wow. Something happened today that almost NEVER happens. I scanned in a painting I wasn’t completely sold on and actually ended up liking the on screen version of it better than the actual painting. hmmm. Interesting, very very interesting. I’m thinking it’s probably the nature of the screen (being backlit, of course) Anyhoo…
Something has switched on inside me in the past three weeks and all I want to do is paint. I mean I am FULLY jazzed about it, 24 hours a day. I am bursting with ideas and the energy to try them out. I haven’t felt this way in… well, I don’t quite remember ever feeling this way. Maybe back in art school. Problem is that, of course, there are like 900 other things for me to do right now, none of them having to do with painting. sigh. But I’ve been carving out the time whenever I can (and stealing time from other areas of my life ie: laundry which explains why I am wearing the same sweater I have been wearing for the past three days. Same socks too) and just pushing the paint blobs around. Because I’m afraid if I don’t act on this energy now, it’s going to fizzle out entirely and I’ll miss the opportunity to get my inner artist on.
I have this plan to paint a representation of every month of the year. This is December. There may be another December in the works too, as this painting was not what i had pictured in my head at all. Rather, it was the picture that I felt I had to get rid of before I could do the “real” one. See, I have a major tendency toward overworking and over “decorating” everything I paint/illustrate and I’m trying to break that by using reverse psychology on myself and going full bore (boar?!) and completely indulging my tendencies instead of battling it, thinking that I can work it out of my system. It’s kinda backfiring though because while I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the results (I’m hovering around 72 percent on this one) , I’m having a BLAST painting this way, trying out new stuff (like I’ve never painted a horse before. I’ve drawn a couple, but never attempted painting one). so hmmmm… I dunno. Maybe I will just go on indulging myself and see where that leads.
so what do you think? I’m asking for honest feedback here. Please don’t just tell me it’s pretty. Tell me if you think it’s too juvenile, too overworked, too cliche. I can hack it. Promise. I really want to know what you think… and I don’t care if you’re an artist or know anything about illustration/art at all. I’ll give you my own thoughts about it after I hear yours. Here’s a detail (the actual painting is about 18 inches wide by 13 inches high and I had to scan it in in four parts and tile it together in photoshop. My kingdom for a huge flatbed scanner). It’s painted with acrylics on illustration board by the way and really cheap paintbrushes because I completely savage paintbrushes so there is no sense in buying the good ones!)
It’s been a long, fantastic, frenetic, unusual week for me and I’ve skittered from one thing to another, almost manic with excitement. I feel like a helium balloon with an untied end. I let go at the beginning of the week and have been spinning wildly, and now, out of gas, I am flopped lifelessly in a random corner. I’m not deflated exactly, but I am tired and need to refill. Good things loom on the horizon, shining opportunities, stuff that’s too early to talk about. Boring things too, stuff that needs to get taken care of… laundry for example. Piles and piles of laundry. Certainly, I am done talking and thinking about politics for awhile. It gives me a headache.
We’re getting our tree this weekend. Early for us, but I need it more this year, the twinkle of lights and scent of pine needles. I need candlelight and red red berries, clementines and a lazy day. That stuff.
Apologies to my American friends and readers, and those of you who live overseas… you’re likely completely oblivious that this morning, Canada is neck deep in a Constitutional crisis and none of this is gonna make much sense to you. And apologies in general to all… I usually try to avoid politics here, but you know? I built this soap box and I’m gonna stand on it. Because I’ve got something to say.
Dear fellow Canadians…
In less than an hour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to take a jaunt over to ask Governor General Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament so that he can avoid a vote of non-confidence (and I’m sorry, but I have to say this… a measure that HE himself provoked!) next Monday, a vote that will witness the fall of his Conservative minority government if it is allowed to progress.
The truth is that I’m not sure what to hope for here. I’m not sure what’s best for the country at this time of economic crisis. I’m not sure whether I want the Governor General to grant Harper his “time out” or whether I want her to turn to the majority government and offer them the chance to put forward their coalition. I’m twisting in the wind as I’m sure many of you are, unsure whether a coalition government will be able to steer us clear of economic disaster or whether it’s better just to swallow hard and stay the course. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place, on that we can all agree I’m sure. What I am clear about however – CRYSTAL clear about – is that the Conservative party (and Stephen Harper in particular) is deliberately muddying the waters here and feeding the Canadian public a whole special brand of twisted propaganda. And I’m afraid too many of you are buying it.
So time for a little Canadian Government 101.
