Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Confessions and Planting

Look what I found at Lucy-Mae 600 Great North Road yesterday, the longest button necklace in the world, I love it.

My name is Raewyn Alexander and I'm a writer. http://snipurl.com/237jnuq I also tutor writing and do manuscript assessments, editing and critiques. http://www.leisuretimelearning.co.nz/course-catalogue/13-writing-creative-essay  (Enrol now for May). 

Ha, this feels like a confession in a self-help group. Is it wrong to write? Well, yes, in some people's eyes it is, but I can't help it so what am I to do?

It's not often writers are as extrovert as I am, this circumstance causes consternation and even despair amongst some of the literary wallahs, spiffs and wanna-bes but I yam what I yam, and although Popeye is perhaps a silly character for me to align myself with, I can be rather quick to react in a furious manner to anything untoward. That tempestuousness appears less lately obvious, I've mellowed you could say and I think someone in particular has tamed me, astoundingly. O yes, we know the play don't we, William Shakespeare's most sexist piece of theatre some say, that one with the shrew in it, and not that popular in Aotearoa New Zealand since we believe stroppy women are people to be proud of in many places but, no, it was not really so much my shrewishness as self-preservation against, erm... ha, I've forgotten.

My trip, tour, journey, (whatever you like to call it) for a month and half across the Pacific Ocean in a boat, (the ship Oriana) to Tahiti, Hawaii then mainland Amer i ca - San Francisco, Seattle, Iowa, Chicago and New York, where I visited friends who are also writer colleagues has altered me forever and for the better, too. I'm thinner, fitter, happier, more connected with what I believe and enjoy, working with far greater speed, focus and wit while also, feeling more inclined to help others and interact with them.  I believe I've grown to be more myself.

Sometimes however, (here's another confession), I think I was born in the wrong country. I suit a larger place. Always thought I was in the great wide world, not just on a small island at the edge of things, while I was growing up.  A shock to realise the population here did not often agree with me and still does not.  'Writers do not call attention to themselves.'  There's one comment someone directed at me, once, in an author's meeting. 'Writers are boring in everyday life, rarely talk with other people and are usually off to write something, they want to get back to the work.'  Another one, perhaps well meaning but for me it felt like they wanted to push me into a cupboard and lock the door.  These are the kinds of hints people in NZ, some of them, slide at me as if they are prescriptions for living I could take like bitter medicine and just shut-up, (with my face all wonky from the bad taste but so what, I'll be in my cupboard being quiet).

I needed to get away. Possibly I'd been aiming for this all the 12 long wonderful years I'd known those fine people I met up with in the States, befriended online that is.  We've corresponded at length in many ways and I published some of them in Magazine, I've also reviewed some of their books and assisted with advice when a few set up a publishing company. I liked to be critical at times as well, although this did not always work as an academic exercise and I have suffered since for perhaps saying far too much, but I understand now we do have vast differences in our cultures.

Those writers I stayed with or met up with in any case, to reiterate, are not merely people I have a passing acquaintance with either. We know so much about each other we're almost like family. About twelve years ago, here in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland NZ, on a computer someone was about to throw away but which I resurrected, (thanks Janet Charman and Max White) I sought out people in cyberspace who I could find out more about writing with, I explored online as soon as I knew other writers existed there and when I'd discovered how the internet worked.

It was a deliberate act to look outside New Zealand for support and advice since so few people here had a vision of our work as being formed from a world-view, not just a local one. Also, I wanted my work to be read world-wide, not just in my own country. Then too, I needed to acknowledge all the wealth of literature I've read in my life, including song lyrics, from everywhere and in large part from America. Just off the top of my head - Mark Twain, Carson McCullers, James Baldwin, Louisa May Alcott, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Adrienne Rich, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Frank O'Hara, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost... I can reel off some names easily, and those do not include the film or TV writers, the artists who've written about their work neither, nor, no. Plus, I could read ten books a week in the school holidays if I could get my hands on them, when I was younger. That was my record for seven days when it rained a lot one August holidays, anyway, so there's a pounding stream or river or torrent of words have flowed through this old noggin and many of them were from American greats.

