Friday, June 26, 2015

Poem: I Bumped Into Myself

I bumped into myself just the other day,
I said 'Hey! Remember me? Let's hook up, let's play!
Let's get down and dirty, like we did before we grew up, turned thirty...

You looked at me blank-faced,
'Don't you recognise me?' I said, 'We used to be mates...?'
Have you got so busy that you can't return my call?
Have you moved up in the world, forgot you knew me at all?

We used to just sit in the garden together,
Dig in the sandpit, look for snails or a feather.
Breathe in the stillness, enjoy the passing of time,
notice the details, the hidden sublime.

'I'm still here waiting' I said, 'I won't hold a grudge,
You can tell me everything, I promise, I won't gossip or judge.'
Let's pick up where we left off, our big plans and grand ideas.
No limits or expectations, no hesitation, no fears.

When we lived in the moment, without thought or care,
Remember teenage abandon - when life life was a dare?
When you raged at the ocean and played in the moonlight,
Built campfires and castles and fought the good fight. 

I hate to insult you, but you're not getting younger,
Surely you can't have forgotten the things that piqued at your hunger?
Would you take me seriously if I dressed up in black?
Carried a sceptre and jumped on your back?

Relax! That's a joke, I don't mean to get heavy,
But whatever - I'll take it - get passionate - get angry.
Don't lie down and take it, you need to fight for a bit,
Sometimes you have to punch harder or you'll get smacked up and hit. 

You might turn your head but I'll always be here,
Hidden away in your mind with the things that you fear...
I see all the things that you do, with compassion,
I love you whether you're in or out of fashion.

I'm the you that was here before you were born,
The Consciousness Collective who turned up at dawn.
Let's get back to the moment 
                   when we had nothing to do,
Back when I was just me and you - just you.

Thanks for the inspiration from several Tarot spreads, deep and meaningfuls 
with meaningful people and Russell Brand's excellent book 'Revolution'. Viva la revolution!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thought + Smile = Joy

I had decided that I really wanted to visit a gallery while I was in New York. That's what I had done in my teens - travel and visit art galleries. In the long time since I'd taken a trip I'd kind of forgotten who I was, who the essential me was, the person whose brain wasn't constantly full of other people's schedules and commitments and shopping lists and chores...

I remembered that I had enjoyed something about visiting art galleries - well, I must have, hadn't I? I'd had a whole wall covered with postcards, mementos of famous works of art from all the galleries I'd visited. So I must have liked going, or I wouldn't have kept on doing it, over and over again.

Maybe, I was hoping, if I visited a gallery I'd remember something important about myself - the person who I had been, before I'd had to put other people's needs before my own. Back when there was only me to think about - selfish, indulgent, only me.

But - before I could visit the gallery I had to run it past the friends I was travelling with. Not that they'd object of course, visiting a world famous gallery was probably something they wanted to do too, because that's what tourists did, and they were tourists.

Probably, you think that I am a tourist as well, after all, I'm a person visiting from another country. I have a bag and a camera and a subway map, although I try not to take it out in public, nor do I take 'selfies' in front of monuments and fountains and main streets like my friends do, and yes it is true that for the past week I've been to all the tourist places - standing in hot queues, paying exorbitant prices, listening to monotone dialogue descriptions of buildings and history and water towers until I could nearly scream...

So, today was my choice and I wanted to go to a gallery - not to be a tourist, but to remember something important. Something I was afraid I'd lost.

Choosing the right gallery was important, and in New York, population of over 8 million people, one of the largest conglomerations of humans living on the planet, there was a lot of choice.

People are thinking creatures, creating art is how humans revere and reflect the world around them - visiting a gallery is like launching yourself into a time capsule of thought. It can be pleasant like Michelangelo's study of the nude 'David', or indulgent like Monet's water lilies, he painted the same subject over 250 times exploring light and colour. It can be evocative like Vincent Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' or emotive like Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'.

One thing I knew, I didn't want a stuffy gallery, I didn't have time for landscapes and portraits, no matter how exquisite. I needed a jolt, I needed to hook myself up to the maximum volt of critical thinking capacity. I needed the MoMA. 

