November

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ready to release and renew

there is beauty in the most humble

even the dandelion longs to sing

This time of year is full of spirit, talk of the thin veil, acknowledging ancestors.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we are well into spring, and I’m focusing on renewal and finding beauty.

Blossoms are everywhere, scenting the air, delicate pale pink petals on my small apple tree. The weeds are doing their best to compete, bright yellow dandelion flowers shouting from the emerald grass.

This is such an intense time, saturated colour, and the startling speed of new growth.

The flax flowers are almost opening, and when they do, tui will circle the house, then land and feed.

And I’ve been reflecting on how I can release my work into the world. This year has had such a focus on the visual. I’ve been gifting paintings to my friends. My own little efforts to bring beauty into the world. My little blossoms in the wind …

shadow fire

a year ago today I said farewell
to my street child, my gypsy girl
my wild, fierce heart, my black queen

but in fact – she was never mine
she was always her own true self
a role model of feisty independence

she chose the best of times to cross over
and three weeks later she returned
to briefly burn

blue flame
shadow fire
spirit lightning

she stained my hands
indigo, alizarin, umber
she pushed my heart past fear and into passion
took me to the edge of obscured potential
of an essential choice

I felt the surge and flux
the rising breath
and leapt

©clairegriffin2018

October

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rain falls

each drop, a gift from sky to land

rests gently on the earth

 

A few thoughts…

This morning began with rain, the gentle rain that collects and settles on leaves.

The photos for this calendar were all taken last year. I took another photo this morning that was almost identical – a year apart in time, but connected by rain and light.

There’s little more to say, except that, in these strange times, remembering the gifts the earth gives us could help us remember the gifts we can give each other and ourselves – gentleness, kindness, patience, encouragement.

 

At first I thought that was all I had to say. I felt an emptiness. I could feel myself casting around for the right words… there are no “right words”. There is only whatever you feel the need to say. There is only the saying of whatever it is you are feeling.

I feel the same rage that rises in so many women around the world. Frustration with the inequalities in our societies, with the sense of entitlement that so many express. There’s a part of me that wants to join in the cries of “burn it down!”. I don’t want to feel helpless, I don’t want to feel afraid. I’m drawn to myths of Medusa and Kali and the Morrigan. And yet I feel the witch-wound stirring in my blood, and I wonder if I can be courageous.

All I know is that I have welcomed the crone into my body and soul … and she speaks now, the wise woman, the healer, the mystic.

There’s a part of me that needs to step back, and breathe. Standing barefoot on the cool wet ground this morning, I felt calm and quiet, connected to the rain and the light.

And now – the sun has is out. I bask in her warmth and the wet ground is drying. And there were words, after all.

 

a red house in a flat land

I come from a flat land, a long, flat valley.

A ridge of mountains and hills rises in the west.
A river works its way, as rivers do,
from those hills, across farmland, to the sea,
flooding when the rains are heavy, and the seas run high.

One long straight road runs the length of this plain,
from south to north,
passing through townships,
that spread out on either side.

This flat land, where trees are a feature, two storied houses a novelty.

what effect does this horizontal landscape have on the soul?
is the only way, up and out
or to dig deeper?

I was taken to a city surrounded by hills,
cushioned in their green embrace, some might say,
or restrained, contained,
depending on your point of view.

I had a friend who would leave town every chance she got,
driving up and over those hills
to the wide open spaces of yet another flat land,
where she felt she could breathe.

I would head to the coast,
and stand watching the sea stretching ahead to the horizon.
I’d hold my breath and imagine drifting away,
across impossible distances to invisible lands, Chile or Peru.

When I go home to the land of my father,
I travel south to north,
and I pass an old farm building,
just past the town I was born in.

Its been falling down for all the years that I’ve been driving past it,
clinging on to its place,
held up by weeds and lichen and rust,
keeping its head up, for the photographs of strangers.

A rarity with stairs going up to an empty landing and a second floor.
If I lived here, I could climb those stairs and watch the sunset
watch the clouds building up over the western hills
watch the traffic heading north and south.

Empty windows and collapsing walls
would make for a quick escape
but maybe these open spaces mean
you would never feel confined.

Now its for sale
along with its own expanse of flat land,
just over eight hectares.
I read that its known as “the red house”
built in the 1870s, an “icon” of the area.
Fame has reached its doorstep,
its hand is on the door.

As soon as its sold
I hope there’s a storm
I hope the wind and rain bring it down
before some shiny-shoed developer
has their way with it.

