“While we dream and drift on the magic river the busy little men with their gargantuan appliances are hard at work, day and night, racing against the time when the people of America might possibly awake to discover something precious and irreplaceable about to be destroyed.”
[written while floating down the colorado river at glen canyon before it was drowned and destroyed.)
Wilderness, the word itself is music.
Wilderness, wilderness….We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound of it draws all whose nerves and emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination.
….But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need–if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us–if only we were worthy of it.
if only indeed.
1. my dog -one of the best things to ever come into my life, (still challenging at times), but man, he makes me laugh. he has begun burying his bone in the backyard and will proudly come to me with a nose covered in dirt every few hours.
2. my new lawn mower. it’s quiet, it’s green, it weighs 17 pounds, it’s non-polluting and it doesn’t ever give off toxic fumes.
3. biodegradable dog poo bags
4. seeds -i am planting them everywhere because they are cheap and practically effortless. this week I am also creating a large quantity of seed bombs to be handed out by my publisher at Bookexpo next month. how lucky i am to in part be playing with dirt and clay for a living.
5. rooibos tea -so good with milk and honey.
6. ed abbey -traipsing through the utah desert with him has made my life more full this week. this one is going on my shelf as one of my favourites that I will return to again and again, like May Sarton or Emily Carr.
7. Kiva -based on the concept of “microfinancing”, created by nobel prize winner Mohammed Yunus, kiva is a company that lets you connect with and loan money (interest free) to unique small businesses in the developing world. you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. watch the 15 min. documentary here. having had people to help me during the course of my career, it feels so great that I can now do the same for others, in effect sharing my success. i am hooked.
8. worsted witch -any hesitation i had in sharing my political beliefs in the online world have fallen away after seeing the unabashedly direct and heartfelt offerings of Jasmin. i am humbled and excited everytime i visit.
9. reading about andalusia -where i will be in about a months time.
10. dinner at Defazio’s pizza in Troy NY -picture a cute little hole in the wall pizza joint with checkered table cloths, and an old fashioned italian deli next door. the owners are quite old now and eat dinner EVERY NIGHT in their own restaurant! it’s the sweetest thing ever, (there are only 8 tables and it is always packed). now picture homemade organic sauce, pizza crust, pesto, and pasta. You can even bring your own wine to have with dinner. I would eat there every night too if it was mine. I will try and take some photos of it for you.
found this quote in the library yesterday in a book about conceptual artists with a buddhist perspective. in it I read about artist Lee Ming Wei, whose work is based on issues of trust and the ‘art of living’, (art about daily life). this thread that runs through my own process these days. (if i told you about some of his work you would not believe me, so go read about it for yourself. okay, i’ll give you a hint, he is pregnant! yes, it’s true. read about it here.)
i have been conducting a little experiment of my own, though not nearly as daring. it involves designating large periods of non-computer time and documenting them in my journal. the results after two weeks with a couple of days off during each are rather startling. i hesitate to share them here with the knowledge that some of you may not like hearing them, as i am critiquing the very medium in which you are currently partaking, and quite possibly enjoying. the truth is, i enjoy it too, immensely. but lately i have started to see ways that it is taking from me more that it is giving, and this belief has been echoed by several web friends who have found it necessary to take an extended break from not just blogging but the internet.
the main issue, a common thread between many of us, is a disconnection with life in the real world. symptoms:
-diminished contact with friends and family (speaking in person or on the phone with them has dwindled or is non existent, social life greatly limited over time) this one seems to directly co-relate to an increase in ‘web friends’. while these relationships are also great, they are not the same as speaking on the phone or having lunch in a public place.
-diminished participation in/with nature
-zoned out feeling (disconnectedness)
-large portions of time in each day unaccounted for (productivity greatly affected in all areas of life, house cleaning, creativity, work, etc.)
Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire talks about the limitation of the machine, he is referring to any number of mechanical gadgets, and says that they tend to separate a human from their environment. while trying to write one evening he describes using a generator to produce light,
“I have cut myself off completely from the greater world which surrounds the man made shell. The desert and the night are pushed back–I can no longer participate in the them or observe; I have exchanged a great and unbounded world for a small comparatively meager one.”
If I am to be honest here, (which is always my goal), i will admit that this is what often results in using the computer, this cutting myself off from the world. How ironic that the premise of the medium is a network that connects us to other humans. but there is little to do with nature and the earth here, this is just one small aspect of the human species, (and not available to all).
before you get your back up over this (as I’m sure some of you will), i should explain that i am only seeking some kind of balance with it for myself. a return to moderation (as when I started). this weekend I went to a garden center and spent much of my time planting and covered in dirt. It felt so good to be outside again in the sun. I sit surrounded by pots of daisies, geraniums, lobeilia, basil and rosemary. my house is cleaner, i am reading more, and i feel more at peace than i have been for months. (the first hours are marred by a tense feeling, of needing to go do work, the urge to check email. after several hours this starts to fade and over the course of the day i feel myself becoming more present in the world.)
by the end of the weekend, going back to the computer feels uncomfortable. today i wish to pack a bag and wander aimlessly about. i have been watching the films of charles & rae eames again and feel the urge to try my hand at a film. nothing fancy, just documenting things in my environment.
in the words of duchamp, today “I am a lazy artist.”
and it’s the best thing in the world.
