As you can see, I’m digitally challenged!
Here is the correct link to the first podcast:
As you can see, I’m digitally challenged!
Here is the correct link to the first podcast:
I have heard from several readers that they have been unable to access the Podcasts.
My apologies. Here are links:
8th January, 2017
When Joel and I made the commitment to living here year round, nearly 3 years ago, it happened very quickly and we had to make a lot of fast decisions and choices in order to turn the place from a well renovated but spare barn into a home. Some of these choices we made in the 2 weeks left between being summer residents here and the 3 winter months we were about to spend in Provence. During those 2 weeks we designed a fireplace, chose a bathtub and ordered 2 couches and a sofa bed. Once in Provence we hunted for antiques to truck back to Tuscany in the spring, along with a cheap, portable digital piano. I considered the piano and the couches to be placeholders.
The great thing about placeholders is you don’t expect much of them; you know they will be in your life for a limited time, until you can make a better choice. This is how I now choose to think of the Donald: as a placeholder. Something you look at from time to time and wish you had something more pleasing, more comfortable, more serviceable. Something you can’t wait to replace with the ‘real’ thing. We consider ourselves very fortunate that, unlike the 4-year presidential term, we are able, after only 3 years, to replace the 2 couches and the piano.
A couple of years ago, while wandering the back streets of Florence, we discovered an amazing shop filled with fabrics and custom-made couches so comfortable we wanted to stay overnight. We promised ourselves that one day we would return there with our own design, which we did the week before Christmas.
I would have to say that Italy is a country of extremes, which perhaps is why I feel so at home here, being a bit of an extremist myself. When it comes to doing business here you either get a shoddy, unprofessional experience, or absolute top of the line. Our couch guy, Luca, is in the latter category. After sitting on various couches in his shop, which has been in the family for 500 years, we made some preliminary decisions and showed him Joel’s drawing of what we wanted. “Oh,” he said, “but I’ll come down the day after Christmas and look at your home to make sure we have it right.”
And so he did…and hour and half drive each way. He made some important refinements to our design and, taking in our aesthetic, said he would return this week with fabric samples, at which time he would also take the smaller of the 2 couches back to Florence where he will make it more comfortable as well as reupholstering it to match the new one.
There are some things however, for which there are no placeholders and our Gianni is one of them.
We missed him sorely last year while he hunkered down in order to finish his house by Christmas, which he did. It took him 8 years to build. There was the odd dinner here and there, during 2016, but no adventures with him. And La Rimessa, the studio that the three of us has found a year and half ago, remained empty as we waited first for the installation of electricity (9 months) then for Gianni to finish his house, and finally for me to recover from my injuries. During those 18 months the building itself represented a placeholder, the place where the 3 of us wanted to play and create and collaborate.
On New Year’s Eve we began to inhabit it: Joel setting up his still life area, Gianni filling part of the space with his found objects and me beginning to paint a large canvas. I could have stopped where I ended that day: I can make a pretty painting or sentence quite easily.
But pretty is not what I consider art, in any genre. So when I stood back and looked at the canvas I knew that it, too, was just a place-holder and that in order to deeply enter it and go beyond the limit of my vision meant being prepared to fuck it up. Which I did the next day.
Two days later my new Yamaha digital piano arrived, a serious piece of business that made the previous keyboard feel like a toy piano.
The Yamaha has a rich, round, resonant tone and the keyboard action is similar to some grand pianos I’ve played. It is a challenging, magical instrument which from the moment I first sat at it, made me realize that I had places to go and that I’m finally willing to go there. I have held myself in place creatively, in many ways, for too long. Now, fully aware of being at the short end of the stick of my life, I feel unfettered to the point where I refuse to feel regret at how long it took to get to this place.
The beginning of a New Year is a universal time when many of us feel the need to make new resolutions usually based on “should’s.” Maybe it would be more profitable to take some meditative time to look at the landscapes of our lives; to be willing to acknowledge the place-holders we have kept and for how long. Because in the end it’s all an illusion. We cannot hold place, it holds us…until it doesn’t.
