Monday, June 23, 2014

Difficulties and Danger

 Tokerau Beach -

This picture was discovered on a search for an image to illustrate, light.

When I arrange to travel anywhere usually I travel heavy, with far more than I need. Lately, I make do with far less. This economy made this trip's planning and execution far easier. My bag is small, the clothes summery, they roll up so easily in there. Everything is less. I keep mentioning it, the novelty stuns me. One large paper notebook, not five small ones. I plan to get a tablet, a small e-device, not to take the laptop, (which will be locked away at a friend's house). Although buying a tablet that works has been an issue. My wondrous e-expert friend tells me, however, you do get what you pay for, so I'm returning the one that was cheap and shuts down without warning all the time. If only the trader on trademe would just give me a refund, however, they seem not to want to do that. It does not work, I can get a refund in that case.

Ah yes, stress. It's abounding.

People are staying in my house, so someone's keeping an eye on things. That's one less stressful thing to think about, naturally, I tell myself. Tick, tick, tick. I'm on list five. It's taken five lists to get things done. At one stage I had four lists at once. They became the one master list. Now it looks terrible so I need a new one. Only six days to go. List six, is that enough? Will I make it? Maybe I should just stay home? Lists, worries, luggage, why o why did I want to do this?

Do you see my issue? I still do not know how to lighten up my feelings and imaginings. As usual, my inner world is enormous, unwieldy and affecting me in ways I find difficult to take. If my emotions were a suit of clothes too big for me, I could have them taken in. Maybe this blog will serve in some manner to take some inner tucks and pleats, to cut away excesses of temperament?

Writing is always good. Then editing helps with clarity. I usually write this blog four or five times, then edit three or four times. This all assists me to see what I'm trying to do, think, believe, recognise as feeling, and get to, often I'm surprised or enlightened, at the least, well, yes, lighter. It changes everything, writing, it's a process of alchemy, making treasure from nothing. Like my one-time favourite perfume, le jardin de bagatelle, a garden from not much....

Do we take our inner world or does it take us? That's the question. Mastery of thought, while useful and a great skill to possess, (when we make our thoughts rule our heart, not the other way round), well, that only goes so far. 

Feelings can at times overwhelm and inspire us so we follow them idiotically, and do things we know are illogical, or strange, but carry out these emotion-driven actions anyway. Writers have famously travelled across oceans and continents, for instance, in search of someone they love. Robert Louis Stevenson did this. The Poetry Foundation says, "Many of his journeys were searches for climates which would ease his poor health, but he also had an innate wanderlust. His trip to America in 1879, however, was made to pursue a woman." This trip almost killed him, but eventually he found the happiness he'd sought. I worry upon reading this kind of alarming account if this journey of mine could adversely affect me. It seems to have done so already. 

I wake up in a panic thinking I have not got something I have definitely got, (the latter only realised upon waking properly and crying a while in distress). Then I worry I need more of things I knew yesterday that I had enough of, (stockings, leggings, jewellery, first aid kit).... then I think no friends there will want to see me at all this time. It's all a trick. Pathetic, I go on. The 'no one cares' idea is not an unfounded fear. One "friend", who admittedly I'd only known a few years online, not like the others who I've known 14 years now, told me after I'd booked tickets to San Francisco that he could not accommodate me after all, and does not like me now. But I realised later that was probably payback for my not doing what he wanted for him. Obviously he is no friend, then, sadly. Friendship is not based on making other people do what we want them to do, for us, whether they want to or not. I keep telling myself that kind of thing, over and over, sorting through probables and possibles, looking for reason as if it's the only thing I definitely have to pack. "Don't panic, if you think about it, things make sense. You are organised. It's okay." Uncertainty, is though an enormous pool of mental quicksand and my inner landscape seems to be including far too much of it.

Why do I bother zipping about the globe? I ask myself. Aotearoa New Zealand is supposedly safe, I know many great people here, have a house in the biggest city near the city centre, a garden, contacts, my family are here.... Why am I running off to an immense place I barely know, especially with the world apparently going to every kind of hell and then some?

This whole trip this time is driven by feelings too, where's the logic and sense? My love for a country and its people, a place not my own at all, is pulling me back there as surely as if I am held by some kind of rope. Had I fallen down a mountain, are they hauling me back to safe ground? Who knows. At the same time, I know, I do not belong there for practical reasons, my age and health being such I could not afford to pay the medical bills I could need in the near future. But, oddly, madly, I have to go back and check that is true, in case I could've moved to amrka after all and not known.

