Monday, May 08, 2006

Climbing the Tree

I am not a very good climber. I have no head for heights, and can fall off a chair as my mother used to say. But here I am at the foot of the enchanted tree with all manner of strange beings above me and somehow, from somewhere, I must find the courage to start my ascent.

I have brought a small bag with me, containing photographs of my loved ones, my magic laptop which works on solar power, a jar of drinking chocolate for comfort, my digital camera to record my experiences and a mirror with which to examine myself daily. I don;t understand why I thought to bring a mirror. Perhaps I think that I am going to undergo a change and I want to be able to see in my face and in my eyes how this change manifests itself? I just know that for some reason I need a mirror. I am not a beautiful woman. I am not at all interested in beauty products and I hardly ever wear make-up. The significance of the mirror will have to reveal itself in due course.

I stand at the foot of the tree. It looks like a giant old chestnut tree, branches spreading wide around it. The sunlight pours, dappled, through the leaves. I remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk from my childhood, and how Jack found a giant living in the land at the top. I wonder who I will find living there.

I place my bag over my shoulder, and, with a prayer to the god of short-plump-climbing-women I start to climb, very slowly and carefully ........

A little humour.......tree roots in the sky

Not long ago I went to a talk given by a recent immigrant to the UK, a wonderful vibrant woman from Malaya who spoke to us about the batik work she and her husband produced, and also about how she was taught to work in this way in her native country.

Her experiences of coming to live in England were told with the most delightful sense of fun. She recalled stepping out of the doors of the airport and freezing almost solid - she had come from a country on the equator to the refrigeration of England in winter. She immediately looked around to see where the aircondtioners were, thinking that the British must be very adept because they could make even the outside cool.....Her first experience of snow came whilst she was standing in a post office. Totally amazed she ran outside to try to gather what she thought was rice falling from the sky!

But the image that stayed in my mind was of tree roots in the sky. She had never seen trees in winter, had no concept of a deciduos tree. She just assumed that the bare branches of the tree were its roots and that the trees in the UK grew downwards into the soil!! You can imagine the laughter errupting during this talk which was given to the branch of the Embroiderers Guild to which I belong.

So maybe instead of feeling that we are reaching down into some primeval source for our deep roots we could turn the tree upside down and feel that our roots reach into the sky and it is our growth that anchors us firmly in the world? I only know that with every passing year I feel more keenly connected to the earth herself. My concern for her welfare and my fears for her future wellbeing grow daily.

As for my roots. Well, there's a question. I will address that in a different post.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Finding the Past

The Faraway Tree: a place where the ghosts of our past go to rest.

I pack a small bag with simple food and writing material. The path is barely visible. I follow the grass trail and watch for bent grass blades where the Enchantress told me to go. With many stops and starts and backtracking as I go to a dead end filled with brambles more than once. I finally see the silhouette of the Faraway Tree, gnarled and twisted.

The air seems to hold its breath and I gently push a rickety gate aside. This is a secret place. People only go here when they have no choice, when all the roads in their life, lead here.

I find a shady spot and close my eyes and breathe deeply. I feel a presence, I know. It is my four-year-old-self sitting with her dolls. She asks, “Why did it take you so long to come get me? I don’t want to be here.”

“You don’t want to be here?” I ask opening my eyes. “But it is very pretty here.”

“It’s not,” she says. “Mama and Daddy fight all the time. But they are not here right now.” She says looking over her shoulder in her yellow skirt and white top with the puff sleeves, I vaguely remember.

“Why do you ask me, what took me so long?”

“Well, so many grown-ups come and find their own younger selves and take them home with them. Or the little children go away. Maybe they are smothered with forgetfulness or taken home and put into a little box like ashes of a pet…what do you want from me?”

I look at her shiny hair. The perfectly rounded bangs of a child and long dark hair that curls with red highlights. Her hair is lighter than my hair now. Her hands are tiny. I cannot remember having such hands.

“I want to remember things. I want to know what my younger self wanted in my future. Do you have any ideas?”

“I want to make mud pies and ride my bike, but not too fast. I want the kids next door to not tease me. I want butterflies to land in the little bush outside my window,” she says.

I smile charmed by the memory. “I mean, what do you want when you get older?”

“I don’t know? You will have to talk to Fourteen. She knows a lot more than me. I am only four.”

I see myself age fourteen sitting on a swing going round and round as in nowhere. I take number Four’s hand and we go towards Fourteen. She looks at me and gives a small smile.

