understanding a painting – summer abstract 2020

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Shifting through Time

when you find yourself in front of a painting you don’t understand
stay there
stand still
wait
and look…

look for a shape you recognise
look for a colour you’ve worn
look for a line that could be part of your own name

search, imagine

if you scraped back a layer
what might lie beneath?

can you find the first time you fell in love?
can you find the first time you were afraid?
can you find the first layer of paint laid down when you were still in the womb?
your first word
your first step
your first act of defiance

search, imagine

when you find yourself standing in front of a painting you don’t understand
stay there
stand still
wait
and look

you are watching your own life unfold

 

This started out as a much different painting –
an attempt to convey a family separation that happened in my early years.
I wasn’t happy with the painting, it felt too contrived and stiff.
When I decided to paint it out and start again –
suddenly – with those two sweeps of white – it was as if I’d overwritten the past
and shifted into the present.
Strange how things work out …

The poem was written in April 2019 – some sort of foretelling going on there.

clairegriffin©2020

 

leucadendron

So this is why I’m not getting much writing done at the moment. My attention has shifted towards the visual and I’m working on painterly things. Learning materials and techniques and experimenting.

I remember someone telling me years ago that the first thing you create should be given away. I released this little beauty into the world last night. A golden gift for a golden anniversary.

March

cluster together

draw strength from each other

create something new

I’m always surprised at the way these little verses can be reinterpreted when I re-read them later in the year.

When I wrote this last December, I was thinking of friendship, creative partnerships, collaborative projects.

And then last night, I went to a golden wedding celebration. Celebrating the life of my father and his wife over 50 years of marriage, and the family they created together. I treasure their love and generosity in opening their family to include me.

And this morning I’m reflecting on the power of a stable family, the foundation it gives each new generation, the strength it gives each individual to become their own unique self while remaining part of something bigger. It’s a beautiful thing.

tea and memories

I’m so grateful for the time someone spent with me this afternoon – so patient – listening to my story – suggesting – clarifying – helping me to write my mihi – and more deeply – to connect with and claim my mihi as my own.

I came home – and stopped in front of this kawakawa bush – I was thinking about it yesterday and I knew the best thing would be to make tea from its leaves and let the past settle while I waited for it to steep.

I sit now with my tongue tingling along with my heart.

red and green

on my doorstep
a brown cardboard box
tied with string

standing in my kitchen
I cut the string
and open the box slowly
lifting away the paper inside

and all is red and green
and smooth and curved and fresh and ripe
skin and leaves
one long green crunch of cucumber
and balls of plump red juiciness

I lift one round red globe
and the sunlight bounces off the surface
five green fingers reach out from the stem
gestures of greeting in the quiet room
I hold it close and there’s the distinctive tang of tomato
the scent of a summer garden

and so much more
I see the hands that lifted each rosy globe
felt the weight and pressed thoughtfully on the skin
the hands that snapped the ripe fruit from the vine
the hands that nestled each one into this box
arranging and rearranging for the perfect fit
I see the hands tying the string
and checking all is secure
hands that reached for me
and held me as gently
as these tender fruits

all acceptance
and generosity
the hands of a gardener
growing love

©clairegriffin2017

fortress

I can carry my own inner child
I can protect and reassure
and love her

but I cannot carry yours as well
you need to heal your own child

you left her alone, crying
into the emptiness, waiting
to be heard, to be held in love

you erected barriers
to keep you both safe
but these kept everyone
at a distance

and now, no matter how much
attention she is given
she will not be
silenced

you are a fortress
harbouring a
crying child

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

And with this, in those last three line, I finally formed a metaphor to describe and explain the behaviour of someone once near to me. Moving past my own hurt and anger, I found something like understanding, almost compassion. But the fourth line holds true – I cannot hold someone else’s pain. I am not responsible for it, and I do not have the answers.

distance

there was always a distance

between us
a space I tried to cross
to reach you

I was alone
I sought your approval
thinking it was love

but now

I walk alone
crossing a bridge of my own making
to a place of my choosing

I don’t need you
to be on the other side

I am complete

© Claire Griffin 2016

This is the shortest edit I can make of a piece written in September. I find I am still processing the events and subsequent realisations from the end of last year. A massive emotional blow that led to the reassessment of a key person in my life and everything I thought I knew about my childhood.

I’ve been writing about these experiences over the last few months, and I hoped I had “dealt” with it all, but these thoughts keep surfacing.

So I hesitated to post this, yet another expression of my personal turmoil. When I shared this hesitation with a friend – she encouraged me to post saying “but you can put into words the things that others can’t – it helps others that you share your feelings” and then I remembered that I’ve always believed the deeply personal can be the most universal – so I trust that there will be something here to connect with.

And I’ll stop feeling I need to make excuses for them. These words are who I am, and who I am becoming. 

Still, while I’m tired of the darkness these pieces contain, writing my way through these feelings has released me, and I feel as though I am an adult at last, although I wish it hadn’t taken so long.

patience

stopped at the lights
I noticed a little girl
on the edge of a tantrum
all scowly face
and stampy legs
as she tested the boundaries
the struggle between autonomy
and safety

her mother talked calmly
over the curly head
to her own mother
but held the tiny hand throughout

by the time the lights changed to green
the little toddler legs were still
and a smile was edging out the frown

the patience of generations
guiding the energy of this tiny soul

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

figs

there is an old fig tree
at the back of the family garden
and at the end of a long hot summer
it is dripping with fruit

we picked figs today
ripe and soft
some we broke open
and ate
some fell to the ground
and burst

with sticky hands
we filled a bag in minutes
plenty left for the birds

we drank tea and talked
catching up on recent weeks
sharing stories, laughing
supporting each other’s dreams
without question

it took an hour and a half to drive home
and by then
the sky had clouded

I take time opening the bag
and arranging the figs
each one a precious harvest

I break one open

and sunlight fills the kitchen

© Claire Griffin 2016