1) We have a PARLIAMENTARY system of democracy here folks, not a Presidential system like they have in the States and further…
2) We did NOT elect the Prime Minister in the election on Oct.14th, we elected a Parliament. Our system does not allow us to directly elect the leader of the country. It only allows us to elect the representative in the specific riding in which we reside. That’s all. That’s it.
3) Stephen Harper’s government is a MINORITY government. 65 percent of Canadians voted for representatives from other parties, primarily the Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green parties.
4) The coalition government being proposed now is NOT a “Separatist” party as Harper has repeatedly characterized it, folks. It is a coalition between the Liberal and the NDP parties ONLY, with support from the Bloc on a few specific issues. Together, these are the MAJORITY parties currently sitting in our Parliament. The Bloc will have no more influence over our country and its unity then it did before.
5) The NDP-Liberal coalition government being put forward now is unusual, but fully and completely LEGAL within our Parliamentary system of government.
I have loads more I could say. I have many vehement opinions about this and about Stephen Harper in particular, and very few of those are positive. I understand that many of you, many of the people I love and treasure, hold completely different political views and I respect that. Further, I don’t really think voicing my decidedly left-leaning opinion is useful to my purpose here. My purpose is only to say this much:
We are in a very difficult time in our country and I’m sure we can all agree that we want what’s best for our Canada’s unity and economic strength. We want what’s best for our economic lives, for the protection of our families and livelihoods and freedoms. And we are incredibly blessed to reside in a strong and peaceful democratic country. Just, please! Please understand that we live under a parliamentary system of government and don’t be misled by the Prime Minister’s desperate (and one could argue irresponsible) distortions of this system and the completely legitimate option of a coalition government being but forth by the majority government.
Be smart, Canada. Listen carefully. Listen wisely. Don’t just blindly buy the rhetoric being spewed by all sides here. Our future depends on our ability to remain calm, united and open minded to all options. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping for the best, and wishing you all peace and love and the kind of Canada we deserve.
UPDATE: so the Governor General granted Stephen Harper’s wish and dissolved the Parliament. There will be no opposition coalition government and he will avoid the non-confidence vote. So now we get to wait to see what the Conservatives come back with in late January and hope that they opt to provide true economic stimulus and a real plan to guide us through these rocky economic times. I’m in total wait-and-see mode now.
I’m not a person easily moved by quotations, generally speaking. They smack too much of those hideously ubiquitous motivational posters you see hanging in the offices of P.R. people and car dealerships. But recently, I’ve been finding quotes with real resonance for me… this one in particular (via D. Sharp’s Practical Compendium of Random Things). I don’t know if you can read my scrawl clearly, but it is a quote from Edith Wharton:
In spite of illness, in spite of even the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual state of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways.
I like to think that I am. That I am insatiably curious and interested in big things. And I am indeed happy in small ways. Really, I am. I know my grief has sort of taken over this journal lately, but I still remain happy in small ways.
These eggs, for instance. They make me happy. I am obsessed with these eggs. I take pictures of them all the time… this particular brand. I tell myself I buy them because they are supposedly free run, ethically raised eggs, but the real truth is I buy them because I love the color of them, a gorgeous gradation, the shape, even the clear carton they come packaged in.
Mindful of the small ways, I’ve started a photo collection of my Flickr page click here of the extraordinary everyday things and tasks and moments which make me happy. And that pursuit alone, in its small way, is helping me defeat the archenemy sorrow.
P.S. Lizardek, you will find Finny aplenty on my Flickr site too!! here! go here!
P.P.S. there is snow on the ground here today and that is making me happy too. Happy in that first snow kind of way that makes me want to bake chocolate chip cookies.
I have been thinking that acceptance is like a fine silver chain that I put on myself every day and take off every night. Sometimes it catches on the first try, the tiny clasp opening right under my fumbling thumb and the other side sliding neatly into place. Sometimes, most of the time, it does not. There are tears of frustration, gritted teeth, multiple attempts, fingers dumb, chain slipping, fragile glimmers dangling round my collar bone. Sometimes looking in the mirror helps, sometimes it just flips things around, complicates the task.
Sometimes it catches quickly, securely, for two, three mornings running. And I think I’m on a streak, that I’ve got the knack of it now. And then I lose it.
I miss you, Mom. I love you. As constant as the moon.
You know, for someone whose job it is to design/illustrate stuff that promotes events, products and people …. I really sort of suck at self promotion. I don’t know why that is exactly, but my friends**, I have got to change that! Over the next couple of months, I’m really going to focus my energies on that. I’n hard at work now on creating a new portfolio, stocked with my (air quotes) new style (end air quotes) and I’m going to start featuring more of my design work too.
