Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is

"...the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace." 
Gaston Bachelard - The Poetics of Space 
I love parties but sometimes I feel overwhelmed and find myself hiding in the kitchen.  We held a party the other night and everyone was jammed in the kitchen at the very moment when I needed a few moments of escape.  So I took myself out onto the veranda and sat observing the party from outside.  Within, the house was glowing in candle light.  People were dancing, laughing and chatting in corners.  The huge timber bench in the centre of the kitchen was littered with assorted bottles, flowers and plates of food.  
Here was my home full of beautiful friends that I have known and loved for many years.  A home where my children are growing up, a home full of art works and old family furniture and the day to day chaos of family life.
But somehow, this home very seldom features in my dreams but I am sure that it will feature in the dreams of my children when they grow up.  
The homes that appear most frequently in my dreams are the farm near Cootamundra, called “Colebrook”, a boat called “Cicci” a house in Holdsworth St. and a flat in Edgecliff Rd.  These are the places that I lived with my parents and my sister and the places where many of my most potent childhood memories are housed.  
Memory is a slippery entity and many of mine are lost.  Something, no doubt, to do with my misspent youth.  But I can recall with incredible clarity every detail of these childhood homes.  The grain of the wooden furniture, the pattern of the linoleum, the smell and contents of cupboards, the position of artworks, the exact hue of paint colour on the walls, the implements and their correct storage places in the kitchen.  But more than this, I can recall emotions that I experienced in all of these rooms and the events that triggered them.  Joy, grief, frustration, guilt, impatience, boredom and excitement.  
I remember the rooms I was in when finishing certain books. The way the story could shift my understanding of the world.  I remember the images that came when I listened through headphones to certain records in my parents collection.  I remember sitting at the top of the stairs trying to listen in to adult conversations downstairs.  I remember certain powerful dreams that I would take downstairs to relate to my mother over breakfast.  So many things.
There is an incredible potency to recollections that are associated with home.  I think that home is indeed a place where we can feel safe and free to be ourself.  A place to daydream and stare into space without being teased.
One of my favorite recurring dreams is of a house that is unfamiliar to me but is apparently my home.  It is a kind of composite building that is somewhat derelict, very small and extremely cluttered.  I am walking through the rooms when I discover a door that I have never seen before.  Behind the door is a vast, empty room with an impossibly high ceiling.  I am astonished to find this room and thrilled to have an empty space to call my own.  I always glide around the room like an ice skater, reveling in this newly discovered space and freedom.  Finding this empty room always feels like I am being shown the enormity of my potential as a human being.  This dream is always a gift.
On a recent trip to the Netherlands and Italy, I retraced my steps and revisited a number of old, beloved friends.  In Holland I stayed with the M family who I have known since childhood.  I realised that somehow this place and those people all felt like home to me as well.  I understood that home can be found not only within the framework of architecture, but through the framework of love, history and connection.  
I have many homes, some in other continents, some from the past that live in dreams, some that are here and now and some that are people and not houses. Home is where the heart is and my heart has many homes.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Beauty Of Death - In memory of Gianni Ciofi Baffoni

“Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers
Raise their crowns to greet the dawn.
Look at the bride of Death standing like a column of light
Between my bed and the infinite;
Hold your breath and listen with me to the beckoning rustle of
Her white wings.”
The Beauty Of Death - Khalil Gibran
For some reason, death has been a recurring theme in my life.  I am glad to be able to say that it has not yet happened to me personally.  But it has, unfortunately, happened to many people that I have known and loved. 
 I am not sure why it is that some people can reach my age and not know a single person that has died.  As for me, I have run out of digits on which to count them.
In the past few months I have lost two very dear friends to the inevitable. There are moments (like last night, after hearing of the death of a third) where I wonder if it has something to do with me?  As if coming into contact with me lifts your chances of immanent death. Do I have some kind of death curse surrounding me?  
The sad but true fact of the matter is this:
People die.
They do it all the time.
According to the information written in the Population Reference Bureau's 2010 World Population Data Sheet, 108 people have been busy shuffling off their mortal coils in the time that it has taken me to construct this sentence (about one minute).  That is 156,000 in a day and a whopping 56.7 million in a year.  Why is it that we (particularly in the west) live in such daily denial of this fact?  
Another fact is that I love people.  I collect them.  All shapes, sizes, ages, genders and nationalities.  I can’t get enough of them.  I love their stories, the things that they do and the different ways that they do them. I can spend hours a day alone in my studio but I need to connect with others (hence this blog and my unashamed love of fb).  So, I know quite a few people and the above quoted figures would suggest that it is entirely possible that some of them will die before me.  
Of the many gifts that my dead friends have given me, the most precious of all is how they remind me of the beauty of being alive.  Because of this gift, I seem to be turning into a very ambitious person.  It is not so much about rising to the top of some career ladder or earning piles of wealth.  It is the ambition to shove as much as possible into this life (of unknown length) that I have been given.  I want to experience and feel and create and connect.  I hope that I can die OLD ( AROUND THE AGE OF 93, ALONGSIDE CLARE MCGREGOR IN OUR RESPECTIVE ROCKING CHAIRS) and have at least a few moments to reflect on a life that was completely and utterly FULL.  I have written those words in capitals just in case the powers that be happen to be reading this.
I both love and hate funerals and wakes.  I hate them because they indicate that another person that I love has died. I love them because they are so incredibly real.  At these events everyone present seems to become so beautifully vulnerable, open and connected.  Something utterly profound is shared.
Apparently there are people that are addicted to hanging around hospices because the atmosphere around death is so heightened and charged that it has a drug like effect.  If only this intoxicating gift, that is given to us through being in contact with death, could be longer lasting.  If only we were all able to experience in each moment, how very precious these moments of life actually are.  
So today, instead of wallowing in the self pity that I am sorely tempted to wallow in, I am going to send  a big shout out of thanks to my beloved dead friends and family.  I am so blessed and gratefull to have had you in my life and so lucky to have learned so much from your deaths.

With endless love and enormous thanks to:

Gianni... mi hai fatto piangere dalle risate anche quando non avevo idea di quello che dicevi.
Zia Lalla

Wherever you all may be now...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Dream Harvesting

I do all my best work when I am asleep
I say this because it sounds funny but also because it is true.  My night life once involved climbing out of my bedroom window to go clubbing at Paddo’s or Jamison Street but these days I roll my sleeves up and go to work.  
A large percentage of my best ideas seem to be generated in sleep.  For this reason, my children are never delivered to school in a calm, orderly fashion.  Lunches never seem to be made quite on time, nor shoes found.  Herding them into the car seems to invariably involve counting to five in a raised voice and plenty of unkempt hair.  I have been told that an alarm clock set at an earlier hour could resolve this issue but I have yet to try this approach to see if it actually works.
The first half hour after waking is crucial. It is prime time for the harvesting of ideas.  The time where I remember or re-dream my dreams, where I make sense of them and pick the meat off their bones.  An hour later they may evaporate back into the collective unconscious or wherever it is that dreams and ideas reside.  It is also at this time that dreams or the themes in them can be translated into something entirely different and then be later moved into the studio.
The peculiar breed of human that can bound out of bed pulsating with vibrant energy, has no idea what they are missing out on.  
I find it is best to keep my eyes closed for as long as possible on waking.  External visual stimulation will interfere with the procedure of harvesting. Sometimes it may be helpful to write things down but only after the internal processes are complete.
The space between dreaming and full wakefulness is utterly precious, full of gold material.  More structured and conditioned ways of thinking have not yet sunk their claws in.  The usual concerns of the day have not had a chance to stick their interfering noses in.  It is the time of day where pure inspiration can wander uncensored. 
It is a simple gift that I try give myself each day... pretending to be asleep when I am actually awake.  And I try to make it up to my kids in the afternoon.


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