Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Maybe it is time for me to reclaim my blog as a somewhere a little less exposed. In the days and months after hearing about Jon's death i needed it as a space to air the feelings in me that were too powerful to be held in. I guess if i'd been surrounded by close connections who knew us as two together i might not have needed to howl so publicly but i wasn't; and in those first months of grief my self was so completely obliterated it has taken me this long to come to any kind of self composure. Now i am writing my grief in notebooks, old-fashioned pencil and paper have become my sanctuary; and sometimes i write him emails, which is mad because he won't get them, but writing the emails is different from writing in my notebook, and very different from writing in my blog, the emails are i guess the things i wish i could say to him, things i wish i could share, questions that will never be answered and also sometimes gripes (i would not have got away with those when he was living).
So that's the story of how i am continuing my grief journey as the shock waves spread and i find that i am still standing, still living and breathing and that the world has not stopped. There is pain and various difficult feelings to process but other matters press in and take my attention. Matters that concern me and/or other people. Matters that make clear that the river of life is still flowing, and time and tide stop for no man. 
At the beginning of the year i decided to take on the study of twelve fairy-tales/myths over the course of 2018 in part to distract me from the grief that then consumed me and in part to get myself back to my working practice. The fairy-tales are chosen at random out of a "hat" (actually a pin box filled with folded up titles) and so far i have worked on The Billy Goats Gruff, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves - these two i accidentally combined when i wrote Aladdin and the Forty Thieves on the spill of paper so February was split between them, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots and the Seal Bride. I am currently deep in thought, researching and making notes, written and drawn and mental, for The Handless Maiden. 
Because of my slip up in February i now have thirteen stories to work with, five of which are still unknown. My journey with each one has been very different. The first few months worth of notes are sketchy but I have a more connected body of work to be going on with for The Seal Bride, and managed to make ten linked images to illustrate and narrate the story of Puss In Boots from beginning to end. This taught me something about story telling, about beginnings and endings, and the bit in the middle.
I'm not saying any of the work i'm making is much to write home about but i am allowing ideas to flow, to pause, to flow again, to go backwards, forwards, upwards, downwards, sideways, letting the story seep into my bones, my being, my belonging. And because i choose a new story on the 1st of the month or more actually just before i go to bed on the last day of the month, i have a self imposed deadline which pushes me to work harder and to take the work i'm making to an end point even if that end is just a full stop. 
I tend to begin with a quick google search which throws up illustrations and blogs and to look at what Wikipedia says because it gives the background and the names of those who gave the story written form, and the when and where it stemmed from, often multiple locations. I also leaf through my own private collection of fairy tales for different versions. The Seal Bride and The Handless Maiden are both stories i have given head space and worked with before but all the others tho' known were less familiar. I was interested to read that during the period in which Perrault set down Puss in Boots the women in stories were notably dim and pretty and malleable because that was what was considered desirable then and there. I am not sure much has changed. The women in Aladdin and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves - the princess and the slave girl - are notably more sussed and sassy. 
At first using these "children's" stories gave me something to hold on to. A structure to lean into, a stable source of inspiration, stable but not inflexible, it is the nature of fairy tales that they bend to meet the reader, a story that has survived retelling over centuries will take on the quality of the story-teller and listener because to give a story body you have to inhabit it. 
This month is the month of The Handless Maiden and it has felt very uncomfortable. The handless maiden is a serious victim, she is betrayed by those who might be expected to care for her. The first betrayal leaves her quite disabled. As part of my connecting to this story i have tried to imagine a life without hands. As a shiatsu practitioner and artist my hands are my life, my being, my doing. Who would i be without them ? How would i live without them ? The vulnerability of that position is painful. Even eating is difficult. In one version of the story there is a moment when the maiden having lost her hands discovers an orchard and eats a hanging pear from a tree and thus is discovered. 
If you have a moment i recommend allowing yourself to imagine a life without hands. How would you live ? It's an other world, an other kind of being. Using the physical disability here allows me also to connect with the broken child, cast out, alone, betrayed by the father who pushed by sometimes the devil and sometimes the stepmother, was the villain who cut off her hands. The weak father is  common motif in fairy tales, see Hansel and Gretal or Cinderella for instance. The wicked stepmother too features often. Who are these people ? 
A motif is a figure that is easily identifiable either in ourselves or others. Likely we carry a box of scraps of many motifs. Some we love, some we love less. Looking at fairy stories is giving me insight into the stories i tell myself about myself and others. In my previous blogs, particularly in the months after Jon's death I spoke of his family. Called them out as monsters. Now this monster image is not one that they accept. I imagine that if i am given any place in their world it is as a monster too. So many monsters where do they come from ? Monsters are common, and some monsters are more monstrous than others.
The monster does exist; it is rage, it is fire, it is fight, it is flood, it is pestilence, it is denial, it is jealousy, it is greed, it is ugly and mean and violent, it is all that you do not want to be unless you are a monster. It is the devil. It is Donald Trump, or not Donald Trump if you are a Donald Trump supporter. For those who support Donald Trump he is a hero, a man who gives voice and license to feelings they have felt unable to express. Those feelings may be abhorrent to others but their existence is certain, and the strength of their existence seems to be growing. A thing which to me is alarming but to others is great .. "lets make America great again". What is great ? Is it strength or force or wealth or what ? Great could be humility, tenderness, care.
So i've been thinking about narratives and counter narratives and how the stories i/we create create the world in which i/we inhabit. And how there are times when a story no longer fits, like a garment that once was perfect but now is a little bit of a squeeze to get into. Or maybe a garment that never felt right. My mum used to make me wear red polo neck jumpers when i was a child and had my hair cut bowl shape, this was the identity she gave me, i don't know why, but it wasn't me and to this day i hate anything tight around my neck even necklaces and heavy scarves and i still don't love having my haircut tho i have a fantastic hairdresser and i like it once it's done. 
I am not knocking my mother for putting me in red polo necks, she didn't know i hated them, and probably most parents have dressed up their children in clothes they don't like. My middle one hated a pair of red trousers that i thought were great. And the waistcoat and cravat that he had to wear as a page-boy for his dad's wedding made him cry. This is part of life. And parents can be dumb when it comes to their kids because it is easy to forget that your children are not you and that their journey is their journey and not yours to dictate. 
