Paradise Found

Paradise Found

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

excerpt from Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot

I went away for two years, to marvel at vine-hung jungles up muddy rivers, at tepuys rising like wizards fortresses out of a sea of greenery, at waterfalls so high that half the water had blown away on the wind before a drop reached the ground where I stood. I clung to mules as we descended near-vertical mountain paths in the Andes. I bedded down for the night in bus stations, in traveller’s inns that felt like army barracks, in 18th century mansions filled with antiques, and in a crash pad in New York—eight Latin Americans in one room, of whom one spoke English.

I stayed with locals in disparate settings of 18th century charm, or 18th century poverty…in a clapboard house sinking into the squishy mud on the edge of a filthy canal, in a house in the old slave quarters of a medieval city, where the young prostitutes drank and argued on the old cobblestones, and  I spent one night in a communist-style block of Cuban apartments where the water and electricity came on for a few hours each day, but every resident owned an instrument and the building twitched its hips to salsa music, morning till midnight.

Naturally, when the time came to return home, I was a little worried that life in Darwin, Australia, would seem poorer for all the places I’d been.

I needn’t have worried.

As the old cliché goes, “There’s no place like home.” Back up the creek on our houseboat, SonOfAGun, the mangroves swayed in the sea wind, and morning sunlight lay slick on green-gold water like fine olive oil. For many months I was utterly spellbound.

When Kris and I moved our boat to this spot, I loved it right off the bat: the solitude, the natural surroundings, the quality of the light, the chi of living surrounded by water. I didn’t think it was possible to love this place any more, until I came back from my wandering and found that I did.
paradise found 2

“Paradise Found” was made for the exhibition “Gypsies, Vagabonds, and Wild Mad Women”. I priced it to discourage anyone from buying it and, luckily, no one did. I’m glad, because I want to live with this one for a while. It’s the beginning of what I suspect may be a bunch of love letters to my home and my life.
paradise found 3
It’s composed of watercolours, acrylics, collaged papers (linocut, textured or painted beforehand) and a bit of colored pencil. I’ve just uploaded the image to my Society6 shop, so it’s now available as a fine art print on acid-free rag paper.

Departure

It’s little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it’s little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It’s little I know what’s in my heart,
What’s in my mind it’s little I know,
But there’s that in me must up and start,
And it’s little I care where my feet go.

—from Departure, Edna St. Vincent Millay

20 November 2014

If not Now, Zen when?

If not Now, Zen when?

The sun is setting on the last day of my weekend (I work three days a week, take four days off…Lucky me? Darlink, luck has nothing to do with it!) and it was a great four days of painting, doodling. meditating, listening to music and audio books, and just sitting around enjoying the sun-drenched weather. Most of the little canvases in the photograph are in early stages; I only tiled them because they look nice together. they may look completley different when they’re done.

I’m so grateful for this lazy, creative break…and find that I am also looking forward to going in to work, tomorrow, because everything has its beautiful moments and reasons for being, and I am eager…almost hungry, now, for the outside world and its energies and people.

For three days I’ve seen and spoken only to my two favorite cats…snapped together here, in an unguarded moment (because neither Dude nor Kris like having their pictures taken, and make it a point to face away from me or scowl when I am holding a camera; but I was quick this morning…Kris is even sort-of-smiling, which is very rare, in a photo)

unguarded moment

I’m off now, to enjoy the last of the light…parathas on the menu for dinner, using the freshly-harvested turmeric that’s been growing on the back of the boat for over a year. The deep yellow-orange color is unreal, and the flavor is milder than powdered turmeric. I am looking forward to what I imagine will be pale gold discs of hot parathas with yoghurt and mint chutney tonight!

Hope the rest of your week is wonderful. See you in a few days…
fresh turmeric

spontaneous pinboard

the changing weather
There was some spare work for me at the vegetarian takeaway in the mall, so I’ve been busy rousting up a few dollars, and too tired to blog. But I got to stay home today, and what a lovely day it has been! Windy, exhilarating, and everything around me sporting some vivid shade of Beyond Blue.

The household has been a bit neglected for a couple of days, so I started the day by tidying up. When everything on deck had been scrubbed and spiffied, the old kitchen pinboard caught my eye—grotty, grey, riddled with pinholes and spattered with old paint. I figured it’d only take a minute to clean it up, so I spackled the pinholes, sanded it lightly, and rolled three coats of matte ivory house paint on.

