David Swain’s Lyric Life?

I was lucky. I had a good variety of Dad.

A Lifelong Process
from One Thing and Another
David Swain

It’s Father’s Day this weekend in Oz. We are being encouraged to buy buy buy. Wearing our Covid-safe masks, we queue at acceptable distance out the door of the post office.

If we have a Dad, that is. If we have a Dad who is still alive and craving a pair of socks or a power tool, who resides far away.

That was not my Dad.

If there were any commodities he was into, it was musty secondhand books. He was more into creativity, kindness, humour and people. Lucky for me, he  made all the time in the world for his family of women. My Mum, my sister and myself. Oh and Isabel and Soxy the cats when they were alive.

Dad died ten years ago. I sometimes share bits and bobs of his creations. Here’s a link to some of those previous David Swain mentions.

And what a legacy of inspiration!

Here’s a glimpse of one of his books I haven’t shared much before…

One Thing and Another
David Swain
my Dad

One Thing and Another. A selection of ten years of cartoon and verse from his weekly column in the Canberra Times.

The prophecy game
from One Thing and Another
David Swain

I know my Dad was rare for his times. Rare at any time. So I think of you with compassion if you had a less than lovely father.

I send

some David Swain delight

your way.

One of my all-time favourites of Dad’s cartoons
from One Thing and Another

And here’s a poem that my Dad gave to a neighbour years ago. The ex-neighbour found the poem on a scrunched-up, nearly thrown-out scrap of fax paper. Fax paper! Faded but not forgotten. She photographed it and PM’d me. Aww.

Bondi Sonnet
David Swain
gifted to a neighbour, which was the sort of kindly creative gesture my Dad would make

In case you can’t read the Faded-but-not-Forgotten Fax:

BONDI SONNET

IF GOD EXISTS

I CANNOT SAY

BUT DO KNOW WHAT

I HEAR TODAY

FROM BONDI BIRDS

CALLING ‘O-K-A-A-Y’

IN DRAWN-OUT NOTES

OF NEAT DESIGN

PLUS SOUND LIKE ‘BOMP’

TO END EACH LINE

OF LYRIC LIFE

TILL MOST AGREE

THAT KNOCK-OFF TIME’S

AT HALF-PAST THREE 

David Swain and his Lyric Life?
He started out as a cheeky Cockney barrow boy. When he was sixteen, a headline in a local paper pronounced him London’s youngest greengrocer. (That’s what you do to keep the family afloat when your own father dies).

In the early 1970s, he initiated Australia’s first professional writing degree.

And there he was late in life, sitting at his desk in the flat with the view of Bondi Beach, wondering at squawky rainbow lorikeets and modern fax machines, slowly heading towards dementia and decline, still writing.

What a journey. What a Dad.

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Disencumbering and Strange Divinations

Does this capture creativity for you?

bird moon art therapy

Night Flying Work
Sally Swain © original art

I reckon the following quote from Salley Vickers’ ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ is a great galumphing grandulous ode to the joy and depth of therapeutic creativity.

Anyone who has ever felt exquisitely transported by an act of creativity, please read. Art therapists or would-be art therapists, please read. Those who aspire to paint, write, moosh clay or sing rhythms for self-care, nourishment or release, please read. If you are up for a poetic description of the healing, transformative power of art-making, please read.

Are you ready?

bird boat art watercolour

Bird and Boat
Sally Swain © original art
teeny watercolour in journal

She,

in her nightdress, stood at her easel in the garden, painting birds in the flowing, dappling light. In her mind, they flew upward … ever onward and upward, into unimagined stratospheres, where time and space dissolved into the limitless aether beyond.

 

She had thrown down the burden and now the birds lifted her, out of the little doom of irrelevance, the awful terror, the state of huddle which had cramped and hurt her. Never had she felt so clear, so free of polluting distractions.

bird paint collage

Blue Bird O’Clock
play-in-progress3
Sally Swain © original art

As she painted, she found that whatever jarred she could at once paint out – and this too, this editing process, this disencumbering, peaceable eliding, which she did without thought but without regret either – it was remarkable how it seemed to be cutting the strings which had entangled and bound her, loosed her free to be whatever it was she was to be.

 

With no sense of where she was going, or what was proper to this enterprise, she followed her inclination, which was, mostly, to remove and excise, to take out.