The sun has come out and I feel almost as if it is something entirely new and foreign, something i need to explore further to understand it’s ways.
yesterday i painted a chalkboard on my wall. one dollar worth of paint has made my life infinitely better. i have always had chalkboards in my studio, but i love that this one is permanent, that you actually write on the walls, (i am contemplating doing the entire wall). i feel as though i am drawing on my house in the manner of simon, (do americans know about simon?). for years i have wanted to live in a house where all of the things in it were actually drawings. I always loved the sets in the stop animated Paddington Bear series from the 70′s, nothing is more beautiful than a three dimensional drawn version of the london subway in black ink, (complete with moving escalator).
my first inclination is to draw a door on my wall, some kind of portal to another world. or maybe a window. or a shelf with photos of my family.
this week i am reading the Death of Ivan Illych by tolstoy, (if you are canadian you may already know why i have chosen this.) Author Yann Martel (Life of Pi) announced in an article in the Globe and Mail this week that he decided that our prime minister needed more stillnes, and so every two weeks he is sending him a book to read. Upon hearing about this I laughed quite a bit. And then i thought let’s be honest, couldn’t we all use that? I’ve decided that I will read them all too, assuming I haven’t read them already.
(If you are one of the few left who hasn’t read Life of Pi I highly recommend it. I warn you, I was white knuckled through half of it, and one scene grossed me out more than any scene in any book i have read. i still can’t think about it too much.)
This weekend I read a book of letters from Edward Abbey. his process of writing books sounds similar to my own:
“I always write in a kind of blind stupor anyway, with only the dimmest awareness of what i’m trying to say or do. The shotgun method, i call it: write many, many books in all directions, without taking much aim, and maybe just maybe at least once–you’ll hit something. It worked for shakespeare. mark twain. who else?” ~Ed Abbey (fr. Postcards from Ed)
I have spent the morning doing interviews, the first of many in the next while. Those of the email variety are very time consuming, I find i must limit the amount of them I do so I can get my own work done. while I enjoy doing them as it helps me articulate my process but I must admit I am not one for reading anything in ‘question and answer’ format. I am not sure why this is, never could read plays either. I will only do it if it’s someone I really want to know about. I think it’s because it’s a rather unnatural format, and the ones that are the most successful become conversation more than an interview. a back and forth dialogue.
I have come to understand that I cringe at the mention of the word “art”. what is it this thing that we keep talking about? Actually it’s more than cringing, there is a phyisical sensation combined with a realization that I want nothing to do with it whatsoever. It’s been like this for the last couple of years and I’m only now figuring out why through doing these interviews.
When we talk about art we are often referring to a finished product of sorts, a painting, a sculpture, a book, a documentation of something, the medium that the ‘artist’ has used to capture an experience. This is probably just a semantical issue, have we confused the medium with the message? It is my belief that it is actually the experience of life that inspires the work which is the art. All to often I think people focus too much on the medium, which in my opinion is kind of irrelevant. Not kind of, completely. The real question to me is, “what inspired someone to express themselves?” What is the idea? The artist needs to ask the question, “What moves me?” not “should i use red or blue?”
I am not saying that there is not work where the medium is integral to the expression, but only that it is not really the main focus for me in terms of communicating an idea. I am enjoying contemplating that idea that there is no such thing as a finished piece of “art”, this is just an illusion created by a world that connects it with commerce and turns it into a commodity. Can anyone ever sell an idea? or a process? is it possible?
i am more inclined to take thoreau’s perspective that “art” might be more about “painting the very atmosphere and medium through which we look” than a physical manifiestation.
for an installation piece i would like to see a large room with people engaged in really mundane acts. tying shoes, feeding a baby, eating chips, washing the floor.
or maybe that defeats my point. maybe better to just do those things and call them art.
or just go about living and not call it anything.
Art, then, is an increase of life, a sort of competition of surprises that stimulates our conciousness and keeps it from becoming somnolent.” ~Gaston Bachelard (fr. the poetics of space)
A recent podcast I did with Hip Tranquil Chick, (aka Kimberley Wilson). (run time is just under an hour, I’m a bit of a slow talker, prone to pauses between words.)
in the interview I mention masanobu fukuoka the inventor of seed bombs, who I discovered through my gardening expert/friend Gayla.
still on the couch. but the fever has gone. if only this cough would go away.
When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here.
(from the NY Times article, “Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84″)
RIP mr. vonnegut, you will be greatly missed.