18th September 2016
Sometimes, when I write the date, a distant bell rings, tolling across the fields of memory, carrying its faint whisper of something once significant and I try to catch the tail end of it and trace it back to some event, or place, or person that make its mark on me. Today’s date brings nothing to mind, in and of itself. If it were tomorrow I could say, ah, yes, 46 years ago I married my daughter’s father. Or if it were the 12th I could remember yet another divorce after which, to my great surprise, I left the lawyer’s office, bent my head to the steering wheel and sobbed; not just over the end of yet another marriage, but at what I presumed then, aged 44, was the last chance of making a successful one. Twelve days later, on 24th September 1990, I would meet Joel, once again proving that presumption is a fool’s waste of time.
September seems to be full of endings and beginnings: summer, autumn, vacation, school, the world before and after 9/11; and now, for some people, the end of walking nonchalantly in the Chelsea district of Manhattan…and the beginning of what?
The sun is blazing through the window now. Lower in the sky than a week ago, it hits me in the face as I write. We’ve had a small fire going most of the day, having lit it this morning while the rain beat on the roof, bringing a chill from the north. Then the sun would suddenly arrive, illuminating the rain bejeweled garden and we’d let the fire go, only to rekindle it 10 minutes later as the next bank of charcoal clouds delivered another torrent. This time accompanied by a strong wind that threatened to snap the rose tree. We saved it just in time with the aid of a broom.
And so the day has been, between one season and another, back and forth, much like we were on Friday. We had been scheduled to leave early that morning for Porto San Stefano from whence we would take the ferry to Giglio and from there, the small boat to our favourite inn. We’d been looking forward to it for weeks, a last, summer fling of sea and sun, swimming, lolling, reading and hiking. Oh, we kept saying, won’t it be great not to have to shop, cook or do the dishes for a whole week. Ha!
Thursday night, suitcases packed, fridge emptied, the inn called to say a severe storm was headed to the island. The small boat would never make it. Not to worry, we said, we’ll come on Saturday. We spent most of Friday watching rain and wind beat on the garden. We also kept checking the weather for Giglio but it remained consistently bleak, with 4 of the remaining days we’d be there either cloudy or raining. So we cancelled. Talk about glum. We were like sad kids. Even though we were aware that it was hardly a tragedy, the disappointment was sharp. It took us hours to let go. Hours of trying to figure out where else to go: Capri, rain; Amalfi Coast, rain; Florence, rain. The whole frigging weather map of Europe was one big gloomy cloud.
So Joel baked a plum cake.
And the post lady delivered a terrific DVD, that I’d ordered weeks ago and forgotten about. We had lamb in the freezer and Silvia brought the last of the tomatoes from her garden. We unpacked our suitcases and put away our disappointment, grateful to be “stuck” in this paradise.
Gratitude: so much more rewarding than disappointment. Disappointment is all about the future; I wish, I want, I’m going to…. Gratitude is all about now: I have this, now. I am here, now. I am alive, now. Sorrow? Sorrow belongs to the past. There’s not much we can do about sorrow. Any fully lived life will contain it. We can do something about disappointment, although it’s not a 100% possible achievement. We’re human. We will continue to make plans, and they will continue to provide as much disappointment as gain. But gratitude; that’s a choice, even for the downtrodden and the abused. I realize that may sound glib and somewhat rich coming from someone in my fortunate position, but many of the Nelson Mandela’s of the world, and Holocaust survivors, have told us they made it through the unimaginable by focusing on the smallest crumb of gratitude.
Talking about crumbs…the plum cake was delicious. And talking about gratitude, I’d like to recommend a documentary available on Netflix: “Hello, My Name is David.” Let me know what you think.
15th May 2016 SEASON TO TASTE
One of the many aspects I love about living in Tuscany is the equal division of the seasons. I thought about this again over our Sunday English breakfast this morning, a tradition for us, along with the accompaniment of Vivaldi’s Oboe Concertos. Perhaps only someone living here could have composed The Four Seasons, in which each movement is given equal weight. Here, each season is apportioned 3 months, a measure of time that allows for total immersion into the separate wonders that each season offers.
I had been concerned while in New York that I would miss spring here this year. In New York, as in most of the North Eastern States, spring and autumn gets a brief fling before jumping straight into full blown summer. Autumn, likewise, although extremely beautiful, still lasts but a few weeks before giving way to 5 months of never-ending winter. But when we arrived here mid April, spring was just gearing up; less than 3 weeks into the season it still had another 9 to go and I have been reveling in every one of them.
