Category Archives: dogs

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st May, 2018.

 “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.”

Alice in Wonderland.

 

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share on Yet Another Monday Night.

Well, my excuse is that I had to get all dolled-up and formal on Saturday, and it was such a shock to the system, that I had to retire to my bed for all of Sunday and even much of today. While I did have a bit of a joke about having a Front Row Seat at the Royal Wedding, the truth is almost as inconceivable. I was playing my violin at Gig Night at the music studio and being a violinist to the very core, I had to wear my blacks. Indeed, I dug the Winter-weight Calvin Klein number out of hibernation, and strutted my stuff. Well, I wasn’t strutting because my shoes were too tight, I can’t strut at the best of times and inspite of myself I was more than a tad nervous. Not because I’m scared of performing. I knew I hadn’t really done enough practice and that there would be mistakes, but I didn’t want too many mistakes. Moreover, I didn’t want to stuff up the bits I always get right. I did that at the end of year concert and actually pulled off the tricky bits. After much philosophical reflection, I’ve decided that the violin is a bit of a temperamental character, who is insanely jealous and refuses to cooperate when ignored and like to stuff things up for you just for the hell of it. Yet, for some strange reason, I’ve remained faithful and haven’t packed up my bags and returned to the piano. Not yet, anyway.

 

You can read more about my performance in A Legend In My Own Hair Follicles

 

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Alice in Wonderland

So how was your week?

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of it? What were the standouts? While I didn’t have the opportunity to conduct a representative survey, from what I’ve heard, the Address seems to be the most talked about aspect of the wedding. It seems some people loved it, others thought it went on too long, and I’ve downloaded the transcript to fully get my head around it, although I’m yet to read it fully. In terms of the Address being too long, if I was the Most Reverend Curry, I would’ve made the most of having my one chance in life to speak to the world. While he might not have been Dr Martin Luther King, he had a beautiful and very powerful message about love and acceptance and with all the awful things happening in our world in both public and private arenas, we need a good dose of what he had to say. Indeed, we each need to wake up and start trying to make a difference in the same way that Harry and Meghan are already doing, and it will be exciting to see what kind of impact they’ll have, now that they’ve become a team.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my lung specialist. He’s usually happy to see me twice, or even once a year.However, after my lung function tests two weeks ago, it was “I’ll see you in two weeks”. They showed that my lung capacity has dropped 20% in six months. Mind you, I’ve had a lot of lung and even a severe sinus infection, and so the big hope was the the drop was due to infection. So, he whacked me on more “horse pills” and I tried to exercise more and do what I could to save me from more intervention. Of course, I’m “feeling better”. No, I truly am and I’m not coughing anywhere near as much. Indeed, a week ago when I was talking to my mother on the phone, she noted that I hadn’t coughed. Hopefully, her observations will be supported by tomorrow’s results.

By the way, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but Masterchef Australia has started up again for 2018. I’m an absolute diehard fan of the show, and while I might not make the recipes they create, I do add little bits and pieces to my own cooking, to add a bit of pizazz. I’ve even cooked with fennel, which felt far more alien to me than a thing called a “custard apple” (thanks to my mother being a Queenslander).

Anyway, it’s Nigella Week on Masterchef and tonight, there was a an eleimination pressure test… Nigella’s Chocolate Feast. It was a hard show for a chocoholic like me to sit through. However, I’m already planning to make her fudgy brownies. They were so gooey and sensational.

Nigella Nutella Cake

Nigella’s Nightmare…The Avalanche.

I must admit I sympathized with Nigella’s Victims tonight, as they were making her Chocolate Olive Oil Mouse. Two years ago, I also came a cropped making Nigella’s Nutella Cake. Like one of the contestants, I also over-beat the egg whites, and it ended in disaster, which I dubbed:  Nigella’s Heartache. After all, it’s all well and good when people post beautiful recreations of your recipes, but it’s not so good when they flaunt their disasters all over the World Wide Web.

Before I head off, I just wanted to mention my latest contribution to Friday Fictioneers…A Special Child. This is written about a young girl on the Autism Spectrum who goes missing in the bush.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running along the beach.

Oops, I almost forgot. The dogs received a bit of an update this week…Pup Psychologist, Anyone? Since I posted this, we went on a disastrous trip with the three dogs to the beach yesterday when all three refused to come when called and Zac and Rosie were sprinting up and down the beach and Lady was wondering off on her own. There were a few fishermen along the beach and we could see the dogs stealing their bait, their and getting tangled in the lines. Time to go home. That is, if you can catch them. Training will now be intensifying for both dogs and humans.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a long and big day ahead tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Pup Psychologist Anyone?

It’s been quite awhile since the dogs have made much of a blogging appearance, and now they’re back with a vengeance. Our brother and sister pups, Zac and Rosie, are now about 9 months old and let’s just say, have developed plenty of “personality”. Personality, which has had me searching the depths of Google for parenting support. While parenting courses for young humans are usually free with at least a yummy morning tea thrown in, training your pups is expensive and so we’re trying to muddle along on our own. I think the pups are onto this are expanding their horizons well beyond desired bounds and it’s time to ignore those puppy dog eyes and for nice cop to become tough cop. Put my foot down, even if a paw or two gets stepped on in the process (which happens quite a lot around her with twelve paws under foot.

