Just a tall child…

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I was in Oxford yesterday and happened upon a sale at The Ruskin School of Art. I had to drag my eldest in – she really wasn’t remotely intrigued – and once there, we proceeded to browse intently this offering of energetic, creative youth.

I bought the artwork shown here. It resonated, probably way more than it should have done given that I’m ancient and the artist a mere babe… 😉

The artist is: http://www.jessicaheywood.com and I liked a lot of her stuff at the exhibition. This one in particular. She also writes painful but often beautiful and raw poetry.

On the way down to Oxford – a 2 hour drive – daughter and I had waxed lyrical on feminism, politics, humanity, life… the usual fare, we have a healthy regular line in conversation… and much of what we saw adorning the walls of the Ruskin School seemed – to me – to echo our conversation, and indeed many other conversations we’ve had.

Alas, no. My daughter was quietly horrified at what she saw as (and I paraphrase here) “teenaged doodles, not art”. When I suggested we’d finished browsing and should be heading back, her relief came in a hissed “yes, let’s go!”

For me, the exhibition/sale showed more of the same youthful energy and passionate belief I see, feel and hear each time we check out another university. The energy in these places is almost palpable, certainly to one as old (!) and long-toothed as I. So what we saw at Ruskin wasn’t ‘art’ because of its skill in recognised & approved techniques, or even in originality, or indeed execution (a lot of it was sketchbook stuff), but it was art to me because of its passion and intent. For my daughter, though, it was an awful and uncontrolled outpouring of her generation’s angst – everything bad she’s ever seen on Tumblr or college toilet walls, stuff you might think but certainly don’t ‘put out there’.

Interesting. She and I may appear to agree largely on political and sociological issues and ideals, but clearly we’re approaching our view of Life from two very different angles. I’ve been mesmerised by our trips to universities – simultaneously admiring, adoring and thrilling to all these marvellous young folk embarking on their adult lives… whilst a tiny (but significant!) part of me envies them their vast choice… they have *everything* ahead! Whereas my daughter… well, this is her generation – she’s grown with them in life and all over social media and she’s just not as impressed as I am with their stance(s).

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I bought another ‘artwork’ recently… a piece of hand-made paper I’ve framed and put on my bedroom wall. I love it. That’s why I call it art.

But what really is art? The experience with my daughter shows me that it can – and cannot – be anything, depending on who’s assessing.

She and I listened to a lot of (my) music on the drive to and from Oxford – and I’m always warmed when she asks “who’s this?” and then Googles it… but there’s a lot she must be quietly dismissing and, again, what resonates with me as a passionate or otherwise appealing piece, can – and does – leave her cold.

We did, once more, find agreement on certain musical pieces, though – and this one in particular:

… which, it could be said, is also a work of art.

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01:17 a.m.

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So You got hacked
and now my phone is dead
from following an
email link
which came late
when i was weary
and trusting
You
and i
forgot to remember
You’re a virus
leaving me unable to communicate
with those who
don’t follow
late night links sent
from idiots whose
idea of fun
is tying up time
in online bondage
time that could have
been spent
communing
with me...
You’re a digital virus
rendering me mute
You should have
called instead.

 sandie zand, 01:17 3rd Feb 2018

Hot air

breath on ice

melting

melting

this is how it goes

vague white fading

to colour and

the world righted

in a handful

of cracks

 

and this really is

how

it

goes

when breathing

hot air onto ice.

 

we will find time, of

course, before the melt

to write

about the beauty

of Chione’s touch – oh

such divinity in nature –

and exalt perception’s

glistening, how it

invites us anew

to capture, contain,

describe, admire,

explain…

bring meaning

share…

we will share

oh god will we share – out there,

beyond our sphere, reaching into places which

should be out of reach but are not

– and in this sharing,

this caring if you like,

(you like? yes, you like)

others will

see

just

how

special

we are.

 

but we will still

blow hot air on ice –

we will write our world

 

 

(Photo by Marcus Löfvenberg on Unsplash)

What we really want… is to connect with Others

Watch this. What this tells me is that people actually genuinely WANT to feel affinity with each other – not anger, not division, not  difference. We WANT to be connected. We are social creatures, this is what we want. Just watch the two women identified as ‘cousins’ and I dare you to not be moved…

I recall… when I read to 300 people.

… at York Writers’ Festival. The audience included writers, agents and publishers. The reading was a competition organised by HarperCollins – called ‘Autonomy Live’ – entry was open to authors from the (now defunct) writers’ website, Authonomy.

It was nerve-wracking for one who’d never really shown her work to others to stand up and read to not just an audience of 300, but also a panel of judges consisting of agents and publishers. I seem to remember having at least two double vodkas before starting.

I didn’t ‘win’, but that was okay. Funnily enough, I’m editing that same book now (published in 2013) for a second edition, and I recall what the judges said about this particular extract being too abstract, that it needed to be happening now and not recounted. I took on board very little of what they said at the time, or of what another agent said later in a harrowing long phone crit, or of what HarperCollins’ editors themselves said when they reviewed it on Authonomy… I took in very little of ANY negative comments because I was a proud writer, I’d finished a book, and negative comments were akin to a stranger telling you your baby’s ugly…

Now, seven years on and re-reading the book for the first time in years – recalling all the professional advice I was freely given – they were right. All of them. This particular extract is horrendously over-wrought and dull. Other parts of the book now jar when I read them… other bits I adore, they’re great, and I can readily see the difference between the two, whereas before it all seemed the same (wonderful beast) to me.

Moral of story: if professionals tell you your baby’s ugly, it might hurt, but chances are they’re right.

Mettā bhāvanā… a venture into loving kindness

fullsizeoutput_5edI went this bright sunny morning to the Shrewsbury Triratna Buddhist Centre for a meditation session – mettā bhāvanā – which cannot be literally translated but means something like ‘loving kindness’.

As I walked to the centre from my apartment – a lovely 15 min saunter up and past the castle, around the now defunct Dana prison (a glorious Victorian building, today offering ‘prison tours – £4.50’) on the high path following the river, in mid-morning sunshine – I already felt calm and content. But I recognise that deep inside, the waters are slightly more choppy and there’s a need to really unpick This Life and My Place In It.

There’s also a need to disengage. From digital distractions, from work, from worries and woes, and just feel.

The session was glorious – two meditations, with some talk in-between – with about 10 or 12 people attending. Shrewsbury Triratna Buddhist Centre is a gorgeous space, lovingly converted from an old church hall (?) which had been out of use for some time. Now, it provides a beautiful calm space, masses of natural light – just walking into the building felt right.

The mettā bhāvanā meditation is about loving oneself and others, without exception. We were asked to – one by one – introduce into our thoughts ourself, those we’re close to, those we’re indifferent to, and those we have issues with… ultimately, in the final stage of the meditation, all these people are brought together within ourselves. That was quite a powerful contemplation, and I’m still churning it over in my mind.

I think this world is currently a dark place – so much scary stuff going on, so much hatred, so much sadness and isolation and dissatisfaction and angst. We need light and love in our lives – and I firmly believe that collective thought is a powerful thing. This morning I sent out good vibes as wide and far as I could… small steps.