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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

keeping a sharp eye out




"I want to be magic. I want to touch the heart of the world and make it smile. I want to be a friend of elves and live in a tree. Or under a hill. I want to marry a moonbeam and hear the stars sing. I don't want to pretend at magic anymore. I want to be magic.”


- Charles de Lint






“It's all a matter of paying attention, being awake in the present moment, and not expecting a huge payoff. The magic in this world seems to work in whispers and small kindnesses.”

- Charles de Lint






Maybe it's strange to say at this time of year, but I feel as though all the magic has been drained out of me. All the writing magic, the art making magic. Gone. Drained. Seeped. I also have this kind of stupid faith that it will return and so I keep going through the motions. I write in my journals. I take photographs.

Mostly though I'm looking for it in the work of others. My holiday reading, after Mansfield Park, has been The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I don't think I can talk about the book without swearing. I'll try. It's a great book. But a harrowing one. The descriptions of places - worth it alone for those. Vegas, New York, the room where one of the characters works on antique furniture - pure magic. But otherwise so much seedy awfulness. So well described. The book is long enough that you will feel you have lived this other life in the course of reading it. Which is art, yes? And then at the centre of the whole thing, a painting: The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. We saw this little gem a few years ago when we went to Amsterdam and took a train for the day to The Hague. I've had the postcard propped up on my bookshelf ever since.

You might feel that the next paragraphs contains spoilers. Not really. But just in case. Avert your eyes if you must.

Near the end of the book, the main character says/writes: "Because I don't care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome rewarding treat. Because here's the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence - of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do - is catastrophe." Says to forget all this "joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c..." stuff. But the fact of the entire book undercuts what he's saying, you know, or maybe gets at the co-existence of the simple blossom and the hell of living. And then he also says, because he has loved this painting of the goldfinch, "And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next." I'd read this last bit somewhere else, and it's what made me want to read the book, and I'm very glad I did. But holy.  If it weren't for the fact of the painting, hidden, but always there, all the way through...it would be a tough read. So.





In a certain way, I do agree. Life is catastrophe. It's crazy difficult in so many ways. Making friends, understanding what other people want or need from us, being strong enough to give, trying to make a living, working, the actual work.

Which is why we keep a sharp eye out for what is beautiful. For what sings, though flightless.




Which is why we try to keep making beautiful things, Rob his paintings, me my strange poem like things.




But lately, everything I try and make, turns out rather rubbish. From soup to cookies, from photos to poems, rubbish. Which is actually okay. It's made me sit still a bit more than usual. I'm listening keenly enough for the whispers, and noting all those kindnesses the world offers up, even so, in spite of, and regardless.




7 comments:

  1. Shawna, your rubbish is beauty and inspiration to me. I know you are going through a tough time, but your blog has sustained me, knowing that you continue to walk the walk and do the work even while the inner winter makes you doubt the spring, which will come with flowers from your soul.

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    1. Marie - you're lovely to say this. Thank you very much. I think these lulls are part of the creative process, so it's all good. I love the expression, inner winter. Thanks for that, too!

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  2. But your blog is so beautiful Shawna! Exquisite, eloquent, luminous and inspiring. I enjoy visiting it so much!

    As a writer too, I find those periods of 'rubbish making' (when everything I write I equate to stick-men drawings, basic scrawling scratches - arghhh!) are like incubating times for the real stuff, the great work. No great work would be produced without them. And although they do feel like fallow winter, as long as we keep going through them (rather than succumbing to their dark fathoms ie block), as Marie so beautifully puts it, we will find the spring. Once you have experienced the magic of creating as you say, I don't think you can ever really lose it.

    Wishing you lots of magic & creativity in the coming New Year! :)

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    1. Agree, and thank you! And wishing you magic, too, in all your lovely art making...

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  3. I don't know what more can be said beyond the comments above, but want you to know there's another person reading who feels similarly - who is inspired by your words and images and who understands that discouraging feeling of being uninspired for a time. I find magic in the photos, their progression from near to mid-range, and the quotes you chose from Tartt's book - so thanks for that.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your words. Very appreciated. And I think it's good to know we're not alone, that not everything is always perfect and flowing. Maybe it's this time of year..... :)

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  4. Rubbish? I think not . . . How magical are those pictures in the frosty air! Love them. And you.

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