The days are warm enough to work in the garden in a long sleeved T shirt, the evenings cool enough for a fire. Sudden torrents of rain are followed by breathtaking light that seems to come up from the earth as much as it comes down from the sky. What joy to watch the lavender send its yet to open spears into the air; the roses burgeoning buds gradually scenting the air as the unfold. The gaura in the rockery is still a teas of wands whose flowers will dance like butterflies right through the autumn.
The garden, which I stated 2 years ago, looks as if it were here forever and is finally becoming the wild place I’d hoped for; a garden that looks un-manicured, even though it takes work to look that way; a place that blends with the majestic landscape beyond its borders.
I grew up on the south coast of England, on the Gulf Stream; a temperate place that also had 4 equally apportioned seasons. I love the rhythm of living inside nature’s time, each season long enough to bask in, yet short enough to make one look forward to enjoying the next.
Earlier today we lay naked on the sun terrace. Now the sky has darkened against which the pink of the roses climbing the arched entrance to the garden seems unbearably tender as the petals shiver against the gunmetal clouds. A rumble of thunder heralds rain and soon we’ll make soup and light the fire.
All this beauty we breathe in every day and for us it makes a huge difference to our sense of wellbeing. For, let’s face it, life happens no matter where one lives. Beauty or no, I still had to have a bridge put in my mouth. The surgery to remove the failed implant, along with what was left of the surrounding bone, was a traumatic experience, perhaps made more so by the stress of Z’s illness. Oh, and anyway, let me be honest, I’m terrified of dental work, having had more than a fair share of nightmarish experiences dating back to the first at age 5 with the school dentist. So, couple the terror with the challenge of finding a new dentist in a new land in a new language and you might get the picture. Finally, I started making inquiries with Italian friends, one of whom turns out to be terrified of dentistry also. So, off to her dentist I went.
Wow! We walk the cobblestone streets of Siena to the medieval building that houses his state of the art practice: 3 waiting rooms with Italian designed furniture; 5 treatment rooms, one just for kids; smiling, loving assistants, and the dentist himself a kind, thorough, reassuring man….and he speaks English!!! After a consultation I made an appointment for last Friday and left feeling relieved.
Yet when the day arrived, terror came back for a visit. As always, I like to name the terror: What are you afraid of Maggie? Oh, that’s easy: pain, teeth crumbling because they’re too weak to support the bridge, something awful will happen like the drill penetrating my brain, or my heart will simply stop. Oh…I’m afraid of dying. Why? Because I like it here, because I like being alive in Tuscany and I don’t want it to ever end.
Talking about this Joel last night, we shared how each of us has reached an age where death makes its presence felt on an almost daily basis. It’s a strange presence, unbidden, a shadow that comes out of the shadows. And we cannot mathematically change the fact that we are in the winter of our lives. A brutal season winter; and yet glorious, the world laid bare to the bones and we with it. Shorter days giving way to lazy, cozy nights; the sense that one’s labor is over and each day is an opportunity to be present in that that day and that day only. And so we drove through the glorious countryside to the centuries old city and I thought, well, if today is the day, how lucky am I that it came down to this: well loved and surrounded by beauty.
The procedure wasn’t fun. I particularly hated the use of the hammer to remove the crowns…nothing regal there! But the needles went in like feathers and a little potion of something relaxing was offered, followed by 15 minutes of being massaged in a leather recliner while the anesthesia took hold; the room semi-darkened except for soft light that cycled through the colours of the rainbow. As I opened my mouth the dentist said, “Don’t think about the past.” Forty-five minutes later the bridge was in and Joel took me for a gelato.
It seems to me that winter is the season of acceptance; acceptance that everything must end: each petal, each spear of lavender, every tree and field, a tooth, a dream. All will be replaced, as will we. But until then let’s revel in the courageous cycle of spring.
NB. all photos for this post are by Joel Meyerowitz.
13 December 2015
In solitude, I come to know the value
And the loneliness
Of its absence.
I would as much say
I have aged at last and surrender
To its reflection.
One would be crazy not to go mad;
Mad with desire, mad
With the spaciousness of being.
Yet comes a moment in life
When one recognizes that some desires
Come too late;
Thus comes acceptance.
So I am aged, and gather all
The precious years into me
And know therein
After six weeks in New York, my darling Joel came home last Thursday. After weeks of daily Skype-ing the man appeared in flesh and blood; the warmth and pulse of which can never be felt via the internet. I stood in our bedroom looking out the French doors from whence I could see his limo come into view at the top of the hill; watched it slide down and around the dusty curves of the dirt road and I raced to the garden gate and watched the tired length of him leave the car and come into my arms, and I into his. And time concertina-ed; not just the last 6 weeks, but 25 years and we stood on the threshold once more.