Writing brought us together, talking about the art and craft of literature online and then, we also read the work itself. Our writing we shared with others and some of it was stupendous, some revol u tion ary, some diabolical, a great deal lovely, inspiring and delightful, and even more just mad experiments, but for the most part we were determined to improve and learn more. I think we writers, (and I mean those I worked with mainly through writethis and Creative Writers), all had a desire to learn better in common, apart from our obvious talents and a drive to stay true to ourselves. We generally admired each others' work as well, but not in any slavish manner for the most part. Respect then plays a part in our relationships, while we're quite good at telling each other off, or to shut-up or we may also be off-hand too.

Meeting them in person has made our relationships all stronger and in some cases changed them so much I am still not sure what is going on.

It still feels like I was spellbound to have gone there and even more entranced afterwards.

Right now I want to buy a ticket on a plane and fly straight back there.

Instead, I'm looking out the window at the tree I planted yesterday for Jimi Hendrix. It is a Ballerina apple, so there's a musical connection.  I'm hoping some of my friends will visit me here and see it.

I'm praying I do not go insane and give up everything here, leave what I've built up and striven for in New Zealand, to travel again so soon. It's going to be interesting to see what happens, I suppose.
If I get enough of my books onto Kindle then I can earn money while I am anywhere in the world, so there's another project I need to finish before I up sticks just like that, (so I tell myself).

I can just see how easy it would be to sell almost everything in this place, rent the house, pack a few things and then....

Okay I must take a sterner approach, obviously.

When planting a tree, I like to say a karakia or prayer first, asking things to go well, blessings to be on the garden, the work, the people, the neighbourhood and the world, amen. I pray to the God and Goddess, I prefer a balanced deity image of that nature, sun and moon, that kind of symbolism, rather than one obvious picture of goodness even if the sun, or Jehovah or other more singular deity name is such. Then also, I've already made sure it is not being put in a place where the roots will disturb underground powerlines, pipes and so on. (I like to be esoteric and practical, they go together in my mind. One is not much without the other).

If you are not religious then it can be a good idea to have some kind of ceremony for tree-planting nevertheless, a working bee perhaps with friends round to plan and dig. Someone makes a speech of welcome. This lends gravity to the situation and makes people more likely to see the work as important, because a tree is a larger plant and requires care to be planted properly and to grow well. It also draws fine attention to the act of planting itself and could inspire others to plant trees, if due importance is given to the action with ceremony.

I am on a mission to get as many trees planted world-wide as possible, we need more of them for our own good. Half the world's trees have gone since homo sapiens appeared on Earth. We need more trees to soak up our carbon, to provide shade, to provide food, to provide us with oxygen, to give us fuel in time and building materials, we need them for their beauty, their eco-systems and more.



O go on, plant one.  At least one.  A shrub would do.

Dig the hole a little bigger than the pot and make sure the tree itself will be a little above the ground, not in a depression where water could gather and rot the roots and trunk.  I usually place some compost in the bottom of the hole and mix with the soil. Ask for expert advice and read the label if it is a bought tree, or google it if you've grown the tree yourself from seed or a cutting, or someone's given you a tree. Follow the instructions. Enjoy yourself.

 Place the tree in the hole, (you may water the bottom of the hole first if you like).  Then pack in the soil you dug out, turn the grassy bits upside down so they will eventually rot and be helpful.  In this pic, (above) the soil I dug out is at the back over the grass.

Then here in this photo I've placed all the soil back round the tree, pushed it down firmly with my feet and added some mulch of compost then watered it all.

It's a Ballerina apple tree for Jimi Hendrix, so the tree can kiss the sky for him. He died too young, perhaps partly because people supposedly caring for him didn't realise then how easily our most talented and sensitive may be hurt and damaged then fall apart, as if made of thin air. Some possibly wanted him gone, they were envious or they just didn't care and imagined if he was gone they could take his place, be famous instead.

Take care out there.