Now it resembled a new canvas so strongly that I couldn’t resist pulling out a few pots of paint and daubing big fat flowers, in simple shapes and bright colors, up one side of the pinboard. Shortly after lunch I finished (i.e. restrained myself and left some white space), and the board is back in use.

kitchen pinboard

I dunno…it just makes me happy. The boat needs a splash of color, really…no reason why it should look like a fishing trawler, just because it used to be a fishing trawler. We have done very little nothing to decorate or display art on our boat…it’s ridiculous, when I think of how much we make, and of the many pieces we own that are by other artists. I have only two small square paintings (by Lisa Wolfgramm and Jenni Hall) hanging on the side of a bookshelf (and now Marita’s stuffed Kitty, sharing shelf space with my books,) while Kris has a single framed photograph atop his filing cabinet. And that’s it. Of our paintings, alone, there must be at least fifty, wrapped and stored in the unused engine room. Ridiculous.

Display space is hard to come by on the boat, admittedly…but I’m sure that if I really looked for dead spaces where art could be hung, or our beautiful things put to good use, I would find a fair bit. I started by pulling this large wooden salad bowl—carved from a single block of ebony by a tribal craftsman in Northern Luzon—out of the bilges, and putting my fruits in it. It’s so nice just to be able to rest my eyes on the old thing, again.
kitchen pinboard-2

The Consolations of Creativity

Yes, still mucking around with the felt shapes! I am playing with the heart shape, now. Kris rolls his eyes in disbelief… he’s never seen me work with hearts before; it’s not a typical motif for me, admittedly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I’m actually just daunted by the symbol: it’s so old and so universal that pretty much anything you could think of doing with it has been done. Trying to find a way of making these felt hearts that doesn’t look like everyone else’s felt hearts can be challenging. I threw myself into the task today, cutting 100 heart shapes out of felt and playing with colour combinations (limited, because I have a very small felt stash of odd colours that I didn’t give much thought to when I bought them; my self-imposed rule is that I have to use old materials up, not buy more!) I braced myself with lashings of black coffee, and music from the 80s. It is such a joy to be able to spend the days this way: intense, busy, engaged, mindful…but doing what I love, and making things that I love.

I started reading Alain de Botton‘s The Consolations of Philosophy last night…no doubt the last book I’ll manage to squeeze in before the year ends…and it would have to be the most enjoyable book of the year, too, wouldn’t it? When you find yourself giggling over a book about the ideas of Socrates, Epicurus and Seneca, you know you’ve got a very special philosophy book in your hands, and have found a very special author. Alain de Botton’s humour is so gentle that it works on you slowly, and at first you don’t know whether he’s being funny, or you are. *pregnant pause* This is where I warn you that mine is a black and evil heart, and I have a taste for the funny that runs to morbid. There, a caveat.
The book’s six parts detail philosophy’s consolations for Unpopularity, for Not Having Enough Money, for Frustration, Inadequacy, a Broken Heart, and Difficulties. Part of what I thought was so funny was having to agree with the author (and his philosophers)that “Yes, we humans do make a big technicolor drama out of some ridiculous things, don’t we?” Fifteen pages into the book, I had a silly smile on my face…and by the time I had read halfway, I was laughing out loud. Kris kept looking up from his drawing to check that I was still reading the same book, he couldn’t believe that such a title was making me chuckle. The ideas, of course, are delightfully presented, too…applied to modern life, clearly outlined and presented in a levelheaded way, this is a good introduction to a handful of Western Civilization’s greatest thinkers.

Kris Larsen's With Mermaid Up A Moonberry TreeOther books I read in 2010 were: Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and The Discomfort Zone and How To Be Alone; Edward de Bono‘s Six Thinking Hats; Jonathan Safran Foer‘s Everything is Illuminated; David Malouf‘s Ransom; John Banville‘s The Infinities; a whole bunch of books from The New Glucose Revolution series; Martin Versfeld’s The Philosopher’s Cookbook; DBC Pierre‘s Ludmilla’s Broken English; Plain Anne Ellis by Anne Ellis, and my partner, Kris’s, second book, With Mermaid up A Moonberry Tree (which made me cry buckets, but only because it was about the way Kris and I used to live)…and I can’t remember if I read anything else.

Sure doesn’t seem like much! I really hope I manage to do more reading next year…I had a reading list in 2009, but I don’t think any of the books I finally did read were on my list! I find that life very often leads me to, or presents me with, the books that I need to read…do you get that? When something you pick up and start reading speaks directly to who you are, where you are, at that moment? That wouldn’t happen if you were just going down a list and ticking them off as you went, would it? There are advantages to allowing serendipity to choose your books for you. I think I’d like to read more nonfiction next year, but no idea which ones. Mainly books about how to live well, that sort of thing. Like a more gentle, garden variety philosophy, for days when you have your period and can’t focus on Socrates.

What was your favourite read for 2010? Have you got a reading list for 2011, or do you just read whatever comes your way?