Friday, November 30, 2012

so lucky

After a faceberk discussion with artist Tracey Tawhiao about labels people like to give us, (in Los Angeles she's called a semi-B List Celebrity), and how we may take on language which others offer or say, so it can make our reality to some extent, I decided to go out with some labels around my neck made of brown paper on a string. Every time someone defined me or what I had to do, I would write it down and then add a random phrase after it, whatever picture popped into my mind after I'd written the 'label' down. They are written below in no particular order -  this method of writing I believe undoes a great deal of stress and complication, by making it clear I do often have my own mind in any reasonable situation, if I care to find myself, even if I'm persuaded or convinced to do something by another.

It also raised the question about how difficult this would be to carry out if the context was quite different to simply visiting the tertiary institution where I obtained my degree, for a party. Any large gathering is stressful for me but I trained to be a performer, (actor, public speaker and dancer), since I was four years old, so I can do exercises to calm myself and also, UNITEC is well known to me.  I love it there in fact. One of the best places to study in the whole country if not the world.  The School of Communication were having their celebrations in the same room as landscape gardeners, so floating plants featured beside the stage, all flowing in beautifully with my trees for travel promotions. (I have a Bachelor of International Communication).

Here is the poem which resulted from my label collecting, then adding random phrases afterwards.

The photographs which follow are from the UNITEC Gradfest, if you want to go see the exhibitions some are still running this week I believe.


we're so lucky in New Zealand
the swamp monster lives

you go straight to the left
charm bracelet is optional

we're the second carpark
this is pudding

you did poetry readings
best get bread

we are the dark horses
surf blue - umbrellas pink and white

Building One through Gate One, UNITEC is enormous and was once a psychiatric hospital. I used to joke I managed to stay out of those but ended up going to one for an education anyway. It's lovely, gorgeous grounds and lots of parking, excellent teaching and a fine surrounding suburb, low key.

School of Communication address, the MCs sang, danced, did stand-up and all the paper birds arrived to watch

DRAADSITTER - artist who did the work above this notice

If you'd like to know more about the artist I mentioned in the first paragraph here is one of her websites -

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Choose Carefully

cards from Waywin

'Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man's hat, if you haven't got a penny then a ha'penny will do and if you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you.' A nursery rhyme from long ago, I like it because it's about giving and also, it says if you can't give then all the best to you anyway.  Generosity of spirit makes the world a better place, it breeds contentment and good friendships, real connections with others, and a kind of steady joy and calm which is unattainable in any other way as far as I can see.

This year I'm choosing carefully what I buy; locally made goods wherever possible, local food and drink except for a couple of small imported items unattainable here, which I doubt I will buy next year; gifts for others, (few that they are) we discovered at Kraftbomb and they're made locally too. Some people may have imported fabrics in their wares, or the occasional treat from an overseas trip or friend there on their table, but just ask the crafters where their goods are from if you're determined like I am to support local industry and agriculture. Also, I've switched power companies so at least one of the, (I think, illegal) asset sales of En Zed State Owned Enetrprises are less likely to go ahead, M i g h t y R i v e r P o w e r owned M e r c u r y E n e r g y p o w e r co is losing customers as fast as we can switch.  If you want to get a credit on your first bill as well, then change to powershop and ask me for my new power co. number, so you'll save even more. They have a recommend-from-a-friend thing where you can get further benefits.

As far as gift-giving goes, please feel free to make an appointment to come to our studio showroom here, it's a converted sleep-out we call The Happy Tea House, Grey Lynn, Auckland Aotearoa NZ, tons of lovely crafts to buy if you wish, no obligation and a cup of tea or coffee on us, sit in the covered area with a lush garden all around.  Email me on raewynalexander [at] hotmail dot com for contact, thanks.  The things I sell are featured here -

Waywincraft will also hopefully be at the next Kraftbomb 23 December - for all of you who love racing round at the last minute frantically buying things then. I guess some people choose carefully in a rush, as well.

I'm helping with a show at a local bar here too, in Mt. Eden, shall keep you posted on that. Exciting times.