I know I am blessed to be nearly 70 and in love. And I also know that this time apart, at this time in our lives, gave us a taste of the impact of the ultimate absence one or the other of us will experience.
And I also know this: I know nothing save my name.
These weeks alone were an endurance test and an eye-opener. Like so many of us I like to think that I can predict, if not the exact details of the future, at least how I will react to them. I had myself convinced that should Joel go first I would, as well as being devastated, be just fine on my own. I had even, the hubris to believe that of the two of us, I was the better equipped to survive such loss. Ha!
Of course, I could write it all off to having been ill the whole time; ‘it’ being the stark fact that I have never felt so lonely my whole life. The loneliness had to do with being stripped, because of the illness, of my life force. Without that core energy I was unable to fill my days with the many things that give me pleasure: writing, painting, gardening, walking, traveling. Who are we when we are stripped of our capabilities? What are we when we are left alone in a foreign country without our capabilities? Frightened, that’s what. Frightened and lonely.
The illness itself was frightening, until diagnosed and recovery began. But the loneliness was shocking. Life was proscribed to a morning drive to the village for groceries, preparing food within the strict diet I am on for 2 months, bringing in firewood, lighting the fire, and then, exhausted, lying by the fire and trying to read. Something normally a great pleasure was now a challenge as the inflammation in my brain made concentration near impossible.
The brightest times of the day were those illuminated by the beauty of the landscape glimpsed to and fro town and to and fro the woodpile. By 5, as the day took its light and left and evening shortened into night, I would draw the curtains, dine by candlelight at 6 and then surrender to watching one of several BBC mystery series; the fictitious fates of those worse than mine a welcome distraction until 9 when I would take my furry hot water bottle to bed. Whatever surplus energy I could summon was spent launching the hardcover edition of my novel plus three frustrating weeks of trying to get the e-Book version made available.
When I look back, now, on those 6 weeks I see an arc that went from illness to diagnosis, to recovery; and from fear and desolation to acceptance and surrender and finally to gratitude. The fear and desolation was not only from being ill and not knowing why, but also because everything I thought I knew no longer applied. And all that I thought I could count on was no longer available. That portion of the journey now strikes me as absolutely essential. Why? Because it put me in the endless moment. When we are stripped of certainty we are in reality. And reality is not always to our liking. Tough Luck.
The second part of the journey, much like getting sober, doesn’t come gift-wrapped. Acceptance and surrender entail acknowledging the fact that we are, each of us, no matter the details of our lives, always alone. In fact, we spend much of lives staying busy enough to be able to avoid this fact. Once I started to surrender I started to recover.
The third leg of the journey – gratitude – is the gift that keeps on giving. I was very much aware that my aloneness was also my freedom. Unlike the unutterable aloneness that millions of refuges are experiencing, or that any of the disenfranchised people of this world have to face minute by excruciating minute.
And when Joel came through that gate, believe me I had more gratitude than I can express. The miracle of it, knowing that he could just as easily not have made it, is only a momentary miracle. What I want to retain from this journey is the acceptance of, and surrender to, the fact that it is complete folly to think we can predict how we will react to any future event; whether it be the loss of a loved one or terrorism on our doorstep, it is useless to try and prepare for it. The best we can do is open our hearts and our arms and believe that somehow we will manage.
NB. My novel, From Dusk to Dawn, is now available as an eBook from Amazon, and Barnes and Noble
The hardbound version is available from:
Starting in London, in January, I will be giving a series of talks and readings from the novel. This series will be in salon form and so far the itinerary includes, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Taos, Los Angeles, Bridgehampton, Bradford-on-Avon, Paris, Bonnieux and Florence. I will of course be posting the details.
To those of you who have already purchased the book, my grateful thanks. If you enjoyed reading it, please post a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and/or Indie Bound.
If you’re new to the blog and still looking for gifts for Christmas, please, feel free to purchase my novel!!
I am thrilled to announce that my novel: From Dusk to Dawn, is now available from Amazon.