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Rather than offering any solutions to the difficulties of puppy training, I’m just going to let it all flow …a bit like a glass of red wine on a white carpet. Or, a pink fluoro highlighter pen which has been chewed into a puddle of pink with splashes of ink on the guilty party’s paws.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our dogs, there are three of them. Lady, a border collie x cavalier is about 6 years old and we’ve had her since she was two. She’s a rather mellow dog and about the size of a Border Collie with the Cavalier’s floppy ears and facial appearance. She’s mostly black with a tip of white on her tail, chest and paws. Isaac “Zac” and Rosie are both 9 months old and are supposedly Border Collie x Kelpies but we suspect there could well be some greyhound in the mix. Zac has the long legs of a ballet dancer, and can look rather statuesque when he strikes a pose. Zac also happens to be our resident lap dog. He’s very snuggly and I had been thinking he had an innate sense of intuitive compassion, but I’m also wondering whether he just likes a warm lap in the cooler weather. Rosie has white legs and face with black spots, which are rather cute. She’s evolved into a feverish fetchaholic. Of course, we’ve all seen one of those in action, but rarely at rest.

Bilbo with ball

I had to honour a fallen hero. Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

So, I guess you could say like around here isn’t dull and that’s why we need a resident dog psychologist and in their absence, there’s me…and Google.

Firstly, there’s chewing. Of course, prevention is better than cure. So, most dog owners know that anything on the floor is fair game and that just like toddler proofing your home, you need to put things up if you don’t want the dogs chewing it up. However, not all dogs have read the manual, and Rosie has had no qualms about making choice selections from our kitchen table and exercising puppy power. I think perhaps her most impressive achievement to date, has been taking a pink highlighter pen out of the jar on the kitchen table and chewing it up until there was a pool of pink ink on the tiles and splashes of ink on her front legs. There was no denying that crime. She was caught in the act.

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A scene of canine carnage in our lounge room.

Of course, providing your pups with a steady supply of bones is a good idea. As I said, prevention is better than cure. However, sometimes I’m flat out getting to the butcher for the humans. Moreover, when I have bought bones, they’re instantaneously gnawed out of existence. Don’t ask me how they do it. I didn’t know bones were a fast food. Indeed, I thought they were supposed to keep your dog occupied for hours. Silly me.To think I had the audacity to think of myself as a bit of an expert on dogs. Clearly, I know absolutely nothing about them at all.

However, clearly the same can’t be said about them, because they can read me like a book. Indeed, they can read my soul much better than most humans. They really are amazing.

This takes me onto their next issue… our in-house Fetchaholic.

If our experience is anything to go by, this addiction all starts out in a fairly understated way. Someone in the household can’t resist giving that adorable little pup a tennis ball. Before that one corrupting tennis ball appears across it’s radar, that pup was pre-programmed to chase sheep, rabbits, and rid the world of rats. However, now all of that’s changed. That very same pup has suddenly had all that genetically pre-determined brain circuitry re-wired, and if your dog is very particular like our Bilbo was, all they’ll see is a green sphere. In hindsight, that was a blessing because Rosie isn’t particular. Tennis ball, half a tennis ball, felt of tennis ball right down to the very last remnants of fur of tennis ball, she’s back. Or, she’s dropping a bit of stick over the top of my laptop. I guess she thinks I’m just as addicted to tapping away on this thing and need a diversion. Indeed, she probably thinks she’s doing me good and giving me exercise.

She’s wrong.

Her pestering is only annoying in the end, but just as I’m getting fed up and about to confiscate the ball, she gently taps me with just one paw pad  and it’s so much like she’s tapping me with a finger, and that she’s not a dog, that I can’t resist.

That said, I’ve just put the ball up and told her to sit. However, in true fetchaholic fashion, she’s returned with the remains of a toy mouse, which had a pull the string wind-up mechanism some time ago. After ignoring that, she’s returned with a bit of stick…a remnant of a bit of stick…and its offspring. We’re talking desperation on both sides. How do I get this dog to leave me alone?

I dropped the ball over onto my son’s lap, he just passed it back.

Humph. It’s definitely time to make myself a cup of tea and perhaps that will  break the cycle. Just had to rethink that. Zac is now sitting on my lap, and while you’d think that might provide a sort of barricade in between Rosie and I, she’s now dropping her paraphernalia on the top of him.

At this point, you’re not the only one asking why we adopted two pups and why we didn’t just stick with Lady. Apply the KISS Principle…Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well, I wouldn’t know how to keep it simple and I clearly don’t know how to say: “No”. I just keep going until I fall in a screaming heap.

This brings me to my next issue…a fear of other dogs.

Lady & Zac

Lady and Zac running along the beach in January.

Usually, our dogs socialise with other dogs as a pack and feel quite comfortable with each other’s support. If anything, they can intimidate a lone dog on the beach. However, yesterday, I took Zac to the beach by himself and while he initially loved running and really got some great exercise, it was quite a different story when he saw other dogs. He was cowering behind me like a young child hiding in their mother’s skirts. He even jumped up behind me putting his paws on my shoulders. He was terrified with his tail between his legs and then that fear turned to aggression and he really got narky and was snapping and snarling at the other dog, who retaliated and they both ended up back on their leads. It was time to go home, a time-honoured parenting trick.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running yesterday before we bumped into any dogs.

I have also taken Rosie walking on her own and she’s also quite cowardly in public and walks much of the way with her tail between her legs. It’s been quite a concern because you want your dog to be happy and have positive interactions with their own. Fortunately, Zac and Rosie are fine when they’re together.

