May 18, 2013
Walking through familiar neighborhoods, going downtown among the glittering skyscraper canyons, riding the incline to the view of my city- perched like a story on her 3 shining rivers, it is mine- my own place.
Every vista, every stone holds a piece of my history, and memory of loved ones and events. As any expat will know, your adopted town can never be trly yours. Each inch of belonging, every word of a new language, each nuance of a new culture needs to be fought for and claimed.
Whereas, going back to one’s roots without expectations yields all these things as gifts. The landscape speaks a familiar language that resonates deep inside one’s footsteps-steps taken on one’s own home terrain, where one simply is. Not the enemy, not the outsider, but a natural part of it all.
The people actually all speak your mother tongue (praised be!!!), you can respond to a joke or a flirt or a tease in a millisecond, you know the language in all its complex layers and twists.
In Holland I’ve rooted in certain ways, of course– after 30 years there! My garden is an ongoing marriage between my vision and energy and the place where it grows. Several horses that I know well provide me with a connection to the animal population, and the cranes, geese, and other birds sing in a language understood by every heart. My home with my husband provides a haven.
But it isn’t my hometown like Pittsburgh is and always will be.
May 12, 2013
After a fantastic 2 1/2 days with Jeff and Joyce up visiting, I had to get used to being on my own again. We’d spent the days touring Pittsburgh neighborhoods, talking about old times, laughing and stopping for yummie things every once in awhile. Thursday night I made a big salad and we ate out on the deck with the fairy lights on, magical. And last night we made a nice dinner here and had a cozy meal while it stormed outside.
So when they left, first I walked over to the house where I grew up. In that neighborhood I met a man walking a dog and we walked together through part of Frick Park, turns out we went to the same grade school. That shared history is one thing I really miss living outside of my own culture and place.
Later, I revisted Square Café where J&J & I ‘d had lunch yesterday, and sat at a table for one. I’d had a brief exchange with a lady on the way to the counter to order, and at some point she came over and said I was so sweet looking she just had to come and wish me Happy Mother’s Day (I figure Lucie counts as a child of sorts, so thanked her ). We got to talking and had a warm conversation. She went back to her table and later come over and gave me the cookie pictured to welcome me to Pittsburgh. She told me her son is a cook at the café. So we talked some more, and she came around and we posed for the picture, I’d given her one of my little silk ribbon roses.
When she left, I got to talking to the couple seated next to me, and that was really nice as well. We all agreed what a friendly town Pittsburgh was. Well, mostly….. I was walking through my neighborhood this past week and a car came tearing around the corner with 5 police cars screaming after it. It was a real car chase, but not at all entertaining. There was only fear and desperation, and a real risk of someone getting seriously hurt as the car tore through all the intersections, it really shook me up.
Other than that, though I feel safe and comfortable here, on the edge of Wilkinsburg.
May 7, 2013
Pittsburgh, PA May 7, 2013
I’ve arrived in the middle of a perfect Pittsburgh spring. The watercolor above captures the sense of it for me, sunny, homey, comfortable.
(It was made in the spirit of Richard Houston’s wonderful loose painting a day series. I’ve linked to his blog in previous posts if you want to see his work.)
There has been a long string of warm sunny days. All the cherry and apple blossom trees are in bloom and the neighborhoods here are abundantly endowed with them
What a gift to be able to walk on streets you’ve only been able to dream about- to see the familiar pavements and plants and hear the much loved bird song- especially of the cardinal. It is so sweet and melodious. The parks and Panther Hollow and Schenley lake- those amazing deep clefts with shale outcrops and tangled undergrowth that I know with a kind of visceral knowledge, like the scent of home or a loved one.
Anyone who has given up or lost a landscape one has truly loved will probably recognize the unexpected feeling of being held, loved and received in turn by that same landscape.
I’ve been here for 2 weeks now, mostly just adjusting -in the beginning it felt like another planet. Now I am in the house I’ll be staying in for the next 3 weeks. After the social whirl of meeting old and new friends has died down a bit, I’ll get down to some serious exploring and museum visiting.
Here is where I am staying, in a great mixed bag of a neighborhood on the east side of the city.
April 20, 2013
I’ve been working on a book for the past years on and off. It is about why art is important and what its worth is outside of an economic one. Lots of the posts in this blog have been exploring this topic (see, for example the categories art and the market or art and healing).
The deeper I go into it, the more I see that it is not an isolated issue, that the changes needed and indeed happening in the arts are changes happening in every sector and will shake this whole society to its roots.
That is why it feels on topic to talk about an amazing TV program I saw here in Holland this week. Here is a link if you are Dutch. It was called ‘Transitions’ and addressed the present crisis and the creative initiatives happening at grass roots level to come out of it. Actually the projects in the program were not about ‘coming out of a crisis’ but creating a new way of living in society.