Here is the link:
Here is the cover and author
Here is the synopsis:
If you had to choose one thing to believe in and defend its validity in today’s world, what would it be? In From Dusk to Dawn six characters trapped in an isolated inn on the edge of a cliff at the turn of the millennium make up a game to play until they’re rescued. From Dusk to Dawn explores the nature of personal belief and its effect on strangers and loved ones. In the process, relationships teeter and family secrets are exposed. Over the course of twelve hours, a British ex-military man and his wife of thirty years, a New York surgeon and his artist lover, a recently jilted thirty-year-old lawyer and a twenty-year-year old waitress who isn’t always what she appears to be come to understand that belief often has nothing to do with truth. Literally a cliff-hanger, From Dusk to Dawn will keep you on the edge of your seat and inspire you to think about what you believe in as opposed to believing in what you think.
And here is where you can be of help. Apart from ordering the book for yourself, or as Christmas presents for friends, could I please ask you to post the link and cover on your social media sites? I would like to think that with your help this book can set sail around the world the way books used to: by word of mouth.
With thanks, as always, Maggie
September 1, 2015
There are times when it doesn’t pay to read too much into things; like for example, what might it mean that I came on vacation without my fountain pen? Certainly, after nearly 4000 miles of travel and a rough landing, to not find my pen in its usual place in my travel bag made me somewhat cast adrift. Nor does it pay to search for all the reasons as to why I might be to blame for the black mould and mildew crawling up the walls of the vacation rental I had found online months ago; so sure, then, that I had found the perfect Cape Cod house in the woods between a pond and the sea; a place where, after an absence of 4 years, we would continue a family tradition which, for me, began 44 years ago, of summers on this salty spit of land.
When we arrived on 22nd August and finally made it to the rental with out daughter and her partner, the smell of mould and mildew in the house was so intense we could barely breathe through our instantly inflamed nasal membranes. Like most vacation spots, rentals here go from Saturday to Saturday, leaving us with only one possible house to bunk down in until we had the energy to find something more suitable. We ended up in a suburban house, albeit on a little pond and comfortable beds and for the first week ventured off to beaches and ponds with intermittent stops at realtors looking for home for the second week.
I went to an AA meeting last night on the bay in Provincetown. The topic was Balance and at one point, as I drifted from listening to someone share, I had to control a guffaw as I remembered that for a good portion of my life the definition of ‘balance’ was getting the amount and timing of enough cocaine snorts to keep me nicely wired for the night, coupled with just the right amount of booze to take the edge off. Now, balance is a shifting menu that see-saws between intimacy and dependency, chores and creativity, socializing and solitude, thought and action, judgment and tolerance, Tuscany and America. Rarely do I experience balance as easily as riding a bicycle. If I had shared at the meeting, I would have said that I have recently experienced a period of mental and emotional imbalance that took me by surprise. The problem with this kind of imbalance as opposed to physical imbalance is that it is much harder to shift one’s weight, and in fact, carries the sort of terror that I imagine falling off a tight rope with no safety net might incur.
Our vacation see-saw has been neatly divided into two weeks: the first in a house and area not of our preference, and this week in a light-filled house on a tidal inlet on Lieutenant’s Island, the peace and beauty of it all gratefully inhaled through every pore into every cell. And through it all, we two couples, Joel and myself, and my daughter and her partner, heroically recalibrated the distance between ourselves and each other and, more importantly, between disappointment and the opening up to new adventures.
Unlike the tick-tock of the clock, which demands a balance between seconds, the tides with their six hour spread between high and low twice a day, slow down our inner clocks, at first putting us off balance as we continue to hurtle along at digital speed for a few days before surrendering to nature’s time. And in the surrender, the last dregs of recent distress ebb, salty tears mingling with salty sea.
I hadn’t been to an AA meeting in a few years, but as is always the case, I got what I needed there, not only in the opportunity to reassess the true nature of balance, but also the chance to reconnect with early sobriety. Just the day before I had shared with Joel that although I had finally given up the decades-long search for, and addiction to, the need for recognition, what I was now experiencing was similar to the first year of sobriety when, along with the relief of surrender comes also the sorrow of it having taken so long as well as the disorienting sensation of a loss of a big piece of one’s identity. I chose to sit with all of this alone on the beach in front of the house, letting the rest of the family take care of dinner preparations while I let the last of my sorrow wash out to sea, the tears turning to compassion for all the decades I spent wanting something that has nothing to do with my true nature.