I’m think the answer here could be taking them out more by themselves, so they can build those social skills. They are very much like twins and miss each other terribly  when they’re apart, even if it’s only for a short time.

Zac Seal

Zac swimming looking like a seal. You can see how this character wouldn’t go too well on a lead.

Just when I thought I had everything covered, my last gripe is tugging on the lead. We seem to be having some success with Rosie on this front, and it is Zac who turns into a racehorse as soon as the lead goes on. Indeed, “pulling on the lead” is an under-statement. We have tried a Halti collar and he’s somewhat getting used to it but he doesn’t like it. The funny thing is that he is so placid without the lead, and I can’t really understand what fires him up so much. Of course, he loves going for a walk but this is more extreme. This is like a canine Clark Kent going into a telephone booth and emerging as Thor.

Lady kids coffee

The funny thing is with all these canine antics, they provide us with endless entertainment way better than any television show and they’re our critters. They might not be our own flesh and blood, but perhaps that’s part of their appeal. Dogs live with us are part of our own families and so much like us and yet they’re not. Despite all our attempts to humanise them, they’re still dogs. And we love them, perhaps even because of their foibles or perhaps it’s us who have actually fallen under their spell and we might need to consider who is Master. Our dogs can be very proficient trainers. Indeed, my dogs have trained me.

Chewing, ball chasing and lead pulling, I wouldn’t be without them.

Do you have a dog and do you have any recent posts you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – May 5, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t know if anyone missed my weekly coffee share posts. However, I’ve been rather embroiled in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, where my theme was Letters to Dead Artists. The overarching structure was to provide a brief bio for each artist, ideally choose one painting or sculpture which really touched me in some way and tie in my experience or attachment to it. Needless to say, the word limit totally blew out, but at the end of the month, I have quite a sound body of work and I’m guessing it’ll be around 40,000 – 50,000 words. Working out the word count is tomorrow’s job.

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Avoca Beach looking towards Terrigal, NSW.

For old timers at Beyond the Flow, you’ll know I love nothing more than showing off our gorgeous Australian climate and beaches which are warm and balmy for about 9 months of the year. Today, it was a bright sunny day with bright blue skies and a temp of  22°C or 71°F. Still, lately the locals have been mumbling and complaining and starting to rug up. We’ve had a few days around 18°C and it’s been described as a “cold snap”…. “Freezing”. My husband grew up further South in Tassie, and he thinks we’re a bunch of wimps!

This week, the kids went back to school after a two week break. It always feels like a rude awakening getting back into the school routine and all their activities, where I can legitimately spend the day in my PJs, especially on the first day of the holidays. That’s become my time honoured tradition. I can barely remember what we did during the holidays but I did see Loving Simon with my daughter and her friends. She very kindly invited me to join them, after I offered to sit somewhere else. I found that very touching. We also went out sailing in the small laser and I managed to get a brief paddle in the kayak before having to charge off to take our daughter to a dance audition. I wasn’t real happy cutting my paddle short, but I did treat myself to a coffee and cake while I was waiting and walked around and photographed the wetland there, which was almost sufficient compensation.

Another holiday highlight was going to Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour for lunch with my mother and daughter. This whole area not far from the Sydney CBD, is a melting pot of revamped industrial buildings, office blocks, restaurants and cafes and shops. Probably the thing I noticed most about the place, was how big the buildings were. They were huge, and even the spaces in between them were monolithic. I felt like an ant, dwarfed by their shadows. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant and I had a Bento Box…yum! The food was exquisite and the service impeccable and so friendly. I was in heaven. Can’t wait to go back.

art gallery

Inside the Art Gallery of NSW

After lunch, I set off for the Art Gallery of NSW. Writing about all these artists was rekindling my love of art and it’s been so long since I’ve been there although I only had about two hours up my sleeve, which left me facing the art gallery equivalent of speed dating and I had a lot of old friends to catch up with as well as the new. Moreover, The Lady & the Unicorn Exhibition was on. It was fabulous, but what I appreciated even more was the depth and breadth of what’s in that gallery, and that as an Australian I could be proud of what we’ve got. Indeed, I was quite impressed (and surprised) to find a Self-Portrait by Renoir. Hey, it wasn’t in The Louvre…Wow! I also noticed a few statues on loan from London’s Tate Gallery, which is such a great idea. What not share these beautiful treasures?!!

Meanwhile, the pups are now about 9 months old and Rosie is chewing more stuff than ever before. Indeed, it’s taking us back in time to when the kids were small and there was that horrid phase in the house where we had to toddler proof everything and see random objects through the eyes of a little person. I’m sure anyone who has ever had kids will know that exhilarating relief when you can finally remove all the cupboard latches and start storing things below head height. Well, we’re back there again and with the kids going back to school this week, we had a few tantrums and mass carnage spread right across much of the house when I’ve been stupid enough to leave them inside when I’m not with them. Still, you’ve gotta love em. Meanwhile, they snuggle up and Zac is almost melting into my son’s lap and his all wrapped up in his blanket while we’re watching The Voice Australia on catch-up TV.

By the way, I probably should mention that I’m madly practicing for a violin performance in I think 2 weeks. Well, that’s actually more of a confession that I’ve been doing anything but, and hoping that by putting my what I’m supposed to be doing down here in black & white, that I’ll get that bow moving.

Well, I’ve been a dreadful host. I still haven’t offered you a tea or coffee and not so much as a bite to eat. Slack! Slack! Slack!

