Friday, 18 January 2013

Put Time Into It

   Outside snowflakes are whirling and the wind is rattling the window panes.  Inside, bent low, I am watching other flurries.  Dashes on a copperplate, days of lines creeping forward with the hands of the clock.  From time to time, looking over my shoulder on days like this and seeing how much remains to be done, my husband asks "why do you do this to yourself?".  Something to think about... and there is time to think about it.  There is time also to think of nothing, monk-like, in my little cell.

   But, let me consider it here.
   It's true that I could add in tonal values in other, faster and smoother ways, and sometimes, in other etchings I do that.  But tones built with line have a special charm.  The whole, finished artwork stands as much on display as the individual particles and mechanics of its construction.  In the best old engravings and etchings, plain and simple line is alchemized into the softness of silk or velvet, the rough and gnarled bark of a tree, the smoothness of a leaf, softness of a child's face, or the hard edge of a table.  It can even become the sky.  I have always been especially fond of etchings and engravings for this very reason.

   And, when I finally sit up with sore ribs and spine, more than I feel that discomfort, I feel satisfaction.  Rendering these seconds into a glowing coppery light (which photographs can't do justice to) is sometimes tedious, but often it is almost hypnotic.  I have read that incense is or was used by Buddhist monks in Asia as a sort of hourglass during periods of prayer and meditation.  These dashes and dots do something of the same, I suppose, and at the end, the seconds of creation are written out for the future "readers" of this strange Morse code I write in.

   Not that I claim the greatness of priests or master engravers for myself, of course.  Anyway, there is something still greater that compels me to spend my time in this way: it is necessary.  Building the image in this way is the only possible method to bring the image I hold in me into the world.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Lines and Space

   The early days of January have a lovely sort of stillness: candle-lit breakfasts of bread swirled-through with thick lines of poppy seed and candied citrus fruit before work on dark mornings; star-gazing in empty back lanes on the walk home from a friend's house; grey mornings curled up in heavy woolen blankets; misty baths where the hottest boiled water meets cold air from an open window; the sky delicately painting a lilac afternoon sunset over the graves beside work.  Everything seems calm and open, and as if any time now, with a bit of concentration, it might be possible to line up all the variables here into some sort of balanced equation.

Is that maybe just the way of things in January?


   On the darkest days of the old year, in hurricane winds and lashing rains we took a little train trip, not far away.  From the photos taken there, you'd hardly know we left the river's edge.  We came back with a camera full of raindrop-blurred photos of ropes and rigging, boats and bridges.  

   The other night I was thinking back on a man who I met once, who for a few weeks was a neighbour of sorts, staying in a tent not far from where I had pitched my own tent.  One night, by a fireside, he was ranting angrily about someone.  Finally with great spite he uttered the last, worst condemnation he could think of: "she just wants to be comfortable".  I think about those words from time to time, because it seems that more often they would be said in a softer, more excusing way, as an invitation to understanding even.

   And of course, everything is a question of degree.  What is being sacrificed for the sake of comfort?  How great is the discomfort? But generally, when I consider the two sides of things, I think his position the better one.

   It is not that I am after some sort of noble suffering, but that I am afraid of what comes from having too much of a good thing.  I worry about life turning into a pleasant suffocation, about opportunities passed over in favour of sleeping late.

   And so we wandered below the deck of the handsome ship that carried Scott and Shackleton to Antarctica, peeked into the tiny wooden cabins of officers, stood around in the lonesome cargo holds.  We looked up at the crow's nest and thought of the man who lost his life by falling from it as his ship sailed away from New Zealand.

   And then we rode home, past flooded towns, to dream of adventures.  These calm, still days and long, clear nights have a way of nurturing a feeling of longing for travel and vagabonding.

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Happy New Year!

   Today was a bright, warm, spring-like day meant for throwing open all the windows and letting breezes rush through every room.  At the top of the street, where I pass most every day, there is a sun that smiles above all of us walking below.  On these winter days, he can seem like the only sun that's about, but today it was even possible to tell the time from the sundial that falls from his mouth.  With the end of the holiday season, and the return of normal life, I am very much enjoying the opportunity to get back to work.  There are so many things I want to make and do in this new year.

2012 was an odd sort of year for me, and sometimes there were quite large gaps between posts, but this year I am hoping to post more and get to know more of you better.  I want to thank everyone who has supported me and my little blogging efforts in this past year in one way or another -- through your comments, your emails, or by just stopping by and reading.  I do appreciate it very much and wish that 2013 brings you much joy and inspiration!