Most likely, this will simply be another charming visit, and of course different to the last time, nothing is ever the same. We sometimes have to live with not being able to have what we wish for too, that's life. For many years as a child for instance, I wanted to be Greta Garbo, instantly. Also, I longed to be able to run and climb like other children did, but I was never all that athletic. Now I am making a trip which is to bring me closure, I guess, as the amrkns say, and therefore the whole procedure is tinged with sadness. So of course I am a bit teary. But I believe in facing the truth, it's infinitely rewarding. Learning so much.

I wrote a poem called The Topography of Tears, recently. I cannot post it here, because it has been sent to the excellent, preeminent NZ literary magazine Landfall, and they may publish it, (here's hoping), but the poem was inspired by an article about the many differences in tears, yes, from weeping. I must thank Pamela Gordon for posting the article originally on facebook, (her valuable work as literary executor for Janet Frame, our most distinguished writer, means Pamela is constantly busy, but anything that takes her attention is often highly rewarding to investigate).

Tears from laughing until crying, which puts me in mind of the view of a harbour city from the air.
I've thought before that tears are not just a reaction to something, but also a process of profound change. The evidence of how different tears may appear microscopically could affirm this. Rose-Lynn Fisher "...studied 100 different tears and found that basal tears (the ones that our body produces to lubricate our eyes) are drastically different from the tears that happen when we are chopping onions. The tears that come about from hard laughter aren’t even close to the tears of sorrow." So I am telling myself that all the tears I produce lately as a result of the stress and emotion attached to this trip are a process of change for me, and once I am through that things will be better.

I'm also driven to mention the controversial Tate Prize short-listed 1999 work, The Bed. A messy, tissue-condom-dirty-knicker-and-book-and-whatnot-strewn bed of the artist, Tracey Emin. For those who perhaps do not feel much at all deeply, it appeared ridiculous, self-indulgent, and even mocking of what art should truly stand for, but I instantly understood it. My gratitude felt boundless. Not that usually my bed looks that way, let me hasten to assure the reading public, but it has done, and may well do again. Lately, it's been a little like that, I'm in a turmoil of leaving and wondering, and grief - any emotional experience brings back all kinds of memories, and then also, there is my marvellous imagination. I find it easy to imagine disasters, trouble, and ruin, the work now is to stop that, but hey, meanwhile....

The Bed by Tracey Emin

That someone, like Emin, in such a vulnerable position, (as a woman, an artist, and wanting to 'make it'), would admit to this apparently crazy, messy emotional state, and not only that, act like she deserved a prize for showing an everyday object proving her activity, enthralled and excited me. The Bed said, "People make a mess, we live in states of flux, we are not people in magazine photo shoots, human beings are allowed to feel things deeply, to indulge those emotions too, to forget to tidy up sometimes, to have sex, to leave the bed unmade afterwards, to admit we have emotions, feelings are not a weakness, they make us, partly, who we are, and are also unavoidable." That is my take on it, anyway.

Writing about tears and crying feels rather taboo, oddly. We all cry sometimes, but in western culture we tend to see so little of weeping and sorrow, don't we. Coming mainly from cold countries, paler people perhaps found grief and so on too energy-consuming, and against the principles of, "work hard, stay alive", we could think? Many traditions and habits in our way of life do not always suit the present day, however, I have to say. If we did spend more time examining why we are sad, and seeing how we could be changing to accept some truth or new circumstances, then we could adapt and live with far more flexibility, and eventually, joy.

Even our feelings which we master and control, are still there, they remain with us, a part of our everyday life - just at a low hum instead of a loud roar, a torrent, or crash, or sparkling fireworks. 

Surely when we are more aware of when we need to let go, and just go through some extreme, we are better off, though? Allowing repression, and curling into obedience to some imagined authority re what we feel like, is the true insanity; no one else ever knows what our true self is, or what our real thoughts and feelings are, that's the human condition, aloneness. If we cannot admit any true feelings and ideas which we harbour within, to ourselves, however, then we are lost and flailing about in pretense, or ignorance, or both. 

It is far better to find ourselves alive and work through intense feelings, if we can. A whole journey in itself, when we travel through our inner world, and we're changed by it. Then we may live more shallowly again, but with improved knowledge of who we truly are, with this gift, this wonder, our one precious life. How lucky every single person has to be, to have this, surely?