In relationships that require long connection like parenting, partnering and child-ing we are inclined to create deeper and maybe more compromising narratives as a way of feeling safe. In this way the narratives can become entrenched to the detriment of all parties. I think that these relationships are surely the most difficult to break from. You may be good or you may be bad but if you have been given this role you can be sure that the stability of the social unit relies upon you being that. It can happen too in friendship circles but these are generally lighter and more fluid than family units. 
I am returning in this blog to the theme of identity which i addressed last year in my blog when i  presented myself as a piece of sculpture in the Waveney Sculpture Trail, i was told by a visitor then that what i was doing was dialogical art, art that inspires dialogue. It is interesting for me to go back there in my head, to what i was talking about. Jon's death knocked my world into another universe and my thinking before his death seems vain and vacuous. I don't know that it is less vain and vacuous now but it is met with new knowledge. The new knowledge is grief, the feeling that comes unbidden when someone you love wholeheartedly, the good and the bad of them, becomes a definite physical absence, when they can no longer reflect back at you the image they have of you, or you have of them, when your shared narrative becomes something you carry alone, when your living connection ceases.
Self-identity often carries with it a need to fix down other people.  Maybe this is something i am having to come up against as i recall my relationship with Jon and work out what it is that i want to keep and what i do not want to keep. Self-identity may be conscious or unconscious, how conscious or unconscious is up to each of us to decide now and with every breath we draw and who amongst us us is really conscious. 
Going back to the Trump supporters, or the Trump detractors for that matter. Those who identify with Trump may take some of what he says with a big dollop of "yes, that's me" but with that dollop of "yes, that's me" they may also have to swallow some "i'm not sure" or even some "i don't think this is right but for the yes that's me i'll take it". So it is that we take on compromises and every time we accept those compromises we bury a little bit more of our true selves. The Trump detractors are making similar decisions "no, not me" but maybe by demonising and externalising we, i include myself in this group, refuse to see that which is Trump-ish inside ourselves. My waste, my greed, my selfishness is not prettier than Trumps but if i put it all on him i do not have to deal with it. I am less bad and that makes me "good-er". 
See every time i eat cheap cheese or cream from the supermarket i know that my purchase has fed an industry that does not fit the self i want to be. And all the time i/we are taking similar decisions day in, day out. Mostly those decisions are hidden in a crowd, i buy cheese, you buy cheese, we all buy cheese (or palm oil, or food wrapped in plastic, or factory farmed meat or take flights or "need" the new phone or i-pad or whatever), we all buy cheese and there is safety in numbers. In fact those who stray from the crowd are often looked at askance, sometimes mocked and derided. However deviation can be a reclamation of personal power. 
One of the themes that runs through The Handless Maiden is her victimhood, more than once she is treated brutally and the subject of lies and malicious talk that force her into vulnerable exile. It is however not until she acts to save herself (her self in the form of one or sometimes two children) that she is able to make a life that is not so dependent on the goodwill of others. This act happens after she has been thrown out of the sanctuary she briefly found when she was rescued. Exiled and still handless the child that she carries on her back falls into a pool of water and without thinking she reaches for the child and miraculously her hands grow back. After this she is able to meet life as a whole person, the child who was brutalised and cast out and the rescued and then exiled maiden are behind her. Her circumstances may still be impoverished but she now meets them as a whole person able to make decisions of her own and not only the subject of other's will.   
It's no good looking at fairy tales too literally. Hands do not grow back. And for that matter the father's brutality and betrayal may not be so obvious or specific. And stepmothers can be lovely. What i am picking up on within this story is the need to take ownership of our lives and in doing so we meet in ourselves a capacity to grow and be something other than the role we may have had forced upon us previously, in childhood or later. 
I have meandered through this blog and i am trying to find an end point to draw the threads together so that i can tie a knot. I am still working with The Handless Maiden and my grief for Jon is ongoing and Donald Trump seems to be here to stay at least for a while so how do these three strands connect. And what of the story, the possibility of story, which i think is what i really wanted to blog about. 
I think it is story that is the connecting point. The Handless Maiden, Jon, Donald Trump are all stories. Donald Trump is part of a vast collective story and that story varies hugely according to who is telling it. Jon is part of my story, he is also part of a collective story, his family's story, our stories do cross but our crossing points lack grace and are not generous or gentle. Sadly that's how it sometimes goes, there are times when stories conflict. The story of The Handless Maiden, having come through centuries of story-telling and travelled far - from France to Italy to Japan in just my collection - has been distilled, there is variation but the essence of the story is pretty much as is. So it goes perhaps with stories that stand the test of time. 
Perhaps it will be ok for me to come back to a little note of sadness in me for a moment, tho maybe i am being self indulgent.  To come back to my own fairy story. One of the things that is painful to me is that when i die, all that i shared with Jon will die with me, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the awful ... i don't know what i can do about this, i feel a little helpless, maybe this is my handless maiden story, maybe i have to learn now how to reach out to save that which was born out of our union and in so doing regrow my hands and find my new independent self.  

Sunday, 13 May 2018

So, I seem to be on a blogging roll, or maybe i just need to get words out of me. I don't know if the words are of worth or not but sometimes just laying them out on a page allows my thoughts to fall into place, or, if not exactly into place, like in "52 card pick up" the act of flicking them out into space at least means they have a moment to fly. 
I've been overthinking, thinking and thinking and thinking, and sometimes that gets a thought to where it needs to be, and sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it gets a thought to where it needs to be but it feels like a long drive without rest-stops and that afterwards the mind is a bit shot and dull. I think maybe that's how i've been feeling. 
Sometimes i wonder if that's how i've always been, thinking, my brain always buzzing with ideas but not always good ideas or ideas that come to anything. And, because before i act on one idea the next pops up and then i'm off on that one, and when that one finds itself at a dead end or somewhere i don't want to be i have to back up and try to find my way back to where i was, or where i wanted to have been, or where it was that the idea or notion went off course or germinated but return is never quite return because the light is different, or the nose, or gathering. 
Today I took a day off thinking. Or rather i stopped trying to nudge or direct my thoughts and let them go where they will. I mean i do that, but i guess, of late, they have been focused on Jon, and then intentionally focused on something else so i don't think about Jon all the time, and then also sometimes other stuff will come up and that will take up my attention, but that gorgeous free flowing space that feels like flight hasn't really happened much of late. There was insane just after Jon died, and now maybe to counterbalance i find myself steering towards sensible reality, sensible is good, it is steady and functional, but where i like to be really is somewhere in between, arms held out wide to help me keep my balance and my feet carefully treading the centre line. 
