Ragas at twilight…

IMG_9314And now Ravi Shankar! another great who was at it right up to the end…

“The beauty of our music is the ability to improvise endlessly,” he once said, “and that is my forte – I never know what I am going to do in the next two seconds, and that is still a great thrill.”

This is life, isn’t it? No matter how you plan, there is always an unexpected twist or turn… keeps it interesting I think… I find it impossible to plan in any case and cannot bear routine… chasing the thrill of the new has become a way of life… itchy feet… despite the challenges to this that parenthood brings.

The trick is to seek the future and still be fully in the present. You know, to be ready to respond to what’s coming, ride the waves, and yet enjoy and embrace the moment you find yourself in.

People often ask me, of all the places I’ve lived, which did I love the most. Such a difficult question really. Each place exists for you in a unique time and space… plays it’s own special raga for you in that moment for the person you are in that moment. There is beauty and wonder everywhere if you allow yourself to listen to the melody. Sometimes I’ve gone back but with the return, the melody will have changed. Nothing stands still.

The most important thing for me wherever I am is light. Paris, for me, is a city of light. I returned a few months ago after a long absence and took a twilight walk along the Seine, through the Tuileries garden… the light was stunning… the beauty of it overwhelming.

The last home I had, in North Africa, had a bathroom with the most amazing light. There was something in the angle that the sunlight entered through the window that brought this incredible hue… warmed the blue and white tiles, brought out the highlights in my hair, made my skin look soft, younger.  I always felt beautiful in that room. The bathroom at the other end of the house, sadly, didn’t have the same effect.

The mediterranean in general has a light which fills the soul somehow with a beautiful melodious glow. My daughter was born there. I remember looking up as she entered the world, out of the window, over the sea to see a golden sun as it broke over the horizon. Magic.

Once driving along a winding road, flanked by tall grasses in midsummer fields… it had been a long day, working on a little sailboat called Matra… odd but somehow fitting for this post I’ve just discovered that Matra is Sanskrit for the smallest rhythmic unit of tala… she was from France and we’d been sanding and revarnishing her teak deck under a hot Roman sun… a labour of love… we’d been at it for months… playing olive to his popeye… on this day we were exhausted by the heat, by our labours, hungry but happy… the drive was quite long and it was getting late.. and then, for a section of the drive, the light changed and slowly cast a dreamlike quality over the landscape… we travelled through it in a peaceful, quiet complicity, relaxing into the hypnotic, diffused and almost erotic haze of the light, letting it permeate the space around and between us… time almost suspended… so in love, such sweetness between us… he, an actor and filmmaker, turned to me and smiled… my love, it’s the ‘magic hour’ he said…

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Curve-alicious…

IMG_8109Saddened but somehow, oddly, uplifted this week by Oscar Neimeyer’s passing… I seem to be surrounded by death at the moment…

104! and what a legacy… working until almost the end and such fantastic architecture…

“When you have a large space to conquer, the curve is the natural solution,” he said. “I once wrote a poem about the curve. The curve I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean and on the body of the beloved woman.”

Reminded me of a number of curves I’ve known… from the Venus of Willendorf who came into view several decades ago, fascinating me, as I helped my first husband, the painter, cram for his art history exams… to the stunning curves of ‘elephant mountain’ in Vietnam where my last husband and I once spent a Christmas, with crazy motorcycle adventures and rather a lot of waterfalls and gluwein shared with a bunch of fellow travellers met en route from Sweden…

I love curves… whether in a majestic mountain skyline or drifting cloud formations lazily observed from a gently swinging hammock or the embracing, protective arms and elegant necks of Rodin’s lovers or the laconic flourish of a graceful toe in a tango or arabesques in blue ceramic panels or the generous, sweeping scrolls of a Niemeyer building… they have competed with angular phallic skyscrapers and memorial columns for centuries but, in reality, even the phallus is curved, isn’t it?!