And surely, part of being balanced is accepting the reality that one can’t maintain it 100% of the time: the volley will end with a ball out of bounds, the surfer will fall off her board, disappointment will temporarily throw us off course, loss, of any kind, will take the ground from beneath us. Then, the best we can do is not to read too much into it but rather, as the song goes, “Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.”….today, for me, with a $12 pen and blue ink!
18th July 2015
We were in Vienna for three days this week for the opening of Joel’s retrospective, which is traveling Europe. During the days, while he was busy with interviews and press conferences, I wandered the streets in search of a city I’d wanted to see for decades. I had missed it in my teens when, running out of money while hitching around the continent, I settled for Saltzburg, a summer down bed in a pen pal’s home and hot chocolate and a pastry which, while flaky and tasty was, I was sure, inferior to those made in Vienna.
Fifty years later, I find myself sitting in a taxi on my way to what I assume will be the Vienna of my dreams. To the right, the Stadtpark, voluptuous in summer greens and cool shadows. To my left, a poster for a dance performance; the date, 16th July, leaps off the poster and sets my insides aquiver; an unexpected, close to uncontrollable, reaction; a fluttering that starts in my belly and threatens to engulf the rest of me.
Numbers and letters when arranged in a particular gathering can, for all of us, strike a central nerve of memory. 16th July, 1971 was the due date of my firstborn. And as the autopsy would later reveal, was the day she died, my body holding onto her for another 2 days before induced labor expelled her into another realm.
The light turns green, the taxi moves on, and I calm my grieving body. Yet in some eerie sense Vienna echoes that experience; another expectation come to naught. A city strangely devoid of people and pastries.
But I must here tip my cap to the entire staff of the Kunsthaus Museum, https://www.kunsthauswien.com/en/museum comprised mainly of women who were kindness and generosity itself, not only to Joel but also to me. How heartening it is to find women in positions traditionally owned by men; women who have managed to retain their compassion and humor and sisterly respect while tapping into the more masculine drive of ambition and assertiveness, holding their own without aggression. To Bettina, Verena, Eva, Sabine and Sophie my admiration and thanks.
The museum itself, originally a chair factory, was bought and transformed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist and free spirit who knew a thing or two about the snatch of death having lost some 60 plus family members in the Holocaust. www.hundertwasser.com/ He believed that a straight line was ungodly and immoral and certainly his life was anything but a straight line. His paintings reflect the color the glory, the madness and the joy of life’s spiraling, unfathomable mystery. He gave political speeches in the nude, travelled the world, married twice and birthed a daughter. He also built many buildings and a boat he named The Rainy Day in which he travelled to New Zealand over the course of 3 years and where he now lies, as was his wish, buried naked below a Tulip tree.
His rendering of the building which houses his art as well as Photography exhibitions, literally keeps you on your toes and in the moment; the floors and stairs undulating beneath one’s feet so that one must continually take stock of where one is and rebalance accordingly. What a great metaphor for life, for aren’t we all, in spite of our efforts to control, always at sea?
I didn’t find my Vienna and after hours of searching would return to our hotel room where I found pleasure in light and shadow and slivers of reality susceptible to abstraction.
Yet, Vienna was rich with people. 800 of them attended Joel’s opening and stayed until midnight. And many people travelled great distance, among them Ralph Goertz, the curator of Joel’s show at the NRW Forum in Dusseldorf; Joshua, a young friend who travelled 12 hours by bus from Heidelburg where he is working in a factory this summer in order to fund his 2nd year at Studio Marangoni in Florence. And another man, Fate Velaj, who drove 15 hours from Albania.
This kind of energy and spirit, much like Hundertwasser’s is an inspiration. The instinct to say, “yes” to adventure and serendipity, to follow the winding road and avoid the straight-of-way. Even if it means sometimes being trapped in a metal tube, winging its way from Vienna to Florence and in which we are surrounded by Austrian toddlers with man-sized voices, their plump, gleeful faces playing peek-a-boo with us between the seats; a near euphoric experience until one of them dumps a load of Teutonic shit in its diaper, a powerful aroma that brought tears to my eyes. So yes, shit happens, there are no straight lines, and there a not guarantees of finding one’s Vienna.
But what joy to come in the garden gate, to unpack, to make a light dinner and sit under the shade of the trees.