And so it is I arrive at a realisation after three hours writing - whatever happens it is full of wonder and learning, experience, whether it be good, bad, in between, o the mix. Writing's helped me again to go on, to get to work and finish marking student papers - still not done correctly, according to my moderator. There is a form to fill in again, and a mark to check the maths on, that kind of thing. Then I will sort the packing again, write perhaps to the trademe man who does not want to give me a refund, or, by some miracle, deliver the faulty tablet to him, with the refund already paid? Then too I must buy those trees for this travel, my second batch, in South Australia, where they really need them.

O yes, and I must write another list, sixth time lucky, I hope.... and pass the tissues, it's all just a bit too much again. Ha.

Thanks for reading. Please do comment - I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blue, New and True

Hothouse, Tamakai Makaurau Auckland Wintergardens

Love's an excuse, a reason, an inspiration for all manner of curious occurences. People find it difficult to speak properly, dizzy with chemistry and bewilderment, in love we sing songs at random moments, on buses, at our desks, in supermarket queues, in the bank, we languish in hammocks or on building sites at smoko or forgetful in the middle of a conference writing poetry instead of whatever duty prescribed, we may travel vast distances on a whim, leave everything familiar far behind, and we carry out many other rash, flash and beautiful actions some of them scary, for aroha, for amour, for love. 

My intention is to keep this update light-hearted, even if it's difficult to do so. That even though here in New Zealand it's grey, wet and dark. O so extremely sodden wet. More dense dark than many other places too. Not that well lit even in the city, and our night is intense, inky, an octopus ejaculation of mammoth proportions - they squirt darkness when they're afraid, you know.

Yes, although I am thankfully, (maybe, hopefully) not an octopus, I'm as usual afraid knowing I'm soon to travel over seven thousand miles north east, then a few more thousand miles south, then back again south west - being a somewhat anxious creature especially as I age, because human beings and nature may cause trouble, you know, and a body needs to be able to face strife, undo it or run. Travelling alone also feels somewhat daunting. Women by themselves are far too often treated badly, believe me, and without warning too. I did, however, love telling off that rude bus driver who took me to Newark Airport, two years ago in New York. He told me loudly I was too old to be travelling and laughed at me, unable to get up his stupid, and probably illegal, broken step. 

Also, thinking about the future and my journey, I forget times and dates, lose track of time in daydreams, and I appear interesting, (so my daughter tells me, that's why this happens), so I attract a lot of attention. But my good friend in Iowa, Julie, tells me not to talk to strangers unless they clearly work wherever it is I am. "Only talk to the ones in a uniform, Raaae, only the people with a name badge, okaaay?" 

But in any case, I love my amrkn friends and I love the place, amrka itself, so I am returning there any day now. 

Any. Day. Now. Can't quite believe it. In just over a week, I'm flying.

O and I call where my friends live, amrka, it's more friendly. Sound it out, if you can't decide what it means.

After my last month and a half trip two years ago, I'm soon away again to meet for a second, miraculous time the writer friends I first only met and got to know online 14 years ago now. Talented, intriguing people in amrka who I'd never met face-to-face, before. Eventually, on that lovely visit, I said it was obvious I needed to return some time, but could not travel again for at least five years. 

Ha. Changed my mind in only a year and a half, back here. Booked it then. The tickets are a lower price the sooner they are paid for.

That first wonderful trip can never happen again. It will live forever in my memory as the best, a trip of a lifetime, indeed. Magical. Beyond exciting. It was like being a character in a fairy tale sprung to complete life.  Well, we do most of us live sublimely in words.

But now I'm going back, and love's making me do it. I love them and love the place, so much. I felt the happiest I've ever experienced there for the longest time. No idea why, precisely. It just happened. Once you've known joy, too, usually you want more of it. Can you get addicted to a country? Maybe I need my own talk-show to discuss it? O, if only I could live there, but it seems unlikely. Too many odd things falling to bits with my health these days, I need Aotearoa New Zealand's healthcare system.

A visit will need to suffice. I hope it's enough. If you'd like to check in occasionally you may see if I end up going insane through this process, knowing I only have three weeks over there. 

