So a couple of months ago the kids and I bought some of those tiny little pre dried compost. You have to pour water on them, and they balloon out and then in the moist earth mini towers they become you pop in the seeds. We had tomato, basil, cucumbers, catnip for kiki our cat, sweet pea, and some other flowers. We were super excited when they began to sprout. It seemed so incredible that from those hard minute objects, we could witness propagation, life and marvel at the spindly lush sprouts. But nursery was soon over and we had to contemplate where to plant them outside.
It seems such an insidious progress that already we have hard green little orbs that will soon be tomatoes and curiously twisted and speckled objects that apparently will be cucumbers.
The basil is flourishing faster than we can possibly eat it, and we have situated it and the parsley and pepper my mum grew, next to the bench that Omar built.
Every night I go out and water the plants, that by 4pm have a noticeable droop in the fierce Bahamian sun. I confess to a secret pleasure in watering the plants. Something about nourishing them, that satisfies me.
I am deeply appreciating the whole process. ANd part of that has been to witness, dispassionately. I notice the lithe green pushing through the soil, that sprouted so effusively that we had to do a rough cull, and chose the healthiest for our pots and little garden at the side of the house. I was so proud to watch my little soldiers grew tall and straight in the neat lines we had laid them out in. Then it rained, you know the hot heavy rain of the tropics that knocked them all askew yet at the same time filled their belly’s so that they grew with a ferocity that changed my order into chaos over night. SOme stems broke and the tomatoes rested heavily on the cucumber plants that had started producing little prickly green phallus’. The cucumbers had also decided with their bright yellow flowers and their brash and curious tendrils to take over the yard. I watch in amazement and awe.
Then some crazed slug or caterpillar had been making a drunken path over the leaves and left a thin eaten zig zag pattern in the morning. Now some leaves have been covered in a white dust that heralds its fast disintegration.
I don’t buy any pesticide, as I am curious to watch what lives and what dies in its natural order. SOme tomatoes and a green pepper are producing ominous dark spots.
Tonight, against Fiona’s cries that we were too early, Dylan and I picked and cut open one of the ‘cucumbers’ that looked more like a misshapen courgette than any cucumber I’d ever seen, but exciting enough, when cut and eaten, it was all cucumber.
And what does any of this have to do with art????
Well yesterday, after a drought and a compelling itchiness to work, I hit the studio. Omar joined me and after almost a year, he started working on some of his pieces that he had abandoned. I am hitting a good stream of work and am happy to be in my groove, wondering how i could have abstained from something that gives me so much joy and peace. He is sighing and tutting and cursing.
I love what he is doing but I can almost hear the judgements in his head…’not good enough’
It never ceases to astound me how zen I am about art. In the studio I accept everything and have found that when I do something well the first time, it completely inhibits me. I become terrified to replicate or to ruin it, and so I freeze. WHen things look really bad I have total liberty to use every technique and idea I can have to meander my way to a result that I like. I love that challenge!
I also know that there are so many layers to my work, and to me, each has an energy that adds to the depth and weight of the finished piece, like a life well lived. So I eagerly embrace the ‘mistakes’ and push myself and the piece until I am happy.
which reminded me of the plants growing higgeldy piggeldy in our yard. From a tiny idea, a tiny seed, a profusion grew. SOme will be acceptable and re-potted to one day be drenched by a wild hot shower that breaks its stem. But others will grow to fruitful fruition. To be consumed and enjoyed. ANd who are we to judge or hate the slugs and caterpillars and strange white dust that disintegrates in the artistic process?
I sent an email to some dear friends lamenting and ranting the empty places in my life. WIth a passionate fury I spoke of my longing for experience and I apologised for the times I held back in mute frustration at fearing not being understood.
To my deep astonishment a few applauded me and seem to celebrate me. I was truly taken aback. Somehow in my lament of lack they had seen a wholeness. That reflection really did give me something back. SOme renewed understanding that the process IS.
In life and in art. It’s not perfection that holds the key to our liberation but the unending process and the swinging from one state to the next and looking at it from above (Omar’s words) that gives the perspective to see the beauty. Why complain at the seed not yet sprouted in the earth. Or berate the unfulfilled idea. or complain at the contraction after the expansion. The breath in after the breath out, or the pause in between.
The point is, a life is not described or explained by one event, its the whole. The wholeness, even in an explanation of a hole. Ite the process that illuminates and gives us some sense of order, even when the process is apparently chaotic. Process IS. Experience IS. Even when that experience is emptiness or nothing or ‘wrong’.
I think this is the closest explanation, metaphor, as to why I love contemporary, conceptual, process art. At teh end of the day the product is somewhat empty when one does not consider the process that created the product. ANd ironically, this society may pinpoint part of its ‘ills’ on the amnesia of the process of product.
Maybe we will eat a perfect ripe sweet tomato soon, but maybe I’ll make pesto from the flourishing basil. ANd maybe everything in the garden will all perish and i will be left with the sweet memory of planting seeds, digging in rich earth and watering plants every evening
It is all good!
(ending on a cliché? Really Susan? Well tonight in my expansive mood – I’ll even forgive myself that!)
Also worthy of note, the earth and the metaphor of the dark void space filled with potentiality