Thursday, 27 October 2011

When Life is Like a Film.

On the first morning here we both wore boots. Hers white and fluffy with bunny faces, mine clunky and black, the same pair that has got me through the past three long winters. I rugged us both up in something fleecy, strapped her to my chest and pulled her strawberry hat down over her ears. We walked out into the grey morning, over the ancient roman footbridge and up the hill into the city.

Coming out of a café were 3 very very blonde people of different sizes. One a bit bigger than Coco, also tucked into a pouch on his Mama. Same brand, hers a kind of sage colour. We exchanged a smile and a nod the way motorcyclists and truck drivers do.

Then there was a pilgrim man attired in expensive camping-wear, with those sticks people use for the serious walking of very long distances.

When I got to the university there was a group of people photographing its enormous doors.

"Is it big or small?"

I heard a exaggeratedly drawling, stilted american accent, not quite right. It belonged to a Japanese girl.

"I think it's very small."

Quebec. There's one I know well.

They were talking about the frog hidden amongst the intricate carvings of the university walls. I stopped and waited for them to take the photograph, but the Japanese girl was just using her zoom to try and find the frog. She giggled and waved at me to pass by. Big, embarrassed gestures.

Coco and I went into the faculty to solve some problems. We spent an hour in the computer room and turned back home.

As we approached the footbridge from the other side, my chin was tucked down against my chest, giving me a better view of Coco's face. She'd fallen asleep huddled against me in the ergo. My eyes flicked up to two girls taking photographs of each other. I took in their layered backdrop. Stone wall to the waist, fast flowing river, golden orange leaves, glowing earth coloured city with it's various architectural jewels looming over the roof tops. They were both wearing heavy grey winter coats, expensive boots and sunglasses. The same two searching for the frog. I wonder if they found it? I never have. If you can find it without help the legend says you'll be married within the year.

I overtook them as they finished their photographs and continued along the bridge behind me. They noticed us pass, and began to talk about babies.

"Would you like to adopt a baby?"

The French Canadian accent asked loudly and excitedly.

I didn't hear the Japanese girl's response, but the tone seemed indecisive, and the Canadian girl continued

"Yes that's true, but my mother told me something once:"

And she paused deeply for effect.

"It is the most wonderful time in any woman's life."

Her voice echoed around the hand-built stone walls as I kissed the upturned sleeping little face, and pulled her knitted hat down over her baby ears. I half-smiled to myself and thought-

I must remember to write that down in my blog.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Little Boxes

Four walls, a base and a lid. You can hammer a box together pretty quickly if your materials are cut to size. And that's what a house is. A box. They are divided up, given sections and levels. We allocate space to different people within the box. Sometimes family members, sometimes friends. Sometimes we pay money for the right to inhabit a certain section of the box.
Boxes. The idea became important to me 5 years ago.

That day I woke up before the sun rose and pulled on the backpack I'd prepared the night before. It was filled with lightweight travelling clothes. I wasn't a homey type then, I moved around alot, and was well equipped with metalicus tops, the type you can rinse and wring out and leave to dry over a chair in your room. I stood at the bus-stop shivering, the thin cotton shirt under my jacket not enough for Bologna's infamous clammy morning air. There was a train to Milan, a bus to Bergamo and a long wait for the delayed flight to Valladolid that gave me time to have breakfast and try to cure the ache behind my eyes with a few extra espressos.

My tights were itchy when I arrived in Spain's desert-like core. I waited for him with my Jacket folded over my arm, and scanned for him in the crowd. He found me first and appeared in front of me like a Jack-in-the-Box grinning and laughing and lifting me in a bear hug. We took a taxi into the city and it parked outside the historical marketplace. I made some comment about how Spanish Spain was. He pointed out all the spanish things. Spanish arquitecture, Spanish woman, Spanish car, Spanish mailbox, then he took me upstairs to the apartment he was renting a friend's room in.

The ceilings were impossibly high, there were ancient wooden floorboards underfoot, and the walls were freshly painted in white off which this magic light here just bounces. A double mattress on the floor neatly dressed in red bedclothes. A piece of wood balanced on two carpenter's horses against the wall as a make-shift desk. All his documents could fit into a black ring-binder. A music stand and a chair seating his black accordian. I felt like that room was the most beautiful bohemian space I'd ever seen, and that I was the luckiest person in the world to be invited there.
That modest room was all we started with. It was where it all began.

The next place was the same style, in much worse condition and we rented the whole box for ourselves. It served as an interim nest though which we braved an entire winter in the rooms where the wind whistled through cracks in the huge glass windows, and the traffic streaming over the bridge threatened to crash through our living room window. And the sirens...
We filled it with the furniture we found on the street and at the second hand depot in the city's outskirts. We never got rid of the smell of the previous owner's Husky and the 2 litters of puppies she had birthed in one of the rooms.