Some people question what modern art is all about. They often see only the simplicity and miss the importance of what it is - the execution of an idea. Done well, modern art gives you a nudge, shakes beliefs, shatters preconceptions. It critiques the norm and questions established rules of society. Great artwork, like a novel or film yanks you out of your headspace and lifts you out of the quagmire of everyday thoughts. And hopefully, when it's done all that, it reminds us of a grander vision, a broader perception, the elegance of life we forgot for a bit.

"I don't get the point of these," my friend says as we stumble into the MoMa and come face to face with Andy Warhol's iconic screen prints of Marilyn Monroe, "So what?" My brain fumbles its way back to high school art classes, I explain Pop Art was a reflection of 60s culture - Andy Warhol was poking fun at emerging commercialism, mass-production and the rise of celebrity. The rooms are packed with people, taking photos with their smart phones of Campbell's soup cans.

It occurs to me that an artist's style reflects their temperament in the same way clothing mirrors a person's personality or home reflects a lifestyle. No wonder Andy Warhol is so popular - he's so bright and fun, colourful and avant-garde. Brett Whitely injects heroin chic, Jackson Pollock a chaotic struggle, he struggled with bi-polar and died at 44, drunk at the wheel.

My friends leave, they want to go to The Met, squeeze two galleries into one day. "Why would you run off to another gallery when you haven't fully explored this one yet?" I ask them. I'm glad I stayed, there are still rooms to explore - Matisse's study of dancing figures, elegant and delightful, Edward Hopper always my favourite American artist, his oil paintings moody with an air of desertion like a setting for The Walking Dead.

It's getting late, I'm about to call it a day. I feel pleasantly content. I start heading towards the escalators but get caught up in a stream of people. It's Friday afternoon and the gallery I notice is suddenly packed. I overhear someone say it's the Yoko Ono exhibit which has recently opened. I find myself swept along in the current towards the first piece - it's a green apple placed on a perspex pedestal with a brass plaque saying 'APPLE'. Mounted on the wall it says the artwork has been kindly loaned for the exhibit by the owner. I burst out laughing. It's wonderful! I look around to see if anyone else is amused, but they don't seem to be, all the faces I see are serious.

"Must be irradiated fruit if it's been there since 1967" I say to a guy beside me, "Clearly it's not organic." He smiles politely.

The next room has a ladder in the middle, a long queue of people are waiting to climb it. There are instructions that only one person can go up it at a time. I wonder what is up there. Maybe it is just inviting people to look at the sky, something beautiful that's usually taken for granted, like an apple, or maybe it's been a while since some of these people did something so 'risky' or playful.

There are boxes along the wall at different heights. People are opening flaps with little knobs to look inside them. I open one to find a small mirror that reflects the lower half of my face back to me. Next to it is an instruction to smile.

The smile, expression of happiness, of all fleeting human emotions it is the most desirable. Yet it cannot be forced, looking for happiness is like trying to see a shadow in the dark. It is a joy to be reminded of this. 

I wish I could spend longer in the Yoko Ono exhibition. I watch old footage of her and John Lennon's honeymoon 'sit in', wearing white pyjamas, inviting people to their bedroom to talk about peace. 'WAR IS OVER! If you want it' proclaims a large black and white poster on the wall. I watch a video of flies crawling over a naked woman's body. I see a person crawling around inside a black bag on the floor. I watch a video of people being interviewed after turning up to an imaginary exhibition. "There was no exhibition, even though it was advertised here. It's a con!" a man says angrily. "The Yoko Ono exhibition is here" the interviewer says, "It's a conceptual exhibition..." People look bewildered. One attractive woman, when interviewed for the camera says she liked it but pressed for details becomes evasive, the emperor has no clothes caught on film. One man laughs hesitantly. If this exhibition was a broadway show I'd be the first to give a standing ovation, I'd be calling out 'Bravo! Bravo!' until I was hoarse.