“I always wondered what I would look like in my thirties. I thought being thirty would be the best. Is it?”

“It’s better, but I am not sure of the best, at least not yet.” I say.

She unwinds from the swing and I take a natural seat in the tree roots.

She spies the journal and pen. “Can I see?”

She holds the journal and reads a little and shakes her head. “Mom is always there isn’t she? She’s got her fingers wound so tight, yet she allows him to do so much damage.”

“I know…” I look down. This is my fourteen-year-old self who finally stood up for herself, for me. And she has my deepest respect. She is wearing hot pink pants with a muscle tank top that was the fashion then.

“Please change my clothes,” she whispers. “ I hate wearing this…”

I imagine blue Levis and a white t-shirt with a pocket in the left side. My James Dean look when I was 16. It looks good on a fourteen year old. She puts her hair in a ponytail and the bangs splay out.

We just gaze at one another and then I remember why I am here. “What do you want?” I ask.

She sighs a big, long sigh and smiles broadly. “This could take all day!”

I turn to a clean page in my notebook and begin to make a list.

“I want to be thirty! I want to be an artist or a photographer or both. I want to have an artist boyfriend who understands me and to have deep conversations. I want to make $30,000 a year. I think I could be happy on that. I want to make beautiful watercolor paintings. But I don’t want to be famous.”

“I want to travel the wide world and see many things. I want to meet people from everywhere. I want to journey to the stars. I want to ride a unicorn. I want to have five kids. I want to have a beach house, a boat, a house in the country, a condo in the city and a townhouse in Hawaii. I want the freedom to make my own decisions and make my own money.

I nod. These are still things I want, but maybe, not so many houses.

Four asks. “Do you still have all my dolls?”

“Some..” I say sadly.

Fourteen says, “When you are grown up you can’t play with dolls! Well, not so much.”

“I need to talk to…” and she appears.

Me at eighteen. She walks in my favorite black short heels from Sasha of London in a long lean black skirt with a white crisp cotton shirt. My hair was bob length and I wore dark kohl pencil around my eyes. I looked like I was going out dancing. I was lucky I wasn’t smoking, but I never did take that up.

She looks me up and down and I remember what a snob I was then.

“You have gotten pretty casual.” She smirks.

“And you need to go to school and meet Scott. So quit the act.”

She sighs. “Okay, so what happens to us?” Her eyes widen, “We are okay aren’t we? We haven’t turned…boring have we?”

I smile, “No, it’s fine. I just want to remember what I wanted long ago. So I can make a good decision for all of us.”

I look at Four, Fourteen and Eighteen. I remember every stage and still I am the same.

Eighteen leans against the tree and says, “So ask your questions.”

“What do you want?”

And she smiles the same smile we all have. That, I know well.

“I want luxury. I want a dark, gothic, artist, boyfriend. I want a white Porsche 911 from1969. I want a beach house. I want to be a children book illustrator. I want to be a photographer. I still don’t want to be famous.”

“I want to make my own decisions. I want to make lots of money so I don’t have to depend on anybody. I want to be free of my family and all their shit. I want to be… surprised by the unexpected. Things I cannot of even know right now.”

I write this all down. And remember parts of it and then I want to add and enlighten. My four-year-old self has taken a nap on my lap. I am like the mother here and the sister to my former selves.

Eighteen asks to see my journal. “I love stories, but English was never my best subject. Creative writing was always a favorite despite what I could actually do.”

Sunglasses appear and she has gone incognita. I love that look. And she fixes a pleasant expression basking in the sun. Oh, how I remember that self.

“Why didn’t you take up writing more?” I ask.

“Oh, I hated the kids in those classes, they never said anything original. The writing was flat. And I was too nervous to be myself. I did write some poetry though.”

“And writing classes later was too weird and nerve racking. I think online blogging sounds amazing!

“It is!” I smile and try not to gush.

Can I inform them of my fate? They are me after all. “I did a children’s book and I wasn’t happy with the process. Maybe in time I will get better. But for now I really want to paint personal paintings about my ancestors and myths my parents told me.”

I look down at the sleeping four year old on my lap. She may have some interesting things to tell me.

“Scott and I are moving and I want to reevaluate where I have been and where we are going. I know it’s a luxury, but I feel it’s necessary for me to remember, so we can go forward deliberately, fearlessly.”

“I also got interested in glass and have wanted to work in that. But I am not sure of the money. I consider it a hobby. It may be awhile till I can get to that.”