When we began the search for a new place, we eventually found it around the corner. We looked up one afternoon and saw the sign in the window on the old brick building's third floor. More of the same. sky- high ceilings, bright white walls, beautiful wooden floors. The original fireplace in the lounge room. Cheap rent. It became ours. We filled it with our collections. Mounted a bookcase from recycled wood against one of the walls. Cooked endless dinners for friends and family. My Dad cooked a turkey in the fireplace at Christmas. We Lovingly mopped the floors and filled the rooms with the scent of burning lavendar oil. Our bedroom moved around. Coco was thought up in one room, conceived in another, born at the foot of the bed in yet another. She might think this apartment is the whole world, I remember thinking when she was one week old, and Salva and I finally shuffled down the 3 flights of stairs to take her to the registry and get her birth certificate. She was wrapped up tightly on her Papas chest, and I lifted the hood of her tiny jacket to protect her soft cheeks from the cold wind, her little ears from the noise of the city. I thought it again at 6 weeks when we stayed overnight in Madrid for the first time. I expected her to be unsettled, sleeping away from her own nest. Again I worried when we went to Italy for 2 months over the summer.

But she doesn't know what a home is, and if she does, she knows it has nothing to do with the box she was born in. She barely notices her surroundings. In the 8 months she's been on earth she's alternated between clinging to us for dear life, and relishing in life's beautiful details. The button on my shirt. The soft percussion of the macbook's keyboard. The yellow rubber ducky that squirts her in the face if she squeezes it in her chubby hands.

When we take her to the new place, she might notice that its floor has a different taste. She knows that home is where we are. It is. But I love this place. So much has happened here. This place is a boxful of memories.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Master, and Multi-Facets.

What I most missed about studying was that feeling of completing an assignment. The feeling of slowly becoming an expert on something.

I didn't miss that feeling of complete inadequacy. Of listening to someone who feels like they are endlessly superior to you. Simply because they have a phd, because someone asked them to teach the class. I live with a phd candidate. I happen to know that if you want one, you can get one, and even then, you're not a real doctor anyway, and even if you were, I'd demand your respect anyway. So just shut up.

I sit in class and feel guilty for not having done the readings, for not being prepared, for day-dreaming, for not having an academic background in Art History. When my daughter squeals with delight after not seeing me for 2 hours those feelings melt away.

I was suprised to find that everyone in the classroom was around my age. It's been so long since I've been in a room with people my age. I feel part of another generation entirely. Apart from a few smiles, everyone is intent and focused on the task at hand. All are completing the master in one year. I will be lucky if I do it in 2. They all go home and sit in front of the computer. Organise the enormous amount of reading and work they have to do. More than double my workload. They probably procrastinate on facebook. Get up, make tea. Sit back down. Clean their room. Go to bed late. Sleep in. Go back to their computer. Stay in their pyjamas until they have to go to class. That's what I used to do.

I rush outside in the breaks to breastfeed my 7 month old. Salva has to drive to Salamanca and hover around the classroom with her. Until we move there that is. We've found a house.

I like the subject. It warms me up inside. I am preparing a presentation on abstract expressionism and looking at lots of beautiful splashes.

A part of me is the person that makes those paintings. Bare feet on wooden floor boards, dirty bed hair still clinging in last weeks style, coloured grit under fingernails, coffee turned stone cold as I work on a canvas as tall as I am. I love the style because there is little that separates me from those bohemians of post-war New York.
No rules. No meaning. No value given to estetic outcome? Expression. Don't get it? Me neither.

There is another part of me that is wearing delicious overpriced drapey fabrics and a pair of glasses I don't need, surrounded by these canvases in room with high ceilings and white walls, writing wanky descriptions of those paintings. Don't get it? Poor you.
That's the person I'm nurturing with this course, which is a good thing. She is a good person with an awesome apartment who sends her daughter to a steiner school and thinks about colours all day. I love it. I just love thinking about paintings and the painters that paint them.

I wish there were time to nurture all the people in me. There is the business woman. The teacher. There is my musician self, with 2 instruments to learn, an album to help launch, a world tour to take. There is even my summer self, the hippy that sold you that beaded necklace and talks late into the night with her partner about journeying from Spain to Australia with a vespa and side-cart. There is my zen self that wants to meditate daily, and spend an hour preparing a meal at night. The mother, with another child or two yet to birth. My pomegranate self.

Yes. I really will be lucky to finish this in 2 years...