I love curves… am even beginning to love my own curves… and the curve of his shoulder and forearms makes me melt… but, primal urges aside, curves for me represent change, movement, evolution… they are somehow, in their seamlessness, full of hope… moving, arching towards something… full of promise, the future… even the word itself rolls… is almost onomatopoeic…

I love curves… pebbles on the beach… washed smooth by the gentle waves of an aqua sea… I have a little collection of white ones… picked on a Sardinian sunset stroll not so long ago… a meander down memory lane after almost two decades, a youth rediscovered, a lost love found… our passion then was brief, magnificent… like the glorious crimson gladiolas which grew too high and fast under an intense Italian sun and collapsed from their own weight… you didn’t love them enough, he said… you didn’t love me enough, I said… decades later, like the pebbles, we, washed mellow and tender with the tides of life, strolled on a beach, wrapped in each other, our youth reflected in each other and watched the sun set on the curved back of the ‘sleeping man’ hill across the bay…

beautiful, curve-alicious moments along the journey…

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Time out…

IMG_2057The news of Brubeck’s death yesterday and copious postings of Take 5 on Facebook had me hurtling down the long and winding road of memory, back to the very early 80s… to happy days of youth, rebellion and innocence…

To carefree spring days where we skipped school and hung out in the town square, before malls were invented, with the boys and their guitars, rollies and beer and other things… a little Nina Hagen, a little Dave Brubeck and a little of our own improv…

A couple of afternoons a week, we’d cycle madly across town to the canal to join our girls’ rowing team; giggling ourselves stupid over the stern and rather sturdy madame who sat at the front shouting at us to keep in time… and failing dreadfully. Then we’d cycle to the other end of town, racing each other or sometimes doubled up through the narrow cobble stoned alleys and paths, to lounge around in the twilight fields by the lake with the boys and their guitars and their earth pipes… giggling even more covertly with each other at their fumbling attempts to seduce…

On rainy days, we’d hang out at the local cafe, playing pool and smoking, smoking, smoking… in the days before we knew about cancer… pretending to be punk rockers but not daring to really stick safety pins in ourselves,  thinking we were the dog’s bollocks but more like a pack of lost, undernourished mongrels… so much older then as the song goes… so confident and free… so reckless, mostly with ourselves… so stupid in so many ways.

I lived with my grandmother then, on the continent. My poor grandmother. What was my mother thinking?! Still a child when I arrived, I quickly metamorphosed into a teen before my horrified grandmother’s eyes. My poor grandmother nearly had heart attacks over my appearance… my leggings, boots, see-through ripped shirts and wild hair… and my behaviour, fuelled by her sisters who would pop round with newspaper clippings of tragic tales of child drug addicts. They were very sweet in their meddling and, at the time, quite funny; referred to collectively by the extended family as ‘the three old tooties’. My poor grandmother, she was a very proper, trim, old world lady with her perfectly coiffed ‘auburn’ hair, twin sets and Chanel pearls… and coffee and cake at 4 on Sundays… when I knew her.  She was a spinster… and had been a bit of a wild child herself in her day. She certainly rued the day then but another story for another day…. although perhaps explains the horror and worry about me.

My mother too was a rebel… the small town party girl who, barely out of her teens, quit the shirt making factory, packed a bag and sailed off to the new world with a few dollars in her pocket and married the rakish son of my poor grandmother. I’m quite proud of my mum… and if truth were told, my grandmother… both grandmothers… another feisty female.

Does make me wonder though… Now a mother of a young teenage girl myself, I find myself somewhat dreading what is bound to come… inevitable, that rebellion, that arrogance, isn’t it?!

But with any luck, my darling daughter will be, as the final, unusual 4th measure in the Blue Rondo a la Turk rhythm… different from these three generations before her… a little offbeat, a little less rebellious, a little more sensible through her teen years… one can live in hope… lies? head in sand?… whatever… it’ll all be fine in the end…

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Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune…

The news arrived in a text message… it wasn’t a surprise but it hit hard. I wrote about my friend Ian in an earlier post and the news was about his passing… before we made peace and I will forever regret that I did not contact him sooner. Grief is a terrible thing, a powerful thing. Something private and yet something to unite and share. I spent the day yesterday talking to many of the women he’d loved over the years… now in Germany, Australia, Canada, Mexico…

So many tears… so much sadness at the years lost past and future…

I wrote on the memorial site:

this morning i got news that one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. for almost 3 decades we fought and loved, cried until we laughed and laughed until we cried together. nobody could make me laugh like ian. nobody could make me madder than ian. nobody could make it more real than ian… When he was on fire he was ferocious… the old stallion, brother i never had… no words for how much i will miss him.

