Attachments & letting go : Part 1

I haven’t felt inspired to write for the past month. There have been too many things to think about, make decisions about, worry about (pointless though that may be), all the while contending with ongoing health problems. At the same time, I knew that probably the best medicine was engaging in creative projects … writing, taking photographs, making books. None of this seemed possible, as I felt constantly tired.

All areas of my life need decluttering. I decided to make a start by decluttering my computer. This led me to look back through ancient files and I found a folder titled  ‘Carmel’s art and writings’. Some of these dated back ten years. I’m not a person who can just throw everything out without looking at it, and I’m glad of that because some of this work is possibly the best I’ve ever done. I was surprised at the quality and the insights … if I had acted on these, my life might have taken a different (and better) path. But maybe not.

I realised that much of the work had never seen the light of day (outside CAN Company meetings) and an intuitive voice told me “now is the time”.

One year, The CAN Company chose  ‘Attachments’  as its theme. My explorations on the subject led me to ruminate on trees …

“A tree is in a constant state of change … and movement. Before I spent time musing about the matter, I had consciously thought only about a tree’s habit of letting go of leaves, and I’d considered how some leaves become more beautiful after they fall from the tree (a fascinating metaphor to follow). Then I thought of the way a tree drops small twigs and the occasional branch on a continuous basis, always replacing them with others. Further consideration told me that even the tree’s roots are constantly dying and others taking their place … not the main root, maybe, but the subsidiary ones (another metaphor worth following).

“This is just the lesson I need to learn. I accumulate too much. My house is full of books I’ll never read, fabrics I’ll never sew, art materials, recipes, etc. I’ll never use, decades-worth of letters I’ll never look at again, unusual objects of all kinds which ‘might come in handy one of these days’… yeah, sure, provided I remember I’ve got the stuff, and can find it when needed. Each time I take on something new, I should let something else go. Preferably, I should take the initiative in letting go of what no longer nurtures me (or the reverse), IN ORDER to make way for new things … like the tree.”


This is not, strictly speaking, a ‘tree’ but a wisteria vine which grew beside the verandah at our house in Brisbane. It was a constant source of delight to me—one of the few things in our garden that changed with the seasons. 
(To be continued)

Picnic at Sandgate

The Redcliffe Peninsula has been a glorious place to live for the past few months … clear blue days, gentle breezes, sparkling tranquil sea. On just such an idyllic day, in early August, we met with friends for a picnic at nearby Sandgate. These are friends we’ve known for 30-plus years, since our children were babies. Life is so busy nowadays that we rarely see them, so the occasion itself was bound to be memorable.

And so it was.

It was also, if I remember rightly, my first hatless/scarfless/beanieless outing with my post-radiation hair. I don’t think it’s ever going to grow any longer. Some people say they like it (people are polite), but I hate it. Just look at that receding hairline! It looks worse from the front—the high forehead is too much contrast to a now-narrow jaw. For most of my life I’ve worn a fringe, which looks like it will never be possible again. If the hair were on someone else I probably would think it’s alright, but it’s just not me! I suppose I should consider this the least of my problems … at least it will save me money on haircare.Image

We whiled away several hours chatting about nothing in particular and fondly watching the ‘young ones’ enjoying themselves on the beach.ImageImage

Adding to the magic, a surprise visitor arrived in the form of a butterfly (I think it was an angel), which hovered with apparent curiosity around just one person then settled in front of her. We suggested she extend her finger to see if it would land on it. Instead, it did this …Image

It stayed on her sunglasses for a couple of minutes, then fluttered to a nearby wine glass and sipped on the rim.

We felt blessed.

Palm fronds continued

There’s not much point taking a hundred photos of a palm frond if you don’t do something with them. The easiest option was to make cards and bookmarks. One day I might even try to sell them, though I daresay I’d have more success with cute cats. 

Oh well, I enjoyed experimenting with different combinations of photos:

A little Photoshop manipulation.

The first cards were done in landscape format, with 3 images on each as shown. I then tried a portrait format, with a palm tree silhouetted behind, but I wasn’t too sure if I liked those. The image below shows the full card, which would then be folded in two. A bookmark is pictured on the right.
ImageI have so many cards now … I’ll never have to buy one again!


