Woke to news of an earthquake in Taiwan, fearful for a friend who lives there, relieved to find she is safe. Thinking of those suffering or having to rebuild.
Weekend here, at last. Sports day on the school playing fields across the road, athletics matches in the heat. Parents and teachers applauding as children tear back and forth, competing, winning, losing. My Great Dane peers at the players through the living room window like an elderly voyeur behind a lace curtain. He is a very curious dog and a little short-sighted.
From Jane Hirshfield on how we look with poetry’s eyes:
Poems appear, as often as not, to arise in looking outward: the writer turns toward the things of the world, sees its kingfishers and falcons, hears the bells of churches and sheep, and these outer phenomena seem to give off meaning almost as if a radiant heat. But the heat is in us, of course, not in things. During writing, in the moment an idea arrives, the eyes of ordinary seeing close down and the poem rushes forward into the world on some mysterious inner impulsion that underlies seeing, underlies hearing, underlies words as they exist in ordinary usage. The condition is almost sexual, procreative in its hunger for what can be known no other way. All writers recognize this surge of striking; in its energies the objects of the world are made new, alchemized by their passage through the imaginal, musical, world-foraging and word-forging mind.
A week of thinking about how we see art, what baffles, what is technically skilled, what is unexpected. The materials listed: charcoal, acrylics, wax crayon, oil paints, pencil. I think about taking my easel out into the garden at twilight, when the garden cools, painting foliage or a cloudy sky. Looking at the familiar differently as I try to repeat or copy nature. I drew leaves as a child, oak leaves, maple, viburnum, msasa, imbuia; leaves ribbed, furred, veined, crinkled and losing green. Both sides of a leaf: the side showing structure, the side floating colour. Thinking about the capillary action, the rising sap, the fluttering in a breeze. Silver-backed leaves, juicy dark greens, purple and black leaves. Some days all I could see were leaves on the grass, leaves jumping out from branches and twigs, leaves I had to paint there and then. Leaf light, the way the sun shines through a leaf and makes its inner workings transparent and suffused with gold.
When I was at school we ran races, relays, played tennis, played rounders, played netball, swam in annual galas. I was placed in Livingstone House and cheered when runners for our House beat those in Moffat House. Named after the colonial missionaries David Livingstone and Robert Moffat. The competition didn’t bother me because winning or losing seemed such a small thing. I won prizes for essays and elocution and disregarded them because what teachers liked or admired was often not very good, too tame and neatly written. But there was pleasure in running barefoot in the sunshine, overtaking others, breasting the tape at the end. It didn’t happen often but I liked the effort and cameraderie. Shiny cups and certificates were more for the excitable teachers than us. Even parents knew that and tended to doze off in deck chairs under trees at the edge of the field, clap loudly for the wrong child, fanning away flies and swatting at bees. Spending time outdoors in a hot climate wasn’t always wise but we grew up on sunshine and fresh air. Black swimsuits and white caps for swimming galas, ironed white dresses for tennis. Straw bashers, ironed cotton shirts and pleated knee-length skirts in summer, ties, sweaters or cardigans and socks or stockings in winter. Hair tied back in a pony tail or two plaits, fringes pinned back off our freckled, sunburned faces. Faces and hands scrubbed, short finger nails, no cosmetics. No swearing, no smoking, no slouching. It was the world of Empire, Little England on the Veld.