Month: May 2016

May be

May might be my favourite month

It may because it feels epic and beautiful and full of potential

Like an Arcade Fire song

Or because it’s the month my firstborn son

was born

It may be because it’s properly spring and

May flowers and Mayflowers must flower

And set sail…

Or maybe just because

it’s May

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Time out of Mind

Inbetween days

This is going to sound a bit wacky but I wanted to say it.

A few months ago, I started getting some bad feelings, Paulo Coelho Alchemist-style, that the universe was somehow telling me I was on the wrong path. Or rather, that I was ignoring the signs to the right path. I think I wrote about it at the time but maybe didn’t publish it. No matter. I tried to start paying attention and I guess I changed some things. Not major, earthshattering changes but those small incremental shifts that happen almost subconsciously and kind of simultaneously. The changes where it almost feels as though, by the time you’ve formed the thought, the deed is done, things have been set in motion…

I did the poetry month, which was pretty major for me. I made some decisions about work and life that have led to me feeling a little less restless than usual. Maybe I even grew up a smidge.

I sort of hate when people talk about this stuff in a self-helpish way because they never give you any REAL information, or practical steps to follow. Listen to yourself, pay attention to the signs, it’s all so ephemeral. I’m sorry because I don’t think I can offer practical advice either, beyond a cod-version of my patented “hands-off parenting” advice (maybe it’s my general life advice) which is: You do know what’s right. And even if you don’t think you know, you do. Trust yourself. Then go on and do it and meanwhile, butt out of bossing other people! (Unless they ask for your advice, I love giving sought-advice IRL). So why am I even saying this here? Sigh… I don’t know. I’m not trying to help anyone else out particularly, just understand myself a bit better.

I’ve been trying to allow myself some time to think as well. I find it almost impossible to sit around and contemplate stuff though. I am a do-er, but that’s OK – with doing comes thought. I can think while I do. That said, one of the few ways I can give myself a break from “doing” is by reading. I read novels. A lot. I’ve recently finished the Earthsea quartet by Ursula K. LeGuin and some of the words really struck a chord… surely a level up from Coelho at least 😉  Anyway, one of the ideas I always come back to when I consider my life here in Switzerland is that it is a unique time. A time-inbetween-times where I am almost inexplicably free of the burdens of what I’d call “normal life”.

“each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.’” (from “The Farthest Shore: The Third Book of Earthsea (The Earthsea Quartet 3)” by Ursula K. LeGuin)

I’ve also been allowing myself to feel my emotions more and maybe that’s helped? I find it hard to value emotion over rational thought and planning. Considered along with the gender bias stuff I inexpertly wrote about recently, I guess this can be directly correlated to a lot of what’s seen as important, valuable and success-making in our society – traditionally “male” traits of rationality, consistency or unwavering-ness, disregarding emotion. (I say “male” in inverted commas because I don’t think men and women are really that different, but we’re conditioned in so many ways to believe we are.) And I wonder if, in this world gone mad with all the focus on negativity, where commercial enterprise wins out almost every damn time against caring for the natural world or human decency; where we’d rather catch a longhaul flight to holiday in another country than let a starving refugee take up residence in our own, if this denying of emotion, of love, of trying to push away fear with hatred and never allowing ourselves to feel compassion because we’re so afraid that it will in some way diminish us, open a door through which all that we value can be taken away from us; where appearing strong, virile, invulnerable and unbending is paramount, while showing you care, or admitting you don’t understand, or are afraid, saying you’ve changed your mind and you feel different now, even saying sorry, let alone that you made a mistake, is seen as weak and therefore bad… I wonder if that’s actually a big part of what’s wrong with the world right now.

Anyway, while I still shy away from too much touchy-feely stuff, allowing my emotions to be felt more often is probably a good thing. They say only the truly strong can show their vulnerability, or something. And, like anything, the more you practice, the less out of control you feel with it all. Emotions are not just the light, frippery, insubstantial butterfly girl-things we should ignore because they’re so silly (although why you’d want to disregard something so delicate and beautiful I don’t know). They’re also the deep, dark, bloody and important things that make us human, that touch our roots, our history, our compassion, our tenacity and our integrity. I’m not free of my demons by any stretch, but maybe I’m starting to balance the burden towards freedom a little better. I hope.