The main focus was on Jan Rotmans, professor of Transition studies in Rotterdam. He says that in Holland there are maybe 10,000 creative people who are thinking and acting in a completely new way,, outside the existing paradigm. They are the tippers (ie causing the society to tip into a new way of being), and the thinkers so far outside of the box that the box doesn’t even exist.
Rotmans says we are in a crisis that is different from any before, that this sort of crisis happens once every 100-150 years, and
it isn’t that we’re living in an era of change, but in a change of eras.
Briefly, this is a deep and far reaching systems crisis- we are in a transition period between a consumer society and a sharing society.
The program focused on 5 different projects each in a different sector- healthcare, energy, urban design, building, and mobility. For example, the neighbourhood care project (Buurtzorg) now in every city in Holland and soon to be picked up by the US, Sweden, and Japan. Jos de Blok’s simple idea is to put the responsibility for care and the organisation of care back into the hands of the professionals who do it,and cut out managers and middle managers. It is based on small local groups of nurses and social workers who hire and fire, manage their schedules, and pay system etc. This saves money and improves care. And it works.
Another project brings people who want transport together with those who are offering it – a new kind of carpooling, but via internet. Poeple make a profile, there is a feedback system, the payment goes via the site. (Toogethr.nl – founder Martin Voorzanger) Voorzanger says,
the trend is toward trust not only being a condition for a sharing economy, but the new currency as well.
If people increasingly barter, trade, rent- they take their consuming into their own hands instead of buying from big companies. then this will be the real economy and we’ll stop measuring in terms of economic growth.
The new values emerging in all these initiatives are trust, connection, community building, self sufficiency, sustainability.
So yes, it is crisis, and at the same time it is an incredible opportunity to build new ways of relating to each other, using energy, living in neighborhoods, taking care of each other, and getting what we need in terms of objects and services.
The arts too have a role to play in this transition- as tools to assist and catalyse transformation in times of change.
So I’ll be writing more about this topic in future posts, and hopefully one day gather it all together in a book to give hope and inspiration to everyone whose heart has been touched by music, painting or other arts. And whose heart, like mine, is breaking when they see how marginalised and commercialized the arts have become in this soulless society we’ve all created together.
We are capable of better, I know it.
April 18, 2013
Pittsburgh PA, photo source here
It has been awhile since my last posting. Things have been quiet here on the inspiration and work front. A couple of projects I was working on fell through and I’ve landed in a creative void. But I’ve learned that these periods always pass and bring with them a whole new energy or direction. So I am weathering this time of relative inactivity fairly well. And anyway, there is always the garden. Finally!
Another reason for not so much activity here is that I’m getting ready for a long postponed trip back to my home town, Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve not been back for 10 years and though Holland is now home, I’m needing to reconnect with my original homeland (though I was born in Ireland, but that is another story).
I want to speak English instead of Dutch, feel like I belong instead of being the eternal ‘buitenlander’(foreigner) , get the feel of the country, (re-)meet people and explore Pittsburgh. The old familiar neighbourhoods as well as all the new spaces that have been opened up and developed. I’ll have 5 weeks to do this. Hopefully I will figure out how to blog from there so I can share my impressions.
I loved growing up in Pittsburgh. It is an embraceable city, perched elegantly on the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers merge to form the Ohio. When I was a girl, the rivers were lined with monumental black steel works. When we would drive into town from the suburbs at night, the skies would be lit up orange as the molten steel was being poured.
Now the rivers are cleaned up, there are walking and cycling paths where steel mills once thrived, and everything has changed.
The things I loved about this city were the diverse ethnic groups, each with their own neighbourhoods and events, though still integrated into the whole. And the many large universities, making it one big university town, and the parks, and very rich cultural life, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the International Art exhibition, the Carnegie museums and libraries.
Funnily enough, I’ve landed in a similar place in Holland. I love Groningen as well, it has a lot of water moving through it, it is also a university town, and is rich culturally.
March 28, 2013
This is fairly large format. The aim was to not correct too much, to keep the painting fresh, and to not be rigidly tied to depicting reality.
Every week I go to a Tai Chi lesson in the attic studio of our Tai Chi teacher Lian Ong. Often, while performing the slow, hypnotic movements of the form, my eye strays to the little lounge where sunlight streams in and lights up the yellow and orange soft furniture. I’ve started bringing my camera because of the visual richness in this little space- there is a small wooden glass-fronted cupboard with a hodge-podge of beautiful little ceramic cups, for one. I placed one of them on the floor for this picture.
This tranquil space has found its way into several works of mine already, and there will be more to come.
Here is the original photo.