Passionwing acrylic painting grief art

Passionwing
Sally Swain © original art

Yes, she was softly rubbing things out as she stood there, her needs, her desperations, her inclinations, all were disappearing – till she was left, footless and featureless, bodiless, almost, with only the strange divinations of the birds to speak for her.

 

The ancient soothsayers looked to birds for auguries – the birds upon the wing were the flexion of her soul.

From ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ by Salley Vickers

bird painting Swain

Smiling Bird
Sally Swain © original art
fragment on calico

A friend brought a book along to a café, opened it up at page 219 and read the entire quote out loud. She knew it would lure and captivate me. I wasn’t even sure of the meanings of fancy words such as ‘eliding’ or ‘flexion’, but hell, it sounded good, right and true.

watercolour woman wings

Wing-ear woman
Sally Swain © original art
little watercolour painting from art journal, created while listening on the phone

And you?

{I really must figure out how to ongoingly link this blog to my Art and Soul e-newsletter. Sometimes I am stumped by the most basic tecchy stuff. Here’s an invitation to Creative Flame and Fortune on Saturday 13th July. It’d be a delight to see you there. Bookings essential.}

with love, art and soul
from Sally

bird art Swain

A Random Sally Heartbird

Exquisite Level of Care

How are you

at balancing

other-care with self-care?

Is it a bit of a challenge?

A lot of a challenge?

A Dementia Australia counsellor told me that I offer an ‘exquisite level of care’.

I breathed in the fine compliment. I breathed out a delicately complex response, including a watercolour-plus-collage artwork – a paintage.

I’m showing you the pretty bits and leaving out the grisly ones. Ah yes well. Sometimes it’s a grisly process, this caring palaver.

Exquisite Level of Care
art fragment
Sally Swain

Here’s the question of the day (or year or lifetime):

How might we apply

an Exquisite Level of Care

to ourselves!?

Last weekend I led ‘Nourish and Flourish – the Art of Self-Care’. It was my first Art and Soul playshop in a while. Why? Because I’ve been caught up in eldercare.

Nourish and Flourish was delicious.

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
playshop participants
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
playshop participants
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

What sorts of things happened in the playshop?

I invited participants to consider…if their care for OTHERS had a colour, shape, texture, sound, title … for this moment … what might it be?

If their SELF care for this moment had a colour, shape, texture, sound, title, how would that look and feel?

Participants wrote or made art in response to this contemplation.

What else?

They each chose a miniature from the sandplay collection to represent their ally or companion on the journey.

We heard different individual self-care strategies. We pooled them. They range from dancing to reading with a cat on your lap; surfing to spending time with friends; saying No to having a massage.

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

We did a walking sensory awareness meditation. We sipped tea. We ate chocolate. Or healthy stuff, as the case may be.

The dear participants

each made art, art and more art.

They found ways to nourish themselves

in the process of making art about self-care. 

It was a treat for me to host these splendid Art and Soulies; exploring, playing, being authentic, expressing joys and difficulties, beautifully showing kindness and insight as they offered positive feedback to one another.

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Gratitude. I feel gratitude.


I do believe the next Art and Soul offering

is probably Saturday 13th July.

Most likely it’ll be

the annual ‘Creative Flame’ playshop.

Maybe see you there.

with love, art and soul

from Sally

Exquisite Level of Care
art fragment
Sally Swain

Art of Self-Care

en plein air…

I begin to unfurl.

art collage watercolour healing

Dendritia Saliosa 6
Sally Swain art

My duty-brain has been knotted with nervy caregiver logistics.

Sleep? Huh. A thing of the past.

Dementia tangles and plaques its way into my daily surrounds, both in my personal and professional life.

Are you a caregiver for an elderly relative? How does this sit in your soulscape?

‘Emotional labour’ is a term coined by Arlie Hochschild in her book ‘The Managed Heart’. I love those words. Emotional labour. Managed Heart. They speak to me.

Original definition:

Emotional labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors.

I feel my way into expanded meanings of emotional labour. Could it be all the invisible inner work of trying to make it OK for someone else?

There’s the smiling, soothing, smoothing over, placating, reassuring, drawing forth strength, glossing over, smiling, facilitating sticky interactions, anticipating, planning, being one step ahead at any moment, smiling, refining, suppressing your own natural needs, mopping up messes and much much more. And smiling. Do you relate to this at all?

I find respite in a sweet place by the sea.

I hear the sounds of two beaches.