Anyway, it’s getting late. Actually, it’s now getting early. Time to bid you goodnight.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Y- Jack Butler Yeats- Letters to Dead Poets…A-Z Challenge.

 

Welcome to the second last day of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Today, we’re moving onto Irish artist, Jack Butler Yeats (1887-1957), who was not only a painter, but also won a medal in swimming at the x Olympics, wrote poetry and novels including a stream of conscious novel, which had the nod from none less than James Joyce of Ulysses fame himself. I’m not sure whether this qualifies him as a Renaissance Man, but he certainly could pass as Rodin’s Thinker, which represents a fusion of athletic fitness, the intellect and the poetic mind (at least in my humble, unqualified opinion!)

Initially, I’d chosen Jack Butler Yeats, because I’d written top his brother, William Butler Yeats, two years ago when my A-Z theme was Writing Letters to Dead Poets. While I didn’t know much about either brother at the outset, I felt a connection through our shared Irish blood. That although I’m a sixth generation Australian and my last Irish ancestor arrived in 1855, that I still have more than a glass and a half of Irish in me and I’ve been wanting to explore my own cultural heritage further.

We’ll be accompanied by The Dubliners playing The Town I Loved So Well.

Portrait jack Butler Yeats

Born in London in 1887, Jack Yeats was the youngest son of Irish portrait artist, John Butler Yeats and Susan Pollexfen, and the brother of   W. B. Yeats, who received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature. He grew up in County Sligo, Ireland with his maternal grandparents, and was deeply influenced by his grandfather, William Pollexfen who was a former seaman. He returned to his parents’ home in London in 1887. Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for magazines, drew comic strips and wrote articles for Punch under the pseudonym “W. Bird”. In 1894, he married Mary Cottenham, also a native of England, and they resided in County Wicklow. From around 1920, Yeats developed into an intensely Expressionist artist, moving from illustration to Symbolism. He was sympathetic to the Irish Republican cause, but not politically active. However, he believed that ‘a painter must be part of the land and of the life he paints’, and his own artistic development, as a Modernist and Expressionist, helped capture 20th century Dublin , partly by depicting specifically Irish subjects, but also by doing so in the light of universal themes such as the loneliness of the individual, and the universality of the plight of man. Samuel Beckett wrote that “Yeats is with the great of our time… because he brings light, as only the great dare to bring light, to the issueless predicament of existence.”[4] The Marxist art critic and author John Berger also paid tribute to Yeats from a very different perspective, praising the artist as a “great painter” with a “sense of the future, an awareness of the possibility of a world other than the one we know”. Moreover, his father recognized that Jack was a far better painter than he, and also believed that ‘some day I will be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack’. Jack Yeats died in Dublin in 1957, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Perhaps I’m running out of brainpower towards the end of the challenge, or Jack Butler Yeats is more difficult to fathom than most. That’s why he’s running a day late. The more I get to know him, the more confused I become. I guess that’s a natural part of getting to know anyone. That, after you get passed those initial introductions, it’s like all the pieces suddenly fall out of the cereal box at once, and it takes time and effort to assemble them into any kind of picture. If I was a surrealist like Salvador Dali, or an abstract expressionist like Jackson Pollock, that might not matter. They’ve already accepted that nothing makes sense. That there is no natural order of things, and our world is utter chaos. However, my background is in historical research where you research, document and footnote the facts. Moreover, you’re also meant to come up with conclusions, which should look more like a neat stack of boxes, than multi-coloured scribble on a whiteboard, which is how my thoughts are looking  right now.

This brings me to that great imponderable…Can anyone truly know anyone? I mean even when you look into your nearest and dearest’s eyes, how much do you really see? How well do you really know them? Can you be sure? Or, are you seemingly dancing together, yet actually listening to different songs with entirely different meanings? Since most of us marry our opposite, it’s probably more than likely. Yet, diversity, and having complementary skill sets and the capacity to extend each other, are all wonderful things. It’s just that sometimes it’s nice to look into someone’s eyes, and at least see a glimpse of ourselves. Get the feeling they’ve walked in our shoes…and reciprocate.

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That’s Lady at the back and Bilbo at the front.

My dog has mastered this, especially when I’m cooking. Lady sits there at the foot of the stove and could easily take out “Best in Show” switching on her huge, chocolate-brown eyes, oozing with so much love and understanding, that I fall completely under her spell and feed her. Yet, for some reason we humans are losing the art of eye-contact, especially in this age of the screen. It really helps to bridge the gap between two souls.

 

 

 

Anyway, immersing myself in all things Jack Butler Yeats, last night I was reading:  Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound. Before I start linking some of his thoughts to his paintings, I thought I’d go off course again, and share some of his thoughts about poets and poetry…

“With the man of poetical temperament experience is an end in itself. Others go through life, as though they were tourists, with their eyes open for enjoyment and some kind of profitable speculation.[1]

“Carlyle was by nature all poet and musician, but his Scotch conscience put a veto on his natural inclinations. He married an ugly wife, thereby perhaps scaring away the Muses. It is often so.[2]

“…there is another type (of man) the man who does not want to rule or be ruled, and that is the man who writes poetry.[3]

Jack_butler_yeats_rha_man_in_a_room_thinking)

Jack Butler Yeats, Man In A Room Thinking.

One of the resounding themes of these letters was just how much Yeats valued solitude, and it could well be said that he elevated the Solitary Man to the heights of Da Vinci’s Renaissance Man.