Fame is how other people view celebrities, it's a window placed gradually between the celebrity and the world, fame's a colour, a filter and a viewpoint. Usually it comes from doing something well.  The window pane of glamour slowly layers itself over time, til there's a barrier between the celebrated and other people. Even when the barrier is clear it exists and once it is there it's almost impossible to get round it to the other side where once, if memory serves, other people seemed far closer than they appear once fame arrives. Glamour is upon the famous, moonlight shines over them 24 hours a day, the fairy dust gets into their pores and their words and their bellies til they're a great repository of shimmer, o but human beings need more than that to survive. We can't eat a dream.

Bowie wrote a song about it, '...what you like is in the limo.' He said there's no tomorrow with fame, in the song lyrics, (I think that's because glamour and fame present an always present evening and starlight, while also believing that the hype makes you invincible, well, that can kill you). Perhaps seeing fame for what it was helped David Bowie to avoid the dangerous places fame hides with reflections, in part anyway. Fame seems protective but is really only a screen which makes things appear different, if the screen is removed things suddenly look like they did before or even deteriorated, since time has passed. Oprah, (who had some great moments), said something like - fame is all about people wanting a ride in the limo, but what you want is friends who will ride the bus with you when the limo is not around.

I like to think I know who those people are who'd get on the bus with me if I needed them to, like to think I have their confidence and kindness most of the time. It's a good idea to know, to take stock now and then, in my opinion. Usually, human beings can count on the fingers of one hand who their true friends are, then on both hands who the other friends are who are pretty good, then if you're lucky, (using your toes we could say to count), there are some rather more distant people you know who are okay, who maybe would ride the bus, but you don't know them that well and could have a somewhat silent journey without a lot to talk about, however you wouldn't feel about them as if they were total strangers, and so on.

Success sure sorts out who you can count on and who you can't, yes. Family and friends show themselves as worthy or not, kind or not, greedy or not, controlling and scary or not, able to accept you as you are imperfections and everything like any human being or not, pretty smartly. Also, fame or success sorts yourself out because it's a challenge to stay well, happy and balanced if lots of attention, or money, or good press or all of those come your way for some reason.

A fairy trick and a moon-age nightmare sometimes, fame - but the work produced by people who are famous may stay with us for all human time and give some kind of solace, soothing us when we're frantic, stunning us when we need to be dazed or uplifted, providing at the least a kind of repair to the rips and frayed places we worry over or try to hide just in case we're damned for them. How perfect we are supposedly supposed to be, when really here we are too often hurt, wondering, incomplete and lost even if only in thought or desires. Brilliant work helps us to dazzle and razzle, forget everyday demands and niggles, can even make us feel something like whole again for a while.

So this is a post about confessions and planting. My confessions are about my own frailty and doubts, how I have to resist making silly decisions based on selfishness or greed, or on a desire for more than necessary. I confess my own foolish imaginings could lead me astray into places I have no real idea about, where life could be too dangerous. I need good people to point those dangers out to me. I require decent advice and loving attention, I must be treated well or I could grow to feel hurt so much I will fail and collapse, I at times feel close to that.  Luckily, I also know when to go and get help and have done, (so anyone secretly delighting in the prospect of my ruination can stop that, thanks).  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, (CBT) is the best assistance I've enjoyed lately and if your GP is Pro-care in NZ you get some sessions free in Auckland anyway, do ask.

I think it best when baring ones inner self to the world for reasons of self-development and sharing experiences, to also think about something practical which symbolises a decent attitude, in fact. The tree I planted then is certainly for Jimi Hendrix as a tribute to him and to my dear friends in Seattle who kindly showed me their city, but it's also my way of saying I'm trying my best to be a good woman and take actions which bode well in the world, but I also need you, my family and good friends and you know who you are, to help me out and support me, or I am nothing. I know that. I love you. May our futures be well, improve and blossom.  x

The tree I purchased locally from our wonderful new garden centre in Grey Lynn, (they are having a scarecrow competition at the moment in local schools, go see the one they have on the street it's fabulous),  www.gardenco.nz   554 Great North Road 
                                                           ph Mark Lewisham on 09 376 2640 or 027 499 3277.

Please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading.

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