One of the things with having been so nuts after Jon died is that then it's hard to gauge how sane you are later. Often people who seem super-sane on the outside can feel un-nerving, a bit Stepford,  sort of borderline psychotic in there normalcy. I mean who is normal, what is normal, normal is not the same thing for different people. And normal in the uk seems to depend upon fairly fixed circumstances, like running water, supermarkets, electricity etc take those away and most of us would be stripped back to an inner being which may be decidedly less cute unclothed.  
Yesterday morning i heard a folk singer, apologies i forget her name, being interviewed on radio 4. She spoke about touring with her family; with her parents, who were folk legends, and i think her brother; and how families have a way of relating that is absolutely normal to them, or perhaps more likely to which they are accustomed, but once you've been stuck on a tour bus for 6 months you forget how to relate to the real world and don't know how to talk to people. 
We've probably all been there, in other people's families observing, uncomfortable, working things out, this is their normal but maybe not yours and likely our own family is met similarly by outsiders. Worlds collide. Each one of us is living in our own little world that revolves around us and our way of being, doing, thinking. How we are, who we are may or may not feel absolutely right, or maybe it feels ok but there is some yearning that draws our focus away from our family. Another lover, or an alternative lifestyle that looks more exciting or less exciting than our own, something which seduces our senses away from the everyday get-on-with-it functional reality that is the lot of the living. 
This gets me back to reality, which is one of the things i wanted to blog about, because despite my decision not to think, thinking happens. Well, reality, and time, and i guess normal too are all elements that have strange edges. On the surface they can seem quite fixed, but look closer, begin to explore time, reality or normal, and it becomes obvious that these apparent boundaries can bend and stretch, become tight and constricted or counterwise open and extended. They are not definites except by consensus. And consensus is also not definite because a shift in the make up of the those who create the consensus can change the consensus.
I was thinking when i went for my walk on Jon's birthday how small a life is, how brief a life is on the grand scale that is time, how what seems of such great consequence is not really anything. Life feels easier when i feel small and insignificant. And yet on another level i was thinking yesterday as i was walking home from the art school library how being seen is also important. I think maybe the desire to be seen varies from person to person but that being totally unseen unless you have chosen that course is uncomfortable. I often think that if i could have a super-power being invisible would be a good super-power, but would it ? Would it actually be quite lonely ? And in many ways are all of us going about our day to day mostly as nobodies to the people we meet, therefore more or less unseen. Unseen except by those who love or care for us.
I've been blue-sy this week. This that and the other, stuff causing me sadness and anxiety, and feeling odd after visiting Bungay too, lonely maybe, or just unseen, un-met. Jon met something in me that i had not had met before, i guess it was something he reflected back at me that i didn't know existed until i knew him, and i miss the way he did that. And by the same token i also feel a bit frustrated that he has eaten the past six months of my life up, that sounds odd, i think i'm frustrated with myself for still loving him maybe for not picking myself up and getting on with things, for not moving on, for being slow and not brisk, but also frustrated with myself for losing the something that was special between us, like missing the beat in a dance class and then always being a step behind and unable to find my grace. I've always been terrible at counting. And choreographed lines. Terrible ? Well slow to pick up choreography and often off count. Maybe Jon was very good at leading the dance and so falling in to his rhythm gave me a false sense of my abilities.
And then later on yesterday i was thinking about time again. Thinking about jumping back in time to when Jon and i were good. And to just before he died when i had finished a busy summer and was feeling like i was waiting at the crossroads for something to happen something to guide my way, my "if" time. In hindsight I wonder if i was waiting. Waiting for Jon, not knowingly but deep inside, it is odd that two people noticed my hand oddly shaking in the week or so preceding his death, in fact the second time was the morning of the day he died. The shaking stopped after his death. Did i already say that in a previous blog ? Sometimes things happen and in hindsight they feel like they were more prescient than was realised at the time. 
What if all those moments are all still happening, are still ongoing, all of them, as if they are one moment, even the moments that contradict. So there is Jon alive and well and showing me the flowers in his garden, or smiling and catching me in his arms as i walk through the door of his house, and offering me a cup of tea, eyes light and kind, or maybe i'm in a time before we knew each other, as a young mum, or way back in my childhood, playing in the sandpit, or learning to ride my bicycle, or picking blackberries and then i'm picking blackberries with Jon and making blackberry and apple jam, or crumble, or later after he'd left picking blackberries to dye cloth with. and all those times are one and the same because time is very long and a lifetime is very short so why make so much of it. 
And what if there are other realities. It's a balancing act living between alternative realities. There is the concrete reality which it is helpful to hold on to, concrete reality is accessed through the senses, i see, i hear, i smell, i feel by touch, i feel bodily, i taste.  And then there is less concrete reality that allows us to know that what happened before was once real and tho' it now exists as a back space on a linear scale it is still accessible in the now and still has some ties to concrete reality because the memories are often founded in sensual  and/or emotional experience. And there is the future which is unknown but made real in dreams and projected hopes or fears. Death is a bit of a gate crasher into that party because death steals the dead from the future, their place in the future no longer exists, they may be there but as an ethereal being which is all very nice but not the same as an arm around you or whatever, it easy in grief to wander the path of "if", it's quite a labyrinth, but it's a step out of concrete time, space, reality, it's a sweet, and sometimes a resting sanctuary for a sore heart/mind/body, but it is no way to live. A wraith's existence.
In life there's a fair whack of "suck it up" it doesn't come to everyone in equal measures. We meet ourselves in moments of great joy and great disappointment. In winning and losing. We find the company that keeps us going, we find the company that takes us down, we learn who to trust, who to not trust, who cares, who doesn't. Suck-it-up situations ask us to pick ourselves up, sometimes a helping hand, or guiding hand, makes all the difference. Alone we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable alone in triumph or defeat, and knowing ourselves to be part of one big body system allows us to play a socially co-operative part in the construct that is life. Life is bigger than us. Life is not birth to death it is birth and death, before and after, and all that is. 