“I will write again of the solitary man. First of all, alone among men, he is himself and only himself. The companionable man is himself and someone else, seeking expression through the medium of prose or action, thinking of other people and therefore always leaning towards compromise and for that reason working in a spirit of insincerity. Poetry is the voice of the solitary, as resonant and as pure and lonely as the lark at sunrise. If the lark were to bother itself with the `Collective Soul’ of the universe, it would not sing at all. Again, the solitary is the only man who retains his spiritual integrity. With the companionable, belief is opinion living in the heart of talk or action, and dying away when the heat fades.

Old hermits were right in their instinct for the desert since it meant a living to oneself, wrong in the sense that it meant a separation from human voices and from the faces of men, women and children, an uprooting of the human plant from its natural surroundings.[4]

Yeats Man In a Train Thinking

However, as much as Yeats elevated the solitary man, he populates his paintings with people and there was one particular story I came across which revealed he had quite a love and compassion for the every day person on the street, or in this instance train, and their story. For this story, we’re turning to Man on a Train Thinking 1928.

The painting went up for auction recently and this account appeared in The Irish Times:

“The painting depicts a man whom Yeats met on a train from Dublin to the west in 1928. Yeats apparently noticed a man “in the corner of the carriage, who had a woebegone expression and whose coat and collar were buttoned up to his ears”.

He looked so wan and sad that the artist asked him: “Are you ill? Can I do anything to help you?”

“No, sir, thank you,” replied the man.“You see, it’s like this, sir,” he continued. “I bought a ticket for the Calcutta sweepstake for a pound note. Then I sold it to a man for £2. And now that ticket has won a prize for a hundred thousand,” and he sighed dolefully.

“Great heavens,” Yeats said, “if that happened to me I’d have cut my throat.” Then, to the artist’s consternation, his sickly looking fellow-traveller moaned: “That’s just what I have done, sir!”[5].

By the way, I completely misread this painting. What I saw was a man sitting on the train reading a book. Yeats’ solitary man…the poet. This interpretation really resonated with me as the only time I can really get stuck into a book, is on the train, although I always write a lot too and always take a notepad and a book with me. That said, I’ve also been caught short, and resorted to those last blank pages they leave at the back of the book. BY the way, my train trip is quite scenic, as the train snakes around the waterfront and crosses over the Hawkesbury River Bridge. The view’s particularly magnificent at sunset, illuminated by the golden glow of the setting sun.

A Giant Reading

Jack Butler Yeats, A Giant Reading.

Yeats also addressed the social isolation experienced by people who are different in some way and saw it as a mixed blessing:

“A man on his deathbed or after he has been snubbed by his wife may enjoy a few moments of solitude, the rest of his life is a noisy gregariousness. He fears solitude as a child fears the dark, indeed it is a universal dread which one must learn to conquer. A poet learns his lesson generally by finding himself early in life shunned, he is odd. `Why was I born with a different face?’ Blake asked. Genius is fundamentally odd and men hate the exceptional.[6]

As you might recall, people with extraordinary physical appearance often became attractions in the circus, where they became spectacles for general entertainment. In A Giant Reading, he’s showing two circus weirdos sitting together…the tallest man in the world and the blonde woman sitting next to him is an albino. Of course, that wasn’t how I saw it and thought it was possibly a couple who’d just got married…the newlyweds.

Yeats, Jack Butler, 1871-1957; Among the Reeds

Jack Butler Yeats, Among the Reeds.

Finally, I just wanted to mention Among the Reeds. Although I don’t get out very often, I love kayaking and when my parents had a holiday house on the waterfront, I used to paddle along a narrow waterway through the mangroves and almost disappear. It was magical, being surrounded by nature on all four sides, and inhaling and exhaling with King Neptune and anything else that was above or below the water.

By the way, I just stumbled upon an article in the Irish Times, which exposes Jack Butler Yeats greatest secret in The Secret Life of Jack Yeats. I decided not to ruin the anticipation and highly recommend you read the article itself. Clearly, I am not the only one who found that the various pieces of Jack Yeats which weren’t fitting together very well.

After all this challenging research, I’ve almost run out of steam. However, I’d better get that letter written…

A Letter to Jack Butler Yeats

Dear Jack,

You were quite a letter writer back in your day, so I hope you’ll be pleased to hear from me. I can’t remember exactly why I started writing these Letters to Dead Artists. Of course, I needed some kind of theme for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and while it’s decimated my capacity to keep up with the day to day, this daily pressure cooker environment does wonders for my writing, and instead of editing my work over and over and over an\gain and filing it in the bottom drawer or my hard drive, it’s post and up on the world wide web. It’s out there. It’s almost turning me into a Woman of Action, although I’m still too much of an over-thinker to get there yet.

Anyway, as I said, I’m not exactly sure why I started writing these letters. I honestly don’t feel like I’m really communicating with the dead and it’s surely not you guys replying back to me and yet there’s stuff popping into these letters which clearly hasn’t come from myself. It’s all a bit of a mystery really, but I’m not the first creative soul who’s experienced “the muse”. Indeed, you wrote:

“The solitary is one with the forces of nature, with which no man can argue; every action and thought of his mind and every feeling comes from sources beyond our utmost ken. And in thus describing the solitary, am I not uncovering what is the essence of that true poetry which I have called the voice of the solitary?”

