Friday, November 30, 2012

New Calendar for 2013 and Blurb Christmas discounts

My calendar for 2013 has finally arrived! 18 months ago a publisher asked me if they could put one together using my images, I was chuffed to bits and to now have one in my greasy mitts, well how cool!

Amber Lotus Publishing are a lovely fluffy company based in Portland, Oregan and they were an absolute pleasure to deal with, I had great fun sorting out the images for them and lots of excitement anticipating what it may look like. And finally it arrived the other day!

Larger than I thought, think of a vinyl album cover (though sadly it doesn't play a tune when you slap it onto a record player but it might ruin your stylus) and printed on dolphin/tuna/donkey sanctuary/hedgehog friendly paper. I can only imagine how many wonderful forests have been planted just to offset the printing of this calendar. I am expecting a massive kick back from the squirrels. They now owe me big time...

I have a few knocking around should you want one (that'll be you people with Paypal accounts and not any squirrels even if you have a PaySquirrel account), about £8 each give or take shipping and where you live in the world, drop me a line if you want one, there's a contact whatchamacallit on my website. You can get them on Amazon too should that mean you can get one cheaper wherever you are. They don't ship to squirrel land so take note nut munchers. You can get them plenty of other places too apparently but you'll probably know better than me about that.

Oh and finally should you want a book for Chrimble, Blurb are knocking £7 off until 13 December, just enter SAVE7 at checkout. If you squirrels want one then you'd better ask Blurb if it is alright to pay in hazelnuts.

Monday, October 08, 2012

I miss you most of all when autumn leaves start to fall

I feel your loss so much more when the autumn leaves start to fall by escher is still alive

I sincerely believe that most of the decisions we make, especially the important ones, are not made consciously. I'm not talking about whether you fancy carrot or fruit cake with your cup of tea, but the choices upon which the direction of your life hinges. There is so much to ponder and process that any conscious decision made is an illusion. The unconscious mind is required to process all the complexities.

During the time you try and make the decision if you continue to feel turmoil then you aren't ready to choose, your unconscious mind has not finished it's job. One day it will cease to be a decision anymore where you have to choose at all. One day you'll just know what is right, you'll feel it in your core without necessarily knowing why. I've been witness to this happening in my life at several key points on my journey.

I've not been one of life's copers, 'you're too senstive!' they'd all say. Where shyness seemed to be the culprit and being forced to confront your sensitivies the solution, I would try and retract myself away from difficult situations. Sensitive people aren't necessarily shy, indeed I can be the life and soul, what we need is space to breathe, when we feel overwhelmed, which is difficult in the midst of a non-sensitive world, so often the urge is to retreat and to hide and to build a brick wall around oneself.

In my early twenties I had my heart broken and I had never felt so shattered and bereft. It brought on the mother of all retreats, outwardly everything was normal but inside the maelstrom was devouring my soul. Contact and vulnerability was dangerous and I tensed every sinew to make sure I could not endanger myself again. Hideously damaged on the front line I ran backwards as fast as I could.

A couple of months later I took on two cats who needed a home - their names were Lottie and Gizmo - and we three became a little family, we needed no-one else but ourselves. I poured into them all my vulnerability and love and as long as it would go on forever then I'd feel safe and happy and reassured. This wasn't a healthy place to be.

More than ten years passed and the wall I had built was solid, high and impregnable and yet I wanted someone to breach the defences. But it was far too high to throw the keys over. I was stuck behind ramparts of my own design.

And then events took another turn and someone managed to scale the ramparts and find their way in (wow! this sounds proper corny! But hey it's all true so I'm just gonna have to carry on). She loves me back the same way I love her and she's my rock. Just by being there she allows me to step outside of myself and grow and mature, without her I'd still be an emotional cripple, although I still have to walk with a stick!

Despite this my feline coven remained and I had not prepared at all for their inevitable passing, I just couldn't contemplate having my heart broken again.

And then Gizmo died quite suddenly and once again I felt snapped in two. I felt she'd been snatched away from me. I felt cheated and angry and desperately hurt. I wasn't prepared then for the realities and harshness of life. it knocked me sideways and I dreaded every single day after that I would lose Lottie at any moment too.