His mother sent me a message after my post. We’d met at uni so I never knew his mother. Strange that I knew so much about him, considered him to be like a brother and yet there were so many parts of his life that were not part of my experience of him. His mother asked me how I knew him. Strange in a way that although we’d been  such close friends all these years his mother didn’t know who I was either. She wrote: I  laughed, cried and fought with Ian but loved him with all my heart.  I do not know how to carry on. I wrote her a long warm note and sent some pictures of his last visit with me, of the two of us laughing. I can only imagine how devastating it must be to lose your child…

His ex’s are similarly devastated and we’ve shared laughter through the tears at his many antics over the years, remembering the good times. He could be hysterically funny at times. Just never knew when to stop… He was his own worst enemy when it came to love. His relationships were always intense and intensely volatile and for the most part with highly intelligent and, often, highly strung women. He pushed everything to the limit, provoked and taunted. He somehow always managed to destroy what was good and then couldn’t bring himself to make amends. A certain fatalism. Sadly, over the past few days of reflecting on him and his life, I’ve begun to realise, to suspect, that he didn’t feel he deserved to be loved somehow. I know he deeply regretted the hurt he caused but didn’t know how to undo it.

It’s fascinating reading the posts from others in his life. The comments of colleagues and his students and friends I don’t know from his daily life in another part of the world. As with his mother, so many aspects of him that were not part of my experience of him. Intimate friends for years and yet so much missing in our understanding of each other… It’s given me a new appreciation for him and an even deeper sadness that we haven’t got more time together. What struck me most was the many comments about his sophisticated musical tastes. Seems he was a classical music lover. I have no musical associations with him. Not even a genre. I can’t even imagine him listening to music. One of his ex’s posted a Bob Dylan song in memory of him… really? would never have guessed! she said he loved it and sang the lyrics a thousand time…they are somehow fitting now…

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune, bird fly high by the light of the moon…

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Speculum of the other woman: myself as object…

I go through phases of frequently changing my profile pic on Facebook. It’s a little odd even to me; partly a fascination with the ageing process but also curiosity about what being a woman is all about.

I never looked in mirrors when I was in my twenties; somewhat ironic as much of that period was spent writing my masters’ thesis on the theme of vanitas and the representation of women in the 17th century… Luce Irigaray, from whom I stole the title of this post, was inspirational at that time but only in an academic way until now. I dressed in a unisex, asexual or androgynous sort of way… big boots, trousers and baggy jumpers. Although quite a scrawny youngster, I was a bit chubby in my early teens and then became borderline anorexic at 16 which left me by 18 with a flat chested, very slim boyish figure. I had a love affair at 18 and almost became a woman then, wearing make-up, heels and longer hair until he broke my heart, cheating on me with his ex. I think I repressed my femininity as a response. I wore a short ‘bobbed’ haircut after that which too was, I guess, in it’s way gender neutral. This suppression of the external feminine wasn’t deliberate or even conscious but carried on into my early 30’s until my body took control of things.  I recall trying, with much laughter, to buy my first bra in my late 20s and it was an A cup and seemed somewhat pointless.

My thirties were difficult for me, caught between the feminine and masculine… And still no mirrors. My body seemed to have a will of its own over these years though while my mind and emotions were focussed elsewhere, like a garden untended, growing wild and suddenly I found myself in my early 40’s with a rather voluptuous D cup figure. It rather alarmed me to be honest. That and the sudden greying of my hair. I think I felt a momentary panic that I’d somehow missed out on being a woman, that it was over for me. I began to notice my exterior self more and more and started to make changes to my lifestyle and my beauty routines. Enter the mirror!