I have a feeling that when you passed away and crossed over the rainbow bridge as we say about our dog, you took a few pieces out of the puzzle with you so that any nosy parkers like myself who came snooping around in your wake, would only get more and more confused the more they delved into the pot. Indeed, I can’t help wondering whether you completely dismantled or even burned up your studio to maintain your mystique. French artist and sculptor Edgar Degas, who you might’ve known, is regretting not torching his studio, now he’s seen what they’ve done to the Little Dancer. He’s still dropping F bombs and it’s now been a few weeks. He’s even tried to snatch her out of the Louvre to blow her up. I shouldn’t be telling you this because you could become implicated. It’s bad enough I’m in on it.

Anyway, the whole idea of these letters is to ask each artist a question. I guess my question for you, is how focused should an artist, writer, creative person be on the task at hand? Or, should they leave themselves some room to jump off the railway track and even go right off the grid? You achieved so much across a range of fields, that you were clearly able to divide your focus and back a few winning horses at the same time. I often find that I stumble across things and most of my best work has been completely spontaneous. Indeed, this series is a case in point. I simply started out with a list of artists but even that’s changed and I only plucked you out of the hat two days ago out of some inexplicable gut feel. That said, there wasn’t a lot of competition for the letter Y.

Anyway, you’d better join the train with the rest of the rabble. I’m sorry your journey will be so short. There’s only one day to go.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter From William Butler Yeats.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. Ezra Pound snatched it straight out of my hands. He calls himself my “Letter Keeper”. Indeed, it’s been a bit tricky because of course I have to keep my correspondence with Punch Magazine a secret and I couldn’t have him knowing that I’m “W. Bird”. Clearly, he’s not very discreet as he’s already published my private letters.

Well, I don’t know if this answers your question, but here goes:

“Reason is a school-master calling his boys into school, imagination is a school master in a happy mood dismissing them to wander in the woods, for the space of that holiday every boy to be his own master. “

Does that help? In my day, we also said you needed to stop to smell the roses. That doesn’t mean you can only smell roses and keep walking past the frangipanni, lavender or wattle blossoms if I’m over your way. It means you’ve got to take time out of the everyday and immerse yourself in nature for awhile. Recharge your soul, just like you people are constantly charging your stupid phones.

Well, I’d better post this before Ezra sees it.

Best wishes,

Jack.

 

 

[1] Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound. This letter was dated February 6th, 1915

[2] Ibid December 21st, 1914.

[3] Ibid September 6, 1915 p 14.

[4] Ibid April 2nd, 1915 pg 41.

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/fine-art-antiques/yeats-painting-with-a-sorry-story-1.2438058

[6] Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound, 1910. This letter was dated January 6, 1916 p 47.

7. Ibid April 2nd, 1915 pg 43.

News Flash:Dead Artists Disappear Onboard Train…A-Z Challenge.

 

NEWS FLASH. The World’s Most Wanted… Great Ghost Train Robbery. Masked Artists Hijack Historic Diesel Locomotive.

Central Station, Sydney: Saturday 28th April 6.00am (EST) a gang of masked bandits wielding paintbrushes have hijacked the recently restored 4301 Diesel locomotive, and gone off the grid. Vanished. Forensic experts are clueless, and have found no trace of the robbers at the scene or in the local vicinity. The distraught driver said they were wearing fancy dress with painted bags over their heads, and were all armed with paintbrushes.  The train and four carriages are irreplaceable and valued at over $1million. Anyone with any information, please call Crime Stoppers immediately.

……..

In all my years of writing, and even after attending the Sydney Writers’ Festival for many years, nobody has ever warned me to keep a sharp eye on my characters. Make sure they don’t escape my imagination, and take on a life of their own. Indeed, it’s never crossed my mind. Living so close to the beach, I’ve only ever been told: “Never turn your back on the sea”. It now turns out, that writers can’t turn their backs on their characters either.

DSC_8233

Rosie’s also been doing some painting!

So, I was rather shocked to find out, that my dead artists had escaped and hijacked the historic 4301 Diesel locomotive from Sydney’s Central Station. Worse still, they turned up on our doorstep and lured us along. So, now even my family and I have been swept up in THEIR plot. Indeed, my husband’s driving the train, and they’ve also decided to teach my kids how to paint. Just to add to the mad chaos, someone brought along our dogs (I suspect Andrew Wyeth. They all call him “Dog Man”). Rosie has just chewed up Picasso’s paintbrush. Meanwhile, Lady’s parked herself right next to Norman Lindsay, convinced he’s stashed the Magic Pudding in his suitcase. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me that Lady would join the pudding thieves. She devoured our Christmas cake one year. However, while we’d save on dog food,  having a pudding that never runs out, would be quite detrimental to her waistline…and my own! Meanwhile, Jackson Pollock has dripped paint all over Alexandros of Antioch’s replacement of the Venus de Milo with the arms back in play. So, now he’s running round the carriage threatening to strangle him, and Zac the dog has joined in for the thrill of the chase.

Above: From Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series.

As if that wasn’t chaos enough, Sidney Nolan is screaming for his therapist. He swears he saw Ned Kelly riding past followed by Constable Scanlon. Meanwhile out the opposite window, Degas was equally convinced he saw the Paris Opera with all of his tutu dancers throwing him roses. Vincent Van Gogh told him “he’s dreaming” and kept painting his sunflowers. All he wants to do is sell a painting. “You don’t know what it’s like to devote your entire life to painting and never sell a work. Humiliating. Still need to pay back Theo.” He was so busy painting, that he didn’t hear how much his paintings are now worth. That selling only one painting, could probably buy a third world nation. Humph. Better keep him painting, and we’ll all be moving into the fast lane.  I don’t know what’s suddenly got into them all, but I’m starting to suspect Degas smuggled some absinthe onboard, and they’ll all soon be painting green angels, each in their own style, of course!