And into the ever-widening circles of life, pebbles of possibility are continually tossed, so that the next ripple arrives before the last disappears. This morning, the date of Amy’s arrival into and departure from this earthly plane, a text arrives telling us that my nephew, Simon, and Sarah, his lady-love, have delivered a baby boy into this world. An overlapping ripple that from now on will grace this sorrowful date with joy.
11 July 2015
Today I’m entering the 16th journal of this blog. These journals, as mentioned once before, are of recycled paper with expansive blank pages, a supple spine that allows the book to lay flat when open and a pocket in the inside back cover which gets filled with memorabilia collected during the journey. Many of these remain in that pocket, but there are some that get transferred to the next and the next.
In front of each journal I place a Xerox of a photo of my daughter, then 3, and I outside our welfare subsidized home. This photo is up front because I want always to remember from whence I came and how far I’ve travelled. It is also a beautiful echo of the loving relationship we share today, after a couple of decades in the middle that were painful for us both.
Cradled in the back pocket, Isabel as an infant:
In my hair Salon with assistants, me extreme right:
Newly sober lying on the floor of my then studio, joyously covered in paint and oblivious to the fact that within weeks I would meet my soul-mate and break my neck, rendering me unable to paint for years to come:
Other photos nestling in the pocket are: Joel and me from 10 years ago, looking impossibly young compared to today’s reflected images:
Me as the bride at wedding to husband # 3:
My adoptive parents at my father’s 1968 retirement ceremony:
Me as a butterfly in the garden of my childhood:
My daughter, back in the 80’s as a Halloween Boy George:
A large pastel drawing from my Vessel series:
My stepdaughter and her now husband some 12 years ago:
My stepson and his now wife and their 2 day-old son, our grandson now 12:
This motley mix of photos spanning 60 years of my life is an incomplete record, large chunks missing courtesy of a boyfriend who in 1980 not only consistently beat me up, but when I finally managed to escape from him, fleeing his house with only the clothes on my back, burned boxes of my photos: decades of my life as a an 18 year-old hitchhiker in Europe, a teenage mod in London, a runway and print ad model in Vancouver, a professional dancer, my gypsy period in Mexico, not to mention my daughter’s baby pictures and photos of my life with husbands 1 through 3. Husband #4 managed to disappear all photos of our life together shortly after the marriage ended.
Images. Illusion. Memory. Evolution. We are all invested in these things. Some deep need to prove that we did this or that, went here and there, loved him and her; that we started there and have traveled to here.
We recently had a relative staying with us for a week; a relative to whom I am deeply connected, albeit not through blood as I am adopted, but who represents the only link of value to the family in which I grew up. Life didn’t deal her a kind hand parent-wise and there were many times during the week when I wished I had a photo of the vivid image I have of her as a one-year old, looking up at me from the floor with exuberant joy and wide eyed curiosity. I wanted to show her her true nature, to help her peel off the layers of repression that the cruelty of childhood have inveighed upon her.A photo sometimes really is worth a 1000 words. Like the one I took of her last week in which her innate beauty comes shining through because she is being seen by the only person with whom she feels safe.
The mysteries of life. Perhaps one of the biggest being how any of us survive childhood and, sadly, how few of us overcome it. Are there guardian angels? Is there a reason why some of us are born into slavery or poverty, starvation, disease, while others of us are graced with the proverbial silver spoon?
And how come some of us are able to escape what some call destiny while others settle for the lies they were told as children until the lies become a hardened, self-perpetuating reality? Is there such a thing as good luck? I say not. But I cannot answer the question as to why some of us are able to take responsibility for our lives while others hide in the shadow of their discontent.
Each time I come the end of one of these journals I gently take my daughter and me one step further from our past and place us in the preface to the next stage of life. And then, from the back pocket I take the random sampling of my life as a butterfly, as a young mother and on, through the dashed dreams, from poverty to abundance, from addiction to sobriety, injury to rehabilitation and from England to Tuscany via America and from husband #1 to my dear husband # 5 who, apart from loving me, has the good sense to be a photographer! Someone who not only would never throw my past onto the flames but who consistently records our fleeting time on earth, capturing the best of it, as is his nature. A man who literally sees the beauty in everything and everyone.
It doesn’t matter that we’ve never made albums, or that I have only a few photos of my past. One only needs a few images, burned onto paper or onto the retina; small dots along the way, which we join up by filling in the blanks with memory; a sliding screen of chosen moments. How we fill in those blanks is the story we create.