That was six years ago but Lottie's feisty character and vitality lived on and on, never quite quelling the dread I felt but filling my life with many magical moments of comedy and companionship. What a fantastic little character she was.

But I knew the day was coming and I knew I couldn't hide from it. One day soon she would be gone.

She became ill several months ago and it was the beginning of the end but despite this I was going to ensure that her final days would be fantastic and she would have quality of life to the end. I did everything I could for her, and I suppose for me too but I also wondered whether I would be brave enough to know when her time had come.

A week ago she took a turn for the worse and I knew the day was galloping towards me. I felt like things were okay whilst I could do something, make things better, make her happy and she'd let me know that she was okay too. But now I'd run out of things I could do, I'd become helpless in the midst of inevitability and I already felt grief piled upon me.

And then I had a dream:-

I was at the bottom of a sea cliff with another rock climber. I climbed up the face to the top and then it was his turn to follow. Half way up his grip loosened and he fell off breaking the fingers on one of his hands. I lowered him on a rope to the bottom of the cliff and attempted to phone for an ambulance on my mobile phone, but I couldn't raise a signal.

I shouted down to him, "don't worry, I'll go and call for help! There's a building over there, they'll surely have a phone!"

I ran over the building and it was a large office full to the brimwith people working. I frantically went from desk to desk picking up each phone but I couldn't reach the emergency services. I was thwarted at every turn. I tried and tried and tried but it just wasn't going to happen. I could do no more for my friend, my attempts to help were now futile and the gradual realisation was upon me that it was time to give up and let it go.

When I woke up from the dream I knew what it meant, in fact I knew what it meant whilst I was dreaming it too. Lottie should not suffer more than she has to, it was time to let her go.

Today was the day I'd lose her, that day I had dreaded for six years. But I just knew it was time to say goodbye, it felt right, it felt necessary, I wasn't torn. Her spirit remained until the end and it was peaceful when she did go.

I had tried to imagine this day and the very thought of it made me sick to my stomach but now it was here an inner strength bubbled up from within me and I felt able to cope and to do the right thing. I found peace with the decision I'd made and I knew deep down it was right.

Of course I am sad and bereft but my unconscious mind had been working overtime and through all this I'd reached a point of acceptance. I wasn't to be tossed around in the hell of having my heart broken as I had before, this time I had a chance to come to terms with a little more of the realities of life, when before they would eat me alive. Without my rock looking out for my welfare I don't know how I would have come this far.

Within us all, us non-copers and the rest, an inner strength can appear when we need it. It makes subconscious decisions for us and carries us high on its shoulders exactly when we need it the most.

Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to tap into this inner force at other times too, when we aren't so painted into a corner. Building walls can be a necessary short term solution but you must dismantle them before they get too high. It's not healthy to go along otherwise. But then hindsight is a wonderful teacher, I can only hope I heed my own advice in the future.

I haven't made anything for quite a while and it was about time that I did. This is for you Lottie, I miss you but all ends are a beginning too.

And to the twonk who thought it necessary to drive his Subaru Imprezza WRX at over a ton through the lanes today. Don't worry, you can get penis enlargement surgery these days, I know I get emails about it all the time. And There's Viagra if you don't have the time.

And finally: Today's land art was brought to you by the words 'pretzel' and 'butterfly'.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jungle Leaf

Jungle Leaf by escher is still alive
Jungle Leaf, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Here's another excerpt from my Nepal trekking journal:-

I expect if you heard the sound of your own kid's noise, the way someone else without the built up tolerance might. Or you could fully appreciate and empathise with those who's peaceful idyll had just been disturbed, then you'd probably go stark-staring, cockle-bonkers mad.

So, dear reader, (always love to begin a paragraph with a so) I am writing this beneath a blue tin roof of the Dhampus Holiday Home trekkers lodge in the foothills in the Annapurna Himalaya in Nepal.

The last of the sun's rays lick at the cold glacial ice cream tumbling down the flanks of the impossibly pointy peak called Macchapuchre or 'Fishtail'.

If the professor of mountains from the mountain's guild and the head of the mountain university had got together to design a peak that would be the mountain to end all mountains, so that hills would have to skulk off in a sulk, then surely this would be it.