But today, I’m going to flog myself in book form. About a little over a year ago, Danny Gregory, a creative genius I’ve admired for years and years, asked me to participate in his new project An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers. The book is about to be released and can be pre-ordered from Amazon here. I was flattered and flabbergasted… and looking at this short film (click here) Danny made to promote the book, I am even more humbled and honored to be included with such incredible talent.
The book features the work of 50 artists of all walks of life, including big guns like James Jean and R.Crumb, plus pages from some of my lovely artist friends like Penelope Dullaghan, Rama Hughes, and Rama’s charming wife Christine Castro Hughes.
And if all THAT, doesn’t completely sell you on the book, perhaps my dulcet tones on this my first EVAH! podcast will. Warning: I was nervous and so my responses are uber-long and rambling as I am sadly wont to be. But endlessly fascinating, I assure you (ahem!). And Danny sounds like a smooth Jazz DJ and that’s a always a plus.
Yes! He did!!!
I’m trying. I really am. Every morning I get up. I brush my teeth. I put on my face. I frown at CNN. I tug on clothing. I drive Johnny Handsome to the train station. I get coffee from a drive thru window, every day vowing that next week I will start making coffee at home, will save both money and the environmental cost of going through a drive thru, drinking from a disposable cup. Every day I walk Finny. Every day I fall more in love with my dog, my park. Every day I tote up the lists of things I should have done eons ago and every day I fall more behind myself.
Every day I wonder where the time went. Every day I try to claw it back, claw it all back. There should have been more time. There is never enough time.
The park. It is where I feel closest to her, closest to the self I used to be, closer to the self I yearn to be now.
Every day there is some new marvel, some new reason to be grateful. The smell of fallen pine needles, crushing softly underfoot. The crimson bloom on a fallen apple, the way it contrasts against yellow leaves. Thirty blue jays, at least that many, startled at once, a blue squalling rush bursting from the autumn flamed brush. The light coming all sherbet colored through the leaves, palest pink and raspberry, tangerine and lemon. The tender ruin of ferns, curling upon themselves, bronzed with age and the summer now past.
I’m trying. I am. I’m trying as hard as I can.
At last… Autumn is here. The wolf and I have been enjoying long rambling walks thru old orchards heavily laden with apples. The goldenrod is thick and abundant these days and every day I note a deepening of hues, a ripening of color in the trees. That warm, earthy caramel smell is in the air now and pumpkin pie is becoming increasingly more appealing. I am besotted with deep merlot colors, with chartreuse and orange. I can’t wait for true sweater weather… it’s been cooler around here, but somewhat humid. I long for that crisp snap in the air. I take my camera everywhere. It’s been my favourite mode of expression lately.
I don’t seem to have a lot of words or wisdom to share just now, but I do have some photos. The Handsome Guy and I went to The Royal Botanical Gardens this weekend and took some snaps of odd and wonderful sculptural things…
There was a group of these extraordinary stick figures… a good 12 feet high… they looked like super models or other worldly warriors. Very Beetlejuice. We dubbed the one above Stella and the one below Gertie.
and I finally got my hair cut. I’ve been meaning to do it since May. She cut it a wee bit shorter than I wanted and sometimes it looks kinda weirdly matronly and other times it looks rather too manly or something, but it’s just hair, you know? It grows. If there is one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s not to sweat the small stuff. Below are some snaps of me and my evil twin taken with my webcam (I just discovered I could do that!) Doesn’t look too mumsy in these pix, but trust me, a little too much humidity and it all kinda scrunchs up into an uber-attractive round helmet.
In other news, have discovered Mad Men , the joy of drawing on manilla envelopes, that West Elm and Crate & Barrel are coming to Toronto, chocolate covered licorice and maple balsamic glazed parsnips (not together mind you). Am excited for tomorrow as the Farmer’s Market is open and America’s Next Top Model is on, offering me the opportunity to explore both my substantive and superficial sides. It’s all about dimensions, babies. All about balance.
it was a month ago today that she died. but it doesn’t feel like that. time has been suspended for me. it means nothing now. a day is a week, a week is a year, and all the things that happen in between are fleeting blurs, falling slowly toward the center, drifting like leaves.
