there is a time for everything

October 20, 2020

I’ve been making plates at my kitchen table these past few weeks, and it’s been an exercise in patience, to say the least. There is a prime time, when the clay’s consistency morphs from mushy to malleable that every potter seizes. The clay feels leathery and beautifully workable. Too early, and the clay just flops, too late, and it becomes rigid and set in its ways. It’s always a thrill to find the clay at that perfect point; there comes a confidence in the hands, and a command of the material. It’s tempting to rush, but that almost always backfires. Clay has a memory, and it will remember that you rushed it. Warp. Some rush. Some learn to wait. Some wait too long. Chances are, most of us we’ll do all the above.

news of the day

October 19, 2020

I’m not sure how it’s never occurred to me to wrap flowers in newsprint. What a delightful way to bring blooms to a friend. Just be sure to choose the arts section, books or sports. No one wants their dahlias wrapped in Coronavirus numbers and political disarray.

tree life

October 16, 2020

I’ve always enjoyed being in nature, and walking among the trees. Last winter, I remember feeling a heightened appreciation for the beauty of naked trees. Then came lockdown, and long daily walks, and I longed to see foliage on those trees. Bare branches suddenly gave me hope. Soon, they would be leafy and alive. Spring came and went, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. With the world upside down, at least we could count on the trees to do what they always do. By summer, the city was a fervent green, abundant with leaves and blossom, and our walks continued. We moved slower, especially on those extremely hot July days, but we didn’t stop moving. We’d always end up among the trees, in their shade, in their splendour. Jason and I felt it, and I think the children did, too. This pull to the trees. “To their majesty,” as author, Kerry Claire wrote recently, “their steadfastness, and the admirable way they keep reaching for the sun.” Today, after dropping off my daughter at school, I walked through a nearby ravine and marvelled at the wonder of the trees around me. The light was golden, the colours majestic. On my way home I bumped into artist, Nicole Kagan and remembered something she’d said at a workshop I’d done last winter; “Trees are both grounding and lifting to be around; their roots are in the ground, and their branches reach up to the sky.” Before long, the trees will be barren. Before long, we’ll begin again.

handstand

October 15, 2020

My son is a beautiful gymnast. I’m always amazed by what he’s able to do with his little body, his power and poise. He can walk about on his hands with such ease. I came cross these photographs by American conceptual artist, Robert Kinmont and immediately I thought about Antimo. The series, entitled 8 Natural Handstands, was shot over several decades, and shows the artist doing handstands on cliff sides, river beds, forests and deserts. A form of performance art, the photographs are an exploration of the land, and the artist’s place in it.

apple of my eye

October 14, 2020

Apple crumble is one of my brother’s favourite desserts. It was a Saturday staple growing up, served hot with heaps of Bramley apples. Alex used to fully submerge his crumble in piping hot English custard. The custard was never my thing. I’ve attempted the odd crumble myself over the years, but it’s never been as good as the ones I grew up eating. I came across this recipe from James Rich, a British food writer with apple juice running through his veins, (Rich’s family grows apples and owns a cider farm in Somerset) and I thought I might try it. It sounds pretty classic, no doubt Alex would approve.

piku piku

October 13, 2020

I came across the work of Brooklyn based artist, Yuko Nishikawa today and her art, philosophy, and rhythmic attitude to life resonated with me a great deal. She makes lighting out of clay that’s wonderfully weird and anthropomorphic, as well as beautiful mobiles that feel like roving planets. During quarantine she made one painting a day, some incredibly detailed, and others simple and bold in execution. “Piku piku,” Nishikawa says in her artist’s statement, “is a Japanese onomatopoeia that describes involuntary movements caused by unexpected contact. I want my work to make you feel piku piku, tickling something deep down inside you.”

imagine that

October 12, 2020

One of the silver linings of Covid, is seeing how imaginative and resourceful people can be in times of challenge. We’ve watched neighbourhood restaurants morph into gourmet grocers, florists sending stems with build-your-own-bouquet videos, and dozens of gyms and fitness centres taking their workouts into the woods. This summer, I watched my friend, Lily turn her drive and garage into a creative heaven for neighbourhood children. Lily’s grassroots camp provided jobs for local teenagers, and kept the younger children in her neighbourhood safe and engaged. My friend, Jessica, a Mum of two and a passionate cook, zoom-taught sprogs across the country to make bread sticks, croissants and sticky buns. “My mantra has been from the very beginning,” said Moschino head designer, Jeremy Scott, “my body may be in quarantine, but my mind isn’t.” I love this quote. It’s a solid reminder of how creative we can be despite limitations. This year, Moschino presented Spring 2021 in a very different way. Scott worked with Jim Henson’s famous Creature Shop to create a marionette puppet show titled, “No Strings Attached” in lieu of a traditional runway show. It’s kind of exquisite –– the dolls, the clothes, the imagination.

park city

October 12, 2020

For the last few months, this parking lot has doubled as our children’s playground. With our back yard a mud-pit of discarded nails, wood planks and sheets of aluminium, the parking lot behind our house became their stomping ground. And boy, have they stomped. If not shooting hoops, or racing their bikes around the outer rims of the lot, they’re playing hide and seek, gaga ball or simply loitering like teenagers. In the summer months, all the neighbourhood kids gathered here for games, and now it’s just the three of them again, plus our next door neighbour (and his ace laser pistols) throwing a ball, counting cars, bickering and laughing. By 5 p.m. the parking lot is empty, so they have so much room to run around. It’s not charming or quaint, but it’s all the fun they need.

sunflower

October 9, 2020

I’m not a huge fan of Autumn flowers –– celosia, chrysanthemums and rudbeckia –– but I still think any flower in abundance looks beautiful. Heaps of goldenrod, or a vase full of cornflowers is lovely, even if they’re not my favourite bloom. As clichéd as they are, sunflowers really are joyful, conjuring images of Provençal fields, Van Gogh paintings and stone kitchens with large farmhouse sinks. Everyone should buy themselves a sunflower this weekend; better yet, make it a dozen.

upstream

October 8, 2020

Yesterday evening we went to watch the salmon making a metre-and-a-half jump over the Old Mill dam on their way upstream along the Humber River. The salmon run is the time when salmon which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers to lay their eggs. What’s miraculous to me is that they use a sense known as magnetoreception to locate the general position of their natal river. Once “home,” they lay their eggs, and with the exception of Kelts, (repeat spawners) the salmon then die there. As I watched the fish fling themselves at the dam, putting in their very best effort against the gush of water, my human responses –– disappointment, sadness, frustration –– kicked in. Many of them didn’t make it over, despite their bold efforts, and most of them will die without making it home. And yet, for the salmon, c’est la vie. Fish are used to facing threat and adversity, it’s all they know; only the strongest, and luckiest reach their destination. This is nature. This is life. Perhaps, in some ways, we’re not so different to a Chinook. “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges,” said Neil Armstrong. “It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul… we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”

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