I suppose that reality and time both feel quite infinite to me. How can infinite be quite infinite ? I mean infinite is infinite the quite defines the level to which i feel able to take them without totally losing the plot and finding my feet have lost the ground and that i am floating into outer space with only my imagination for company. 
Normal is maybe infinite too but perhaps normal goes inward, or maybe that's just how it feels to me, that normal reins in the imagination demands physical definition, that physicality is cellular, or particle, interaction and as the cells/particles become smaller the inside of infinite becomes apparent. Normal is sweet and comfortable, it sits in habit, but too much sweet and comfortable, too much habit, makes both mind and body flabby and slow. Too much normal can lead to sense of confinement which i guess varies according to how much the normal you are living suits/fits you. So again it's about finding a balance. 
And those balances are ongoing. All the balances are ongoing. The shifts and changes that happen to a lesser or greater extent have to be taken in and assimilated, or allowed to pass, understanding comes with time and practice, it doesn't stay the same because new layers, new stories, new narratives , new understanding supersedes the old. 
Sometimes i wonder what life is all about. I think what the hell am i here for ?  Much of life hurts. And then i think that life just is. That life is about life. That life is life. That it is all ongoing. And that whilst some hurts some too is pure light and brilliant and beautiful and that if the hurt is the sacrifice i make for the bliss it is  a bargain well made.  
I think that lives come together sometimes momentarily and sometimes for longer. That we are made up of scraps of moments, that life is those scraps of moments, each life a scrap of moment. I think maybe that life in the short term is  perhaps about what we do, but maybe more importantly that it is how we do it, how lives touch each other, that what we leave when our bodies part this world is the impression we left, the way we marked our journey through life, the presence we left. 
I wonder if the present is infinite and if maybe our presence too if infinite, if our presence is the air we breathe, in, out, the air we share. I think maybe air is life. 
I always struggle to know how to close my blogs. I guess if my blog was just a journal i'd stop wherever and it would make no odds. But because i put them out it means other people may read them and i want to finish them better than i do. It is something i need to learn. How to stop. In the mean time i will have to end with my threads still trailing. Maybe it is not until all those threads are caught up or cut that the end is finally met. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Yesterday, May 8th, was Jon's birthday. He would have been 51. I emailed him in the morning. There is no point in emailing him, no-one receives those emails but it's a slight connection to the man i loved, as a lover and then later as a devoted friend. 
The sun was shining and i had decided over the weekend to mark his birth date by treading some of the paths we used to tread together, reflecting and negotiating with the ongoing sadness that is mine since his death. Negotiating with death is an odd conversation. Someone dies, their material form no longer exists except perhaps in their possessions or objects connected to them whilst they were alive or places where memories were made. 
The memories count for most i think. It seems that i was able to scourge many of my bitter memories of Jon before visiting Gozo. While there i was able to reconnect to the life we had that was beautiful, the beautiful in him, in me and in us. That was a holy relief and since returning has been a source of spiritual uplift. 
There's regret in me that he isn't able to hear the glorious birdsong that this May has offered but it is met by memories of listening to birdsong in his arms, in my home and his and in various holiday cottage bedrooms. And the same as i walk in sunshine, on streets or green pathways, i know that once upon a time he was beside me, holding my hand, looking at the flowers and the butterflies and other bugs, enjoying life. 
I cannot change his physical absence, it is what it is. His death has in some ways allowed me to recall him with all the love i felt for him in our first few years when it felt like the honeymoon would never end. When you break up from a lover it is best not to give too much time to those memories because it makes the loss of the loved one harder to accept. In death it is different, the lines of conflict no longer exist, i no longer need to protect myself from further hurt and now he is dead the demons that took hold of our relationship have retreated and no longer threaten my wellbeing in quite the same way. 
For his birthday I took my usual bus. I walked past his house, his home, the home we shared for six years and took the path up the hill to the field that he took me to the first night that i slept over at his. I'll admit to a few tears. I loved him. I wish, of course, that he was still alive even with the pain his living being hung around my neck. But there it is he isn't and that's life. Death is going to hit us all sometime. And even if we'd lived happily ever after for forty years one or other of us would have had to go first most likely. 
I walked over the field to the road that leads to where the black dog still lives, old and slow and more portly now, still barking but not so game to greet or harass. Then took the short path that connects the road to the wide concrete strips that i assume are ancient war relic aerodrome tracks. There were buzzards flying in the bright-bright blue sky, and skylarks, and i stopped to watch a female orange tip on the short purple flower that Jon and i always forgot the name of and looked up in books after our walks. A bugloss maybe, i don't know i haven't looked it up. The sun was hot, the shadows sharp. I thought what is the point of marking the birthday of someone who is dead. I mean they are dead so they no longer have a birthday, who knows, if they have been reborn they may even already have a new birthday. But still a birthday is a calendared mark, maybe Jon's is more important to his blood family who generally took it on with a gathering from which i was excluded after the first year. 
After a while of walking i got to the tree that was one of our walk markers and sat and smoked a roll-up, and ate an apple, and thought about the fella, and the life we had together, and was thankful for the time i knew him even tho' it was not long. Then back past his house again, to my bus stop, enjoying the apple blossom and the ducklings and the horse in the paddock that let me stroke it's nose and forehead. All very soothing. Of course it's still sorrowful. I'm mourning. But my mourning has softened lately. I have a feeling that i will always miss the sweetness of him, but since Gozo that has returned to me as days and days and days of memories and nights of memories too it feels a bit as if he is with me anyway. Not in a creepy way, just as a kind of benign spirit holding me upright when i am finding life difficult, lonesome or sad. 
So there it goes. Jon's birthday and i hope it won't seem too silly that i marked the day or that i've blogged it but as my blog is kind of my journal it seems to make sense because Jon was important to me, he was important just because he existed and i loved him, and in all truth he remains important because he existed and i loved him, his death hasn't changed that. I think love transcends death. It does not cease but changes to accommodate the new circumstance.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

More dreams. A dream about whales and water, and a dream about being late for a maths exam and an adopted baby. My unconscious is clearly asserting itself. In the first dream i was looking out to sea over a cold harbour wall, somewhere close to the arctic circle, in the distance a head popped up, a seal, all eyes and whiskers, then, closer to, a young orca came into the harbour and was swimming, playing, suddenly a great tail emerges and I am nearly caught in it's down thrust as a sperm whale rises up into the air and then plummets back into the water and swims back out to the ocean beyond. A hunter, a man, wants to kill the whale, he kills the orca and hides in it's skin with a gun waiting to kill the bigger whale, he craves the meat of the whale. I only want ice-cream, but the ices the vendor sells are strange, just blocks of flavoured ice with things floating in the ice. I settle for one with pecans in it. Lord only knows what this dream means. 