“She did feel it. A dark hand had let go its lifelong hold upon her heart. But she did not feel joy, as she had in the mountains. She put her head down in her arms and cried, and her cheeks were salt and wet. She cried for the waste of her years in bondage to a useless evil. She wept in pain, because she was free. What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveller may never reach the end of it.” (from “The Tombs of Atuan: The Second Book of Earthsea (The Earthsea Quartet 2)” by Ursula K. LeGuin)

 

Dear Mr Zoo

Anyone who thinks we don’t have inherent sexism in our language and most of our texts from childhood onwards needs to do this simple experiment. Take the popular children’s book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and switch the genders of all the animals to female. And suddenly the characteristics seem way loaded.

Dear Zoo

 

Here’s an interesting Guardian article about gender imbalance in children’s books. And another article about the fact female voices figure far less than male ones in Disney films (yes, even Frozen, which seems mad).

When I think of the films my 5 year old son loves such as Finding Nemo (a dad looks for his son, and aside from one main female character, all the other main speaking parts are male – the irony being that a male clownfish actually TURNS INTO A FEMALE if/when his mate is killed.) Cars (one main female speaking part, the love interest) and Planes (two minor female love interests and a female secondary member of the crew) it does make me despair.

We’ve also recently started watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a show I watched regularly in my youth. There’s 4 male turtles, their male mutant-rat ninja master, the male enemy – a Darth Vader style dude named Shredder – and his overlord Krang, his two male offsiders etc. There is one main, strong female – April O’Neil – a journalist, so that’s awesome. But do we really celebrate ONE main chick among NINE male characters? What kind of ratio is that? And how is it anything like real life? I could outline a similar catalogue for Star Wars and everything else but you get my drift. Sigh.

Also everything is Mr Sheen, Mr Muscle, Mr Mower etc. I’ve noticed this, along with the huge gender imbalance in kids cartoons, since I was a child and it always bugged me. I know this is because maleness is seen as “the norm/neutral” (I am not a gender studies expert, so excuse me for not using the proper terminology here) but still.

Going back to my first example. It’s not just that all the animals are male. I find that changing them to female gives the characteristics of the animals – She was too: Big, Tall, Fierce, Scary, Grumpy, Naughty, Jumpy – a whole different dimension that makes me feel uncomfortable in a way I’m not even sure how to articulate. What do you think?

Anyway…

Happy Mother’s Day!

Don’t Stop

Underwater cake

So poetry month is over. Time to get back on that prose stallion. Put away my poetry hobby horse. Or something.

I really enjoyed NaPoWriMo. I went into it almost blind and very last-minute. I actually only discovered a poetry month existed about two days before the beginning of April and thought “I enjoy writing the odd poem, why not be in that?”

The results proved more absorbing, engaging, entertaining and challenging than I would have expected (if indeed I’d had any expectations!). I’d love to keep doing something like this or start another creative project but I’m going to attempt to give myself some downtime first and regroup (if indeed that is possible for me… ha ha)

It’s funny because the very first post I wrote on this blog was a poem – Moving Day – written on our final day in the house we owned in London before relocating to Switzerland. I guess this is my journey.

Some other unexpected benefits of poetry month included getting more blog readers and followers (there’s almost 100 of you now, hello!) and reading a lot of other people’s work. As things tend to happen in that kismet-way, the poetry month happened just a few weeks after I joined a local Bloggers In Switzerland group on Facebook. Both experiences have helped me become a better blogging “citizen”. I’m now reading, following and commenting on a lot more blogs and I’m discovering some great stuff as well as feeling like part of a nice online community.

I don’t want to do a blogroll at this stage, but in the spirit of being a good blogging citizen (Blogizen?) here’s three out of many cool poet/writer’s blogs I came across during April:

So what now? I was going to call this blog post Whatever Next?! in homage to some kids book, but then the Aerosmith song came on my iPod this morning and it seemed more appropriate. There’s a lot of moving parts in our lives here in Switzerland currently so I will just have to see where it all takes me. Part of me is super-excited, proud and maybe a bit dazzled about achieving 30 poems in 30 days and what that might mean for my future creative projects. The other part is not nearly so positive. At all. Luckily poetry is a movable feast and I guess I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon…

The photo is because some people mentioned they’d like to see the Underwater Cake mentioned in my final NaPoWriMo poem – Ende.

And, what the heck, another poem just so my new followers don’t feel they’ve been led astray

 

HOBBY WHORE

 

Some people pant pictures

Others play guitar

I’m doing poetry now

That’s who I are

 

Not a great fit with motherhood

Can’t stop to care

There’s no downtime anyway

I’m just being Claire