They sit listening to me, really interested except the sleeping one. I’ll have to come back for her. She is the mystery, whether she knows it or not.

The gate creaks open and the Enchantress appears waiting serenely.

They all look at her and fear travels across their faces. They want to come with me.

“Don’t leave us. You can’t.” Eighteen whispers.

I look at each of them. The four year old has dropped her dolls and hugs my leg. The fourteen year old holds her arms and implores me with her stricken face. The eighteen-year-old’s face has crumpled and her eye makeup has smeared.

“Come with me,” I say. “It will be very different. Stay with me and know me now.”

They sigh a collective sigh and we all embrace. When I open my eyes I am alone hugging myself and hearing the giggles of girls in my head. I laugh too.

I pick up the forgotten dolls and put them in my backpack.

The Enchantress holds out her hands, I take them in mine. “Nicely done,” she says. “They may keep you up all night, you know.”

“I know, it will be like a slumber party.”

I close the rusty gate, as the grassy slope turns golden in the afternoon, the Enchantress leading the way.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Gentle chaos

old life.jpg

This is like my old life: pretty to look at but twisted, gnarled and complicated.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Enchanted Place

Why unto When

You may ask “why,” my new found friend,
puzzled by the scars and disheveled hair,
broken nails and sure sleepless eyes.

Better to ask “when,” peaceful soul;
for the Path I dance is circled,
and has no sure entrancing end --

and how else will I be stoned
if I do not wander by choice
into the pit of angry fear?

Anyone can stroll down the garden path
of gifted flowers and perfumed stars,
with crystal sand and singing mists.

‘tis easy to amble aimless
through a friendly sunlit forest
of waving fronds and breathless dew;

and this may be your rightly bond,
and as someone has to do it,
no reason why it can’t be you.

Yet the universe must balance
and call upon a debt or two
to keep the candle burning bright.

So I am called to stumble here,
to scrape the dust from off the tears,
because I can – and nothing more.

From yours and when and forgotten
you cannot understand nor should,
But I do not regret this dream;

For from way down here in silence
I can see everything and more --
but hush now -- the hail is falling.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

This is my faraway tree


Hi everyone.

I thought I'd share this with you. I've been thinking of what I can share and I thought I'd share the Tree Of Life Mural I painted on my dining room wall.

Its the first thing I see when I get home and always a welcome treat. I felt like that tree painted itself after I finished it. I couldn't believe I painted it. Maybe I didn't and some magical hand painted it instead? Anyway, that's how magical that tree is to me.

That tree spawned the plant mural beside it. They're a cross between venus fly traps, ferns and some mutations thrown in as the three eyeballs would attest to.




I've painted, conceived, drawn many a visual concepts in front of that tree. I almost wish it is a portal so I can stay and do art all day instead of going off to work. LOL!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Song


Heart Swing

There is a tree of Light, my love
That branches out and on and in,
And touches each of us in turn
That we may bear the fruit of love.

Down, down the leaves must fall
To teach the grass to grow,
And I lay here expectantly
For the gift of golden snow.

We need not climb the roughened bark
Nor grovel in the stony soil,
For there's a swing -- a knotted rope
That will serve for quite a while.

Down, down the leaves must fall
To teach the grass to grow,
And I lay here expectantly
For the gift of golden snow.

I can climb, of course, alone and all
And ascend to greater things,
Or join with you in drifting play
With a spinning push from your heart.

Down, down the leaves must fall
To teach the grass to grow,
And I lay here expectantly
For the gift of golden snow.


Monday, February 13, 2006

The Cup

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Ms Dementia Praecox, drawn for Anita Marie Moscoso, who created this wonderful character, as a part of her Faraway series.


Ms Dementia Praecox
Holds out a cup to me.

``Don't drink it, don't drink."
A warning voice whispers in my head.

Something moves within the pale green liquid,
Something with fire in its heart.

Not like a tequila worm.
This is alive, and malevolent.

Ms Dementia Praecox
Has eyes that burn through me like flaming arrows.

`Don't drink," the voice whispers, then is stilled
As my hand curls around the cup.

I draw it close to my lips
And the worm slithers up the glass and into my mouth.

I feel it seeking the secret places in my mind,
bringing cold red light into the darkness.

In the labyrinthine coils of my disordered mind
The worm sees itself.

Ms Dementia Praecox
steals away, her work is done.

I drank my own madness from my own cup.
She merely held it for me.