Travelling mainly by train, but flying into the stunning San Francisco, the most beautiful city I've ever seen and I've been to many, hundreds probably. Then train along the west coast to Seattle, sophisticated, under-stated, elegant, and oddly also down-to-earth, with crows and dark trees to encourage my fairy story imagination. Later off to Iowa, middle amrka, the rolling wide Mississippi, flat corn-growing farmland to the horizon, a neat picket fence small-town welcome all smiles, squirrels in the trees and Amish on the train. Then wonders of all wonders we're driving to Galesburg, I gather, to train it to New Orleans. Never been there. Love the music and stories, want to give back to the place too since that terrible disaster, (the flooding made me cry at the time). The countryside becoming more and more Spanish-looking with the architecture, a student tells me, (they went by train to New Orleans and also saw teepees along the way). Then lush trees more and more overgrown, Spanish moss drooping from bayou trunks and branches, and soon o the music, and o the food, and o the vibrant, fascinating people of that beleagured lovely place. Louis Armstrong sings my favourite song, (his version only), Moon River, about the Mississippi. He grew up in New Orleans.

I'm repeating myself on this blog, I think I've written already about this plan. But forgive me please, I can't contain myself. Travelling the globe, it's inspiring and also, I must stay practical. Reiterating the facts helps me stay focused.

The suitcase given by a friend when I needed a smaller one, (thank you so much), already half-packed. Favourite summer clothes unwearable here and now are rolled up inside. The lemon print sunfrock, my silk caftan, an icy blue and dark brown, various cropped leggings, my Alice in Wonderland knee-highs.... Rolling clothes means they're less likely to be wrinkled, plus it's easier to see what's packed. Rolled clothes take up less room each layer, too.

I've paid for 200 $ NZ trees to cover my carbon already. Trees for travel, such a worthy cause. We all need more trees. Dr. Jane Goodall, zoologist said this morning on Radio NZ, (she's here to talk to us), that deforestation is a major issue in the world today. We must reforest the world, or ruin the atmosphere for future generations, along with making things worse for ourselves, now. 

It feels good to buy trees for places who need them. I buy mine for Australia, they need trees, desperately.  

Trees produce oxygen for everyone, and they also absorb carbon making the world safer for all living things. Human beings have removed about half the world's trees in the short while we've existed. This is not sustainable. That means a lack of trees cannot go on without causing irreparable harm.

Please do consider doing as much as you can to be the change you want to see in the world, as Gandhi said. The future can be more hopeful, we may make it so. 

Temperate House - Wintergardens
This time I'm buying double the amount of trees I need to. It makes me feel better to do something extra to assist, and to clean up my own mess. I'm vegetarian for the same reason. My diet expends less carbon and other greenhouse gases in its production.

I've written various poems this year in relation to my love for my friends. Also, I feel pleased to say one of my early poems appears in Random House's anothogy, Essential NZ Poems, launched this year. Such an honour, rather stunning to be included, thank you all concerned.

Aha, yes, poetry. One of the various classes I take to do with writing, pleasantly surprised me recently. A student read a poem of their own about love, and simplicity and originality worked so well, together. This inspired me to write something more straight forward than usual.

This was written from notes made on my cellphone. Having only had one for three years, I still feel entranced with anything new I discover it's useful for. Making notes on it probably a waste of power and so on, but it's so easy to do, dammit.


Plum Sauce, because I hope we make some from Mum's recipe while I'm over there

For some reason this poem has a ghost line in it I cannot seem to delete. If anyone can advise me I'd be grateful. Meantime, I have written the stanza twice, so you may read it without confusion.

why does it trouble someone to hear amrkns saved her life?

if only she could travel now instant and stay - she thinks
listening to rinky blink in a theatre bar

but she stays generating blue like a welding torch
simple as a laugh

rhyming her mind with careful
in preparation for surprises and disguises

executive heart trouble where she's in charge
however love does not run out or away

executive heart trouble where she's in charge 
however love does not run out or away

just uphill like nothing else
certainly not a river

afterwards she sees them laugh and cry and walk
into the sun and moon like actors earning millions


for now she watches amrkn fitness videos in a chinese restuarant
waiting to cross a slick bent road to an en zed vampire comedy

rainy day so tailored grey it's a sodden flannel suit
she's silently asking - is this a tragic noir film?

nooo, where's my stunning so-star?
(act live, mean it, our inner action's adoration and ebullience)

sometimes unlucky with love affairs but fabulous figures of speech
skating on her iced up heart

this rink carried about for entertainment - crunching on
melted when they met

misfits as human as any other fool crossed with rhyming spells
tricking themselves into something more fitting like pleasure

the greatest illusions sustain such a long time
such fine dumplings


Not sure if that is clearer than usual or not. *laughs* 

O well, I have to get up early tomorrow so a wonderful tech-geek friend can fix the tablet I just purchased, and cannot make work. I hope to update this blog on it while I am away.

Please wish me well and do comment, always good to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Illustration from Mother Goose c. 1963 published by Collins - London and Glasgow