This old girl needs the dignity of being dismantled by the elements
not to be pushed over by some anonymous digger.
And I hope some builder of a tiny-house sneaks in,
and takes the wood to reuse in their own home,
reds and yellows to brighten their days.

what effect does this horizontal landscape have on the soul?
is the only way, up and out, or to dig deeper?

well, there’s room here to expand
a soul has room to see in all directions, to turn and breathe and stretch
to build its own way up, to reach for stars and clouds
to dig into the earth, to plant, and grow, and harvest
or to discover how to swim, as it flows south with the river to the sea

this flat land
its expansion all the way
in which ever direction
you need to follow

©clairegriffin2018

 

September

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the dark contracts

edges pull together, coalesce into beak and claw and feather

black energy takes form

 

These black beauties are making themselves known. They peck at the edges of the garden, throwing decaying leaves across the driveway. They peck in the guttering, throwing clumps of mucky sludge onto the deck. And they peck at my kitchen window.

Last weekend, there was a tapping at the window. I didn’t realise what it was at first, then one of the cats started looking out the window making that strange chattering, chirruping noise, and I thought, “ah – a bird”. A minute later the pecking noise came again, but I wasn’t quick enough to see who was there. And then – at a different window directly opposite me – a bird started tapping. It seemed to be almost hovering – head bobbing back and forward to tap the glass – wings outstretched. I stepped forward – it looked up, then flew away.

What was its message? Did it have one? Perhaps it was simply a curious youngster intrigued by its own reflection?

I don’t need to know.

What I love is the connection – the bird-world visiting.

And this day – this first day of spring – I feel the dark of winter withdrawing.

It condenses into seed and bud and bird – ready to release its energy into a bright new season.

 

learning to see

Its time I posted these thoughts.

I started writing this in June – and for some reason wasn’t sure about sharing. But its time now…

In the last few weeks of last year I went to a short series of art classes, deliberately choosing the option that would challenge me the most, drawing and painting.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never felt capable. Part of the problem is that I’d never learnt how. I’ve had a shocking tendency to think that if I can’t just naturally know how to do something straight away, then I’ll dismiss it by saying its not for me. (I know that this must be some form of self protection – but let’s not go there now…). And even when I have discovered something I’m good at, I haven’t kept working at it. Persevering hasn’t been a strength. Writing is probably the only thing I’ve really stuck at.

So – these art classes, about seven sessions – following the guidance of the tutor, his techniques, his encouragement, and sometimes, his direct acts of correction and teaching – it was a revelation.

I discovered I could draw – from a photo at least. I’m still working up to drawing from life.

So – the first session began with the instruction to try to draw the person sitting opposite. This is what I thought was a reasonable effort:

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What was I thinking?

Then later that session, following the guidance of the tutor, and working from a photograph, I managed this:

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And then the following weekend I did this drawing at home: (from a photo of Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen).

I was learning to look – learning to see.

During the next few sessions we explored different media and techniques, mixing colours, and I discovered the joy of painting with oil.

My elderly cat Frida died towards the end of the sessions. A week or so later, I went to the next class, and tried to engage with a couple of the photos provided as prompts for painting, but it felt as if it was forced, almost as if there was a rhythm I could sense but not connect with. So I restarted using my own photo of my girl – and if there is a “flow” then I fell deeply into it.

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I didn’t quite realise what I was doing until I heard a couple of “ooh”s and “aah”s from behind me. I stepped away and walked across the room – turning back – it was as if Frida was shining through the darkness. “Ghostly” was a word one or two others used.

I remember feeling quite spooked, quite stunned that I’d come close to her likeness, and that it had such an eerie quality. I was happy – but also in quite a strange state of mind – floating. To be honest, not really in a very focused state to start the 40 minute drive home. A near miss at a round-about shocked me into paying attention, and made me realise what a strange state I was in.

Can animals come through to us?

Can we channel their energy?

Was the thin veil still open, so I was in tune with her essence?

Did she come through to me, gifting me with an ability to see and create that I longed for but hadn’t known til now?

That’s how it felt. As if she had been present – and it wasn’t a “cat” presence. It was an energy, a pressure, a transference. As if there was more to her than I had realised when she was in cat form. And I haven’t stopped, I’ve kept working.

We got another cat. A sweet, nervy, anxious creature. I painted him that summer.

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This year, I started a painting of my friend’s dog. I wasn’t happy with the background, so I started another.

Just a few weeks ago I gave them both to her. And it felt good to release them into the world.

So – this is why there hasn’t been so much writing on here lately. This new passion has taken hold. And it feels like something I will persevere with. I know I’ll have days when I’ll feel as if its all rubbish and I should give up. But I’ve seen enough to know that this is something I can do – and I love it.

My goal – to keep learning – and to find a way to combine words and images – perhaps to have text as part of a painting.

Its going to keep me busy for a long time…