I’m sure my ‘friends’ on Facebook all think I’m terribly vain with my rotating profile pics but really I’m just observing and documenting my ageing and exploring the feminine in me. Playing with myself. I’m not sure why it needs to be public… maybe it’s part of understanding impact or benchmarking my perceptions of them. I don’t like a lot of the pictures and cannot look at them too long… the signs of ageing bother me… so I have an old picture of me at 19 which doesn’t really look like me that I put up in between. But I like being a woman, I’m enjoying it for the first time in my life. I feel ripe in a way, mature, but also very aware that all is temporal… soon it will all be going to seed. c’est la vie, n’est pas?! but I want to do it consciously and with respect and grace… with love. I don’t want to just dissolve into a frumpy, shapeless, wrinkled old wreck. This is also the first time in my life when I haven’t been with a partner, that I’ve been single for more than a year, and while at times it feels like the lost and lonely years it is also like going on a retreat of silence, self reflection and meditation… in a relationship with myself…

I am also becoming increasingly conscious of what all of this means in the workplace. Now in my mid 40s, I seem to have hit a glass ceiling and it seems to stem from perceptions of ‘leadership styles’ and regardless of sex the predominant preference is for a ‘masculine’ style. I have unwittingly cultivated more of a ‘feminine’ style over the years… clearly the suppression of the feminine was something to do with just the exterior me. Interestingly, in my experience, it is also mainly women who are a generation older than me, the ones whose careers took off in the early 80s, that behave, expect and perpetuate this masculine culture in the workplace. I’m very curious to see how things will be over the next 10-15 years when my own daughter enters the workforce.

For me at this point in the journey, I can and will only echo one of my favourite Marilyn lines: I don’t care if it’s a man’s world, so long as I can be a woman in it….

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In the hammock with Anais…

Anybody else tried Pinterest yet? J’adore! I have an offline inspiration board and am thrilled to have something for all those things I find online that I love… I post a lot of them on facebook, to share with friends but they get a little lost on the timeline and I can never find anything again… yes, yes I know I can bookmark them in my browser but it’s just so much more fun to have the visuals. I’ve set up a couple of boards now and was looking for something on one of my ‘inspiring people’, Lou Andreas Salome and came across this fantastic video with Anais Nin… another favourite. In fact Anais talking about Salome is pretty cool.

So, this is it… Anais on anger and the artist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=Xu9epVEULZM

It is an incredible piece really and I’ve had to watch it a few times… Not that I’m a big believer in astrology but I love the bit where she talks about being a Pisces… the duality of the sign, moving up and downstream, how they need each other and complete each other as in the eastern concept of yin and yang. Her complete identification with this sign is interesting. She talks of how it is ruled by Neptune the planet of illusion, the sign of the actor and how she harmonizes and infuses the dual aspects of the sign into one. I too am of a dual, mutable sign, Gemini and there are of course some similarities… as a writer and someone who has spent their life roaming the globe, I certainly have some affiliation with the characteristics associated with Mercury.

More fascinating though is her reflections on anger. On the one hand, anger wrought by frustration and bitterness, which is toxic and ineffective; then the other kind, the artistic anger. It struck a cord with me as, particularly this week, I’ve had a visit from a very old friend where I saw the corrosive nature of anger she describes. This friend, Ian, was diagnosed with diabetes over 20 years ago and it’s progressed over the years where he now has daily insulin shots. He came from the states where he currently lives and over the week stayed with a round of old friends. A pattern emerged. Each meeting began with the euphoria of old friends coming together and then quickly disintegrated to a complete deterioration in relations. The euphoria was accompanied by excessive drinking, which led to Ian becoming increasingly uninhibited with loud, rude and foul mouthed behaviour, hurling abuse ‘in fun’, escalating to vicious attacks on character and accusations of lies and deceits. More often than not, what followed was the onset of a diabetic attack. Exhausted and alarmed by the behaviour and less by the diabetic attack, Ian’s friends, now in their 40s with young families, asked him to move on. Ian, who has always had little self-control and a tendency to be overly emotional and somewhat dramatic, chose to believe these requests to move on were a sign of friends’ inability to cope with his illness. I can see that Ian is both terrified and angry about his illness. As anyone would be. The drinking is a kind of flipping the finger at the situation… like he wants to provoke the final attack and have done with it. This too is perfectly understandable. He visits friends because he is scared and reaching out but then lashes out and alienates everyone who cares about him. Again understandable but I, like other friends, chose to walk away. It is very hard. He refuses to be responsible for himself. I cannot be responsible for him. And I cannot watch him self destruct.

