Friday, January 24, 2014

My Grandmother's Hair

When I was a child, I thought my father's mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. Although I must have been around six or seven, I have the most vivid memory of her standing at her mirror, brushing out her waist-length mane of thick, graying curls. At night she would pull the pins from her twist of hair, free it from its coil with graceful tenderness and practiced efficiency. It became a ritual, for the little time I spent with her, the both of us sitting on a bench in front of the mirror, chatting about the day's little wonders while she combed through her wonderful hair.

My hair has always been short, and I have always had a strange relationship with it. The last time I cut my hair, I was twenty four, and had just quit my job. I cropped it close, and then regretted it so much that I wept for days. It's been three years since then, but I find it hard to believe that it hasn't been a lifetime. My hair reaches my waist now, longer than it has ever been in my life, and I am also spiritually, creatively and personally in a place I have never been. It is a new place, but it is older than I am.

I haven't seen my grandmother in at least ten years, but I feel closer to her, somehow. I know now how much she taught me about life, about being gentle with oneself, about listening, and about being a woman, in those few evenings on the bench in front of the mirror. I know that there is something special about this business of one's hair.

At the beginning of January, my husband, who has just lost his own grandmother, confided in me that he feels like he shouldn't cut his hair for awhile. It is growing quickly and beautifully, and for him, is a much-needed connection to his grandmother, to his great-grandmother, and to an impossibly mixed ancestry he will  never truly be able to pin down.

It suddenly occurred to me today, while sitting in my backyard with one of my sweet elderly dogs, with a sudden, unexpected clarity, that I must not let a blade touch my hair anytime in the foreseeable future. It has become impossibly bound up with vision, creative journey, love, wildness and selfhood for me. I feel something here, an echo of something true and real and endless, and I want to hold on to it, to see where the vision leads.

For Grandma Amoy. I love you and I miss you, wherever you are.
Thank you for what you give me. <3


Saturday, January 4, 2014

on describing love

night was the inside of a warm wing.

morning comes, and your body
oh how it sings
describe love.
say what you feel, someone said

love is a sprouted seed
a gentle mouth, the breaking

of bread

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Colouring Book

The Wildflower Studio colouring book has been one of my most beloved projects to date. 

I had so many ideas, too many to fit in this one little book. 

In creating the illustrations for it, I found myself unexpectedly returning to my own childhood, to the place where I grew up, and to the things that move me most... the things I wished I could give back to myself. I followed my feeling.

The end result is a book filled with images of tenderness, wonder in nature and maternal love. It celebrates female relationships, and seeks to provide images of that healing, life-sustaining love between sisters and friends that is so often flattened out and robbed of its power. 

They are what I believe to be the kinds of images that Trinidadian girls can easily grow with, and see themselves and their aunts, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and friends in. 

It's a little book I am proud of, and one I wished I had when I was eight years old, and just starting to grapple with so many painful and difficult questions about myself.

It's hand-bound and backed with repurposed cardboard, and beautifully designed and printed by Kevin. <3

More photos there as well.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bird Lady Diaries, Part One

I'm sitting here trying to think of when my fascination with birds started, and every time I grasp at a moment or a date in my memory, something tugs at me, pulls me even further back. I suppose my earliest memory comes from when I was four or five. There was a space in my ceiling where a pair of ruddy ground doves decided to nest. In the morning, rosy light would flood the room through the pink curtains, and the doves would call out to each other in soft, reverberating coos. As I grow older and I start to really think about why I love what I love, I realize how tightly our lives are interlocked with the world around us. When my maternal grandmother talks about her childhood, it is always with the sound of earth, wind and freedom in her mouth. She talks about hiding in the forest at night to outwait her father's bouts of anger, about climbing tall trees and pretending to fly (although people cautioned against girls climbing trees... it was said to "sour the fruit"). 
We build our personal maps of symbol in such heart-deep, secret ways. It is almost impossible to pick the symbols from ourselves and to discuss them without the act of going inward, going back, and going down. 

The bird lady has kept coming back to me with increasing frequency and urgency since 2007 or so. She first started to insinuate herself into my poetry, especially in my mother poems. Birds populated our garden in what felt like the hundreds after my grandmother's near fatal heart attack in late 2006. 
I remember my mother suddenly gardening with an unexplainable fervour, growing flowers and trees where there were none, sprouting things with hands that had never grown a thing before. It was only years after, when I began working on a paper on landscape and women's poetry, that I came into a fuller awareness of the garden metaphor in women's writing and art. 

This is how I know that the symbols we write and read about are as real as flesh, and are one of the only means of remembering ourselves and our personal and ancestral stories. 

As I type this, it is five in the evening, and I am sitting beneath a Julie mango tree in full fruit. My husband is feeding the wild birds that visit the yard, as he does every evening. The ruddy ground doves come first, then the pigeons, and the pair of loud kiskedees. When they scatter in a cloud of wings, sound and leaves, there are one or two delicate feathers left behind. 

There is so much to write, so much buried here, that it swells in my chest like a wave, a submerged self.

But I know I must start.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Joint Exhibition at Horizons Art Gallery

Photos from my first joint exhibition at Horizons Art Gallery, Trinidad. It's been such an experience so far. :) I'd all but given up hope of having my work in local galleries... I'd had a mixed response, and had no idea what to expect, really. But this journey has been worth it. The opening night was utterly overwhelming, standing in the light next to my beloved pieces. Talking about them with people is always such an intimate, strange thing... but somehow, being in their presence made it easier. They give me strength, and it is my hope that they give strength to the people that end up with them. Here are a few shots from the gallery, the morning after the opening. I'm there, spending some time with my goddesses. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On drawing girls

When I was twelve, or maybe thirteen, someone stumbled upon my book of drawings. It was a close relative, someone older, and whose opinion of me mattered dreadfully. She didn't seem to approve of all my drawings of girls. There were too many of them, and it struck her as a bit worrisome. She advised me to stop drawing so many of them, particularly not the half-clothed ones. I felt ashamed of my book of drawings, threw it away. For a few years I stopped drawing altogether, or sometimes, when I could bear it no more, would sketch hurriedly on scrap paper and throw it away right after I was finished. It makes me so sad now, but it's necessary to write this. Even as a girl, it was unacceptable and improper for me to be so fond of drawing girls. 

She passed something only half-understood to me in her words, in her manner, a horridly misplaced sense of fear and shame, something someone had probably given to her in much the same way. It is the dreadful persistence of the idea of the body as object of lust and sin. It is the fear of one's own body. It is the inability to be wholly oneself, to live fully in one's own body. It is to live in a state of shrinking, cowering. 

I find something powerful and necessary in drawing women, drawing upon my own experiences and understanding of what it is to be. I draw faces and bodies carefully, with what I can only describe as tenderness. There is a love in the act of drawing, and it is a love that has slowly but perceptibly translated unto how I think and feel about myself. It is a reversal and a re-working of that fear into something bolder, older, and far lovelier. 


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Link Love!

This is Link. :) He's such a special dog, so sweet, sincere and loyal. 
Link been my constant companion during my time spent wandering the bush. With his short legs, he manages to jump rivers, climb hills, and leap fallen-tree trunks. I am grateful to him for showing me another face of what love looks like. 

Sometimes, love is staying near, is staying constant. 

In the third photo, he is with his mother, Jinxy, who I miss dearly. Jinxy went missing last year, and although we searched all over our town, and got the help of the local SPCA, she was never located. I miss my tiny, regal girl with all my heart.