And then later in the night, after a dream i remember having but of which i can recall no details, i am in another dream, at school as a teenager/young person, i have an exam to sit but i go home first and my neighbours have just adopted a baby just born, we are thinking about the baby and i am late for my exam. Again the meaning is unclear. 
Dreams are a visual pleasure, a living cinema. I have been thinking much about fairy tales since the beginning of the year. A personal project that has allowed me to focus on something other than Jon's death. Before studying my long held desire was to illustrate fairy tales which are a passion of mine. And after Jon's death i had an image of a book in my head, my head was so lodged in the wilderness at that time i do not know if the image came to me when i was awake or asleep but it has stuck. Recently my calling has been to return to the realm of faerie to take that journey and to see where it leads. My frustration is that i am fairly awful at drawing, that the pictures i have in my head when i try to put them to paper come out weak and loose. 
I know that this is often how things start, that first steps can be discouraging and it is at this point that I am wont to give up, to go back to safer territory, places that i know, where i feel more secure. But what is security if it holds me back from where/who i want to be ? A tether. A prison. A known. But is the known really more fixed than the unknown ? And stepping into the unknown creates a chance to know more. And what, if not knowing more, am i here for ?
So here it is. If, over the next few months i post lame scribbles as i try to illustrate the fairy tales i grew up with and have collected for the whole of my life, please be kind, please know that i am trying, please know that if my footsteps meander, are tentative, or leave negative imprint they are no more than any other "hero/heroine" stepping out from their safe space. 
Since January I have read and researched and doodled work on The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Aladdin's Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Theives, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. There are five because for February i accidentally wrote down Aladdin and the Forty Theives which meant i had two stories in that month. 
Today I begin with Puss in Boots. Thus far my exploration into these stories has been both art play and meditative. The meditations are paths into the deep that afford me access to my own relationship to the characters, the places, the happenings. By building a relationship with the tale within i am finding out how i meet the beast in me, or the beauty, what i am feeling when i sell my voice to the sea witch in return for legs and the chance to love and be loved by the prince I have given my heart to, I have met with the clever slave-girl who saves Ali Baba, and the princess in Aladdin who also by using her wit saves both herself and Aladdin, and considered the troll and the goats in The Billy Goats Gruff, and the bridge that parts the goats from the field of their dreams. 
Having just spent two months with fairy tales in which the main protagonist is female it will be interesting to take to the road with a male character and his side kick. Is the side kick the male character or is it the cat ? After a day spent yesterday with my good friend, artist and illustrator  Janet Cranness, looking at her work I am setting out on this month's story filled with inspiration and ideas about how to make work that is more finished. I don't know if i will accomplish that but i will try, and i will keep trying because trying is one step forward and one step forward leads to the next step forward and who knows where those steps will lead.      

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Last night i had a dream. I dreamed i was in my garden. I was in my garden and my garden was flowering as it is now, all cow parsley and cherry blossom, and honesty, and bluebells and forget-me-nots, it was coloured white, and purple-pink, and blue, and green, green, green. There was darkness in the dream, perhaps night falling or a storm cloud passing over. I am me, but i am also a younger me, a me with a baby, my third and my two older children are children as they were when my youngest was born. And my mother is there as she is now. And two police women. The police women are benign figures, comforters not disciplinarians, they are there to help. One is more distant, but one is talking to me, trying to understand some deep problem that i am trying to unearth. They are talking about depression. I cannot get past my words, after a while fall silent. When words cease to be useful communication they are not worth uttering. The police woman asks if she should talk to my mother to hear her story. The problem seems to go back to when my older two were very small and i was left alone to fend for us and we really did not come out of that situation unscathed. My younger one knowing no other life was less disturbed but my daughter and i learned feral ways, survival instincts that perhaps no longer serve us but which are ingrained in our being, as marks and stains and scabs and scars and still open wounds and ticks that we are barely aware of. But all is not bad. While the police woman talks to my mother, and the other is stood closer to the house by the lilac tree, which is covered in unopened flower, determining from a distance and held in a patch of light, I go further up my garden with my two older children and we begin digging around a rose bush that Jon and i planted. We are digging the rose bush up, not to kill it but to tend to it. As we dig we discover new buds forming on the roots, masses of of deep red sprouting shoots signifying new life and abundance. This is where the dream closes. 
Dreams, i think, are born out of felt knowledge, knowledge that is obscured and ambiguous. They rise like steam from a cauldron of soup emitting mixed scents that act as sensual guides. I had a dream the night before last too, that dream was not like steam. Some dreams are meant to be recalled and some lurk as dark ghosts. The dream i had the night before last was more disturbing. I dreamed i heard an intruder, the cellar door being opened. I dreamed i was frightened and went downstairs. When I went downstairs i could hear people in my garden and see the light of a fire, i was scared of the people and did not want to confront them for being in my garden, drinking beer and lighting fires and talking in loud aggressive tones, taking ownership of my space, i did not want them to see me, i went back upstairs and made myself wake up and go back to sleep. That dream felt like opening a jar of darkness and fear and waking up was like quickly closing the lid, was an "i don't want to know, i cannot stomach that yet" 
Listening to someone else's dreams is rarely as interesting to the listener as it is to the teller because the teller has the back story and the listener is given too much and not enough. Apologies, I am guessing that reading dreams is much the same but i am going to allow myself to wallow in self absorption and speak of a month of dreams i had last summer. 
If you've read my blog for a while, and i'm not really assuming anyone does, or that anyone gets much beyond the first couple of lines before they drift off to more interesting things. But if you do then you'll maybe recall my month of being a sculpture at the Waveney River Sculpture Trail last year. This was a change of foot for me, a new way of making art, of creating dialogue about art. It was also a coming into being, my being, a natural passage, but not an expected one, from the piece i had made for Cley '17 that I called Love is a Long Road, in which i tried to depict my experience of unconditional love, of loving unconditionally and allowing myself, maybe for the first time, to love myself without conditions, to love my self as a whole rather than cherry picking the acceptable bits and refusing to acknowledge my flaws, my fails, my ugly, allowing myself to see them and understand that i too am imperfect and yet still maybe lovable. Trust me, give this a try it is really hard to love yourself unconditionally. 
