t)here or being t(here)
it works either way.

 similar workshop titles are sprouting around the whirled
"where is here" and "you are here" are two that i found this morning
both with subtitles about mapping place

for me it's less about mapping, these days
and more the practice of
paying attention to where we are
finding beauty in sometimes surprising places
considering the poetics of place, even in the parking lot
and each time i offer this class
whether it's in the heart of a city
or deep in a wilderness
or somew(here) in between
i find my life wonderfully enriched by the people who join me.

T H A N K    Y O U

all of you who have been on the journey with me.
i'm so grateful that you give me work.

work that i love.

Friday 15 April 2016

Deep in it.

time becomes slightly elastic when i land in New Orleans. 

i fly through the streets on my beloved bicycle, can't leave her alone for a moment though :: when i came out of the Bridge House after foraging for shirts i found her flirting with an almost more splendid velocipede. black feathers, no less. and fringy bits. bells, too.

i'm sure i heard her whimper as i rode her away from him.

i was in New Orleans to work on my preservation dye project at the Press Street Gardens, where i am a sort of de facto peripatetic artist-in-residence and discovered to my delight that Margee Green (the aptly named manager of growing things) has been growing coloured cotton.
blue and green, no less.

this cotton is softer than silk (though it comes tightly packed in hard sharp shells) and can be spun in the fingers to a lovely fine thread

the jars i set up last September are travelling well. i opened one to check and there were no nasty smells, everything behaving just as it ought. so i made nine or ten more and adorned the shelves of the glass house with them

while they were being sterilized in the big cauldron i found time to play on the tracks

possibly a little silly.

my friend let me bundle up a beautiful shiny new damask table runner. new in the sense it has never been used, though i am guessing it's some sixty years old at least.
it will be interesting to see if the preservation dye process manages to get colour into the cloth despite it never having been washed or scoured

i also had the joy of shooting for a new album cover with my friend John Fohl
(the link will take you to his last album from a couple of years back)...more about that when the next is released, fingers crossed my paws make the cut!

and then my friend Shelley kindly modelled for me.

the week in New Orleans went far too quickly.
after a day in the air i arrived back on the west coast
where the streets were littered with eucalyptus :: and where i kicked myself because i wasn't carrying a cauldron.

some of the eucalyptus was neatly piled in brown paper bags. i could have wept.
ah well. i hope someone else found it and used it

i spent my days here doing groundwork for the retreat in May (sold out, no drop outs, sorry)
and gathering materials together

wandering past the church of Saints Peter and Paul at a particularly ice-cream-cake moment

and taking time out for a glass of merlot at Caffe Trieste, so as to play with some paint swatch poetry. the trick is to choose a handful of colours at random, then write a line that corresponds to the romantic appellation of the shade. mostly nonsense but an amusing occupation between walking up and down the lovely hills of that fair city.

though when i reach the top of the Vallejo steps it occurred to me that losing the equivalent weight of this bag from my body would be a very fine idea indeed.

i'll let y'all know how that goes.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

riding the rails

i deliberately scheduled a railway journey into New Orleans at the conclusion of our wandering in the land of enchantment. somehow i knew that i was going to need a good bit of thinking time, undisturbed by too much making or doing and preferably without the need to concentrate on driving
on April 2 i found myself sitting in a railway station
with a ticket for my destination
humming a song about being

none of which is true for me but
it's one of those songs that has stood the test of time


i had secured a roomette to myself
and so could loll about in it in comfort
watching the whirled go by
and making soothing noises to myself
on the cedar flute newly acquired in Santa Fe

i made pictures with my batfone.
which was most entertaining, despite the fact that one of my favourite apps,
Autostitch, doesn't seem to work on the most recent version of the Fruit phone
 so i played with the Panorama setting instead 
which can be amusing on a moving train.

also i wrote.
the 31 hours on the train were enormously productive.

train travel allows the spirit to sit quietly on your shoulder
(it can sometimes fall off and get lost in flight)
at night i lay gazing at the stars until i was 
rocked to sleep in my little cradle shelf.
at some point in the night i awoke to see one streaking across the sky
in the hours before dawn the waning crescent moon rose 
i caught glimpses of my favourite constellation, the Pleiades.
train travel also allows poems to find you (sometimes when they stand by the roadside waiting with their thumbs out i'm simply travelling too fast to stop in time)

train travel can also put you into interesting social positions.

i discovered to my surprise that my ticket included meals.

on the first evening i shared dinner with a gentleman who had driven across America with his father because he didn't want his dear old dad driving a pickup across the country alone to his new abode in the Pacific North West. the trip back home was his first ever train ride. i think he said he had been on a train for four days already.
happily he was still enjoying it.

for breakfast i was directed to a table at which sat an older couple, on their way to share birthdays in New Orleans. they were quite clearly well off and seemed sweet but reduced me to the state of a stunned mullet when they left the table and he scooped up half the tip i had left for the server. (he had put down $5 for the two of them, i put down $4 for me and he then took $2 from mine. basically robbing the server).
i am rarely rendered speechless but by the time i had found my tongue they had gone.

my faith in humanity was restored by sharing lunch with a brother and sister (he slightly disabled, she taking him home from the west coast to live with her in Mississippi). i think, but i am not sure, that they were both adopted. the other person at our table was a grandmother of eighteen grandbabies who cheerfully announced that she was living day by day due to a brain tumour which, as she told us, had to be managed by "opening up my head every three years and scraping the surface back because the can't take it out" and that after that procedure she has to learn to walk and talk again but that the pain was worth it and she's just grateful to be here. 

the train crawled into New Orleans at sub-glacial speeds, which is probably just as well as the tracks are in a sorry state. and today, seeing the wobbly wooden trestles that the double-decker train had been balancing on, i was grateful for the slowness. 
(last night i was not so sure)

Saturday 2 April 2016

I may just possibly have fallen in love

I may just possibly have fallen in love with New Mexico and some of its people. 

The flight in was magical. 

Our first resting place was Casa del Sol, 
located within skipping distance of Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch house. 

We were able to cook our dye pots over a fragrant open fire.
We wrote poetry and drew in our journals,
adding local colour by literally rubbing the earth into the pages. 

We took an excursion to the Chama River, in a region where the scent of PiƱon was intoxicating

After unwinding ourselves at (or possibly from) Casa del Sol we moved on to Taos.
Here Carpio Bernal Watercrow graciously shared his story and created a special ceremonial circle for us, as the Taos Pueblo was closed for initiations and we were not able to visit.
A smoking juniper branch was passed among us.
There was drumming and singing and storytelling.
Later his partner Rose joined us and sang several of her original compositions
after which she handed her guitar to the man who had been shepherding our flock around the countryside (but is also a writer and musician who can build things)
and there was more singing and music
(pictured below, minus guitar)

 we had some splendid studio times, including a little "cheating",
using eucalyptus from a local florist (who was frankly delighted to make some
sales before closing for Easter)
...we also dyed with a local weed, Chamisa
there's magic in the local water,
some of the colour was rather interesting
not what i would expect at home.
then we dyed eggs
 wrapped in cloth

 one lunchtime i wandered up to the Mabel Dodge Luhan house
and fell in love some more.

i could quite happily live there.

the tour concluded in Santa Fe
where i was permitted to cook dinner for us all
which made me very happy
in the night
it snowed
which made me even happier,
even if i do look like a Babushka setting out to gather recyclables in St Petersburg.

The group bonded like true sisters and
working with Sharon Blomgren of Arts + Cultural Travel was a dream
so i'm delighted that we will be visiting New Mexico together again,
twice next year....for a start!