I am shatters. I am fragments. I am bits and pieces that may never be knitted together whole again. or maybe they will. it is hard to say. I have been schizophrenic since the beginning of june. not literally, of course. what I mean is that at the beginning of june, when my Mom was first diagnosed, my rational self immediately divorced my emotional self and just went about the task of getting things done. getting the doctor’s appointments, looking at the CAT scans, hearing the news no one wants and disseminating it over the phone to everyone she loved, as gently and directly as possible. driving to the radiation appointments, finding someone to fit her for a wig when her hair fell out, finding fashionable head gear, trying to keep her fed. and later, holding her hand when she was beyond speaking, as she was dying, being there, letting go. Trying to be strong and capable when I felt anything but, when the center of my universe was dropping out.
And it has become a habit. I closed the door so firmly on all those frantic emotions that I don’t know how to see them any more. they come out when I am tired, when I am less than vigilant, when I don’t have 24 million other things to do or at least 3 other people and a dog on whom to focus intently. mornings are the worst, when I am first waking up and floundering between sleep and day. when I am not sure where I am, physically and emotionally. when I am not sure if she is still here or not. when my guard is down. when I am defenseless.
and sometimes it just leaks out. I’ll stop on the path to look at light in the leaves, and I’ll realize with a start that I am crying. that my grief has wrapped its hands around my throat and I am choking.
when I spell it out like this, it sounds so wholly tragic. it sounds so dramatic. it sounds as if I am a mess. and I am. except for the fact that I am not. I am standing. I am upright. I am moving through my days, I am getting things done. sometimes I laugh, out loud. sometimes I feel good. sometimes I feel secure and loved. And sometimes I just don’t.
it is just now beginning to feel real. it is just now that I look at the future yawning before me and see all the places in which she won’t be and feel the ache of that. I am getting tired now. I am truly exhausted. It’s hard to stay vigilant. It’s hard to keep the door closed. my memory is failing me. the past few months lie on the ground, glimmering, unconnected, but I can’t see them clearly. i misplace my keys, i misplace my coffee, my shoes, my words. i misplace my anger, i misplace my perspective.
And my emotional self is banging on the door. tentacles are sliding under the cracks, wagging at me. it’s drawing close to the time to open it up and confront it directly, i think, but I can’t find the key. I think I left it in the pocket of my other pants, the ones my pre-june self used to wear.
i have a phone number here for counseling services. I am reasonably sure that what I am feeling is entirely normal, but I want to be sure. For the first time in my life, I think, all I want is to be normal, all I want is to be just like every one else. I have no desire to be all original here. I want to be secure in the knowledge that this is the way it goes, that I will get thru this process intact.
And for the record, I am reasonably sure that I will get through this process intact. but I am absolutely certain that talking to someone professional about how to get thru to the other side is a good idea.
and I am afraid. I am afraid to put this out there. i am afraid you will think it’s maudlin. that you will recoil and retreat . but the one lesson I have learned through all of this is that the fear, the anticipation is worse than the actual event. it must always have been this way, but i didn’t have the courage to see that before. now I do.
there is nothing to be afraid of. there is only love.
I feel you here with me, Mom, constant as the sun, constant as the moon.
always and always yours, Melanie
On Sunday, August 17th, 2008, after a brief but courageous battle with lung cancer, my mother, Sonya Ford, passed peacefully in the arms of one of her best friends, Merilyn, and her beloved sister, Verna. She passed secure in the love of her family and friends.
John and I spent her last two nights with her and were with her until four hours before she passed. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. She IS beautiful.
I will love you always, Mom. Every breath I take, every moment of my life is as much yours as it is mine. I am so proud and so grateful to be your daughter.
With all my love, Melanie xo
p.s. It may be a good long while before I feel recovered enough to resume life on the internet. There are so many things to tend to just now and though I am doing as well as can expected, I am completely devastated as you can imagine. Please understand if I am slow to respond to email and condolences. I do remain utterly appreciative and am now more aware of the beauty and importance of friendship and family than ever before.
This is Shea, my parents’ Mahogany Sable Collie, and yes, he is aware of just how beautiful he is. This dog was born to be photographed, I swear. Just ask him. He loves to pose. He is like the Tyra Banks of the canine set. Swing the camera lens his direction and he immediately flops one ear tip down, holds the other one impossibly straight, knowing that it is this ear posture more than anything that makes him excruciatingly adorable. Then he’ll give you his elegant profile, the “noble beast” pose. He’s something, this dog. He’s a wonder.
Sending out the most positive, hopeful vibes for my mother this morning, and all the love and strength and courage I can muster. This is the day when better starts, Mom. Today we are turning a corner and things are going to start going our way. I just know it.