Lap lap. Swoosh swoosh.

Sally Swain art

Dendritia Saliosa  beginnings
play-in-progress
Sally Swain art

An outdoor studio amongst the trees.

Birdsong. Treats for the senses.

art heart flower Swain

Dendritia Saliosa 
play-in-progress
Sally Swain art

Will it be a flower?

Swain art watercolour flower

Dendritia Saliosa 
play-in-progress
Sally Swain art

With

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Gnome Sweet Gnome?

or Gnome Bittersweet Gnome?

Confession One:

I do like a fairy garden.

There. I came out and said it. Does that make me twee? Not just any fairy garden. It has to be tongue-in-cheek, ideally with social meanings, a political message, or just a plain crazy-offbeat combination of miniatures.

Gnomes are OK, as long as you’re aware of their inborn kitschness.

gnome fairy art

Unlikely friends

Confession Two:

I easily tune into brokenness these days.

Loss, dying and dementia wrap around my personal and professional spheres. I notice and respond to the sorrows of those around me. I guess I have a negativity bias. Do you?

They say it’s commonly human to focus in on the one negative thing in an armful, a roomful, a lifestyle-full of health, love and glitter. Yeah, well, didn’t the Buddha say, ‘Life is suffering’? And that it helps to be with it, look at it, breathe it in; not always run away, or always crave something better.

hope optimism broken gnome

Even if I’ve lost my hat, I welcome you

But hey – the purpose of this blog is to cultivate creativity, and creativity isn’t just made of neat, fully-formed fairy wings. Creativity acknowledges the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (thank you, Billy Shakespeare). It fashions the mottled, the battered, the forgotten into something new and possibly sparkly.

Gnome Home in the ‘Hood

I chance upon a Gnome Home in my neighbourhood. I don’t care what anyone says….

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Night Trees, Sea Breeze

‘We hold you’, say the trees.

art trees cicada wing grief

Night Trees, Sea Breeze
Sally Swain © art

I return to a beachside place of the heart. It’s been a while. The cabins that I used to stay in, to the north of the village, are demolished, erased. The whole camping ground is gone. It’s as if it never existed. I weep salty tears by the salty sea.

I walk and weep; walk and weep.

Other, more current griefs surface and spill. The long, slow, gritty grief of caring for elderly folk, in both my personal and professional life, unexpectedly surges forth. The bittersaltysweet release of tears is required regularly, it seems.

rockpool texture art photo

sea creatures create squiggles

I am able

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Reasons to Blog

Number One: Coming Home to Yourself and the Beauty All Around

My head is full of lumpy clatter. What on earth will I blog about? I don’t know.

What if I give myself permission

to not know,

to down-slow?

 

mindfulness home

I notice the garlic clothed in spectacularly stripey purple and off-white skin. I notice the dented, browning bits.

What if I pause? What if any of us pause, slow down and allow the spaces; even brief ones. Is it possible to allow a minute or two to let up with the voice that badgers us to get something done?

How is it that capital P Productivity became King, while the Duchess of Doing-Very-Little lurks in the shadows? She is guilt-stricken and spurned.

Can it please be OK to relish a moment of Simply Being?

mindful photograpy Swain

If you can’t manage real flowers in your micro-garden, fabric flowers are the go, even if they become soil-stained

We seem to know that mindful self-care is essential nourishment, but hey. Intellectually knowing something and embodying it are two different things.

Might I allow a pocket of presence?

And might I bring self-compassion to that presence in an act of kindfulness?

Can I rest in the empty space – the minuscule bracket of blankness between one thought-train and the next?

mindful photography garden

Cracked rabbit, neon centipede. All the garden friends.

What will I blog about?

This. Exactly what’s happening (or not happening) in my creative process. Even someone who has pretty much dedicated her life to her own creativity and to nurturing creativity in others, struggles to justify the carving out of fertile space. Even someone who deeply knows the value of letting the field lie fallow, is obliged to wrestle with inner critic creatures.

mindful art Swain

a city flamingo meets its leaf

So

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Looking backwards, floating forwards

Beyond our control, whether we like it or not,

2016 slurps, skids, stutters and slides into 2017.

How is this time of year for you?

Swain painting dream

The Dream
Sally Swain
© original art

Are you adrift in the sea-sky

of the supposed festive season?

Are you firmly grounded in the daily laundry of life?

Are you lonely or surrounded by love?

Or both?

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