Gauguin The Painter of Sunflowers

Van Gogh The Painter of Sunflowers, painted by Paul Gauguin, who somehow found his way onboard.

By the way, I don’t know where all their supplies have come from, but each artist is very well kitted out and Andrew Wyeth even has a couple of dozen eggs to mix his egg tempera.

What is going on?

What would I know? I’m just the writer, the observer and in any case, I didn’t create these dead artists. I simply wrote them a letter. That’s all. Now, they’ve all escaped the plot and gone rogue. They’re beyond my control. I just hope Constable Scanlon sees it that way if he ever catches up with us, especially with my husband driving the train. What about the kids? The whole family will be heading directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. This is serious. Real life isn’t a game of Monopoly!

Christina Olsen 1947

Been sitting out here with Christina Olsen and Andrew Wyeth. Am I going mad?

Yet, to be perfectly honest, I’ve had a few weird experiences myself, which might warrant some time on the couch as well. Only yesterday, I thought I was sitting on the front step with Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olsen drinking Root Beer, or what I know as Sarsaparilla. Fortunately, they didn’t say anything, which I think is a good sign. It must be worse when they start talking to you, surely! What do you think? Am I going crazy? Have I spent so much time talking to dead artists and sticking my nose in their paintings, that I think they’ve come to life? Or, could it possibly be true? That the doors between heaven and earth, indeed the very doors of perception, have suddenly opened up and let them all out?

I don’t think so. The thing is that everything around here still looks just the same as usual. Indeed, I just made pancakes for lunch, and the dishes didn’t magically fly into the sink and wash themselves. There’s been no mad dance of the pink washing up gloves either. Moreover, the dirty roasting dish from last night is still sitting on the stove. If I was really going off with the pixies, those dishes would be done, the washing brought in and dinner on the table. At least, the leg of lamb is in the fridge, but if I’m to believe the surrealists, it could very well jump out all by itself, and hop over into the oven. Then, we could have dinner with Tom Cruise. Or, better still with Hugh Jackman.

Well, as if all that’s going to happen.

Those dead artists might’ve hijacked a train, but I’m still at home…AND more of a realist.

Anyway, just in case this isn’t a figment of my over-active imagination, if you happen to stray across a runaway train painted goodness knows how with this gang of dead artists onboard, you’d better give me a call. Please don’t call the Police. The way things are going, you might have us both locked up, and Ned Kelly could very well run off with key.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Eileen Agar’s frantic. Has anyone seen her Ceremonial hat for eating Bouillabaisse? She got into a bit of an altercation with my kids who said she couldn’t wear it while eating meat pies. Someone might’ve accidentally, intentionally launched it and it was rather aerodynamic, which couldn’t be the kid’s fault, could it?

Eileen Agar wearing Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse

Eileen Agar wearing her Ceremonial hat for eating Bouillabaisse. Have you seen it?

 

 

X-Guo Xi – Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

Perhaps, I should wait until the morning to launch into writing to Guo Xi and focusing on one of his most famous works Early Spring, dated 1072. It’s well after midnight and you know how it is when you’re having a great time and you find someone you really connect with…you don’t want to leave. Indeed, I don’t feel I’ll ever quite leave Andrew Wyeth and Christina’s World behind me. We are one.

Yet, one of the hurdles inherent in this challenge, is to move on. Not to get bogged down at one station along the way. Rather, the train needs to keep moving. Well, I wonder if I can take all my other artists with me, and create something of an Arty Party, not unlike the Elvis Train called The Blue Suede Express which heads out to the Parkes Elvis Festival, in far West NSW. I don’t know who we’d put in charge of designing and painting the outside of the train. Indeed, we’d probably have to pick names out of a hat. There might be a bit of competition, not to a mention stylistic debate. I couldn’t imagine Jackson Pollock and Norman Lindsay sharing a seat, let painting the same carriage. I need to consult my seating app and see who is sitting where. Of course, they’d have to sit in alphabetical order, although I could see some tricksters mixing up the place tags. They always do.

Anyway, without further ado, we’re moving onto Guo Xi (郭熙, ca.1020–1090), a Chinese landscape painter from Wenxian in Henan province who lived during the Northern Song dynasty. Just to put that into perspective, he died 928 years ago and I think he’s our second oldest artist, if you can think about it like that. Inspired by his Snow Mountain, Xi will be accompanied by Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King.

Guo Xi served as a court painter under Emperor Shenzong (reigned 1068–1085). Early in his career as an artist, Guo Xi painted large screens and walls for major palaces and halls in the capital that had caught the emperor’s attention. Guo was later promoted to the highest position of Painter-in-Attendance in the court Hanlin Academy of Painting. He produced many monumental landscape paintings, and specialized in painting large pine trees and scenery enveloped in mist and clouds. He employed “curled cloud” texture strokes (卷雲皴) for mountain slopes, while he did trees in “crab claw (蟹爪)” forms to create a style of his own. Being a court professional, he developed an incredibly detailed system of idiomatic brushstrokes which became important for later painters. His most famous work is Early Spring, dated 1072. The work demonstrates his innovative techniques for producing multiple perspectives which he called “the angle of totality.”-China Online Museum

 

