The Dreamer

rude alarm rings through the darkest night,
It rouses me from magic places roamed,
I slowly stretch and look to the starlight
Unable to shake loose the lost dream’s tone.

Still deep in thought I linger by the hour
And move distracted through the morning’s turns
Entranced, I search within for latent pow’r
While fickle inspiration sparks and burns.

My life is full, I play my roles with heart,
But all the while I live inside my head,
My spirit roams between the moon and stars,
I follow trails of fantasies untread.

I soar, I feel alive, as I create,
So I embrace my two divided states.

A Tonic for February’s Woes

February from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg Brothers

O, give me a tonic,

some potion of yours

to carry me off on the back of dreams,

for I am weary of this life

and its work.

Promises of paradise

hold nothing for me

as I toil, knee deep in winter’s froth.

What repose,

what recompense,

do we see?

A moment to warm ourselves by the fire

perhaps,

though not long enough

to deliver our souls.

There is no good

that will come from complaints;

my Lord would ask me

“Did you not enjoy the merrymaking

of Yuletide and the New Year?”

And it is true; I did.

But those are the faded memories

of two months past,

though it feels like two years

and memories do not warm

one’s bones nor dry one’s clothes.

* * *

The artist peered intently through the window by his desk. Windows obscured the view; their uneven collection of round pieces made it particularly difficult for detailed work, but the severity of the weather prevented his working outside. Even inside, he had to stop every few minutes to blow heat into his hands. The cold dampness of February seeped through the stone walls, past layers of winter clothes, and burrowed deep into his bones.

Blinking and squinting at the forms moving in the snow outside, he added imagined details, small and intricate, to the velum before him. Engrossed in what he saw, or thought he saw, it never occured to him to think about his subjects’ discomfort. They were his subjects – at times grotesque, most often intriguing – but nothing more than that.

He hoped the lord would find his depiction on February pleasing.

 

So I’m a few days late in posting for this week’s now-finished Grammar Ghoul writing challenge, but here’s my piece anyway. Thanks to Grammar Ghoul for the great prompts (the word “tonic” and the painting above).

The Art of Nature

A year ago, I took this picture while I was out walking through our local field naturalists’ grounds, the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. The gnarled tree stood in a clearing among brittle, dried grasses but seemed burnished, almost glowing in the sun, like a piece of polished driftwood, or a sculpture.

Gnarled Tree in Autumn, Copyright Silverleaf 2013

Gnarled Tree in Autumn, Copyright Silverleaf 2013

Almost a year later, I was again walking through the Fletcher Gardens and again came upon the tree. But this time, I found it had been transformed into an actual sculpture, a permanent work of art celebrating the natural beauty of its form.

A little further on, I found this tucked in between the trees as well.

Our Journey sculpture, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

Our Journey by Karl Ciesluk, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

It is something of a surprise to stumble across unexpected sculptures in the woods. These gentle,  natural pieces of art complement their surroundings and encourage passersby to think about our relationship to nature, to the gardens, and to art.

They reminded me of the driftwood art I’ve photographed while in Maine over the past few summers; each year, the residents and holiday-makers gather washed up pieces driftwood and other found items and use them to build structures and sculptures up and down the beach. Unlike the sculptures in the Fletcher Gardens, they won’t last to the next season — the winter tides will wash them away. But in the moment, they are an equally pleasing, equally thought-provoking combination of nature, art and imagination.

 

What Your Curtains Say About You

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials of better quality, achieving better environmental value than simply recycling.

A process whereby one person’s groceries…

Copyright Silverleaf 2014

Grocery Store in the Townships, Cape Town, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

 

…might become another’s beaded curtains.

IMG_2625

Recycled bottles make funky curtains in a Kalk Bay art gallery, Cape Town, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

 

Upcycling: a dialogue worth continuing.

 

 

Seaside Philosophy

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Copyright Silverleaf 2014

The swallows perform endless dives, their sleek-arrow bodies flashing orange as they skim low over white, sandy beaches.

The smell of the fresh, cold sea is brought in on the waves, in the churning of foam and northern leaves and bits from a distant storm we will never see.

The fish must be plentiful and close; flocks of turns call and plummet near the breakers, rise then plummet again. Perfectly timed.

Waves curl further out, along hidden sand dunes. They crash into stony islands, spraying white.

The fishing boats make their way out early, day after day – and this is just another day – to rock among the sun-glaring liquid mercury waters.

Every time I look out the window, I see some version of this picture and my heart lifts, my imagination soars. I am moved to try to capture it in words and in pictures, only to realize I and countless others have already done so.

I find myself taking millions of pictures of the same things. The same scenes as yesterday and the day before and as last year. And I try to capture those same moments – the curl of a wave, the fly-by of a swallow, the dance of sun-sparkled grass – over and over in words as well.

Even though I know I’m doing this, I don’t delete the pictures or the words.

I keep the moments, in whatever form I’ve captured them.

I keep them to bring back home with me.

To bring into the future with me.

To share with others.

Because in the present, as I feel my heart lift at the view or the soft breeze or the sweet scent of grass that reminds me of another cottage in another place and time, the emotions are so pure. I want to try to lay them bare, to expose them and pry them apart from the mundane and feel them forever.

Is that why we all do what we do – we writers, painters, artists, dancers?

Is this the purpose, the driving force, of creating?

To capture an emotion, a thought, a sensation and hold it tight so that we may come back to it again and again, and bring to others the happiness – the perfection – we have glimpsed?

Grasping at a privately-felt moment can be like trying to bottle happiness, or air, trying to trap a fairy. One grabs blindly, hoping to reach what one knows in one’s heart is just there, beyond the reach of fingertips and words and lens, beyond the six senses, exisiting only in the Other Realm.

Sometimes what we end up with falls short, or does not translate into magic outside the moment.

In those instances, we find ourselves holding only a bottle of water, or sand, or staring at what is in fact a caged bird and not a fairy after all. These may be special in their own way, possibly beautiful, but not necessarily what we thought we wound find when we stopped and opened our eyes to look.

But then there are the successes.

The creations that render creator and audience breathless.

That transcend time and space.

Magic.

Those successes are what keep us reaching, grasping, creating.

And, I would argue, for those of us doing the creating at least, they are what keep us not merely conscious but alive, not merely breathing but soaring.