I am surprised it hasn't torn a hole in the sky. Its razor sharp edges would surely cut through and rip the most tightly woven oxygen molecules. It should be able to cut a line all the way around the earth as it spins, loosening the top of its scalp like a soft-boiled egg.

In the distance I can hear a farmer goad his oxen to continue their furrow and dig deeply into the parched soil. The shrill peep of an eagle pierces the air and the terraces cascade everywhere like endless staircases.

Truly Shangri-La, what could taint or spoil such tranquillity and wonder at the savage beauty of the mighty Himalaya.

Well how about eight children under the age of ten trekking with their half deaf, two pair parents. Screeching and fighting and running rings around me and my tranquillity.

Now don't get me wrong, I like children but I couldn't eat a whole one. Being a sensitive type, the abrupt transition from peace and quiet to screeching is just ever-so, a-little-bit jarring.

I have a tendency to offload any extra stress by whining. It can feel like I am bobbing along in a little rowing boat, oars up and prostrate, staring at the sky. When a speedboat full of squawking infants draws alongside and their wake fills my boat with unwelcome water and unless I bail furiously, I'm gonna sink without trace. To save myself from a watery demise I have to mutter under my breath “bloody parents, can't they not hear the noise their own children make? And at least ask them to quieten down a little?” But alas surely you'd go a particular nutty type of nut, that would get stuck between anyone's teeth if you really could take in their noise, full-force, unfiltered by the numbed brain of parenthood. And murdering your own children, though temporarily satisfying is probably not a great thing to do.

What's life about if it's not about doing what enthuses you. It matters not what it is as long as it drives you, it's the motivation that's the key.

For a good few months now land art has not been my thing. The drive it once saturated me with, boiled dry and evaporated into the ether. I didn't know where it initially came from and once it had gone, I didn't know where it went.

I only wanted to travel to wild places and be myself within them. Nothing inside of me wanted to commune and express nature through little sculptures at the mercy of the wind. I still felt the buzz for life and Mother nature but through other things, other activities and ideas. I was not cast out or stranded or lost just not artistic or motivated to create. But still I felt like part of my identity was missing. Did I care? Not really, but I did care that I didn't care.

I was left in a little quandary. Would it ever come back and if not what then?

Today a little of it came back and I wanted to make something once again. I didn't have the right tools or the time or opportunity to gather ample materials but I did have the most wonderful landscape in the world to gawp at and a whole gamut of of new plants and trees to feed my soul.

Most importantly of all I had that little flame lit within me and I wanted to feel the warmth of its flickering light. It is that that's all important, the rest is just fluff and nonsense.

Of all the tools I need to create something, it's that that sits at the top of the pile. The result might not be all that, out of practice and away from things and places I know. But whether the image is striking or not, I felt it inside.

Then again it might be gone again just as quickly as it re-arrived. Something else will drive me ever onwards and I may never make anything again. Or I may do nothing but, who knows?

But for today I created something and it made me happy just for today. And really that's enough until tomorrow. And tomorrow is just another day.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Annapurna Leaf Colour Discs

I've just come back from another fabulous trip to Nepal, some trekking, some chilling, some peace. She surely is my spiritual home and I was so very glad to visit her warmth once again. Whilst trekking in the Annapurna Himalaya I made some things next to the trail. Here's an excerpt from my journal on the day I made this little sculpture:-

Nepal isn't like anywhere else I've ever been. It seems to change me on the inside, it's not just the outside environs that are different.

Other places in the world have left my soul untouched. It's as though I've simply taken the me from home and travelled with it to a foreign land. I'm still the home 'me', stood somewhere else.

But Nepal is different, it seeps through my pores and changes me to what I should be. I feel at peace, confident and full of joy. My sensitivity becomes a blessing and never a chore. It's as though my sensitivity was designed to live in and appreciate the multi-faceted beauty of this place.

It is much more than the mountains, the landscape, the trails, the walking. It's the people, the magical encounters, the just about bloody everything. But most of all it's the way I can open my heart and soul and let all the world pour in. Without cynicism, without fear, without shyness, without worrying about difficult emotions and how I will handle them. Without the need to manufacture situations so I can sheild myself from things I can't cope with, all and everything that holds me back, makes my sensitivity difficult and taxing and sometimes the bane of my life. Here I am free, unleashed, filled with joy and happiness.