Strange things happened over the summer. of 2017. They maybe didn't feel so odd until after Jon's death but afterwards they have haunted me. Peculiar connections were made and creatures crossed my path or made impact, different creatures, a humming bird hawk moth, a swift, a hare. Forgive me if I am giving too much weight to common occurrence. My relationship with Jon had a  fairy tale quality and encounters with creatures are significant in fairy tales. As are certain encounters with people. And there were dreams that summer too. I cannot remember the story dreams, maybe i blogged them maybe i didn't, but what i can remember is night after night waking up to banging on my door, thinking "it's Jon at my door", it wasn't Jon, it wasn't anyone, it was me dreaming that Jon was banging on my door, i put it down to wishful thinking then. I wonder now if it was deeper runnel of quantum energy, a secret flow that ran between us whether we wanted it to or not. 
Over last summer, from April in fact, i had made myself give up on Jon. He had a new (maybe not so new) companion and I figured she would be better able to build a relationship with him if  his stupid ex was out of the way. I was a bit jealous. And he was being nasty about her, and to me, and goading me to fight. I didn't want to fight with him, i loved him. And i thought that if what made him happy was drinking and sleeping with women he claimed not to care about then maybe i had to let go and let him be happy. To back off, to withdraw. I actually paid myself not to make contact with him, like you'd bribe a child to be good with stars on a chart, or how you might give up smoking by putting coins in a jar every time you don't have a fag when you want one, i was aware that on some level i was hooked on Jon. 
Another peculiar thing that happened was discovering that a stranger-friend on facebook, a blogger i used to follow, was actually the partner of Jon's ex-wife. That was a very odd moment i wondered if he had known who i was but just because i read someone's blog doesn't mean they read mine so likely our closer-than-comfortable connection was unknown to both of us until that time. It was another fairy tale twist. I wonder if they told Jon that I had said he was the love of my life and that every day without him was pain. I doubt it somehow. The blogger told me to "move on" his words still echo through my head. 
I'm talking about Jon and maybe it seems like after visiting his grave in Gozo i should now wrap up, say nothing, let go, move on. And moving on isn't a choice. Moving on is inevitable. Layers of life accrue. Initially coming home from Gozo i felt as if i'd tied up some loose ends. Arriving in Malta airport i hit up against hard rock emotions, regret, pain, ifs, and this continued for several days until the day that we went to see Jon's grave and the village he lived in for the last few years of his life. After that i was curiously more at peace. I wasn't sure if the grave i'd given flowers to was his grave as it had no headstone and it was conceivable that his family had given me the wrong "address" but i said goodbye anyway to the man i loved and saying goodbye seemed to help. 
We stayed in Xlendi which was the place Jon had holidayed in just before we broke up. Our choice of residence had been determined by price and chance, but staying there allowed a circle to close. Jon had asked me to come with him but my focus was on my degree. I thought, wrongly, that we'd have plenty of time after. 
I wondered when we arrived if i had gone with him in 2013 if things would have turned out differently, if in a new space we would have recovered our well being, who knows it wasn't what happened and reality was something our brief trip allowed me to encounter. The reality of Jon's death, the reality of physical rather than imagined existence. Walking paths and streets that i knew from his emails that Jon had walked, in Xlendi, in Victoria, and Xaghra and also Ramla Bay afforded me a glimpse of the life we might have had, the life he actually had and how far imagination falls short. To hear the birds and the bees and the sea, to see the flowers and butterflies and quick lizards, to feel the warmth of the sun and talk to locals, to meet the light, and the sound of the wind and thunder and lightening and rain, to try living a little as Jon would have lived, initially as a holiday maker, then as a new arrival full of expectation, and then later still as an inhabitant was too much experience to crowd in to one week. And no one knows what another experiences, shared experience offers connection. But this was something Jon denied me. Maybe that denial was a kindness. I came home from Gozo feeling like i'd found a part of me i'd lost years ago, a piece of me that maybe Jon had kept safe for me by taking it away, a piece of me i found with him, in his company when we were beautiful together. Going to Gozo to see Jon's grave opened up a treasure chest of memories. I will never see him or speak to him again and that hurts but i was lucky to have the time i did with him. And maybe his leaving was the only way those memories could be held intact.   
Also, and this is perhaps something i should have begun my blog with, going to Gozo made me feel loved and thankful. Firstly to my daughter who took time out of her life to be with me and make sure i was ok, she was kind and patient and super organised and got us from one place to another with very little fuss, i am quite timid and a bit flittery and delicate, her sure-footedness was much appreciated. Also my lovely ex-husband drove us at the crack of dawn to Gatwick and picked us up just after the rush-hour from Heathrow. And my youngest son looked after my cat. And my mum paid for our air fares which were more expensive than i'd hoped and she didn't even wince when i told her the price. And friends who have troubles of their own messaged me to wish me well. Kindness makes a big difference.
Perhaps this is some of the new growth on the roots of the rose.  I love many people. I loved Jon, i still love him, but i also love Archie, and Jessamy, and my sons, Richard and Amis, and my grandchildren Luca and Elidi, and one love does not preclude other love. And love, i think, helps the world to keep spinning. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

All of this time I've been talking about a man who has no face. So i thought i would give the name a face. This was taken in the last year we were together 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

April 1st, Easter Sunday ... it is still dark outside. This is a day i've been dreading. It is a day of anniversaries. April 1st is when Jon and I got together. And it was on Easter Sunday last year that our relationship finally broke beyond repair. I think this may be a dark blog. Although i may refer to events that happened before Jon left me my aim is to focus on the four years when we were apart, sometimes unconnected and sometimes not. It may offer explanation for why i am grieving so hard. A grief that often seems foolish and incomprehensible even to me and i'm living it. 
Here just for a moment i'll flick back into our time together as lovers and say that from the beginning of 2010 our relationship became incrementally worse, 60% good, 50%, 40%, until by 2013 when Jon left it was really at best a mean 10%. I held to that 10% he held to the 90% bad i think and that determined the outcome of our relationship. 
