The Passing of my Mother, and a Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

My mental finger has been hovering over the ‘reset button’ of my life as I approach the sobering age of sixty (On June 25th 2014). More so since my mother unexpectedly caught pneumonia and died last week, aged 92.

Leone harris funeral sheet  page two monday 2  june 2014

Such is the reality of all process – it is governed not by what has gone before, no matter how often, but by systems of cause and effect – 60 years with a mother, now suddenly no mother. The human body being what it is, and the Western diet, etc, this was not unlikely. The human psyche being what it is, it’s not surprising that it caught us all a bit by surprise. We were settling in for the longer haul, as she had stabilised and seemed quite perky. Raewyn and I were looking to try and buy a house in Whangarei, start a ‘Eutopian flat’, practicing the principles of Eutopia in the microcosm of a homely house, and taking turns with sisters Penny and Rose and brother John to visit mum every day until she turned 100 and beyond, if that was to be…

Now? Well the night she took a turn for the worse, I had begin moving my stuff into the bigger studio in the Quarry Arts Centre. Yesterday after the burial I completed that move. Now that we have sold the physical Eutopia in Kaiwaka, the Quarry is the closest thing to a stable manifestation of Eutopia (a ‘Good Place’) in my life. So we may stay on in Whangarei and keep doing Eutopian things at and around the Quarry, and buy that Eutopian house. I don’t know…

[Trivia alert!] Meanwhile here at my sister’s barn where we have lived since mum was in the rest home, we have a menagerie of one old cat Max, which younger son Robert brought back (originally 17 years ago found as an abandoned kitten by daughter Xanthe), Honey, Anna’s yappy doglet who kept waking Bruno her baby son; big dog Zoe which elder son Daniel left with us upon taking off to teach English in Kazakstan; and our own Poppy mother of Honey, also a bit of a barker. Last night Max climbed a painting ladder up into our garret and set Honey off barking hysterically. I staggered up and threw Honey out and shut the door. Cat feet padding across the bed alerted me to the cause of said barking. So I got up again and threw cat out, apologised to Honey and let her back in. Woke up a bit depressed, feeling very mortal, first day without a mum above ground. Took dogs for a walk, big dog Zoe got over-excited playing fetch and bit onto my hand as I held the stick up to throw it for her. Was thinking of doing some ferrocement work, begin the couch to put by the waterfall at the Quarry:

A vision of the Quarry Arts Centre, Whangarei, with domes on the high ledge. Painted in Gisborne October 2013, in acrylics on melamine-coated mdf I found dumped up the hill on reserve land. Photoshopped to make the sofa bigger!

Now I might get to do some painting before day is over.. if I get up the gumption – the market value of my art works is… unknown but approaching zero market cap, like me. I bought this painting, Dark House,  back when it surfaced on Trademe auction site. See it on my pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/pin/173740498099294937/[/embed]

'Dark House' by Peter Harris c. 1970, labelled no. 5 from the Denby exhibition. Someone told me it was for sale again on Trademe and I bought it back - I don't remember who bought it originally, but it had ended up in the estate of a painting restorer in Auckland, and a trademe dealer bought it in ?March 2014. I paid $55.55 for it - a bargain at half the price! :)

As the only bidder, I got it for NZ$55.55 (I wanted to bid a figure that would strike awe in any other would-be bidder) .

Sigh… Good to have it back though. For me. And pretty good to think I still can pick up a brush and paint, just like 42 years ago when I painted it, even if left hand a bit sore from dog bite… Painting has always come easily to me, as has carving. Which is probably why I’ve mistrusted it and not done it full-time. Protestant work ethic, thanks a lot – NOT! So I mostly did ridiculous things with my talents, like make spinning wheels and photoframes and print other people’s books. Thanks to brother John, I have written some fiction books, about  three quarters of a million words I guess by now. But these too lie undiscovered, apart from the ebook volume one of the Apples of Aeden, at 200,000 words a bargain at $0.00 on smashwords. That one has rung up about 4,000 free downloads but no known reviews (I would have welcomed one star even, if only they had bothered to say something). and volumes 2-4 priced at $3.99 have combined sales of 360 copies. There goes 15 years of my life…

YET I am not now despondent.  Now I am free of any present lure to tow the line, sell out and prosper, I am quite joyfully resolved to write and paint and sculpt and start Eutopian flats or new systems of investing in the Flow, for ME, not for any protestant work ethic or other shoulds of any external kind.  (And Raewyn now knows it’s our only chance of anything like a living from my side of the partnership, and is resigned to peter the artist in a garret).

Why do I trust Me rather than these shoulds? Because Me is authentic, and external shoulds are not. Of course I do have internal shoulds, but they are of the living kind, authentic, first-hand, dynamic. So many millions of folk have died never having authentically lived past nine or so. I have some life left, lots of experience, many memories of wonder and creation, and much clearer focus now than 43 years ago when I set out as an ‘Artist’ off to Art School.  I could have begun then painting and sculpting and keeping the inner fires burning bright, but my fears of damnation if I should die without knowing the ‘meaning of life’ kept me from it. Once or twice it seemed the Empire of Sacred Shoulds seemed to have got hold of me for good, but I wriggled free, impoverished and bedraggled, but free, on the outside of the Great Wall which separates the beneficiaries of the Empire from those in outer darkness/wilderness/wasteland.

A painting inspired by a ?1970 visit to Limestone Island, Whangarei, with its ruined brick limeworks. Oil on canvas board, ?1970

Now I realize I should have stayed on the outside all along, built something there, until (as does happen) the walls opened up and accepted some of the outer ground I colonised for the majority on the Inside to enjoy. Because of course the Empire is the Status Quo, Robert Pirsig’s Static Quality, the realm of the tried and true, That Which Works (more or less), and we need it, directly or indirectly. In my philosophy it is the Purple Zone, and around it are the Dynamic Zones of Blue and Green, Yellow and Red, where the new new Thing is discovered, tried, tested and applied for the first time. The Bleeding Edge. That’s where people like me do their best work – sometimes their only work… It’s not so bad out here, if you know that’s where your lifespring is. And out here, age doesn’t matter so much. When you say Me, my Creation, my Work, my Bliss, you are just being the Child you always were. Become Yourself and do as you will, and all things will be full of life and energy, and light (adversities notwithstanding). Or bow your neck to the yoke of the Empire of Should, and all things become heavy, laborious, lifeless imitations of real Life (prosperity, security and wealth notwithstanding).

Thus spake Zarathustra/Pirsig/the Wizard of Eutopia/the Child Within.  Or as writer Gaiman says, whatever life throws at you, “Do good Art”. See the speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI

<iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/ikAb-NYkseI” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Well, I’ve inspired myself. The golden afternoon sun is shining through the garret window, and Raewyn is coming home soon. I hope she likes these magic beans I’ve traded the afternoon for. As for me, I think I’ll plan my first post-parental painting. An epitaph, maybe, set in the Quarry in the golden afternoon of my life. Sun, keep shining a little longer on all of us who dare to really live, and are willing to sell our last holy cow to do so…

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Filed under artworks by Wizard of Eutopia, free ebooks, musings by the wizard, news, the epic, the Quarry Arts Centre

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