Guo Xi was often referred to as a “Northern Song master” when it came to painting. His work inspired many later artists and he even had landscapes dedicated to him. His lesser-known “Deep Valley” scroll painting depicted a serene mountain valley covered with snow and several trees struggling to survive on precipitous cliffs. The ink washes and amorphous brush strokes are employed to model surfaces that suggest the veiling effects of the atmosphere. One of Guo Xi’s techniques was to layer ink washes to build up forms and his “Deep Valley” is a masterpiece of the use of light ink and magnificent composition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guo_Xi

One of his most famous works is Early Spring, dated 1072. The work demonstrates his innovative techniques for producing multiple perspectives which he called “the angle of totality.” This type of visual representation is also called “Floating Perspective”, a technique which displaces the static eye of the viewer and highlights the differences between Chinese and Western modes of spatial representation.Xi developed an innovative technique, called “Floating Perspective” or “Angle of the Totality”, with which the artist was able to represent multiple perspectives within a single painting. This is an exceptional advance that did not appear in Western painting until many centuries later. Moreover, it’s also interesting when you compare it to the efforts of Renaissance artists like Da Vinci towards linear perspective. As I mentioned before, I can barely park my car in a straight line, so linear perspective is not my thing. I’ll just have to count on the wisdom of others.

guo-xi_snow-mountains-664x1024-500x900

Guo Xi – Snow Mountain, ShanghHai Museum This piece shows a scene of deep and serene mountain valley covered with snow and several old trees struggling to survive on precipitous cliffs. It is a masterpiece of Guo Xi by using light ink and magnificent composition to express his open and high artistic conception.

His son later described how Guo Xi approached his work: “On days when he was going to paint, he would seat himself at a clean table, by a bright window, burning incense to right and left. He would choose the finest brushes, the most exquisite ink; wash his hands, and clean the ink-stone, as though he were expecting a visitor of rank. He waited until his mind was calm and undisturbed, and then began.”2.

Gao Xi clearly had an incredible eye and appreciation for the details of the landscape, including how it transitioned from season to season. In his “Treatise on Mountains and Waters (山水訓)”, he wrote:

The clouds and the vapors of real landscapes are not the same in the four seasons. In spring they are light and diffused, in summer rich and dense, in autumn scattered and thin, and in winter dark and solitary. When such effects can be seen in pictures, the clouds and vapors have an air of life. The mist around the mountains is not the same in the four seasons. The mountains in spring are light and seductive as if smiling; the mountains in summer have a blue-green color which seems to be spread over them; the mountains in autumn are bright and tidy as if freshly painted; the mountains in winter are sad and tranquil as if sleeping.”

So, not only are his painting touchingly beautiful, but also his prose.

So, without further ado, here’s my letter to Guo Xi.

Letter to Guo Xi

Dear Xi,

I can’t help wondering where you’re from and wanting to find those mountains you’ve immortalised in your paintings. Not that I can climb them myself, but perhaps I could at least admire them from the ground, the same way we marvel at the stars. Well, that is if we actually take the time out to look for them. Or, indeed, if the sky isn’t too polluted to block their light. Isn’t it terrible that the machines of man have blackened out the stars and the heavens? Indeed, we’ve even tried to tame the mountains, although the big ones still put up a fight.

I’d love to sit on top of a mountain and just look up at the stars, the moon and feel that clarity all around me. That nothing else matters. You can just sit on your rock and just be. The cares of the world are all taking care of themselves on autopilot without us.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for because more than one intrepid explorer has climbed their own mountain, and found nobody left when they came home. They didn’t like being left on hold while they explored other realms without them.

So, Xi, I could see myself on top of your mountain now with my husband, the kids and three dogs in tow. I just hope they don’t have any sticks up there. We’re already regretting to teach the dogs how to fetch. Hopefully, they too could benefit from a bit o stillness and they might even find their inner dog.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter From Guo Xi

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. I have been here for such a long time withut any communication from the earth so I was very happy.

You must be careful when you climb the big mountains. The greatest danger isn’t climbing up or climbing down. It’s how to continue living with your fellow man in day to day life when you have known such peace and freedom. There is no tick of the clock and you are in your own time zone in your own world. I almost went mad with all the talk of chickens, what to eat for dinner, a hole in the roof. I didn’t care for these things anymore. Wanted to return to the mountains. They were calling me. But I have wife, son. Must stay. Keep my pictures in my head and paint them with my inks.

As much as I would like to go back to my mountains, I will do that in my head. Too much change. Time not stand still. Almost 1000 years. Memory better.

Still we must climb and conquer our metaphysical mountains. Don’t let them build up across our path to block the track. No good. You need to get your shovel out and move the dirt before the mountain gets too big. Can’t get moved. You get strong shoveling dirt. You only get flattened when the mountain buries you.

By the way, here in China we have the Year of the Dog.
Yours,

Guo Xi.

PS I had to share a comment I found re Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. “The first part of the song is when you’re sitting in the exam hall, just writing and sitting in silence while you think “I’ve got two hours left”. The second part of the song is when the examiner suddenly says “Five minutes”. So true.

References & Links

  1. http://www.comuseum.com/painting/masters/guo-xi/
  2. Quoted by Arthur Waley in “Chinese Philosophy of Art-IV” in Burlington Magazine, vol. xxxviii, No. ccxviii, p. 247 in Jenyns, Soame. A Background to Chinese Painting. New York: Schocken Books, 1966, p. 134