May your Xmas, New Year and summer here in the south (or winter in the north) be as lovely and pleasant as ever you dreamed of, and all kindness be upon us all in these times of change and uncertainty. "Be the change you want to see in the world." - Gandhi

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Making an Effort

O ae, aue, yeh I go tro flo into town, te city of Tamaki Makaurau Auckland where mes amis live and work, where the brights are light or fright and the hues, whiffs and cornerstones sing to me of awkward-beautiful city, of fine architecture and haphazard development. Some people from overseas or locals ooh and aah at our quaint colonial awnings, feel like they've gone back in time, entered a Robert Louis Stevenson novel about the South Seas. The few scraps of Victoriana or Georgian trimmings which remain, those twiddles are lace trim to zing zong, glass swish bars and eateries by the harbour too, but sometimes underneath everything I see, hear, think, feel and do lies this overwhelming despair. 

Despair is not always active, it may be a sullen shape asleep, or putrid colour in shadow, a dank corner no one needs go to, neither nor no. If glum gloomy glomp appears however then despair may ooze along like mud, clogging the way forward, sideways or back, it's like a terrible smell gets into everything and fills up all the senses because despair over-rides them, then it kind of nauseates or just dankly quells, lessens everything else the way a difficult equation sucks on a brain's abilities, but far worse, this affects the heart, the gut, the soul and the entire world, eeep.

I prefer to leave despair alone, it is best not bothered, nor even read about so stop reading now if this is all a bit much.  (A few people stopped a while back perhaps, and good on them). If you are still reading however maybe some combaaat tips could be useful round about now? 

Sunshine and exercise tend to keep despair from glomping out; dancing is my whirly twirl for producing the uplift needed. Therapy may also teach someone new ways to live and behave, can open and access talents and skills a person didn't realise they had, at times. The thing is with therapy, we do not have to have anything wrong with us to go. It's about learning better, really. I consider therapy's a university for the self. Some religions, martial arts, yoga and so on also provide an inner and outer life balance which proves extremely valuable.

Joining a group like parent-support, or aa, (I like to give alcoholics anonymous small letters, so it's not too in-your-face, friends who've been along say it's low key too and they're usually happier for it), or just some place like a gardening club, starting band, joining a choir, attending astronomy evenings, playing sport...can help us find new strategies for living happier more fulfilling, far-reaching lives. Therapy need not be directly psychological. Learning or developing skills for self-control and understanding, planning, or accepting our self the way we are instead of trying for an imagined perfection, or fighting who we really are and pretending to be someone else, (o the emotional labour), well, with self acceptance a fresh set of  angles and lenses appear to fit to this or see through that, then life changes.  Those materials are our own, they're true to who we are, life becomes easier. It's like any new learning, earning, yearning, uncomfortable at first then more comfortable when the new ideas and behaviours, or changes are taken on in the manner which suits your good self.

Therapeutic activities are recommended anyway, a bend here, a send there, a lack of pretend somewhere else. Or therapy meaning anything which soothes or helps us in beneficial ways, hopefully also showing fresh paths, stars or barriers we need to notice, or clearing helpful old ones to attention to approach life for the better.  This is like a letter to yourself, or a setter pointing out what to aim for, (they're a dog, for hunting). Just a visit to the art gallery or a park, or going to see a friend or a walk round the block may be therapeutic. Some people like to play sport or watch it with friends for the way it makes them feel, deal and peel - a different experience from everyday life, a break, a change, it helps us live life with more heart and soul, (or gumption and historic wonder if you prefer), gives meaning to our existence.  We need to believe in such things, we're human beings, all of us reading this have the capability of being one, anyway I hope so. *smiles*

Change and accepting it, not getting stuck in one over-riding gloommmp is the important part of beating the blues, as far as I know. Hey yeeeaah, ooo, singing the blues may instantly change pain, angst, terror or difficulty into song, it's a magical act, enormous emotions sent out in sound waves, emitted, permitted and sometimes through gritted teeth. Sing, sing however you wish, hum, these actions heal us. Sing what our bing a ling tells us to fling. Singing in the car is good, and also humming when wandering the supermarket or anywhere we need to concentrate helps to block the awful lighting, the confusing packaging everywhere and the incessant intrusive marketing, o yeeeaah, or just the chore and bore of it's gnaw. 