It makes me think about what I’m prepared to accept. Although personally quite hurtful, I could have excused the behaviour and allowed him to stay longer, looked after him. Isn’t that what’s called being an ‘enabler’?  I chose not to accept being treated that way.  It’s made me reflect on my past in a different light.  I find I’m doing this more and more these days… reflecting and making conscious choices…

I have to agree with Anais. I am interested in and inspired by women from the past who didn’t demand freedom but those who created it, took it… I am responsible for my own happiness.

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Temples and familiars…

So… I have to be honest and say I’m a little worried in the tapestry weaving of tales, past and present, on this blog that it will digress into some sort of ‘sex and the city 20 years on’ blog. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Carrie and the girls… well except for the 2nd movie… what a load of embarrassing crap that was! I’ll try to avoid that route too much but the dating scene in your 40’s is really quite thought provoking… entertaining and horrifying at the same time. And so different from how I remember it. In fact I don’t think I ever did actually ‘date’ when I was in my 20’s. Pretty much just jumped straight in… one or two very long one night stands… So perhaps I will share a few anecdotes, past and present, as we go along…

Mostly, I’d like to know where are all the men my age? Snuggled up with women in their early 30s and starting new families apparently! I’m sure there’s some irony to be plundered there… My source is the requirements on the male profiles on the dating sites. Yes, I tried the online thing for a bit but frankly a few news items recently about women being attacked on dates generated through internet dating sites has really put me off. And after a few dates, I’m fairly convinced my ‘soul mate’ is not lurking on any dating sites or in the local watering hole. I’ll just have to bump into him on a bridge or something… my daughter thinks our cat is my soul mate so that position is possibly already filled anyway. No! I refuse to become that crazy old cat woman with the purple velvet coat… oops think I have a coat like that in my cupboard already. Time to cull the old wardrobe m’thinks!

And time to read Alice Walker’s The Temple of My Familiar… I’ve just discovered it… I’d welcome any suggestions for good books to read!

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Mindfulness…

I love Mashable and not just because Pete is such a cutie or because they have things like ‘popcorn hour’… but because they have such great content, like this: http://mashable.com/2012/04/13/tumblr-who-needs-feminism 

Content you want to share. So I shared it with my friends on facebook of course but it also reminded me that I had a blog… erm… where I could share this kind of stuff… where does the time go?!

What a fabulous project this is: http://whoneedsfeminism.tumblr.com

So simple and so powerful! Love the pictures… reminded me a little of that old Bob Dylan video with his lyrics on cards but obviously nothing like that at all… anyway… highlights that as with everything there is always an individual perspective, interpretation, motivator… does it highlight or is it just another example of the current culture?

Back in the 80’s Madonna shocked and amused us with her cone bras, underwear made outerwear, and took control of her image and identity and led the way for what has become pretty common place nowadays. Everyone seems to create and manage their own ‘personal brand’ on a range of social networking platforms these days… still not sure what I want mine to be… but I guess it’s there already in a way, isn’t it?! A tree is a tree even if it’s not called a tree? Do I need to label my brand? Should I be managing it more mindfully?

I love this word ‘mindful’. Notice a lot of friends using it lately… one talking about mindful eating, another about mindful happiness… well, better than mindlessness… is it a female thing? Consciously deciding to be ‘mindful’ of things, behaviours and attitudes? Curious…

might try mindful blogging… just need to remember it’s here first 😉

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Ready, set, go…

well, actually i set off a couple of years ago but it’s taken a while to get this going… and now that it’s created, not so sure where to begin… will have to have a think 😉

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