Saturday 18 February 2023

Living inside stories

I realized the other day, several weeks past the anniversary date, that I’ve been writing in this blog for ten years. 2013 to 2023. This was my very first entry. I had nothing to write about, but I had to write something just to begin. I then found things to write about, not because anything very exciting happened but because I started, well, writing.

By April 2018, I had been writing for 
5 years and that felt like a long time. And I suppose it was, encompassing two entire new lifetimes: AJ’s and Dani’s.

Now ten years on, there is a lot of learning and change documented here. It is not a straightforward narrative either: I may be becoming more of a mystery to myself and others, rather than the opposite. 

I’ve alternated between raw confessional writing, journaling and personal essays. But I think the blog is a success because it still feels alive to me. And maybe that’s because it’s none of those things all of the time. My life is not dramatic enough to make journaling or confessional writing consistently interesting. Thank goodness! I am NOT into drama. But writing a sort of never-ending-Christmas-newsletter where I get more respectable and admirable and successful with every passing year would also be an exhausting conceit. And untrue.

I experience life as a cycle of coming home and going into exile. Sometimes I think I have it together. Sometimes I fall apart in ways that astonish me. I try not to stress over it. The pattern suggests things will come together again, and kinda make even more sense than they previously did.

I had a wonderful conversation today with a wonderful friend where we talked about how we have both felt pride or relief at certain points in our lives because we had almost convinced everyone around us we were normal people. And then we laughed and laughed and laughed because of course we know we aren’t, and the laughter was like coming home.

Anyway, among other things I’ve started 2023 thinking about the kinds of stories I find myself telling and living in. This is not a new theme for the blog, as I started to think deliberately about such questions a while ago, while we were still considering fertility treatments: namely, what kind of stories am I being told and what stories do I want to tell my children? I still think about those questions, albeit not in the context of fertility.

AJ and I have been periodically reading an anthology I owned as a child, which has a lot of traditional fairy tales, as well as whatever was considered contemporary a few decades ago when it was published.

I spent hours reading this book as a child, and many stories I have read over and over. It is interesting to share them with AJ, starting with my favourite fairy tale, “The Wild Swans.” I like seeing her reactions to things that are odd or surprising. It is important to me that the girls experience the more traditional versions of fairy tales, though they have been re-invented and inverted countless times. I try to keep my commentary to a minimum.

I also have tried playing stories from the podcast In A Certain Kingdom for the girls on road trips. They were riveted!

I haven’t listened to any of the analysis yet: again I like to allow myself and others to experience something on our own terms before going into the other layers. I’m always curious if I can find a way to understand and relate even to my presumably different experience. My observations on these fairy tales?

  • Lots of repetition: everything is organized into in 3s. Each event happens 3 times: the first two with very similar outcomes and the third time with a twist. It is a bit odd till I remember stories used to be passed on orally and if nothing else this would make them easier to remember.
  • I have kind of a fixation on 3’s so this was amusing. 
  • Random life lessons I have picked up:
  •  if you meet a wild animal on your journey, don’t try to eat her babies, not even if you are really hungry. 
  • Let your sisters marry whom they want: they probably know what they are doing. 
  • Always get lots of sleep, even under extremely stressful conditions. Example: you are living with a witch and she is hoping to put your head on a stake that next morning. But have a good rest and most likely a critter will help you out the next day.
Music: I try to expose the kids (and myself) to a variety of music. I don’t mind pop music but it feels like a very narrow slice of human experience. I don’t force anything though. It interesting to see what they gravitate towards. Lately AJ has really liked The Cottars, a group of (formerly) teens and tweens that performed Celtic and some contemporary folk songs. I think AJ likes them in part because the voices sound somewhat like hers (she is taking voice lessons) and also the tunes are very easy to sing along to: strong, simple melodies and arrangements.

Finally, we are trying to plan more family vacations this year and the next one is going to be to a resort with fairy tale cabins! This is the one we booked for next month:

I’m very excited and looking forward to planning our trip as the world wakes up into spring, which always feels magical to me.

Life is interesting right now, and I find myself inclined to be playful, and curious, and to do serious things while not taking myself too seriously.  Sometimes you can’t see reality by trying to look at it from the outside: you must crawl (or fly) right in and inhabit it. 

Saturday 4 February 2023

Art of '23

This is the third time that each person in our family has created an original painting around the time of the New Year. I think I truly can call it a tradition now because it was AJ who reminded me this year.

Left: AJ, Right: Dani, Centre: Mr. Turtle

The girls, of course, create art constantly: any time is the best time. It is as natural as breathing to them. Mr. Turtle and I need to be more deliberate about it.

Previous years: 2021, 2022

I was the last to participate. The idea that came to me was to do something organic, abstract and inspired by ancient cultures. Sometime completely different from last year's attempted realism and symbolism.

I started by collecting a few images, specifically from Neolithic Ireland and Mesopotamia. But it was after reading the beautiful essay Time Unweaved by Flat Caps and Fatalism that I felt I was onto something.

My creation for 2023:

My workspace before I tidied up:

I started with a pencil sketch, but didn't particularly like my sketch, so I painted a texture over the pencil markings, mostly covering them. Then I painted my spirals, which was a lot of fun. As I was painting I was listening to my Ancient Mesopotamia lectures about the peoples of early civilization working with plaster, clay, bronze, copper and gold, and the colours I was drawn to echoed those materials. After working on the spirals, I noticed I could still faintly see some of my pencil drawings, so I painted in those designs here and there, and also added new ones.
"If time is a directionless field for the email worker, a forward arrow for the mill hand, and a turning circle for the peasant, then what is it to the people who know how to stay alive? Perhaps it is the spiral, of which there are many prehistoric examples in Yorkshire.

"The spiral has the rhythm of agricultural time without the lie that we can return to the same point. It has the movement of mechanical time without the lie that it has a direction. It has the all-encompassing field of flat time without the lie that nothing will change. Perhaps we can sing a spiral song with the world awhile." --FFatalism, Time Unweaved