My father used to whistle, grew better and better at this art and while he was outside we could often figure where he was by listening for a tune on the breeze; Louise my cousin who lived nearby could too, o now, shall I say it was pleasing?  The day I heard him whistle Aqualung by Jethro Tull, at a time when it was on the top ten, (but a radical track to my teenage self), I couldn't believe it but then he did listen to the car radio so I supposed he'd picked it up from there. 

My parents loved rock and roll, (Bill Haley's Rock around the Clock was 'their song').  Why not keep up an interest in music as it changes? Active and interested in the world, in people, (even with those he disagreed with, Dad would find conversation intriguing), and he was not someone to usually get depressed. Daily physical activity assisted, he wasn't always seated or still. Dad was a sensitive person with a real interest in books, art, politics and many other things too, so he could've been an aesthete but the times he grew up in called for physical labour on the farm, then working in the agricultural engineering firm his father founded with a  buddy from WW Two. (They started by making fence posts and gates; my grandfather's business partner was told by his father he could not farm and make gates, he had to choose one and so did).

  Old stories, family history, the mystery of our existence and persistence, this also gets me to thinking about my mother who was an invalid most of her life and slowly went blind. By about 60 she could barely see a thing. Even when Mum was dying at 81 however she was someone to be admired. My mother's strength of spirit and determination shone through, such a stunning person, she made the choice to stop eating and stop most medication except for pain, 'I am old now, it's time.' Previously, a busy life and an outward looking, adventurous attitude also served her really well, my mother gardened a huge property, worked in retail, cared for three children and a husband along with various people who stayed with us or appeared at dinner-time, (Dad liked company, often invited people home for dinner like some Australian surfers who were working for him a while - I think he thought they needed some home cooking - and we are generous people); although Mum's many ailments did now and then drag her into a bed-ridden state.

Luckily, we had parents who genuinely cared for each other and Dad could help out when Mum was ailing. It always upset us when Mum was suddenly ill in bed, but we rallied round as best we could.  Our cooking never matched Mum's excellent food, however, it took me a long while to learn to cook that well, and maybe I never have, (ha). I believe we may learn from where we came from what suits us and who we are, to an extent which assist us to be ourselves and accept, then love this person we are, no matter what. Does that sound like self-help-speak palaver?  Sorry if so, but I do mean it. It's a delight to look at everything then sort out a positive, true story to live on through. So accepting things can never be perfect, but may seem so occasionally or for long periods in mind, but finding a sure true good path to follow wherever possible.

A quest, a saga, a fine story to behold.

I wrote a series of poems about grief, called Fuel through Hell, and those works helped me to understand how to best live when my mother died. (My father died quite young at only 60, suddenly on a public bus on holiday in Canada; luckily my mother and son were there so Mum was not alone through what then turned into quite an ordeal).  Dawn my mother died much later in life and had missed my father so much, she also missed the company he attracted I think, but Mum rarely complained and kept on making good wherever possible.

I miss them both, yet they are also with me somehow and I love them which is a great comfort. When I love someone I can imagine they are with me and the conversations we may have, it's helpful and progressive like a misty frequency telephone call with Skype, to add a Che Fu song to the mix.

Here is one set of two of the pages from a giant book made with Joyoti Wylie, we hope to exhibit it one day.  She made a stunning video which went with the work.  It was a fantastic experience working with her, we got the works together in only two weeks or so. What united us was the agreement that grief needed expression, and we researched ways to show this. 

 A quote by Shakespeare on the cover of the book says - "Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er fraught heart and bids it break."

The picture on the cover is a still from Joyoti Wylie's video she made which accompanies this book, in an installation we designed but which has not yet been shown.
Writing helps me to move on, it is like speaking, so is artwork like drawing or painting. People may write for themselves alone and not show it to others, this can give us enormous solace and inspire fine work. Or just drawing in the sand with a stick, or painting one colour meditatively on a wall, these may assist us to work the abstract into concrete form and rid us of the infinite burden we think we carry within.  Once our feelings and thoughts are made into something in the world, we are fee of them to some extent.

