Wednesday 26 August 2009

Riposte (re-post)

Sigh. As soon as I'd written the previous post, and even more when I read the lovely comments, I was overwhelmed by how much I love blogging and bloggers and don't want to stop being part of this community.

I want to write. I want to take photographs. After a distinct dry, tired period when I couldn't focus, literally or metaphorically, I took a few the other day that looked like something - and it felt good.

And then, I want to write that I saw a film of low-key near-perfection, 35 Shots of Rum, directed by Claire Denis, about an African train driver and his student daughter in the shabby Paris suburbs - laconically exquisite, wise and beautiful, a bitter-sweet 'slice of life' in the most deceptively simple and complex way.

I want to write that for two or three weeks I chanced to revel in exceptionally fine reading matter. Molly Fox's Birthday by Diedre Madden (spot-on review by Litlove. I cannot put it better). Illuminations by Eva Hoffman, a much less perfectly satisfying novel - she's a veteran and terrific writer, but not usually of fiction - but exciting, important, tackling difficult, shocking themes of life today in a deeply personal way, and along the way the most stunning writing about playing and listening to music that I remember reading. And lastly, clearing out my office (yegods, it had not been cleared for a dozen years and took a solid week!), I disinterred my copy of Siri Hustvedt's Sorrows of an American and that night began reading it for the third time. Each time a greater pleasure than the one before, such a deep and subtle novel - one of a kind.

I want to write of how Marja-Leena's recent mention of it sent me hot-foot to the National Gallery to gaze at the Lake Keitele by Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. When I got there, I'd forgotten the artist's name and thought I might have to search for a while, but the strong, clear, cold Northern light drew me from across the adjoining room. That this powerful work dates from 1905 disturbs many preconceptions.

I miss, oh I miss, having somewhere to ramble on about such stuff. I need it. But I must find a way to do this that doesn't collude with my spinning in unproductive circles. Although I crave words, better to avoid words, avoid thinking, if words and thoughts are always being sucked down the plughole of self-enclosure, self-pity. So I'm giving it some thought (ha) and hoping to find a direction soon.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

And now


It's been, you might say, a challenging, productive, and interesting few months since I took a break from blogging. There was an extra work project, a sizeable, difficult job translating a set of articles from French for an academic journal. Pushing my mind to its limits and then a little bit further. Never quite sure if I was up to this, if a little bit further was too far. And doing it. Far from perfectly, but trusting my judgement of what was good enough.

Some travel, too. A chance to visit the university I work with in Shanghai. China: the colour of the air, the buzz of the people, in all its forceful good and forceful not good, and yes we are the same and no we are quite different, a too-brief taste that remains on my tongue and has set me on a journey through books and films and wanting to go back one day.

Another trip, paid for with the translation fee, was to the sparkly, damp, beguiling city of Dublin and to a house in the impossibly deep green Wicklow countryside, where I attended a workshop with a woman whose work I have long found compelling, Ingrid Bacci.

And after that amazing workshop, sitting in a busy airport, washed and rinsed and wrung, hung out to dry in the sunny, blowy, stormy Irish air, and gently put back almost where I was before - almost, but not quite - I knew that this wasn't it either, this past few months of working more, doing more, trying harder. No that isn't it. It isn't even what you do at all that matters most, but where you do it from, how alive you are to it. And I'm not. Barely alive at all, much of the time.


Blogging brought me the huge pleasure and fulfilment of playing with words and finding that sometimes my words resonated with others. Completely unexpectedly, for I'd never before taken photographs, it brought the delight of making pictures. Most importantly, it brought contacts and friendships I would never have dreamed of. Precious, all of this. But it also brought a renewed and ever sharper realisation of my incapacity to move into those intimations of creativity, to open to those contacts and friendships. It brought me to the deepest and longest depression I have known.

This sounds pretentious, I know. But it's true. And now? Truly, I don't know. This playing around with something, this half-knowledge, half-sense, touched and pushed away, no longer fits the the bill. So I don't think I'll be resuming this blog right now. I think I will spend some time reviewing all my previous efforts, here and here, as well as here, pull together whatever words seem worth keeping, sort the photos into albums, see what it all looks like, and perhaps in the course of sorting find where I need to go next.

If all that starts to resemble anything, I'll put an link to it here. I have a feeling I'll be back eventually in some form, anyway.

Meanwhile, here are some more photos from China.