Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Tibetan Book of the Deaf.

When I found that the missing song of the birds was not due to global warming but rather to increasing deafness on my part I knew that hearing aids were in my future.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bananas: the dangerous fruit?

This Spring when my one banana tree came out of its winter shelter I took an axe and chopped its root up into separate sprouting parts. It had set fruit last season and over the winter had begun to send up new young sprouts so it was time to begin a whole new banana grove. Now I have a crowd of saplings lining the path to my studio door and they have begun to whisper among themselves.

I have long known to be careful walking near the zucchini patch, they are such dangerous plants, - especially for children -, always waiting for the opportune moment to reach out and drag one under the leaves, kicking and screaming, but this whispering is unsettling too. The least breath of wind and the leaves slide against one another, a sibilant conversation. My cautious mind says, “Be on guard!”

Bananas are tropical plants. Near the equator is there common knowledge about banana dangers that I am missing here? Do people wander into banana groves never to return? Do workers advance in groups, machetes slashing from left to right? Is there danger pay?

These plants are young yet. Imagine being kneecapped! Ha, ha. But this whispering in the breeze is only the first indoctrination. One day whispers will become deeds.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cornucopia. The abundance.

Mid August and we have stated harvesting the abundance of vegetables and fruits from our garden. We eat well on salads in the heat of summer, pop warm plums, all dusky purple, directly into our mouths as we pass the orchard and Heather works hard to dry, can and freeze the first of the apple crop, the strawberries and raspberries. She is waist deep in the cornucopia of summer as she pours herself out to bring the harvest home.

How lucky we are to live a life so closely tied to the land and the seasons. In the midst of this it is natural to feel the relationship between the language of the spirit and the reality of our world to the point that all those divisions that religions love to draw between this life and the life of the spirit are artificial. At this level of participation in life there is no separation at all.

Cornucopia, the pouring out, is what life is all about. How many old grandmothers have said at the end, “I`m all use up.” They have poured their lives out in a steady stream for their families and communities and leave well content that this was truly what their lives were meant for.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Government Wharf.

All up and down this coast of B.C. boaters are familiar with the red railed wharfs. Built by the federal government down through the years to serve the needs of coastal communities who relied on the sea, they were either torn down or offloaded onto their communities several years ago. One never knows these days what state of repair they will be in when you come alongside to go ashore. The ones on Saltspring are in good repair and the other morning while waiting for the ferry across to Vancouver Island I took a stroll down the “Government Wharf’ at Vesuvius.

Last summer I tied up my rowing/sailing canoe ‘Tillikum’ and staggered ashore here. I was on a one day circumnavigation of Saltspring Island ( some 80 kilometers) and needed to phone home to let Heather know I was running late. I also desperately needed to exercise my legs which were cramping up. Then it was a hot September afternoon and I was feeling close to failing in my self appointed challenge. Today it is the cool early morning light of the beginning of summer and I`m feeling excited by the cast shadows of those red rails on the worn wooden steps.

That first photograph of rail shadows running diagonally down the steps sets the tone for all the others I take in that fifteen minutes as the ferry gets closer and closer to the nearby ferry dock. No broad vistas today, just tightly organized images of dock and water, rails and pilings. There is something poetic in this careful organizing of form and space. Just enough to tell this important thought that lies at the center of morning light on the Government wharf.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The shadow nose.

There are times when some flash of shape catches my eye and before I know it I have branched off from my main focus to bring that new idea out into the world. This time it was my shadow cast onto a slanting white panel by the morning sunlight streaming through the window of my studio. In itself not much, but as raw material for some graphic black and whites there was a lot of potential. It is awkward to take the photos while at the same time turning my head to show my profile, but a few moments later I have them ‘in the can’ and go back to the flower shots I was involved in before I was distracted.

I am slowly wading deeper into the complexities of my photo computer program these days and when the shadow images come up I begin to alter them. Darken, increase contrast and then begin to manipulate as the mood strikes me. Soon I have some images I like that have come a long way from the original raw photos.

Not so many months ago I scorned this extreme image manipulation but now, well, the sky is the limit. I have made the link back to the graphic printmaking that was my special interest way back in art school.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fiddle music

The violin squeaks and scratches as my wife Heather saws back and forth across the strings. It is twenty-five years since she last played and this new violin is calling on all her concentration. Her intent Scottish face with the instrument tucked under its chin is willing a fiddle tune out into the summer air. A jig or a reel, about ‘Black Donald`s pipes’.

Back a hundred and fifty years or so her ancestors walked west for days from the Red River across a sea of rolling grass, to claim land near Pilot Mound in southern Manitoba. Years before that their ancestors had been evicted from homes in the north of Scotland and ended up near Glasgow in ship building. When that ended too with the advent of steel ships these carpenters moved on to Ontario, and soon after that on to the frontier in the prairies. As they travelled, wherever they went, you can be sure that all their folk music travelled on with them in their minds, ears, feet and fingers. Now, a few generations later, it is finding its voice again.

That persistence of music, what`s carried in a tune, is elusive. It is not simply history or culture but something more integral, more elemental than that. Heather`s face, the stance of her body speaks of channels in the mind, of character, that the music is reinforcing. She persists, as her ancestors persisted and it is not at all certain that it is not the music that is expressing itself and that she is but the carrier, coming to fiddle music at last as though fated to give it audible life once more.