This was what I'd travelled around the planet for! I'd found my destination, the ephemeral thing that I was searching for - my mind raked clean like a zen pebble garden. Thank you Yoko, my deepest gratitude and respect.

'Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 
1960–1971'MoMA NYC
17.5.15 - 7.9.15

Beautiful article about John Lennon 
meeting Yoko Ono. Read it here. 

Thank you Gotham Writers Centre,
NYC for inspiration & encouragement.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Diary: Stay on track and on time!

"Stay on track and on time Thomas!"

Sadly this is my mantra this week, my brain is so addled and exhausted that this was the only affirmation I could come up with. I've been reduced to plagiarising a recorded voice from a mass produced, battery-operated toy. Anyone who has raised boys will no doubt have alarm bells ringing, yes, it is The Fat Controller from Thomas the Tank Engine. It must be the end of days.

Maybe this is my punishment for thoughtlessly overpopulating the planet, that my brain is now crammed with such imbecilic nonsense. If I was an earth mother, living in harmony with creation I'd be taking inspiration from waterfalls and mountains, swimming naked in billabongs and plaiting feathers and crystals into my hair. But I'm not.

I'm a full time mother, stuck here amongst piles of laundry and mess, relentlessly doing the job day after day for enough cash to buy a few coffees and little recognition or thanks. Oh! Except for one day of the year - one!! - yes, Mother's Day where I get a couple of indestructible white carnations in cellophane and we behave like a fake family for a day because everyone is under strict instructions to BE NICE TO ME all day. If only every day could be like Mother's Day, but they're not.

You see I'm one of the 'sandwich generation', stuck between bringing up young children and looking after ageing parents. Oh, and my husband - but at least he contributes something to the relationship, albeit along with a lot of complaining, so I don't mind washing his clothes...

If I'd read the job description would I really have taken the job? On call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, endless brain-cell killing menial work, no guarantee at times of even the most basic human luxuries - taking a shower or using the loo in privacy. At times I work in unsanitary conditions, and have to deal with all manner of toxic filth... need I go on?

Added to this there's the stress of the job. I thought deadlines in the graphic design industry were bad, they're nothing compared to the urgency of motherhood. If a two year old wants tomato sauce with his sausage for dinner you have two options - get it, or listen to him scream. Ha ha ha - you try 'teaching' him to wait... And then there are the demands of my father, he thinks he's about to die any minute so obviously his needs should be top priority.

All these urgencies mean that a lot of the time my own ambitions get sidetracked. It's hard work keeping focused on my own shit.

Okay, so I wish I could meditate every day but if there's one thing about meditating... you can't multi task it. (I've tried meditating while washing the dishes, it doesn't work). And my life depends on multi-tasking. It's not because women's brains are better at multi-tasking, it's that without it we would DIE and the world would stop.

Who cares if men can read maps better? We've got Google Maps and SatNav.

But multi-tasking, there's no App for it. There's women. Hardcore, indestructible, military-issue women - when it comes to multi-tasking we are the champions, we fill every role - chef, cleaner, nurse, repairer, taxi driver, counsellor, tutor, negotiator, bedfellow... but always, always, we're told we're not the Boss, expected to take the subservient positions and cow-tow to the ones holding the cheque books.

Anyway, back to the mantra. This week The Fat Controller is the boss and I'll do his bidding, because you see the mantra 'Stay on track and on time' is actually perfect for me this week. I'm moving my father into a retirement place, finally after five long years of negotiating and weeks of hell organising everything from removalists to cutlery drawers to giant Y-Front underpants, and then I'm leaving the mess and the chaos behind.

I'm packing my passport and a suitcase for me and me alone - my first holiday solo in ten long years. A friend at playgroup is taking her first child-free holiday next week too - she's going to Melbourne to get a boob job. Good for her. I'm going to New York City. Don't hate me too much. This week instead of broadcasting live from Gladesville Public Library I'll be on a jet plane. BRING IT ON.


If you have no time for reading - you can listen to my poem on YouTube here: 'This Is Not A Day for Making Plans'

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