In 2013 when we broke up, it could easily be said and seen that we were flogging an almost dead horse. My hope was that after i graduated we would spend time together playing after years of intense work, that we would soften into our successes, his and mine, give ourselves time to hang out, hang loose, i felt that the world was our oyster, that we could work through our problems, make new memories (jam for the cupboard), and so and so on into a benign old age that would see us glowing and happy at the end of a long and fulfilled life. My hopes were played against his reason, things had gone wrong, it was not worth fixing, it was better to bail and get a brand new life. Was he wrong ? No. My hopes were fantasy, romantic and dreamy, they required work to make them come good, but without that work they would never have come to anything. His reasons were valid, our relationship was awful at this point, if we had gone to Gozo together our problems would have surely come with us. There was no escaping the reality our relationship needed work and determination to survive. I wanted to give it time and space in the sunshine, he wanted time and space in the sunshine but he wanted it without me in the picture. 
The fact is a relationship is a mutual agreement and if one party does not want to be with the other it's a pretty much done deal. This is a dance we are all engaged in all the time, with everyone, at work, at home, in our everyday lives, to a greater or less extent depending on how close we are to those we are dancing with.
So there we are, Jon's reason trumped my hope and he left in a blaze of virtuous glory, off to a new more glamorous and exciting life. I too had a brand new life because all my hopes and dreams and plans had been taken from me, i too was starting anew but not out of choice.
At first i was like a bird whose cage door is open but who quietly sits starving on the floor unable to take the freedom it has been given. I didn't know what to do. For a while i was furious and behaved very badly. I wrote emails, raging, yearning, pretending i was fine. I sent some emails, no doubt as deranged as the ones i sent Jon, to his family. Of course I wish i hadn't, they didn't reply, i was Jon's godawful lunatic ex that he was well rid of. I didn't understand. I didn't understand anything. Jon's departure from my life had wrenched my heart from it's bearings. I didn't care what his family thought of me. I wanted him/them to see me. I couldn't stand the awful cool superiority any more. I imagine it just made his family feel more cooly superior. This is a hard thing to say, but looking back Jon's leaving could be seen as an act of kindness. He let me go.  
He let me go, and yet he didn't. His response to my crazy fuck-mess weirdness was magnanimous, his new happiness vindicated his decision, "you are the love of my life" he said "but things hadn't worked out". I, in my heat, thought "damn you, if i am the love of your life and you are the love of mine, why aren't we together loving each other". I wanted to know that all the other women in his life had been called the love of his life so that then i could discard the notion, put it in the box marked "empty words". Who knows what the truth behind those words was, maybe one day i'll meet one of his ex-partners and they'll say "oh yes, he said that to me too, it's just a string along phrase he threw out to keep his options open". 
And so and so and so on. I drive myself mad with my round and round thoughts. I don't really know where i'm going now. There are parts of the four years when Jon and i were apart where our stories do not link. Our lives went their separate ways. I know my life but the details of his that i know are few and sketchy. I know that at some point between our parting and our reconnecting he began to drink again. I don't know when it became problem drinking but i'm guessing it was a fair time before he and i reconnected in 2015 because he was hospitalised not long after we began a fragile exploratory friendship by email in early summer that year. I think he had injured his foot which had stopped him walking, he said that his girlfriend had wanted too much commitment, his sister in law said that his girlfriend had not been able to cope with his drinking. None of that belongs to me, it is his life with another woman. But suffice it to say by the time Jon and I "re-met" he was not well. 
I had continued to email Jon while he and i were out of contact but he had not answered and so i assumed that my emails went straight to his junk, or that he had a new email address. I don't know when he stopped responding maybe around autumn 2014 when i briefly was kind of seeing someone, kind of not really, walking and kissing and touching and eating together, a thing, but not a thing which lasted maybe a couple of months. Jon had informed me that he was seeing someone new the summer before which had put a full stop and a capital letter on to the end of our lives together. We were both moving on, as you do, as you have to. 
But in the summer of 2015 i was burgled and Jon was one of the first people i messaged. And he got back to me. Almost immediately. At first i didn't know what to do about his emails. For so long he'd been out of my life, and i'd begun picking up the pieces. I loved him still but i was scared. I was at that point volunteering with a support group for recovering addicts led by a gentle and generous woman who in lieu of wages got her volunteers on to a host of courses about addiction. This learning was eye-opening, i'd gone into my relationship with Jon in a state of innocence. When he'd told me about his past life i took him as tabla rasa, a blank page, not realising that the rest of his life was written on the back and sometimes the pen had been pressed so hard it had forced it's ways through to the front. So it is with everyone but to a greater or lesser extent the marks on the back of us make more or less of a difference to our life ongoing. I had not taken into account how Jon's life before me as a drinker, an alcoholic, would affect all the other relationships he had that were important. Naive to be sure. 
Back to the moment his name appeared in my inbox. I was grieving him. After i was burgled one of the things that i struggled with most was finding, a day or so later, the bundle of love notes he'd given me scattered and tumbled out of a draw that the burglar had rummaged through. That and the loss of my dad's camera made me feel sad everything else was replaceable. But there in my inbox was the name "Jon H" it brought me out in a muck sweat. 
I didn't open it immediately, fear and longing wrestled within me. I had spent two years getting over him. Earlier in the year I had submitted a proposal to the curator of the Waveney River Sculpture Trail for a piece of work that had taken me back to the early days of our love affair, making the piece had involved me re-treading the footpaths and life that we had shared. I was still in love with him. But I was also deeply wounded. Did i want to reconnect with the man who had left me so callously two years ago. In the end love got the better of me. I opened his email and so began the next stage of our knowing each other. 
He made no mention of his drinking at this point, i think he thought he could hide it. But just weeks after he fell down in the street and was taken to hospital. I emailed his sister-in-law to let her know. They didn't know. She got back to me told me he'd been ill, ill how ? drinking again, and so i found out.  
So that was the deal. Jon was in hospital for a few days, i think he then discharged himself, decided to go to Venice, asked me to meet him there. I wasn't going to go to Venice to meet a drunk ex who had dumped me without care even if i did still love him. That he thought I would pick up the threads with him just like that as if nothing had happened is a sign of how out of kilter with reason his mind had become. And anyway my son Richard was once again off to foreign lands, Singapore for two years, i was making the most of his last days in relative proximity, and also the WRST was up and running and i wanted to keep an eye on my work to make sure it stayed good and to watch how it weathered. He had built a new life, and i too had built a new life. 