God is in the details

In the absence of any new work, I decided to look back over past stuff and see what I could find (and perhaps learn). When we lived in Brisbane, we were blessed with a sheltered verandah which was a constant source of inspiration because of the surrounding foliage, animal visitors, and the continually changing light and shade. In our present house, unfortunately, the surroundings are not nearly so conducive to creativity. So, when The CAN Company decided to do a photographic exercise which entailed taking 100 shots of just one item, I was at first completely bereft of ideas.

Then, as so often happens, a subject presented itself—on this occasion by making itself impossible to be overlooked.

We have several tall palm trees in our yard, and quite often the dead fronds fall off. My husband always thinks they’re going to fall on someone, but I think they purposely fall when they can’t hurt anyone. I’ve often thought it a shame I couldn’t think of anything to do with the sturdy sheaths which held the fronds to the palm’s trunk (I’ve just learned that these ‘sheaths’ are actually part of the ‘leaves’). I suppose, if you were staging a banquet, you could use them to hold a splendid array of fruits and flowers and stuff. But staging banquets is not one of my activities.

One day, when we returned home from a shopping trip, we came across a frond which had fallen across the path near our entrance door. We were both astonished by the colours on the sheath, especially a most unusual mauve … unusual because we’d never seen such a colour on a palm before.

“Ah,” thought I, “here’s my 100-shots subject.”

The mauve hue didn’t show up very well in my first shots, so I had to move in closer:


Then I started noticing other wonders—textures and patterns and a huge variety of colours and shapes that you can’t see when the frond is attached to the palm’s stem.

Soon I was totally absorbed by the frond and could probably have taken another hundred shots. I moved the frond around onto different backgrounds, and into different lighting conditions, and then became entranced by the shadows it cast.

I haven’t yet tried taking a hundred shots of something more challengingly ‘mundane’  (and maybe never will).

Inner wonders

Yesterday Colleen (from The CAN Company) and I spent a lovely day photographing cross-sections of fruit and vegetables (for a calendar we’re producing).

Often we gasped with delight … slice open a tamarillo or guava or kiwi fruit and you’ll see what I mean.

Later, when we loaded the images on Colleen’s laptop, there were even more gasps of delight when we magnified details …Image
I wonder if there’s a way of taking a metaphorical  cross-section of me 🙂

More experiments with beach stones (and a few broken shells)

About this time, The CAN Company engaged in a photographic exercise on the theme of ‘white on white’. I liked the results so much that I decided to shoot a series of white-ish stones on a plain white background. As luck would have it (had to be luck, because I didn’t do it on purpose) I noticed a spot in my haphazard ‘studio’ where the light for most of the day was bright, but softly diffused. In a rare moment of industry, I cleared a space, found some white card, and set to work.

For a period I became a minimalist. Image
Once more I created a series of cards. I had enough material to keep me going for years, if the Bright Shiny Object syndrome didn’t intervene. It occurred to me that I could make other ‘designer products’ using the stone and shell images. Putting the cart before the horse, I designed a brochure to promote them …

I even visualised a small exhibition, using the cards, framed images, altered stones, and maybe even ‘sea spirit dolls’ (I’ve long been flirting with the idea of making artist dolls, but like so many other good ideas it remains in my head in the ‘one of these days’ corner).

I haven’t given up on this idea, but it’s been pushed aside for a while.

Where can I acquire creative energy and motivation?

The source of the beach stones: an interlude

Sometimes my best work is done ‘on the way to work’—in other words, when I don’t think I’m working at all.

Late one afternoon, when the tide was very low, I walked down to the small cove where I had gathered the most colourful stones. My intention was to explore the area and determine some suitable spots to set up my ‘altered stones’.

The light was lovely, long soft shadows falling across the sand and drifting across the water. Absent-mindedly, I began aiming the camera. Excitement grew, as everywhere I turned the viewfinder sand and water ripples called insistently ‘take me!’  For the next hour or so (I lost track of time) I was lost in a magical world of light and shadow and reflections.

Later I created a series of cards, printed on watercolour paper. I couldn’t decide whether I preferred the images in black and white or colour, so produced a series of cards in each.

I’m not often satisfied with my work, but I really liked these images and cards. There was something particularly pleasing about the combination of slightly textured ivory-coloured paper teamed with kraft envelopes. I thought I might even have bought them if I’d seen them in a shop, created by someone else.

For the first time in ages I felt I had a ‘direction.’