I can let my sensitivity fly free and grab onto every wonderful flower, tree or bird and to experience the rhythmic magic of simply placing one foot in front of the other. This is where I am meant to be , unshackled and home at last.

Now don't get me wrong. I have a rich and fulfilled time at home. But the mundanaties of life push spikily against my psyche and make some everyday tasks and relationships difficult. To feel every nuance can render you often vulnerable, confused and overwhelmed. Aching to hide from the world and to launch my vessel into the river of my own inner thoughts. That's why I love to cycle, to run, to walk, to climb and to create. The sublime lives within these things and I go looking for them to release my soul on a long leash and to let it stretch its legs for a while.

But being in Nepal is not simply a holiday, a break from those taxing minutiae of everyday life. I am not free of those things through simply being away, when I've travelled to somewhere in the States, Europe or South America I've brought a lot of those things with me.

But here I've stepped through the secret door in the back of the wardrobe into another me and another realm.

It's only when I'm here that I remember. It's only here when I am totally me once again. All those times when my innards soared skywards when climbing a snow covered mountain at home, when I've cycled to a long toiled for hill summit or lived the moment when a sculpture resonates, becomes vibrant and electric, when it is more than the sum of its parts. All those times join together with all the months I've spent in Nepal, connecting together all the sublime times in my life.

Another existence running in parallel, rich and diverse and perfect. Perhaps that's what Buddhist enlightenment feels like. Where you can ride the waves and ripples of life. It does not matter what happens, it only matters how it affects you. If the rough feels as important and as interesting as the smooth then maybe you've found the secret to how you should live your life.

I cannot manage to live in this enlightened way much of the time but I am so very grateful to have as much of it as I do. I hope to extend the length of these moments and tie the ends together with little knots in the strands of experience. And maybe one day I'll have a very long length of tightly woven cord, stretching from one side of my existence to the other and nothing, and everything will matter all at the same time.

Aside from how this place makes me feel it is brimful of brilliant in such a wonderful myriad of ways. Today was an experience of a thousand different treats.

We waited for the sun to warm us before shouldering packs and trudging into dense bamboo forest. We entered a deep gorge that is the gateway into the Annapurna Sanctuary and the trail cuts a path along the steep gorge walls like a wound.

Laim, Bamboo and Rhododendron forest dapple the light onto our faces and beneath our feet is a carpet of fallen coloured leaves while massive, savage peaks cut holes in the fabric of the sky.

Julia was a little way behind so I stopped awhile and sat on a warmed, sunlit stone. I collected up some red, orange and yellow leaves and cut circles around a five rupee coin. I stripped some sedge grass and pinned them on with Berberis thorns.

Unusually I could step off the trail here and pin my sculpture up in a tree. Normally the drop offs, either side of the trail, are so steep that you can touch the top of the trees. Nepal is so very corrugated and dramatic but not so good for setting up a little sculpture amongst the foliage. But here was perfect with plenty of room to pick a good spot with bright sunshine and plenty of contrast. Within a few minutes it was positioned and set against the dark trunk of a Rhododendron tree. The breeze swung the branch it was fixed to so I snapped away hoping for something good and sharp and clear.

My land art comes in thirds. Every third attempt just seems to click. All the elements combine just as I imagine they may do if I had had a plan in the first place.

A quick stop on a rock in the sunshine, surrounded by beautiful hued leaves. A quick circular route with scissors and a construction was soon created. Everything combined as I would want it. The place, the materials, the sunshine: click, it was all there.

So this was the third of the three and how I would want it to be. All the pieces fell into place without me really trying very hard.

If you live your life without expecting anything and then are happy with whatever life dishes up, then surely that's a better way to be. If you can conjure up that carefree existence, go with the flow and live from moment to moment it just seems to come together how you may have wanted it to if you'd spent any time wondering how you will want it to be. But the key seems to be not wasting any time pondering on what you would wish for and grasping gently and just letting everything be. Maybe not everything will be just how you would like it, but surely you'll settle for one in three!