Jon went to Venice, and came back very shortly because he got bored. We emailed. We emailed more. He made a will. Went to his barbers to get his hair cut. After his death an old colleague said that he'd said we were back together, we weren't we were just emailing but the intensity of our feelings for each other was still apparent. Our relationship had picked up, but how was still ambiguous, i asked him to come to England to meet me for coffee, for a walk, i knew my family would hate it but we had unfinished business, i was offering friendship, my trust had been broken, i loved him, i wanted him still, but i was wary, very wary, and needed him to meet me in my space. 
Over that summer i'm guessing he was drinking but maybe picked up a little, we emailed regularly, did we speak on the phone ? i'm not sure, it was still all quite tentative on my part, i was there for him but i needed to know he was there for me too. By autumn i think we were likely emailing most days. Both of us often up in the small hours of the morning we would check in with each other, we'd talk about life and love, it was flirty and sweet, there was old tenderness and new tenderness too. Our relationship at this point was still rooted in our love affair. There were times we'd argue i remember  but distance meant that our fights were more quickly resolved,  his silences were not so commanding, and his spite more easily repudiated and what could he do that was worse than leaving me and taking up with another woman ? 
I remember Jon as someone physically well. We never saw each other after he left. In my head he is still the man who left me, strong, handsome, lordly. He sent me a photograph of himself that summer, well two in fact, a selfie of him in his mirror, face obscured by the camera but wearing shorts and looking ok tho' in shadow. The other, he sent while he was in Venice, it was a picture of him on his balcony with a chameleon on his shoulder gazing lovingly at someone, not me, i didn't look at that picture long, I didn't want to see it. I thought it was probably taken by his last girlfriend and was their affair and not mine. Later when my friend David took pictures of me i didn't send those to Jon, not the good ones or the ones where i'm gurning or looking fat. My relationship with David was as friends not lovers but Jon was funny about our friendship. He was cross about me going for walks and visiting churches with David. I thought he had a cheek being jealous quite frankly. 
But I skip forward. There must have been a point in our re-acquaintance when we re-connected as something more than ex-lovers catching up. That he was drinking was clear, we had occasional phone calls that year 2015 when his speech would be slurred, and sometimes his emails were obviously the hand of a drunk, mis-spelt, mis-worded, sexually gross. I had known Jon as someone very careful, sober his spirit when dark erred towards mean-ness, drunk it became base but also sometimes i'd catch a glimpse of the light that i'd known when we were first together. Lux lucet in tenebris. It was this light i sought to reflect back at him. It was a dangerous game perhaps to have entered into but not one that i thought about. Our relationship was rooted in our love affair, that we talked about sex was not weird it was part of our knowing each other, it wasn't the focus, i would flip him pictures and songs and articles, names of bloggers i liked, we talked about books, films, life, walking, art, poetry, Jon was very clever. I'd tell him about going to the library he started going to his library and i think this was a life saver for him. And our relationship became a meeting of minds, in a way it became deeper than it had been before, without the softness of shared physical experience, touch, taste, sound, sight, smell, we were forced into an etheric connection, a meeting of consciousness if you will. We merged as we had when we were lovers but our merging was spiritual, he'd been my soul mate before and that soul bond became more entwined. I gave him my light, he gave me his darkness. Sometimes i gave him my darkness and he gave me his light. 
All this time he was drinking heavily, he said that he was living on vodka and milk. We emailed every day, quite often i emailed several times a day, not long emails, images more often not, not stuff that required a reply just nudges to let him know that someone was thinking about him and cared if he was alive or dead. Later after his hospitalisation in 2016 he said that my emails had kept him going, that otherwise he'd have had no human contact, and likely be dead, he said he was eternally grateful but Jon's eternally grateful never did last long. 
After his hospitalisation he seemed to plateau. He was still drinking, sometimes a lot, but he seemed to be out of his hole. I knew that the last hospitalisation had come after he'd given up drinking cold turkey, and i knew from the courses i'd done that he could easily have died and that he hadn't had been a lucky chance. After his death i read the term kindling which is used to describe the effect of these near misses, each time they happen the nervous system gets more broken and the chances of survival slimmer. Dark matter. 
But there, so Jon did survive that hospitalisation, that was the one where his family told me not to bother them again and that it was up to him to stop. I had thought that if only we could have pulled together and got him into rehab i could have got him long distance walking to take his mind off things, maybe that was my saviour complex kicking in. Maybe Jon needed and wanted to die, maybe he had stopped coping with life. He said when he left me that we couldn't fight our demons, i was cross with him about that i thought "i'm fighting my demons lets fight off our demons together" but maybe he knew that his had got him and that he needed to leave life as he he had led his life prior to our knowing each other drinking and sleeping with women who gave him no mental distress. 
I'm diary-ing. Am i being very boring ? I think i may be. But I'm getting out of me that which i am no longer able to carry, or carry alone, releasing by recording, and in so doing giving space in my being to life after Jon. There is no way i can set down the whole of the ten years we knew each other or put on a page the intensity of our connection, the page would burst into flame. But the little i set out may one day serve me as a memory jogger when the life we shared is trod over, invisible and overlaid by new experience.
I had begun this blog with the intention of taking it up to Easter Sunday last year which is when we lost contact again. But I realise that the events that led up to our losing contact are still too close for me to give form to. I suppose in all truth i am thinking of the year and half before he died really, from his hospitalisation in 2016 to Easter Sunday 2017 and then to his death later that year on October 11th. I have three unopened emails from Jon. One from Easter and two from about a month before he died. And an unheard voicemail on my phone. The emails sit ticking in the folder marked Jon, buried under the mountains of emails i have sent him after his death and the emails i made myself not send him and so sent to myself in the months between Easter and the time i knew he was dead. Will i ever read them ? will my regrets and my sadness ever be soft enough to let me witness the last few scraps of time he gave me ? The email from Easter is likely to be unkind. The two from the month before he died charming and sweet, tho' I cannot be sure of that. All of them will hurt i think. I have a feeling that one day i will hear the voicemail by accident and that it will drop me to my knees. RIP Jon. RIP Fella.  

It is gone 11am now