Despair is like being stuck in one place which then gets greyer and greyer because the colours fade, but we do not need to do that; we may see ourselves change while we go into the next present moment as if through a swamp at first, when we are sad. Find the plains or the hills next, or a road or somewhere more salubrious. Feelings are like a landscape we live in, but we may need to make more of an effort at times to see we may easily move through that world, our inner realms. We also need company and friends, people to be close to us, we need not do all this alone. I think this is like another dimension of everyday life, the sixth sense if you want to say that, play this or maybe wish.

Despair is a trickster, it tries to convince us it's all there is and that grey will last, that gloomping is normal and so we need to see it trying to convince us then move on along past it to what's elsewhere. There, next to despair can appear confusion - also a tricky one to escape from but accepting it as it really is, helps, a mix-up, flip out, a really tangle wangle. Soon confusion may seem like just a silly game we used to play and do not now. Then, perhaps is a kind of victorious feeling, whooo, relief, release and jigging. We can't stay ebullient forever, however, not ever, any more than we may stay in despair, so, there we are moving along from victorious to calm acceptance and whatever else may follow, perhaps strength and postcards of palm trees upon recognising we've travelled out of the slough of despondency?  Yes, cliches still have their uses. (O laugh)....

Churchill called his depression a big black dog, mine's more like a mangy dead dog dragged round with me and stinking the place up but its chain is tangled in my clothes and I can't see to see where, to get free. Then I see someone I know and pretend it's not there, push the carcass of the moany-putrid thing behind me. Fluff out my skirts or wave my rather large backside backwards and forwards to cover up the sodden ugliness of it, there in a heap where my legs almost touch it. Lately however it seems to be a rotten heap buried to the good in the ground and I've left it behind. Mind the fresh earth. Grinding my teeth could still occur but I'm lighter.

No one told me meeting my internet friends overseas would produce a horrendous result eventually, after my excited joy and amazement over there, (with some trepidation but I did keep going). Back in my own country, after crying with relief upon landing safely since I had been away a month and half travelling lone, albeit meeting friends along the way, I was shockingly faced with what I saw at home as the wreck and ruin of my life. A contrast with those glorious happy spring days we enjoyed, it was too much for me back in April 2012. The return home devastated me.

The airport was fine, lovely to see familiar decor, Maori carvings, lots of Polynesian faces, a more relaxed way of going about serious matters, and soon I'd be home in my house I knew so well.  But the day was gloomy and rains followed through winter, (when I'd left spring behind me in The Stat es).  Much appeared raggedy and tumbledown, that tear itself up and rebuild in a moment ambience of Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, it unsettled me. Many times were lovely, seeing my daughter and friends of course I loved, but unease kept creeping in.

Carefully piling up reciepts for my tax return in June, I found a docket from Soho, the price of some doodad purchased from a boutique there and tears sprang into my eyes like someone had died. Maybe I did change hugely like a part of me dying, losing so much weight, growing fitter, seeing people who I knew so well online for the first time a magical experience and it felt transforming, then as soon as my plane landed in Aotearoa New Zealandand I was mourning the me I was overseas, the happy, delighted, engaged, adventurous and o so openly loved woman, the wildly happy me who men flirted with so obviously, with such panache in some cases, I had to retrain to ignore them. The dating culture over there is nothing like it is in NZ and the attention of some of the men was frankly wonderful, not hurried or pushy but just open, encouraging real dialogue.

Lifting off from American soil certainly caused me such a wrench I sobbed uncontrollably and had to make a supreme effort not to loudly wail, then disturb the other passengers. Gave me a fright. I had no idea I'd feel such a physical pull then a break, a wound, pain from simply leaving in a jet plane and not knowing if I'd ever be back again. O the stains we find upon us, the way we play, and fly.

So here it is my grief has been expressed and I've found some kind of acceptance finally of how things are different now, all these months after arriving home to NZ.  Truly, I look forward to seeing those friends from State side here some time if they can ever make it to what they see as the edge of the world, the middle of nowhere, however really, we are all in the middle of the world if we see ourselves as the centre of our lives, no matter where we may live or travel to. You know it. You do.

By the way, Winston Churchill said, 'When you're going through hell, keep going.'
Also, 'We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey' was said by Kenji Miyazawa

There are more quotes along those lines here

Peace be with you and may we find ourselves kind and well, with renewed strength to exercise our minds, plans and decency in this world. Our unfurling, our burl of good and whatever, mind....